JUNE 9, 2006 (STAR) By Des Ferriols - Foreign direct investments (FDI) went up by 11.4 percent in the first quarter of the year, hitting $430 million due mainly to investments into banking and manufacturing, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) reported yesterday.

The BSP said that in March alone, foreign direct investments or FDIs remained in surplus at $75 million. The amount, however, was 27.9 percent lower compared to $104 million in the same period last year.

The BSP said that the growth in total

FDI during the first quarter was due to the net capital infusion in long-term equity investments which rose by 47.3 percent.

According to the BSP, inflows were channeled largely to the banking, manufacturing, construction and real estate sectors.

As a result, the first quarter inflow resulted to a net surplus albeit much smaller than the dramatic 1,708 percent growth recorded over the same period last year when FDIs were recovering from a major decline in 2004.

The BSP said the continued strength of FDIs in the first quarter of 2006 was traced to the reversal in the "other capital" account which represented inter-company accounts between local subsidiaries of foreign corporations and their corresponding foreign principals.

Inter-company accounts ended the quarter with a net inflow of $224 million.

On the other hand, the reinvested earnings account likewise grew by 29.4 percent. The BSP said the growth was traced to foreign banks that decided they preferred to retain their earnings in their local branches instead of repatriating them abroad.

The BSP said the net equity capital during the quarter declined by 52 percent to $184 million compared to last year’s $383 million.

Equity placements, originating mainly from the US and Japan, were infused in the following sectors: manufacturing (e.g., chemical and health products, airconditioning systems), construction, real estate, and financial intermediation.

The BSP had projected that for this year, FDIs could go up to as high as $1.6 billion, coming mostly from export-related industries, based on approvals that came in the third quarter of 2005.

The National Statistical and Coordination Board (NSCB) earlier reported that most of the FDIs that were approved in the third quarter of 2005 came from manufacturing, business process out—sourcing, real estate and mining sectors.

Call centers call them By Carla Paras-Sison The Philippine STAR 06/05/2006

Much has been said about the declining quality of English proficiency among Filipinos. But not much has been said about what Filipinos are doing about it.

Rita Trillo-Ugarte, president of ExcelAsia Training and Development Inc., and her partners established their training center with the vision of "developing excellent human resources throughout Asia." They naturally began with improving their fellow Filipinos’ essential skills for employment in the exponentially growing contact center industry.

Partnering with call centers, Ugarte and her team train applicants and get paid for each graduate accepted for employment. Output must be very satisfactory because ExcelAsia has become the fastest-growing call center training center in the country since it opened in August 2005.

From only 20 students in its first month, ExcelAsia has grown enrollees to 500 last month. Call center-clients have grown from one to 12, and three to seven more be added as it opened a new facility in Makati last month (May 2006).

It has actually trained and re-trained over 6,000 call center applicants in Cebu, Manila and Mindanao and has helped most of them acquire jobs in the Call Center industry, as well as various other industries.

Aside from call centers that need English and Customer Service Training, ExcelAsia accepts Filipino jobseekers wanting to get in the call centers and enhance their communication skills.

"Although there are plenty of training centers sprouting up, ExcelAsia is the only training center that is an expert at conducting English and Customer Service training for call center agents. The others started as computer schools and got into the business of call center training because of the industry’s success, but their main skills are in computers and technical training. They did not start with call center training. So we are way ahead of them in that sense," said Trillo-Ugarte.

Due to Trillo-Ugarte’s five years in the industry, ExcelAsia is able to customize training modules for each client. "Client expectations are very different. Other training centers only have a general course. Our goal is to develop and enhance the skills of all our trainees. All the trainees that come from ExcelAsia talk about our great passion for helping other people and Filipinos in general," she said.

ExcelAsia graduates also seem to communicate better in English because most of its trainers are Filipinos who have lived and actually worked in the US, Australia and Europe. "We believe Filipino applicants benefit greatly from our trainer’s experiences."

Next on Trillo-Ugarte’s list is the ExcelAsia Call Center Institute, an institution catering to all the needs of call center employees. "It will be like a university for BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) courses. There will be long and short courses for Call Center Quality Management, Call Center Operations Management, and Call Center Training for trainers, Call Center Team Leaders and other BPO-related courses."

Meanwhile, ExcelAsia will add to its Cebu and Makati locations within the year (2006). Being eyed are spaces in Libis in Quezon City, Alabang in Muntinlupa City, Ortigas Center and Bacolod City.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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