Thursday, April 12, 2007

Taxing OFWs?

(GMA News) - It is "foolish" and "counter-productive" to remove the tax privileges enjoyed by overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) whose remittances keep the Philippine economy afloat, according to administration senatorial candidate Michael Defensor.

The former presidential chief of staff quickly rejected the move to revive a plan first broached in 2004 to tax the remittances of Filipino professionals abroad.

The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) however clarified that the proposal would not cover factory workers and domestic helpers.

"OFWs, whether lowly paid domestic helpers or construction laborers, or highly paid sailors, nurses or engineers, definitely deserve to continue to enjoy their tax-exempt benefit, insofar as their foreign-sourced earnings are concerned," Defensor stressed.

"OFWs render a huge service to the country simply by sending home their earnings. They continue to drive up domestic consumption spending as well as passive and productive local investments in dollar deposits, purchases of insurance and real estate, and highly productive micro enterprises," he said.

"Besides, OFWs and their families already get taxed indirectly when they spend for consumption or investments here," Defensor pointed out.

"When a Filipino nurse working in the U.S. comes home and buys a residential condominium unit here, Philippine taxes are paid. When the nurse sends money here that is spent at Jollibee or SM, consumption taxes get paid," he further explained.

Defensor credited the country's economic sustainability to the steadily increasing remittances of OFWs. "Instead of the peso plunging as previously warned by a group of U.P. economists, the local currency is now hovering at six-year highs," he said.

Defensor said the exceptionally strong peso has also enabled government as well as private companies to reduce their dollar-denominated obligations, thus lowering considerably the country's foreign indebtedness.

In 2004, the Department of Finance pushed a similar proposal to remove the OFWs' income tax exemption as one of several measures to collect more revenues for the government.

The DoF had to withdraw its proposal from Congress after OFWs and their families launched protest actions against it.

It claimed then that the now-defunct Presidential Task Force on Tax Reforms did not intend to exempt all OFWs from income tax. It said that the plan, in fact, was to tax only those earning more than $6,000 annually and to exempt the "small income" workers.

The department proposed that Congress "make the high-paying overseas Filipinos, like professionals and technical workers, share in the burden of financing the public sector" by re-imposing the income tax on those with annual gross incomes of at least $6,000.

The revived plan seemingly supports the recommendations of the De La Salle University's business and economics experts who conducted a study, titled, "The Economic Impacts of International Migration: A Case Study on the Philippines," to impose income tax on remittances from highly paid OFWs.

Philippine Investments Up 51%

(Yahoo News) - Net foreign direct investment (FDI) into the Philippines rose 51 percent to $357 million in January from a year ago due to improving economic prospects, the central bank said on Tuesday.

Foreign banks accounted for most of the inflows as they opted to retain their earnings in local branches.

Net equity capital inflows rose nearly 70 percent in January to $70 million as the Philippines' improving government finances, strong domestic demand and low inflation attracted overseas investors, particularly from Japan and the United States.

The electronics sector, services industry and real estate companies benefited from the inflows.

Last month, net FDI in December rose 5.7 percent from a year-earlier, bringing total investment inflows to $2.35 billion last year, 18 percent higher than a central bank estimate.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has won plaudits for reducing the government's budget deficit but economists say the country's investment rate needs to rise to around 20 percent of Gross Domestic Product from 15 percent currently to make significant inroads into poverty.

The central bank said it expected FDI flows to remain positive for the rest of 2007, with investors taking advantage of the country's improving investment climate.

Asteroid Named After A Filipino

(The Manila Bulletin) - CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts, USA — An asteroid circling the Sun between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter and measuring 4 to 9 kilometers in diameter has recently been named after a 77-year-old Filipino scientist and former director of the Philippine weather service. The International Astronomical Union (IAU) last week officially christened minor planet No. 6636 as "Kintanar" in honor of Dr. Roman L. Kintanar, who headed PAGASA for nearly 36 years before retiring in 1994.

Asteroids are solid chunks of metal-rich rocks left over from the formation of the solar system some 4.5 billion years ago. They range from small pebbles and boulders to the size of islands hundreds of kilometers across.

"This is such a big honor for me," says Dr. Kintanar, who is a physicist by training (He received his Ph.D. from the University of Texas in 1958). "I feel that my efforts in the past is well compensated by this unique accolade."

