BUSINESS HEADLINES THIS PAST WEEK...

LONG-AWAITED: SUPERJUMBO ETIHAD'S AIRBUS A380 SET TO TAKE OFF ITS MAIDEN FLIGHT NEXT WEEK 

DEC 20 --Abu Dhabi– The maiden flight of Etihad Airways’ long-awaited Airbus A380 superjumbo will take place next week, the Abu Dhabi carrier said Thursday, also announcing its first Boeing 787 Dreamliner route.  READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO: DOTC allots P781 M for Bicol int’l airport

DEC 19 --The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) has earmarked P781 million to develop the Bicol international airport in Daraga, Albay as the government pursues the development of provincial airports. The project for the New Legaspi airport involves the construction of landside facilities as well as the construction of several buildings including the operation and control tower. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO: Gulf nations brace for tough times over oil price plunge 

DEC 19 --Kuwait City– Gulf countries are bracing for tough times as vital oil revenues fall and after they missed a golden opportunity to diversify their economies in a decade of unprecedented windfalls, analysts say. The six nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – could soon start reeling from falling oil prices, which have dropped by half from their 2014 highs to around $60 a barrel. Pumping about 17.5 million barrels per day, GCC countries are forecast to lose at least half their oil revenues, or around $350 billion a year, at current price levels. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO TY! EURO: GSP+ means 200,000 jobs, 35% more exports 

PHOTO: Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo said GSP+ is a game changer for the Philippines. Photo shows Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr., president of PHILEXPORT, thanking EU Ambassador Guy Ledoux, (from right) with DTI Secretary Gregory Domingo, DTI Undersecretary and Lead Trade Negotiator Adrian Cristobal Jr., and DFA Undersecretary Evan Garcia. PHOTO BY VOLTAIRE PALAÑA The Philippines expects to increase exports to the European Union by 35 percent and provide jobs for 200,000 after the European Parliament approved the Philippine application for Generalized System of Preferences Plus (GSP+) last Thursday.
GSP+ allows zero tariff for 6,274 products, including tuna, that may be exported to Europe. AD FULL REPORT...

ALSO: More money, more guns; Asia's military budgets surge as armies go high-tech  

PHOTO: A Boeing Apache attack helicopter is seen at a military base in the Czech Republic. Indonesia recently bought eight of these helicopters. © AP ---It would be wrong to say that all this force expansion and upgrading in Southeast Asia and Australia is related to the perceived threat from China. The China factor is clearly the prime motivator for Vietnam and the Philippines, which is acquiring 10 large coast-guard cutters from Japan. Other countries, such as Australia, Thailand and Singapore, are aligned with the U.S. but trying to balance defensive precautions against Chinese power by stepping up interaction with the People's Liberation Army. READ FULL REPORT FROM BEGINNING...

ALSO: SOLAR POWER NOW SHINES IN PH BUILDINGS Businessmen tap the power of the sun 

PHOTO: SOLAR ROOFTOP ---Solar technology is now shining in the Philippines, as some businessmen began to install solar panels on rooftops of schools, office buildings and even shopping malls, seven years after the passage of Republic Act No. 9513, or the Renewable Energy Law. A view of the Makati skyline from the solar rooftop of St. Scholastica’s College in Manila. Images by Roderick T. dela Cruz This year alone, the industry saw a significant number of solar rooftop projects installed, a feat that has not been immediately felt after the passage of the law, which promotes the use of renewable energy resources such as solar, wind and mini-hydro projects. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO: SMARTPHONES FUEL PH IT SPENDING IN 2015

The country’s information technology (IT) industry is expected to close the year with an 11.4 percent growth, a global market intelligence provider said yesterday, amid strong consumer spending, healthy economy status and the recent credit grade improvement. Growth in spending, estimated at $6.76 billion by yearend, was mainly driven by hardware purchases, which contributed around 76 percent of the total IT market spending, while software and services were at 7 and 18 percent, respectively, according to IDC Philippines. READ FULL REPORT...


