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Business

No excuses, just an explanation

- Boo Chanco -

My colleague Ichu Villanueva asked DTI Secretary Greg Domingo last Tuesday as we were having coffee at the Edsa Shang: “What’s your excuse for the 3.7 percent GDP growth last year?”

Well, the secretary responded, he had no excuses… just an explanation that it happened against the backdrop of external negative developments from Fukushima to the Thai floods and the problems in the European and American economies that affected our exports of microelectronic components. The hold back in government expenditures was also admitted by Sec Domingo as a factor but explained that they had to make sure our money does not get wasted in the black hole of bureaucratic corruption.

I commented that Sec. Domingo was rather bullish during the Arangkada forum describing the 3.7 percent growth last year as good. I remember tweeting when I heard that comment from him that if he believes it, we are in trouble. He said it was as good as it could get given the circumstances. But Sec. Domingo explained to Ichu and myself that this year promises to be really great and that we may even reach 7 to 8 percent growth… peks man!

Not only are investors getting interested in us again, Sec. Greg informed us, the government machinery is ready to spend what is necessary to improve social services and build infrastructure. Money, he said, was no longer the problem. Government and the private sector have the money to invest. We are really going to move forward this year, was his confident prediction. I added, only if Mar Roxas gets off his ass.

But Sec. Domingo was undaunted. He said he wrote the groups that rate the investment climate of countries to include respondents from among our PEZA locators because that will dramatically improve our rating. With PEZA chief Lilia de Lima at his side, Sec Domingo declared that in PEZA zones, Ms de Lima looks over their needs 24/7 like a mother hen and the locators are protected from the corrupt local government officials from barangay captains to mayors and governors. It is like a different country at PEZA zones, he added.

The DTI chief also said things are so encouraging, even the comatose local garment industry is starting to spring back to life. Interest is being expressed again, he said, by some past manufacturers on coming back to the Philippines. Labor costs have gone significantly higher in the coastal cities of China to the point that we are once again competitive in this aspect. If the current quiet in the local labor front continues, he is confident a lot of jobs will come back to our shores.

On the local car manufacturing industry, Sec. Domingo said the government is sympathetic to the plight of the local manufacturers and that they are now in conversation with industry leaders on how government can help. But they have to present a viable road map. We cannot go back to the old days of protectionism and endless fiscal incentives.

The DTI chief is particularly proud of the Philippine Business Registry (PBR), a web-based business registration system that will allow entrepreneurs to start their businesses faster and at the least cost. PBR is a recently launched DTI priority project that aims to streamline business registration process and eliminating red tape. It serves as a one-stop shop for entrepreneurs who need to transact with several agencies to be able to start operating a business. Through the PBR, applicants do not need to physically go to each agency to register their businesses as they will now be interlinked through the PBR.

The agencies covered by the PBR include the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), Social Security System (SSS), Home Development Mutual Fund (PAG-IBIG), Philippine Health and Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). At the LGU level, Quezon City has already connected with the PBR system.

Companies may opt to apply from their homes through their PCs or go to DTI offices and register through PBR kiosks or tellers. Application through a teller will involve submission of a filled up application form which may be downloaded from the website. Cities with streamlined business permits and licensing systems like Caloocan and Mandaluyong are expected to be linked with PBR.

PBR kiosks will also be installed in selected LGUs nationwide to facilitate registration in far-flung towns. Sec. Domingo is confident that by computerizing all these services, opportunities for corruption will also be cut even at the LGU level. In fairness, it does seem they are trying hard to make government deliver but only time will tell if government can in fact deliver enough to make a difference for investors.

On other matters that could affect the economy’s growth, he allayed fears that DOTC Sec Mar Roxas is too slow to act on pending project proposals in his department. He explained that Sec. Mar is probably just trying to make sure he understands all elements of the projects. Sec. Domingo thinks Mar will be able to launch more than just the Puerto Princesa International Airport this year.

Sure hope Sec. Domingo is right about his optimism. We surely cannot afford another lackluster year and then blame everything on the external environment. From all indications, the European economy will suck this year, the Americans aren’t out of the woods and China’s bubble may burst. But if despite those negative external factors the DTI Chief is still bullish about our economy, it will be difficult to dream up an excuse if nothing happens. The Aquino administration will be clearly to blame if we are still muddling through at the 3 to 4 per cent GDP growth levels by this time next year.

MRT/LRT

Last week, Arangkada reported “the start of operations of the four-station MRT 1 north extension, both initiated in the previous administration.”

But a reader disputed that claim: “Only 2 stations were constructed for the LRT (Not MRT) Line 1 North Extension Project: Balintawak and Roosevelt Stations. The much discussed Common Station in front of SM North for joint LRT Line 1, MRT-3 and MRT-7 use has been ‘suspended’ since June 2011. As a result the only way passengers can get from Roosevelt to MRT-3 North Station is by jeepney or bus. Pretty sorry state of affairs!”

I investigated the matter further and found out that the infrastructure to complete the connection is done, including the rails. In fact, I was told that they have done a test run of an LRT train all the way to the Boni Avenue station.

That also disputes stories that the rails of the LRT and the MRT are different. The coaches and the signaling systems are different but I am told, it is easy to put another signaling system if the idea is to run both type of trains on the loop.

So what is keeping the DOTC from running trains all the way to Trinoma instead of just up to Roosevelt? I am told that only a decision from DOTC Sec Mar Roxas is needed to do that. There may be a few adjustments needed but the system can be run as it is now. Some talks between SM and Trinoma and government on the funding involved will also have to take place but that shouldn’t keep the public from enjoying the service now.

Maybe Mar is not aware they are just waiting for him to say Go. That’s the only logical reason I can think of why a commuter must go down the LRT train at Roosevelt and take another ride to Trinoma to continue his trip when the same train can now take him there.

Italian cruise ships

With the grounding of that Italian cruise ship, late night talk show hosts had a field day. Dr Ernie E gathered a few of the wise cracks.

How do they serve alcoholic drinks on Italian cruise ships? – On the rocks.

When the captain of the ill fated Costa Concordia was asked if he knew where he was going he replied “off course.”

The Costa Concordia is probably the most expensive thing to go down in Italy since Berlusconi’s last hooker.

Boo Chanco’s e-mail address is [email protected]. He is also on Twitter @boochanco

BUT SEC

COSTA CONCORDIA

DOMINGO

GOVERNMENT

PBR

SEC

SEC DOMINGO

SEC MAR ROXAS

TRINOMA

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