DBM RELEASES P878.5 M FOR GOVT I.T. INFRASTRUCTURE

The Department of Budget and Management said yesterday it has released P878.5 million for the development of government’s information and communications technology infrastructure. In a statement, the agency said the funds were released to the Department of Science and Technology-Information and Communications Technology Office (DOST-ICTO) for the second phase of the Integrated Government Philippines (iGovPhil) project. “Our continued investments in high-impact ICT programs are central to the Aquino administration’s good governance agenda. We remain committed to harnessing technology and developing relevant mechanisms to improve the way government agencies work with each other,” Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad said. “Data security won’t be an issue, since we’ll be using common application systems across the bureaucracy,” he continued. iGovPhil is a part of the e-Government Master Plan of 2013-2016 that aims to make the best use of ICT resources through shared infrastructure, services, and applications for national government agencies. “Aside from the savings that we will generate from paperless transactions, we will also save time by linking various government agencies through the shared ICT infrastructure,” Abad said. READ MORE...

ALSO: Efficient north-south connectivity key to preventing Metro traffic implosion

Metro Manila by itself can no longer solve its worsening traffic problems without including the surrounding areas in its efforts to decongest and improve its residents’ living standards. Dr. Shizuo Iwata, of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), stressed at a recent business forum the need for Metro Manila to extend its transport network beyond its boundaries to the north and south to ensure its sustainable development. He said the National Economic and Development Authority’s (NEDA) roadmap for the transport infrastructure development of Metro Manila will include Region 3 and Region 4-A to ease congestion in the National Capital Region. JICA is providing technical assistance to NEDA in developing the urban roadmap. Transportation is a catalyst for “a planned/guided urban growth and expansion of Metro Manila,” Iwata said. An effective transport network can integrate cities, growth centers, gateways, and urban and rural areas, as well as facilitate local economic development, enhance social integrity, and promote environmental sustainability. READ MORE...

ALSO: US to fund infrastructure projects in Palawan

The United States will be scaling up its assistance to Palawan to finance major infrastructure projects, according to US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg.
“We want to help Palawan develop economically,” Goldberg told the Inquirer after meeting with provincial officials on Thursday, adding that this would be done mainly through an ongoing program being managed by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).“We will help in infrastructure and all things that are needed to help develop economic opportunities here. This is apart from the security issue in the West Philippine Sea, which is also important, because so much is at stake in keeping the sea lanes open,” he said. The United States said it is committed to increase the capacity of some frontline units operating in the West Philippine Sea, including the Philippine National Police Maritime Group that recently interdicted a Chinese fishing vessel in the disputed Ayungin Shoal. Some of the projects, including the expansion of the US-supported Special Boat Unit (SBU) that interdicted last month a Chinese fishing vessel in the disputed Ayungin Shoal, would apply to Kalayaan Island, according to plans presented by local officials to the United States. Goldberg said they would add more boats to the elite SBU unit of the PNP Maritime Group. “We will provide additional patrol boats to SBU. Good things are going on and we want to see it continued,” he said, following an inspection of the SBU facility in Honda Bay, Puerto Princesa City. Goldberg, however, stressed the United States has always promoted the peaceful resolution of issues in the disputed areas.READ MORE...

ALSO: Many Filipinos still ‘financially excluded and under-served’

While modern gadgets have become almost basic necessities for an ever growing number of people, technology appears not to have broadened much the reach of banking institutions and services. A study conducted by MasterCard, “The Road to Inclusion: A Look at the Financially Excluded and Underserved,” found that millions of people, even among Southeast Asia’s young, economically active and thoroughly “wired” populations, were still not reached by or were not interested to be part of the banking system. In the Philippines, the average age of the “financially excluded or underserved” was 41 years, the study found. It said “a typical member of the target groups could be said to fall in the economically active age group.” The education levels of the excluded and underserved in the Philippines were also high—high school and above. “These education levels indicate a stronger potential than may have been expected to reach out and educate these target groups about the benefits of financial inclusion,” the study says. The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) defines financial inclusion as “a state wherein there is effective access to a wide range of financial services for all.” The study found that low disposable incomes discouraged many from doing business with banks. These people were concerned that banking their modest resources would involve “extra financial expenses and commitments,” like maintaining account balances, which they could not afford.READ MORE...

