By Dobermax 69
Typhoon Santi/Mirinae from my office roofdeck
Typhoon Santi/Mirinae from my office window
Sta Cruz, Laguna bridge before collapse
Saturday, 31 October 2009
By Dobermax 69
Friday, 30 October 2009
Japan, Australia beef up Pagasa's weather forecasting
fter being battered by consecutive tropical cyclones in recent weeks, the governments of Japan and Australia have extended technical and system support for the country's weather bureau.
Japan will extend a Y3.350-billion (P1.7449 billion) grant to the Philippines for Doppler radars and other equipment to improve Philippine weather forecasting capabilities.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo and Japanese Ambassador Makoto Katsura signed an agreement for the grant at the Foreign Affairs Department in Pasay City Friday.
The "Improvement of the Meteorological Radar System" project will involve the replacement of the three existing Meteorological Radar Systems in Aparri, Cagayan; Virac, Catanduanes; and Guian, Samar, with new Doppler (S-band) radar systems.
According to the DFA, the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration will implement the project.
For its part, the Philippine government welcomed the Japanese assistance package as "timely and useful" for the country.
The Philippines is still reeling from the destruction caused by tropical cyclones Ondoy (Ketsana) and Pepeng (Parma).
Last March 30, Romulo and Katsura exchanged the notes on the project’s detailed design, worth Y23 million (P11.98 million).
Meanwhile, the Australian government has given a P17-million grant to Pagasa for the development of a "Tropical Cyclone Early Warning System."
Australian Ambassador to the Philippines Rod Smith said Australia will work closely with the Philippine government to improve the tracking and accuracy of tropical cyclone forecasting.
"The loss of life and damage caused by recent typhoons, not just in the Philippines but also across Southeast Asia, is a tragic reminder of how prone our region is to natural disasters," Smith said.
The development of the Tropical Cyclone Early Warning System would improve the tracking and accuracy of tropical cyclone forecasting including the position and intensity of a storm as well as enabling the verification of forecasts after the event.
Pagasa chief Dr. Nilo Prisco said the enhanced system would aid them forecast in real time. It would also help improve and enable a faster delivery of warnings through an automated delivery system for fax, E-mail, Internet and short messaging system (SMS).
Australia had already provided approximately P230 million in humanitarian aid and emergency assistance in response to natural disasters in the country since 2006. - with Joseph Holandes Ubalde, GMANews.TV
Neil Jerome C. Morales
THE GOVERNMENT has allowed a British miner to fully own and operate a gold and molybdenum mine in Northern Luzon, the fourth such arrangement under a landmark law that allowed foreigners to exploit the country’s mineral resources.
The Office of the President granted the local unit of London-based Metals Exploration Plc, FCF Minerals Corp., a Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) for a $208-million, 3,091-hectare gold-molybdenum project in the municipality of Runruno in Nueva Vizcaya.
The FTAA approval was signed by Executive Secretary Eduardo R. Ermita and FCF Minerals Corp. President Gary Raymond Powell on Sept. 19, a document from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau showed.
An official of the mining company confirmed this.
“It looks like we are still on target for the project. Some more drilling has to be done on the ground as part of our feasibility study,” FCF Vice-President Ernesto H. Mendoza said yesterday in a phone interview.
Mr. Mendoza said the $15-million feasibility study will be completed early next year.
Metals Ex seeks to extract 183,000 ounces of gold and 1.7 million pounds of the industrial metal molybdenum starting late in 2011 or early in 2012, according to its pre-feasibility study. It will also employ about 1,400 miners.
Given the weak US dollar, gold prices have reached $1,030-$1,035 per ounce from average prices of $907 and $922 per ounce in the first and second quarters, respectively, data from the New York Mercantile Exchange showed.
In October last year, the mine in Runruno, 200 kilometers north of Manila, was estimated to have 31.17 million metric tons (MT) of ore at two grams of gold per MT, as well as 0.05% molybdenum, or a total of two million ounces of gold and 34.4 million pounds of molybdenum.
Commenting on the development, Mines bureau Director Horacio C. Ramos said yesterday: “The Environmental Protection and Enhancement Program (EPEP) and the approval of the mining feasibility will take about three to six months from Sept. 19. And then they will begin the development phase.”
The EPEP is the mining company’s comprehensive environment management plan.
In March, the Environment department endorsed to the Office of the President the conversion of Metals Ex’s exploration permit into a FTAA. In August, Metals Ex posted a P175-million bond with the government for the approval of the FTAA.
The Runruno mine is listed as one of the priority projects of the government, which expects to rake in a total of $11 billion in investments for the entire sector by 2013.
Mining investments have totaled $2.1 billion since 2004, when the Supreme Court allowed complete foreign ownership of mining ventures, data from the Mines bureau showed.
The government approved the first FTAA application in 1994, for the $320-million Didipio gold and copper project of Australian OceanaGold Corp. The 19,363-hectare project in Nueva Vizcaya was shelved in December last year after OceanaGold failed to produce $200 million to complete the mine development.
The second FTAA involves Sagittarius Mines, Inc., a joint venture of Swiss Xstrata Plc, Australian Indophil Resources and Filipino conglomerate Alsons Corp. The group is undertaking the $5.2-billion Tampakan gold and copper mine covering 27,945 hectares in Sultan Kudarat and Davao del Sur.
In October last year, Agusan Petroleum and Mineral Corp. obtained a contract for a 78,732-hectare gold, copper, silver, zinc and nickel project in Occidental Mindoro, Palawan and Oriental Mindoro.
Thursday, 29 October 2009
Manila (PNA) —- President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Thursday issued an executive order authorizing the National Food Authority (NFA), Food Terminal Incorporated (FTI) and the Philippine International Trading Corporation (PITC) to intervene in the stabilization of the supply and prices of basic commodities in the country.