We proposed the asteroid's name to the IAU in recognition of Dr. Kintanar's long service and innumerable contributions to the advancement and modernization of weather forecasting in the Philippines, as well as for inspiring future astronomers, including us.

The IAU, through its 16-member Committee on Small Body Nomenclature, is the sole scientific organization with the authority and responsibility of naming bodies in the solar system, such as planets, satellites, asteroids, and comets. In the case of minor planets, for centuries they have traditionally been named after mythological figures and geographical places, as well as renowned scientists, poets, composers, artists, novelists, and other prominent personalities.

The official citation for asteroid 6636 Kintanar, published in Minor Planet Center Circular No. 59384 on April 2, reads: "Roman Lucero Kintanar (b. 1929) directed the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration from 1958 to 1994. A dedicated public servant and distinguished scientist, he was president of the U.N. World Meteorological Organization during 1979-1987."

According to the MPC Circular, the asteroid was discovered on Sept. 11, 1988, by Bulgarian astronomer Vladimir Georgiev Shkodrov at Rozhen Observatory, and was given the preliminary designation 1988 RK8. It revolves around the Sun at an average distance of 338 million kilometers and takes 3.4 years to complete one orbit.

Asteroid 6636 Kintanar is currently about 261 million km from Earth, shining very dimly at magnitude 18 near the ecliptic, in the constellation Leo. One would need a fairly large telescope and a sensitive CCD camera in order to record its tiny, star-like image.

Kintanar joins a growing constellation of minor planets that have been named after Filipinos. It began in 1995, when the IAU named asteroid 6282 Edwelda in our honor. Edwelda, which is a combination of our first names, was bestowed on us in recognition of our accomplishments in the field of astronomy, including the book we wrote on Halley's Comet, which was published in 1985 by the National Research Council of the Philippines. (American astronomer Carolyn S. Shoemaker discovered asteroid 6282 in 1980 from Palomar Observatory near San Diego, California.)

Seven years later, high school teacher Josette Biyo and students Allan Noriel Estrella, Jeric Valles Macalintal, and Prem Vilas Fortran M. Rara were each honored with a minor planet for winning the 2002 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Louisville, Kentucky. Their asteroids — christened 13241 Biyo, 11697 Estrella, 12088 Macalintal, and 12522 Rara, respectively — were all discovered in 1998 by LINEAR, a robotic telescope in Socorro, New Mexico, operated by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Lincoln Laboratory.

Then in 2005, asteroid 4866 became known as Badillo, after Father Victor L. Badillo, the former director of the Jesuit-run Manila Observatory in Quezon City and one of the founders of the Philippine Astronomical Society. (Edwin Aguirre and Imelda Joson are honorary members of the Astronomical League of the Philippines)

Still Imeldific

(Bloomberg) -- Imelda Marcos, former First Lady of the Philippines, glides into the living room of her Manila apartment in a black pantsuit attended by four servants.

At 77, the widow of the ousted President Ferdinand Marcos retains the regal bearing of her years in power as well as her trademark bouffant. ``My hair goes down to my knees,'' she says. ``I have an expert girl who combs my hair. She's been with me for 42 years, so she does it quickly.''

On the feet of the woman once known for the thousands of shoes in her palace closets? I saw plain black leather slippers.

In the course of two days, three venues and about eight hours of conversation, Marcos talks about her husband's gold hoard, her grandson's jewelry line, her encounters with world leaders, exile in Hawaii, notoriety in New York, the concept of ``Imeldific'' and a personal philosophy that blends math, mothering and the Bible.

Marcos still has the power to charm even Filipinos who deride her. I grew up in the Philippines under martial law and moved to New York in 1992. Few of my generation and older have forgotten how our country was ground into poverty under her husband's rule while the rest of Asia bred vibrant Tiger economies.

Ferdinand Marcos was overthrown in 1986 and died in exile in Hawaii in 1989. Imelda Marcos returned to Manila in 1991 and has been involved in numerous court cases in the U.S. and the Philippines over allegations of corruption, amassing illegal wealth and illegally maintaining Swiss bank accounts holding more than $500 million... full story here

Regine Velasquez To Sing National Anthem in Pacquaio's Fight

(The Philippine Daily Inquirer) - SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS -- Asia's songbird Regine Velasquez will sing the national anthem when Filipino ring superstar Manny Pacquiao and Mexican Jorge Solis clash at the Alamodome here on April 14.