READ FULL REPORTS HERE:

Etihad’s first new Superjumbo A380 set to take off next week

MANILA, DECEMBER 22, 2014 (MANILA BULLETIN)  by AFP


NEW ETIHAD AIRWAYS AIRBUS A380 COMES WITH A SUITE (AP) – An Emirati man takes a selfie in front of a new Etihad Airways A380 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates on December 18, 2014 (left) while Emirati and other guests from foreign countries visit inside a new Etihad Airways A380 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014.

Abu Dhabi– The maiden flight of Etihad Airways’ long-awaited Airbus A380 superjumbo will take place next week, the Abu Dhabi carrier said Thursday, also announcing its first Boeing 787 Dreamliner route.

The rapidly growing airline said it had nine more A380s and 71 additional 787s on order, describing the delivery of the first two planes in its updated fleet as ”momentous”.

The A380 is to enter commercial service on December 27 with a flight to London Heathrow, while Etihad’s first 787 flight will land in Duesseldorf in Germany on February 1 next year.


Journalists tour the first class section on the Etihad Airways A380 Airbus superjumbo, at Abu Dhabi airport on Dec.18, 2014 .Abu Dhabi’s national carrier, Etihad, showcased on Thursday the arrival of its first Airbus A380, outfitted with “the only three-room suite in the sky.” The A380 is the first of a fleet of 10 on order from Etihad Airways, which is to take delivery of four more of the double-decker jets next year. The A380 will operate daily to London Heathrow starting Dec. 27 and features “The Residence by Etihad” — a three-room suite, complete with a living room, a private bathroom with shower and a bedroom, as well as a dedicated butler at the very front of the plane’s upper deck. The 11.6 square metre cabin is for single or double occupancy.MARWAN NAAMANI/AFP/Getty Images

Etihad chief executive James Hogan said the carrier wants to be deploy the double-decker on ”slot-constrained” destinations.

”By deploying the A380 on to London, we’ll be able to sell more seats, and that’s the same for Sydney and New York,” Hogan told AFP, pointing out Etihad’s three Heathrow slots were insufficient.

Etihad, Dubai-based Emirates – owner of 56 A380s — and Qatar Airways have seized a sizable share of transcontinental travel, turning their Gulf cities into major transit hubs.


The 11.61-square-metre area that includes a "living room" partitioned off from the first-class aisle, leather seating, a chilled mini-bar and a 32-inch flat-screen TV, at a training facility in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. The area was created as a mock-up suite to be built in Etihad Airways airplanes.AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili, File

The expansion of the three has brought criticism from so-called legacy airlines, and complaints of unfair competition with the state-owned operators.

Hogan said Etihad synchronises its flight schedules with those of its partners in Europe, and through codeshare agreements with other carriers including Air France-KLM.

”We work on a codeshare basis, hand in hand,” he said, brushing off complaints from legacy airlines by saying ”competition is competition”.

Etihad, which posted a 30-percent year-on-year increase in passenger numbers between July and September, holds equity in airberlin, Air Seychelles, Virgin Australia, Air Lingus, Air Serbia, and Jet Airways.

The European Commission last month approved Etihad’s acquisition of a 49-percent stake in debt-laden Alitalia. The carrier is also still formalising its equity investment in Swiss-based Etihad Regional, operating by Darwin Airlines.

Hogan said Thursday his carrier in not in talks to increase its stake in Jet Airways, and has ”never been in talks” to buy a stake in unprofitable South African Airways, as has been reported.


FROM PHILSTAR

DOTC allots P781 M for Bicol int’l airport By Lawrence Agcaoili (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 20, 2014 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) has earmarked P781 million to develop the Bicol international airport in Daraga, Albay as the government pursues the development of provincial airports.

The project for the New Legaspi airport involves the construction of landside facilities as well as the construction of several buildings including the operation and control tower.

Buildings to be constructed include administration, cargo terminal, crash fire rescue, power house, and maintenance buildings as well as material recovery facilities, pump house and water tank, chilled water pump house, fuel storage tank, chlorination house, among others.

In the invitation to bid, the DOTC said interested investors have until Jan. 21 to submit their bids.

Last week, the DOTC together with the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) rolled out the bidding for the operation and maintenance six provincial airports in a contract worth P116.2 billion.

The biggest project is the P40.57-billion contract to improve the services and enhance the airside and landside facilities at the Davao international airport followed by the P30.4-billion contract for the Iloilo international airport.

