Tag Archives: Business

Better broadband service means more business for PH

February 24 2016, AIM Conference Center, Makati City Philippines – As a prelude to #‎ArangkadaPH2016‬, the Joint Foreign Chambers of the Philippines composed of American Chamber (AMCHAM), Australian-New Zealand Chamber (ANZCHAM), Canadian Chamber (CANCHAM), European Chamber (ECCP), Japanese Chamber, Korean Chamber and other distinguished Philippine Business Groups discussed the necessity of developing telecommunications and broadband internet services with the intent of improving the ease of doing business in the country.

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Joint Foreign Chambers of the Philippines composed of American Chamber (AMCHAM), Australian-New Zealand Chamber (ANZCHAM), Canadian Chamber (CANCHAM), European Chamber (ECCP), Japanese Chamber, Korean Chamber and other distinguished Philippine Business Groups discuss the necessity of developing telecommunications and broadband internet services with the intent of improving the ease of doing business in the country.

Broadband internet access has been widely considered as a tool that can help achieve development and accelerate economic growth. World Bank estimates that a 10% increase in broadband penetration can lead to a 1.38% increase in the country’s GDP. An entry level connection of 0.5 Megabits per second (Mbps) has been found to increase the household income by $800 per year.

Trade Secretary Greg Domingo highlighted the need for the government to promote micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) and to help make them “go global”. Reliable broadband connectivity is an essential tool for making businesses, especially MSMEs, competitive in the global arena. It helps improve their processes and allows them to expand their marketing clientele. As MSMEs comprise a majority of businesses in the country, the broadband initiative becomes a part of building an inclusive economy. Expanding and improving broadband connection also helps address the problem of increasingly congested cities, as it enables telecommuting or working remotely.

Telecommunications is a capital-intensive and technology-driven sector. The problem? The law bars foreign players from fully participating even in wholesale segments (e.g., cable landing station and back haul), which effectively limits the presence of companies that can inject fresh new capital, bring in state-of-the-art technology, and compete in the market.

Challenges:
Philippine broadband penetration is limited, quality is poor, and access is expensive. It has one of the slowest average connection speeds in the Asia Pacific and is the costliest in the world. Major problems identified include the presence of barriers to entry, anti-competitive practices, inadequate infrastructure, weak and ineffective regulation, prohibitive bureaucratic requirements in infrastructure build-out and the lack of interconnection.

Recommendations:
Key recommendations include (1) adopting an open access model, where segments of the internet infrastructure will be opened up to more and different players both local and foreign; (2) updating an upgrading laws and policies, which includes amendments to the Public Telecommunications Policy Act and the enactment of the bill creating a Department of ICT; (3) leveling the playing field by promoting open and neutral internet exchange points (IXPs) and encouraging infrastructure sharing; (5) improving spectrum management; and (6) ensuring and protecting the competitiveness of the telecommunications industry.

The Top Players in the Country:
Two telcos dominate the market: the Philippine Long Distance Telephone (PLDT) company (with 70% market share) and Globe Telecom, Inc. (28%). The incumbent operator, PLDT,and main competitor, Globe, are the major providers of fixed and mobile broadband services nationwide. The two incumbents have some of the highest earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) margins compared to other telcos globally. In 2010, PLDT and Globe were enjoying between 60% and 70% EBITDA margins despite very low average revenue per user (ARPU). Over the past few years, PLDT and Globe have recorded EBITDA margins of 40-45%.

PLDT and Globe, the country’s largest internet service providers (ISPs), own and control most of the existing internet infrastructure – from the submarine cables, the landing stations, the back haul network (“middle mile”), up to the last mile. As such, the dominant telcos also dictate access to and the cost and quality of internet and broadband service in the Philippines, both fixed and mobile.

The Philippines recorded the second slowest average download speed (at 2.8 Mbps) in the Asia Pacific, besting only India. The country has been constantly outperformed by its ASEAN counterparts such as Indonesia (3.0Mbps), Vietnam (3.4Mbps), Malaysia (4.9Mbps), and Thailand (8.2Mbps).

In Q4 2014, the Philippines offered the second most expensive retail internet service out of 62 countries that were ranked. Philippine ISPs offered the lowest value for money – in terms of actual download speed experienced by customers vis-a-vis the cost of a monthly data plan – compared to their counterparts in South and Southeast Asia.

