Buy Local, Support Local: DTI, SM collaborate in Christmas Market for MSMEs

This Christmas season, our gifts take a meaningful turn when we not only make their recipients happy, but also support a worthwhile cause. What better way to do this than by gifting locally-made products by micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs): whether sweet treats, artisanal goods, local apparel, home decorations, or other keepsakes. By doing this, we not only keep our heritage alive by promoting local craftsmanship and delicacies, we also help businesses bounce back.

‘Sustainability’, CSR no longer enough rallying cry for businesses – Lopez

While sustainability is just flourishing as a battle cry and pursuit for many corporations in the Philippines as underpinned by the implementation of the environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) framework this year, First Gen Corporation Chairman and CEO Federico R. Lopez highlighted that “corporate sustainability that seeks to simply …

IKEA PH to hire 500 workers

IKEA, the world’s leading home furnishing retailer, said it is hiring 496 workers for its first store in the Philippines in Pasay City, which is touted to be the largest IKEA store globally. There are also many open posts for part-timers.

In a statement, the company said it is looking to fill a wide range of vacancies—including sales associates, recovery associates, food assistants, customer service associates and more.

The IKEA Pasay City store will also run a Call Centre operation and a supersized warehouse to support ecommerce fulfillment. The online store will open before the physical store in the second quarter 2021.

The newcomers will join a team of 73 people already working for IKEA in its Makati office as well as a project office at the Pasay construction site. 

As part of its recruitment drive, IKEA will be bringing home 20 OFWs from IKEA stores abroad — primarily from the Middle East.

“The IKEA vision is to create a better everyday life for the many people. Creating meaningful, stable jobs and great workplaces is just one way that we fulfil this vision – more important than ever during these challenging times,” said Christian Rojkjaer, Managing Director IKEA Southeast Asia & Mexico, owner of IKEA stores in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines and Mexico.

Georg Platzer, Market Development Manager and Store Manager of IKEA Philippines, noted that the IKEA culture and values makes it different from other retailers. At IKEA, he said, co-workers at all levels are encouraged to lead, ask questions, share ideas and drive the business.

There are endless possibilities to grow and develop as co-workers take charge of their own learning journey and move across functions.  Part-timers are treated like full-time members of the family, with all the same benefits as full-timers on a prorated basis – including health insurance, annual leave, subsidised meals and IKEA discounts.

Platzer said they are looking for employees with the right attitude. “At IKEA, it’s all about putting we before me, empowering people to make decisions, and challenging the status quo,” he said.

“Family is very important to us, and we’re glad that we’re able to reunite some of our Filipino co-workers with their families in the Philippines,” said Platzer.

According to the company, throughout the pandemic, IKEA’s Southeast Asia and Mexico has retained all its co-workers, despite closures of up to 73 days. The company will continue filling local positions into June 2021.

BSP cuts rates to record low


Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Benjamin E. Diokno

The Monetary Board of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) cut the overnight reverse repurchase (RRP) facility by 25 basis points (bps) to two percent – the lowest policy rate on BSP record — to boost market confidence and in support of economic recovery amid uncertainties of a resurgence in COVID-19 cases.

The BSP also reduced the interest rates on the overnight deposit and lending facilities to 1.5 percent and 2.5 percent.

“The Monetary Board assessed that there remains a critical need for continuing policy support measures to bolster economic activity and boost market confidence,” BSP Governor Benjamin E. Diokno said Thursday. “With a benign inflation environment and stable inflation expectations, the Monetary Board sees enough policy space for a reduction in the policy rate at this juncture to uplift market sentiment and nurture the country’s economic recovery amid increased downside risks to growth.”

BSP Deputy Governor Francisco G. Dakila Jr. gave the latest inflation forecast for 2020 which was higher at 2.4 percent compared to its previous (October 1 policy meeting) projection of 2.3 percent. For 2021 and 2022, the BSP lowered its forecasts to 2.7 percent (from 2.8 percent) and 2.9 percent (from three percent), respectively.

