Tag Archives: Philippines

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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American aid volunteer writes new book on “Yolanda”

How do you survive a super typhoon with the destructive force of an atomic bomb? How did the people of Tacloban City, who survived the wrath of Typhoon Yolanda (international name Haiyan), cope in the aftermath of a storm for the ages? What was it like on the ground for aid workers in the city, weeks and months later?

More than two years after the strongest recorded typhoon on Earth claimed the lives of at least 6,300 in Tacloban and elsewhere in the Philippines, William Rodney “Bill” Shaw attempts to answer these questions – and some of his own – from the perspective of those who lived through its horrors in the new book “Yolanda: The Roaring, The Waves, The Waiting”.Bill Shaw

Self-published by Shaw and printed in the Philippines, the book is based on the experiences of seven individuals living in Tacloban before, during and after Yolanda. Their stories are retold and mixed with the American’s own insights as an aid worker who volunteered in Tacloban for four months, distributing food, relief packs, and building homes for the city’s survivors.

“These seven lives represent a complicated intersection — of understanding and misunderstanding, freedom and captivity, personal faith and cultural beliefs,” Shaw says in a note on the book’s back cover. “We can find heroes in these pages, but no winners. Yolanda underscores the face of catastrophe, where everyone suffers and everyone struggles to overcome.”

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bill Shaw and his wife Deborah — a photographer who took the images found in the “Yolanda” book — first came to the Philippines in 2002 with Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL Philippines). Bill also worked as an administrator at Faith Academy in Cainta, Rizal until 2004.

With Filipino friends, the Shaws also founded Urban Opportunities for Change Foundation Inc., which published “The Jeepney” street magazine in the Philippines in 2008. It followed the concept of “street papers” that provide employment for the homeless and indigent in First World countries.

Urban was also responsible for forming and sending football teams to represent the Philippines to the Homeless World Cup, which uses “the beautiful game” to inspire homeless people to change their own lives. Over 70 countries participate in this annual tournament.

Bill and Debbi currently live and work in Traverse City, Michigan. Bill sits on the Board of Speak Up Magazine, Inc., and Speak Up Michigan, Inc., both non-profits giving jobs and a voice to people experiencing homelessness in Michigan and North Carolina. They also manage a series of rental properties and occasionally take on electrical contracting projects.

ABOUT THE BOOK

“Yolanda: The Roaring, The Waves, The Waiting” (224 pages, self-published by William Shaw through Urban Opportunities for Change LLC) is available in the Philippines for Php 500.

Cover Yolanda1

Please send orders to Kids International Ministries (KIM), c/o New Faith Family Children’s Home Foundation, #3 Birds of Paradise, Valley Golf Road, Cainta, Rizal, Philippines 1900. You may also call KIM at +632 658 4820.

Eighty percent (80%) of the proceeds of the book will go to KIM’s disaster relief efforts in Tacloban City.

“Yolanda: The Roaring, The Waves, The Waiting” will be launched today February 18, 2016 (Thursday) at the Nuvo bar in Greenbelt 2 in Makati City from 4:30 to 8:00 p.m.

It will also be launched in Tacloban City on February 20, 2016 (Saturday) at the “Lighthouse”, Lot# 36708, near Payapay Bridge, from 2:00 to 5:00 pm.

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FOR MEDIA INQUIRIES, PLEASE CONTACT:
Jimbo Gulle, phones (0917) 775-1479 or (0919) 999-5166; email: jimbo dot gulle at gmail dot com

OceanaGold Open Asia’s First Underground Mine Site Simulation in the Philippines

September 8, 2015 [Clark Freeport Zone, Pampanga Philippines] – The Philippines is literally the central most location in South East Asia and often referred to as the “Crossroads of Asia” being just 90 minutes away to Taiwan, Hong Kong and China and four hours to Japan, Korea and Singapore. The Philippines is also the 4th largest English speaking country in the World with over 10 million Filipino working overseas. With its low operating costs and abundant English speaking workforce, it was a natural location for the building of Asia’s only Underground Metalliferous Mining Simulator.

