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Friday, May 3, 2013

Infrastructure spending to create 400,000 jobs in 2013

Construction workers silhouette
Government spending for roads, bridges and other public works in 2013 is seen to result in more than 400,000 jobs, according to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
In the first quarter of the year, disbursements already reached P34.8 billion, which was P16.1 billion or 86 percent higher than the P18.7 billion released by the DPWH during the same period last year.
Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson told reporters during a news briefing at the department’s Operation Center in Manila on Tuesday that the increase in government spending for various public infrastructure projects translated into more employment opportunities, thus contributing, he said, to continuing economic growth under the Aquino administration.
According to the DPWH, its job-generation projection for 2013 is 420,671. Under this forecast, one job means four months of employment at 22 days per month, or a total of 88 days.
It said it expects that the 180 ongoing projects will continue to provide jobs to the projected number of workers for the entire year, adding that more jobs are also expected to be generated the following year, when more projects are set in motion by January 2014.
“We hope to generate more employment. We are also implementing community roadside maintenance, tapping small community enterprises. Those in the community where the projects are located will be given work. We are set to formalize partnership with the Department of Social Welfare and Development to integrate this to the Conditional Cash-Transfer [CCT] Program,” Singson said. The CCT program aims to curb poverty among the poorest Filipinos.
From a budget of P125.74 billion in 2012, the agency’s budget increased to P169.33 billion this year, allowing the DPWH to implement more infrastructure projects ranging from construction to repair and rehabilitation of roads, bridges and school buildings. For 2014, the DPWH is eyeing a budget of P189 billion.
From January to March 31, 2013, Singson said a total of 6,395 projects worth about P101.13 billion were set in motion. Of this number, 5,749 or 90 percent of the projects have been advertised and 3,975 or 62 percent have been awarded
Of the projects, 5,419 cost P50 million or less, 320 are worth between P50 million and P150 million and 53 cost more than P150 million.
Singson reported that of the 101 active projects in 2012, 59 percent have been completed. This year, he said, there are a total of 180 active projects, and as of the first three months of the year, a total of 8.3 percent have been recorded as “actual accomplishment.”
According to the DPWH chief, the government has saved over P16.3 billion from the conduct of open, transparent and competitive public bidding from July 2010 to the present.
A major convergence program with the Department of Tourism, the Tourism Road Infrastructure Program (TRIP), he said, is being pursued by the DPWH.
In 2012, the department spent about P8 billion for projects aimed at improving roads leading to tourist destinations. This year, Singson said, the government intends to spend P12 billion and in 2014, P18 billion for the same program.
By 2014, according to the DPWH chief, all tourism infrastructure projects that were set in motion in 2012 will be completed.
He also reported that more private contractors are now joining public bidding, a move that demonstrates the trust and confidence of those in the construction business in the reform initiatives implemented by the DPWH under the Aquino administration.
(Story courtesy of Jonathan L. Mayuga, Business Mirror)

CNN reports PH stock market one of the hottest worldwide

PSE trading floor
The Philippine stock market is one of the “hottest” in the world so far this year, according to a CNN report.
On the CNN Money website, the Philippine Stock Exchange index (PSEi) was ranked the 5th “hottest” stock market in the world, after Kuwait, Argentina, United Arab Emirates and Japan.
The PSEi has rallied 20% so far this year, as it breached the 7,000 level for the first time ever. The main index has reached 27 new all-time highs so far this year.
Investors have flocked to the Philippines as the country earned its first ever investment grade credit rating from any ratings agency last March.
CNN Money quoted Ashraf Laidi, chief global strategist at City Index in London, as saying investors have been attracted to the Philippines “because it’s shielded from the economic slowdown in China.”
“The economy doesn’t depend on exports to China like many other countries in the region… It’s more tied to domestic consumption,” Laidi said.
Barely four months after it first breached the 6,000 level, the PSEi breached the 7,000 level last April 22. Analysts and fund managers are betting the PSEi will continue to rise, driven by optimism on the Philippine economy and further cut in interest rate of special deposit accounts (SDA).
The Palace earlier said the PSEi’s record highs is a “manifestation of continued confidence in the prospects of our economy, not only from the international community, but also from Filipinos who are raising their stake in our country’s success.”

Filipina in TIME’s 100 most influential for finding HIV cure

Katherine Luzuriaga
Dr. Katherine Luzuriaga [viaGMA News]
Time Magazine’s 2013 listing of the 100 most influential people in the world included two Filipinos: President Benigno Aquino and Dr. Katherine Luzuriaga, a pediatric immunologist from the University of Massachusetts.
And yet, despite the groundbreaking impact of her work, she remains largely unacknowledged in her own country.
Luzuriaga —whose father is Filipino and who still does, in fact, speak Filipino— was part of an all-woman medical team acknowledged for the first cure of a baby with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), the cause of AIDS.
The cured baby was born in Mississippi more than two years ago to a mother who had HIV but was not diagnosed until she had gone into labor. The mother apparently did not have prenatal care because if she did, she would have been diagnosed early and given three drugs to prevent the fetus from being infected.
In this case, the child was first given the drugs 30 hours after she was born. Right before being given the medicines, the baby was tested for HIV, the results of which came back positive. Within the first month of therapy, tests could no longer find the virus. However, doctors kept the child on the drugs, standard practice in the United States and developed countries because of the possibility of reservoirs or “hideouts” for the virus that allow it to continue to replicate.
With time though, the mother began to become irregular with her hospital visits for her child. When the child was brought in for a check-up around the age of two, the mother admitted that the child had missing out on the drugs. Yet when tests were conducted, the child’s HIV levels still remained undetectable, which means a “functional cure”.
The other two members of the team, Dr. Hannah Gay of the University of Mississippi and Dr. Deborah Persaud, a virologist at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, were also included in Time’s 100.
The child’s cure brings hopes into the rather bleak AIDS research front. HIV is a retrovirus and several anti-retroviral drugs have been developed over the last few years but these only slow down the replication of the virus. It does not cure AIDS and the expensive treatment has to be maintained for a lifetime. Efforts to develop a vaccine have been unsuccessful, the latest trial just halted this week after researchers reported the vaccine did not seem to be making a difference, and might even have led to an increase in the risk of infection.
Luzuriaga and her colleagues presented their case report at a conference last March, cautiously pointing out that while this cure is unprecedented, it is only one case. It does, however, suggest that early and aggressive treatment of pediatric AIDS could result in a cure, without children having to take the drugs for the rest of their life. Pediatric AIDS is still a major problem, with some 300,000 new infections each year in the world.
What struck me was that the local press initially only picked up on the president’s making it to the list. After the Time awards ceremony on April 23, there has been some, but, I feel, not enough, mention of Luzuriaga, who is acknowledged as one of the experts in the field of pediatric AIDS. She is also professor of pediatrics and molecular medicine at the University of Massachusetts, and directs the university’s Center for Clinical and Translational Medicine. (If you’re wondering, translational medicine involves linking research to actual applications in clinical practice.)
Even more importantly, the work of Luzuriaga and her two colleagues once again emphasize the contributions of women scientists, and how they remain all too invisible.
(Story courtesy of Michael L. Tan of GMA News)