Dakila said they revised this year’s inflation estimate upwards due to the transitory impact of higher-than-expected inflation in September and October. Inflation increased to 2.5 percent in October because of the higher inflation for food and non-alcoholic beverage, both accounting for 38 percent of the consumer price index basket.

Prices of meat and fish also went up due to tightness in the supply of pork and adverse weather conditions in the case of fish. The BSP official also said that the recent typhoons’ impact on inflation has already been factored in on the latest estimates.

For the 2021 and 2022 forecasts, Dakila said these were lowered because of the impact of the lower domestic economic activity in the third quarter as well as lower crude oil prices and the appreciation of the peso.

The BSP has implemented a series of pandemic-induced aggressive policy rate cuts since February of a cumulative 200 bps. The real interest rates, which is below the inflation level, is in the negative territory.

Diokno said the balance of risks to the inflation outlook is still tilted on the downside from the potential impact of the pandemic on local and global economic activity. He noted that while “uncertainty remains elevated amid the resurgence of COVID-19 cases globally” the Monetary Board also observed its moderation.

“At the same time, the Monetary Board noted that while domestic output contracted at a slower pace in the third quarter of 2020, muted business and household sentiment and the impact of recent natural calamities could pose strong headwinds to the recovery of the economy in the coming months,” said Diokno.

Diokno has said that he “anticipates interest rates to remain low, inflation to be manageable, the peso to be stable, and external accounts to be robust, with record-high gross international reserves (GIR).”

The central bank expects inflation rate to range at 1.75 percent to 2.75 percent for this year, and between two percent and four percent in 2021 and 2022.

With manageable inflation, the exchange rate has remained stable and in favor of the peso.

Diokno said the “strength of the (peso) remains market-driven and supported by sound macroeconomic fundamentals.” The local currency is one of the strongest currencies in Asia and has been consistently stable for the past four years. “The peso’s strength is attributable of the country’s low inflation, a strong and resilient banking system, low debt-to-GDP ratio, and a hefty GIR,” he said.

IC orders quick processing of typhoon claims

The Insurance Commission (IC) wants the immediate processing of all claims related to Typhoons “Rolly and “Ulysses” that ravaged Luzon and parts of the Visayas.

Insurance Commissioner Dennis B. Funa

In two IC Circular Letters, Insurance Commissioner Dennis Funa ordered that all insurance and reinsurance companies, mutual benefit associations (MBAs), pre-need firms, and health maintenance organizations (HMOs) to adopt and implement claims management policies.

“This commission recognizes that the damage and/or loss to life and property resulting from the onslaught of Typhoons ‘Rolly’ and ‘Ulysses’ may give rise to claims,” Funa said in a statement.

“There is a need to prescribe guidelines that will aid in the facilitation of the immediate processing and/or payment of such claims against said regulated entities that are related to Typhoons ‘Rolly’ and ‘Ulysses’,” he added
To recall, Super Typhoon “Rolly,” the strongest tropical cyclone thus far this year, made landfall in Catanduanes last October 31 that caused about ₱5.6 billion damage in infrastructure and ₱1.1 billion in agriculture. It also claimed the lives of at least 20 people. 

Meanwhile, Typhoon “Ulysses,” a Category-4 equivalent typhoon, made its first landfall in Patnanungan, Quezon Province last November 11, claiming the lives of at least 69 people and caused approximately ₱6.38 billion of infrastructure damage.

Based on the two circular letters, Funa ordered that all insurance and reinsurance companies, MBAs, pre-need companies and HMOs adopt and implement claims management policies relative to the processing and payment of claims related to Typhoons “Rolly” and “Ulysses.” 

“Such policies shall have the following objectives, to wit: (a) Relaxation and streamlining of existing company procedures and mechanisms that will facilitate immediate processing and/or payment of claims related to said typhoons,” the IC said.

“(b) Relaxation of the notice of claim period and the period for completion of claim requirements; and (3) Enhancement of services that will improve overall customer claims experience,” it added.

In the end, Funa said “it is our hope that the two Circular Letters will aid our fellow Filipinos to ease the burden of recovering from these devastating typhoons and that, in the spirit of bayanihan, our regulated entities will follow the direction provided by this Commission.”