ALSO: In denial

With the latest figures indicating an economic slowdown in the first quarter, the administration’s pitchmen insist that the target of 6.5 percent to 7.5 percent growth for the entire year is still possible. To justify this optimistic projection, they say massive rehabilitation efforts in the typhoon-battered areas of the Visayas and other government infrastructure projects will pump-prime the economy. Sadly, this rosy outlook is not borne out by the administration’s track record. Seven months after super typhoon Yolanda killed more than 6,000 people and rendered hundreds of thousands homeless, rehabilitation in the devastated areas has been excruciatingly slow—so much so that a mother and her six children died in a tent city fire in Tacloban City last week, highlighting the fact that thousands of storm victims have yet to be resettled. A master plan for the region’s rehabilitation was approved by the Cabinet just last week—half a year after Yolanda struck. If this is the measure of the administration’s ability to pump-prime the economy with rehabilitation projects, the outlook is grim indeed. The administration is also banking on a dramatic increase in investments, apparently buying into the propaganda that it shoveled up at the recent World Economic Forum summit here last month. Reality, however, tells us that this massive capital inflow will not happen anytime soon, given the slow pace of infrastructure development and a looming power crisis characterized by inadequate supply and high prices. A good indication is the country’s poor ranking in the 2014 World Competitiveness Yearbook published by the International Institute for Management Development (IMD) based in Switzerland. Among 60 economies, the Philippines was in the bottom third at 42, four places down from its 38th spot in 2013. READ MORE...


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DBM releases P878.5 M for gov’t IT infrastructure

MANILA, JUNE 9, 2014 (PHILSTAR) By Kathleen A. Martin - The Department of Budget and Management said yesterday it has released P878.5 million for the development of government’s information and communications technology infrastructure.

In a statement, the agency said the funds were released to the Department of Science and Technology-Information and Communications Technology Office (DOST-ICTO) for the second phase of the Integrated Government Philippines (iGovPhil) project.

“Our continued investments in high-impact ICT programs are central to the Aquino administration’s good governance agenda. We remain committed to harnessing technology and developing relevant mechanisms to improve the way government agencies work with each other,” Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad said.

“Data security won’t be an issue, since we’ll be using common application systems across the bureaucracy,” he continued.

iGovPhil is a part of the e-Government Master Plan of 2013-2016 that aims to make the best use of ICT resources through shared infrastructure, services, and applications for national government agencies.

“Aside from the savings that we will generate from paperless transactions, we will also save time by linking various government agencies through the shared ICT infrastructure,” Abad said.

“Ultimately, these are efforts to improve the speed and efficiency by which we deliver public services,” he added.

The bulk of the funds released or P427.8 million will be used for the establishment and operation of data centers, while another P310.8 million will be finance the deployment of finer optic cable.

The Budget department also said P64.8 million will be used for the project implementation itself, while P36.9 million will fund the social mobilisation and industrial cooperation component of the project.

Another P37.3 million will be used for systems development or the enhancement of applications, while some P1 million will be used for the transition from execution to operations phase.

FROM THE MANILA BULLETIN

Efficient north-south connectivity key to preventing Metro traffic implosion June 7, 2014


File photo shows the volume of traffic passing through EDSA even on a Sunday. This is at Kamuning, Quezon City, southbound. Part of the solution now being undertaken is the construction of 15 major road infrastructure projects in various parts of Metro Manila.

Metro Manila by itself can no longer solve its worsening traffic problems without including the surrounding areas in its efforts to decongest and improve its residents’ living standards.

Dr. Shizuo Iwata, of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), stressed at a recent business forum the need for Metro Manila to extend its transport network beyond its boundaries to the north and south to ensure its sustainable development.

He said the National Economic and Development Authority’s (NEDA) roadmap for the transport infrastructure development of Metro Manila will include Region 3 and Region 4-A to ease congestion in the National Capital Region.

JICA is providing technical assistance to NEDA in developing the urban roadmap.

