Saturday, 11 June 2011

For this toilet attendant, it’s honesty over poverty

By Edison A. Delos Angeles
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANDAUE CITY—While cleaning the toilet at the public market of Mandaue City in Cebu, Hermisa Cejas found a bag left by a meat supplier. Inside the bag was P250,000.

Although the 45-year-old attendant could have kept the money for herself and no one would know about it, she didn’t.

“I feed my children through honest means,” Cejas said in Cebuano. She returned the bagful of cash to its owner.

It was not the first time that Cejas had found a stash inside the public toilet. According to the office of Market Administrator Musoline V. Suliva, she turned over at least P500,000 in cash and checks inside bags and wallets, and three cell phones left inside the toilet since she started working as a casual employee in 2009.

She never thought of keeping these items, even if she received only P265 a day or close to P7,000 a month.

Because money has been scarce, two of her four children—Rhea Mae, 21; and Wemore, 20—dropped out of college. A son, Van Adam, 16, stopped last year and is now a sophomore at Mandaue City Comprehensive School (MCS).

The youngest, Sunshine, 7, is a Grade 2 pupil at MCS and helps her father, Romeo, raise fighting cocks and pigs in their backyard in Barangay Cambaro.

Strong faith in God

Cejas’ strong faith in God that the family will be able to get through financially is behind her exemplary acts of honesty. She was never tempted to keep the valuables she found because these meant something to their owners.

“No matter how small the value of the lost item is, it means a lot to the owner,” she said. “I feel light whenever I return what I find inside the toilet.”

She doesn’t accept tips from grateful owners because she believes she is only doing her job. But she is willing to take only food, which “is a grace from God.”

A native of Lanao del Norte, Cejas moved to Cebu in the early 1980s as part of a charismatic group. Her father, Bonifacio Marfe is a church volunteer.

She later met and married Romeo, who hails from Mandaue.

In 2001, Cejas sold native delicacies to pupils of Mandaue City Central School. She applied for a job as market clerk at the city government in 2007, and was accepted. She was reassigned as maintenance personnel in charge of the toilet more than a year ago.

Religious devotion

She has remained an active member of the charismatic group and regularly attends the 5 a.m. Sunday Masses at St. Joseph’s Parish Church. Sometimes, she would go to the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño in downtown Cebu City to light a candle for the Holy Child Jesus on Fridays and to the Berhin sa Regla (Virgin of the Rule) in Lapu-Lapu City on Saturdays.

As toilet attendant, Cejas returned a bag containing P250,000 on Oct. 2, 2009, to Rosalia from Davao, who supplies beef meat and cacao to the public markets in Mandaue and nearby Consolacion town.

She found another bag with P8,000 on Sept. 7, 2010, and it was returned to Estrella Palang, a dry goods trader.

A wallet containing P800 was recovered in December 2010 and returned to Ryan Castillo, a vegetable vendor.

Cejas also returned checks amounting to P245,000, as well as three cell phones.

In recognition of her honesty, Mayor Jonas Cortes directed the city’s human resource department to look for a regular position that would fit her qualifications. This has elated Cejas, but added that she is proud of her current job though some may think of it as lowly.

Not even once had she thought of quitting. “What would I feed my children if I stopped working?” she said.

A Tale of Selfless Giving

Manila Bulletin

MANILA, Philippines — Here is a school adventure to share with your children that will certainly generate gratitude and appreciation for what they have. It will also elicit an attitude of generosity. This is a true story.

Forgotten Folks

In a land faraway from people, automobiles and malls, there live dirt poor families at the foothills of the Sierra Madres in San Miguel Bulacan. The people were so poor that they could only afford to eat once a day.

Farming was the only thing they know and so they farm day in and day out. There is only one farming technique they understand and that is to slash and burn the land. The lands once lush and fertile became barren like the African desert. The land could not produce enough crops to feed the poor farming community. Desperate farmers took up arms to become communists.

Hike for Life

This undiscovered community is isolated. The nearest town proper is across a bridgeless river. The townsfolk have to trek kilometers of dirt road, and risk their lives to possible attacks from insurgents and violent elements, even kidnapping for the poor children, in order to reach the river. If they are lucky to reach the river, they have to brave wading into it to cross to the other side. While most would walk or swim in the river, some ride on their carabao while small children ride onto the shoulders of their fathers. Older children walk cautiously, balancing their school things on their shoulders to keep them dry.