GMA 7 public relations head Butch Raquel, through Barbs Atienza, confirmed Velasquez's acceptance in a text message Monday.

The multi-awarded Velasquez will do the part earlier played by Lani Misalucha, Dessa, Jennifer Bautista and Sarah Geronimo, who did the honors in the Pacquiao-Erik Morales Grand Finale clash last November in Las Vegas.

GMA Network's Channel 7 and Solar Sports will air the Pacquiao-Solis encounter. Roy Luarca

2 Filipinas In Miss Universe 2007

(The Philippine Daily Inquirer, Armin Adina) - Two Filipino-born women will compete in the Miss Universe Pageant to be held in Mexico City in May.

Aside from Binibining Pilipinas Anna Theresa Licaros, who will represent the Philippines, reigning Mutya ng Pilipinas Kirby Ann Basken will also join the international beauty contest.

But the 21-year-old Basken will represent her "other" country, Norway, following her coronation as Fröken Norge-Miss Universe last Monday. Her victory in the European nation was confirmed in Internet reports.

Lisa-Marie Moen Jünge was proclaimed Fröken Norge-World and will represent Norway in the Miss World pageant in Poland. Anna-Marie Augustin from Fredrikstad was first runner up. The winners were determined using judges' scores and public votes via SMS and the Internet.

This year's competition spanned four months and had about 100 contestants in the beginning. The roster was gradually trimmed to 40, then down to just 20 semifinalists from which the final 10 contestants were selected for the final competition on April 9.
Basken was born in Oslo to a Norwegian father and a Filipino mother. She first joined the Miss Norway search in January last year where she finished as first runner up. Last June, she flew back to the Philippines to represent Europe's Filipino community in the Mutya ng Pilipinas pageant. She bagged the title.

She later represented the Philippines in the Miss Intercontinental pageant in the Bahamas where she cracked the Top 12.

Sources from the Miss Asia Pacific Quest Inc. (MAPQI), owner of the Mutya ng Pilipinas pageant, had earlier confirmed Basken's desire to try her luck anew in the Miss Norway pageant, saying she had been "bitten by the pageant bug" after her string of competitions in 2006.

Upon hearing the news about Basken's victory, MAPQI director and founder Leandro Enriquez said, "We are elated by the news. We are proud that she is a Mutya ng Pilipinas winner and it only proves that Mutya ng Pilipinas deserves international recognition."

He also confirmed that the local organization is not stripping Basken of her local title despite her coronation in Norway.

But Basken will not be able to personally hand over her crown to her Mutya ng Pilipinas successor next month because the Miss Universe pageant requires her to be in Mexico City for three weeks in May.

Exports Up 7 %

(ABS-CBN) - Philippine exports rose seven percent to $3.7 billion in February from a year earlier, below last month's 27 percent annual surge, the government has said.

Shipments of electronic goods, which account for well over half of total exports, rose 12.3 percent from a year ago.

Besides electronics, which are largely assembled from imported parts, other key exports include garments and accessories, vehicle parts, coconut oil, tropical fruit and wood furniture. - Reuters

South Korea Donates Trucks, Bulldozers to Philippine Military

(ABS-CBN) - South Korea has turned over 134 trucks and bulldozers to the poorly equipped Philippine military, highlighting close defense ties between the two countries.

The 127 cargo and dump trucks and seven bulldozers were provided to the Philippines as a grant with Manila paying "token" transport costs of about $72,000, said Armed Forces chief Gen. Hermogenes Esperon.

In a ceremony at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City, Esperon told South Korean ambassador Jong Ki Hong that "relations between the two nations defense establishments and armed forces have grown stronger."

The Philippines was one of the nations that provided troops to defend South Korea during the 1950-53 Korean war.

The Philippine military is still battling communist insurgents and Muslim extremists in the hinterlands. AFP

120,000 Tonnes of Yellow Corn

(Yahoo News) - MANILA, April 11 (Reuters) - Philippine feedmillers and poultry and livestock firms, led by San Miguel , bought 120,000 tonnes of yellow corn from Argentina on Wednesday for June/July arrival, officials said.

The volume is part of the 400,000 tonnes of corn that the Southeast Asian country plans to buy overseas this year to fill a projected shortfall in local production for animal feed.