President Arroyo issued Executive Order 834 as the government’s commitment to pursue a policy of food security, especially for the benefits of the less fortunate, disadvantaged and marginalized sectors of the country.
The current tight economic situation, aggravated by the destructive effects of typhoons "Ondoy" and "Pepeng" that hit the country one after the other, has significantly lessened the underprivileged sector’s access to food and other prime commodities.
The EO also stated that there is a need to address the basic needs of the less fortunate sectors, especially those in the depressed areas.
Under section 3 of the Executive Order 1028 series of 1985, “the President may, for stabilization purposes, authorize the intervention by the appropriate government entities in the trading of other food items if so warranted by conditions as may exist from time to time”.
A month ago, President Arroyo declared the whole country under the state of calamity after the devastation wrought by typhoon Ondoy.
President Arroyo issued the order since the NFA, FTI and PITC, considering their capability and experience in the marketing of grains and non-grain commodities are the most appropriate government agencies to intervene in the stabilization of basic food items.
For this purpose, the NFA, FTI and PITC thru their respective boards and councils, are authorized to use their corporate funds, manpower and other facilities, government-guaranteed credit lines and supplemental support, as they may deem necessary.
President Arroyo also instructed all agencies of the national government, particularly but not limited to, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Department of Finance (DOF), Department of Budget and Management (DBM), Department of Justice (DOJ), and the Office of Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC), are enjoined to extend full support to the Department of Agriculture for the implementation of EO 834.
Under section 8 of EO 834, President Arroyo also authorized Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap to determine the reasonable volume of pork and/or chicken that will be imported within the purview of this order.
EO 834 shall take effect immediately and shall remain valid until December 31, 2009. (PNA)
PGMA sends off 100 vehicles for Luzon relief caravan
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo today led the send-off ceremony of more than 100 vans and trucks loaded with relief goods for the Luzon relief caravan held at the Boom Na Boom parking area in the Diosdado Macapagal Boulevard, Pasay City.
The relief caravan is dubbed Sama-Samang Pagtulong Relief Caravan to pre-position relief goods in areas of Luzon to be affected by the next typhoon.
As early as 5 a.m. more than a hundred government workers and private volunteers gathered in the parking area to await the dispatch of the caravan vehicles.
At exactly 6 a.m. President Arroyo led the send-off rites with Social and Welfare Secretary Esperanza Cabral, Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap and Pasay City Mayor Pee Wee Trinidad.
The President smiled, waved and cheered all government workers and volunteers for their support to her initiative.
She stood with her cabinet to deploy all the 100 vehicles and waited for an hour until the last truck off to Bulacan had passed.
Together with 21 national government agencies and private and international organizations, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) will bring the truckloads of relief goods to 16 provinces in Regions I, III, IV-A and V which are most likely to be affected by the upcoming typhoon Santi.
In an interview, Cabral said the truckloads of relief supplies consist of food packs, potable water, mats, blankets and clothing.
We felt that it was better to advance the delivery of goods to areas likely to be hit by the typhoon, so we will start pre-positioning the relief supplies today, she noted.
President Arroyo ordered different government agencies to join the caravan and provide truckloads of relief goods as well as assist in the preparation of the typhoon.
The caravan is divided into 16 groups based on their provincial and regional destinations. The DSWD have already identified drop off points where Provincial Disaster Coordinating Councils (PDCCs) and local government officials will receive the relief goods. The DSWD will supervise and monitor the distribution of relief items.
The drop off points are in the following areas: Lingayen City; Pangasinan; San Fernando, Pampanga; Cabanatuan City; Nueva Ecija; Tarlac; Tanay; Rizal, Cavite; Sta. Cruz Laguna; Batangas; Lucena; Quezon; Daet; Camarines Norte; Naga; Camarines Sur; Sorsogon; Legazpi; Albay and Virac, Catanduanes.
Partners of the DSWD for the relief caravans include the departments of Education, Energy, Social Welfare and Development, Agrarian Reform, Health, National Defense, Finance, Public Works and Highways, Transportation and Communication, Tourism, Foreign Affairs, Labor and Employment, Environment and Natural Resources, Presidential Management Staff, Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, National Disaster Coordinating Council, National Youth Commission, Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, Office of the Press Secretary, Bureau of Customs, National Food Authority, Philippine Health and Insurance Corporation, Philippine National Police, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Bases Conversion and Development Authority, San Miguel Corporation, United Nations Childrens Fund and the World Food. (PND)
26 October 2009 - The Philippines Department of Energy (DOE) has signed $2.2bn worth of new renewable energy (RE) contracts with 18 power companies.
"We are very happy to note that the Renewable Energy Act is working very well as reflected in the enthusiasm of investors in the RE development program of the country," said Rep. Miguel Arroyo, chairman of the House Committee on Energy.
He said the further development of RE projects will eventually redound to savings which will be passed on to consumers.
"We are optimistic that these projects will later on result to cheaper power for our people. These RE projects present a win-win solution for the country and the investors as well. Not to mention the good impact of these projects on the environment," he said.
He added that the National Renewable Energy Board (NREB) will soon release an attractive incentive package for investors.
The $2.2bn investment involves 87 renewable energy contracts granted to 18 companies for the development of biomass, geothermal, solar, hydropower, ocean and wind energy resources.
The contracts were made pursuant to Republic Act 9513, otherwise known as the Renewable Energy Act of 2008.
The new contracts involved five conversions from existing service contracts and agreements on geothermal and 17 on hydropower.
New RE projects consist the remainder of the contracts, which are anticipated to generate a total of 4042 MW of electricity, of which 1257 MW constitute additional electric power capacity.
Conversions from existing geothermal agreements with foreign contractor Chevron Geothermal Philippine Holdings Inc., were also initiated and endorsed to the Office of the President for approval.