It takes about one to two hours for children to go to school and another one to two hours to walk back home. From dirt road to river, up and down the slopes they trek. By the time they reach home after class hours, it is already very late.

While most children complain about the horrendous traffic that hassle them daily to go to school or grumble about waking up early, these unfortunate children in San Miguel, Bulacan are literally faced with the daily life and death adventure of going to school. This has been going on for many years.

Out of the Dark

One day, not so long ago, a Filipino born and U.S. trained doctor visited these isolated lands and saw the great need. She established a non-stock and non-profit foundation called Green Earth Heritage Foundation. A donor gave a generous parcel of lands and she began to introduce positive livelihood, literacy and lifestyle practices to this poor community. A community of hope was born. Many farmers turned their backs on insurgency and embraced the organic method of farming to produce healthy crops that are now being marketed in the metropolis.

As this true story was shared countlessly in many ways, a network began to form. The children began to receive many basic supplies most children take for granted. A modest Literacy Center was constructed for them too.

For so long, these poor children were not only deprived of material blessings, but also of their basic rights as a child such as dignity and freedom to learn in a safe and happy environment.

They learned to enjoy every moment of each class hour and felt sad when it was time to go home. They felt at home with the gentle teacher and the safe and comfy center. The Literacy Center was built right within this isolated community. The travel time has shortened and they are no longer fatigued or compelled to cross the river.

This story does not end where this article ends. The story will continue as there are so many more adventures to unfold.

As we open classes this June, we are still raising funds so that we could continue school operations. I have personally adopted this school. Our students “adopted” the children as their buddies. Generous individuals and corporate partners support us as we operate this school. Beautiful things take time. It will take us time to realize the full dream. But we are currently operating conservatively as funds allow.

If you are a blessed parent desiring to share your blessings, contact or

Thursday, 9 June 2011

The PSE crystal ball

Business Mirror

Times are tough when all you have left to rely on for good news is the stock market.

From “Ever since talk began surfacing of the ending of QE2 this month, the stock market has rolled over on the technical price charts. The more convinced the markets have become that the Fed was going to take away the fun and games, the further the equity markets have dropped. It has now reached a point where the stock market is threatening to take out a critical support level. Should it do so, consumer confidence, already reeling from high foreclosure rates, falling property values, soaring gasoline, food and other energy prices, and a lackluster jobs situation, would immediately plummet.

The one thing that has helped keep some of the population from becoming completely depressed has been the fact that they could look at their 401K programs and still see that those were in the plus column for the year. In other words, while the rest of the world was seemingly going to economic hell, at least they were making a bit of money on their retirement accounts.”

The only thing that is keeping the US stock market alive is Quantitative Easing (QE); money printing. The trillions in stimulus money and government budget deficit has not done anything to get the US economy going, but it has kept the stock market alive.

However, there is good news for the US stock market. Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke said QE will continue in one form or another in spite of the fact the QE2 is supposed to end on June 30. But a program of QE3 is a sword that cuts both ways. If the economy is starting to recover, no need for QE3 and stock prices will grow on the back of economic recovery. If there is a need for QE3, then the stock market will continue to feed at the trough of government deficits but the economy is still very sick. And the US economy is still in “intensive care.”

Closer to home on the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE), government policy and administration actions are being reflected in stock prices and the reflection is not good. In late April, the future looked much rosier with the All-share index reaching a historic high. Since then, the index has fallen nearly 5 percent.

More worrisome for market watchers is that in the first week of April, the prices were ready to reach historic highs on the PSE Index. Momentum was strong and even building. Individual shares were performing well. There was confidence in the air. The market had regained all of its early 2011 losses.

But since the end of April, any attempt at prices going higher has been met by a wave of selling. The market entered an indecision/hesitation period, which can be a good thing as it allows weak shareholders to get out and new money to come in at lower prices.

After this hesitation period, we should be entering the “two steps forward, one step backward” phase. Investors are worried that it may be too soon to buy and yet are also worried they might be too late as prices go up quickly. That would be the true start of a strong upward rally.

Stock prices need to break and hold above 4,300 in the next two weeks or we will probably see a fall to the 4,160 area and a move to 4,150 could easily target a drop to near 4,000.

It is no coincidence that the indecision/hesitation period in the stock market marked the same indecision coming from the administration regarding Mar Roxas’s role in the government. Theoretically, now that it is clear where Mr. Roxas will be placed, there should be a positive reaction.

