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Pinoys ‘wanted’ in Australia

Sun.Star Cebu <> Saturday, November 29, 2008

BY NANCY R. CUDIS, Sun.Star Staff Cebu

WITH not enough people to fill job vacancies in their country, a delegation from Australia came to Cebu with the aim of inviting Filipinos to work there through education and training.

The Queensland, Australia vocational education and training (VET) working party met with different government leaders and representatives from the local academe to heighten their awareness and willingness to link with Queensland’s VET sector.

“We came to show how serious we are about building relationships with the Philippines and see what can be done for Filipinos to come (to Australia) and live in our aging population,” said Linda Brown, institute director for the Metropolitan South Institute of TAFE (technical and further education), the largest provider of Queensland Government-funded vocational education and training in Queensland.

While the unemployment rate in Australia is low, it will still need more than 120,000 skilled workforces by 2010, Brown said in a press conference last Thursday at the Laguna Garden Café.

Even if the list of vacancies in Australia changes and its academe responds by coming up with new courses, VET Export Office director Katherine Marnane said there is still demand for jobs in industries such as, tourism, accounting, hairdressing, business, health, and community services, among others.

To help increase its labor force, the Australian Government and its private education sector opened “pathways” for education and employment to international and domestic market. These pathways enable students to enroll in a quality training program and work at the same time.

Courses

For instance, Charlton Brown, an education and placement service provider in the elderly care industries in Australia partnered exclusively with the Integrative Learning (IL) Institute, a unit of IL International that offers transformational education migration—in the Philippines.

Through these two institutions, a Filipino can enroll in its training courses on elderly care, community services and hospitality management. He or she can then avail of the opportunity to study and work in Australia with his family. He or she would also have the prospect of permanent residency eligibility in Australia.

All these, according to IL International president Jerry Perez de Tangle, are possible within a span of about three and a half years.

The Australian Government recognized the significant contribution of VET in its economy. National income from international education and training reached $7.5 billion in 2004 and is among Australia’s largest export sectors.

In a report, the Australian State and Territory Governments spend around $3.8 billion a year on VET. It has over 4,000 training organizations registered nationally.

People from diverse cultures—mostly from the Asia Pacific (Korea, Japan and the Philippines)—come to Australia, particularly in Queensland, to live, study and work.

Queensland is Australia’s second largest state by area and is one of the most populous.

queensland

We came to show how serious we are about building relationships with the Philippines and see what can be done for Filipinos to come (to Australia) and live in our aging population,” said Linda Brown.

With the ongoing global financial crisis, Brown noted a significant influx of Europeans and Americans, whose number are expected to increase in the next two years.

“Our economy is booming and we have a lot of sustainability that sheltered us from this crisis. There is also quality of life and the cost of living in

Queensland is less expensive. The advantage for the Philippines is that we are not too far from home,” she said.

Michael Hall, executive officer of the Australian Council for Private Education and Training, added that Filipinos also have the natural advantage as English speakers compared to other nations in the Asia Pacific.

Filed under: Business,

Group raises need for bigger budgets for education, health

Sun.Star Cebu <> Thursday, November 27, 2008

BY NANCY R. CUDIS, Sun.Star Staff Reporter

BELIEVING that the global financial crisis will have a gradual domino effect on the growth of industries in the country, various institutions call on the government to recheck its budget priorities and focus on human development.

Ibon Foundation asked for the removal of the reformed value-added tax on oil, the passage of a P125 nationwide across-the-board wage increase and increases in the budgets for education, health and housing.

During a forum on the global economic turmoil held at the University of San Carlos (USC) last week, Ibon Foundation executive director Jazminda Lumang recommended that the National Government cut back on debt payments and on military spending—a portion of which, she noted, could already build more than 50 public hospitals
across the country.

USC economics professor Fernando Fajardo, for his part, raised the need for government to increase spending in infrastructure and economic services to support local businesses.

Lumang and Fajardo noted that the slowdown of several economies worldwide has placed pressure on some growth sectors in the Philippines, such as exports, tourism,
retail, real estate and construction, telecommunications and, eventually, families that are dependent on money sent by overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) 7 Assistant Director Efren Carreon said electronics and consumer manufacturing products, especially garments, account for most of the country’s exports.

