Group goes hi-tech in teaching streetkids

NON-GOVERNMENT group Lingap Pangkabataan Inc. has gone high-tech with its work among the urban streetchildren, whom Unicef estimates to have more than doubled from an estimated 50,000 in 2002.

Lingap launched on Tuesday its mobile education van retrofitted with two computers and a wireless Internet connection that would tour five communities in Quezon City.

The van, which cost more than P1 million, helps us go to streetchildren than have them go to us, which in our experience was very difficult to do, according to Lingap staff Cathyrine Eder.

Eder said that before the van, children must go to the group’s center in Cubao to study alternative learning sessions, which is equivalent to finishing elementary or high school.

“Though we give them transportation allowance, they tend to latch on the back of jeepneys, which is dangerous, or they skip class.”

According to Eder, these are just some of the reasons the children cite why they withdrew from schools.

Jesus S. Far of the United Nations Children’s Fund added that aside from poverty, most streetchildren drop out from schools because they feel safer on the streets –or were born there.

Streetchildren, Far said, are either escaping physical or sexual abuse and exploitation in their families or have made the streets their homes since they were born.

He noted that the latest data posts streetchildren at 250,000 in major cities nationwide.

“They can only have three possible scenarios: get jailed, be killed, or commit a crime. If their parents are incapable of giving them protection and nurture them, somebody should.”

Lingap is one of seven NGOs that Unicef has been helping to attend to streetchildren. It will pilot the mobile education van that Far said Unicef hopes to replicate in other cities outside Metro Manila.

Far said the Unicef shelled out P1.4 million for this project. Private companies Sony Ericsson and Ericsson Telecommunications Inc. provided P0.5 million each for the van.

Eder said that having this kind of technology and mobility would hopefully make the kids more focused on learning rather than solely on surviving the harsh conditions of living in the streets.

The van, she said, will stop by one community for a day to teach streetchildren for three hours.

Acording to Far, Lingap teachers will teach basic life skills like how to say No, the different types of touch, how to solve problems, and decision-making processes.

Most of the materials, Eder said, would be downloaded and available on the Internet and would use computer games.

Lingap, a nonprofit organization established in 1981, saw its cash assets decline by 34.54 percent in 2008 from P4.8 million in 2007, its latest report to the Securities and Exchange Commission said.

[Original story submitted to BusinessMirror newspaper on April 20, 2010. Copyright 2010 © BusinessMirror]

Thomson Reuters latches on to $19B market from RP

FINANCIAL information provider Thomson Reuters Corp. is latching on to a market that its executives estimate to be worth $19 billion, using one of its offices in the Philippines as a launch pad.

This was according to Vin Caraher, president of the group’s United States Core Legal business segment, who added that the amount excludes the content and the technology in this market.

Caraher claims that the other player in that market, Reed Elsevier Inc.’s LexisNexis, is half the size of his company’s share, especially with the formal opening Thursday of the division’s Philippine office.

The company, which was formed when Thomson Corp. acquired Reuters Group Plc two years ago, currently has 275 full time employees in its two-floor office in Taguig City.

Caraher said they plan to enlist an additional 30 local employees on May 24.

The office began operating in June last year but Caraher declined to cite how much the company spent for its construction and lease.

“It’s proprietary information we can’t divulged.” The company will report its first quarter performance next month.

According to the company’s 2009 annual report, its legal segment under the Professional Division “provides information, decision support tools and services to legal, intellectual property, compliance, business and government professionals throughout the world.”

Thomson Reuters’s John Elstad explained that the legal division, which contributed US$3.6-billion in revenue last year, acquires information like statutes from the courts and other agencies in the US.

Elstad, senior vice-president of Legal-editorial operations, told reporters that these are mainly primary law content, or information generated by government entities like administrative ruling.

He added the data are processed, codified, proofread, analyzed and validated by Filipino employees and packaged as product for the customers as print, digital, or online format.

Raoul Teh, Philippines’s senior site officer, said they received a recommendation that Thomson Reuters look into doing such process for the country’s legal system.

