Jun 262013

With the stock market supposedly in bear territory after almost a week in a consecutive downtrend – wiping an estimated $62 billion in value from local stocks ­– analysts continue to be positive in their outlook, saying that the downtrend is caused by external factors. Global markets closed in the red amid jitters after news came out that the US Federal Reserve plans to cut back on its economic stimulus program, coupled with concerns over an impending credit crunch in China.

Actually, economists like former Budget Secretary Ben Diokno are saying the country is in a better position to sustain growth and create more jobs in the process. After all, economic fundamentals remain very strong and intact, to which as a natural consequence stocks will start picking up again. Even our favorite stock market “seer” thinks so, too, saying that now is the best time to buy.

According to our financial soothsayer, some of the good buys would be Aboitiz Power and SM Prime Holdings (SMPH) whose shares are considered undervalued. However, the steady growth SM Prime has displayed – overshooting forecasts for the last two years – has been rather impressive. The mall development arm of the Henry Sy group posted up to 15-percent profit to P2.79 billion for the first quarter of 2013. Many are convinced that the recent merger between SM Development Corp. and SM Investments Corp. under SMPH will push growth earnings this year even higher than in 2012, which saw SM Prime achieving better-than-expected earnings of P10.53 billion, up 16 percent from P9.11 billion for 2011.

Floods, squatting a perennial problem

Last year, an expert from the University of the Philippines had warned about the entire Metro Manila starting to sink “not slowly” but at “several centimeters every year” due to a lot of factors including global warming. He also said there was no point in dredging rivers if they will just continue getting filled with trash – underscoring the reason why floods continue to be a perennial problem in Metro Manila.

While it’s true what Metro Manila Development Authority chairman Francis Tolentino said that Metro Manila can never be flood resistant because many areas such as Camanava (Caloocan, Malabon, Navotas and Valenzuela) are located below sea level, that doesn’t mean there is nothing that can be done to make Metro Manila “flood resilient.” But as everyone knows, the problem is exacerbated by the presence of squatters near creeks and rivers who think nothing about throwing their garbage and other refuse into the water. Ultimately, we end up imbibing all that filth as it turns into acid rain.

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There are now an estimated 735,000 squatter families in Metro Manila (up from the 517,175 families in 2010), living in flood-prone, high-risk areas. Obviously, the proliferation of squatters has become a major headache, with many of them adopting an “entitlement” mentality – just coming in and illegally occupying vacant private lots and waterways, settling under bridges and refusing to vacate even when it becomes apparent that their presence has become a danger not only to themselves, but to the outlying communities.

A lot of them are actually “professional squatters” who have made big business out of encroaching – even putting up stores, repair shops and other enterprises – knowing it would not be easy to relocate them because of the infamous “Lina Law” which has been used and abused by these informal settlers to bilk money out of private property owners and the government which under the law has to spend for the relocation of these illegal – meaning law breaking – settlers. Why this law has not been repealed is anybody’s guess.

In any case, they all must be relocated. Otherwise, it would be even more difficult to manage the floods that are sure to come – even if MMDA chief Francis Tolentino turns España into his permanent base. The good news is – Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has threatened to file criminal and administrative charges against local officials who will allow squatters to build along waterways. It will take a lot of political will to do that – considering that those who have tried to evict informal settlers ended up facing lawsuits, many of them believed to be instigated by political adversaries.

Alan Cayetano’s long-term plan

Alan Peter Cayetano took his oath of office (shown in photo with outgoing Cebu Representative Eduardo Gullas and Cayetano’s wife, Taguig mayor Lani Cayetano) at the University of Visayas in Cebu, where the re-elected senator came out No. 1 – a big jump from his No. 8 ranking in the province when he first ran as senator in 2007.

Alan’s father, former Senator Rene “Compañero” Cayetano, was an adopted son of vote-rich Cebu, which is why there is a lot of talk now going on that the younger Cayetano is preparing for higher office in 2016.

Spy tidbit

Congratulations to Weber Shandwick for winning high honors at the recent Cannes Lions International Festival – considered the “Oscars” of the marketing and creative industries. Historically an advertising festival, Cannes now features PR and other marketing categories in its awards, which are considered a “badge of honor” across the global marketing spectrum. In the Philippines, the Weber Shandwick team is headed by its president and COO Diana Lesaca, who herself has over two decades of experience in the area of advertising and communications.

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Email: spybits08@yahoo.com.

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