However, there are many sub-currents disturbing investor sentiment. The postponing of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) elections is not favorable for stock prices medium term. Anyone with contacts in the South knows that the reaction in the ARMM is not good and could even prove dangerous to the fragile peace situation in Mindanao.

Talk in the mining community that the administration is seriously considering and looking at ways to disturb and change the ancestral domain rights to further centralize control of mineral licensing could create a resurgence of New People’s Army activity. The government might find itself facing a two-pronged attack on “Imperial Manila.”

Investors are now worried and stock prices are the only meaningful indication of “money” sentiment. The crystal ball of the PSE will tell us the short-term future of the Philippines.

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

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Beware of US Optimism on Economy: McDonalds Hires 62,000, Turns Away Over 938,000 Applicants For Minimum Wage, Part-Time Jobs

Tyler Durden

This is what the US economy has been reduced to: McDonalds reports that as part of its employment event to hire 50,000 minimum wage, part-time (mostly) workers, subsequently raised to 62,000 it received a whopping 1 million applications, or a Tim Geithner jealousy inducing 6.2% hit rate (h/t X. Kurt. OSis). Alas, the US economy is now so pathetic that the bulk of the population will settle for anything. Literally anything. And the saddest part: over 938,000 applicants were turned away. Here's hoping to Burger King needs a few million janitors in the immediate future too. And yes, aside from reality, things in America are really recovering quite nicely.

Philippine Coast Guard exam results

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Services touted as next big export for Manila

By Darwin G. Amojelar, Senior Reporter
Manila Times

THE services sector is a viable option for the Philippines to diversify its export as trade in goods is no longer the only vehicle, according to a World Bank study.

In a draft study titled, “Exporting Services: A Developing Country
Perspective,” Sebasti?n S?ez, World Bank senior trade economist and one of the authors of the report said the experience of exporting outsourced business services in the Philippines shows that by creating an enabling environment where the private sector can deploy its creativity, developing countries can reap the benefits that services exports opportunities are opening.

“Service sector performance critically depends on human capital, the quality of the telecommunications network, and the quality
of institutions,” S?ez said.

The report said services exports as a percent of total exports increased from 9 percent in 1999 to 21 percent in 2009 in the Philippines.

Its services exports rose by 3.6 percent on average per year during the period, higher than that of Asia as a group, which averaged 1.5 percent a year.

Unlike many developing countries, the Philippines has been a net exporter of services since 2006.

The Philippines is the third largest player in the global business process outsourcing (BPO) sector, accounting for 15 percent of the worldwide market, after India with 37 percent and Canada, 27 percent.

“That’s a tremendous achievement in just over a decade,” Bert Hofman, World Bank country director said.

Hofman said the liberalization of the Philippine telecommunications sector in the early 1990s improved the quality and efficiency of telecom infrastructure through greater competition.

“That’s a very important factor for the success of the industry. But the bigger story is really the rich human capital that the country possesses and which it has to continue to nurture,” Hofman said.

Fred Ayala, chairman of Business Process Association of the Philippines (BPAP) said the BPO sector employs close to 500,000 people and has generated about $9 billion worth of exports in 2010.

The industry, he said, has agreed to an aggressive goal of $25 billion in annual revenues by 2016 and a direct workforce of 1.3 million.

“There is an urgent need to develop supervisors, middle managers, and more skilled workers to respond to increasing market demand for a broadening array of knowledge-based, complex services,” Ayala said.

“Additional investments in human capital, strengthening of intellectual property rights through the passage of a comprehensive data protection law, and improvement of quality control may further promote the growth of high-value-added activities within the BPO industries not yet fully exploited in the Philippines and successfully tapped by other countries, such as India,” he added.

The World Bank report also highlights the importance of developing the tourism sector. Tourism accounts for about 6 percent to7 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and directly employs about 3.5 million people. The report said that tourism could contribute more to help address poverty should reforms outlined in the National Tourism Development Plan (NTDP) be effectively implemented.

The study says major impediments to tourism competitiveness are largely associated with weak ground and air transport infrastructure—roads, railways, ground transport network, and airports. Weak physical infrastructure lowers accessibility to tourism destinations and discourages private sector investments in accommodation facilities.

Daniel Corpuz, Department of Tourism undersecretary, said the government has begun to put in place important reforms that will increase tourism arrivals in the country.