Other projects are the Bacolod – Silay international airport with P20.26 billion, the Laguindingan airport with P14.62 billion, Puerto Princesa airport with P5.81 billion, and New Bohol (Panglao) airport with P4.57 billion.


FROM THE MANILA BULLETIN

Gulf nations brace for tough times over oil price plunge by AFP December 19, 2014

Kuwait City– Gulf countries are bracing for tough times as vital oil revenues fall and after they missed a golden opportunity to diversify their economies in a decade of unprecedented windfalls, analysts say.

The six nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – could soon start reeling from falling oil prices, which have dropped by half from their 2014 highs to around $60 a barrel.

Pumping about 17.5 million barrels per day, GCC countries are forecast to lose at least half their oil revenues, or around $350 billion a year, at current price levels.

Oil revenues make up around 90 percent of income for most GCC states and with prices now below budget forecasts, their governments are looking at certain deficits next year.

Spending cuts are sure to follow – and possibly even the region’s first taxes – raising fears of public discontent and eventually an economic slowdown.

The oil price drop has also sent Gulf stock prices plummeting, wiping out billions of dollars of market value across the region and hurting major private firms like developer Emaar Properties and builder Arabtec Holding.

The heart of the problem, leading Kuwaiti economist Jassem al-Saadun said, is that Gulf states failed to seize on surging energy revenues to build up their economies outside the oil sector.

”Gulf states have missed an important opportunity to reform and build a real diversified economy,” Saadun said.

”Public spending has soared to new record highs and it was not for vital infrastructure projects to diversify the economy,” Saadun said.

”It was mostly for wages, salaries and subsidies… and handouts for buying political loyalty especially after the Arab Spring.”

Economists are warning that even with the huge reserves many have built up, a prolonged drop in oil prices will hit Gulf states hard.

”The prevailing growth model for most oil-exporting countries has left them vulnerable to a sustained decline in oil prices,” the International Monetary Fund said in a research bulletin last week headlined: ”It is high time to diversify”.

Ratings agency Standard & Poor’s is warning that an extended decline in oil prices will likely slow the Gulf economies, reducing spending on their massive infrastructure projects and hitting the private sector.

S&P has lowered its outlooks for Saudi Arabia, Oman and Bahrain, though it has maintained their ratings because of their impressive reserves.

The IMF has said that – barring Oman and Bahrain, which are already in deficit – GCC states will not be greatly affected in the short-term as they can tap into reserves estimated at $2.5 trillion.

But these funds, the IMF warned, will ”only provide a temporary cushion”.

In some parts of the region, the belt-tightening has already begun.

Regional powerhouse Saudi Arabia has insisted it will maintain its high spending levels by tapping into reserves.

But Kuwait has ordered major spending cuts and is considering lifting petrol and electricity subsidies.

In the UAE, Dubai has announced plans to raise electricity and water charges. Similar measures are expected by other countries.

Moody’s Ratings said Gulf countries are likely to start with cuts in spending on ”non-strategic investment projects” but will eventually face tough choices.

”Slowing or even reversing the growth in current government spending, including subsidy reforms, will be more difficult as governments seek to meet social welfare demands,” the agency said.

As oil revenues in Gulf states surged from about $100 billion in 2000 to $729 billion last year, public spending grew from about $150 billion to $547 billion, according to IMF figures.

But the spending focused mostly on items like wages and subsidies – not crucial capital investment.

”Current expenditure has surpassed capital spending by miles,” said M.R. Raghu, head of research at Kuwait Financial Center (MARKAZ).

Cutting that spending now is difficult as it means taking courageous decisions on wage and subsidy reforms, experts say.

The Gulf states have adopted a generous cradle-to-grave welfare system with highly subsidized services and fuel and no taxation.

The World Bank has urged GCC states to start immediate cuts to energy subsidies, which cost them more than $160 billion annually, and Saadun said it was ”inevitable” they would have to start introducing taxes.

Such moves would prove deeply unpopular. But Saadun said putting them off would eventually make more drastic efforts necessary, which could spark the kind of social unrest that has hit other countries in the region.