What Philippine Law states about Telecommunications:
By virtue of Commonwealth Act (CA) 146 or the Public Service Act of 1936, telecommunications – defined as “wire or wireless communication” and “wire or wireless broadcasting” – is considered a public service offered by a public utility.

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Ms. Mary Grace Mirandilla-Santos, Author of ArangkadaPH2016’s Broadband Policy Brief. With a personal advocacy to promote better internet service in the country, Santos is currently an ICT (Information/Communications Technology) consultant at Asian Development Bank.

A Stop to Duopoly and Encouraging Entry of Industry Players:
Key stakeholders agree that the Philippine telecoms sector will benefit from the entry of new players, both domestic and foreign, and effective competition. Past reforms that introduced liberalization and competition have proven that the entry of new players can reinvigorate the market, promote better services, and lower prices due to competing providers that ultimately benefit consumers.

The Philippine telecoms market has been tagged as “less competitive” and “effectively a duopoly” by various analyses. It lags behind in terms of contestability or freedom of market entry and exit. Contestability is important as studies have shown that even the threat of a new entrant will improve the quality of service and pricing of current market players. Market entry in the Philippine telecoms is hampered by several major barriers.

Limitation on foreign ownership is a major issue that affects telecommunications. PLDT and Globe have been said to have major foreign equities that are technically accepted as compliant due to layers upon layers of holding companies that mask these ownerships. This is cumbersome but effective way of circumventing the law. The constitutional provision has given rise to workarounds that encourage non-transparent and scheming business practices. Meanwhile, other legitimate foreign telcoms are discouraged from entering and competing in the market by the company-layering and even political lobbying that are necessarily to work around the law.

The current structure makes smaller telcos and ISPs prone to anti-competitive practices by the large telcos who not only control the infrastructure and wholesale pricing, but are also allowed to compete in the same retail market as their client ISPs. As a result and end-users have to contend with high wholesale and retail costs.

How This Affects YOU:
The internet is an information and communications tool that is increasingly changing the way people live. Connectivity can improve the quality of life by the sheer reduction of time and distance in carrying out tasks related to education, health and livelihood. It can increase a country’s competitiveness, promote inclusive growth and development, and spur investment directly by the emergence of internet-related businesses and indirectly by improving the ease of doing business. The internet has also been known to help promote good governance by increasing transparency and aiding in initiatives such as open data.

In the coming months, the Filipino nation will elect a new leadership. This is a good opportunity to design and implement another cycle of major reforms. It is hoped that broadband connectivity would be one of the key focus areas not just as an issue of infrastructure, but that of competitiveness, innovation, development and consumer welfare. The challenge for the next administration is whether it has the vision and informed appreciation for how broadband technology could influence a country’s development path.

Source:
Mirandilla-Santos, Mary Grace. Broadband. Policy Brief No.4, February 2016. The Arangkada Philippines Project (TAPP). American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines.
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Celebrating Diversity

Judging people by physical appearances distracts us from serious issues. As one politician put it, physical appearances can be used as a sign of solidarity with those who share it. By ridiculing politicians for their physical appearance, we elevate them to a moral high ground, even as physical similarities can mask glaring differences between politicians and their constituents. Finally, and more importantly, this kind of “bullying” reinforces a culture that overvalues physical appearance.1

With the 2016 elections less than a year from now, we need to desist from attacks on the physical appearance of politicians. Journalists in particular should be mindful of their power to dignify certain discourses. We cannot be distracted from the more relevant parameters with which to hold politicians to account. We cannot gift them with ‘persecution’ that gives them a moral high ground while it conceals and absolves their moral and legal failings. More importantly, by casting politicians physical features in a negative light, we are perpetuating a culture that over values physical appearance, upholds certain standards of beauty and renders harm to our countrymen who share these features. Indeed, if we are to elevate Philippine politics to a certain measure of dignity, if we are to make people proud and respectful of the ways people look, we must spare the physical appearance of our politicians from ridicule and verbal abuse.1

**Though the piece above is angled on Philippine politics, the typical Filipino’s tendency to judge people by physical appearances goes beyond our politicians. Our intolerance for those who don’t share the same physical qualities (skin color, height, etc.) are monstrously contributory to our stunted growth as a nation. If we want to be more and do more for this country, its high time to put an end to these destructive prejudices.

