Saturday, 3 October 2009

What is the government doing in the short, medium and long term?

Media Interview by Mr Paolo Romero of Philippine Star

PGMA visits evacuees at Rizal Hall (Malacañang)

That's the spirit!

REITs coming to Philippines; developers optimistic


MANILA - Philippine property developers are optimistic the local take up of real estate investment trusts (REITs) would be robust, allowing more funds to flow to the sector once the law takes effect late this year or early next year.

The Philippine Congress ratified the bill creating the legal and regulatory framework for REITs this week. It is now awaiting the signature of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Implementing rules and regulations should be out 90 days after the president signs the bill into law.

"It should be good for the industry and the Philippine capital market in general and ultimately the economy," Jaime Ysmael, Ayala Land chief finance officer, told Reuters.

"Hopefully, it will spur a lot of economic activity given the liquidity (it will attract) and that will allow developers to pursue more projects," Ysmael said.

REITs have been widely adopted in the United States, Australia and more recently Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

As of June 2009, the market capitalisation of REITs in Asia stood at $55.86 billion dollars, with Japan accounting for the biggest share, data from the European Public Real Estate Association showed.

"We have to wait for the implementing rules first but I am sure that property companies will take advantage of this legislation if and when market conditions (become) attractive," Frederick Go, president of Robinsons Land Corp, told a press conference on Wednesday.

Bayanihan 2.0: Ondoy floods the Net

Ed Biado
Manila Standard

As of Tuesday (Sept. 29), Bibs Figueroa’s Facebook status update reads, “Please clear Facebook walls of unnecessary status messages and quiz results. Facebook is now being used for faster dissemination of rescue calls, updates and other important information [regarding] Typhoon Ketsana/Ondoy.”

It may be a repost of someone else’s update, as many cause-related updates are, but it cannot be any truer. My Facebook news feed is usually filled with my friends’ Mafia Wars and Farmville notifications. But when we started to feel the fury of tropical storm Ondoy, it transformed into a round-the-clock news channel and resource center.

We, Filipinos, have turned to the Web in executing our distinct collective concept of heroism, bayanihan. It’s an epic collaborative mass action, on- and offline, in the midst of a calamity of epic proportions.

By Sunday (Sept. 27) afternoon, as floods in certain areas were subsiding, more Ondoy communications flooded Facebook. It became a virtual real-time community-driven disaster response control hub for victims and volunteers alike. It was a gushing river of pleas for help, missing person calls, messages of hope, hotline numbers and relief mobilization schedules.

Popular messages include variations of a request for all Filipino Facebook users (an estimated 1.6 million) to donate a hundred pesos each in aid of the rescue operations. Others are updates on ongoing citizen brigades, request for participation, evacuation center availability, reports on donation and pledge amounts, bank account numbers where donations can be deposited and individual efforts that are equally significant.

Pictures that show muddy interiors, one-story high floods and wrecked vehicles are also posted as part of the Ondoy coverage by citizen journalists (videos, on the other hand, are posted both at Facebook and YouTube). Even shots of celebrities, like Gerald Anderson swimming around his village to check on his neighbors, are circulated by impressed Facebookers to applaud their bravery.

Users with mobile network problems have been using Facebook as the primary means of communication. Those trapped on rooftops whose phones were able to get a signal contacted their relatives and friends, who, in turn, sought rescue help via their Facebook statuses.

Some have been spending hours and hours on the site, acting as “switchboard controllers” and “dispatchers” and liaising between victims and authorities/volunteer groups. These people have been tirelessly collating information and organizing them on spreadsheets and maps on an especially-made Google landing site and pictographs for others to easily refer to.

Messages about the storm have also flooded micro-blogging site Twitter—enough for “Philippines” to be a top trending topic for four days in a row, as of this writing. Along the way, “NDCC,” “Ondoy,” “CHED” and other related keywords have also trended.

This has gone as far as Hollywood, with Ashton Kutcher, Demi Moore, Alyssa Milano, Ricky Martin, Paris Hilton and Pete Wenz all expressing their sympathy and calls to aid affected Filipinos, re-tweeting links to either the American or Philippine Red Cross and petitioning the former to extend assistance to the latter.

Josh Groban wrote, “The situation in the Philippines is dire. This is a good way to help,” and posted a link as well. Paulo Coelho shared his sentiments, at the same time, urging the PRC to open a PayPal account for quicker donation transmittal.

Many lives have potentially been spared and many worries have been eased by these seemingly innocuous status updates and tweets. People who posted traffic and flood conditions were able to aid commuters in deciding on alternative routes. Those stranded were able to let all their loved ones (including the ones abroad) know their whereabouts and state. The interactive maps proved critical in the process, as their real-time updates on victims helped in organizing tactical, well-coordinated rescue operations.

Three days after the onslaught of the storm, there is still a continuous flow of Facebook updates and tweets about drop-off points for donations and volunteers.

And for those who are still awaiting rescue, Jessica Gutierrez posted on Tuesday, “Mr. Angelo Olondriz manufactures rubber boats and speedboats. Anyone still stranded on their roofs in Marikina or Cainta, please text 0917-540-8921 with details—names, address, ages and current situation. They will be sending out their teams to the ‘un-rescued.’ Please repost. Thanks.”

PGMA fast tracks NCR’s clearing operations

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo fast tracked clearing operations, especially in Metro Manila, as well as the identification of possible relocation sites for displaced victims to restore normalcy in areas devastated by typhoon “Ondoy.”

At the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) meeting this morning, the President stressed the need to relocate riverbank settlers to safer grounds to avoid further loss of lives and properties in future disasters.

“Riverbanks settlers should not go back, (to their former homes)” she stressed as she asked Vice President Noli de Castro to look for possible relocation sites.

De Castro said 100,000 units could be built on a former Manila Bank property in San Miguel, Bulacan and some 281 hectares could be set aside for agri-livelihood projects for relocated typhoon victims.

De Castro, who is concurrent chairman of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC), said the site is 65 kilometers from Manila and could be developed as a permanent relocation site.

Other recommended sites are the Southville in Binan, Laguna where 750 units are already available; Towerville in San Jose del Monte in Bulacan with 650 units; service lots in San Jose del Monte;1,800 lots and 20,312 hectares in the Lungsod Silangan property.

The government also plans to offer a “Balik Probinsiya” program for victims of typhoon “Ondoy” who wish to go back to their home provinces.

The program offers each family the equivalent of 60 days of minimum wage or P22,920 per family to start life anew in the provinces. (PND)

Friday, 2 October 2009

Only in the Philippines: one way of using floodwater

Only in the Philippines: Cebu inmates skip meal to help Manila flood victims

By Dale G. Israel, Reporter
Cebu Daily News

Even prisoners in Mandaue City are going out of their way to help flood victims of Metro Manila.

More than 600 inmates volunteered to forego one meal today and donate their rations.
The skipped meal will translate to four sacks of rice and several canned goods.
The idea started with the jail’s 45-member staff, who decided to skip in-house birthday celebrations for October and donate the budget to typhoon victims, said Supt. Simeon Dolojo, the jail warden and an October celebrant.

Then leaders of inmates followed the cue and agreed to skip one meal today.

Mas grabe ang nahitabo nga kalisod sa Manila kaysa sa amoa, mao nga mas maayong muhatag mi (The difficulties happening in Manila are far worse than ours here, so it would be better for us to give),” said Pepito Togade, 36, leader of inmates in the Annex Building of the city jail.

The mayores or section leaders – Cherry Mendoza, 39, of the Female Dormitory, and Willy Loberanes, 49, of the Solid Building section – spread the word, and the whole prison population eventually agreed.

Lobaranes said the inmates wanted to return the favor to the public when the jail received help during an outbreak of the Influenza A subtype H1N1 virus among the prisoners.

“We received a lot of help when H1N1 struck us. This is our way of giving back,” Loberanes said in Cebuano.

Most inmates in the city jail are male, with 54 women in the Female Dormitory.
“I salute our inmates for their good gesture,“ said Mandaue Mayor Jonas Cortes.
“For me, this will create ripples of joy and kindness. In good times and in bad times, we are all brothers and sisters.”

Also, the Mandaue City government is donating P1 million for relief efforts in Manila.

During the City Council’s regular session yesterday, a resolution was passed authorizing Cortes to tap P1 million from the city’s calamity funds as a donation to Manila.

The donation will be coursed to the Office of the President through the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the National Disaster Coordinating Council.

“I was touched when the warden called me up. It was a beautiful project,” said Chief Supt. Doris Dorigo, director of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology in Central Visayas (BJMP-7), in Tagalog.