”Yes, these measures are politically sensitive, but the alternative is an Arab Spring in the Gulf. Options are no longer easy.”


FROM THE MANILA TIMES

Thank You, EURO: GSP+ means 200,000 jobs, 35% more exports December 19, 2014 8:01 pm by Voltaire Palaña reporter


■ Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo said GSP+ is a game changer for the Philippines. Photo shows Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr., president of PHILEXPORT, thanking EU Ambassador Guy Ledoux, (from right) with DTI Secretary Gregory Domingo, DTI Undersecretary and Lead Trade Negotiator Adrian Cristobal Jr., and DFA Undersecretary Evan Garcia. PHOTO BY VOLTAIRE PALAÑA

The Philippines expects to increase exports to the European Union by 35 percent and provide jobs for 200,000 after the European Parliament approved the Philippine application for Generalized System of Preferences Plus (GSP+) last Thursday.

GSP+ allows zero tariff for 6,274 products, including tuna, that may be exported to Europe. Zero tariff will cover almost two-thirds of Philippine exports to the union. An earlier study done by the Department of Trade showed that the expanded GSP will mean additional exports of +600 million during the first year of its implementation which starts Dec. 25, from the current export of +1.69 billion.

The expanded GSP also makes the Philippines more attractive for foreigners to invest in the countryside and speed up recovery efforts for disaster-stricken areas.

The Philippines is already a beneficiary of the EU’s Regular GSP arrangement.

The Philippines total exports to the EU that were eligible under regular GSP in 2013 amounted to +1.69 billion or 33 percent of total exports to the EU. Actual utilization was around 64 percent or +1.08 billion but this figure is set to rise as a result of GSP+.

The best accommodations (from Regular GSP to GSP+) were given to prepared foodstuffs (9.3%), garments (9.0%), textile products (5.0%), live animals and animal products (4.2%), and footwear, headwear and umbrellas (4.0 percent).

“This is a game changer , hundreds of thousands of jobs will be available in the countryside. This will specifically help disaster- stricken areas. The approval of the EU Parliament reflects the EU’s strong support to the Philippines’ development strategy and recovery efforts,” Trade and Industry Secretary Gregory Domingo said during the press briefing Friday.

Domingo added that a critical element of the country’s inclusive growth strategy is boosting trade with the rest of the world to help people living in areas affected by Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda)

DTI Undersecretary and Lead Trade Negotiator Adrian Cristobal said “With the GSP+ in place, our exporters will have better access and comparative advantage in the EU market”.

In Asean, the Philippines is the only beneficiary country of the EU GSP+ program. “We expect foreign investors to turn their attention to the Philippines and consider the country as their manufacturing hub for the Asean region,” Cristobal added.

To ensure that the GSP+ benefits will be maximized, the DTI will roll out nationwide campaign for industries to avail of the GSP+ tariff privileges. This includes technical assistance and capacity building for Philippine exporters to Europe, through the EU’s Trade Related Technical Assistance (TRTA) Project.

“We need to work closely with relevant government agencies for the EU monitoring process concerning the implementation of 27 core international conventions in the fields of human and labor rights, the environment and good governance. The monitoring process is an essential requirement of the EU GSP+ program and is conducted every two years,” Cristobal said.

EU Ambassador Guy Ledoux said that, “This is very good news for the Philippines as it will bring tariffs to 0% for two thirds of tariff lines including strategic products that the Philippines is already exporting to the EU. This will immediately translate into savings of tens of millions of euros per year in foregone customs duties.”

“Apart from giving a dramatic and immediate advantage to Philippine exports, the EU concession significantly improves the attractiveness of the Philippines as a destination for new agricultural and manufacturing facilities for products that will now enjoy duty free access to the EU. This gives the Philippines a comparative advantage and represents very tangible EU support to the Philippine strategy to increase exports and investments, and diversify its industry.

“The bottom line is more jobs for Filipinos in the Philippines”, Ambassador Ledoux said.

The Philippines is the 14th country to be included in the list of EU GSP+ beneficiaries along with Armenia, Bolivia. Cape Verde, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Georgia, Guatemala, Mongolia, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay and Peru.