Transportation is a catalyst for “a planned/guided urban growth and expansion of Metro Manila,” Iwata said. An effective transport network can integrate cities, growth centers, gateways, and urban and rural areas, as well as facilitate local economic development, enhance social integrity, and promote environmental sustainability.

Regional integration between Metro Manila, Region 3 (Central Luzon), and Region 4-A (Calabarzon) to create a Mega Manila can be achieved through improved connectivity by establishing north-south transportation backbones such as expressways and suburban rails.

The NLEx -SLEx connection, for example, is an “urgently needed and doable” infrastructure that can reduce traffic in EDSA, divert long-haul traffic from urban roads, and improve port access.

Reliable public transportation systems like the proposed North-South Commuter Rail linking Malolos, Bulacan, and Calamba, Laguna, and the EDSA Subway running from San Jose Del Monte in Bulacan to Dasmariñas, Cavite, will promote north-south urban growth as well as improve mobility and accessibility along EDSA and other roads.

Iwata explained that building high-quality and high-capacity transport systems will also provide opportunities for urban land development outside of the Metro. This involves new large-scale town projects that will offer affordable housing, commercial facilities, industrial parks, and relocation sites for universities and other institutions, among others.

At the same time, the transportation roadmap also calls for gateway port development that will encourage shippers to shift port preference from Manila to Subic and Batangas. This, said Iwata, may be accomplished by controlling the future expansion of Manila ports and providing incentives to use the Subic and Batangas ports.

Similarly, airport development should be another top priority. A globally competitive international airport is “a critical driving force for the future development of Metro Manila and the Philippines,” said Iwata.

He said alternative locations are being studied for the planned New Ninoy Aquino International Airport as the existing NAIA will be closed and converted into a new central business district.

Clark, meanwhile, is being developed as a secondary gateway airport for central and northern Luzon and as an alternative to the New NAIA.

The thorough study and careful implementation of an integrated urban roadmap for Metro Manila and its environs will lead to “significantly positive economic, social and environmental impacts” in long term, Iwata emphasized.( Romelda Ascutia, PN&F)

FROM THE INQUIRER

US to fund infrastructure projects in Palawan By Redempto Anda
Inquirer Southern Luzon 8:40 am | Saturday, June 7th, 2014


BEST HOLIDAY DESTINATION Ariara island in Palawan boasts of 600 meters of soft, white sand, one of the reasons it topped the British edition of Vogue Magazine’s 100 best holiday destinations in the world. PHOTO FROM WWW.ARIARAISLAND.COM

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Philippines—The United States will be scaling up its assistance to Palawan to finance major infrastructure projects, according to US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg.

“We want to help Palawan develop economically,” Goldberg told the Inquirer after meeting with provincial officials on Thursday, adding that this would be done mainly through an ongoing program being managed by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

“We will help in infrastructure and all things that are needed to help develop economic opportunities here. This is apart from the security issue in the West Philippine Sea, which is also important, because so much is at stake in keeping the sea lanes open,” he said.

The United States said it is committed to increase the capacity of some frontline units operating in the West Philippine Sea, including the Philippine National Police Maritime Group that recently interdicted a Chinese fishing vessel in the disputed Ayungin Shoal.

Some of the projects, including the expansion of the US-supported Special Boat Unit (SBU) that interdicted last month a Chinese fishing vessel in the disputed Ayungin Shoal, would apply to Kalayaan Island, according to plans presented by local officials to the United States.

Goldberg said they would add more boats to the elite SBU unit of the PNP Maritime Group.

“We will provide additional patrol boats to SBU. Good things are going on and we want to see it continued,” he said, following an inspection of the SBU facility in Honda Bay, Puerto Princesa City.

Goldberg, however, stressed the United States has always promoted the peaceful resolution of issues in the disputed areas.

Goldberg also noted that despite sweeping budget cuts on US development assistance, they have been able to keep development funds to the Philippines “in a good level.”

Goldberg explained the US government, having signed the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement and supported the Philippines’ bid to resolve the territorial dispute with China on the Spratlys issue within the framework of the United Nations, sees its increased development support to Palawan as an adjunct to its foreign policy stance.

