October 18, 2017

Money Matters

Question: Is it really necessary to have an emergency fund? Francis via Facebook

Answer: Yes because emergencies happen! It is foolish to think that we will never undergo an emergency in life, and most of the time, emergencies cost a lot of money.

In my book No Nonsense Personal Finance, I wrote about setting up an emergency fund as the 3rd step to achieving financial security.

Before starting on emergency fund, it is best if you know how much you actually spend in a month.

Many people I know are clueless as to how much they spend monthly.

If you already have a monthly figure, you are now ready to start building your emergency fund. The rule of thumb for emergency allocation is somewhere between three and six months of your monthly expenses.

Three months is good, four months is better, five months will be great and six months is excellent.

Emergency funds come in handy for a variety of reasons: medical emergencies, loss of employment and so forth.

You should also be sensible in determining what an emergency is and what it is not.

A 65” flat LED TV that is on sale is definitely not an emergency.

Why should you set up an emergency fund?

Here are three good reasons why you should:

1) Emergencies do happen: It is foolish to think that emergencies will not happen to you. As time goes on, you realize that things do come up that you have not planned for; and you’re going to have to provide for them. Things do happen, and they won’t happen at a convenient time.

2) Relieves stress: Having an emergency fund has an added bonus—Peace of mind! You will feel relieved because you no longer have to worry about most small emergencies. Once you get your larger emergency fund saved, you won’t have to worry about paying for most large ones either.

3) Risk reduction: When you have established an emergency fund (along with other important things like life insurance, nonlife insurance and health insurance), you have a lot less risk of unfortunate things happening. You will also be less like to go into debt. In other words you’re making sound decisions to plan for problems, before they actually happen.

I know that starting an emergency fund is not easy for others but this is definitely something we should prioritize. Personal finance icon Dave Ramsey suggests we do it by ‘baby steps.’ Set aside little money regularly into an emergency fund. Do it in stages like one week worth of expenses first, and then move to two weeks, to three weeks and so forth. Keep a piggy bank or an envelope for you to put your cash into it.

Here are some tips:

1) Keep your emergency fund in cash or near cash placements like savings, current, time deposits or Special Deposit Accounts (SDA). Do not invest your emergency funds yet as those are intended to be a buffer or a margin for your finances. Make sure that the deposits can be withdrawn quickly and without huge penalties.

2) Keep some of those funds in an ATM account, say two weeks’ worth. Emergencies do not necessarily occur during banking hours.

3) Once you have achieved an ideal six months emergency buffer, start investing in better yielding instruments like pooled funds (UITF, Mutual Funds), stock market or real estate because said instruments should perform better in the long run. If you keep all your money in low yielding deposits, its value will ultimately erode because of inflation.

Gear up for an emergency because it is the wise thing to do.

“A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.” —Proverbs 27:12, NLT.

(c) Randell Tiongson



October 16, 2017 at 12:01 am

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT—Business locators in this premier freeport have expressed their support of the recent appointment of Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority Administrator Wilma T. Eisma as chairperson of the agency.

In a statement, the Subic Bay Freeport Chamber of Commerce congratulated Eisma and reiterated their cooperation to help improve Subic’s business environment.

“Moving forward, the locators of Subic Bay expect many great things from Atty. Eisma, which is both a compliment and a heavy burden on her shoulders,” the SBFCC statement said.

“Being the Chamber and the voice of the business community, we are here to support her endeavors that will improve the business environment of Subic. In the same breadth, we are also here so that her leadership and policies will be fair to all the stakeholders of the Subic Bay Freeport Zone,” it added.

The SBFCC, headed by businesswoman Rose Baldeo, issued the statement following the appointment of Eisma as SBMA chairperson. President Duterte issued Executive Order No. 42 that expressly revoked the separation of the positions of chairman and administrator of SBMA under EO 340 signed by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2004.

Duterte repealed the Arroyo order after a leadership row erupted between Eisma and former SBMA Chairman Martin Diño, who tried to assume the powers of the administrator.

The conflict, Subic stakeholders noted, put much strain on the agency and the freeport itself.

The SBFCC recalled that Subic locators had urged for a clear definition of the leadership roles in the government-owned and controlled corporation to resolve the issue.

“Like what we said during the height of the recent leadership row, we requested the House of Representatives and Malacañang to step in and make the necessary decisions that would clarify the roles of both parties for the sake of the investors of Subic Bay; if not, then to choose one that would lead the SBMA, to avoid further confusion among the locators and even within the ranks of the SBMA,” the SBFCC said.