FROM ASIA NEWS - NIKKEIDecember 18, 2014 12:00 am JST

More money, more guns; Asia's military budgets surge as armies go high-tech HAMISH McDONALD, Contributing writer


A Boeing Apache attack helicopter is seen at a military base in the Czech Republic. Indonesia recently bought eight of these helicopters. © AP

SYDNEY -- On two recent occasions, a pair of Sukhoi Su-30 fighters have taken off from their base near the old Indonesian trading port of Makassar and flown far across the Indonesian archipelago to intercept unidentified aircraft.

One of the mystery planes, a light aircraft being ferried from Darwin in northern Australia to its new owners in the Philippines, was chased a long distance before being forced to land in Manado, a city on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. The other, an executive jet flying Saudi officials to Brisbane ahead of the Group-20 meeting, was ordered to land in the Indonesian city of Kupang on the island of Timor.

In both cases, fines were imposed and the planes were allowed to continue to their destinations. It is unclear whether the Indonesian pilots could have taken any hostile action, since missiles have not yet been delivered for the Russian-made jets.

Ready to rumble

But the confrontations underline a shift in military capability among the nations of Southeast Asia. A decade ago, the Indonesian air force had little advanced combat capability, as its fighters were largely grounded by a lack of spare parts due to economic stringency and arms embargoes related to human rights abuses.

Now it is flexing its muscles. Indonesia's official defense budget has increased fourfold over the past decade to $8 billion. Meanwhile, spare parts have been found for the air force's grounded Lockheed Martin F-16 fighters; some newer versions have been ordered; eight Boeing Apache attack helicopters have been bought; and a big naval expansion has taken place as part of a $13.2 billion, five-year modernization program announced in August 2013. The Su-30s were bought using a $1 billion credit line opened by Moscow in 2007.

The expansion appears far from over. Recently elected President Joko Widodo is making self-sufficiency and exploitation of the archipelago's marine resources a theme of his government, and he is already talking of a further doubling of defense spending.

This stance reflects a sea change in Southeast Asian military thinking. For decades, the region's militaries focused on domestic insurgencies, border security and, in some cases, maintaining political control. Large land armies were the principal requirement.

These days, governments in the region are more concerned about securing air and sea space so they can exercise sovereignty over marine and seabed resources, contest overlapping claims, prevent the plundering of forests and minerals, and monitor the movement of people. This requires more investment in naval and air power.

With their economies moving into the so-called middle-income bracket -- higher in the case of fully developed Singapore -- governments have more to spend on advanced military platforms and weapons. Southeast Asia's defense spending grew by 5% on the year to nearly $36 billion in 2013, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, just ahead of the 4.7% increase for East Asia to $282 billion.

Meanwhile, established defense manufacturers in Europe, Russia and North America are eager to sell, with lavish export credits being made available to sweeten deals. Closer to the region, Japan and South Korea, the industrial giants of East Asia, are also entering the arms bazaar.

China's growing assertiveness in claiming the South China Sea as sovereign territory -- against counterclaims from five Southeast Asian countries -- has brought encouragement from the U.S., Japan, India and Australia, and help in enhancing the capabilities of regional armed forces and coast guards.

Consequently, the region is seeing large-scale acquisitions of equipment aimed at establishing the ability to contest control and make potential rivals think twice about intruding.

Navies are acquiring or expanding fleets of quiet conventional submarines to lurk in sea approaches. Indonesia, Singapore and Vietnam are buying new-generation submarines, with Malaysia and Thailand considering following suit.

South Korea is building the first of 12 German-designed Type-214 submarines for Indonesia, with follow-on boats to be built in Surabaya, Indonesia. Vietnam has acquired the first of six Kilo-class submarines from Russia to help keep China out of contested waters, with low-profile financing from Japan and training from India.

To the south, Australia is considering buying advanced Soryu-class submarines built by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Kawasaki Heavy Industries, following a decision by the Japanese government to lift the country's self-imposed restrictions on military exports.

"Submarines are powerful offensive weapons which can bring a dramatic jump in capability against [other countries'] submarines and ships," said Tim Huxley, director in Singapore for the International Institute of Strategic Studies, a British think tank that runs the annual Shangri-la Dialogue forum in the city-state. "They also can be used as land-attack platforms. The sort of big new subs that Singapore is going to buy could be equipped with vertical launch tubes for that kind of missile."