Palawan Governor Jose Alvarez said the US assistance would help develop the province’s tourism industry by financing major infrastructure needs.

Many Filipinos still ‘financially excluded and under-served’
By Linda B. Bolido Philippine Daily Inquirer 11:54 am | Monday, June 2nd, 2014


Matthew Driver, Mastercard president for Southeast Asia: Education

MANILA, Philippines–While modern gadgets have become almost basic necessities for an ever growing number of people, technology appears not to have broadened much the reach of banking institutions and services.

A study conducted by MasterCard, “The Road to Inclusion: A Look at the Financially Excluded and Underserved,” found that millions of people, even among Southeast Asia’s young, economically active and thoroughly “wired” populations, were still not reached by or were not interested to be part of the banking system.

In the Philippines, the average age of the “financially excluded or underserved” was 41 years, the study found. It said “a typical member of the target groups could be said to fall in the economically active age group.”

The education levels of the excluded and underserved in the Philippines were also high—high school and above.

“These education levels indicate a stronger potential than may have been expected to reach out and educate these target groups about the benefits of financial inclusion,” the study says.

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) defines financial inclusion as “a state wherein there is effective access to a wide range of financial services for all.”

The study found that low disposable incomes discouraged many from doing business with banks. These people were concerned that banking their modest resources would involve “extra financial expenses and commitments,” like maintaining account balances, which they could not afford.

Automated teller machines (ATMs), meant to ease the hassle of banking transactions, were viewed by many with distrust.

As the study found, “across all markets, there is reluctance to adopt the usage of ATM cards … this is considered a risk—there is high possibility of forgetting the PIN (personal information number) code and in turn ‘money is stuck.’  There is a perception, especially among older people, that there is a possibility of never regaining access to the money anymore. Other reasons of potential loss of money to the ATM are technology failure; offline ATMs that ‘eat your card.’”

The local 2009 Consumer Finance Survey, the BSP said, found that only two of 10 Filipino households had deposit accounts, and 26.6 percent of adults had a deposit account. The National Capital Region accounted for almost half (43 percent) of deposit accounts and 68 percent of the total amount of deposits.

Now, both the government and private sector had decided that, if people would not go to the banks, then they would bring the banks, or their financial services and products, to the excluded and underserved, using means and tools that people were already already familiar with, like mobile phones and tablets and banking apps (applications). They may also products and services that are convenient and secure, making it easier for potential clients to manage their finances.

The BSP said that, beyond availability, the products and services should be “appropriately designed, of good quality and relevant to benefit the person accessing the said service.”

Matthew Driver, president for Southeast Asia of Mastercard who was in Manila recently for the World Economic Forum, stressed the need to bring “the right solution to the right segment.”

He pointed out that, in the region, financial exclusion involved “a wide range of people, and happens across the board, so we have to find solutions that will address needs of different groups.”

To get access to customers, financial institutions had to bring suitable services at the right time, Driver said. The challenge, he added, was finding the right solutions and making them available. Programs also had to be appealing.

Prospective bank clients need to feel respect, and must be offered the right kinds of products. One product that offers clients convenience and security is the reloadable prepaid card, Driver said. With the prepaid card, transactions are transparent and may help those who want to control their spending.

Mobile phone users with prepaid accounts may find it quite easy to adapt to a reloadable card. Like the prepaid phone card, the reloadable bank card may be topped up anytime with any amount.

Unlike cash transactions, where there are almost no record of spending, prepaid card use will be documented, allowing the card holders to monitor their spending, Driver said. The card holders may adjust their spending by loading the right amount of money on their accounts.

The key, Driver said, was education. People had to be assured that their money, no matter how small, would be more secure in banks, and that access to their assets need not be as difficult as they feared.

They should also learn the benefits of putting their money in banks, like interest earnings and access to financial products and services. They need to learn to trust the banking industry, he added.

Driver said, at the grassroots level, MasterCard was working with non-government organizations “to make people more aware of the benefits of financial planning, discipline of saving and organizing finances … to provide security to their families.”

At the industry level, he said, the MasterCard Center for Inclusive Growth was working with academics on leadership development initiatives and with telecommunication companies to develop apps on financial literacy, sharing best practices, helping train trainors and program managers.