An official from the National Food Authority (NFA), the grain importing arm of the government, said it would wait for expressions of interest from the private sector before deciding whether to hold a separate tender for 80,000 tonnes of the grain.

Ludovico Jarina, deputy administrator at the NFA, said it would give private feedmillers and livestock firms one month to reply.

If there is no separate tender, then the remaining 280,000 tonnes will likely be bid out in a tender in the second half of this year.

San Miguel, Southeast Asia's largest food and drinks group, bought 80,000 tonnes of corn on Wednesday. In addition to processed foods and its flagship beer, San Miguel also sells feeds and poultry.

Local firms asked the government to waive the minimum 35 percent tariff on imported corn so that the grain would cost the same as local corn.

Instead of paying the tariff, the NFA will charge local firms a fee of 1 peso for every kilo of corn bought.

Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap has said the government had to waive the tariff as world prices for corn and other feeds rise due to increased demand for the grain to produce biofuel.

Cargill Philippines Inc. won a contract to supply 60,000 tonnes from Argentina at $215.48 per tonne, including cost and freight, for arrival no later than July 31, NFA officials said.

Toepfer International Asia won a contract to supply the remaining 60,000 tonnes at $215.50 per tonne, including cost and freight, for arrival no later than June 30.

Philippines Expecting $2 Billion Investments from China

( - MANILA -(Dow Jones)- The Philippine government expects to sign deals amounting to $2 billion worth of investments during President Gloria Arroyo's visit to China later this month, Trade and Industry Secretary Peter Favila said Wednesday.

He said the government is reviewing several proposed investment memoranda of understanding to determine which ones would be signed by Arroyo and her Chinese counterparts.

Favila declined to identify the proposed projects.

"The president told us to shift to hard investments. We don't want to be saddled with a lot of debt. We want solid investments rather than official development assistance," Favila told reporters.

Arroyo's five-day state visit starts April 20.

The president visited China in 2004, a trip that yielded $1.2 billion in combined investment commitments and soft loans. (By Cecilia E. Yap, Dow Jones Newswires; (632) 848-5051; cecilia.yap@

China Opens Consulate Office in Ilocos

(People's Daily Online) - China has formally opened a consulate in Laoag, northern Philippines, which is praised by both Chinese and Filipino officials as an important event in the development of relations between the two countries.

Chinese Ambassador Li Jinjun, Governor of Ilocos Norte Ferdinand Marcos Jr., former Filipino First Lady Imelda Marcos, Philippine  Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs Francisco Benedicto and 500 other people attended the opening ceremony of the consulate.

Hailing the event as an important step in developing Sino- Filipino relations, Li said the opening of the consulate is the result of efforts by the governments and peoples of the two countries.

Li said Ilocos Norte is the Filipino province which had received the first group of Chinese immigrants hundreds of years ago, therefore striking a historical tie with China since then.

Due to its geographical closeness to China, Laoag and its surrounding areas have now become one of the most popular destinations for Chinese tourists in the Philippines and are attracting more and more Chinese to come to visit, study and invest, he said.

Li said China wishes to continue and renew the historical tie with northern Philippines by expanding cooperation in the fields of infrastructure, tourism, trade, mining and agriculture.

Governor Marcos said the people of northern Philippines are happy China has chosen Laoag to open its third diplomatic institutions in the country and called on China to invest in the region in the fields of infrastructure, tourism, renewable energy such as wind and solar energy, and agriculture.

He also recalled that his late father, former President Ferdinand Marcos, made a historical visit to Beijing, capital of China, 32 years ago, which he said had proved to be so important for the Philippines considering the excellent relations existing now with China.

Laoag is the biggest city in northern Philippines with a population of 100,000. It is known for tourist resources including the UNESCO-designated world cultural heritage of ancient Church of Paoay, Luzon cigars and wooden furnitures.

The Chinese consulate is the first foreign consulate to be established here.

The Connection Is Still There

(The Manila Times) - MADRID: Spain's late dictator Francisco Franco fathered an illegitimate son with the wife of a lieutenant in 1936 when he was the military commander of the Canary Islands, according to a new book which will be published next week.

The book also says he had a bastard Filipino-blooded half-brother, sired by Franco's father Nicolas Franco, a Navy paymaster, and a 14-year-old Filipina.


