Olongapo Telecom & Information Technology

Friday, April 14, 2006

Anti-cable TV, Internet pilfering proposal up for plenary

By Alexander Villafania, INQ7.net

A proposed anti-cable TV and Internet connection pilfering law recently passed the second reading at the committee level of the congressional information and communications technology and is being readied to be discussed at a plenary level.

House Bill 4665, filed by Congressman Simeon Kintanar (2nd District, Cebu), provides for a penalty of imprisonment of two to five years, and fines ranging from 50,000 pesos to 100,000 pesos to anyone caught with illegal cable TV or Internet connections.

The proposal declares illegal the interception of any cable TV or cable Internet signals without the authorization of the cable operators. It also identifies the mechanisms as to how cable TV or Internet signals are delivered to different subscribers, in particular home users or commercial users such as hotels.

If approved at the plenary level the proposal will be submitted to the Senate for final review and passage into law.

Kintanar said theft of cable TV and Internet connection cause huge operational losses on the part of cable TV and Internet providers and also affects the signal and standard of service provided to subscribers.

The crime also poses a “grave and severe threat to the existence and survival of the cable TV and Internet industry,” Kintanar said.

“It’s time to put an end to the pilferage and theft of any signal or service offered by cable TV and Internet service providers through any unauthorized installation and access. These acts of theft pose a grave threat to the survival of the cable TV and Internet industry,” Kintanar said.

The bill is being supported by two local organizations, the Philippine Cable Television Association (PCTA) and the Federation of International Cable TV Association (FICAP). Both groups have reported that losses due to cable TV piracy were between 10 percent and 30 percent of their annual revenues.

CSC gets $500,000 grant for e-governance project

By Alexander Villafania, INQ7.net

The Civil Service Commission (CSC) recently received a 500,000 US dollar grant from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) for an e-governance project aimed at improving the selection process for civil servants but is more inclined at reducing political favoritism.

The project, funded by the Japan Fund for Information and Communications Technology (JFICT), is expected to ensure a more rational, transparent and cost-efficient decision-making process for the country’s civil service system.

Malacañang will provide a counterpart fund of 250,000 US dollars for the project’s total estimated cost of 750,000 US dollars.

The project has three phases spread out over 16 months. The first entails the development, installation and operation of a common database on personnel information for all incoming and incumbent civil servants.

The database will ensure that screening of civil service is done in accordance with policies. It would also help insulate the civil service from political patronage and ensure the selection of the most competent candidates.

The second phase is the creation of an Internet portal for third level (Cabinet level) government executives wherein they could use interactive multimedia tools for acquiring and sharing information and transacting business with partner agencies. The third phase is an online learning facility on management concepts.

ADB Senior Financial Management Specialist Emma Yang said the CSC project will rely heavily on ICT as tools for public administration reforms and to improve public service delivery.

“The collective strength of this segment of the civil service is a potent force that can be mobilized for large-scale initiatives for civil service reforms," Yang said.

Motorists get 3G help on Holy Week

By Daxim L. Lucas, Inquirer

THIS Holy Week travel season, telecom giant Smart Communications Inc. will provide high-tech road assistance to motorists, including real time view of traffic situation along major thoroughfares to and from Metro Manila.
The service, a part of Petron Corp.’s roadside assistance, began on Wednesday, but is expected to come into full use Thursday as motorists stream out of the city for the four-day Lenten break.

Smart is providing 40 mobile phone units and free airtime to motorist support teams of Petron deployed along major thoroughfares beginning Holy Wednesday up to Easter Sunday.

The mobile giant’s service includes free use of third-generation (3G) network technology, which will give travelers a view of traffic situation in selected areas and help them decide on the best route to take.

The Smart 3G and WiFi booths are located at the Petron Express Centers on the North Luzon Expressway in Marilao, Bulacan (northbound); and in Bocaue, Bulacan (southbound).

Motorists can also avail of the Smart 3G service at the Petron Express Center at Km. 29, San Pedro, Laguna (southbound) along the South Luzon Expressway; and at Petron STAR in Lipa City, Batangas at the STAR Tollway.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Call centers to help wean RP away from OFW dollars

By Doris C. Dumlao Inquirer

THE Philippines looks to the booming business process outsourcing and call center industry to help wean it from its reliance on the money that overseas Filipino workers bring in and to boost its potential for economic growth, according to National Economic Development Authority.