Government records show that electronics exports, which accounts for more than 50 percent of the country’s exports, slipped 1.65 percent year on year in the first eight months this year.

Fewer jobs

Carreon noted that electronics and garments will most likely be affected if demand from the United States goes down. With decline in demand, one can expect a lower labor supply requirement for production, he said.

“This is a possible implication. But remember that the US is not the only economy we can market to,” he added.

He proposed that companies look at oil-rich nations in the Middle East and at the strong economic potential of China for opportunities.

Lumang, on the other hand, observed that Cebu’s economy has developed a base that increasingly looks at external markets for growth. She cited electronics manufacturing companies and other export manufacturers at the Mactan Economic Zone, the shipbuilding sector in Balamban, the small and medium enterprises producing furniture and fashion accessories, business process out-sourcing firms, and the local tourism industry as among the components of this base.

“Recession in the main markets of Cebu exporters will mean dampened demand and declining orders,” she said.

On the brighter side, Carreon said that the financial crisis has prompted consumers to become wise spenders, focusing more on basic needs and possibly bringing down the prices of non-food items like appliances and furniture.

He said that the government has also set an action agenda for OFWs by continually monitoring displacements and helping them find jobs in emerging foreign labor markets.

Filed under: Business,

150 workers lose jobs

Sun.Star Cebu <> Thursday, November 27, 2008

BY NANCY R. CUDIS, Sun.Star Staff Reporter

WHILE various sectors struggle to remain optimistic, at least two companies in Mandaue City have admitted that the global financial crisis has taken its toll on their operations, forcing them to lay off several workers.

At Giardini del Sole Inc., a furniture manufacturing and exporting company in Mandaue City, about 150 probationary workers have been retrenched in the past two weeks.

Giovanni Boschi, the company’s owner and president, said that management decided to cut its work force in response to lower production, the result of declining orders.

At Energizer Philippines Inc., 44 workers—including mechanics, operators, managers and supervisors—are expected to lose their jobs on Dec. 1.

Leon Cordero Jr., union president at the Energizer plant in Mandaue, said the management had explained to the employees the need to retrench to cope with the global financial crisis.

“Even if our (operations) are very efficient, the sales of our batteries are not doing so good, maybe because consumers now prioritize food and other basic needs,” he said.

Boschi admitted that if orders for the company’s exports continue to drop, Giardini might have to retrench some of its more or less 500 regular factory employees.

More job cuts

Like Boschi, Energizer employees’ union expect a new round of retrenchments if sales continue to go down.

Analysts forecast that the global financial crisis—which has put the US, Europe and Japan in recessions—will have a bigger impact on the Philippines next year.

Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board secretary Exequiel Sarcauga told ABS-CBN News that another export company in Cebu is planning to lay off about 300 workers, amid declining orders. He refused to identify the export company.

Boschi suggested that concerned government agencies, like the Social Security System and the Pag-ibig Fund, extend loans to help displaced workers.

“Even if these workers understand the whole situation of why they have to leave, they need money to survive,” he told reporters yesterday after the launching of the 2009 Outstanding Innovative Labor Relations Practices in Mandaue City.

Giardini del Sole, established in 1991, exports 90 percent of its products to other countries like the United States, Italy and Norway. But due to the financial crisis, these international clients, especially those in the US, began cutting orders by as much as half.

Still, Giardini continues to produce and sell furniture pieces for the local market that, Boschi noted, made a remarkable performance until last

September. He noted that sales have gone down recently as the local market may be feeling the pinch of the crisis.

To help recover from the shocks of the downward trend in sales, the company is offering discounts by as much as 30 percent.

But other companies have remained strong. Greencoil Industries Inc., manufacturer of Lion-Tiger mosquito coil products and aerosols, and glass manufacturer San Miguel Yamamura Asia have not cut their work forces.

Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Eric Mendoza said the government can implement “socialized” efforts that will increase the spending power of workers and not prompt them to line up the streets asking for food.