SEC allows modified financial reporting by BSFIs during pandemic

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has approved an industry-specific framework for the preparation of the audited financial statements (AFS) of financial institutions to account for the regulatory relief measures extended to them during the pandemic.

SEC Memorandum Circular No. 32, Series of 2020, allows the preparation of the AFS of BSP Supervised Financial Institutions (BSFIs) in accordance with the Philippine Financial Reporting Standards (PFRS).

This is modified by the application of the financial reporting reliefs issued by the central bank and approved by the Commission. The AFS preparation will also be supervised by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).

“The industry-specific framework recognizes the necessity of the prudential accounting relief measures, as well as the other regulatory reliefs issued by the central bank, in countering or, at least, cushioning the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on banks and other financial institutions,” SEC Chairperson Emilio B. Aquino said.

He added that, “These reliefs were intended to reduce the impact of losses that BSFIs may incur due to exposure to borrowers, industries and sectors severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and the mark-to-market losses that may be sustained due to volatilities in the financial markets.”

“Consequently, they aim to strengthen the ability of BSFIs to continue operating and servicing the financing requirements of the general public,” said Aquino.

The industry-specific framework takes into account a BSP Memorandum providing all BSFIs with regulatory relief measures by allowing the staggered booking of allowance for credit losses over a maximum period of five years and the reclassification of debt securities measured at fair value to amortized cost category, among others.

Without the industry-specific financial reporting framework, the relief measures are considered deviations from the PFRS, which may lead to the issuance of a “qualified opinion” by the external auditor if such reliefs have a material impact on the fair presentation of the audited financial statements of banks and other BSFIs.

Under the newly issued memorandum circular, BSFIs have the option to prepare their financial statements using the industry specific framework or the PFRS, in full, for the duration and terms allowed by the BSP.

BSFIs, which choose to adopt the industry specific framework, should specify the reliefs availed of and indicate that the availment thereof covers only the current year transactions, under the “Basis of Preparation of the Financial Statements” section of their financial statements.They should also include qualitative and quantitative disclosures of the impact of the reliefs they have availed of, to ensure transparency in their financial reporting.

Customer-centric business, key to Globe success

Globe Telecom Inc. attributes its success to the customer-centric culture it has adopted for the past ten years.

Happy customers equals satisfied shareholders and motivated employees – the essence of Globe’s Circle of Happiness.

“It all starts with the customer,” Ernest Cu, Globe President and CEO reiterated.

Globe President and CEO Ernest Cu talks about the company’s purpose at the Ayala Integrated Summit.

“If the customers are happy and they continue to patronize the business, it creates great financial results, which in turn provides great returns to the shareholders,” he explained.

“If the shareholders are happy, they tend to remunerate the employees well. And if the employees become really motivated, then they would want to make the customers even happier,” according to the President.

“This is the infinite game. It doesn’t end. It just keeps going,” Cu maintained.

In this age of information and communication technology, Globe stands at the forefront, enabling the digital life of Filipinos.

As the home becomes the center of learning, livelihood, commerce, and entertainment, “the kind of service that we provide to the public is so essential”.

“Globe is a purpose-driven organization, so we’re making sure that we give our customers a fair deal, the best experience and service that we can provide, with or without a pandemic,” he went on.

“And each employee does his or her part to make a difference.”

As an example, when the telco’s outsourced customer service teams became undermanned due to mobility restrictions still in place under qurantine, Globe employees pitched in.

They helped in processing postpaid mobile and broadband applications as well as in addressing other customer concerns.

Globe also empowered its workers to attend to customer needs themselves.

Employees assist sunscribers, who are still using soon-to-be obsolete 3G SIMs and mobile phones, to shift to 4G/5G-ready SIMs to improve their data experience.

Globe is likewise urging mobile customers to adopt 4G/LTE and migrating its broadband customers to fiber connections for free.

This is while the telco continuously upgrades and expands ts network.

Even during calamities, such as recent typhoons Rolly and Ulysses, Globe network personnel worked to restore communication facilities as soon as possible.

Overall, Globe instills dedication to service and customer welfare among its over 8,000 workforce.