“It’s an interesting suggestion.”

But Caraher said despite the job area is focused on the US legal system, “it’s not legal outsourcing.”

“We’re hiring and training them as our employees.”

However, he said there are 34 customer contact service staff of the total 375 employees who promote the product after 10 p.m.

Elstad added that they just don’t gather data but analyze and “add value to it.”

Global content operations-Manila site officer Roel Roque told BusinessMirror the company will still maintain its office in Ayala, Makati City, while some of their 1,600 employees will transfer to Taguig.

Thomson Reuters’s Philippine office was initially established as a regional headquarters in 2007 as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Thomson Reuters Finance S.A., a company organized in Luxembourg whose ultimate parent company is the Thomson Reuters Corp.

The Thomson Corp Pte Ltd (Philippines) RHQ is registered with the Board of Investments and, hence, entitled to certain incentives, including a preferential rate of 10% on taxable income; exemption on the payment of all kinds of local taxes, fees or charges; and, tax and duty free importation of training materials and equipment.

It started commercial operations on January 1, 2008, its report to the SEC said.

PAL to shed 3,000 jobs next month

SOME 3,000 workers are set to lose their jobs by end-May as the country’s flag carrier Philippine Airlines Inc. (PAL) will implement its spin-off/out-sourcing plans, president Jaime B. Bautista’s letter to the union said.

“Further to our 09 September 2009 letter officially advising you of the spin-off/outsourcing plan of the company in compliance with the current PAL-PALEA CBA [collective bargaining agreement], please be informed that PAL will spin-off 1) in-flight catering services operations 2) airport services (i.e., ground handling, cargo terminal/cargo handling, and ramp handling) and, 3) call center reservations effective at the close of business hours on May 31, 2010,” Bautista said in a letter to the PAL Employees’ Association officials.

PALEA president Gerardo Rivera told BusinessMirror on Sunday that he estimates the company to spend about P3 billion for “an illogical business decision that would not even save that much as well as contrary to what we think investors want: industrial peace.”

Rivera said they were slightly caught in a surprise with the content of Bautista’s letter dated April 16, 2010, “since he didn’t raise this during our meeting with him on April 8.”

Rivera said Bautista even assured the PALEA leaders the ills of PAL –a US$46.5-million obligation maturing by June 2010, among others– wouldn’t affect the manpower.

“Sure, there were what I call pocket outsourcing, with some jobs being outsourced, but not at this scale and imminence.”

In his letter, Bautista said the company “implemented a manpower rationalization program affecting more than 400 executives and administrative employees” since September last year.

Bautista cited as a basis for the restructuring “staggering losses of over US$350-million (more than P15-billion) in the last two years, [leading to] the company's equity position as of February 2010 [dropping] precariously to US$1.1 million.”

He wrote that “apart from a series of cost-cutting initiatives, PAL approached several investors but none of them were interested. They said airlines are the last business they want to go into given the fact that in 2009 alone. more than 20 airlines went bankrupt.”

Bautista added that they “approached government for help but it, too, was in dire financial straits.”

Hence, he said, “PAL has to act quickly and decisively by spinning off” its operations.

“All affected regular positions will be deemed abolished from PAL's table of organization effective at the close of business hours on May 31.”

Rivera said the union “will not take this issue sitting down as the welfare of the families of those affected are at stake.”

He added beginning Monday, they will try to sit down with the management to find alternative options to this decision.

Rivera also said they will exhaust legal means to respond to this issue.

He said only a thousand of the estimated total 4,000 PAL employees won’t be affected by the lay-off if it pushes through.

PAL’s parent company, PAL Holdings Inc., was thinly traded two days before Bautista sent his letter.

The stock price remained at P3 at its closing, hitting only P3.05 as its highest level, with trade volume merely a hundred thousand and a value of P300,250 at its last trading day April 14.

PAL’s parent was able to reduce its net loss in the nine months ending December 2009 by 93.67 percent to P0.911 million from a P14.4-million net loss in the same period in 2008.