“We can see how difficult it is for them, yet still they were quick to help.”
Dorigo visited the jail yesterday to award some jail personnel.

Inspired by the inmates’ action, Dorigo said she would require all BJMP-7 personnel to skip one meal every seven days so that the resources could be donated to flood victims.

Can’t get any better than this: Home at the Palace

TJ Burgonio, Nikko Dizon
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines — Impoverished families displaced by Tropical Storm “Ondoy” (international codename: Ketsana) are living a dream in the Palace.

Having fled their homes in the flood- and fire-ravaged Barangay Tatalon in Quezon City, they now find themselves bedding down in Malacañang’s carpeted Ceremonial Hall and being plied with meals and snacks, new clothes, even toiletries.

“This is like a dream for us. We are very lucky,” housewife Evelyn Oclarit, 33, told the Inquirer Thursday as she looked around the ballroom-size hall where President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo hosts formal dinners for state leaders.

On the other side of town in Marikina City, 6,000 people are packed into Nangka Elementary School and making do with desks, tables and pieces of cardboard for beds.

Those who saw the Inquirer writing down the names of interviewees asked that their names also be listed, thinking it was a survey of those who had lost their homes.

Ignoring the efforts of US servicemen on a mercy mission to organize an orderly distribution of relief goods, children and adults alike scrambled to get hold of the clothes and shoes being handed out.

Others were able to get medicines for fever, fungal infections, and cough and cold.

Elsewhere in the yard, many of the evacuees took advantage of the water provided by a fire truck to take a bath.

City workers and firemen trained a water hose on the thick mud, to no avail.

The stairs were so slippery with mud that, an evacuee said, a pregnant woman fell and had to be taken to a hospital.

Under chandeliers

But in Malacañang, the Oclarits and five other families who left the teeming crowd of evacuees at Diosdado Macapagal Elementary School in Quezon City’s Barangay Tatalon not only soaked in comfort and cheer but also enjoyed a free tour of the President’s official residence.

They spread fresh mats on the carpeted floor under three huge chandeliers, and savored the silence in the hall that looks out to the swollen Pasig River.

“There’s a lot of room for the children to play. This is a far cry from the cramped home that we’re renting,” said Evelyn Oclarit, a mother of four, including a 3-week-old baby girl.

Meters away at the Mabini Hall, provisions continued to arrive for 17 other displaced families from Tatalon who started occupying the building’s first two floors at midnight on Tuesday.

Apart from catered food, snacks, medicines, infant formula and toiletries, the evacuees were provided new clothes and pillows by the Office of the President.

“They give us food every now and then,” said Janet Macabudbud, 30, also a mother of four.

“We have more than what we need,” she said, pointing to packs of biscuits waiting to be opened.

Keeping them occupied

The evacuees at the Palace have been subjected to stress debriefing as well as livelihood orientation. Their children are busy with activities, like games and poster-making, supervised by social workers from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

“We have to keep them occupied,” psychologist Donna Marie Arcaya said.

A mass baptism is being planned for seven children of the displaced families, according to the social workers.

A guided tour for all the evacuees is also being mulled, but Secretary Hermogenes Esperon of the Presidential Management Staff said: “We will have to do that later.”

Officials could not say how long the evacuees would stay in Malacañang.

Student volunteers

Kalayaan Hall continued to bustle with student volunteers stuffing food items into plastic bags, unloading goods, and inputting data into computers.

Even Heroes’ Hall just below the Ceremonial Hall has been converted into a repacking center of relief goods for distribution to evacuation centers.

“We’ve serviced 27,500 families,” Esperon said at a briefing, admitting later that certain flood victims had yet to receive assistance.

Earlier in the day, Malacañang deployed student volunteers aboard fire trucks to evacuation centers in Metro Manila to help clean up and distribute relief goods.

‘Everything’s gone’

The people squeezed in Nangka Elementary School were mostly families living in a settlement area called Balubag whose homes were damaged or washed away by the flood, according to principal Rosario Diaz.

Among them was Liza Gabanes, 38, who has been staying in the school since Saturday, when “Ondoy” struck.

“I don’t have a house. There’s no water. There’s nothing to wear. Everything’s gone. How can we still prepare for the coming typhoon?” Gabanes said in reference to Typhoon “Pepeng” (international codename: Parma).

Ana Dayawon, a 34-year-old mother of two, said her family was “used” to typhoons and would just “take care.”

Other evacuees said that while they had heard that two typhoons were poised to strike, no one from the city government or the military—who was overseeing the relief efforts at the evacuation center—had briefed them on what to do.

They said they had also heard that they would be moved on Friday to a “tent city” near the Marikina City Hall.

Jasmin Evans said she was worried that strong winds might blow the tents away.

But Elena Flores, 60, and her daughter Rosita Labayo said that at least the food ration was coming regularly.

Additional funds

On the phone with the Inquirer, Social Welfare Secretary Esperanza Cabral said the DSWD was “speeding up the repacking and prepositioning of relief goods in regional offices wherever the [new] typhoon would hit.”

Cabral said the DSWD had a sufficient supply of relief goods but that she had asked the Department of Budget and Management for P100 million to augment her department’s depleted calamity fund.

She said that from P50 million, the DSWD’s calamity fund was now down to P24 million.

She added that Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya had assured her that the money would be immediately available.

Col. Daniel Lucero, Armed Forces deputy chief of staff for civil military operations, said all Army offices in Metro Manila would remain “shut down” and manned by a skeleton staff because most of the officers and soldiers were busy helping in relief operations.

October 2 Announcement

Thursday, 1 October 2009

From calamity, the Philippines rises again in solidarity


Hundreds of evacuees now call Palace ‘second home’

Manila Bulletin

Empty-handed and penniless, hundreds of evacuees Wednesday flocked to Malacañang Palace and sought refuge after heavy floods and a fire struck their homes in Barangay Tatalon, Quezon City.

“This is our second home,” said Janet Macabudbod who, along with her four children, was relocated to Malacañang’s Mabini Hall after their house was razed by fire amid the heavy rains and floods on Saturday.

There are now 17 families, including the Macabudbods, currently staying at Mabini Hall, with 350 people more expected to arrive at the Palace grounds, 50 of whom will stay at the Ceremonial Hall and the rest at Mabini Hall.

Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said they plan to open another building, the Tahanan ng Masa, for more displaced families.

Presidential Managament Staff chief Hermogenes Esperon Jr., who is heading the National Relief Operations Center, said they will also be using the Palace grounds to set up tents to accommodate up to 500 evacuees.

“We are now addressing the overflow of evacuees and around 100 families would be housed in Mabini Hall,” he said in a briefing.

He also took opportunity to appeal to private companies and individuals to donate more canned goods and water that are running out of supply.

Esperon said the President also instructed to put another receiving counter for donations which is manned by presidential daughter Evangelina Lourdes “Luli” Arroyo Bernas and other female members of the First Family.

Meanwhile, more expressions of condolences and sympathies poured in Wednesday for the victims of tropical storm Ondoy, including Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II.

“I was saddened to hear of the devastation and tragic loss of life caused by the flooding in Metro Manila and other parts of Luzon. Please accept my condolences to the families and friends of those who have lost their lives. My thoughts and prayers are with you and all those affected at this difficult time,” the Queen said in a letter to President Arroyo.

Likewise, South African president Jacob Zuma and German president Horst Köhler conveyed their condolences to the typhoon victims, with Germany providing 500,000 euros in emergency relief assistance.

The French government earlier provided 10,000 euros or approximately P700,000 in immediate relief assistance Tuesday.

The European Commission (EC) has given a separate assistance worth 2 million euros or approximately P140 million.

European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso also dispatched an expert team to assess the humanitarian needs of the victims of the storm.

China meanwhile provided an additional US$100,000 in humanitarian assistance in a ceremony at the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Wednesday afternoon. The assistance from China now totals US$140,000 after it initially donated US$10,000 to the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC) Sunday and Chinese telecom giant Huawei technologies Philippines, Inc. donating US$30,000 cash.

The government of Japan also turned over 20 million yen to the Department of Social Welfare and Development. The turnover was made by Japanese Charge d’ Affaires Hidenobu Sobashima. The assistance includes 1,500 sleeping water tanks, 1,500 polyester tanks, and 15 units of water purifiers.

The United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF) has donated P6,908,330 worth of supplies for the typhoon victims.


Bright sunshine after the storm

John Mangun
Outside the Box
Business Mirror

There is no question that it is different this time.

There have been greater disasters in the Philippines. Even greater floods.