The new US$2 million OceanaGold facility, which was delivered in partnership with Site Skills Training, is the first of its kind in the Philippines, and within Asia. Located in the Clark Freeport Zone of Pampanga, Philippines, the 240 square meters state of the art facility produces underground tunnel environment with standbys and drives for jumbo operations, fuel refilling, vehicle storage, a refuge chamber, crib room and magazine replicating the areas with the same equipment found within an underground mine.

Asia's First Underground Mine Site Simulation opens in the Philippines.
Asia’s First Underground Mine Site Simulation opens in the Philippines.
The tunnel leading to the underground mine.
The tunnel leading to the underground mine.
Torches for the trip inside.
Torches for the trip inside.
Safety first. Filipino miners dressed for work.
Safety first. Filipino miners dressed for work.
CEO Wilkes opens the facility inside the tunnel itself.
Oceana Gold CEO Wilkes opens the facility inside the tunnel itself.
A refueling station can be found inside the mine. Here, a car is brought inside the underground mine to get juiced up.
A refueling station can be found inside the mine. Here, a car is brought inside the underground mine to get juiced up.

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The author and her colleague getting their safety gear on.
The author and her colleague getting their safety gear on.

OceanaGold constructed this international facility to train competent and highly-skilled underground miners for its Didipio Underground Mine and other national and international recognized companies while providing students an immersive environment to best prepare for the work in an underground mine. In addition to the official opening of the training facility, OceanaGold also introduced the intensive and structured 4 month training course, called the Competency though Learning (CTL) Program which will deliver accredited skills and competence to local-hired students, equip them with necessary skills to be highly proficient underground mine professionals.

Mick Wilkes, Managing Director and CEO, said “the facility demonstrates the company’s commitment to excellence in training and to creating more opportunities for future mining professionals. It offers future mining professionals an opportunity to learn and develop their skills in a simulated environment and ensure they are safe and ready to commence work when they arrive on site.”

With the goal of upskilling mining workers to meet the needs of the industry, Asia’s only Underground Metalliferous Mine Simulator provides for an immersive training environment that best prepares workers for real life situations. It also allows workers to be trained to the required level using the correct procedures without affecting production. The aim is to develop globally competitive mining professionals.

About OceanaGold:
OceanaGold is a significant multinational gold producer with mines located in New Zealand and the Philippines. In the Philippines, OceanaGold owns and operates its flagship operation, The Didipio Gold-Copper Mine located on the Island of Luzon. OceanaGold has operated sustainably over the past 25 years with a proven track record for environmental management and community and social engagement. The Company has a strong social license to operate and works collaboratively with its valued stakeholders to identify and invest in social programs that are designed to build capacity and not dependency. In 2015, the Company expects to produce and attribute 380,000 to 410,000 ounces of gold from the combined New Zealand and Didipio operations and produce 22,000 to 23,500 tonnes of copper from the Didipio operation.

About Site Skills Training:
SST delivers Australian recognized and international practice tailored training, assessment and competency assurance for trade specific and industrial skills for clients from training centers and on-site client locations internationally. Aside from the Philippine facility, SST also operates on Australian campuses in Darwin, Gladstone, Perth and the Sunshine Coast. 

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

Modernization of Immigration Services to Boost PH Tourism

A Filipino child joining the Ati-Atihan festival celebrated only in the Philippines.
A Filipino child joining the Ati-Atihan festival, just one of the many festivals celebrated in the Philippines.

The JFC (Joint Foreign Chamber of the Philippines) supports government efforts to modernize immigration services through the proposed Philippine Immigration Act and other ongoing reforms. The objective of the bill is to make immigration services more enabling to promote tourism and commerce. The JFC believes that these efforts will help make the Philippine tourism stay long and retirement industries more competitive with the rest of its ASEAN neighbors while helping the country grow twice as fast.

As international traffic continues to grow, especially with implementation of the liberal air access policy, any shortage of personnel relative to the growth of passenger traffic should be addressed with an increase in the workforce at the expense of the national government.

Download the official press release of the Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce here: JFC_Statement_ProposedImmigrationAct