Those awarded contracts by the DOE are Deep Ocean Power Philippines Inc. (DOPPI); Trans-Asia Renewable Energy Corp. (TAREC); Constellation Energy Corp (CEC); Century Peak Energy Corp.; PNOC-Renewables Corp.; Energy Development Corp. (EDC); First Gen Bukidnon Power Corp.; Luzon Hydro Corp.; Lucky PPH International, Inc.; First Gen Mindanao Hydro Power Corp.; AV Garcia Power Systems Corp.; Benguet Electric Cooperative Inc.; Alternergy Philippine Holdings Corp. (APHC); DOST-Industrial Technology Development Institute; and Hedcor Inc.
The total additional power capacity from new RE projects to be installed within the next five years now runs at 1636 MW.
By Anna Valmero
MANILA, Philippines—An official from the Commission on Elections (Comelec) reported that over 23,000 detainees nationwide registered to vote in the 2010 national elections.
Elections Commissioner Rene Sarmiento told INQUIRER.net that 23,657 detainees or 43 percent of the total 54,866 detainees in 414 facilities of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) have registered with the poll body between July and October 15.
Sarmiento, who also chairs the committee for detainee registration and voting, said this is the first time in the history of Philippine politics that detainees—who reside in the district or municipality where the detention facilities are located—have been allowed to register or update their voter records for the next elections.
Under the law, a person can vote in the elections if he has resided in the municipality where he intends to vote six months prior to the elections and at least a year in the country, said Sarmiento.
“The Comelec and its committee for detainee voting and registration laud the high registration turnout among our detainees—which is also a first in our country. Previously, I said we are targeting only 20,000 applicants but the numbers are beyond that,” said Sarmiento.
Of the total, about 90 percent or 21,090 were males and the rest, 2,567, were females, he said.
About 15,889 availed of the onsite enlistment in detention facilities and 7,768 registered in regular Comelec offices while being escorted by BJMP personnel, the poll official said.
Metro Manila had the highest detainee registration turnout at 5,677 followed by Calabarzon (Cavite-Laguna-Batangas-Rizal-Quezon) with 4,629 inmates, and Central Visayas with 2,137 inmates, according to the BJMP data.
Bicol had the least number of detainee voter applicants at 199.
Turnout in other regions are as follows: Western Visayas, 1,914 inmates; Northern Mindanao, 1,770 inmates; Zamboanga Peninsula, 1,582 inmates; Davao Region, 1,374 inmates; and Central Luzon, 1,183 inmates, BJMP reported.
Regions with turnout of below 1,000 include Eastern Visayas, 711 inmates; Ilocos Region, 669 inmates; Soccsksargen, 561 inmates; Caraga, 456 inmates; Cagayan Valley, 294 inmates; Mimaropa (Mindoro-Masbate-Romblon-Palawan), 262 inmates; and Cordillera Administrative Region, 239 inmates.
The data does not include registration turnout in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao because registration there started only on October 19, said Sarmiento.
Detainee voter issues
Detainees who are not convicted of any crime (punished by the Revised Penal Code, penal laws or regulations) are still presumed innocent of their accusations and retain their right of suffrage, he said.
Of about 60,000 inmates in Philippine jails, detainees comprise a big chunk of the population at 95 percent, BJMP statistics showed. It says the remaining five percent have been convicted and are thus disqualified to vote.
Detainees failed to exercise the right of suffrage in past elections due to “legal and administrative” limitations and their peculiar situation in terms of residence, said Sarmiento.
“Residence or permanent home is very crucial concept in the pursuit to exercise detainees’ right to vote. Residence determines the place where the detainee registers and votes and under the law, the detention facility cannot be used as a detainee's residence,” he said.
This is the reason why the registration can only be availed of by detainees who resided prior to incarceration in the city or municipality of detention for at least six months before Election Day because this address is the one recognized by law, he said.
“While the scope of the project is still limited, we are glad to empower our detainees with their right of suffrage. This is only a step toward fully emancipating our inmates to have a voice in selecting the country's next leaders,” said Sarmiento.
“By sheer number, Detainee votes can help dictate local results which are won by a slim margin of less than 100 votes,” he added.
Registration ends October 31 midnight.
Don Gil K. Carreon
THE PHILIPPINES continues to be among the top 10 countries in the world in terms of promoting equality among the sexes but this year it fell three places to the 9th as other countries closed the gender gap faster, a World Economic Forum study showed.
In a statement posted on its website, the Geneva-based group said the Philippines lost ground in the Global Gender Gap Index for the first time in four years but remained the leading Asian country in the rankings.
The index -- an assessment of how opportunities and resources are divided among men and women are 134 countries representing 93% of the global population -- was topped by Iceland, followed by Finland, Norway, Sweden, and New Zealand.
Joining the Philippines in the top 10 were South Africa, Denmark, Ireland and Lesotho.
The report said Philippine gains in political empowerment continued but this was partially offset by a drop in labor force participation as well as perceived wage equality.
The report lauded South Africa and Lesotho, which jumped 16 and six spots, respectively, to sixth and 10th.
Yemen was last, preceded by Chad, Pakistan, Benin and Saudi Arabia.
Ricardo Hausmann, director of the Centre for International Development at Harvard University and coauthor of the study, said more than two-thirds of the 115 countries covered since 2006 had improved their overall scores, but noted that some continued to lose ground.
Laura Tyson, professor of Business Administration and Economics, University of California, Berkeley and coauthor, added: "the report demonstrates that closing the gender gap in all aspects of life provides a foundation for a prosperous and competitive society. Leaders should act in accordance with this finding as they rebuild their battered economies and set them on course for sustainable long-run growth."
With 1.0 being the highest score for equality, the Philippines received a mark of 0.758, bannered by a perfect grade in educational attainment, which measures female to male ratio for enrollment up to the tertiary level.