Remember the 6,000 people killed and missing in the 1991 flood in Ormoc? It is not just that Ormoc was a million miles away from the consciousness of most people in Metro Manila. In 1990, we all felt the earthquake that hit Baguio City and killed 1,700. We were supremely aware of the terror that the people felt nearest to the epicenter.

Mount Pinatubo’s ash cloud forced all of us living here in the National Capital Region to shovel out after the 1991 eruption that killed 700.

I can remember experiencing a much worse storm than Ondoy: Typhoon Ruby or Unsang in 1988. Seventy-five percent of the Philippines’ rice and sugar crops were destroyed and more than 750,000 Filipinos were left without homes, with more than 500 killed. Less than two weeks later, while we were still cleaning up from Unsang, Typhoon Skip, Yoning, hit with more than 200 dead.

Obviously, that was before there was any really bad weather due to “climate change/global warming” and the Earth was a paradise. Back then we just called it a really bad typhoon season. And that was just a few years after the “experts” in the late ’70s were telling us that the earth was headed for “global cooling” and a new ice age.

I seem to remember that about the same time, the local tabloids were talking about a woman in Bulacan that had given birth to a mudfish, too.

But it is different this time.

Last weekend’s flood affected the high and mighty and the lowly and “insignificant.” All in Metro Manila were helpless. The pictures of expensive SUVs and Mercedes being tossed around like beach balls in the floodwaters were no less dramatic than shanties being ripped away by the same raging waters. And in the aftermath, the bayanihan (volunteerism) spirit rose and is growing stronger with each passing day.

Individuals who thought their obligations to society ended with a few peso coins or a piece of pan de sal for a street child are now picking up relief goods, packing boxes and distributing those supplies in areas they have only seen in television news stories. I find it wonderful and amazing to see the unselfishness that so many thousands are displaying in the wake of this calamity. It is refreshing and uplifting.

But the world is still spinning and there are other topics to discuss.

Thoughts are turning to the effects of Ondoy on the economy. The first analysis out of the box is that economic growth is going to be hampered by the loss of productivity due to the storm and flooding.

I am not so sure about that. Yes, it is certainly true that the government budget situation is going to be messy, as public funds are being spent to clean up and provide assistance to those most severely affected. Yet among the more affluent that can afford it, there is going to be a lot of buying and rebuilding that will have something of a positive effect on middle-class consumer spending.

The question is if funds will be diverted from normal holiday spending to replace that television or computer or furniture damaged by the flooding.

I am thinking that perhaps this disaster may have a positive effect on the economy.

It is probably because I am a “Tiger” and 2010 is the Year of the Tiger; natural optimism and all that. But Ondoy might just mark the dramatic end to 18 months of economic turmoil and confusion for the Philippines.

I know that nobody believed me last year when I said oil prices were going to plummet. And again this year, in April, when I said that the stock market was going up and the index was at 2,000, that prediction seemed improbable.

There is one kind of “climate change” that I do believe in: economic climate change. And the Philippines is heading for a much brighter economic climate.

Events are moving very rapidly to a major collapse in the value of the dollar. China is unloading its dollar holdings at breakneck speed. Just in the last few days, the Chinese have invested $2.5 billion in an energy project, invested $4 billion in high-speed railroad equipment, and invested $2 billion in US high-risk funds. They are dumping dollars just as fast as they can.

Dollars are now less than 50 percent of the foreign-currency reserves. Before the middle of November, we are going to see a very substantial, perhaps as much as a worst-case scenario drop of 10 percent in the value of the greenback.

The reduction in the purchasing power of remitted funds is going to be more than offset by a decrease in the price of all imported goods as the peso goes up. The value of our mineral resources is going to increase by 10 percent to 15 percent over the next year. We are going see a major change in commodity prices, which will be beneficial to the country.

I was very wrong in my early-2009 prediction on sugar prices due to a supply problem, and higher sugar prices are good for the agricultural sector. Oil is ready to fall again as a dropping dollar will dampen speculation of a US economic rebound. Prices of building materials will fall also as speculation of a US recovery disappears.

The sun always seems to shine brightest after a big storm. It will not be an exception this time.

PSE stock-market information and technical analysis tools provided by Inc. E-mail comments to

Philippine Peso to ‘Catch Up,’ Rise 3%, Standard Chartered Says

By Clarissa Batino

Sept. 30 (Bloomberg) -- The Philippine peso will gain 3 percent by the end of March as economic growth accelerates amid increased spending and because the central bank will refrain from raising interest rates, Standard Chartered Plc said.

The $167 billion Southeast Asian nation’s economy will expand 1.5 percent this year and 3.3 percent in 2010, the U.K. bank predicted in a research note today, raising previous forecasts of 0.7 percent and 2.7 percent. Rising remittances from 9 million Filipinos overseas and foreign investment in stocks will boost the external balance of payments surplus and support peso appreciation, according to Standard Chartered.

“The peso will outperform currencies of major trading partners like the U.S., Japan, Europe and China in the next three to six months,” Thomas Harr, a Singapore-based currency strategist at the bank, said in an interview.

Capital outflows that have restrained gains in the peso this year will return, Standard Chartered said, expecting the currency to “gradually catch up” with strength in other Asian exchange rates such as those of the South Korean won and Indonesian rupiah.

The currency, which traded at 47.395 per dollar as of 2:10 p.m. in Manila, will climb 0.8 percent to 47 by year-end and rise to 46 by March 31, Standard Chartered forecast. The peso appreciated 1.6 percent this quarter, lagging behind an 8 percent gain in the won and 5.6 percent for the rupiah, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Downgrade Unlikely

Standard Chartered says the Philippines is unlikely to face a credit-rating downgrade because of a widening budget deficit as the increase in spending will support economic growth ahead of elections scheduled for May 2010.

The bank kept its budget deficit forecast for 2009 at 320 billion pesos ($6.8 billion) as the rebuilding following Tropical Storm Ketsana will require additional spending. The government projects a record shortfall of 250 billion pesos.

“Even with the higher deficit, the Philippines does not face a near-term risk of a rating downgrade,” Harr said. “Investors are not yet focused on next year’s elections,” muting political risks, he said.

The central bank, which meets on monetary policy tomorrow, will keep its overnight borrowing rate at a record low of 4 percent and hold it there for 2009 and 2010, Harr wrote.

“We expect the Philippine economy to recover over the next two years,” according to the note that Harr co-wrote with economist Simon Wong. “Remittances tend to pick up in the fourth quarter, ahead of Christmas.”

Standard Chartered raised its short-term rating on the peso to “overweight” from “neutral.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Clarissa Batino in Manila at

Philippine peso seen fundamentally attractive against Indian rupee

Erik de la Cruz
Business Mirror

INDIA’S economy may have shown more resilience than the Philippines’ in a recessionary environment, but the peso is considered more fundamentally attractive than the rupee, according to DBS Bank.

In its Asian Currency Research report dated September 24, the biggest bank in Southeast Asia said the Philippine peso in three of the past four years had appreciated against the Indian rupee during the fourth quarter.

It expects the trend to continue this year.

DBS currency strategist Philip Wee pointed to the Philippines’ current-account surplus to explain this behavior of the peso relative to the performance of the currency of its key rival in terms of attracting investments into the booming business-process outsourcing sector.

As India incurred record trade deficits, he said the country had also slipped into the red on its overall current account. The Philippines, on the other hand, recorded current-account surpluses as it has turned itself into an important outsourcing center and attracted investments, he said.

Wee also noted the contribution of money remitted by Filipinos abroad—who account for a tenth of the population of about 90 million—to the country’s current-account surplus.

“The negative savings-investment gap in India has resulted from the government’s pro-growth policy that relied heavily on investment and industry [from 2005],” he said. “In turn, this led to record trade deficits and pushed the current-account overall into deficit.”

Viewed as a negative savings-investment gap, India’s current account deficit is also consistent with its banks having more loans than deposits, he said.

And to continue pursuing its pro-growth strategy led by investment and industry, he said India will need to increase external borrowings to compensate the shortfall in domestic savings.

“Herein lies one important difference between India and the Philippines,” Wee said. “When both countries were achieving high growth rates before the global crisis, India’s external debt was rising and catching up with its foreign reserves, while foreign reserves were rising and closing its gap with external debt in the Philippines.”

Clearly, he pointed out, the Philippines has a stronger international liquidity position than India.

While both countries avoided recession during the global crisis, the Indian economy was more resilient than the Philippines, with the latter’s gross domestic product (GDP) expanding only by 0.6 percent in the first quarter against India’s 5.8 percent.