He cited the liberalized air policy in selected international airports outside Metro Manila.
“More reforms are underway to transform the Philippines into a ‘must experience destination in Asia,’” Corpuz said.

He said the NTDP seeks to improve market access and connectivity with the country’s major tourism markets, upgrade tourism transportation and infrastructure through public-private partnerships and improve institutional and human resource capacities.

Where is the economic-warning alert?

Business Mirror

The State of the Nation Address will be delivered to the people of the Philippines soon, and it will be interesting to see if there are any comments at all regarding government policy and specific plans in light of the continuing global economic crisis.

The motto of this current government might be “All politics, all the time.” That is not to say that any efforts to control, if not eradicate, official and bureaucratic corruption are wrong. However, it is important in understanding corruption in the Philippines that corruption and politics are intertwined and inseparable. Equally important to understand is that any inroads into solving the problem of government corruption is not the ultimate solution to furthering Philippine economic progress.

While corruption certainly dampens and hinders economic growth, economic policy will determine responses to and solutions for the worldwide economic problems that the Philippines must operate within.

Having said that, the economic “salvation” of the Philippines will not be found in the halls of the government. It will be found in the attitude and actions of the millions of Filipinos who have placed their hard-earned capital at risk to establish businesses, in the intelligence and expertise of the people who operate those businesses, and in the labor and skill of the tens of millions of employees who are the lifeblood of the private sector.

Therefore, while the government may prefer to ignore, at least publicly, the economic storm that is swirling around the country, you and I do so at our own jeopardy and danger.

But as I say, the Philippine government seems to want to ignore present-day realities, but you cannot afford to be ignorant of the situation.

The last couple of weeks have seen reports from the Western economies that are as economically earth-shattering as Japan’s earthquake/tsunami. Then, the Philippine government sent out a warning to take shelter; this time, there is no warning.

Do not think that the Philippine government is different by keeping the true condition of the global economy from the people. Those nations most affected are the worst.

The simple way to describe the fluctuations of economic data over the last several months, even back into 2010, is “bottom bouncing.” This is a state of affairs when economic activity goes to a very low level, and then we see short-term blips to the upside. As in the price action of stock-market issues, these can truly be a bottom if external conditions changed for the better. However, if general conditions stayed the same, this bottom bouncing is only a pause before things get worse.

There was a small rise in economic activity in the US during April. Note these numbers. On May 3 gold traded at $1540 per ounce and the US dollar index was priced at 73. Gold fell to $1478 on May 17 and the dollar index rose to 76.36 on May 24. Yesterday gold traded at $1546 and the dollar was trading at 73.8. The euro made the round trip from 1.49 to 1.397 back to 1.463 currently.

Whatever the blip in April, May economic numbers are terrible. From being “bailed out,” now Greece is closer to default and Spain has come into the default game.

One way of measuring the severity of the government debt crisis is to look at Credit Default Swaps (CDS). This is basically an insurance policy against loan default for lenders to governments. The CDS price is constantly changing as risk increases. The year 2011 was supposed to be the time of recovery of sovereign debt. That’s what all the Western government economic experts said would happen. Except, since January 2010, the cost of the CDS insurance is way up in percentage terms; Greece 40, Portugal 33, US 19, Malaysia 9.5, China 8, Peru 12, Japan 18 and Thailand 22 percent. The Philippines’ CDS has increased 6.8 percent.

Global inflation is going through the roof even in unexpected places. While the government is rightly concerned about the Philippines’ 5+-percent inflation rate, look at other countries; Vietnam is -19.8, Turkey is -7, Pakistan -13, India -9.4, Indonesia -6, France at 3.7 is the highest there in 12 years, and the UK is at 4.5.

As another indication of how fortunate we are in the Philippines, most of all these governments, including the US, subsidize the price of certain basic commodities, and yet they still cannot keep prices down. Our economic system is much sounder and stronger.

But the official numbers do not give a true picture for the consumer. Look at this empirical evidence of price increases in the US. Lettuce has skyrocketed 28 percent since last year, while an ear of corn up 50 percent from last year. Tomatoes are up a staggering 86 percent. Ground beef is up 12 percent. Ice cream is up 5 percent, beer up 2.4 percent and coffee has increased by 14 percent nationwide. Over the past year the cost of gas has increased by 34 percent.”

On the deflation side, the average cost of a home in the US is down 33 percent from the 2007 peak. The most housing prices fell during the Great Depression was 31 percent, and there is still no end in sight.