On culture:
I cannot celebrate independence when I can be so casually told in public that I am less of a Filipino or a person solely because my grandparents were (Chinese) immigrants. Do we subconsciously insist on defining patriotism as an accident of birth instead of a lifetime’s conviction? How can we continually decry mistreatment of Filipinos overseas yet tolerate such vitriol at home?2

**If we want our OFWs to be treated well abroad, don’t you think it’s only fair for us Filipinos to treat expats and Chinese immigrants with the same decency and respect we ardently expect? I would like to live in a country where everyone is welcome. Where there is a sense of community and where an expat can call my country his home. Families, economies and countries thrive because its foreigners (as well as its residents) are able to work together and make their country of residence more prosperous since they first arrived.

On social status:
I’ve also been quite vocal about this with friends: You’re poor? I don’t take it against you You’re rich? I don’t take it against you either. Bottom line, does it really matter? In the grander scheme of things, it’s the heart of the person that counts.

Too idealistic? Not at all. On the contrary, a realist clearly sees what needs to be improved in order to make communication lines easier and effortless, thus laying the ground work for straightforward and uncomplicated relationships (business or otherwise) for us to live better and to a greater degree, thrive.

For quite sometime now, I’ve been practicing going beyond what my eyes can see, and rigidly looking at the character of the person. So far, this methodology of making friends has opened doors for me that I couldn’t have possibly imagined.

I encourage you to be more accepting/tolerant/forgiving of people’s differences, may they be physical appearances, race, culture, religion, social background, etc. In the digital age, the world has become smaller and our neighbors more accessible than ever. As a nation, we have more to gain if we embrace, rather than shun, this reality. There is strength in diversity, if only the Filipino can look beyond himself.

“I can imagine nothing more terrifying than an eternity filled with men who were all the same. The only thing which has made life bearable…has been the diversity of creatures on the surface of the globe.”
― T.H. White

References:
1 Philippine Daily Inquirer. ‘The politics of physical appearance’. Gideon Lasco, June 15 2015.
2 Philippine Daily Inquirer, Opinion. Sisyphus’ Lament, ‘Anti-Chinese-Filipino slurs are visible’. Oscar Franklin Tan. @oscarfbtan

Solaire Eyes International Gambler through Integrated Resort

After the huge and much talked about opening a year ago and being the first new property in Entertainment City, Solaire Resorts and Casino has experienced a year of overwhelming popularity, adding to this growing popularity is its recent October 16-28 2014 World Poker Tournament®.

In a mutually beneficial five-year relationship with World Poker Tournament®, Solaire Resorts and Casino will be playing hostess for a country long regarded as one of Asia’s poker hotbeds, the Philippines. With a destination designed to match international luxury resorts across the globe with world-class gaming facilities, Solaire Resorts and Casino’s recent World Poker Tournament® was a smashing success with over 58 Million Pesos awarded during its two week Poker festival.

Solaire’s Senior Vice President for Casino Marketing, Cyrus Sherafat recounts what went on during the festival, who Solaire is eyeing to play on the felt and what Solaire will be in the following months to come.

Solaire Hosts 1st World Poker Tour in the Philippines,  Eyeing to Attract International Gamblers through Integrated Resort
Solaire Hosts 1st World Poker Tour in the Philippines, eyeing to Attract International Gamblers through Integrated Resort

For more of my interview, please grab a copy of Power Play Magazine’s December 2014 issue with Rustan’s Chief, Amb. Bienvenido R. Tantoco, Sr. on the cover.

Out now on all leading bookstores nationwide.

Featuring the legendary and iconic Rustan's,
Featuring the legendary and iconic Rustan’s Chief, Ambassador Bienvenido R. Tantoco, Sr

For more information about the magazine, please check out their online properties below.
Power Play Magazine Official Website: http://www.powerplayphilippines.com.
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/PowerPlayPh/
Twitter page: @POWERPLAY_PH
Instagram:  @powerplay_ph

Freedom of Information: A Privilege and Responsibility

Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) co-founder and current Dean of Academic Affairs at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, Shiela Coronel told her audience: “twenty-five years ago, the term ‘investigative reporting’ was little-known in Asia. Today, journalists throughout Asia are using freedom-of-information laws, data analysis, social media, collaborative tools and the latest in digital technology. They are writing about corruption, human slavery, dirty money and environmental problems.”3

Throughout this time, we’ve been told that Asians value consensus over exposure. They’re wrong: Speaking truth to power is an Asian value”.3

