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Razer and Visa form partnership for digital payment

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Global lifestyle brand for gamers Razer and digital payment firm Visa have announced a first-of-its-kind partnership that will transform payments in the gaming industry by bringing the scale and reach of Visa’s global network to Razer Pay e-wallet users.

This partnership with Visa significantly extends Razer Fintech’s position as the largest offline-to-online digital payment network in the region.

The partnership will see Razer’s financial technology arm, Razer Fintech, join Visa’s fintech fast-track program, which is designed to make it easier for fintechs to access the global Visa payments network. Here, Razer Fintech and Visa will develop a virtual Visa prepaid solution to be embedded in the Razer Pay e-wallet, that will allow up to 60 million Razer users to make payments wherever Visa is accepted at 54 million merchant locations worldwide.

Chris Clark, Regional President of Visa Asia Pacific, said: “We are pleased to partner with such a forward-looking and innovative company that understands the value and importance of expanding access to digital payments. This announcement reaffirms Visa’s commitment to the fast-growing and digitally savvy Southeast Asia region. Together, Visa and Razer Fintech have the opportunity to transform the payments experience for not only the gaming community but many of Southeast Asia’s unbanked and underserved consumers as well.”

Min-Liang Tan, Co-Founder and CEO of Razer, said, “Razer Fintech is a core growth initiative for Razer as we continue to empower digital payments across emerging markets, starting from Southeast Asia. We are incredibly excited with the opportunities that this innovative payment solution serves to millions of consumers, connecting them to an extensive network of merchants globally. This partnership with Visa significantly extends Razer Fintech’s position as the largest offline-to-online digital payment network in the region.”

Razer Fintech and Visa look to roll out an exclusive Razer-branded Visa prepaid payment solution integrated into Razer Pay via a mini-app, which will cement Razer Pay’s position as one of Southeast Asia’s leading e-wallet platforms.

By leveraging Visa’s global network, Razer Pay users will be able to make payments wherever Visa is accepted.

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e-ReklaMo

The term ‘e-Reklamo’ is a portmanteau of ‘i-reklamo mo.’ The term encourages everyone from all social classification to lobby their complaints through the said platform.

Eduardo Martinez

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Motorist A engages pedestrian B in a fistfight after a heated altercation over a traffic incident. Thereafter, B wants to report A for the physical injuries he suffered. Problem is, the police station is five kilometers away. He has no means of motorized transportation. Husband C threatens to kill his wife D, while the former is heavily intoxicated. Husband points his gun at her several times. Wife D, in total shock and absolute fear for her life, wants to escape from the house and run to the nearest police station. Problem is, husband C managed to lock them in the house and has the key. Neighbors E and F get into an argument over their houses’ boundaries. E alleges that F encroached on his land. F counters that it is E who encroached on his. F wants to report E to the police. Problem is, E is staying at F’s gate, waiting for him to come out and make further trouble.

Under pre-quarantine normal circumstances, when an aggrieved party wants to report any crime or incident, he must personally and physically go to the police station. He has the incident blottered and may execute an affidavit serving as his complaint. There are instances though when the party may go to the wrong police station.

He will then have to be referred to another one, which supposedly has the proper jurisdiction over the incident. Such a waste of time and effort, is it not? Imagine the inconvenience. Already aggrieved, his situation is even aggravated when turned away by the police solely because it is beyond the latter’s area of responsibility.

But worry no more. Such is a thing of the past. Ever heard of the e-ReKlaMo? Yes, you read it right. Introducing the PNP Online Complaint Desk “e-ReklaMo” launched in May 2020 by the Philippine National Police.

“At present, all complainants must go to the nearest police station to lodge their complaints, which may post further risk to the complainant being infected by COVID-19. Considering the present guidelines established by the government in connection with the “new normal” brought about by COVID-19 pandemic; and in line with the changing times, especially with the availability of new technology such as smartphones and social media platforms like Facebook, this Directorate has devised an alternative way to receive complaints without having to physically appear in the police station. ‘e-ReklaMo’ is an alternative way for complainants to lodge their complaints with the use of Facebook Messenger as the main platform. Police stations will be accepting complaints through their respective official Facebook page and initially process gathered information following the guidelines set forth in this policy. The term ‘e-Reklamo’ is a portmanteau of ‘i-reklamo mo.’ The term encourages everyone from all social classification to lobby their complaints through the said platform (Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management,National Headquarters, Philippine National Police Investigative Directive 2020-02).”

