Business & Leisure Column

How's business?

More than a hundred days into the new administration, how is the business environment in the country doing? How do our trading partner-countries view the Philippines in terms of investments? And what is the plight of our micro entrepreneurs in the countryside?


In the last stretch of President P-Noy's term, he created the National Competitiveness Council (NCC) which the present administration thankfully retained. In addressing the country's global competitiveness, this council reviews outdated and unnecessary government policies that have weighed us down and impacted negatively on our ease of conducting business. NCC Co-Chair Guillermo Luz together with Trade Secretary Mon Lopez have adopted Britain's Red Tape Challenge through the Council's newest program, Project Repeal, the Philippine Red Tape Challenge.


As explained by Sec. Lopez, the bottom line is cutting red tape, period. For business permits and licenses, for instance, the signatures needed to get these permits took at least eight days. Under this present administration, Sec. Lopez promised that this would be cut down to two days and victims of red tape are advised to report the transgression immediately to the DTI.


Bill Luz is bent on simplifying our rules and regulations in this country, saying this is an Administration priority. No less than 57 agencies are working together to make this happen so that by the end of this year, there will be a massive reduction of unnecessary steps and elimination of red tape. They are giving themselves very little room to achieve this but we hope they can get it done before 2017. Aside from Project Repeal, the NCC is also working with DTI to simplify local permits and this agency is working on another worthwhile project: the Livable Cities Challenge. With 145 cities across the country to work on, this is quite a challenge.


Now that the NCC has started cutting red tape, they have also commissioned British consultants to measure the effects of the Red Tape Challenge in terms of cost savings. The British have successfully adopted this program in their government and have standard cost models that can help us with cost estimates in savings when repealing a law.


For the record, the growth of British investments in the Philippines grew by 17% as of latest reckoning, and the UK is the Philippines' fourth largest trading partner.


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For the mining sector, hopes are dim from the miners' point of view as articulated by the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines VP for Legal and Policy, Atty. Ronald Recidoro. It is indeed an almost impossible task to balance the interests of the environmentalists and the industrialists especially where mining is concerned, so even the ordinary citizen is hard-pressed for a definite stand. While the Chamber of Mines supports the idea of a comprehensive review and a mining audit, Atty. Recidoro rues the presence of several anti-mining and civic organizations in the team that conducted the audit as this could influence the entire process. After each audit, they would have wanted to be afforded exit interviews or meetings to air their side but were given none, he said.


As things stand today, some 20 companies have been suspended and Sec. Gina Lopez announced that she is not inclined to give new mining permits. Atty. Recidoro, on the other hand, says that almost all of the mining companies save for one or two have complied with the requisite ISO certification. He also cites the Philippines' Mining Act which states that if all requirements have been met, the government has to issue the necessary permits.


He estimates that some ten projects worth P20 billion are in the pipeline and none of them is moving forward. In the midst of this uncertainly, the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines reiterates that it is willing to comply with President Duterte's directive of responsible mining.


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The government continues to recognize the role of the country's micro, small and medium enterprises in moving our economy forward.Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) is introducing their latest program, EMBRACE or Empowering Barangays in Remote Areas through Credit and Enterprise. The objective is to help out our marginalized farmers, fishermen and small entrepreneurs who have no access to formal financial institutions. It is a program of inclusion that many poor but entrepreneurial folks in the countryside would consider a blessing. This program was approved by the Board of Directors in May 2016. The guidelines have already been prepared though the beneficiaries have not yet been identified.


LBP sends out lending units to far flung towns not yet serviced by it to look for qualified entrepreneurs to avail of their special financial packages. The Bank has identified 200 such towns in the Cordillera, the autonomous region in Northern Luzon, the ARMM and the Samar island provinces. This is sad news for those who hope to get into the program outside of these areas, but then again Land Bank is laying out EMBRACE for areas not yet served by LBP. Regions 3 and 4, for instance, are already well served by Land Bank, but entrepreneurs from these regions can still tap the Bank through their regular lending programs. For EMBRACE, the bank has initially allotted P1 billion for the program, and this figure can readily be increased should the program prove to be effective and successful, meaning the enrolees in EMBRACE prove to be good risks. For the record, LBP has a total loan portfolio of P460 billion and can well serve the country's entrepreneurs.


