, 2010 (STAR) By Lawrence Agcaoili - A survey conducted by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) showed that more and more companies are looking at hiring additional employees after rationalizing their workforce during the height of the global economic meltdown.

Rosabel Guerrero, director of the BSP’s Department of Economic Statistics (DES), said the employment outlook index for the next quarter reached an all-time high of 22 percent in the quarterly Business Expectations Survey (BES) for the first quarter of 2010.

“This is another indicator supporting expectations of an economic recovery,” Guerrero said.

This was the highest since the employment outlook index reached a previous high of 21.7 percent in the first quarter of 2008 before plunging to negative territories in the fourth quarter of 2008 as well as first and second quarters of 2009 due to the impact of the global financial crisis.

She pointed out that the employment outlook was particularly favorable for the construction and services.

She added that bullish sub-sectors include financial intermediation, renting and business activities, real estate as well as hotel and restaurant that are already gearing up for heightened demand during the summer season and the May political exercise

Guerrero said the employment outlook index reached a new all-time high despite the fact that fewer companies expressed plans to expand their operations in the Philippines due to their excess capacities.

“As firms in the industry sector still have excess capacity, fewer firms or 19.9 percent of the respondents indicated expansion plans for the first quarter this year compared to the last quarter’s survey wherein 23.7 percent indicated their plans to expand their operations in the country,” she added.

Respondents of the survey placed their average capacity utilization at 72 percent in the first quarter of the year from about 69.8 percent in the last quarter of 2009.

Guerrero said respondents cited competition, weak demand leading to low sales volume, and financial problems as the major business constraints in the first quarter of the year.

The BSP earlier said the business confidence index rose sharply to a two-year high of 39.1 percent for the first quarter of the year from 22 percent in the fourth quarter of last year showing that businessmen are more optimistic that the domestic economy would recover from the worldwide economic debacle this year.

This was the highest since the fourth quarter of 2007 when the business confidence index reached 48 percent and has continued to increase for the third straight quarter after a negative growth of 23.9 percent in the first quarter of last year.

The Q1 2010 BES was conducted from Jan. 5 to Feb. 12. There were 1,664 firms surveyed nationwide and the respondents were drawn from the Top 7,000 Corporations of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Pag-IBIG may revive Biglang Bahay Bonds By Iris C. Gonzales (The Philippine Star) Updated March 01, 2010 12:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines - After launching its planned P12-billion bond offering last week, state-administered Home Development Mutual Fund (HDMF), also known as Pag-IBIG Fund plans to revive this year the so-called Biglang Bahay Bonds, a program put in place during the Marcos era, its top official disclosed to The STAR.

Under the plan, HDMF would sell non-interest bearing bonds and use part of the proceeds to fund a daily house-and-lot raffle worth P1 million, ideally for a period of one year. Eligible to participate in the raffle are bearers of the bonds, said HDMF chief executive officer Jaime Fabiaña.

“We’re studying this. Most likely, we will do this in the third quarter,” he said.

There are no details yet as to the amount but plans are already being firmed up and have already been proposed to the agency’s board.

During the 70s, the Ministry of Human Settlements issued roughly P1 billion in Biglang Bahay Bonds, supposedly to raise funds for the agency and to provide housing to Filipinos. The Ministry was then the sole agency authorized to establish and promulgate different levels of standards and technical requirements for the development of economic and socialized housing projects and housing units in urban and rural areas.

HDMF is constantly looking for ways to augment the agency’s funds and provide more people easier access to housing.

On March 9, the agency would be selling P12 billion in five-year bonds through a public auction. Proceeds of which would be used to refinance P7 billion in debt maturing in May while the rest would be used to augment the agency’s funds.

In an investors’ briefing last week, Fabiaña said the bonds have enough sweeteners, making it an attractive investment.

“They are tax free and enjoy the full and unconditional guarantee of the government through the Home Guaranty Corp.,” he said.

The bonds, which would have a maturity date of five years and one day, also serves as alternative compliance by banks with the Agri-Agra Law and counts as reserve assets of insurance companies and compliance with the Urban Housing Development Act.

As such, the HDMF chief said the target investors are banks, property developers and insurance firms.

Pag-IBIG has tapped state-owned Development Bank of the Philippines and First Metro Investment Corp., the investment-banking arm of the Metrobank Group as arrangers for the deal.

The Land Bank of the Philppines joins the DBP and the FMIC as Joint Lead Underwriters while the Bureau of the Treasury serves as facility agent and registrar.

Pag-IBIG is the state-owned agency that provides affordable home financing to members. It also provides personal and other emergency loans.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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