“When they have the spending power, there will (be business) production, then there will be sales and taxes will be collected. All these (will) manifest a growing economy. So let us put our differences aside and work together for a solution to a crisis that we don’t want to happen but we have no control of,” he said.

Mendoza noted that the problems in the US are worsening and families whose incomes come from remittances of their loved ones who work overseas will feel the effects of the crisis once the contracts of some overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) end this year. He also pointed out that OFWs, through the billions of dollars they send to their families in the country, are keeping the economy afloat.

He observed that the government is worried that labor displacements will result in social unrest and civil disobedience.

Sarcauga and Mandaue City Vice Mayor Carlo Fortuna assured, though, that the government is implementing programs that are meant to empower workers and help those displaced find new jobs.

Sarcauga cited the workers’ income augmentation program and the Department of Labor and Employment’s adjustment measures program, through which those employed in the formal sector who are affected by the crisis are given financial assistance after screening.

The Mandaue City Government, on the other hand, will offer skills training courses that will help displaced workers find alternative employment in sectors that are seen to survive the crisis, like food, education, and health.

“We will not wait for the National Government to sound the alarm for us. We are already doing something as a local government unit,” said Fortuna, who conceptualized the 2009 Outstanding Innovative Labor Relations Practices in Mandaue City as a way of promoting good labor practices to enhance business productivity, especially in times of financial crisis.

Filed under: Business,

DOT 7 to train tourism officers

Sun.Star Cebu <> Thursday, November 27, 2008

BY NANCY R. CUDIS, Sun.Star Staff Reporter

RESPONDING to the clamor of tourism officers in the region, the Department of Tourism (DOT) 7 is organizing a capability building workshop after the Sinulog Festival in Cebu next year.

This is to enhance the skills and update tourism officers in Central Visayas about the tourism development in the country.

It will feature various topics, including protocol and social graces, guest handling, promotions and marketing, planning and statistics, as well as standards of tourist establishments. The newly formed Cebu Tourism Officers Association (CTOA) also requested for a similar workshop.

Gregg Rubio, CTOA president and Daan-bantayan tourism officer, earlier said that tourism officers limit their jobs to tour guiding, which is why they need the help of the DOT in laying down the scope of their duties.

DOT 7 Director Patria Aurora Roa said that the department is eyeing late January or early February for the workshop, which will be held Cebu.

Central Visayas Regional Tourism Council

“The proposed registration fee for the workshop is P2,000. But we will give them a workshop that is worth more than P2,000,” she said, adding that the activity also aims to unite the tourism offices in the region.

The Central Visayas Regional Tourism Council requested, though, that the event be scheduled after the Suroy-Suroy Sugbo in South Cebu, which will be held three days after the Sinulog Festival upon the request of balikbayans.

The council, in a meeting last Tuesday in Dumaguete City, Oriental Negros, discussed ways to organize the Suroy-Suroy Sugbo and the workshop together.

Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia invited neighboring provinces in the region to send at least five tourism officers to participate in the Suroy-Suroy Sugbo.

Squijor Gov. Orlando Fua Jr., also chair of the Central Visayas Regional Tourism Council, accepted the invitation, saying that the Provincial Government wants to know how Cebu Province successfully conducted Suroy-Suroy Sugbo.

Cebu Provincial Board Member Agnes Magpale said that the tourism officers will see for themselves how the cottage industries in an area, as well as hotel accommodations, are earning from this form of tourism promotion.

Filed under: Business,

Insurance sector ‘strong’

Sun.Star Cebu <> Tuesday, November 25, 2008

BY NANCY R. CUDIS, Sun.Star Staff Reporter

THE life insurance sector in the country may feel the pinch of the global financial crisis—its income may be lower than before.

However, the Insurance Commission (IC) assured that the present global economic turmoil will not have a significant impact on the sector since insurance companies have adequate capitalization and regulated risks, and are covered by protective government rules.

IC deputy insurance commissioner Vida Chiong said it is a “timely and good move” for the commission to require insurance companies to increase their paid-up capital to strengthen their financial capability.