For the health and survival ratio the country scored a 0.98 compared with the global average of 0.96. The Philippines was 11th when it comes to economic participation and opportunity equality due to a high ratio between male and female professionals and legislators. But the average income for men -- $3,899 -- was still higher than the $2,394 for women.
In terms of political empowerment, the Philippines was in 19th largely for having a female head of state. It was, however, only 99th and 53rd, respectively, for the male-female ratios in ministerial positions and the legislature.
The World Economic Forum said data for 13 of the 14 variables used were taken from publicly available indicators issued by organizations such as the International Labor Organization, United Nations Development Program and the World Health Organization. --
Jeffrey O. Valisno
FILIPINO CHILDREN now have more money to spend and are increasingly tech-savvy, a study commissioned by cable television channel Cartoon Network showed, offering an opportunity marketers cannot afford to ignore.
The combined spending power of kids in Metro Manila, Cebu, and Davao, according to the "New Generations Philippines 2009" survey, has risen to some P42 billion, up from P37 billion when the study was last conducted two years ago.
Filipinos have apparently weathered the global economic downturn better than most, said Turner International Asia Pacific, Ltd. Vice-President Duncan Morris, with parents reporting a 17% increase in average pocket money given to kids.
Turner is the parent firm of Cartoon Network.
"The vast majority, about 91%, of Pinoy kids receive pocket money, which compares favorably with kids in other countries such as Japan, with only 49% of kids receiving pocket money; Australia, with only 59%; and India with only 41%," Mr. Morris said in a press conference.
Filipino children, according to the study, receive an average of P197 in weekly pocket money, up from P169 two years ago. Kids 11 to 14 years old receive P244, while those from the AB segment get as much as P348.
Children from Manila receive an average P205 weekly while kids from Davao get P177. Cebuano children get an average of P156.
Boys receive more -- P214 per week -- compared to P181 for girls.
Aside from pocket money, children also get "gift money" during their birthdays and Christmas. Mr. Morris said 96% of those surveyed receive gift money averaging P2,130 per year, which brings the "annual income" of a typical Filipino child to P12,374.
"Combining pocket money with gift money, and extrapolating this to the kids’ population of about 3.7 million across the surveyed cities, Pinoy kids collectively have P42 billion spending money per year," Mr. Morris said.
"Marketers should be aware that kids are not only primary consumers anymore," he said. "They just don’t spend their money on snacks."
"Filipino children are increasingly becoming secondary consumers, as they greatly influence their parents on what to buy, from computers, to cars, and other gadgets. As the survey reveals, kids as young as seven have well-established views on everything," he added.
The 2009 survey also showed that Filipino children are increasingly becoming more digitally savvy, and Mr. Morris said: "A new wave of Pinoy tech kids who view technology as an integral part of their lives is paving the way for the future"
He said the survey showed an increase in computer ownership among Philippine homes, to 47% this year from 42% in 2007. Internet access grew to 32% from 23%, portable music players like iPods are now in a majority of kids’ homes (52% from 45%), and 38% of kids now personally own mobile phones from 26% in 2007.
"The way in which kids are consuming media and connecting with brands like Cartoon Network is rapidly changing. Where once it was all about watching TV, today kids can comfortably view, use, play and engage with our characters, whenever, wherever, and however they wish," Mr. Morris said.
The proportion of Filipino kids using the Internet has grown significantly in just two years, he said. From 46% in 2007, 63% of kids are now classified as regular Internet users.
In terms of online activities, gaming remains the number one attraction, with 78% online games within the past month. Catching up fast was online video viewing at 61%. Half (55%) use the Internet to assist them with their homework and a rapidly growing 45% visit social networking sites. Social networking is more popular among girls (50% in past month) than boys (41%).
The New Generations Study 2009, which was conducted from August 25 to September 21 this year, used in-home face-to-face interviews of 1,000 children aged seven to 14 from the A to D socioeconomic classes. Eighty percent were from Manila and 10% each came from Cebu and Davao.
The survey was conducted by Synovate Philippines. Similar localized surveys were also commissioned by Cartoon Network in Japan, India, Australia, Taiwan, and Singapore.
Outside the Box
JUDGING from the e-mails I receive, the more I try to explain, the more it seems that I confuse. But that is not entirely my fault. Money is a very complicated subject.
We tend to think of things in terms of value. The value or price that we place on a chicken is actually determined by the amount of effort, of work that we have to do to acquire it. A butcher might “pay” a doctor two chickens to be healed. That same butcher might only pay one chicken to the carpenter who helps build the butcher’s house.
Currency, money, was simply a kind of IOU representing the value of labor or goods. The butcher gives the doctor two IUOs each good for one chicken in exchange for the medical care.
Currency was originally printed by the banks as an IOU for the gold or silver that was deposited in the bank. Instead of carrying around a bag full of gold, a person could exchange bank notes for goods and the person who took the notes knew that a certain and fixed amount for the precious metal was stored at the bank.
Then governments started printing the money with fixed gold-exchange rates. In the early 20th century, one ounce of gold was exchanged for $20.
The fixed rate between gold and “money” was a good system for international trade. Imbalances in trade were theoretically solved automatically by a standard gold-exchange rate. A country with a trade deficit would have reduced gold reserves because its currency could be exchanged for physical gold, and the gold would flow out as they paid for imported goods. Most important, the money supply, based on the amount of stored gold, would be reduced. This would, in turn, reduce imports because there was not enough currency to spend to import.
But after World War I, the global economy was in such bad condition that countries like Great Britain changed their gold-/currency-exchange rate in order to create the illusion of wealth. Take this loose example. If in 1996 I held $100, I could also say that I was worth P2,600. Now if I still have that same $100, I can say that I am much richer today, worth P4,700. That is sort of what governments did.