The government will also be investing heavily in infrastructure, knowing how the country's shortcomings here may well turn off investors, said Dennis Arroyo, the Neda's director for policy planning and research.

"We'll slowly be replacing [earnings from] OFWs with BPOs [business process outsourcing] over the medium term," said Arroyo, in reaction to a cautionary report on the Philippine economy from the Asian Development Bank.

The ADB, in its annual Asian Development Outlook released on Thursday, warned that sluggish investments along with high dependence on consumption and overseas workers' remittances were stunting the Philippines' growth prospects.

Only 5% growth in '06

The regional bank's report predicted that Philippine gross domestic product would rise by only 5 percent this year against the government's down-scaled growth target of 5.5 to 6.2 percent and the 5.1 percent growth posted in 2005.

The ADB lamented that the country's growth performance was falling short of what was required to make "significant inroads into persistent high levels of poverty and unemployment."

Arroyo said the government was confident that the country could post a GDP growth of at least 5.5 percent this year.

"This growth target is even conservative given that we've had strong growth in the services sector led by telecommunications and the BPO/call center business," Arroyo said.

He said the telecom sector would remain competitive with the advent of the VOIP (voice over Internet protocol), which allows users to make long distance calls using the Internet, and even 3G technology which allows real-time video broadcasting through the mobile phone.

Arroyo said OFW inflows would remain strong as it would be driven by the global aging phenomenon which would boost demand for migrant workers in industrialized countries.

By 2009 to 2010, the lucrative BPO sector would become even bigger, allowing the country to earn more foreign exchange without more Filipinos having to join the worker exodus abroad, Arroyo said.

Cost of migration

The ADB report warned that the high level of out-migration, though it generates high-remittance income, comes at a high cost to the country in terms of loss of knowledge and social problems.

Aside from call centers, Arroyo said the BPO sector would be boosted by other services such as medical and legal transcription, animation and software development.

The services sector, of which BPO is part, now accounts for about 48 percent of the country's domestic output, edging out agriculture and industry which respectively contribute 19 percent and 33 percent of GDP in 2005.

Arroyo also noted that OFW remittances were being directed into the stock market and even real estate.

"OFWs are looking more into investing in blue chips, especially now that the stock market is trading at a seven-year high," Arroyo said.

Shift to real estate

He said the shift of OFW money from pre-need plans to real estate would help the construction sector.

Cash remittances sent by OFWs through the banking system amounted to $10.7 billion in 2005, 25 percent higher than the previous year, according to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.

If inflows through informal channels were to be included, OFW remittances were estimated at about $13 billion in 2005.

To address infrastructure bottlenecks, Arroyo said the government was committed to devoting a bigger portion of the annual budget to infrastructure spending.

"Now that we've implemented the VAT (value-added tax) reform, we have more resources for capital outlays," he said.

Enhance highway systems

A major priority is to enhance the highway systems connecting the three major economic growth areas of Luzon-the National Capital Region, the Clark-Subic development area and the Calabarzon (Cavite-Laguna-Batangas-Rizal-Quezon) growth corridor-whose combined output accounts for 55 percent of the country's GDP.

Based on Neda estimates, the Philippines needs P1.1 trillion ($21.25 billion) in fresh investments from 2006 to 2010 to ease the gaps in transportation, power, water, communications and social infrastructure in the next five years.

According to Arroyo, the thrust is to encourage the private sector to undertake those projects "with positive financial and economic returns" while the government focuses on "essential projects with high economic returns despite poor financial viability."
Fiscal discipline

But to maintain fiscal discipline, the government will focus on projects that will not burden it with contingent liability and encourage the participation of local government units whenever feasible.

Of the amount required for infrastructure spending over the next five years, the national government is expected to shell out P171.56 billion from its budget and another P108.98 billion outside the budget (such as those involving LGUs), on top of its contribution to joint venture projects with the private sector.

Projects involving public-private partnership, or the build-operate-transfer (BOT) scheme, are expected to amount to nearly P500 billion.

Arroyo said partial liberalization of air transportation in key areas as well as further improvements in the nautical highway system through the ro-ro (roll on, roll off) mode, would also boost the investment climate.

Gov't, self-regulation seen as best defense vs disc piracy

GOVERNMENT regulation and self-imposed industry policies are still the best defense against optical disc piracy, agreed participants of a recently concluded Asian anti-piracy workshop held in Manila.