Brilliant, is it not? Now, pedestrian B need not worry about having to walk five kilometers to report the crime. All he need do is, right there and then, bring out his phone, go to Facebook Messenger and lodge his complaint. Same with wife D. Why then does she have to worry about being locked in with her intoxicated husband? She just has to go to her computer in the “comforts” of her home and file the complaint. Through that in fact, the police can respond and arrest husband C. Now how about our neighbor F? He need not worry about E guarding in front of his gate. Same with wife D. He can always coordinate with the police authorities via the social media platform introduced by the PNP. This certainly brings reporting to a whole new level. More importantly, this electronic way of filing complaints is more in sync with the times. It lessens the possibility of the dreaded virus transmission. Precisely why this e-ReklaMo was launched. This is the PNP’s way of not only going high-tech, but also being adaptive to the situation caused by the virus. As another wonderful result, the authorities can respond more easily and without doubt, way faster. So, not only is the virus arrested; so is the aggressor.

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ADB: Rebound needs energy

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Renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, ADB believes, should be used to support the health care sector. PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF ADB

The coronavirus pandemic had reinforced the need for reliable energy services to support healthcare with clean, renewable power being a good place to start, according to the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has hit the reset button on the global economy, the ADB noted in a report during the multilateral agency’s 53rd Annual Meeting that ended Friday.

The Department of Energy (DoE), in response, has spelled out measures in revitalizing the power industry such as the expansion of the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) to Mindanao.

With regard to the implementation of retail competition and open access, the DoE said it promulgated policies which provide for the voluntary registration of WESM participants.

Electricity pricing, has been on the downtrend as the country’s average electricity rate is now around P8.71 per kilowatthour (kwh).

“For Luzon grid, as of June 2019, the rate was around P9.28 per kWh compared in March 2019 at P8.66 per kWh. For Visayas, it increased by six centavos per kwh while in Mindanao, there was a decrease by 43 centavos/kWh,” according to the DoE.

Prep for recovery mode
“At some point we will shift from emergency response into recovery mode, providing a rare opportunity for global economic retooling — an opportunity largely missed after the 2008 financial crisis. Healthcare is the obvious place to start. To function properly, it needs reliable and affordable energy,” the ADB paper noted.

It added the pandemic reinforces the need for reliable energy services to support “24/7” healthcare.

Among the topics discussed during the annual event was stable electricity supply which it noted as essential for nearly every aspect of modern healthcare, from vaccine refrigeration, to lighting, communication, medical appliances, clean water supplies, sanitation, water heating and telecommunications (now more important than ever to support tele-medicine).

The traditional supply-side approach to energy sector development has worked well for most consumers. But there are still about 1 billion people globally without access to reliable electricity supply, other commercial energy services, clean water and sanitation, ADB noted.

It added electricity regulators generally require that consumers be categorized effectively as essential and non-essential customers, with health care facilities considered “essential.” However, poorer consumers — which can include health clinics and other facilities in developing countries — often “fall through the cracks” due to unreliable electricity services.

The rising availability and improving affordability of clean energy provides space for a new approach to healthcare that will serve these neglected communities, the multilateral agency indicated.

Energy priorities
According to the document, “the priorities should be to provide energy for cooking, heating, transport and productive activities essential to human health; electricity for improved health service delivery and to achieve universal health coverage; and to ensure power supplies which enable access to new medical technologies.”

Renewable energy resources are available almost everywhere in the form of biomass, geothermal, hydro, solar and wind. Solar and wind have demonstrated the best manufacturing economies of scale, and solar photovoltaic (PV) systems are more downward scalable than wind. Solar energy can be combined with energy storage and other energy resources to provide energy security for even the most remote communities.

The paper explained that turn vision into reality, “we need business models which prioritize health care services with manufacturing economies of scale.”

It cited as an example, a “clinic in a box” powered by a “grid in a box” that can provide basic services such as preventive check-ups, quick response (first aid), vaccinations, kit-based testing for specific diseases, and telemedicine.