Franco ruled Spain with an iron fist from 1939 until a few years before his death in 1975. Some years before he died, his rule became more benign.

He never recognized this son, Spanish author Fernando Gracia writes in his new book called The Secret Son of Franco, the Europa Press agency reported Tuesday.

The book alleges that the son was born just before Franco took part in 1936 in a failed coup attempt against a left-wing government that ushered in the Spanish Civil War, according to the agency.

Born in 1892, Franco—who staunchly supported the Roman Catholic Church while in power—married Carmen Polo in 1923. The couple had one daughter, Maria, who was born three years later and died in 1988.

Some Spanish writers continue to live abroad. They say that censorship under Franco drove many of the country's editors and writers into exile yet even today, with democracy well entrenched, they say the country's literary voices struggle to be heard—and read.

Many other Spaniards, however, lament that with democracy, Spain has become a licentious country. They say that respect for Roman Catholicism and Christian norms of good taste and behavior is disappearing in many families, leading the Spanish nation to the same downward moral slope as the rest of Western Europe is aliding.

Foreign Direct Investments Boost Philippine Economy

( - Philippine government spokesman Ignacio Bunye has said foreign direct investments and the strong peso are boosting the country's economy.

Bunye made the statement after the Banko Sentral ng Pilipins (central bank) reported that FID's "recorded net inflows of $357 million, or a year-on-year growth of almost 51 percent" in January 2007 alone.

"FDIs are markers of global confidence while the strong peso is the handiwork of Filipino excellence and patriotism exemplified by our overseas contract workers (OFWs)," Bunye said.

The BSP or central bank explained that the growth in FDI last January "was boosted mainly by the net inflows from the reinvested earnings account which amounted to $220 million, from only $2 million last year."

This, as "foreign banks opted to retain their earnings in their local branches given the continued positive economic prospects," the BSP said.

On Tuesday, the peso breached the 48 per U.S. dollar barrier to close at a six-year high of 47.95 at the Philippine Dealing System, the BSP said.

FDI inflows are expected to "remain positive" the entire year, what with investors taking advantage of the country's improving investment climate, according to the BSP which pointed to the United States and Japan as the "major sources" of the FDI flows at the start of the year.

Still, Secretary Bunye stressed that "we have to keep up the safeguards that are already in place to protect our exporters and drive up the tempo of domestic investments."

The BSP said net equity capital inflows rose by almost 70 percent in January to $70 million compared to the year-ago level, with fresh capital infusion in long-term investments reaching $129 million.

"In particular, the industries which benefited most from these inflows included manufacturing (chemical products, electronics), services (international courier), real estate, financial intermediation, and construction," the central bank added.

"Loans extended by head offices to their subsidiaries in the Philippines -- comprising bulk of the other capital account -- also registered a net inflow of $67 million," the BSP said.

Filipino Boxers Dream of First Olympic Gold

(China's People's Daily Online) - The Amateur Boxing Association of the Philippines (ABAP) vowed to win the country's first Olympic gold medal during the Beijing Olympics next year, local media reported on Wednesday.

"We will get the first elusive gold medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympics," ABAP President Manny Lopez was quoted by The Manila Bulletin daily.

"It is an ambitious goal. We will work doubly hard despite the disadvantages and handicaps that we are facing," Lopez said.

"I'm predicting this because our gauge for getting the Olympic gold is our achievement in the Asian Games," Lopez said.

The Philippine boxing team brought home two gold medals from the Doha Asian Games last year, as well as two bronzes.

While not naming any probable qualifier, the ABAP head said that he is eyeing a minimum of six and maximum of eight qualifiers to the Beijing Games.

He said that the boxers going to the qualifiers will be known only after the coaches have determined who among them have the best chances of winning.

Coup Plotters To Be Freed

More than 50 Philippine junior officers who took part in a failed coup against President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in 2003 will be released in January after they agreed to a plea bargain, a military tribunal has said.

Around 300 renegade troops from elite units of the army, navy and air force seized a plush shopping and apartment complex in Manila's financial district in a 19-hour bloodless siege in July 2003.

Disgruntled officers have hatched more than a dozen coup plots in the Philippines since the overthrow of dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1986. Some serial plotters have become celebrities.

Governments, which rely on the support of the armed forces, have traditionally treated military adventurists leniently for fear of stirring up further trouble. Some plotters in the mid-1980s were punished with 30 push-ups.