Governments revalued their currency based on their gold reserves and, magically, they had more paper money which they called their wealth.
Back to the butcher. When he originally wrote that IOU good for one chicken, each chicken weighed 1.5 kilos. So the doctor thought he would be getting three kilos of chicken in return for his medical services. But when the doctor comes to make his claim with the butcher’s IOU, suddenly the chickens are much smaller. His two chickens now weigh a total of two kilos. So the next time the butcher wants to exchange chickens for medical care, the doctor wants three IOUs. The butcher has reduced the value of his IOU, his “currency”; the doctor has increased his “price.”
That is the simple example of currency devaluation and the resulting inflation.
Now to the US dollar. There is no gold standard anymore. Governments can print any amount of paper currency they want to. The US has doubled the amount of dollars in circulation between 2008 and 2009. The purpose was to stimulate economic activity and increased activity would create wealth.
That strategy has failed miserably.
The case for dollar devaluation is this. Increases in money supply without increasing wealth cause all sorts of domestic price inflation.
Assume that you are a foreign government or financial institution and you are owed $200 billion by the US government. When you loaned out that money, your $200 billion could buy an entire company like Coca-Cola. The price of Coca-Cola stock is up 35 percent in one year. But the value of the company based on profits is down about 3 percent. That is price inflation: price increasing faster than value. The dollar value of your loan in terms of what you can buy is now reduced.
More serious, though, is the risk of future substantial dollar depreciation. The US government is printing more dollars that are “worth” less. Why would the US government devalue the dollar? To more easily pay off its $20-trillion public debt in exactly the same way our butcher paid off his debt with smaller chickens.
Imagine this extreme example. Obama prints a lot of dollars and sends every American $1 million. Everyone is a millionaire. The person who works at McDonald’s is not going to work for $10 an hour anymore since he has a million in his pocket. So to get him to work, McDonald’s starts paying its employees $50,000 per hour. But then the Big Mac has to cost $10,000. That is hyperinflation, and it is a possibility if the amount of money in circulation grows too fast and too large. It happened in Germany in the 1920s, Hungary in the ’30s and Zimbabwe four years ago.
Hyperinflation is unlikely. But foreign dollar-denominated debt holders have lost 15 percent this year. If you are a Japanese bank, you sold yen, bought dollars and loaned the dollars to the US government. Now, when they pay you back the dollars and you bring the money back to Japan, you have lost money on the deal. Now, do you see why no one wants dollars?
As long as the US pursues its current monetary policy of printing money to fuel nonexistent growth, and there is no indication that policy will change soon, the dollar will continue to depreciate and depreciate.
PSE stock-market information and technical analysis tools provided by CitisecOnline.com Inc. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
WHEN presidential economic adviser Joey Salceda took over as governor of Albay province in 2007, his constituents were still reeling from the devastation wrought by a series of destructive calamities in 2006—typhoons Reming and Milenyo and the Mayon Volcano eruption.
As if the typhoons were not destructive enough, mudslides and lahar flows brought more misery to the residents of Albay, sweeping through the villages at the foot of Mayon Volcano, destroying property, farms and infrastructure.
Albay was a pitiful landscape in the wake of typhoons and lahar flows in 2006. All told, the death toll in the province for that year reached 457, with 600 more missing.
Something had to give in a situation where the disaster-prone province has at least five strong typhoons every year, not to mention the periodic rumblings from Mayon Volcano. If nature cannot be stopped from unleashing its fury, people just had to be prepared to move out of harm’s way.
And that was how the new provincial administration did it. The province was prepared for disasters, which called for adopting cost-effective and widely accessible disaster-risk reduction and climate-change adaptation programs.
A permanent disaster-management office was set up—Albay is the only province that has one—with permanent employees and funding of P6 million, equivalent to 4 percent of the provincial budget which goes to climate-change adaptation. This is separate from the 5 percent of the budget that goes to the calamity fund.
The province also has permanent evacuation centers, as opposed to the age-old, simplistic but unproductive remedy of turning schoolhouses into evacuation centers when disaster hits, with dire consequences for public education.
Albay can mobilize people on short notice, thanks to 28 rubber boats, 41 ambulances and public-address systems for all barangays. “Preparedness” has become the slogan in meeting incoming typhoons and volcanic eruptions.
“We eat preparedness for breakfast,” Salceda would quip. “There is really nothing mystical about climate-change adaptation.”
Such measures paid off in terms of reducing loss of lives. Since 2007 Albay has had zero casualty from calamities. Now, other provinces are trying to replicate what Salceda has done.
The advocacy is moving further. Two years ago Salceda called a National Conference on Climate-Change Adaptation, where participants agreed about the urgency of the expedient threats from climate change. As he would describe it, the conference was meant to “convince people that the threats are real.” For instance, the typhoons are stronger and more frequent. That conference focused more on the science of explaining how greenhouse-gas emissions are changing the climate worldwide.
This week saw a follow-up to the meeting two years ago. The National Conference on Climate-Change Adaptation +2 was convened by Salceda with the support of other agencies, including the German Technical Cooperation, or GTZ, and its theme expanded to include policy, practices and financing. He still pressed for the usual theme.
“Disaster-risk reduction and climate-change adaptation are not expensive in the long term. These are huge economic investments and should be pursued under the context of sustainable development, the guiding rule for good governance,” Salceda said at this week’s conference, echoing arguments that activists and scientists had long raised, but which were drowned out by vested interests.
The typhoon-prone province of Albay is a good model for sustainable development, proving that all that’s needed is the willpower to prepare the people to meet the threats of disaster from nature. And, perhaps, the prodding we all got recently, courtesy of Ondoy and Pepeng.
Wednesday, 28 October 2009
The Philippine government and separatists fighting for a Muslim homeland in the country's south have signed an agreement to protect schools and hospitals, and avoid civilian suffering.
