(STAR) The first multilingual call center in Mindanao has begun operations in Zamboanga City.

The company, known as e.AXS, has 68 seats and handles offshore accounts in English (US, British and Australian), Spanish, German and Arabic, an indication of the linguistic resources available in this populous and culturally diverse port city.

Eric Laviña, e.AXES president, pointed out that Zamboanga City, with a population of 774,000, has a sizeable pool of skilled workers, owing to its large number of universities and vocational training centers.

“When we began recruiting, we got hundreds of applications,” said Laviña. The applicants ranged from experienced call center agents to fresh graduates with strong potential, he said.

He added that Zamboangueños familiarity with different languages has given them an advantage over their peers in other parts of the country.

“Chavacano, which is spoken by most people in this city, is a Spanish-based creole language,” said Kim Elago, a lawyer and city councilor who sits on the regional information technology and e-commerce committee. “With a little extra training, Chavacano speakers can handle client accounts in Spanish.”

Arabic accounts are being handled by call center agents who have undergone training at the Language Skills Institute in the city, on government scholarships implemented through the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Many of the trainees are from the island-province of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, said Faida Latip, senior specialist of TESDA-ARMM.

e.AXS’ primary offshore accounts were established in partnership with Davao 611, a business process outsourcing (BPO) firm, with assistance from USAID’s Growth with Equity in Mindanao (GEM) Program, which is helping to develop the region’s BPO sector. GEM is being implemented under the oversight of the Mindanao Economic Development Council (MEDCo).

The GEM Program facilitated a contract for outbound telemarketing services, with 25 dedicated seats, between e.AXS and an offshore client. GEM also linked the company with Hubport Interactive, another Davao City-based firm, for which e.AXS will serve as an off-site production unit.

“Through these joint ventures we will be able to handle more clients and improve the quality of our services,” Laviña said.

He pointed out that Zamboanga is equipped with E-1 (fiber optic) lines that allow the quick and efficient transfer of data and voice calls, a key requirement for call centers.

“Everything fell into place. The availability of the necessary ICT infrastructure and manpower made it easy to set up operations,” said e.AXS business partner Carlo Go.

Joey Lorenza, another partner, said that others are considering investments in the city following the establishment of e.AXS. “I know of about 10 investors who have expressed interest in setting up BPO firms here,” he said.

“We do want to influence in a positive way people’s view of Zamboanga and the rest of the Mindanao,” said Laviña.

RP urged to adopt stronger policies on environment By Iris C. Gonzales (The Philippine Star) Updated November 16, 2009 12:00 AM

LEVERKUSEN, Germany — The devastation left by typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng on the Philippines underscores the need for the government to put in place stronger policies for the protection of the environment, an official of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said here on the sidelines of a press conference on the environment.

Policy-makers need not wait for the 2010 presidential elections to look into how the Philippines can institute measures that would help protect the environment, said Satinder Bindra, UNEP Director, Division of Communications and Public Information.

“It should be in everybody’s interest to do things at a national level,” he said.

He added that it is “very, very important” for the government to initiate measures that would help improve the country’s situation as far as the environment is concerned. “The government has to lay down policies,” he said.

While he noted that the elections can be a venue to discuss climate change, he also said these discussions can already start way ahead of next year’s polls.

“Anytime is a good time to have a national debate on the issue,” he said.

Each and every Filipino should also participate in the upcoming global conference on climate change in Copenhagen and push for the signing of a deal that would help eliminate carbon emissions worldwide.

“Everybody has to be stakeholder in Copenhagen,” Bindra said.

The United Nations International Conference on Climate Change will be held in Copenhagen on December 7 to 18, 2009.

Bindra said that in the run-up to the Copenhagen conference, developing countries including the Philippines should already be pushing for the signing of the deal, warning that the issue of environment protection is more urgent than ever.

“We have very little time left,” Bindra said.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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