A PERUSAL of last week's print media found a number of stories, which have relevance to the economy of Bacolod and of Bacolodnons.

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THE first item was that after a substantial delay, the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) has announced that it would privatize (i.e. sell) the old Bacolod Airport. Not before time. Bacolod has lost a lot of economic ground compared to Iloilo as a result of the tardy decision-making processes to sell our old airport. Iloilo's redundant airport at Mandurriao, consisting of 54 hectares of well-situated land was auctioned-off years ago.

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The successful bidder, Megaworld, found that P1.09B was enough to secure the property. At P2,000 per square meter, this seems to have been a good deal.

The Bacolod situation is more complex. It has been previously reported that the government owns 20 hectares and that Lucio Tan possesses 17 hectares.

Coincidentally or not, it became known on Friday that Lucio K. Tan Jr. is to take over listed property developer MRC Allied which has completed 'eco-friendly' New Cebu Township One in Naga, Cebu and the Amihan Woodlands Township in Northern Leyte.

Does this mean that the Tan family is looking to develop the old Bacolod Airport site?

Using the greatest good for the greatest number criterion, the privatization of Bacolod Airport seems to be the best decision. As Negros Occidental Gov. Isidro Zayco said "it would be beneficial for the city of Bacolod."

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More good news for Bacolod, at least in principle, is the report from Dole-Western Visayas Director Aida Estabillo that she has received reports that two business process outsourcing (BPO) firms based in the United States are opening either in Bacolod or Iloilo by the middle of this year. We would introduce a note of caution.

The US lost another 85,000 jobs in December which has caused the overall unemployment rate to reach 10 percent again. President Obama, reacting to this information, spoke doubtfully about outsourcing - an industry which depends on work, previously being undertaken by Americans, being transferred overseas. Job creation is very high on Obama's list of priorities so it would seem reasonable to predict that pressure, perhaps in the form of higher taxation, could be applied to US companies shedding jobs because the work can be done more cheaply in the Philippines.

Dole is predicting 15,000 additional call center jobs for 2010. If this means that Dole believes there will be 15,000 more BPO jobs in December 2010 compared with December 2009, then this may prove to be unduly optimistic.

We are concerned that Dole has received numerous complaints against several call centers, but although Dole has promised to look into the matter, we are not aware of decisive action being taken to evaluate the validity or otherwise of the complaints. Yes, we are anxious to have new, relatively well-paid-at least by local standards-jobs, but not at the expense of riding roughshod over our labour laws, which, after all, are designed to strike a fair balance between the rights of employers and employees.

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A national story which affects many is the president's signing of Republic Act 9903: "An act Granting the Social Security System a One-Time Authority to Condone Penalties on Unremitted or Delinquent Contributions by Employers." SSS President and CEO Romulo L. Neri is being extremely pragmatic. The Act causes the SSS to forgo a total of P280 billion in penalties slapped on employers who have not remitted the premium contributions of their employees. P280B exceeds the total amount possessed by SSS (P240B) which has to service the pension and loan needs of its 28 million members.

We would like to see SSS becoming more flexible in gathering contributions. Many are reaching retirement age without having the required 120 monthly contributions which entitle them to a pension. We believe that allowing members to make back payments (with added interest) to boost the pension rights would be good business for SSS and would help retirees to live with more dignity than at present. Self-employed, casual employees and OFWs are all in this position.

A greater concern is that at least 50 percent of the adult population is neither members of SSS or GSIS. CEO Neri can still become a hero if he can think up schemes to help our pension challenges.

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The cataclysmic financial events of 2008 did much damage to the economic well-being of Americans. The mortgages on 23 percent of American homes exceed the value of the home itself. These Americans are technically bankrupt. Some of them are still making remittances to us. Approximately one third of 2009's remittances to the Philippines ($17B) came from American citizens. It's not all OFWs.

We should be grateful!