The deal between the predominantly-Catholic government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) was sealed in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, signalling improving ties after years of conflict.
In the agreement signed on Tuesday, both sides committed not to target non-combatants, along with "schools, hospitals, religious premises, health and food distribution centres, or relief operations".
They also agreed not to block the flow of food aid and other relief goods, according to Philippine officials.
Displaced civilians have borne the brunt of the conflict in the Muslim-majority southern region, which has claimed at least 120,000 lives since the 1970s.
Talk to resume
Talks collapsed last year after a supreme court declared unconstitutional a preliminary accord on an expanded Muslim autonomous region.
The ruling sparked months of clashes that killed hundreds of people and forced more than half a million to flee their homes. Most of them have since returned.
The fighting in the southern Mindanao region eased in July and both sides agreed last month to resume the negotiations.
Rafael Seguis, a government negotiator, said both sides will now discuss measures to enforce the accord once formal talks resume later this year.
"It's aimed at preventing massive numbers of internally-displaced persons," said Seguis.
A spokesman for the MILF said Tuesday's accord will pave the way for
a formal resumption of Malaysian-brokered peace talks, which collapsed last
year amid renewed clashes.
"The next logical move is to resume the peace negotiations," said Eid Kabalu.
US and European officials have called for renewed talks, saying the peace process would help turn rebel strongholds into economic growth areas instead of sanctuaries for al-Qaeda-linked groups.
Bernardette S. Sto. Domingo
SAN FERNANDO, PAMPANGA — President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo yesterday ordered the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to start working on the construction of a spillway in Metro Manila to prevent massive floods.
The President agreed to a proposal by Architect Felino "Jun" Palafox to immediately build the spillway from Manila Bay to Laguna Lake in yesterday’s Cabinet meeting.
"We will ask the DPWH to start with the spillway. We can build it alongside the airport so there would be less cost," Mrs. Arroyo said.
The Parañaque spillway can be a "canal, tunnel or Roman empire aqueduct," said Mr. Palafox who was at the Cabinet meeting, adding flooding can last for at least 65 days if the spillway is not built as opposed to only 20 days with the facility in place.
He also informed the President that building the spillway alongside the airport could take longer because the spillway is just eight kilometers.
"We will have to look at the cost effectiveness, but it’s an option, in other words it has to be the cheapest way to do it," Mrs. Arroyo said.
Parañaque has been identified as route of the spillway, starting with a mid-1970s development plan for Metro Manila, as it is the narrowest land between Manila de Bay in the west and Laguna de Bay in the east.
Shortly after tropical storm Ondoy (international name: Ketsana) hit and inundated wide parts of Metro Manila and surrounding provinces, Mr. Palafox cited the 1976 Metro Manila Transport, Land Use and Development Planning Project which identified the western shores of Laguna de Bay and coastal shores of Manila de Bay as development areas that should prepare for flooding, earthquakes and possible changes in topography.
But some of the recommendations stated in the study were never carried out, he said.
In his presentation yesterday before the Cabinet, Mr. Palafox said the country’s long-term development plans should include building spillways, banning incursions to waterways, relocating people to higher ground, controlling development in some areas, and harvesting rain water and using it for irrigation or fire protection.
He also recommended revising the building code, placing early flood warning systems, controlled development, and imposing stricter rules on building construction.
Senators and congressmen earlier broached a P10-billion plan to jump-start the spillway project, with the fund mainly to be used for expropriating properties that would be affected by the waterway.
At the same meeting, Mrs. Arroyo ordered the reconstruction commission, chaired by Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. Chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan, to fast-track its proposals and take advantage of the so-called Hatoyama Initiative.
Mrs. Arroyo was referring to Tokyo’s commitment to provide financial and technical assistance to developing countries to help address the problem of climate change through the initiative named after Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, who unveiled the scheme last month.
Finance Secretary Margarito B. Teves, who co-chairs the commission, said he sees a dialogue with the private sector in December to outline possible assistance it can give to the government.
Acting National Economic and Development Authority Director-General August B. Santos, for his part, warned against a possible surge in food inflation because of the damage to agriculture caused by Ondoy and typhoon Pepeng (international name: Parma).
As of yesterday, the National Disaster Coordinating Council said Ondoy and Pepeng had caused P36.635 billion in damage to farm (P27.11 billion) and infrastructure (P9.525 billion) and claimed 929 lives.
"NFA (National Food Authority) says rice production decreased. We are supposed to have 90 days inventory, now it’s down to 60 days," Mr. Santos said.
"Food prices surged in 2008 but has receded in 2009. The latest reading is 2% in September. We expect an increase in food inflation because of the typhoons."
Among his recommendations to Mrs. Arroyo were to convince rich nations to make good their food pledges to poor countries; conduct a full study on hunger causes; and converge anti-hunger projects to targeted beneficiaries. —
Tuesday, 27 October 2009
Outside the Box
WITH the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) doing everything it can to “stabilize” (read: devalue) the peso and the desperate Americans trying to talk the dollar up, it is probably hard to believe those of us who are sure the dollar is going to fall.
Many of the economic experts are saying the US dollar is just fine and wonderful and there is nothing to worry about. But when you look closely at their arguments, it always comes around to everything being great because it is the almighty US dollar we are talking about. For more than 100 years, the dollar has been doing really good despite wars, political turmoil and global changes.
I think, though, that you have to look at the situation in the current context. There are more dollars in circulation than there ever has been before in history because the US government has been printing greenbacks like crazy. Some of us are very skeptical of the fact that the US can raise enough money to pay off its debts. And historically, when a nation has had more debt than it can handle, it devalues the currency to make the debt less.
The reason for storing wealth in a particular currency is to be able to use that currency to buy something. That is sort of problematic since, comparatively speaking, the US does not sell the world much of anything. So holding dollars to buy US goods does not seem to be a very good reason to have dollars.