The loans, stressed LBP, will not be coursed through the local government units, though the bank is prepared to work with them and other organizations. Because EMBRACE is for the unbanked, a borrower should have no previous loans, must have the capacity to pay, and should have a minimum of one year experience in running his enterprise. The loan officers of LBP who will be fielded to these towns and barrios are trained to discern and bring with them the Bank's willingness to lend a helping hand to our micro and small farmers, fishermen and entrepreneurs. We hope that many will take advantage of this special program.


Mabuhay!!! Be proud to be a Filipino.


For questions and comments (email) sunshine.television@yahoo.com


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About the Author

Ray Butch Gamboa graduated from the College of Arts and Letters of the University of Sto. Tomas. It was a course that should have been preparatory to a law degree, but the call of broadcasting aborted his plans.

At the age of 16, while still a student, Butch tried his hand at disc jockeying, landing a job at Mareco Broadcasting Network's AM stations DZBM and DZLM. From there, Butch moved on with his illustrious career as a popular disc jockey, riding the airwaves of Bob Stewart's middle-of-the-road music at DZXX, and ending his disc jockeying career at ABS-CBN's DZYL and DZQL.

From there, he stayed on with ABS-CBN, covering live the proceedings at the Manila Stock Exchange and eventually entered into the world of television sales as an account manager for the premier channel of ABS-CBN Channel 2.

In the early 70's, at the outbreak of Martial Law, Butch was one of the thousands of professionals who woke up jobless when then President Marcos declared the new status of the nation. With the closure of ABS-CBN, Butch ventured into different fields outside of broadcast. He tried his hand and with ease and success at export (Costume jewelry), real estate (brokerage), and restaurants (fast food).

In 1987, after the revolution, with the broadcast industry back to its free state, and with its irresistible call ringing in his ears, Butch made his inevitable comeback and pioneered in a local motoring show, producing Motoring Today on Channel 4 and co-hosting with local motor sports' living legend Pocholo Ramirez.

After 4 years, he ventured into another pioneering format by producing and hosting Business & Leisure, which was originally aired on ABS-CBN's Channel 2. The format eventually espoused similar ones in other different channels. But the clones in due course faded away leaving the original staying on airing on Channel 4 and eventually on Shop TV on Sky Cable's Channel 13.

The following year, the pioneering spirit in Butch spurred him to produce another TV show, Race Weekend, also on Channel 4, covering circuit racing at the Subic International Raceway after the motor sport's hiatus of 17 years. But when similar shows with duplicated formats sprouted, he decided to give way and ended the program after a year, although still enjoying unparalleled viewership.

In 1998, when the local automotive industry was in a slump, Butch contributed his share to help the ailing industry by producing another popular motoring-related show, this time exclusive to the automobile and its industry—Auto Focus, which became a vehicle for local automotive assemblers and importers to showcase their products and dwell on the industry's latest technological developments.

In 2003, Butch teamed up with his brother, Rey Gamboa who was a former Shell executive and presently one Philippine Star's business columnist to co-produce and co-host the TV show Breaking Barriers on Channel 13. It is a talk show that features guests who are in the news and in the middle of controversies. The program ventures to draw deeper insights into current issues to learn how they impact to our daily lives.

Today, Motoring Today on its 28th year of service to the general motoring public still enjoys its unprecedented loyal vierwership nationwide while Auto Focus, after 16 years has firmly established its niche viewership among automobile enthusiasts and on the other hand Business & Leisure is on its 24th year dishing out current business issues and lifestyle features.

Today, aside from writing weekly columns for the Philippine Star (Motoring Today on Wednesdays and Business & Leisure on Saturdays) and executive producer / host of weekly TV shows (Motoring Today, airs Sundays on Solar Sports Channel 70, Business & Leisure, airs Tuesdays on Shop TV, Sky Cable Channel 13 and Auto Focus airs Thursdays on Shop TV, Sky Cable Channel 13, Ray Butch Gamboa is currently the Chairman and CEO of Sunshine Television Production and Marketing Services Corp., President of Gamcor Management and Development Corp., Chairman of Asia-Pacific Realty Corporation, President and Chairman of Socio-Communication Foundation for Asia and Founding Chairman of the Society of Phil. Motoring Journalists (SPMJ)