Business conference showcases Central Luzon, Pampanga’s progress



BIZCON. Pampanga Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc. and Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry executives join former president and Pampanga second district Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for a photo opportunity, after her keynote speech at the 27th North Luzon Area Business Conference held at the LausGroup Event Center. (Erika Mariel Gines Photo)


“This area business conference is a testament that indeed, Central Luzon and the province of Pampanga in general, is becoming the center of growth not only in the region but of the whole country.”


This was the statement of Pampanga Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc. (PamCham) vice chairman Rene Romero during the culminating ceremony of the 27th North Luzon Area Business Conference (NLABC) held Friday, May 18, at the LausGroup Event Center in the City of San Fernando.


He noted that the three-day event proved to be “one of the most successful” area business conference of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), as it gathered over 600 delegates coming from all over North Luzon.


“We are really very happy with the outcome of our event, as modesty aside, while it is our first time hosting this conference, we have come up with the biggest and most organized NLABC I have seen for the last 30 years that I have been part of the chamber movement,” he relayed.


He added that the positive feedback of the participants proved that event was able to showcase the latest developments in Pampanga which include state-of-the-art facilities, infrastructure, and the province’s renowned hospitality sector, further centering the province’s status as a major economic destination.


“In fact, delegates coming Ilocos Region, Cagayan Valley and Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), all expressed their awe upon seeing our province’s progress. They said they were impressed of Pampanga’s recent developments including the LausGroup Event Center, our main roads like the Jose Abad Santos Avenue and the McArthur Highway, business districts, the Clark Freeport Zone, and even the hotels and malls including the newly-opened SM City Telabastagan,” he shared.


“This goes to show that we are now experiencing the spill over of Metro Manila and big players are now eyeing us as their next prospect. The NLABC is one of our way of preparing for this forthcoming economic boom,” he added.


The executive then relayed that the business organization will continue to hold on to the claim that “This is our time,” this year’s theme for the 27th NLABC.


“This is just the start, and for a very long time and through the generations to come, we will not stop or plateau. It will be a continuous process,” he concluded.


The prestigious business conference, organized annually by PCCI, aimed to inform, inspire, and motivate businesses to spur countryside economic growth in Central and North Luzon regions.


This year, highlights of the event include plenary sessions led by world-renowned businessman and AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes, top Filipino economist Dr. Bernie M. Villegas, and Department of Public Works and Highways Undersecretary for Planning and Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Dr. Maria Catalina E. Cabral, among others.


The event was keynoted by former President and Second District Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who shared the government’s plans and activities currently in the pipeline for the years ahead, demonstrating a strong focus on transforming the province as a ‘Megalopolis’.


Also part of the programs and activities were various seminars, business matchings, networking sessions, invitational golf tournament, and a mini regional trade fair.


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Dip in Philippine competitiveness ranking a ‘wake-up call’ – business leaders

Ralf Rivas


MANILA, Philippines – The sharp fall of the Philippines in the 2018 World Competitiveness Yearbook (WCY) should serve as a “wake-up call,” business leaders said on Thursday, May 24.


Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) President Alegria Sibal-Limjoco said the dip in the Philippines’ competitive ranking by 9 notches in the 2018 WCY – to 50th place from 41st place last year – is a “wake up call for government and for business.”


Guillermo Luz, Private Sector Co-Chairperson of the National Competitiveness Council, reiterated that the government should pay attention to the numbers of the WCY, as well as other studies.


He explained that results of the study is a snapshot of how the Philippines is performing compared to its peers in Asia Pacific.


“We compete for FDIs, trade, tourists, branding. It is a competition, we need to look at what other countries are doing,” Luz said.


“In the ASEAN region, competition never sleeps. Respondents of these surveys look how we keep up with competition, how government implements regulation, and the measurability in terms of impact in the economy,” he added.


The WCY study rereleased on Thursday revealed that the Philippines is 50th out of 63 economies in terms of overall competitiveness. This is the country’s worst year-on-year decline over the last decade and the steepest drop in Asia Pacific.


The ranking is measured according to 340 indicators, about two-thirds of which are based on data and statistics, and the rest on the perceptions of over 6,300 executives worldwide.