The other reason to keep one’s wealth in a particular currency is to be able to put your money in that particular country’s banks and take advantage of high deposit rates. Except that US interest rates are the lowest in history. On the other hand, Australian interest rates just went up. Maybe that’s why the Australian dollar is at a 14-month high against the US dollar.
I don’t see anything changing in the future that would alter this equation, and, therefore, there’s no reason to assume the demand for dollars is going to increase.
Three weeks ago I wrote this: “Mark this: As of this writing the dollar index is 76.293, the spot gold price is $1,040.88, the peso is 46.60 and the PSE [Philippine Stock Exchange] index is 2,967.06. Three of these four will be significantly increased in value by the end of the year.”
Now in the short amount of time since then, note the following: The dollar index has gone down 1.5 percent, the price of gold is up 1.5 percent, the local stock market is down about 1 percent and the peso value is also down around 1 percent.
It seems all these things are connected. The important question to ask is, what is the driving force behind the movements? It looks to me that people are moving out of dollars and into gold. It looks like a weaker peso keeps people out of the local stock market.
You only have to look at the price of oil to see what is happening to the dollar. Demand for oil keeps going down and the price keeps going up. That goes against what should be “supply and demand” normal pricing. But if I am holding oil, which people want, and it is priced in dollars which people do not want as much as they want oil, then the dollar price of oil goes higher.
Most of our economic policymakers have knelt before the altar of the US dollar for so long, it is hard for them to get off their knees and look at other currencies. Even now the Department of Finance is considering more peso borrowing to keep the value of the peso down. When local gasoline hits P50 a liter, they may have to change their strategy.
Assuming the dollar dumps down and the peso is allowed to rise proportionately, one benefit will be capital flight out of the US into places like the Philippines. The more the dollar devalued against the yen in the 1970s (when Japan had a developing economy), the more Japan gained share in valued-added manufacturing. That is what China has been doing. Particularly since 2002, China has taken over the US consumer market as the dollar index has fallen from 121 to its current 75.
While the local “experts” talk about a weak peso being beneficial to the economy because of exports and remittances having greater peso value, the opposite may be true.
Capital flight, even from our overseas workers and residents to get out of dollars and into the peso, may offset any potential loss of purchasing power from peso appreciation. If gasoline is $5 a gallon in the US and you cannot afford to drive, and that Chinese-made television just doubled in dollar price, you might as well send money back to the Philippines where it can still buy something.
The greatest advantage of dollar devaluation may be a reverse of the Filipino “brain drain.” Local workers may see the advantages of making a little less in nominal terms while preserving a higher purchasing power for the longer term. This is because dollar devaluation will create greater inflation, perhaps crippling inflation in the US and in those countries which are determined to peg their currency to the value of the dollar.
The Philippine government is going to have to make a choice very soon: allow an independent and market-valued peso, or continue to march with the US dollar, a journey that may lead to a currency nightmare.
Monday, 26 October 2009
MANILA (PNA) -- Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Esperanza I. Cabral said that the national government is providing persons displaced by typhoons “Ondoy” and “Pepeng” with the needed assistance to enable them to get back to their feet at the soonest possible time.
Cabral said the assistance included the provision of livelihood assistance grants for those who loss their jobs and houses in relocation centers for families whose houses were destroyed or damaged by the floods brought by the twin typhoons.
”After relief operations, we must now move on and rebuild our lives,” she further said.
Relocation sites for the evacuees from Barangay Tumana, Marikina City and Barangay Tatalon, Quezon City who were temporarily housed at Malacañang Palace, have been identified.
These are the Southville Housing Project in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, Towerville Housing Project, San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan and Biñan, Laguna Housing Project.
Latest data of the DSWD showed that some 480 families from Barangays Concepcion 1, Nangka, Parang and Tumana in Marikina City have been transferred to Southville Housing Project, Barangay Pook, Sta. Rosa, Laguna.
Likewise, 269 families from Barangay Tumana and 26 families temporarily staying in Malacanang evacuation center had been transferred to Biñan, Laguna Housing Project. The National Housing Authority (NHA) reserved 600 units in this site for the displaced families.
On the other hand, some 400 units in Towerville Housing Project in San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan were also made available for the families from Barangays Bagong Silangan, Damayang Lagi, North Fairview, and Tatalon, Quezon City . To date, some 147 families have transferred to the area.
During the transfer, the DSWD provided each family with “pabaon pack” from the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) which contains 10 kilos of rice, canned goods, towel, kitchen utensils, bath and detergent soap, sleeping mats, blanket, coffee, noodles and milk.
Cabral also denied reports that tons of relief materials are rotting in DSWD warehouses.
She said that these accusations have no basis since there are no perishable goods being stored at the National Relief Operations Center (NROC) in Pasay City being managed by DSWD.
“Our warehouses are indeed full at present because we received and continue to receive donations, locally and internationally, in spite of the fact that we have distributed a great number of relief goods to the affected families,” she said. (PNA)
MANILA (PNA) -— Plans for a USD8.5 million assistance for Philippine typhoon victims were announced on Monday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) under its Food for Progress Program (FPP) by Secretary Tom Vilsack, at his meeting with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in Malacanang.
The commodity donation is estimated to provide food to about 438,000 persons for 60 days, according to an announcement from the USDA in Manila.
Today’s FPP allocation is about 7,000 metric tons of U.S. rice and 680 metric tons of U.S. produced non-fat dry milk. According to the USDA, the commodities would be processed into UHT (ultra-high temperature) milk and biscuits for the victims.
The aid “will help the people in the most need of assistance and as a long-standing friend and partner of the Philippines, the United States stands ready to continue our cooperation and assistance in the future,” Vilsack said in announcing the food aid.