The statement also thanked Diño for the assistance he gave the locators during his few months in Subic. “We are confident that Mr. Diño is more than capable of handling the next government position that the President will assign to him,” it added.

Meanwhile, Eisma thanked the various sectors in the Subic Freeport community for their support, as she aims to unite all sectors of the freeport community by promoting “malasakit” or caring for each other.

“My purpose is to unite all of us,” she said, adding that politics had sometimes reared its ugly head in the Subic Bay Freeport.

“We must be brought back to the basics: the basics of caring for each other, the basics of caring for SBMA. Because if we will do ‘malasakit’ for others, we will forget our personal agenda, and just take care of each other and take care for SBMA,” Eisma said.

(c)  Butch Gunio


October 15, 2017

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT—Taiwanese construction and engineering firm MSK Group Work Inc. launched  last  Saturday a high-end beachfront condominium project at the Triboa Bay area in this free port, aiming to cash in on the growing expatriate sector in the economic zones of Subic, Clark and Bataan.

The project, to be known as the Triboa Majestic Bay Residences, aims to develop a “personalized palatial home by the sea” by building three types of luxury residences: four-bedroom luxury mansion units with in-suite sky garage at the Premium Ocean Mansion; one to two-bedroom units at the three-building Crescent Studio; and beachfront units at Sunbeam Condo.

The project will have 157 condominium units all overlooking Triboa Bay near the former Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation  (Apec) Villas, the high-end accommodations used by Asia-Pacific heads of states during the 1996 summit here.

Aside from condominium units, MSK will also build public facilities like a 5,000-square-meter atrium garden, basement parking spaces, outdoor swimming pools, business center, conference room, shops and restaurant, library, playroom, gym, yoga room and multimedia room.

MSK has initially taken over the former Apec Villas clubhouse, which will be an integral part of the beachfront condominium complex.

Company spokesman Kelly Uy said the firm has committed an investment of P2 billion for the project and will be selling the property with its seaside view as the major sales pitch.

Customers are expected to come from the A- and B-class market, especially Asian expatriates and other foreign nationals.

“Our pricing will be very reasonable, and will be competitive with prices in Manila. We know the challenges here, but with around 1,000 companies now in Subic, as well as those in Clark, we basically have a captive market and we believe the project will be sustainable in the long run,” Uy said.

Triboa Majestic Bay Residences will be the first residential project for the MSK Group, which is headed by brothers Michael, Simon and Kevin Su.

The firm, which has established its presence in Philippine construction business for almost 25 years now, had earlier committed P350 million to expand its operations in the Clark Freeport Zone, which includes subleasing warehouses and factories.

Among the guests in the project launch were Dr. Gary Song-Huann Lin, representative of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office  in the Philippines, and former Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority Chairman Roberto Garcia.

In his message, Lin said the MSK project has “good timing” because it coincides with the New Southbound Policy of Taiwan, which calls for greater economic and cultural ties with Southeast Asian countries, like the Philippines.

Lin also recalled that Taiwan was the first country to invest in the Subic Bay Freeport by developing the Subic Bay Industrial Park, which now houses 52 Taiwanese companies, and pointed out that Taiwan is now the fourth biggest investor-country in the Philippines.

Lin also praised the MSK Group for initiating a “unique” project, which he said has “an excellent location, a serene view and a historical value”.

Meanwhile, Garcia, under whose administration the project was conceived, processed and approved last year, described the project as an illustration of the “well-placed confidence of investors in Subic”.

He added that with a P3.9-billion budget from the national government for the further development of the Subic Freeport, more business activities would be generated in the freeport zone in the years to come.

By Henry Empeño


Published October 12, 2017, 10:01 PM

Subic Bay Freeport – Locators of this premier Freeport have expressed their support for the recent appointment of Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Administrator Atty. Wilma Eisma as chairperson of the agency.

“The Subic Bay Freeport Chamber of Commerce (SBFCC) and our locator-members would like to extend our congratulations to Atty. Eisma,” the SBFCC said in a statement, adding that it expects “many great things from Atty. Eisma which is both a compliment and a heavy burden on her shoulders.”

The locators’ group added: “Being the Chamber and the voice of the business community of course, we are here to support her endeavors that will improve the business environment of Subic and within the same breadth, we are also here to that her leadership and policies will be fair to all the stakeholders of the Subic Bay Freeport Zone.”