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DITO sets P27-B for expansion

Maria Romero

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Telecommunications duopoly challenger DITO Telecommunity Corp. plans to spend P27 billion next year to boost network expansion as they are set to commercially launch their operations by March.

In a virtual briefing last week, DITO chief administrative officer Adel Tamano said the investment will bankroll the construction of about 3,500 fourth-generation (4G) sites and 1,500 fifth-generation (5G) sites by next year.

Tamano clarified that the capital expenditure program next year is lower compared to this year’s P150 billion because they had to pay upfront to the technology vendors for the rollout in the next five years.

Based on its agreement with the government, DITO is initially required to build 1,300 towers to cover 37 percent of the population with an Internet speed of 27 megabits per second by January.

Technical start slated
DITO reiterated that it is ready for its technical kick-off scheduled in January. During the so-called launch, the government will have the first audit of its compliance with its commitments.

Authorities will check if DITO has established a network with 1,600 towers capable of covering 37 percent of the country’s population with 27mbps speed.

March launch
Meanwhile, the commercial launch will happen by March as the 1,300 cell sites are expected to be completed by end of October.

The company targets to finish the construction of 2,000 base stations by year’s end. As of 13 September, DITO completed a total of 859 base stations.

DITO previously disclosed that the COVID-19 outbreak, which originated in Hubei Province of China, one of the biggest manufacturing hubs in the East Asian country, have impacted their rollout.

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Hoopsters, coaches play up airport

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Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) players and coaches, specifically from Bulacan and Pampanga, expressed high hopes that San Miguel Corp’s P734-billion new Manila International Airport project in Bulakan will give Philippine sports a big shot in the arm as part of post-pandemic recovery efforts.

“It will definitely be a big help for sports. We already have the biggest sports venue in Philippine Sports Arena. With the new airport, we can now host any major local and even international sporting event,” said Bocaue, Bulacan native Jonas Villanueva, coach for the Bataan Risers in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) and former player for the San Miguel Beer and Purefoods teams in the PBA.

His fellow Bocaue native Billy Mamaril, a player for San Miguel Beer, believes that the airport will promote sports tourism.

“Having an airport in Central Luzon will boost all sectors. Sports and entertainment in general will be elevated because traveling by air will be easier. Having games abroad and having foreign athletes compete in the Philippines will be even more possible. Even fans from abroad can come here to watch major sports events. It will make us Filipinos very proud,” Mamaril said.

Emerging sports mecca
Magnolia Hotshots Pambansang Manok coach Chito Victolero, who hails from Sta. Maria town, said the new airport could eventually make Bulacan province a go-to place for sporting events.

The Bulakan Airport will not only a have a beneficial effect on sports, it can also improve the standard of living of locals through the jobs that will be created during its construction and through its actual operations. Jobs will also be generated at its adjacent development, the Bulacan Airport City economic zone.

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Health goods, fuel drive D&L sales

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Listed specialty foods ingredients, plastics and oleochemicals firm D&L Industries Inc. projects its earnings to exceed its P1 billion second-half target.

“Indications are it would be better than what we thought” and noted that their customers customers are recovering faster, particularly non-food manufacturing, after the tight lockdown imposed in the second quarter due to the pandemic, D&L president Alvin D. Lao said in an online press interview.

Lao noted while Metro Manila reimposed a more stringent modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) for two weeks last month, most of their customers were better prepared and had continued to operate.

During the MECQ, D&L’s customers were able to generate revenues by tapping online sales and delivery channels.

Its oleo-chemicals business is benefiting from increased mobility which translated to higher bio-diesel sales while its specialty plastics is benefiting from the reopening of the global economy which is boosting sales to export-oriented automotive companies.

Health trend boost
The pandemic has accelerated the adoption of the health and wellness trend which helped boost sales of specialty products related to personal care, organic cleaning products and disinfectants.

Demand for plastics used for packaging also enjoyed stronger demand as consumers preferred using single use plastic over washable items because of sanitation.

“The third quarter is definitely better than the second where operations of some customers were practically zero,” Lao said adding that, “the fourth quarter will be hard to say because there may not be Christmas parties although new COVID-19 cases are not rising while there seems to be fewer serious cases than before.”