But Wee said India’s “resilience” is not without cost as its growth was underpinned by a surge in fiscal spending ahead of the general elections in May this year.

“While India is expected to grow faster than the Philippines, this growth will prove temporary in the short run and less stable in the longer run because of the accompanying deterioration in the country’s fiscal finances and its persistently high inflation,” he said.

The Philippines is also seen facing fiscal troubles amid weak revenue and the urgent need to spend heavily to support economic growth, but Wee believes India’s finances are worse.

He said the Philippines has a more manageable budget gap of 2.7 percent of GDP in the second quarter of this year than India’s 7.3 percent.

Wee also noted that unlike many parts of the world after the global crisis, consumer inflation continued to head up instead of down in India, with the July headline annual figure at 11.9 percent, the highest level since 1998.

In contrast, inflation in the Philippines collapsed to 0.1 percent in August from a high of 12.4 percent a year earlier.

The economist also expects India’s central bank to hike interest rates in the first quarter of 2010, before the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas likely makes a similar move in the third quarter.

“In three of the past four years, the Philippine peso has appreciated against the Indian rupee in the fourth quarter,” he said, with gains in 2008, 2007 and 2005 of 8.8 percent, 4.4 percent and 8.1 percent respectively.

The 1.5-percent loss suffered by the peso in the fourth quarter of 2006, he said, was small by comparison.

In earlier years, from 2002 to 2004, he noted the rupee was consistently stronger against the peso in the final three months of the year.

“This year, we look for PHP/INR to break out of its four-month range of 0.99 to 1.02 and to move toward its May high of 1.0563. Hitting the March high of 1.0754 will be a bonus,” Wee said. 

East area to have completely restored water supply

Jose Bimbo F. Santos

MANILA WATER Co., east zone concessionaire which covers many flooded areas, yesterday said it is targeting to completely restore supply by midnight today.

"By midnight [today], we might be able to get back on our feet completely," Rene D. Almendras, Manila Water president, said in a press conference.

From the initial 46,300 affected residents tallied on Sunday in the aftermath of tropical storm Ondoy, the Ayala-led utility said the number was trimmed to 38,000 as of noon yesterday.

Mr. Almendras said eight pumping stations were rendered useless by the flood brought about by tropical storm Ondoy and restoration work is under way.

But more than the repair of pumping stations, Mr. Almendras said that the sheer volume of demand "has increased significantly" following the clean-up operations after the typhoon, and this prevented water from reaching certain locations.

Average peak consumption recorded is at 1,300 million liters per day (MLD). After typhoon Ondoy, peak consumption hit 1,800 MLD. Manila Water’s full production capacity is 1,600 MLD.

Initial affected areas were Rodriguez, San Mateo, Cainta, Angono and Binangonan in Rizal province, while parts of Marikina City also experienced service interruption due to higher consumption.

Assuaging fears, Manila Water denied that its supply has been contaminated as reported in chlorine-level studies after the storm. "Our water is potable," Mr. Almendras said.

He also debunked claimed that an aggravating factor behind the floods in Metro Manila was due the water released from La Mesa dam in Quezon City, which is a common purpose facility by Manila Water and west concessionaire Maynilad Water Services, Inc.

"La Mesa dam does not have a gate that you can open and suddenly release a huge volume of water. It is called a spillway, there is a certain level where if the water reaches that it starts spilling. It doesn’t spill huge amounts," Mr. Almendras said.

For his part, Noelito S. Abesamis, senior manager of regulation and corporate development group, said the dam’s spillway goes through the Tullahan river, opposite that of flood-hit areas in the east like Marikina, Pasig and Cainta.

Meanwhile, Maynilad Water Services said in a statement yesterday that its supply "is potable and in full compliance with the Philippine National Standards for Drinking Water."

"We are closely coordinating with the local health officials... to ensure the safety of our customers, and we have not received any reports or complaints regarding the quality of our water," the company said.

The utility also said that its system is "95% back to normal [and will] restore supply [to affected areas] at the soonest time possible."

SM to open 35th mall in Las Piñas

K. J. R. Liu

THE COUNTRY’S dominant mall operator SM Prime Holdings, Inc. will open its new mall in Las Piñas today as Filipinos still remain avid mallgoers despite the economic slowdown.

SM Center Las Piñas, located on the Alabang-Zapote Road in Barangay Talon, Pamplona, will become the company’s 35th shopping mall in the country and will have a gross floor area (GFA) of 32,387 square meters (sq. m.).

It is also SM Prime’s second mall in the city after SM City Southmall. Among the anchor tenants are SM Hypermarket, Ace Hardware, Watsons, and Banco de Oro Unibank, Inc.

Other tenants include Jollibee, Savory Chicken, The Old Spaghetti House, and Inasal Chicken Bacolod, among others.

The new mall has a parking lot that can accommodate over 500 vehicles and a terminal for public utility vehicles.

"With its vibrant economy, and eco-friendly environment. Las Piñas provides a good venue for SM malls as we see a huge potential for growth and progress in the city," SM Prime President Hans T. Sy said.

SM Center Las Piñas brings to 35 the total number of SM Prime malls all over the country, with a combined GFA of 4.4 million sq. m.

It is the second SM mall to be opened this year after SM City Naga in Camarines Sur, which was inaugurated last May.

Aside from SM Center Las Piñas, the company has also completed expansion projects at the Sky Garden in SM City North Edsa, the SM City Fairview Annex, and the extension of SM City Rosales in Pangasinan.

Before the year ends, SM Prime will open SM City Rosario in Cavite.

Profits of the company rose by 8% to P3.4 billion from January to June, driven mostly by the opening of new malls last year.

Meanwhile, SM Prime Chief Financial Officer Jeffrey C. Lim expressed optimism that the SM Sta. Mesa supermarket would be open again to the public before the week ends after being affected significantly by tropical storm Ondoy.

"If everything will be up and done, I expect it to open in a couple of days. That is what the people are trying to do — [make sure it opens before the week ends]," Mr. Lim said.

Mr. Lim said the estimated amount of damage would not be significant since the costs involved mostly cleaning dirt and fixing lights.

"It is not material in terms of amount because these are insured," he said.

"The land value will likewise not be affected because we will still continue to operate. We will not close the [SM mall in Marikina]," Mr. Lim said.

Some of SM’s supermarkets were affected by tropical storm Ondoy that hit the country last Saturday.

The storm forced the company to temporarily close six Savemore branches and the SM Supermarket in Sta. Mesa.

Shares in the company did not move at P10.50 apiece yesterday.

Inauguration of the Puro Seawall Legazpi, Albay

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Joint National Disaster Coordinating Council NDCC

NDCC Camp Emilio Aguinaldo 29 Septemebr 2009 Joint NDCC and 34th Cabinet Meeting regarding updates on the disaster brought by typoon "Ondoy"

PGMA underscores need for preemptive evacuation to avoid loss of lives

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ordered today concerned government agencies to identify danger zones and prepare to implement preemptive evacuation to save lives in future disasters such the recent tropical storm “Ondoy” that left 240 dead.

“Somebody must be in charge of designating the areas,” the President stressed at the Cabinet meeting held at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City today.

The President said the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) must coordinate with Regional Disaster Coordinating Councils to effect the preemptive evacuation. She added barangay captains should make sure that people do not build houses on river banks.

She issued the order as the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services (PAGASA) said that another tropical depression is likely to bring more rains on Thursday.

The new tropical depression may hit Northern Luzon before moving in the direction of Taiwan.

The military was also directed to pre-position equipment for rescue operation in disaster-prone areas. (PND)

President Arroyo's Statements: 29 September 1630 and 2100

Malacañang as Disaster Relief Centre

Filipino bayanihan spirit surfaces in aftermath of Ondoy

In times of calamities, the Filipino bayanihan spirit never fails to surface. You can see it everywhere. In the places devastated by tropical storm Ondoy, people take it upon themselves to conduct rescue and relief operations spontaneously.

At the national relief operations center in Malacanang, this spirit is very much alive.

More than 140 individuals from all walks of life have volunteered their services to the government’s Oplan Sagip Bayan, which President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has mobilized to provide relief and temporary shelter for families displaced or made homeless by the storm.

Relocated families have been sheltered in all available premises within the palace buildings as well in tents set up in the palace grounds. While others availed of the donated goods, some were busy placing calls at the free call center set up by the National Telecommunications Commission at the palace grounds.

The Presidential Family, headed by Evangeline Lourdes “Luli” Arroyo-Bernas, Camarines Sur Representative Diosdado Ignacio “Dato” Arroyo and wife Victoria “Kakai” Arroyo have joined the volunteers in packing the relief goods to be distributed to affected areas.