Where it all went wrong


Despite having the fifth strongest real gross domestic product (GDP) growth in Asia Pacific in 2017 at 6.7%, the Philippines’ economic performance saw its biggest drop to 50th from 26th in 2017.


The report noted that the country’s current account deficit fand oreign direct investments (FDIs) were not impressive as compared to 2016. The peso was also dubbed as the most unloved currency in 2017, even posting 11-year lows against the US dollar.


Inflation also accelerated towards the end of 2017. As a result, the domestic economy, one of the sub-factors measured, declined to 24th from 12th place in 2017.


Jamil Francisco, executive director of the Asian Institute of Management’s Rizalino Navarro Policy Center for Competitiveness also noted the disappointing employment figures.


“The economy is resilient. But if you look at the employment of the regular [Filipino], this is where you see the problem because many have come in and out of unemployment,” Francisco said.


Employment in the WCY survey plummeted to 32nd place in 2018 from 4th in 2017. The drop was due to a slight increase of unemployment and a slight decrease in the number of employed as compared to other countries ranked in the survey.


The factor with the second largest drop in rank was business efficiency, now at 38th place from 28th place last year.


The report stated that the decline in business efficiency was caused by the dip in the following sub-factors: labor sector (5th to 19th), finance (33rd to 39th), management practices (28th to 33rd), and attitudes and values (18th to 34th).


The Philippines ranked near bottom the – 62nd place from 59th last year – in overall productivity in labor, agriculture, industry, and services.


Meanwhile, government efficiency experienced a 7-notch drop, now at 44th place from 37th. The decline was driven by dips in public finance (25th to 34th), institutional framework (41st to 46th), business legislation (58th to 60th) and societal framework (51st to 54th).


The country’s infrastructure, ranked at 60th place from 54th in 2017, continued to disappoint. The report noted that the government should also pay attention to basic, education, and scientific infrastructure and not just physical infrastructure.


“Good infrastructure promotes competitiveness by connecting markets and production sites, improving the flow of information and technology, and reducing the costs of production,” the report said.


 Despite the gloomy figures, Limjoco said that investors are still interested to do business in the country and recognized the government’s efforts.


“Despite our competitiveness going down, there is something also that they like in our country. The tax reform will help our country move forward,” the PCCI president said.


Management Association of the Philippines President Ramoncito Fernandez also rallied support for the tax reform program of the government.


“We also support the necessary amendments of certain economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution,” Fernandez said.


The report recommended that the government invest in quality infrastructure, increase human capital, and strengthen institutions.


“In the digital era, workers must learn how to learn fast. Lifelong learning must be founded on quality basic and secondary education,” the report said.


It also stated the need to increase digital competitiveness, as “many jobs are at high risk of automation.”


WCY also recommended the need to manage the recent spike in inflation due to the effects of the tax reform program. –


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 PCCI-Aklan wants review of cancellation of flights

By Jun Aguirre – May 24, 2018


KALIBO, Aklan—The local chapter of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI-Aklan) urges government, especially the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, to review the cancellation of several plane flights at the Kalibo International Airport (KIA).


PCCI-Aklan Secretary-General Guidon de la Cruz said several flights to and from Metro Manila and Cebu have been canceled after nearby Boracay Island was ordered closed for six months starting on April 26.


The closure also saw airline companies doubling ticket prices bound for the KIA.


“Because of this, businessmen, students and balikbayans have to travel to other nearby airports, such as the Caticlan Airport and the Roxas City Airport, to go to Manila. Direct flights to Cebu have also been canceled,” de la Cruz said.


“The reduction of commercial flights at the KIA created economic difficulties for both passengers and cargo traffic,” he added. Meanwhile, the roll-on, roll-off service from Caticlan to Batangas port is also full, brought about by summer travel and strong basic trade between Luzon and the Visayas region, he added.


The PCCI-Aklan board has filed a resolution to engage airline firms in consultation, thereby encouraging them to provide additional flight for Manila-Kalibo and restore the Kalibo-Cebu route even on limited basis.