He is more optimistic about 2021 as it is generally expected that economies worldwide will speed up recovery next year.

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Exporters, MSME on survival mode

Enterprises and businesses from the top 10 exporting regions are asking for swift government measures and initiatives to address the mounting trade and economic difficulties they encounter amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Stakeholders in the country’s business sector, including direct and indirect exporters and micro, small and medium enterprises, aired their collective appeal to the government for urgent assistance, saying their focus has been reduced to ensuring day-to-day survival due to the coronavirus pandemic. / Photograph courtesy of airspeed

Stakeholders in the country, including direct and indirect exporters and micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME), aired their collective appeal to the government for urgent help, saying their focus has been reduced to ensuring day-to-day survival.

The appeal was presented during a series of regional online consultations conducted by the Export Development Council (EDC) over the implementation of the updated Philippine Export Development Plan (PEDP) 2018-2022.

Enterprises and businesses from the top 10 exporting regions are asking for swift government measures and initiatives to address the mounting trade and economic difficulties they encounter amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The stakeholders enumerated the growing wish list of interventions needed to enable exporters and MSME to recover from the unprecedented setbacks due to the pandemic, travel restrictions, and lockdowns.

The consultation was held in collaboration with the Department of Trade and Industry-Export Marketing Bureau and Philippine Exporters Confederation, Inc.

Participants coming from the National Capital Region, Region 3 and 4-A in Luzon, Regions 6, 7 and 8 in the Visayas, and Regions 10, 11, 12 and CARAGA in Mindanao called for specific and detailed measures centered on enhancing trade facilitation, productivity and competitiveness, market access and promotion, financial assistance, innovative capacity, and information dissemination.

NCR attendees pushed for, among others, intensified training on Halal and major international certifications, export requirements and procedures; modern facilities to support production; incentives for identified priority sectors; and export financing assistance. They also sought help on the more-than-usual requirements from financial institutions because of the pandemic.

Region 3 representative commented on the higher prices of their products compared to other ASEAN suppliers due to higher cost of operations, where they also noted the unstable supply chain for wood-based products due to government policies which they claimed are causing prices of raw materials to increase.

They also observed how local government units implement their own policies that are not aligned to that of the national government rules. In addition, MSME are at a disadvantage because they have weak links with freeports and economic zones in terms of transit arrangements, information and technology sharing.

Participants asked for aid to medium sized enterprises, which are also hard hit by the pandemic, through an SB Cares facility similar to the one available to micro and small enterprises.
Region 4-A likewise underscored the lack of information on and access to virtual/online marketing and promotion of local products. There should be a government agency that will help MSME exporters digitalize, the participants said.

In the Visayas, a major issue for Region 6 is poor logistics, which hampers and delays the transport of raw materials and finished products. Regional stakeholders also highlighted the lack of international flights flying in and out of Western Visayas, as well as the lack of export capability of the regional ports that could help in reducing export costs.

They also called on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to allow the e-submission of documents and assign more personnel.

Another suggestion is to have post-COVID updates on export markets and trends, particularly in the ASEAN, US., Europe and Latin America. A dialogue with concerned government agencies on reopening of international flights to allow entry of imported raw materials into the country was also proposed.

Region 7 exporters said they will benefit from the removal of unnecessary regulatory impediments, access to interest-free trade credit and stimulus package, and help in taking advantage of preferential status programs such as the GSP and GSP+.

Region 8, stressing the short shelf life of agricultural products, asked for the streamlining of export processing, utilizing of updated technology in product development, farm mechanization and clustering of farmer groups, and enhancement of the one-stop laboratory and shared service facility for longer shelf life and increased production.

Meanwhile, stakeholders in Mindanao pointed to the continuing struggles of both big and small exporters as a consequence of COVID-19, and discussed how their attention is now focused on day-to-day survival. They cited the permanent shutdown of South Bukidnon Fresh Trading Inc., an exporter of fresh pineapple, as one of the casualties of the pandemic in the region.

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Phoenix powers Balesin Island

The pilot run will effectively provide cleaner power to the entire island resort.