The Presidential family blended well in the volunteer crowd where they themselves packed the goods and carried the boxes to be distributed. Bernas, wearing only plain clothes, even refused to get help from Malacanang employees while carrying big boxes of relief goods.

Presidential Management Staff Head Secretary Hermogenes Esperon oversees the Oplan Sagip Bayan along with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

One of the volunteers, religion teacher Edith David, who is also a Kagawad in the 4th District of Manila, decided to volunteer her services because she wanted to extend her help while waiting for her classes to start.

“I feel so happy to be part of this relief goods operations. Dito walang mayaman, walang mahirap, (Here, there is no rich nor poor) we all came together to help the victims. I feel so happy to help, to be part of this worthwhile endeavor,” she added.

Inside the Kalayaan Hall, soldiers can be seen packing relief items with members of the non-government organizations, wives of the Presidential Security Group, students, government employees and other private individuals. Despite their busy work as volunteers, they still have time to laugh, mingle and get to know each other. Their common denominator, which is to be part of the heroic effort to provide relief, boosts their energy to work for hours.

Thirty-three year old Jerry Seso, a private individual waiting for his work as seafarer, decided to volunteer his services upon seeing in a television report that President Arroyo has opened the gates of Malacanang for Oplan Sagip Bayan.

“Mahiyain po ako pero I decided na mag-volunteer na din para naman makatulong habang nag-aantay ng trabaho ko. Masaya po ako kasi kahit iba’t ibang level kami, nagkakasundo kami for the common good at masaya kami sa pagtulong (I am shy but I decided to volunteer so I can help the victims while waiting for my job. I am happy because even though we came from different levels, we can get together for a common good and we are happy to help),” Seso said.

As of 12 noon today, these are the breakdown of the 153,535 families serviced by Oplan Sagip Bayan since it opened yesterday:

Caloocan – 3,770 families
Makati – 232 families
Malabon – 637 families
Mandaluyong – 4,115 families
Manila - 636 families
Marikina – 13,072 families
Muntinlupa – 2,940 families
Paranaque – 450 families
Pasay – 2,182 families
Pasig – 5,813 families
Pateros – 1,310 families
Quezon City – 21,065 families
San Juan – 97 families
Taguig – 3,560 families
Valenzuela – 914 families
Tanay – 1,999 families
Taytay – 1,572 families
Morong - 100 families
Teresa – 204 families
Cainta – 76,000
San Mateo – 200 families
Rodriguez – 735 families
Calamba, Laguna – 2,834 families
Tanza, Cavite – 354 families

Priority Areas in CALABARZON (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon):

Barangay Sta. Ana in Taytay – 184 families
Barangay San Juan – 250 families
San Juan Resettlement Areas – 2,700 families
Antipolo City – 11,620 families
Angono – 50 families

Oplan Sagip Bayan is open for donations, especially hot meals for victims that will be distributed in disaster areas such as Marikina, Cainta and Pasig, among others. Volunteers are always welcome at the Kalayaan Hall to be part in this worthy endeavor. (PND)

Gov’t workers to get early 13th month pay

Pag-IBIG also offers calamity loans
Manila Bulletin

Government workers in flood-devastated areas will receive their 13th month pay early to help them cope with the destruction caused by tropical storm Ondoy.

President Arroyo on Tuesday ordered the Department of Budget and Management to release in advance the additional payment for state employees hurt by Ondoy's wrath during a meeting of the National Disaster Coordinating Council in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

The financial aid to government workers was recommended by Vice President Manuel “Noli” de Castro to help the affected employees get back on their feet. De Castro also encouraged private companies to extend the same gesture to their employees affected by heavy rains and floods.

De Castro also separately announced that the state-run Home Development Mutual Fund (HDMF) or Pag-IBIG Fund has started accepting applications for calamity loans, allocating an initial P3 billion to accommodate loan applications by members affected by Ondoy.

Apart from the financial relief for state employees, the President and her cabinet agreed to donate their two months’ worth of salaries to the relief and rehabilitation efforts. The estimated contribution from the Arroyo cabinet can reach as much as P4.3 million.

Other government measures tackled in the NDCC assembly are the crafting of an executive order for special non-working holiday for calamity areas, financial lending packages, intensified police visibility in affected communities, and disaster preparedness measures.

“Vice President Noli De Castro has two recommendations – one, if we can advance the 13th month pay (of government workers) and the other one is to donate our two month salaries for the relief and rehabilitation operations,” the Chief Executive said during the NDCC meeting.

Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya Jr. affirmed that his department can soon issue a circular for the release of the 13th month salary of affected workers in government. “We can do that,” Andaya told the President.

Imelda Escamillas, press relation officer II at the Office of the Press Secretary, welcomed the early release of the 13th month pay to help repair her apartment that was submerged in knee-deep flood waters.

Escamillas said the first half of the 13th month pay of government workers was actually released last June and the other half was supposed to be released in December.

Another storm victim from the OPS, Beldad Gantalao, said that while he appreciates the early release of his salary, it was sad they could no longer look forward to more money for Christmas shopping.

Unless the President gives her annual P5,000 cash gift, government workers would have to budget their monthly salary for the holiday season, Gantalao said.

Amid reports that hundreds of cars were submerged in floods, the President also appealed to auto dealers and repair shops not to take advantage of the situation and instead "give a good price rather than a higher price."

As the country braces for another weather disturbance, the President also ordered the forced evacuation of residents in calamity-prone areas.

Meantime, hundreds of flood victims poured into Malacanang a day after President Arroyo opened the Palace as a government relief center. Many urban poor families mostly coming from Manila flocked to get food, medicine, and shelter.

According to De Castro, who heads Pag-IBIG Fund’s Board of Trustees, he ordered all fund offices to prioritize the processing of loan applications from members victimized by the storm.

To date, Metro Manila and 25 other provinces in Luzon have been placed under a state of calamity. These include the provinces of Aurora, Quirino, Nueva Ecija, Nueva Viscaya, Pangasinan, Tarlac, Zambales, Pampanga, Bulacan, Rizal, Quezon, Isabela, the Mountain Province, Ifugao, Benquet, La Union, Batangas, Cavite, Mindoro Occidental, Mindoro Oriental, Marinduque, Camarines Norte, and Bataan.

De Castro advised members to file their loan applications at the Pag-IBIG offices nearest them, because they have only 90 days from the time of the calamity within which to apply for loans under the program.

De Castro said that under the Fund’s Calamity Loan Program, members could borrow up to 80 percent of their total accumulated savings, with an interest rate of 10.75 percent each year. The loan has a five-month grace period and is payable in 24 months.

He explained that members with existing Multi-Purpose Loans could still apply for assistance but the outstanding Multi-Purpose Loans balance would be deducted from the proceeds of their calamity loan.

To qualify, applicants must be residents of localities declared as calamity areas. They must also have paid at least 24 monthly contributions and are active members at the time of application. They must continue to remit their contributions during the term of the loan.

Study: RP to gain $224.1B if infra gaps addressed

Cai Ordinario
Business Mirror

IF the Philippines will be able to address its infrastructure gaps in transportation, communication and energy, the country stands to gain some $224.1 billion in net income from 2010 to 2020 and beyond, according to a study.

A joint study of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Asian Development Bank Institute (ADBI), titled “Infrastructure for a Seamless Asia,” showed that the Philippines’ gains for transportation alone is estimated at P199.7 billion, while gains for transportation and communications amount to $199.1 billion, and gains from transportation, communications and energy will amount to $224.1 billion.

From 2010 to 2020, the Philippines stands to gain $70.4 billion in transportation; around $69.8 billion in transportation and communications and $77.9 billion in transportation, communication and energy.

For 2020 and beyond, gains for the Philippines will amount to $129.2 billion in transportation; $129.3 billion in transportation and communications and $146.2 billion in transportation, communications, and energy.

“Southeast Asian countries could be significant winners, mainly due to their high dependence on trade and large infrastructure requirements,” the study said.

“The total gains of Indonesia [$1,280 billion], Malaysia [$830 billion], Philippines [$220 billion], Thailand [$1,240 billion] and Vietnam [$400 billion] would be $3,970 billion, higher than both the PRC and India, thanks to improvements in pan-Asian connections,” it added.

Developing Asia as a whole would reap net income gains of $7,840 billion from the expanded regional transport infrastructure; $11,240 billion from the investments in both transport and communications; and $12,980 billion from the investments in transport, communications and energy.