‘Don’t drag Subic to the ground’

In a recent speech at the Subic Bay Convention Center, Eisma appealed to the public and the media to help Subic soar to greater heights and expressed hope that everybody can work together for the good of the Freeport.

Addressing that 25th founding anniversary event of the Camp Olivas PNP Press Corps (COPPC), she said: “This is a very emotional time for Subic; that is why I would rather receive good skill than congratulation because work is just beginning.”

“My appeal is for the people of Subic and the media to be our partners in making this Freeport better. Don’t drag Subic to the ground. I will do more than my best,” she said.

Also bidding to end the rivalry with former SBMA Chairman Martin Diño, Eisma described the latter as “a good man” and called on her supporters to refrain from gloating as she stressed that her appointment was not a victory for her, but for the SBMA.

(c) Jonas Reyes and Franco G. Regala


posted October 12, 2017 at 12:01 am

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT—The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority will ask the national government for funds for major infrastructure projects planned for implementation here starting next year.

SBMA Chairperson and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma said the funds would help fix two crucial accesses to the premier free port.

“The first order of business is the repair of the Alava Pier and the construction of a new Magsaysay Bridge, which leads to the Subic Freeport main gate,” Eisma said.

“I have asked Finance officials to consider the release of funds for Subic as an investment for the national government, because the SBMA would be giving back bigger remittances to the national treasury once these projects are completed,” she added.

The projects are estimated to cost a combined P2.84 billion, with the repair of Alava and other piers in Subic eating up P2.45 billion.

“We need to prioritize these infrastructure projects since they will further push the Subic Freeport’s business potential,” Eisma said.

It would be the first time in many years that the SBMA would request for a national allocation as it has been operating as a self-sufficient government agency for at least a decade, the freeport chief said.

“But it can be done, and I know how to get it done,” Eisma said.

The SBMA would channel its own funds instead to other projects meant to enhance security in the freeport.

Eisma, who attended the Asia Cruise Forum Jeju in South Korea last month where she had a discussion with cruise ship firms, said the reason why large cruise ships were unable to visit the Freeport is that its port is already silted.

“Alava Pier is badly in need of dredging, since large ships such as US aircraft carriers can no longer dock there. Aside from that, the pier posts there have already deteriorated and need replacement,” she said.

The repair of Subic piers would complement the Duterte government’s “Build Build Build” program, which includes the construction of the proposed Subic-Clark Cargo Railway that will ease the transfer of cargo container from vessels docked in Subic to the nearby Clark Freeport and other destinations in Central and Northern Luzon, Eisma said.

(c)  Butch Gunio


October 9, 2017

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT—The newly appointed chairman of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) will don another feather in her cap when she becomes one of the awardees for the “100 Most Influential Filipina Women in the World” this year.

Marilyn Mondejar, founder and CEO of the San Francisco, California-based nonprofit Filipina Women’s Network (FWN), said SBMA Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma has been judged one of the award winners who will be honored during the 14th Filipina Leadership Global Summit, from October 25 to 29, in Toronto, Canada.

The citation, also known as the Global FWN100 award, recognizes women of Philippine ancestry who are influencing the face of leadership in the global workplace.

Eisma, a lawyer by profession, was nominated in the Builders category, which recognizes women who have demonstrated exceptional organizational impact in a large workplace environment, deep passion for a cause and high potential and skill with measurable results in the public or private sector.

She won under the tertiary economic sector for service industry, which covers nominations for government, finance, education, legal and travel/tourism professions, among others.

The Global FWN100 Selection Committee said winners are chosen through a rigorous vetting process that includes determination of the nominee’s global Filipina imprint, personal interview, review of the nomination and answers to criteria questions, social media and Internet vetting,  and a chat with the nominee’s references and/or nominator.

The scoring is based on the nominee’s activities and projects of the last three years, and around three factors: leadership, challenge and ownership, or the degree to which the nominee took charge of the challenges she faced for the initiative, project or activity.

The award has been given out to outstanding Filipino women since 2007. Among the winners last year was Vice President Maria Leonor G. Robredo, who received the “Nicole” award, which honors Filipinas whose words, actions and activism inspire others to act and revolutionize society’s way of understanding traditional beliefs and customs.

For this year, the awards body accepted a total of 85 nominees from 14 countries across the globe. Fourteen of these were for the Builders category where Eisma won.