“The reduction of plane flights also does not help promote local tourism, trade and commerce, which are supposed to be increasing due to expansion of e-commerce, resulting into convenience in the movement of people and goods across our islands,” de la Cruz further said.


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Negosyo Centers conduct marketing seminar for Cebu MSMEs

Micro and small entrepreneurs from the towns of Consolacion and Carcar attended a seminar recently conducted by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Negosyo Centers (NC). entitled  ”Marketing Your Business”.

According to NC Carcar business counselors Jessa Joyce Apas and Karen Ann Sayson, the topics discussed during the activity included the concept of marketing and how it can be applied into the MSMEs’ perspective.

DTI believes that a business doesn’t end with a product development. It is equally important to know how to penetrate the market thus the introduction of marketing seminars.

In line with Republic Act No. 10644 or the Go Negosyo Act, the DTI Negosyo Center continues to assist MSMEs in all aspects of business, from finance, marketing, branding, labeling, among others.

Since DTI wants to cater nor just to existing MSMEs but to would be entrepreneurs as well, the department, through its Negosyo Centers, also offers How to Start a Business seminar which can be complemented by a Simple Business Plan Preparation.

A Financial Management seminar is also prepared for would be entrepreneurs in order to help them manage well their finances.

For more information on seminars and trainings conducted by DTI, interested parties can visit the nearest Negosyo Center in their area.

Negosyo Centers have been set up by the DTI to promote ease of doing business, facilitate business registration, provides business advisory services and business information, particularly in the countryside., Other support for MSMEs ensure management guidance, assistance and improvement of the working conditions of MSMEs; and facilitate market access and linkaging services for entrepreneurs.

DTI, DOF explain TRAIN package 2 to Japanese investors

MAKATI – In efforts to enhance trade and investment relations between the Philippines (PH) and Japan (JP), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon Lopez together with officials of the Department of Finance (DOF) addressed the issues and clarified the concerns raised by Japanese investors on the Tax Reform Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Package 2, which rationalizes tax incentives to investments.

“We would like to highlight the aspects of TRAIN Package 2 that would benefit new and existing investors. While Japan is our number one source of investments, there are still a large number of Japanese investors who have not located in the Philippines. The TRAIN Package 2 provides us with the mechanisms both to encourage existing investors to further expand their business, and to attract new investors into the country,” said Sec. Lopez.

During the discussion, Japanese investors expressed their concerns on the new tax incentives for new and existing investors as well as the preferential corporate income tax.

According to Lopez, the proposed legislation is not meant to remove incentives, but in fact recognizes the important role of incentives and the need to make them more responsive, relevant and effective, i.e. they should conform to the principles of being performance-based, time-bound, focused, and transparent.

Board of Investments (BOI) Managing Head and DTI Undersecretary Ceferino Rodolfo explained further that the second tax reform package will in fact provide better incentives.

“First, investors will no longer be limited to just the Income Tax Holiday (ITH) and the 5% tax on Gross Income Earned (GIE)—but will now be able to choose other incentives that may be more relevant, including long enough Net Operating Loss Carry-over, accelerated depreciation, and double-deduction of certain expenses critical to upgrading competitiveness such as R&D, training, and others,” said Usec. Rodolfo.

“Equally important, the TRAIN Package will remove the nationality bias as well as the export bias of incentives. This means that as long as an activity is listed under the Strategic Investments Priorities Plan (SIPP), this will be eligible for incentives regardless of citizenship of owners or the markets they will serve. For Japanese companies, they can receive incentives even if they will sell to the domestic market,” Usec. Rodolfo added.

Meanwhile, DOF Director Juvy Danofrata noted the concerns of investors on the sunset provisions for existing tax incentives. Danofrata said, “While transition mechanisms will be provided including replacing the 5% GIE with a reduced 15% corporate net income tax, we are open to suggestions on how we can design better transitions, as long as these will comply with the basic principles of being time-bound, performance-based, focused, and transparent.”