The annual gains, the study stated, would vary from $80 billion in 2011 to $370 billion in 2015 and $900 billion in 2020. On average, annual gains in the second half or 2016-2020, around $670 billion per year, are much larger than in the first half or the years 2011-2015, about $210 billion a year. “The higher growth rate after 2016 can be explained by the effects of cumulative infrastructure investments made during the first half. This trend is visible in every country in the analysis,” the study stated.

However, the report stated that large benefits after 2020 will decline over time with the depreciation of infrastructure stock. This is due to the absence of new or replacement investments taking place.

The report also stated that the accumulated reduction in trade costs resulting from infrastructure investments in 2010 to 2020 as a percentage of trade value for the Philippines is 15.6 percent for transportation alone. “Regional infrastructure projects can boost growth and income, reduce poverty and improve household welfare. Regional energy projects can also benefit the environment by reducing carbon emissions,” the report stated. “The benefits of regional projects often spill over across countries in the region and beyond, illustrating the substantial and positive impact of creating regional infrastructure networks,” it added.

Between 2010 and 2020, Asia will need to invest $8 trillion in overall national infrastructure for energy, transport, telecommunications, water and sanitation, and $290 billion.

The Philippines is one of the economies threatened by the serious implications of not addressing infrastructure gaps. The report stated that the Philippines was one of several developing Asian economies whose infrastructure programs were among the first to be cut.

The report stated that Asia should heed the lessons of the crisis of 1997–1998. At that time, public and private infrastructure investments were substantially reduced in many Asian economies, where in many cases they were already too low.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Stories of heroism

Judge on Jet Ski saves 100; teener dies after rescuing baby, 30 others

Julie M. Aurelio
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—For the people of Sta. Monica in Novaliches, this Quezon City judge on a Jet Ski who plucked dozens of residents from swirling flood waters on Saturday is “Superman.”

“I was so shocked by the situation when I heard that around 150 houses were already flooded,” said Judge Ralph Lee of Regional Trial Court Branch 83.

“I heard that so many families were already stranded on their rooftops because water from the Tullahan River was already overflowing,” Lee, 49, told the Inquirer.

Lee drove from his Fairview home for the stricken community 30 minutes away with his personal water craft, life vests and two rubber boats he used on weekend wakeboarding sorties and mobilized a rescue effort that saved 100 lives.

There were other super heroes, like Muelmar Magallanes, a powerful swimmer who braved rampaging floods to save more than 30 people, but ended up sacrificing his life in a last trip to rescue a baby girl who was being swept away on a styrofoam box.

Family members and people whom Magallanes saved hailed on Monday the 18-year-old construction worker a hero, as his body lay in a coffin at a makeshift evacuation center near their destroyed riverside village in Quezon City.

“I am going to be forever grateful to Muelmar. He gave his life for my baby. I will never forget his sacrifice,” said Menchie Peñalosa, the mother of the 6-month-old girl whom he carried to safety before being swept away himself.

From 4 p.m. to midnight, Judge Lee combed the neighborhood 10 feet under water for trapped residents, each time loading at least three people on his machine and taking them to a bakery on high ground at the Palmera 4 subdivision, where his rescue effort was centered.

He personally took 32 people, mostly women and children, to safety.

“It probably took me around 20 plus trips to do that,” Judge Lee said.

“In the evening, the residents were able to help me rescue more people when the rubber boats came … We had no light except a flashlight provided by a homeowner,” he added.

With his son Ram and other homeowners, the effort brought some 100 people to safer ground.

Hero in his own right

Judge Lee recalled that at one point, the current was so strong that the Jet Ski flipped over, sending him and his passengers into the water.

“Luckily, I was able to get on my feet and turn it over again. Sometimes debris and trash would jam the Jet Ski and it would stop functioning,” Lee said, adding that he had to clean it out several times.

“They applauded later. One even called me ‘Superman,’” he said. “I was so carried away by the very sad situation. I could have probably saved more if the Jet Ski’s propeller didn’t get clogged, but I’m happy that I’ve done something.”

Mayor Feliciano Belmonte Jr. called the judge “a hero in his own right.”

“He really sprang into action and got the residents moving to save their neighbors,” said the Quezon City mayor.

Trapped on rooftops

Magallanes was at home in Barangay Bagong Silangan on Saturday with his family when the heaviest rains in more than 40 years hit Metro Manila.

At first the family, long used to heavy rains, paid little attention to the storm.

But Magallanes and his father quickly decided to evacuate the family once they realized the river 800 meters away had burst its banks.

With the help of an older brother, Magallanes tied a string around his waist and attached it one-by-one to his three younger siblings, whom he took to higher ground. Then he came back for his parents.

But Magallanes, a strong swimmer, decided to go back for neighbors trapped on rooftops.

He ended up making many trips, and eventually saved more than 30 people from drowning, witnesses and survivors said.

One last rescue

Tired and shivering, Magallanes was back on higher ground with his family when he heard Peñalosa screaming as she and her baby were being swept away on the styrofoam box they were using in an attempt to cross the swift currents.

He dived back in after the mother and daughter, who were already a few meters away and bobbing precariously among the debris floating on the brown water.

“I didn’t know that the current was so strong. In an instant, I was under water. We were going to die,” Peñalosa said, her eyes welling with tears and voice choking with emotion.

“Then this man came from nowhere and grabbed us. He took us to where the other neighbors were, and then he was gone,” Peñalosa said.

She and other witnesses said an exhausted Magallanes was simply washed away amid the torrent of water.

Incredibly brave

Neighbors found his body on Sunday, along with 28 others who perished in the flooding.

Standing next to his coffin, Magallanes’ parents paid tribute to their son.

“He always had a good heart,” said his father, Samuel.

His mother, Maria Luz, wept as she described her son as incredibly brave.

“He saved so many people, but ended up not being able to save himself.” With a report from Agence France-Presse

"Oplan Sagip Center" in Malacanang

Arroyo, Cabinet to donate 2 months' salary for clean-up

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and members of her Cabinet will donate their two months' salary for clean-up operations in areas affected by tropical storm "Ondoy" (Ketsana).

The decision was announced Tuesday morning at the meeting of the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) in Camp Aguinaldo.

"That was the agreement, upon suggestion of the President," Defense Secretary and NDCC chairman Gilberto Teodoro Jr. told reporters after the meeting.

The donated salaries are to be coursed through the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), which is supervising relief work.

Under Executive Order 611 signed March 14, 2007, the President is under Salary Grade 33, and receives P63,525 a month.

The Vice President is under Salary Grade 32 and receives at least P50,820 a month.

Also under Salary Grade 32 are the Senate President, House Speaker, and the Chief Justice.

Cabinet members fall under Salary Grade 31, including the Executive Secretary, department secretaries, presidential spokespersons, Ombudsman, presidential advisers and assistants with Cabinet rank, NEDA head, Court of Appeals presiding justice and Sandiganbayan presiding justice.

Officials under Salary Grade 31 receive at least P44,468 a month.

Earlier, Mrs. Arroyo ordered the immediate clean-up of areas devastated by Ondoy.


Mrs. Arroyo ordered the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and Commission on Higher Education (CHED) to supervise the clean-up.

"That will be you and CHED, the CHED for (college) students and you for everybody else," Mrs. Arroyo told MMDA chairman Bayani Fernando by phone during a meeting of the NDCC.

She particularly instructed agencies to mobilize village officials for clean-up work in affected areas, "particularly drainage and waterways."

Reports received by the NDCC during Tuesday’s meeting indicated some key areas, including Quiapo in Manila, remained paralyzed as the underpass was still underwater.

In other areas, floods still reach up to the second floor of houses.

On the other hand, Mrs. Arroyo instructed Office of the Civil Defense administrator Melchor Rosales to mobilize village captains to prevent residents from returning to dangerous riverbank areas.

Suspension of classes

At the meeting, CHED chairman Emmanuel Angeles recommended that classes in Metro Manila and areas affected by "Ondoy" be suspended for the rest of this week.

Angeles said the suspension will allow the conversion of school buildings into emergency evacuation centers.

He also said Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets will be mobilized not only for clean-up but also for help in relief work.

Mrs. Arroyo likewise ordered police to address the problem of looting in areas hit hard by Ondoy.

"The first night, the moment we were able to rescue, the next problem was looting ... You guard those places were residents were evacuated," she told Philippine National Police chief Director General Jesus Verzosa.

Verzosa assured Mrs. Arroyo the PNP has enough police patrols in the affected areas, including Provident Village in Marikina City. - GMANews.TV

Business Mirror Editorial: Ordinary but heroes

AMID the usual finger-pointing that follows every calamity in a nation that made it to the top 10 list of countries with the highest incidence of disasters, let us spare a thought for the men and women on the ground who, time and again, must put their lives on the line to do what they consider as just part of their job: the rescue and relief workers, both in the government and private volunteer groups.