On the consumption side, the numbers are terrible. Crude-oil fuel products run an economy. In the US, total commercial petroleum inventories increased by 7.2 million barrels last week. Total products supplied over the last four-week period has averaged nearly 18.7 million barrels per day, down by 5 percent, compared with the same period last year. There is no economic recovery. It is only getting worse.

Does government influence our daily economic lives? Most certainly. A US congressional joint economic committee report confirms that the Obama administration’s monetary policies have added approximately 56.5 US cents to the price of every gallon of gasoline.

Likewise, smart policy can have a beneficial effect.

The government needs to speak directly to the global economic crisis and its related economic policy and plans as things get worse. The Philippines cannot wait for the storm before sending out the danger alert regardless of the politics.

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

New Numbers, Same Old Song

by Steven W. Mosher
Population Research Institute

What are the population controllers to do when birth rates keep falling? Why, put pressure on the demographers in their employ to fudge the numbers, of course.

You will be glad to learn that we all have official permission from the UN people-counters to panic about about “overpopulation” — yet again.

The U.N. Population Division apparently decided that its earlier predictions about world population growth were too restrained. So it upped the ante in its 2010 report, revising almost all of its numbers upwards. According to the new numbers, the world's population will reach 9.3 billion by the time 2050 rolls around — or several hundred million higher than earlier predictions. Not only that, instead of beginning to fall at that point, the UN now claims that the numbers will continue to grow until the end of the century, reaching 10.1 billion in 2100.

But these new predictions fly in the face of all we know about human fertility. It turns out that every last one of the factors affecting fertility — with the sole exception of advances in reproductive technology — are moving in an anti-natal direction. Factors like age at marriage, age at first child-bearing, educational levels, etc., are all tending to lower fertility. Birthrates are falling everywhere, farther and faster than anyone thought possible several decades ago.

The UNDP itself admits that 79 countries, including several dozen in the less developed world, now have fertility rates that are below the level needed to ensure the long-term survival of the population. Most of the rest, everybody except the UN now seems to know, are likely to cross this demographic fault line over the next few decades.

Whistling in this looming demographic darkness, the UNDP blithely predicts that people in low fertility countries will suddenly become enamored of babies again. You got that right. They predict, without providing a shred of evidence, that birthrates will somehow gravitate to the replacement levels again.

What planet are they living on?

Many of today's young adults in Europe, Latin America, Asia and elsewhere are too enamored of sex, the city, and the single life to think about marriage, much less about replacing themselves. A single Swedish woman may eventually bear one child as her biological clock approaches midnight, of course, but she is unlikely to bear a second. What was supposed to be the perfect family — a boy for you and a girl for me and heaven help us if we have three — has been scorned by moderns on their way to extinction. The declining number of traditional families has been unable to fill the fertility gap thus created.

The UNDP is supposed to be objective in its predictions, but its latest batch of junk science suggests that it has become anything but. In fact, after the retirement of Director Joseph Chamie, its prognostications seem more and more driven by politics. At the very least, it has produced numbers that tend to show population growth as far more exuberant than it really is.

The reason for this, I fear, is that the UN Population Fund provides part of the UNDP budget — and the UNFPA is first, last, and always a population control group. The UNFPA seems to be using its funding to “leverage” the UNPD into producing numbers that the UNFPA can in turn use to justify the continuation and expansion of population control and abortion.

There is a real population crisis, of course. I am speaking of the crisis of aging and dying populations, for which there seems to be no easy solution. It is a crisis that, by reducing the amount of human capital available, will have a dramatic and neative impact on every aspect of life. Peter Drucker, the late management guru, wrote way back in 1997 that “The dominant factor for business in the next two decades — absent war, pestilence, or collision with a comet — is not going to be economics or technology. It will be demographics.”

Drucker was particularly concerned with the “increasing underpopulation of the developed countries,” but a decade later this reproductive malaise has spread even to the less developed world, and is a truly global phenomenon.

The UN needs to stop spending time, money and resources trying to solve a problem that we've never had. Science shows that the world's population is due to fall dramatically, not rise uncontrollably. To recklessly seek to curb procreation in countries that are, or soon will be, dying will only compound the tragedy.

People are our greatest resource. Everyone, rich or poor, is a unique creation with something priceless to offer to the rest of us.

Steven W. Mosher is the President of the Population Research Institute.