Eisma’s selection as one of the most influential Filipinas in the world today was announced following her appointment on September 25 as the first woman chairman-administrator of the SBMA, which manages the Subic Bay Freeport Zone, a key industrial and commercial area in the Philippines today.

Before taking over as CEO of the Subic agency starting January 2017, Eisma served for 15 years as corporate, government and regulatory affairs manager of PMFTC Inc., the Philippine affiliate of Philip Morris International, where she worked closely with local tobacco farmers and farming communities, earning for the firm international acclaim for farmer programs, best practices systems and leading innovations in agriculture-labor relations, communication programs and government-relation strategies in supply-chain setting.

Eisma also provided direction, supervision and management of the company’s public affairs and contribution programs that received international awards in corporate social responsibility.

(c) Henry Empeño / Correspondent


The World Bank has again cut its growth projections for the Philippines for this year and next, which the Washington-based multilateral lender blamed on “slower than expected” implementation of public infrastructure projects.

“In 2017, the economy is projected to expand at a slightly slower pace than 2016, at 6.6 percent. The delay in the anticipated push of the planned government infrastructure program has been contributing to the moderation of fixed capital formation growth, softening the growth prospect for the year,” the World Bank said in its East Asia and Pacific Economic Update October 2017 report released yesterday.

The World Bank in July lowered to 6.8 percent from 6.9 percent previously its gross domestic product (GDP) growth forecast for the Philippines, noting that government consumption and investment growth “somewhat weakened” recently following a similar path in public spending during the first quarter even if exports and private consumption kept a strong showing.

The lender’s 2017 forecast was nonetheless still within the government’s 6.5-7.5 percent target range.

For 2018, the World Bank’s GDP growth projection was reduced to 6.7 percent from 6.9 percent previously, below the Duterte administration’s 7-8 percent yearly growth target from 2018 to 2022.

In 2019, the World Bank expects Philippine economic expansion of 6.7 percent, a pace also slower than the government target.

The economy grew 6.9 percent last year, among the fastest in the region.

In general, “the medium-term growth outlook remains positive and is expected to be anchored in growth in the Philippines’ main trading partners which would lead to higher external demand, while imports would remain elevated due to necessary imports of intermediate and capital goods, including for the infrastructure program,” the World Bank said.

Moving forward, “as the public infrastructure program gains traction, capital outlays and construction activities are expected to rise,” according to the World Bank.

The Duterte administration early this year unveiled its ambitious “Build, Build, Build” program aimed at ushering in “the golden age of infrastructure” after years of neglect.

Under “Build, Build, Build,” the government will roll out 75 flagship, “game-changing” infrastructure projects, with about half targeted to be finished within President Duterte’s term, alongside plans to spend a total of up to P9 trillion on hard and modern infrastructure until 2022. —Ben O. De Vera
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TAIPEI — Taiwanese officials consider the “One China” policy as a challenge to the country’s push to boost trade and cultural ties with its southern neighbors, including the Philippines.

Taiwan launched its New Southbound Policy last year to forge socioeconomic cooperation and people-to-people exchanges with Southeast and South Asian countries, and Australia and New Zealand.

To sustain the momentum, Taiwan’s Executive Yuan (Cabinet) is allotting NT$7.19 billion for its implementation next year.

Y.C. Tsai, negotiator at the Office of Trade Negotiations, pointed to two challenges facing the implementation of the policy: China’s “interference” and the One China policy adopted by partner-countries, including the Philippines.

“Two things,” he told a group of Asian journalists here. “The first thing is that the interference from mainland China, and the One China policy adopted by our partner-countries might defer the implementation of the policy.”

When pressed to cite specific instances of Chinese interference, Tsai declined to go into details.

The Chinese Embassy in Manila did not respond to requests for comment on the matter.

China has demanded that Taiwan accept the One China policy, but the latter has maintained that it was open to bilateral talks on the matter without “political preconditions,” Taiwanese officials said.

Much of the world, including the Philippines and the United States, do not recognize Taiwan as an independent country in order to keep diplomatic relations with China, which considers Taiwan as a breakaway province to be reunified with the mainland someday.

While observing the One China policy, however, many countries keep robust unofficial ties with Taiwan through trade or cultural offices.

‘Best interest’

Tsai said that One China policy was a general principle adopted by some countries, and should be based on an individual country’s “best interest.”

“One China policy should present the best interest for individual countries,” he said.

“I would encourage all the partner-countries in this region not to be bound by the principle; cooperation must be based on mutual interest.”