A front-page story about a soldier who rescued 20 people before he himself drowned in Laguna brings back memories of the roughly two dozen soldiers singled out for recognition in the mid-’90s by then-President Fidel Ramos for plucking from certain death hundreds of people stranded on rooftops as lahar and floods spawned by Typhoon Mameng transformed homes in Central Luzon into instant islands.

The riveting account of the rescue, by veteran aviation reporter Recto Mercene, had apparently been seen by Mr. Ramos. The ground commander in charge of the air rescue at that time in Pampanga, it seems, had chosen to override established rules against flying the Air Force’s old choppers at night, in bad weather at that. He took the risk, knowing that if they waited till morning, all the people would have been swept away. At least three times, the air rescuers nearly died; and on the ground, the rubber-boat teams in a nearby area also ignored extreme risks to save people.

Complementing the soldiers’ sense of sacrifice and bravery was that of the social workers, several of whom rushed to their relief stations to organize the task of providing for the expected hundreds of evacuee families. These women risked safety and exposed themselves to the elements, and several of them continued to do their job even after learning that their own families had, in the meantime, been forced to abandon their homes or go up the roof as the floodwaters and lahar rose.

In the wake of Typhoon Ondoy, many more such stories, reported and otherwise, abound.

We may never hear about every interesting or dramatic or touching detail about ordinary people driven by duty to do extraordinary things for others. But as our leaders begin to plan for how to help the victims, while preventing or mitigating future disasters—through budgets for weathermen, for the military and police civilian rescue units, and for relief goods—while enforcing rules against garbage, on zonal planning, on pollution, on preserving watershed and key ecological features, it’s important not to forget those who don’t share part of the blame but, nonetheless, are first on the scene to clean up the mess and save lives.

At the very least, these people deserve our recognition, our prayers, and material compensation for their sacrifice.

Of biblical proportions

John Mangun
Outside the Box
Business Mirror

OUR thoughts and prayers are with those who suffered the greatest damage and tragedies during this past weekend’s flooding. Flood, like fire, destroys everything in its path without regard to social position or wealth; a great equalizer.

While literally hundreds of thousands remained in shelters throughout the region, the “experts” headed to the press and the media to echo the junk science mantra of global warming and climate change. Not only is the idea of man-made climate change false by any measure of scientific legitimacy, it also insures that in a generation or so, residents of Metro Manila will endure another disaster exactly the same as in these past days.

I wrote on this page a couple of months ago that instead of wasting money on nonsense climate-change initiatives, maybe the money would be better spent on upgrading the flood-control system of Metro Manila. But, of course, a public-works project that might really benefit the populace would gain the headlines as being portrayed as a political leader who will save the environment.

One local pundit rushed to the keyboard with a few hundred words about the disastrous effect of humans releasing carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere and the subsequent global warming all that CO2 generates. Since you and every living animal, fungi and microorganism that depends either directly or indirectly on plants for food expel CO2 with every breath, obviously we are all doomed.

There is something deadly (literally) and immoral about attributing the damage of this latest storm to climate change or whatever you wish to call it. It gives approval to do nothing, because the underlying premise of all this nonsense is that nothing can be done. Why should public funds be spent on flood-control measures when it is inevitable that the waters of South China Sea will soon cover Metro Manila?

Metropolitan Manila Development Authority Chairman Bayani Fernando explained that the pumping stations that could have alleviated some of the worst floods were simply overcome by the volume of rain and water. But for far too many, it makes more sense to spend a few million pesos attending climate-change symposiums around the world than simply buying a few more pumps.

The home-made videos of the disaster that quickly flooded the Internet were amazing and clearly showed that Mother Nature is always a force that cannot be underestimated. The rushing water of the Marikina River whipping past Riverbanks was astounding. The waters neatly cleaned the riverbank of shanties and even more substantial structures.

But the thing that cannot be ignored is that those structures were not only illegally constructed but were disaster-prone from the very beginning. Houses along canals all over Metro Manila perched on top and beside the estero had no business being there and were simply washed away and cleaned out by the flood.

The anger that many of these residents felt about the inability of the government to protect and rescue them sort of ignores the fact that they should not have been there in the first place, and that the true failure of the government over the last three decades was not in providing an opportunity for a better place to live for them.

Now, the government, both national and local, is forced to address this problem. The only alternative is to allow these people to rebuild in these unsafe areas and figure out how to rescue them the next time the floods come.

The countless stories of personal tragedies are matched with the equally countless stories of heroism and self-sacrifice, and that is the way it always is. Helen Keller, the deaf/blind American author, once wrote, “Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it.” Once again, millions of Metro Manila residents are proving those words to be true.

As the population and the development of the region continue, the government must get serious about the flooding problem and of unsafe and improper housing. It is not an insurmountable problem. It is simply a problem that has been ignored for a very long time.

Further, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources is going to have to become serious about the effect of major construction like malls and residential projects on the flooding problem. Their environmental-impact studies are very good and are usually ignored. There is plenty of evidence, even at this point, that certain areas suffered greater flooding because the environmental impact of certain major projects were dismissed or ignored. This cannot continue to occur.

What we saw and experienced this past weekend affected everyone without exception. Each of us suffered personally, and almost all suffered economically from this natural occurrence that became a man-made disaster. Perhaps this will be a wake-up call that when you fail to address problems, eventually those problems come knocking, literally, on your own front door.

And as we continue the cleanup, my Sanyo washing machine is now my Sanyo beer cooler, since it will never wash clothes again. We were lucky.

PSE stock-market information and technical-analysis tools were provided by Inc. E-mail comments to

International and local assistance starts pouring in for flood victims

AFP, B. U. Allauigan, J. F. S. Valdez, G. P. Alba, D. T. Wee, V. B. Ramos and J. A. D. Hermosa

THE INTERNATIONAL community on Monday rushed aid to disaster-struck Philippines, where at least 100 people have been killed and nearly half a million displaced by freak floods brought by tropical storm Ondoy (international code name: Ketsana).

The United States, China, Japan, Singapore and United Nations agencies raised funds for relief work and to get the capital’s broken health infrastructure working again.

Washington sent $50,000 for the relief efforts, China pitched in $10,000, while Singapore raised $30,000 and a further $20,000 in seed money to jump-start a donations drive by the Red Cross.

US Ambassador Kristie A. Kenney yesterday said the additional $50,000 in "immediate disaster relief assistance" will come from the US Agency for International Development, bringing the total donation to $100,000 (P4.73 million).

The assistance will be given to the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC), the US embassy said in a statement yesterday.

In addition, US Navy personnel are assisting the Armed Forces of the Philippines with search and rescue efforts in Cainta and Pasig, the US embassy said.

Tokyo, meanwhile, said it would send $220,000 worth of relief goods to the Philippines, where rescue and emergency workers and the health infrastructure have been overwhelmed by the flooding.

In a letter to the Philippines, Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuyo Okada expressed his "heartfelt sympathy" for the loss of life and serious damage to infrastructure in Metro Manila and other regions.

"I was deeply saddened to learn of the loss of life and destruction to property caused by the storm that swept through the central Philippines over the weekend," added Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

The UN’s World Health Organization (WHO), meanwhile, said those crammed into evacuation centers were at risk of water- and airborne diseases.

"There is also a greater risk of acute respiratory infection and injuries, [and] wound infection from doing repairs after the floods," the agency said as it announced a $42,000 relief fund.

"Health care management is also a priority," it said, while noting that public and private hospitals were flooded and many have become inaccessible.

"Many hospital staff were not able to report for work because of the impact of the floods on their own families and homes," the WHO said.

For its part, humanitarian agency World Vision said it had begun distributing relief packs by helicopter and was assisting the Philippine Coast Guard.

It said it planned to raise about $2 million and was appealing for more funds from its donors.

Senate action

In the Senate, a total of P1.5 million will be donated to the victims of the deluge.

The money will be turned over equally or P500,000 each to the ABS-CBN Foundation, Inc., GMA Kapuso Foundation and the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC), Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said yesterday.

In addition to the financial aid, the Senate yesterday approved Senate Resolution 1378 that seeks to enjoin all 23 senators to donate at least P1 million of their priority development assistance fund or "pork barrel" for relief efforts.

Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, chairman of the economic affairs committee and author of the resolution, said in a statement: "The most kickback-prone projects from pork barrels are those involving public works. In this case, we will make sure that there will be full disclosure of the disbursement of the funds for the benefit of the victims of the storm Ondoy."