Banking system strong to support economic recovery – Diokno

Philippine banks are not only strong but resilient enough to withstand the pandemic-hit financial market and to help prop up an economy in recession, said Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Benjamin E. Diokno.

“While the impact is still unfolding, the good news is that the financial system is in a strong position to both weather the adverse effect of the COVID-19 pandemic and support the country’s economic recovery,” Diokno told members of the Money Market Association of the Philippines in a virtual event. “At the outset of the pandemic, the banking system had significant capital and liquidity buffers, built up due to both the strict BSP regulatory requirements and many years of favorable banking conditions.”

Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Benjamin E. Diokno ( Bloomberg )

Based on the BSP’s Comprehensive Baseline Survey and from various stress tests employed by the central bank, banks have enough steam to continue to lend and service borrowers, and even “prosper through a broad range of adverse scenarios”.

Diokno said all the BSP has to do now is to “strike a balance between enabling banks to lend to the firms and households” and to make sure banks’ risk exposures are contained as banks handle the challenges of the pandemic.

Despite that banks’ profitability were affected by the lockdown and other restrictions brought on by the health crisis including the necessity to beef up their loan loss provisioning, the loan growth amid the expected increase in bad loans ratio continues.

“Based on the baseline survey, the banking system may grow by 3.6 percent by end- December 2020,” said Diokno. “This expected growth, however, represents the top 20 banks across universal banks, thrift banks and rural and cooperative banks.”

Diokno said their latest assessment of the banking system indicate that eight months into a community quarantine situation, banks’ core funding remains relatively strong and bank lending is slowly inching up.

He said the loan quality has slightly weakened as “borrowers experience cash flow interruptions and sustain losses due to the pandemic” but he said the BSP “don’t see this trend to extend in the long-run, however.”

“Financial assets continue to grow but at a slower pace as banks opted to reduce treasury activities to be liquid,” said Diokno. And, as expected, banks’ net income has declined due additional provisioning. “However, this is likely to be offset by lower operating expenses and deferment of capital expenditures and non-essential expenses,” he said.

Diokno also noted that banks’ liquidity and capital buffers remain intact.

The BSP chief reported that the banking system’s credit growth continued amidst the pandemic, with gross total loan portfolio rising by 1.6 percent year-on-year to P10.7 trillion as of end-September.

Diokno expects loans to the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to continue growing, particularly as lending to MSMEs is an alternative compliance to the reserve requirements. We expect loans to the MSME to soar,” he said.

As of the reserve week of October 22, new MSME loans used for compliance with the reserve requirements averaged P127.5 billion, up from just P9.3 billion end-April this year.

Diokno said banks’ loan quality has remained satisfactory, so far. As of end-September, banks’ non-performing loan (NPL) ratio is still “manageable” at 3.4 percent. NPL ratio is higher than same period last year of 2.1 percent. The NPL coverage ratio were lower as of end-September at 91.7 percent.

“We expect the banking industry to book additional provisions as they continue to reassess the quality of the loan portfolio,” said Diokno.

The BSP chief said that based on their review, banks’ financial assets decreased  as banks reduced trading activities to remain liquid. He cited survey results as showing that banks’ investments was reduced to maximize portfolio returns.

“The top universal and commercial banks did not introduce major changes in the composition of their portfolios as they assess liquidity risk. Exposures are mostly concentrated in highly-liquid and investment grade instruments. As a natural consequence, profitability declines,” said Diokno.

The net profits of banks as of end-September fell by 25.93 percent year-on-year to P126.78 billion, but Diokno said they expect other operating expenses “will likely be reduced due to lower business volume and capital expenditures and non-essential expenses, will be deferred.”

He said as surveyed, banks’ 2020 net interest income, other fees, and operating expenses will decrease due to provisioning.

“To mitigate the adverse impact of the pandemic on profitability, banks plan to impose cost-cutting measures (deferred capital spending and freeze hiring of non-critical positions); intensify loan collection activities, stricter in loan monitoring; exercise prudence in loan releases; reduce cost of funds and boost marketing campaigns for new loans and deposits,” said Diokno.