Earlier, Vilsack met his counterpart, Secretary Arturo Yap. Both agriculture chiefs are scheduled to distribute food donations this afternoon to school children of Sagad Elementary at Bagong Ilog in Sagad Pasig City.
The Philippines is the largest recipient of USDA food aid in Asia since 1995, with FPP assistance totaling USD217-million since 2000, according to USDA.
This year alone, USDA signed three FPP agreements with the Philippines for a total USD25-million. FPP has been in existence in 24 years.
Vilsack is winding up a four-day visit to the Philippine, at the head of an American trade and commercial delegation meeting Philippine producers, processors, traders and investors.
On Sunday, he visited the International Rice Research Institute in Los Banos, Laguna. His delegation proceeds to China. (PNA)
The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) manages the National Relief Operations Center (NROC) which is the facility for processing and storage of relief goods that are purchased by the Department or donated to us by generous individuals both here and abroad. The relief goods are released to our Regional Offices or directly to evacuation centers or to the local government units as they are needed and requested by these entities. They are delivered in trucks, many of which were lent to us by private companies or by military vehicles. Some of the goods are shipped by air from nearby Villamor Airbase.
When typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng hit the country, we received and are continuing to receive donations. Our warehouses are indeed full, inspite of the fact that we have distributed 500,000 food packs and 200,000 clothing packs as well as thousands of sacks of rice, blankets, beddings, and items of personal hygiene in the past almost 4 weeks. That is the reason why when asked if we still have enough goods, my constant reply is yes, so far we do, thanks to the many kind-hearted individuals and organizations as well as countries who responded and are still responding to the plight of the typhoon victims.
There are no rotting relief goods in our warehouses as we do not keep perishables there and the relief goods that are there, save for the donated old clothes are quite new since they have been either recently purchased by us or have been just donated.
Our goods are repacked by volunteers who are there because they want to help. But they are volunteers and report when they have time to help us. Sometimes there are two hundred of them and sometimes there are only a dozen. However many or few they are, we appreciate their presence and their assistance. Weekdays are usually quiet but on Saturdays and Sundays, the students, along with others who work Monday to Friday, including our own employees, are there.
Our staff at the warehouse work round the clock even now, making sure that the requests for relief goods are met in a timely manner. They work hard, they work quietly and they work humbly and I feel bad that they have been subjected to public vilification that they do not deserve.
I do not recall having talked to an Editor of Philippine News. I do remember my secretary telling me that someone was on the phone asking why there were no volunteers working at the warehouse. My reply was we do not own the time of the volunteers.
I wish that I could have prevented the deaths from typhoons but in fact, they have nothing to do with the relief goods that we are in charge of. Most of the deaths were from drowning or injuries sustained during the typhoon. Some died of illnesses. We are not in charge of rescue nor are we in charge of health and to the best of my knowledge, none of the deaths was due to absence of or delay in the delivery of relief goods.
We would like to assure all of you that the relief goods will reach the intended beneficiaries as they become necessary and will be used only to assist them. However, the relief goods don’t all go out at the same time and an empty warehouse is not proof that the goods were used properly just as a full warehouse is not evidence that the goods are being hoarded. If you visit our website www.dswd.gov.ph you will find updates on our activities related to typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng. It includes an updated list of donations received and goods released from the DSWD warehouse.
There are many aspects of disaster response. They include recovery and rehabilitation and in both instances, goods and other resources are still needed. In the initial reaction to a calamity, people will want to help and as we saw recently, they came in droves, offering their time, their talent and their resources. We want them to know how much we appreciate them for what they have done and what they are still doing. But further down the road, when the initial flush of generosity gives way to donor fatigue, there will remain only a few hardy NGOs and volunteers and the workers of the DSWD and other government agencies to continue the job of helping the disaster victims back on their feet. Judicious use of resources at the outset is imperative lest we face the situation of even greater want after a period of relative plenty. We at the DSWD wish to assure you that your trust in us is not misplaced. Thank you.
Sunday, 25 October 2009
(I took this together with my dad at 6 in the morning. This is a video of a pierhead rotation for the skyway being built from Bicutan to Alabang. They did not even stop the traffic down below.)
Call center giant TeleTech Holdings, Inc. announced on Saturday new expansion with the opening of two new sites in the Makati central business district at the EcoPlaza Building in the Don Chino Roces Extension and at the GT International Tower along Ayala Avenue as it continues to be the fastest growing business process outsourcing company in the country.
The company said one of the driving forces behind this expansion is the consolidation of Teletech’s Global Business Services (GBS). The first-class facility in EcoPlaza Building will house 300 seats of specialized back office functions and shared services that support the global TeleTech operations with finance and accounting, payroll processing, human resource outsourcing, quality assurance, and workforce management.
TeleTech’s senior vice president and chief operations officer for Asia, Richard Bledsoe, sees the new site as a strategic step forward to further improving the global support that the Philippines provides for TeleTech worldwide.
“We believe that we will be able to retain many of our key employees with this consolidation and also attract new talented employees to help strengthen the global shared services that we provide to the worldwide TeleTech business.
Aligned to TeleTech’s commitment on providing healthy work and life balance to its employees, the new facilities feature state-of-the-art amenities like health clinics, break rooms, quiet rooms, and lounge and locker area. The building also offers covered car park as well as restaurants, retail shops, and banking services.
Focused on further boosting its competitive position in the industry, said that TeleTech is focused on “refining business model and improving customer satisfaction to expand key accounts.”
“In this current environment where all businesses are experiencing some form of contraction, TeleTech is extremely well-positioned and has proven capabilities to positively impact the Philippine economy,” he said.
As the largest BPO solutions provider in the country, TeleTech employs thousands, and manages millions of customer interactions each year. The company currently runs at a dozen locations across the Philippines.