For his part, Senator Edgardo J. Angara, chairman of the finance committee, said the Senate will approve a supplemental budget for the calamity if the House of Representatives from which all appropriations measures emanate will approve it.

"There’s no request yet... But we will fast-track it once we receive it," Mr. Angara told reporters.

He said there was no ballpark figure for the supplemental budget, but noted a provision for purchase of rubber boats and rescue vessels should be included.

House leaders were unavailable for comment.

Palace relief center

As this developed, Malacañang will be opened to become an evacuation and relief center for storm victims, Palace officials said yesterday.

Executive Secretary Eduardo R. Ermita said in a briefing: "The middle front of Malacañang Kalayaan building. That is where we can allow people to be entering. We’ll be setting up tents in front of the Mabini building."

Mr. Ermita said that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and the First Family was set to move out of their official residence and stay in Bahay Pangarap across Pasig River for an indefinite period for the full use of Malacañang as relief center.

In addition, Press Secretary Cerge M. Remonde said Malacañang shall also serve as a drop-off point for relief goods and donations.

Other relief good centers are the National Relief Operations Center between the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) 1 and 2 near the Air Transport Office in Pasay City; central office of the Social Welfare department across Batasan Road in Diliman, Quezon City; and the National Capital Region Crisis Intervention Unit in Legarda, Manila.

For her part, Deputy Presidential Spokesman Lorelei C. Fajardo said in a separate radio interview: "The President gave a directive to convert Heroes Hall in Malacañang to become the central emergency center — the center of relief operations. There would be a Cabinet meeting today to be done in the NDCC (National Disaster Coordinating Council) office to discuss relief operations."

In the Palace briefing, Deputy Presidential Spokesman and NDCC Deputy Administrator Anthony T. Golez, Jr. said the Cabinet meeting would discuss the probability of extending the two-day suspension of classes in Metro Manila and neighboring Rizal province ordered by Defense Secretary and NDCC Administrator Gilberto C. Teodoro, Jr. which ends today.

Marikina Mayor Marides C. Fernando yesterday said classes in the city are suspended for one week.

Local aid

In Mindanao, producers of canned sardines based in Zamboanga City are sending over their products to Luzon for flood victims.

William Tiu Lim, president of Mega Fishing Corp., said his company has initially distributed 200 cases of sardines to private groups since Saturday.

"One cargo container of sardine-in-a-pouch from Zamboanga will be sent as soon as possible to Manila," Mr. Lim, who is currently in Indonesia for a business trip, told BusinessWorld in a text message.

Edgar B. Lim, manager of Permex, an exporter of canned sardines and tuna, said sardines manufacturers are consolidating food items that would be shipped to Metro Manila.

He told BusinessWorld local manufacturers’ efforts to distribute food suffered delays since most of their warehouses in Metro Manila were also submerged.

Zamboanga City’s sardines manufacturers control roughly 90% of the domestic market.

For its part, the disaster coordinating council of Misamis Oriental is mobilizing the province’s contribution of relief goods to the flood victims.

"We will be shipping relief goods on Wednesday night through Negros Navigation," said Misamis Oriental provincial disaster coordinator Teddy Sabuga-a.

For its part, Makati City has released P15 million for the purchase of relief goods. Mayor Jejomar C. Binay said in a statement.

The Quezon City council also passed a resolution to aid victims in at least 53 barangays. The police said 45 people died from the flood in Barangay Silangan in Quezon City.

"The city council passed a resolution to aid the victims of the tropical storm. However, the amount of calamity fund to be released is still unspecified because we have to assess first the extent of the damage," Majority Floor Leader Councilor Antonio E. Inton, Jr. said in a phone interview.

"This has been certified as urgent by Mayor [Feliciano R.] Belmonte [Jr.]," he added.

Court postponement

At the Supreme Court, Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno has suspended proceedings and work in courts in flood-hit areas such as Malabon, Pasig, Marikina cities in Metro Manila and Cainta, San Mateo and Antipolo City in Rizal.

In a statement, Mr. Puno said the concerned executive judges and presiding judges of these courts will determine when to reopen sessions. They were also asked to report the condition of their courts to Court Administrator Jose P. Perez.

In another memorandum, Mr. Puno also ordered the Associate Justices and Chiefs of Office and Services of the Supreme Court; the presiding justices of the Court of Appeals, Sandiganbayan, Court of Tax Appeals; as well as the presiding judges of lower courts from Regional Trial Courts down to the Municipal Circuit Trial Courts to relax the rules on attendance.

They were also asked to consider the absences and tardiness of employees as well as litigants on account of Ondoy.

Mr. Puno also postponed today the second part of the oral arguments on the revenue share case in the Camago-Malampaya natural gas reservoir. He has yet to give another schedule.

Meanwhile, the Office of the Bar Confidant also assured Bar examinees who lost their permits due to Ondoy that they do not need to reapply for new permits.

The high court had suspended the last day of Bar examinations on Sept. 27. The exams were moved to Oct. 4.

Meanwhile, a two-day conference that would have gathered private sector recommendations on how to implement the recently passed National Tourism Policy Act has been postponed as organizers have decided to focus on relief operations.

The event, dubbed the National Tourism Dialog, had earlier been slated for Sept. 30 to Oct. 1. No new dates were provided.

"Following the aftermath of Ondoy which brought unprecedented flooding and damage throughout Metro Manila, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce (PCCI) and German Technical Cooperation have jointly decided to reschedule the conference to a later date. This is in the interest of focusing resources and efforts to assisting those adversely affected by the typhoon and supporting the initiatives of the PCCI and the government to deliver rescue and relief operations," PCCI tourism committee chairman Samie Lim said in a statement yesterday.

Private and public sector leaders had originally been scheduled to discuss topics such as tourism standards, financing, investment incentives and tourism zones, and promotions strategies, at the event. A compilation of recommendations for the new tourism law would have been presented to government at the event’s culmination. —

Monday, 28 September 2009

PGMA Message on typhoon Ondoy's Relief and Rehabilitation Management

Arroyo opens Palace for ‘Ondoy’ operations
By Lira Dalangin-Fernandez
Christian Esguerra

MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATE 2) President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has opened Malacañang as emergency center for victims of tropical storm “Ondoy,” officials announced.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said the Palace grounds would accommodate victims from among Palace employees and those living in nearby areas.

The President will move out of her official residence and stay at the nearby Bahay Pangarap to accommodate the victims, according to Ermita.

Earlier in the day, Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said the President ordered the use of a portion of the Palace grounds to centralize efforts by various government agencies and volunteer organizations.

The members of the First family are prepared to temporarily leave the Palace grounds if needed to give space to the relief work, Remonde said in a live interview aired over radio dzBB Monday.

“The President has allowed the use of Malacanang itself, her won home to be a center of relief operations,” Remonde said.

In a separate radio interview, Lorelei Fajardo, deputy spokesperson, said the emergency center would be at Heroes Hall.

Arroyo is expected to call heads of government agencies in a meeting within the day, Remonde added.

He said Oplan Sagip Bayan has also been mobilized and would work with media agencies, civic groups and other organizations involved in helping Ondoy victims.

Ermita and Remonde said they were asked to make the announcement by the President, who was still presiding over a meeting with heads of government agencies involved in the emergency operations.

Remonde, who was also present at the Palace press briefing, acknowledged that opening Malacañang to the public could pose “security nightmare,” adding that this was the first time this was used as emergency relief center.

“It will be [a security nightmare], but despite that we would like to think that the welfare, the lives and the salvation of our people is more important . . . the President is willing to take that risk,” Remonde said.

Ermita said that funds for relief operations would initially come from the miscellaneous funds of the Office of the President.

“Definitely, we have something to start with,” he added, without stating the amount.

Ermita said members of the Presidential Security Group have been instructed to make the necessary adjustments on security arrangements and “not to frisk anybody” who would want to enter the grounds and seek assistance.

Remonde said Oplan Sagip Bayan has also been mobilized and would work with media agencies, civic groups and other organizations involved in helping Ondoy victims.

The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry headed by Donald Dee said it was mobilizing all its chapters for donations to be sent to Malacañang.

About 100 were killed and hundreds of thousands were displaced from their homes when floodwaters brought by Ondoy’s rains submerged most parts of Metro Manila over the weekend.

Many families have remained on their rooftop and some trapped in their homes since Saturday particularly in Marikina, Cainta in Rizal and in Quezon City, due to the sudden deluge of water.

Metro Manila and 25 other areas have been placed on state of calamity.