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Phoenix Pilipinas Gas and Power Inc., in cooperation with US-based Mesa Natural Gas Solutions LLC, started the pilot run of its gas-fired gensets at the Balesin Island Club in Polillo, Quezon on 31 August 2020, providing baseload power for the exclusive resort.

The three gensets, with a maximum capacity of 350 kilowatts each, are powered by propane-rich LPG provided by Phoenix as part of its energy diversification campaign.

Master-planned by EcoPlan of Miami in Florida, Balesin was designed with the environment in mind and to be in harmony with its natural surroundings. Sustainable initiatives such as water harvesting, 80 percent water recycling, on-site eco-friendly transportation, organic farming and switching to glass bottled water and paper straws, as well as programs for community empowerment, have resulted in Balesin being the first and only Philippine resort awarded by the United Nations World Tourism Organization for innovative tourism and sustainability.

“With Balesin’s gradual return to full operations from the current community quarantine measures, the pilot run will effectively provide cleaner power to the entire island resort. The aim is to ultimately replicate such solutions later on in industries that are generating and using their own power in the fields of manufacturing, hospitality and leisure, construction, telecommunications and mining,” said Phoenix president Henry Albert “Bong” Fadullon. “The gensets can run on LPG — not only a cleaner source, but also a viable component in the energy mix of the country, which we aim to help diversify,” he added.

The introduction of the gas-powered gensets strengthens the thrust of Phoenix to expand the LPG market in the Philippines and contribute to a more diversified energy mix.

The gensets can run on different types of fuel. Aside from propane-rich LPG, these can be powered using natural gas, LNG, compressed gas and wellhead gas.

With the use of such technology, LPG is positioned as a transition fuel to bring cleaner and more efficient fuel such as LNG, making this type of gensets a viable alternative to coal, diesel, and bunker fuel-fed power generation units.

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DoST pursues digitized farming

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DoST Secretary Fortunato de la Peña says the SARAI system can provide accurate information on pest epidemics and crop disease outbreaks through remote sensing, including crop water and nutrient requirements by using a multi-spectral drone, which can enhance the productivity and income of the farmers. / PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF DOST

The Department of Science and Technology (DoST) said at least 250 farmers working in over 150 hectares of land planted to cacao and coffee in Zamboanga del Sur will directly benefit from its digitized agriculture value chain for cacao and coffee production.

DoST secretary Fortunato de la Peña yesterday said this became possible through the agency’s Smarter Approaches to Reinvigorate Agriculture as an Industry (SARAI) System.

Through the SARAI project, the DoST Region-9 office, in partnership with the University of the Philippines-Los Baños, enabled an easier and more efficient monitoring of farmlands, he said.

“The system can deliver accurate information on pest epidemics and crop disease outbreaks through remote sensing, as well as crop water and nutrient requirements through a multi-spectral drone,” the DoST chief added.

It also uses Geographic Information System, Remote Sensing, and Normalized Difference Vegetation Index for assessing and monitoring crop growth, crop health, crop loss, and extent of crop damage due to typhoons and extreme weather phenomenon like the El Niño and La Niña.

According to the DoST chief, the one-million-peso project is a more proactive, near real-time and site-specific monitoring of cropping areas.

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Narrow deficit posts CA surplus

Joshua Lao

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The country’s current account (CA) posted a surplus for the first half of 2020, following the narrower deficit in trade in goods account, latest data from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) shows.

“The current account registered a surplus of $4.4 billion in the first six months of 2020, a reversal from the $2.6 billion deficit in the same period a year ago,” the BSP said.

“This development was on account of the decline in trade in goods deficit to $15.7 billion (from $24.4 billion), which more than offset the lower net receipts recorded in trade in services of $5.2 billion (from $5.9 billion),” it added.

The lower primary income and secondary income of $2.1 billion and $12.8 billion versus the previously listed $2.5 billion and $13.3 billion contributed to the CA surplus.

According to the Central Bank, the narrowing of the trade deficit could be traced to disruptions in the global demand and supply chains as countries impose restrictions to contain the health crisis.

For the second quarter 2020, current account also registered a surplus of $4.4 billion, a reversal from the $931 million deficit in the same quarter year-ago owing to the same factors.

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