“So at the end of the year, expect the next round of increases of paid-up capital to make insurance companies more stable and financially strong,” she disclosed, speaking through a video presentation during a symposium organized by the Philippine AXA Life Insurance Corp. (AXA Philippines). The event was held last week at Waterfront Cebu City Hotel and Casino in time for AXA’s ninth anniversary of operations in the Philippines.

Under the capitalization order that the Department of Finance issued in 2006, Filipino-owned life and non-life insurance companies are required to beef up their minimum paid-up capital from P50 million to P75 million, and their net worth from P100 million to P150 million by the end of 2008.

2011 increases

By 2011, their paid-up capital must increase to P250 million while their net worth must be P500 million.

Chiong cited regulated risk as another reason the insurance sector is not threatened by the financial crunch that affects the United States, Europe and other economies worldwide. She said there is a “good balance” in the regulations that protect policy holders without hampering the growth of companies in terms of profits.

“The investments of insurance firms are heavily focused on virtually risk-free government securities, including peso-denominated treasury funds. (At the same time) they are required to tap good fund managers with strong financial background when investing offshore,” she said.

She also noted that the downfall of large financial institutions in the US could be attributed to over-investment and highly-speculative derivatives—a type of security whose value is derived from another underlying security.

“Here in the Philippines, insurance companies are not allowed to invest in derivatives despite the criticism that we should go into them. I think, with what has happened in the US, insurance firms (have) realized the impact of doing so,” she said.

Protective rules

Chiong also cited “protective rules” crafted by the government—such as requiring companies to provide strong, steady financial statements to the regulator to ensure that they have the financial capability to provide sufficient protection to policyholders—as another source of strength for the insurance sector.

In cases of sale of a company, as what is happening with the Philippine American Life and General Insurance Co. (Philamlife), the IC also has to approve the change of ownership after evaluation of the buyer’s financial capability, track records and other requirements.

“So if you have a policy with Philamlife, do not worry because (we) still have to evaluate the positive financial capability of the buyer to ensure that each policy will be continuously served,” she said.

Data from the IC website shows that assets of life insurance providers in the country reached P366.9 billion as of the end of December 2007.

In the same period, the industry’s total paid up capital and net worth recorded at P9.1 billion and P73.1 billion, respectively.

Filed under: Business,

Insurance company keeps optimism for ’09

Sun.Star Cebu <> Tuesday, November 25, 2008

BY NANCY R. CUDIS, Sun.Star Staff Reporter

DESPITE a possible slowdown in the insurance industry in the country as a result of the global financial crisis that is dampening investor confidence, the Philippine AXA Life Insurance Corp. (AXA Philippines) remains upbeat about 2009.

This optimism will eventually be channeled through the launching of more products in the future to address client needs, AXA Philippines said.

The company is contemplating about developing term insurance and other products that involve retirement and education benefits.

“We will be aggressive. We are not going to shy away from what is happening in the (global) economy,” AXA Philippines head for branding and communications Dandee Adapon told Sun.Star Cebu last Friday.

He noted that the Philippines, together with the United States in some ways, is also affected by the global economic turmoil that was sparked by the sub-prime mortgage crisis in the US.

Core business

But, Global AXA Group chairman of the management board Henri de Castries said, AXA remains strong because, apart from having a good management team, it never went out of its core businesses—insurance and asset management—and it has a strong balance sheet characterized by above-minimum solvency margin, hedged equity portfolio and daily earnings.

Adapon said the good thing about investing in insurance is that it requires policy holders to take a long-term outlook.

He cited company products, such as Locked & Loaded, which are designed for investments that last for at least five years because “historically, the market can even out in one way or another, given that enough time to recover.”

During AXA Philippines’ symposium last Friday, the company introduced “Locked & Loaded” as its response to the global financial crisis.

The limited offer, with a minimum single investment of P200,000 and a holding period of at least five years, protects the capital investment 100 percent, regardless of how difficult market conditions can get.

Bonds

Investors will also have the chance to grow their money through high-grade government bonds, money-market instruments and blue-chip stocks.