The Asian Regional Workshop on Effective Practices on Media Production and Anti-Piracy Efforts, attended by representatives of member-countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as well as that of Hong Kong and the United States, highlighted efforts to curb the production, distribution and sale of illegally copied movies, music, software, and video games.

In several presentations, the participants said both the government and private sector should work together to stop piracy. In particular, stiffer penalties should be imposed against illegal optical disc manufacturing and copying plants, while legitimate manufactures should remind their counterparts against illegal activities.

ASEAN Intellectual Property Working Group chairman Haji Shuib Bin Yusop said Asian governments are already implementing their own intellectual property laws, as well as optical media laws.

He said that most of the ASEAN countries have shown significant progress in their efforts to stop piracy.

Some of the participating members during the workshop shared their experiences in their own anti-piracy drives. For instance, Indonesia's Head of Subdirectorate of Industrial Relationship and Investment Promotion Azwar Ratu Pengadilan said his government implemented its own optical media policy under their Intellectual Property Law in 2000, after several illegal disc manufacturing operators relocated to Indonesia.

Since then, Indonesia's Ministry of Industry Trade has released decrees regulating the entry and usage of optical disc-making and copying machines and materials.

The decrees make it more difficult for illegal operators to acquire raw materials for disc production as only licensed manufacturing plants are permitted to purchase the necessary materials.

In Malaysia, Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs director Ahmad Dahur Mahmud said there are 44 legitimate plants now operating in Malaysia. Starting in 2002, Malaysian authorities inspected or raided 33 plants for intellectual property offenses. By 2004 and 2005, the number of plant visits had increased to 341 and 356 raids, respectively.

Mahmud said they have so far suspended the business licenses of about six plants this year.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong's government said it has been among the most successful in its anti-piracy efforts, despite the territory having among the most prolific underground anti-piracy industries several years ago.

Hong Kong Customs senior superintendent Yiu-keung Tam said in his report that between 1998 and 2001 they raided and destroyed a total of 29 factories that were found violating optical disc production laws.

He said their main weapon against pirates was the use of the Source Identification Code (SID), an ID system used to identify the source manufacturer of all optical discs created. SIDs are series of tiny numbers burned into the inner lining of a CD.

Tam also said they have one of the highest maximum penalties for illegal optical disc manufacturing and piracy: two million US dollars and seven years imprisonment.

In addition to government regulation, companies in the optical disc production and reproduction business should also implement policies that will ensure the protection of intellectual property among their counterparts, International Federation of Phonographic Industries Southeast Asian regional investigator John McGuire said.

McGuire said industry players and the government should form compliance bodies that will regularly monitor the industry. He said the group should collect details on optical disc manufacturers and reproducers, particularly their inventory of machines, SID code compliance, production rate, and raw material acquisition.

"These companies should also implement good business practice. They should notify all customers that they employ anti-piracy procedures, they should use the SID code system according to law, employ a dedicated compliance officer and identify their customers and brokers. For big buyers, the optical disc manufacturer should require the buyer to provide ownership and licensing details because they could use the discs to create illegal copies of movies or music. The purpose of optical disc laws is to protect copyright holders rights by monitoring the activities of disc manufacturers," he said.
By Alexander Villafania INQ7.net

‘Outsourcing to rise 42%, is way forward’

OUTSOURCING is the way forward for the Philippines, and employment, revenues and investments from the sector are expected to rise by at least 42 percent this year, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Romulo Neri said Monday.

Neri amplified the remarks made last week by Neda’s director for policy planning, Dennis Arroyo, who spoke to answer an Asian Development Bank exhortation that the Arroyo administration should not rely solely on OFW remittances to keep the country’s economy afloat.

Call centers are now at the forefront, Neri said. But other big-business process outsourcing firms are expanding their operations beyond call centers, Neri said in a statement.

He cited a study jointly sponsored by the trade department’s Board of Investments and the industry groups’ Business Process Association of the Philippines, and the Commission on Information, Communication and Technology that forecast outsourcing jobs rising by 44 percent this year over the 2005 figure.

Outsourcing revenues and investments will grow

The study also projected out­sourcing revenues growing by 52 percent, and investments surging by 42 percent in 2006, Neri said.