Some navies are building large "flat-top" ships that can carry swarms of anti-submarine helicopters or quickly land troops on outlying islands or oil platforms. Japan set the trend with two Hyuga-class helicopter carriers, built by IHI. And the country is adding two even bigger vessels -- Izumo-class carriers. South Korea is building a second Dokto-class helicopter carrier.

Australia has just commissioned the first of two helicopter carrier and landing ships, while Singapore has shown off a redesign of its existing half-deck Endurance-class landing ship as a more capable marine aviation platform.

Air force upgrades

All four of these countries are helping develop or are planning to buy U.S. company Lockheed Martin's F-35 Lightning II strike fighter -- a so-called fifth-generation plane with flight- and weapons-control characteristics far in advance of any military aircraft in service. Though the governments are looking initially at the conventional takeoff version for their air forces, the short and vertical takeoff capability of the F-35B variant would give them the option of converting naval helicopter platforms into carriers for fixed-wing aircraft.

While they wait for the F-35, the Australian and Singaporean air forces are acquiring upgraded versions of their existing aircraft, respectively the F-18 Super Hornet and the F-15SG Eagle, both made by Boeing. The power of these latest fourth-generation fighters and strike aircraft is enhanced by "force multipliers," such as other aircraft dedicated to airborne surveillance and control, and in-flight refueling tankers that extend range and flying time.

Armies have generally been reluctant to shrink their troop numbers (except in Taiwan, where the end of conscription in 2016 will see a significant reduction) and many still insist on prestige capabilities, such as medium-heavy tanks that are more suited to European or Middle-Eastern battlefields.

But where there is not already separate marine corps, some armies are designating units for the role. One of Australia's commando battalions, based in Townsville, Queensland, will train for deployment aboard the new helicopter landing ships, and the Malaysian army is also assigning units to a marine-type role.

"They're coming into the same sort of league as Western countries," said Huxley. "The most extreme case is Singapore. There's going to be no difference in the sort of front-line capabilities that Singapore and Australia have. Both of them are going to have F-35 strike fighters; both are going to have ships that can operate aviation, possibly including F-35s; both have got in-flight refueling tankers, long-range surveillance platforms and so on."

It would be wrong to say that all this force expansion and upgrading in Southeast Asia and Australia is related to the perceived threat from China. The China factor is clearly the prime motivator for Vietnam and the Philippines, which is acquiring 10 large coast-guard cutters from Japan.

Other countries, such as Australia, Thailand and Singapore, are aligned with the U.S. but trying to balance defensive precautions against Chinese power by stepping up interaction with the People's Liberation Army.

In late 2014, Singapore sent a large contingent from its army to China for joint exercises, while Australia hosted a small PLA unit for training near Darwin, where U.S. Marines are rotated for six months every year as part of the "pivot" to Asia announced by U.S. President Barack Obama.

The prestige factor

The 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations includes all the countries in the region that have territorial disputes with Beijing in the South China Sea. But the countries in the bloc have struggled to find a common line on the issue or develop a coherent strategic posture. One member, Cambodia, has sometimes acted as a proxy for China in regional forums.

In part, the growing defense spending is about prestige. Few analysts see much rationale for Thailand to acquire the three submarines its naval planners say it needs. The Indonesian army's recent purchase of Leopard-2 tanks, manufactured in Germany by Krauss-Maffei Wegmann, baffled most observers. Many saw it merely as an attempt to maintain parity of status with Singapore and Malaysia, which also boast tank forces.

In some countries, politicians see defense spending as a way to buy off the military men with equipment and keep them out of politics, though this did not work for Thailand's recently deposed civilian Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

There is also an element of gearing up for neighborhood squabbles. Thai and Cambodian forces have clashed over territory around an ancient temple on their border. Indonesian and Malaysian patrol boats have faced off at a contested oil field off Kalimantan, not far from where Malaysian forces quelled a bizarre private invasion from the Philippines into Sabah State in 2013. Singapore is worried about the security of its water supply from neighboring Malaysia.