The discussion was part of the agenda of the 10th Philippine-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (PJEPA) Sub-Committee on the Improvement of Business Environment (SC-IBE) Meeting on 22 March co-chaired by Sec. Lopez and Japanese Ambassador Koji Haneda. Officials from the Philippine Board of Investments, Philippine Contractors Accreditation Board, Construction Industry Authority of the Philippines, National Economic Development Authority,  Philippine Economic Zone Authority, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Finance, Department of Labor and Employment, Manila International Airport Authority, Metro Manila Development Authority, Bureau of Internal Revenue, and Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority were also present during the meeting.

APBC welcomes PH delegation to Australia

THE Australia-Philippines Business Council (APBC) welcomed the Philippine delegation to Australia led by Department of Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez and Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Allan Peter Cayetano through a welcome reception participated in by Australian and Philippine business leaders on 16 March 2018 in Barangaroo, Sydney, Australia.


Secretary Cayetano and Secretary Lopez witnessed the signing of Letters of Intent (LOIs) to invest in the Philippines from different private sector leaders/firms planning to maximize the Philippines’ growing economy. Investment includes setting up of an assembly plant for GPS tracking devices, development of a US$10 million biomass power plant, and construction of a US$30 million hotel and residential place in Cebu.


Australia’s Macquarie Bank Chairman Peter Warne, Chairman of TMIP Holdings David King, ANZ Philippines CEO Anna Green, AUSTAL CEO David Singleton were among the Australian business executives present. Philippine business leaders like Mr. Jose Concepcion III and SM Investment’s Ms. Teresita Sy-Coson were among the Filipino executives in attendance.


In his address to the business community, Secretary Lopez highlighted government’s support programs for micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) and its initiatives that ensure the growth, development, and competitiveness of these enterprises. He shared DTI’s Negosyo Centers, Pondo Para sa Pagbabago (P3), Shared Service Facility (SSF), market access initiatives that provide permanent space for MSME products, and online digital space programs, which are summed up in the DTI’s 7M strategy on MSMEs.


Secretary Lopez shared that increasing the trade base between Australia and the Philippines should be based on complementarity of industries and sectors where growth will be highly recorded. Some examples he gave were on agri-based commodities, ship-building, construction (Build, Build, Build), and IT and Business Process Management Services (IT-BPM).


In his closing remarks, Secretary Lopez shared the Philippines’ economic breakout, supported by growth in GDP, manufacturing, consumer confidence, among others. He also emphasized the enhancement of domestic policies, with new regulations adopted to ensure competitiveness of businesses and industries.


Secretary Lopez also cited the recently issued tax law (TRAIN), where individuals are expected to have bigger take-home pay. With its implementation, it is expected to build a wider consumer base with higher buying capacity leading to greater opportunities for businesses. Secretary Lopez reiterated that the Philippines is open for business, with DTI’s core task of bringing more job-generating opportunities for all Filipinos.


During the event, APBC President Ed Alcordo expressed APBC’s gratitude for the Philippine government’s commitment in strengthening bilateral ties between Australia and the Philippines where foreign and economic relations have grown through 70 years of friendship, with a comprehensive partnership agreement signed in 2015.


At the end of the welcome reception, a meeting attended by Secretary Lopez, DFA Secretary Cayetano and AUSTAL CEO David Singleton was held.  Mr. Singleton shared AUSTAL’s shipyard operations in Cebu and its plan to expand its operations in the Philippines. AUSTAL makes fast, lightweight aluminum boats for civilian and military use. They are the sole foreign company supplying Aluminum-hulled ships to the United States Navy. Mr. Singleton shared that they make ships in the Philippines for export to customers in Germany, Australia and many other overseas clients who require high quality shipbuilding.


The business reception was organized by the Australia Philippines Business Council (APBC) and the Philippine Trade and Investment Center (PTIC) in Sydney.

Participants during the welcome reception hosted by APBC on 16 March 2018.

DFA Secretary Allan Peter Cayetano (standing, 5th from left) with DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez (standing, 4th from right) witnessing the signing of Letter of Intent (LOI) of the technology company Fleet Logic declaring the company’s plan to assemble Global Positioning System (GPS) Devices in the Philippines for export.