He said the study forecasts that investments would be around P12 billion ($234.83 million) this year and that by 2010 up to 1.2 million people would be employed in the sector, increasing from 233,000 people employed at present.

“Outsourcing is a sector with much dynamism. Companies are also getting more creative to respond to industry demand. For example, some firms are buying warehouses for lack of office space,” Neri said.

He cited industry estimates that business process outsour­cing will bring $3.8 billion in revenues to the Philippines this year, close to four times higher than the 2001 figure of $1 billion.

In 2001 Philippine revenues from business process outsourcing amounted to $349 million, Neri said.

Global consultancy McKinsey has reported that at least 120 outsourcing companies operate in the Philippines, predicting that revenues from the sector would reach $10 billion by 2010, he said.

Market for medical transcription

Neri said the Philippines should aim to get 10 percent of the market for medical transcription, which comes amid a massive exodus of Filipino doctors, nurses and other medical workers for higher-paying jobs abroad.

“Think of all the high-paying jobs that will provide our medical professionals,” Neri said, citing reports that the United States lacks about 80,000 medical transcriptionists.

Medical transcription outsourcing in the Philippines occupies just a one-percent share of the US market of $12 billion, he added.

Neri said the outsourcing boom should also be a boon for other industries.

“This is clearly a market for the telecom companies offering landline connectivity. Real estate is also benefiting from the surging demand for office space, while restaurants open 24 hours a day to cater to the food and leisure needs of call-center agents,” he added.
--The Manila Times staff and AFP

Globe cuts text messaging rates

Globe Telecom Inc., the Philippines’ second-largest mobile service provider, will cut rates for its text messaging service in an effort to lure its rivals’ subscribers and boost revenues.

The Ayala family-led company earlier said the industry would see revenues drop to single digits this year owing to a slowdown in subscriber base expansion.

Ronald O. Solis, chief of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), said the regulator approved Globe’s request to cut text rates to P0.90 from P1 for messages sent among Globe subscribers and Touch Mobile subscribers. The promo also applies to Globe text messages sent to subscribers of rival networks.

The new promo, which may set off a new price war in the text-messaging front, will run from April 15 to May 15, 2006.

At end-2005, Globe’s wireless subscriber base reached 12.4 million, while its main rival Smart Communications Inc. and its subsidiary Pilipino Telephone Co. (Piltel) had a combined subscriber base of more than 20 million.

Froilan Castelo, Globe assistant vice president for corporate and regulatory affairs, said the company hopes to raise volumes by lowering text message rates.

"We want to give more value to our subscribers," he added.

Castelo said the reduced price will also be offered to messages sent to subscribers of rival carriers. "There is no need to inform [our rivals] on the new price as long as we pay access charges," he said.

William Pamintuan, Digital Mobile Philippines Inc. senior vice president, said he will comment on Globe’s lower rates once the promo begins.

Wo Rosete, Smart media relations officer, said, "We don’t comment on the action of our rival." Both telcos have yet to offer lower text messaging rates.

NTC approves extension of reduced international text, IDD rates

Globe also obtained an approval from the NTC to extend the company’s reduced international short messaging service and international direct dialing (IDD) rates to Singapore from April 11 to May 10, 2006.

The promo rate of P1 per text message or SMS (short messaging service) shall be offered to all Globe postpaid and prepaid subscribers from the current rate of P10 for postpaid and P15 for prepaid.

For IDD, the promo rate is P7.50 a minute for the first minute for Globe and TM postpaid and prepaid subscribers for calls terminating to Singtel Mobile numbers.

The NTC also approved the extension of TM to TM discounted SMS offer of P0.75 for another 30 days from April 15 to May 14.

For call service, the company will extend the TM "Todo Tawag 15/15" from April 16 to May 15.

Subscribers can avail of the P15 for 15 minutes call promo by dialing 800 plus the 10 digit TM number. The promo is unavailable for international calls or while the subscriber is on international roaming mode.

Globe will also extend the IDD promo rate of P7.50 per minute to the United States and Canada.

Lastly, the company will extend the Globe to Globe and TM to TM per second call rate promo available to all subscribers from April 16 to May 15, 2006.

To avail of the P0.10 call promo, subscribers have to dial 232 plus the 10-digit Globe number and 803 plus the 10-digit TM number calls.

Calls from Globe to TM subscribers and vice versa will be charged regular inter-network call rates.
The Manila Times Reporter