Tsai made it clear that Taiwan wasn’t competing with China’s own initiatives by implementing its New Southbound Policy, which seeks mutually beneficial cooperation with its partner-countries.

“Actually the New Southbound Policy was framed based on our need; also based on the need from our partners. We had never thought we would like to use this policy to compete with any policy implemented by the other countries, including Belt and Road initiative by China,” he said.

Angelito Banayo, chair of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office in Taiwan, however, said that the policy would prosper despite the Philippines’ One China policy.

“Because the One China policy proscribes political as well as military agreements between the two countries, but not economic or cultural,” he said in an interview on the sidelines of Asia Pacific Cultural Day here.

Taiwan and its closest southern neighbor, the Philippines, have eyed cooperation in the energy, agriculture and education sectors, among others, as well as people-to-people exchanges under the New Southbound Policy.

Tsai said that both governments were now crafting a mechanism “to strengthen the investment” between them. With a report from Dona Z. Pazzibugan, Philippine Daily Inquirer

(c) TJ Burgonio
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rehabilitation program, needs dredging and strengthening of piles.

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT—The rehabilitation of piers and wharves in the Subic Bay Freeport Zone will be the priority of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) in order to fully realize the potential of this premier maritime-logistics center.

Newly appointed SBMA Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma said the Subic agency has allocated P2.46 billion to repair and further develop port facilities, considered the heart and soul of the Subic Freeport.

“The piers and wharves are undeniably the biggest assets of Subic Bay, and our seaport generates the biggest income among all the SBMA units,” Eisma explained in a recent media briefing.

“We need to put these assets in top condition so that we can service more vessels and also get top returns for our investments,” she added.

Fifteen piers and wharves are located in this former American naval base. These are now used mainly for the transshipment of containerized and break-bulk cargoes, fuels and lubricants, grains and fertilizer, as well as servicing vessels and passengers.

At the same time, business locators in the port of Subic also offers key services, like cargo handling, pilot and tugboat services ship handling, bunkering and tendering, ship agents, onboard repair, cargo survey, underwater survey, and vessel lay-up and line handling.

In particular, the Alava Pier, which services military and passenger vessels in Subic, needs to be dredged and its piles strengthened in order to accommodate bigger cruise ships, Eisma said.

“We have concluded talks with some cruise liners and the Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. will dock in Subic  starting next May, but we can’t bring in those with passenger capacity of up to 5,000 because our piers are not yet upgraded,” Eisma said.

She said she realized it was necessary to rehabilitate Alava Pier to bring it on a to par with global cruise standards when she attended the 2017 Asia Cruise Forum in Jeju, South Korea, in August.

Eisma said that while Subic has its own airport, its seaport is the most viable facility to develop and earn from.

“With the money the government is pouring into Clark today, Subic cannot hope to compete with its airport, so we have to prioritize development of our seaport,” she explained.

Aside from the repair and development of ports, the SBMA also plans to undertake major projects, like the construction of the Magsaysay Bridge at the free port main gate; upgrading of Subic Bay International Airport facilities; concreting and repair of roads; port dredging; and building the proposed SBMA-Olongapo Museum.

The Subic agency is also planning to build an SBMA Corporate Center to house the various SBMA offices that are now scattered among several US Navy-era buildings, Eisma said.

With an estimated cost of P2.45 billion, the repair of Subic piers and wharves is expected to take up the bulk of the SBMA’s P3.548-billion infrastructure budget for 2018.

(c) Henry Empeño


Online Application May Start In October

Filipinos may soon travel to Taiwan without paying visa fees after the Taiwanese government approved visa-free privileges for Philippine nationals.

Taiwan Premier Lai Ching-te has approved the plan to give visa-free status to citizens of the Philippines, according to a report from state-owned Central News Agency.

The report said that Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) has yet to disclose the details but the new measures are expected to be implemented in October the earliest.

Under the plan, Filipinos wishing to visit Taiwan may seek entry visas through an electronic or online application mechanism.

The move is part of Taiwan’s New Southbound Policy that relaxes visa rules for the 10 member states of Association of Southeast Asian Nation in hopes of improving ties with Southeast Asia, South Asia, Australia and New Zealand.

Taiwan announced the visa-free status for the Philippines in June, but the implementation was postponed. Mofa cited the need for “complete relevant administrative procedures and inter-agency coordination.”

Taiwan’s government hopes that the policy will forge closer relations with other countries in a bid to reduce economic dependence on China. /kga

(c): Anthony Q. Esguerra