Most of the soldiers from the 2003 mutiny have already been released and have returned to the armed forces after pleading guilty.

Twenty-nine leaders of the siege, including Navy Lieutenant Antonio Trillanes, running for the senate in elections on May 14, still face rebellion charges.

Gregorio 'Gringo' Honasan, who served two terms in the senate and who also faces charges for his alleged involvement in the 2003 siege and an alleged plot in Feb. 2006, is running to get back into the upper house despite his detainment.

The 54 officers who entered the plea bargain on Wednesday will be discharged from the military once they complete their sentence.

Another 28 officers, including two top generals, face mutiny charges for a separate alleged coup plot against Arroyo in February 2006.

Arroyo, first propelled to power in a military-backed revolt in 2001, remains unpopular due to allegations of vote-rigging and fraud.

More PAL Flights

( - Philippine flag carrier Philippine Airlines announced on Wednesday additional flights to major domestic and international destinations to meet the rising demand, particularly among summer travelers.

In a statement, PAL said it is increasing frequency and capacity to local destinations Davao, Kalibo, Tagbilaran, Cagayan de Oro and Tacloban. The increase in flights will be in effect until early June, the carrier said.

At the same time, travelers to Beijing, Xiamen, Nagoya, Okinawa, Seoul, Busan, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas and Vancouver will also have an expanded options in for their flights.

From the current three flights per day, PAL will now fly five times to Davao until early June. Likewise, the capacity to Tagbilaran has been more than doubled.

Flights to Cagayan de Oro will become daily from May 7 to June 3.

Tacloban will get a third flight every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday in May.

Flights to Beijing, Xiamen and Nagoya will now be increased to five per week from the present four, PAL said. Okinawa will get a third weekly flight.

Service in Seoul will also be increased with extra A320 every Monday and Friday starting May.

To the United States, there will be a PAL flight every Tuesday (from April 17 to May 22) to Los Angeles and every Sunday (from April 22 to May 20) to San Francisco.

PAL service to Vancouver and Las Vegas will also be increased, it was said.

No Recruiters: Direct Employment in Libya

(The Manila Times, AFP) - The Philippine government is to sign an agreement with Libya to supply health workers to the north African country, the government said Wednesday.

Labor Secretary Arturo Brion said the agreement, to be signed in Libya next week, would allow Filipinos to be hired directly by Libyan health services rather than go through labor recruiters.

At present some 8,000 Filipino nurses, construction workers and engineers work in Libya.

Brion did not say how many additional workers will be sent to Libya and when the program will start.

Five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor were arrested in Libya in 1999, and later sentenced to death after hundreds of children at the Benghazi pediatric hospital where they worked contracted the HIV/AIDS virus.

The six defendants were first sentenced to death in 2004 but the Supreme Court ordered a retrial.

A new death sentence was issued on December 19 last year.

Their death sentence has been reaffirmed despite testimony by international experts that the infection of the children was due to bad hospital hygiene.

About 8 million Filipinos work overseas, many of them in the health field. Last year they sent home $12.8 billion, contributing to a large part of the country's gross domestic product.

Manila Water Company Eyes Vietnam

( - Manila Water Company, a unit of Philippines' largest conglomerate Ayala Corp., said Wednesday it has been prequalified to bid for a six-year contract to reduce leakage in a water supply system in Vietnam.

In a statement, Manila Water said it has partnered with the Vietnam-based Construction Technology Development JS Company to qualify for the project, which forms part of the US$44 million World Bank loan of the Saigon Water Corporation (SAWACO).

SAWACO supplies water to residents of Ho Chi Minh, the largest city in Vietnam with a population of more than six million.

Manila Water said the goal of the project is to reduce water losses by 10 percentage points or equivalent to 125,000 cubic meters per day, which can serve as additional supply to the city.

Other companies that were prequalified to bid include Hong Kong's Biwater Man Lee Ltd., Thailand-Vietnam's Eastern Water- Universal Utilities and Water & Environment, Malaysia-Australia's Salcon Engineering Berhard - Wide Bay Water (Malaysia-Australia) and Singapore Utilities International ( SUI ), Ley Choon Constructions and Engineering, Pan Asia Water Solution (PAWS) and Singapore-Vietnam's VIWASEEN.

SAWACO will release shortly the bid documents to the pre-qualified bidders.