It helps if the investigative reporter is a damned good writer and storyteller – suspenseful but not sensationalistic, and with a colorful style especially with a blockbuster whodunit. Coronel said that once journalists and citizens have had a taste of independence and freedom, it is hard to go back to the dark ages. She pointed out the immense changes in Asia in the past 20 years, among them toppled dictatorships and opening markets.3

In the aftermath of Yolanda (international name: Haiyan), Facebook became an important alternative form of communication and future emergency preparedness plans should include it. Posting a status update on Facebook was the quickest way to communicate.1

Faced with limited access, Facebook proved useful to many residents to update their relatives about their plight as we all as to ask for help. What happened during Yolanda demonstrated how media users quickly learn to adopt technologies to suit their peculiar needs during a communication network paralysis. Educating residents about the value of social media channels will make social media use during disasters more efficient.1

News exchange in Facebook is a classic example of democratization of information. Reports said that Facebook has changed the way users consume news such that searching has become highly personal and has cleared away third-party editorial judgment.2

As a social media, it makes us both the source and reciever of information. Lastly, it is the speed by which information is brought to our knowledge that gives social media an edge over other news media.2

It is the politics of ‘liking’ a particular Facebook post that somehow develops a culture of conformity, which is reinforced by cyberbullying. A lot of people have been shamed without being given the proper forum to explain themselves.2 I realized that the internet can be both a gold mine and a minefield”, says Coronel 3

Thus, the manner by which we express our disagreements over an issue paints a picture of our civility, and most importantly of how we accord respect to our neighbor. In a society with high-level of political tolerance, people do not impose their beliefs on others but seek to raise the quality of dialogue and peaceably live amid their differences. Hence, it is high-time to check not just our Facebook status but also out degree of respect toward each other.2

For decades, but especially since the EDSA ‘People Power Revolution’ restored the press freedom in the country. The Philippines has prided itself in having one of the freest, if not THE freest press in the region.4

Not everyone, ofcourse, welcomed the wild and wooly media environment that emerged with the Marcoses’ departure. As former president Fidel Ramos once declared, whenever he read the day’s papers, “some make me want to commit suicide, while others make me want to commit homicide”.4 And as he mentioned in his latest State of the Nation Address, P-Noy felt aggrieved by the almost daily slings and arrows of criticisms, leading him to wonder why he ever chose the path of public service. 4

The answer should be clear to him – and to us as well. P-Noy chose the difficult path of public service and leadership not just because of his own personal history but because he believes in democracy, as he declares again and again.4

For us Filipinos, the stalled Freedom-of-Information bill is still deterrent to good investigative reporting.3 And democracy relies in large part on freedom of the press, in freedom not just of journalists but also of the people to access all the information they deserve, the better to make the right decisions and choices when they need to.4

Teach the journalists in question some manners. Chide them for their boorishness.4 But passing the freedom-of-information bill is not only fundamental to what we proudly call a ‘free’ press but to a democratic nation as well.

References:

1 The Philippine Daily Inquirer, ‘Disaster Preparedness Plan Must Include Social Media’. November 10, 2014. Edson Tandoc.
2 The Philippine Daily Inquirer, ‘Social Media Users Challenged: Be Respectful’. November 10, 2014. Esmeralda Abarabar.
3 The Philippine Daily Inquirer, Human Face. ‘Uncovering Asia Through Investigative Journalism’. Ma. Ceres P. Doyo.
4 The Philippine Daily Inquirer, At Large. ‘Journalists Behaving Badly’. Rina Jimenez-David.

QED remains unfazed, adjusts sails to mining industry descent

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On the cover: Quest Exploration Drilling’s (QEDs) mining equipment featured in an ongoing Masbate Project.

“Exploration is not mining. Exploration is just finding out what’s out there. Exploration in itself is an industry and can provide significant benefits to the government revenue base, but more importantly to the rural communities” – Allan Blackley, CEO/Managing Director of Quest Exploration Drilling (QED).

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Issue 4 Cover Story, The Philippine Resources Journal: Interview with industry veteran and Quest Exploration Drilling (QED) CEO/Managing Director Mr. Allan Blackley.

The Philippine Resources Journal speaks with Quest Exploration Drilling’s (QED) CEO and Managing Director Allan Blackley, who highlights the difficulties the resources sector is currently facing midst an investment market with lowering commodity prices. The full interview can now be read in the Journal’s 4th issue.

For more information about this story, please get in touch with the journalist at twitter [@misstolentino22]