The center wants to promote financial education at multiple points, he said. It is now working with various sectors in information and education programs.

In terms of promoting financial inclusion, Driver said, the Philippines was one of the more advanced among developing countries, even though bank penetration was low. Many institutions and organizations supported inclusion, and banks had a good understanding of opportunities.

He said it was just “a matter of putting it all together and creating the right environment.” He mentioned that the country, for instance, had been doing mobile money transfer for 14 years.

“Hopefully, banks can develop services that will make them appealing to people and use technology to make services relevant to consumers available,” Driver said.

He pointed out that new technology meant that bank clients need not travel long distances to carry out transactions.

Poch Villareal, MasterCard country head for the Philippines, said financial inclusion would allow small businessmen to conduct cashless transactions no matter where they were.

Driver said better technology, like the use of biometrics such as fingerprint for access, would increase people’s confidence in the banking system and reduce costs by allowing the creation and distribution of products at lower rates.

Villareal said a BSP directive would, in a few years, replace magnetic strips on cards with the more secure embedded chips.

With this shift, people may gain more confidence in the banking system and feel more security. This, in turn, will help broaden the client base of financial institutions.

FROM THE MANILA STANDARD

In denial By Manila Standard Today | Jun. 02, 2014 at 12:01am - With the latest figures indicating an economic slowdown in the first quarter, the administration’s pitchmen insist that the target of 6.5 percent to 7.5 percent growth for the entire year is still possible.


THE Aquino administration is a government in denial.

To justify this optimistic projection, they say massive rehabilitation efforts in the typhoon-battered areas of the Visayas and other government infrastructure projects will pump-prime the economy.

Sadly, this rosy outlook is not borne out by the administration’s track record.

Seven months after super typhoon Yolanda killed more than 6,000 people and rendered hundreds of thousands homeless, rehabilitation in the devastated areas has been excruciatingly slow—so much so that a mother and her six children died in a tent city fire in Tacloban City last week, highlighting the fact that thousands of storm victims have yet to be resettled.

A master plan for the region’s rehabilitation was approved by the Cabinet just last week—half a year after Yolanda struck.

If this is the measure of the administration’s ability to pump-prime the economy with rehabilitation projects, the outlook is grim indeed.

The administration is also banking on a dramatic increase in investments, apparently buying into the propaganda that it shoveled up at the recent World Economic Forum summit here last month. Reality, however, tells us that this massive capital inflow will not happen anytime soon, given the slow pace of infrastructure development and a looming power crisis characterized by inadequate supply and high prices.

A good indication is the country’s poor ranking in the 2014 World Competitiveness Yearbook published by the International Institute for Management Development (IMD) based in Switzerland. Among 60 economies, the Philippines was in the bottom third at 42, four places down from its 38th spot in 2013.

The IMD noted that the Philippines declined in four key dimensions: six places to 37th in economic performance, nine spots to 40th in government efficiency, six notches to 27th in business efficiency, and two places to 59th in infrastructure.

The next-to-the-worst showing in infrastructure is particularly worrisome for an economy that hopes to grow rapidly, and will certainly not be corrected in three quarters, no matter what the administration drum beaters say.

The IMD also said allegations of corruption involving high-level public officials have dented perceptions of government and business efficiency.

Here, too, the administration is in denial.

Faced with mounting allegations that three Cabinet officials were involved in a pork barrel scam that funneled development funds to bogus projects in exchange for kickbacks, the administration has circled the wagons, denying the charges out of hand instead of promising a thorough and impartial investigation of their role.

The knee-jerk denials and rather obvious attempts to cover up the involvement of administration allies while persecuting its political opponents make a complete mockery of President Aquino’s straight path policy.

The Aquino administration came to power on the promise that there would be no poverty if there is no corruption. By statistical sleight of hand, it denies that the number of poor people have grown under President Aquino’s watch.

But it is increasingly difficult to conceal that only a fortunate few are growing obscenely rich, while the rest of us toil to get by. In the end, there will be no denying that President Aquino has done little to put a dent in poverty—or corruption in his own house.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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