Southeast Asia has never been short of seething threats and rivalries to engage its military planners. The difference now is that its governments increasingly have the funds and suppliers to meet their demands.


FROM THE MANILA STANDARD

SOLAR ROOFTOPS: Businessmen tap the power of the sun By Alena Mae S. Flores | Dec. 20, 2014 at 10:20pm

Solar technology is now shining in the Philippines, as some businessmen began to install solar panels on rooftops of schools, office buildings and even shopping malls, seven years after the passage of Republic Act No. 9513, or the Renewable Energy Law.


A view of the Makati skyline from the solar rooftop of St. Scholastica’s College in Manila. Images by Roderick T. dela Cruz


This year alone, the industry saw a significant number of solar rooftop projects installed, a feat that has not been immediately felt after the passage of the law, which promotes the use of renewable energy resources such as solar, wind and mini-hydro projects.

Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla expects renewable energy projects including solar rooftop installations to pick up next year, heralding the golden age of renewable energy in the country.

Petilla says solar rooftop capacity will continue to increase in 2015, amid the strong interest from schools, commercial and industrial projects and even government offices.

“You can never tell how many institutions are going to be included because it depends on the size of each project. Because of so many interests for solar technology at the moment, some of them are already moving on their own even without our initiative,” Petilla says.

The European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines estimates the potential market for solar rooftop projects at $450 million yearly, based on 50,000 households or a tenth of the half a million constructions yearly, with average solar panel installations of 2 kilowatts each.

Solar rooftop installations are expected to reach 2.5 megawatts by end-2014, as more homeowners and enterprises realize the opportunities to save money and mitigate climate change by harnessing sunlight to power homes and offices.

ECCP says with the continued drop in system prices, solar energy is approaching grid parity, opening the way for more solar rooftop installations.

“Vast installation of solar panels on rooftops of households, commercial buildings and industrial facilities could help safeguard the country’s energy security over the long term. Rooftop solar panels could be a viable solution for the Philippines given its high solar irradiation level,” ECCP says.

The Philippine Solar Power Alliance earlier estimated that the country has an untapped solar rooftop potential of about 300 MW.

One company, Propmech Corp., recently installed a solar-rooftop project at St. Scholastica’s College in Manila that will enable the school to save as much as 20 percent in electricity cost.

“We are prioritizing schools for solar projects because of the reason they more open to the public than private companies, other institutions can freely go to them to learn about solar panels,” Petilla says.

St. Scholastica’s joins the rank of other schools such as Manuel L. Quezon University, Mapua Institute of Technology and La Consolaction College-Manila, in utilizing renewable energy.

St. Scholastica’s St. Cecilla’s Hall has been turned into a 96-kilowatt solar power plant that can generate 38.88 percent of the hall’s daily energy needs. The amount will greatly reduce St. Scholastica’s monthly electricity expenses.


Members of the academe at St. Scholastica’s College in Manila
watch the solar panels installed by Propmech Corp. at the rooftop
of St. Cecilia’s Hall.

“It will bring us P400,000 savings per month, which will be equal to P4 million per year,” St. Scholastica’s president Mary Frances Dizon says.

The school’s power plant will operate through Manila Electric Co.’s net metering mechanism, which allows the school to sell its excess energy back to the grid.

St. Scholastica’s consumption is at peak during the day when classes are ongoing and offices are operating. This means the solar project earns them the best savings.

Propmech is a local company whose projects include the Asian Development Bank’s rooftop solar plant, rural electrification of the government and Meralco’s solar system at the Meralco Fitness Center.

Another solar firm, Solar Philippines, is also bullish about solar rooftop opportunities in the Philippines. Solar Philippines is expanding its solar rooftop projects to include industrial users with a capacity of 10 MW to 20 MW.

Leandro Leviste, the 21-year-old president of Solar Philippines, says the company plans to put up solar rooftop projects on industries located at the economic zones south of Manila.

“We’re also doing industrial projects that are in the 10 to 20 MW in size. So, can you imagine ten times bigger than what we’re currently doing here. This is really because there is so much demand for ways to cut people’s electricity costs, given especially next year’s high power rates,” Leviste says.