ASEAN ministers sign MOU to address non-tariff measures

  ASEAN economic ministers have agreed to refrain from introducing trade restrictive measures on essential goods associated with combatting the global pandemic to ensure smooth flow of these items across borders.

Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon M. Lopez (Bloomberg file photo)

 Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon M. Lopez joined other ASEAN economic ministers in signing the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to address the implementation of Non-Tariff Measures (NTM) on Essential Goods under the Ha Noi Plan of Action on Strengthening ASEAN Economic Cooperation and Supply Chain Connectivity in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic at the sidelines of the 19th

 ASEAN Economic Community Council Meeting held recently in Hanoi.

The  initiative stemmed from a decision made by ASEAN Economic Ministers last August 2020 to put in place a more focused and targeted work program to address NTMs, particularly on essential goods.  

“This action is a clear manifestation of ASEAN’s shared commitment in keeping markets open, ensure the unhampered flow of essential goods, and show economic resiliency amid COVID-19. We also see this as a positive development that will help the Philippine business community in trading with the region,” Lopez said.

The MOU is part of ASEAN’s concrete initiatives in response to COVID-19 to ensure the smooth flow of essential goods associated with combating the pandemic. It also seeks to facilitate timely information sharing among Member States on trade-related measures on these essential goods and supplies. 

It further calls on the ASEAN Member States (AMS) to refrain from introducing or maintaining trade restrictive measures on essential goods, except for instances wherein there is a public health emergency. Any measure that one AMS deems necessary to implement must be in conformity with AMS rights and obligations under the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement and the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement (ATIGA). 

Currently, the provisions of the MOU only apply to the ASEAN List of Essential Goods, which currently cover 152 tariff lines of medicines, and medical supplies and equipment. 

This is a significant step forward for ASEAN as some Member States implemented export bans and other stringent measures in the early months of the pandemic that resulted to supply shortages of medicines and medical supplies in the region. With the MOU in place, such actions are expected to be lessened. 

Recognizing the importance of addressing NTMs across all sectors, ASEAN will also be looking into the possible expansion of the ASEAN List of Essential Goods to include other essential items, such as food and agricultural products. 

The MOU forms part of the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework (ACRF), which serves as the consolidated exit strategy of the region from the COVID-19 crisis. It articulates the ASEAN response through different stages of recovery. It focuses on key sectors and segments of society that are most affected by the pandemic, as well as sets broad strategies and identifies measures for recovery in line with sectoral and regional priorities. 

Maynilad yet to resume to pre-Ulysses level

It has been a week since Typhoon Ulysses made landfall in the Philippines, but Maynilad Water Services Inc. has yet to resume its normal production level due to continued high turbidity level of raw water in Ipo Dam.

Jennifer Rufo, head of corporate communications at Maynilad, said the sustained inflow of turbid water from Ipo Dam up to now prevented the company from maintaining its target production level.

Turbidity refers to increased sediment concentrations in the raw water.

“This affected network pressure, and the impact was immediately felt in elevated portions of our concession area,” Rufo said on Thursday.

“Hence, some of our customers in high-lying areas are currently experiencing a longer service interruption than scheduled,” she added.

Metro Manila currently gets its water supply from the interconnected Angat-Ipo-La Mesa water system.

Rufo said Maynilad’s technical team is now implementing system adjustments at the plant to address its current concern.

As of Wednesday evening, Maynilad already commenced the filling up of one of the basins at its La Mesa Treatment Plant after having removed the sludge that accumulated since Thursday due to the inflow of highly turbid water brought by Typhoon Ulysses.

Clearing operations for the other two basins are ongoing, and being done round-the-clock, the company said.

Meantime, the company has increased its mobile water tanker complement in the area, and are also asking for assistance from the local government unit (LGU) and the local fire bureau to add to its fleet of water tanker deliveries.

“We apologize for the inconvenience, and continue to ask for our customers’ patience as we facilitate the clearing operations at our treatment facilities that were affected by Typhoon Ulysses,” Maynilad said.

Over the weekend, Rufo told Business Bulletin that water service interruptions within some parts of Metro Manila may last only until Sunday.