Locked & Loaded was launched early last month. At the end of October, Adapon said there were already “over a thousand” investors from various parts of the country like Manila, Pampanga, Da-vao and Cebu.

AXA Philippines will continue to accommodate applicants for the product until Wednesday.

“This is a rare investment opportunity. If the public demand is still high, we will probably extend it again until (early) December. (We) can’t deny that this is the kind of investment the people are looking for right now,” Adapon said.

He added that AXA has no plans of making “Locked & Loaded” a permanent product because “it is putting AXA at risk of default” since the company will shoulder all the risks of the investment.

AXA is now in its ninth year of operations in the country. Out of the total P34 billion premium for variable life insurance products in 2007, AXA Philippines accounts for 44 percent or P15.1 billion.

The company, a member of the Metrobank Group, reported a total premium income of P16.3 billion last year.

Filed under: Business,

Students’ school project grows into lucrative, ‘healthy’ business

Sun.Star Cebu <> Tuesday, November 25, 2008

BY NANCY R. CUDIS, Sun.Star Staff Reporter

IT BEGAN as a class project, but now a group of senior business administration students at the University of San Carlos (USC) has their hands full—producing and selling frozen milk bars called, Freeze Milk.

The group of 15 students formed MilkInnove, which produces frozen milk bars in sachets in compliance to a class requirement.

“Milk is for everybody, so we came up with this innovative way—with appealing packaging—to encourage more milk drinkers,” said MilkInnove executive vice-president Bebe Josephine Dy.

Freeze Milk is made of pure cow’s milk and has a shelf life of at least a month. It comes in four flavors—chocolate, melon, cookies and cream, and strawberry—with “value-added” ingredients, such as jelly.

Last March, the students pooled their financial resources to come up with about P118,000 that formed their capital for the business and was used to pay for ingredients, packaging, rentals and other operating expenses.

The students, who have double majors in marketing and entrepreneurship, also used the money to pay for their training in milk handling.

They decided on milk as their product after conducting a feasibility study in October last year, in which they learned that there is good demand for milk products and that consumers are willing to pay for healthy products.

MilkInnove had to conduct an awareness campaign about its product in the first few months of its operations, especially at the height of the China milk scare.

Milk products from China were found to contain me-lamine, which is used to make plastic and fertilizers. Several Chinese children became ill as a result of their intake of milk containing melamine.

“We assured customers and dealers that we get pure cow’s milk (from local sources), specifically from the Cebu Federation of Dairy Cooperatives, which is also supportive of our business,” said Vienna Vanessa Sia, MilkInnove vice-president for marketing.

At its production site in Sikatuna St., Cebu City, MilkInnove produces at least 1,200 pieces of Free Milk bars a week and earns an average of P4,800 a month through consignments and dealerships.

MilkInnove won best in product, distribution and market exhibit in a school contest last August. It will present the product and the business in February next year, prior to their graduation.

“But some of us still want to continue this business after college. We already have a business permit. We are now processing our papers with the Bureau of Food and Drugs. We are looking at selling to more schools and we also welcome more dealers,” said MilkInnove chief executive officer Karen Bajenting.

For dealers, the 100 ml Freeze Milk is sold at P8 for a minimum order of 100 pieces. The frozen milk bars are available at the suggested retail price of P10 each.

Freeze Milk is available at canteens at the Cebu Institute of Tecnology and USC Main Campus.

MilkInnove is currently negotiating for a consignment contract with the Philippine Christian Gospel School and the USC Talamban Campus. The group also accommodates orders from the Cebu Normal University, University of Southern Philippines and Center for International Education.

Filed under: Business,

WELCOME!

This is a personal site that contains my news articles on Cebu, local tourism, investments, real estate, small and medium enterprises, and many more! Some entries tackle personal thoughts and experiences as a business writer covering the Cebu business community. Enjoy your time here. And I hope to hear from you! -NANCY R. CUDIS

NRC: a Cebuano scribe


NANCY R. CUDIS writes for herself (a pastime), for her family (a source of income), and for the Cebu community (a sense of duty). For inquiries or invitations to cover events related to Cebu, you may contact her through her e-mail: nrcudis@gmail.com.

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