Solar Philippines recently completed a 1.5-MW solar rooftop project at SM North Edsa, making it the world’s largest solar-powered shopping mall. The North Edsa parking building was outfitted with 5,760 solar panels and 60 inverters covering over 12,000 square meters.

Solar Philippines also completed the Central Biñan Mall’s solar rooftop project and is set to complete solar projects on the rooftops of Robinsons Mall in Palawan and City Mall in Roxas City, Capiz.

Robinsons Mall’s solar project will generate 1.2 MW while City Mall Roxas will produce 600 kilowatts. “Without overplaying our target, there is a potential for us to do over 100 MW in projects in 2015,” Leviste says.


The SM North Edsa Parking Building was outfitted with 5,760 solar panels with a combined capacity of 1.5 MW, making SM North the world’s largest solar-powered shopping mall.

“It’s really because it’s a perfect storm of high electricity rates, low solar panel prices and a power crisis,” Leviste says.

“The days of having to choose between business and the environment are over. Solar has gained a reputation of being expensive, not because of the technology, but because previous applications were too small to benefit from economies of scale. By building the country’s largest solar rooftop projects, we’ve become the first local company to make solar cost-competitive with fossil fuel,” Leviste says.

He says solar projects can be part of the solution to the impending power shortage next year. “All commercial and industrial building-owners can help curb the power shortage by converting their rooftops into solar power plants,” Leviste says.

Meanwhile, Petilla says government offices including the House of Representatives also plan to install solar rooftop technologies.

“House Speaker Sonny Belmonte instructed me to put the Congress building next in line. We are currently at the exploratory stage and will study the structure. Their parking lot is most likely to also be equipped with solar panels. We are expecting it to have a total capacity of 1 MW at the very least,” Petilla says.

Petilla says the Philippine Air Force is also looking at solar rooftop installation at the Villamor Airbase. “The only question we have for them is if they are going to stay in their current location. It is a valid concern as contracts for solar facilities last for 15 years. What if their place is sold within 10 years?” Petilla says.

Petilla says the Energy Department’s office in Taguig City will also showcase solar rooftop technology.

PSPA founding member Tetchie Capellan estimates that if 10 percent of rooftops in Metro Manila install solar energy systems, small power producers such as homeowners, business, factories, and malls can help Manila Electric Co. manage its peak load.

“Solar produces energy from 8 o’clock in the morning to 4 o’clock in the afternoon. The power supplied by solar during daytime allows it to add electricity when industrial and commercial establishments need power most,” Capellan says.

Solar applications have also long been used as off-grid solutions in rural and remote areas in the country.

Solar systems can also power basic necessities such as lighting, water pumping, communications and a variety of livelihood activities that immediately improve the lives of Filipinos in areas where electricity from the grid is not readily available.


FROM THE MALAYA BUSINESS INSIGHTS

SMARTPHONES FUEL PH IT SPENDING IN 2015 By ROMINA CABRERA | December 19, 2014

The country’s information technology (IT) industry is expected to close the year with an 11.4 percent growth, a global market intelligence provider said yesterday, amid strong consumer spending, healthy economy status and the recent credit grade improvement.

Growth in spending, estimated at $6.76 billion by yearend, was mainly driven by hardware purchases, which contributed around 76 percent of the total IT market spending, while software and services were at 7 and 18 percent, respectively, according to IDC Philippines.

IDC is also expecting a 10.1 percent growth for the IT industry in 2015, riding on the forecasted gross domestic product growth of the country, projected to be at 6.3 percent.

Philippine companies are seen to increase budget and spending next year for information and communication technologies (ICT).

“The increasing ICT demand from small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) and continued strong business process outsourcing performance will also push ICT spending in 2015,” said Jubert Daniel Alberto, research manager and country lead for IDC Philippines.

Smartphones will see the strongest increase in IT spending next year, followed by midrange enterprise servers, networking equipment, broad IT services and software needs.

The IT industry will also be impacted by the use of companies of third platform technology, as they seek newer and more effective ways for better engagement and connectivity.

“IDC believes the country’s rosy economic outlook, growing ICT demand from the consumer and SME sectors, and the increasing requirement for the 3rd Platform technologies will shore up the Philippine ICT industry in 2015,” Alberto added.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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