Maynilad areas that were experiencing water service interruption then include Bacoor, Imus, Caloocan, Las Pinas, Pasay, Makati, Malabon, Navotas, Manila, Quezon City, Paranaque, Muntinlupa, and Rosario.

Meralco aids power restoration in typhoon-hit Catanduanes

The Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) sent a team of line crews and equipment to assist repairing power infrastructures damaged by super typhoon Rolly and expedite the restoration in the province of Catanduanes.

POWERING CATANDUANES. Meralco and First Catanduanes Electric Cooperative crews
work arm-in-arm around the clock to repair severely damaged poles and fast-track power
restoration efforts in Catanduanes, one of the provinces most severely affected by the impact of super typhoon Rolly.

A 48-man contingent composed of Meralco linemen and engineers and One Meralco Foundation (OMF) volunteers were enlisted to be part of the Power Restoration Rapid Deployment (PRRD)-Task Force 2020, which closely coordinates with the Department of Energy (DOE), National Electrification Administration (NEA), Philippine Rural Electric Cooperatives Association Inc. (Philreca), and the Electric Cooperatives in Catanduanes.

POWERING CATANDUANES. Meralco and First Catanduanes Electric Cooperative crews
work arm-in-arm around the clock to repair severely damaged poles and fast-track power
restoration efforts in Catanduanes, one of the provinces most severely affected by the impact of super typhoon Rolly.

After more than 25 hours of land travel, Meralco’s contingent arrived at Virac, the capital of Catanduanes on November 8 and immediately began working around the clock to expedite the restoration of power services in affected areas in the province.

Meralco added its contingent traveled to Catanduanes aboard 17 vehicles, composed ofAugers, AUVs/SUVs, Basket Trucks, Pick-Ups, and Stake Trucksto be used in the power restoration of the affected areas.

Prior to leaving Manila, the Meralco contingent also undertook RT-PCR test in compliance with health and safety protocols imposed by the Government to ensure the non-transmission of Covid-19 and that the deployed team are fit to work.

Recto wants to account for MSME lending

Senator Ralph Recto yesterday sought for an accounting of the funds being allocated to government financial institutions for lending to the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).

Senator Ralph Recto
(Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)

This transpired at the Senate hearing for the Department of Trade and Industry budget for 2021 where DTI Secretary Ramon M. Lopez through the agency’s budget sponsor Sen. Sonny Angara responded to interpellations that focused on lending to the MSMEs.

According to the DTI, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has already released P9 billion out of the P10 billion allocated to SB Corporation but the micro lending arm of the government has yet to approve 26,245 applications from the MSME sector.

 Since, the Bayanihan 1 the SBCorp. already released P1.2 billion loans to 1,160 MSMEs through its CARES program. But there are still 26,245 pending loans applications under that have to be approved for funding under Bayanihan ‘s P10 billion fund allocation to MSMEs including the tourism sector.

 Recto also noted that both the government banks Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) and Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) have combined P24.47 billion. Combined with SBCorp. P10 billion, the MSME sector should have available P35 billion funding available for their recovery.

There are 1.4 million enterprises registered with the DTI. The MSMEs account for 99.6 percent of total business establishments in the country and provide 65 of total employment in the country.       

 This prompted Senator Ralph Recto, president pro tempore, to ask the DTI to ask for a report from these two institutions as to how much they have actually released to the MSMEs.

DTI is the chair of SB Corp. but it has no oversight role for DBP and LBP, which are under the Department of Finance.

Recto further explained that MSMEs are the constituents of DTI but which the agency has no oversight role, do not have a research about it or a report from the two banks as to how much of the fund allocation has really been provided to the sector.  Lopez said he can request for a report from both banks.

DBP and LBP lend directly to the MSMEs but they also partnered with micro financial institutions to lend to the micro enterprises.

Recto stressed the need to account for the MSME lending stressing that “While we laud the efforts of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas to provide liquidity,” the banks just don’t lend to the MSMEs.

 The Bayanihan 2 created P145 billion emergency fund to help help enterprises get back on their feet and for government to respond to the COVID-19 crisis.