Sunday, May 24, 2015

...the Energy Globe awardees

Two Phl projects win Energy Globe Awards

MANILA, Philippines - The Energy Globe Foundation has selected two Philippine projects as winners of the Energy Globe Award, which proponents dub as the largest and most important environmental prize worldwide.
Founded in 1999 by Austrian energy pioneer Wolfgang Neumann, the awards are given annually to projects focusing on energy efficiency and renewable energies.
It covers more than 170 participating countries and over 1500 project submissions annually.
In the Philippines, the first winning project is the “Bell and Bottle: Low cost early warning system for landslide prone communities in remote areas” by David Manalo of the Farming Systems and Soil Resources Institute (FSSRI) of the University of the Philippines Los Baños.
The other winning project is by Apolinario Carino of the non-profit Pederasyon sa Nagkahiusang mga Mag-uuma nga Nanalipud ug Nagpasig-uli sa Kinaiyahan Inc. (Penagmannaki) dubbed as the “Rainforestation: A community-based forest restoration initiative on Negros Island.”
The two winners received an Energy Globe Certificate signed by Energy Globe Jury chairperson Maneka Gandhi and Energy Globe’s founder, Wolfgang Neumann.
The award for Dr. Manalo was presented by the Austrian Embassy – Commercial  Section on behalf of the Energy Globe Foundation last May 19,  while the award for Carino will be presented at a later date.
Dr. Manalo received the winner’s certificate from Commercial Counsellor Lisa Koscak and Albay Governor Joey Salceda.
According to the Energy Globe Foundation, Manalo’s Bell and Bottle innovation is as early warning system for landslide prone communities which are often in hard-to-reach areas where modern  transportation and communication facilities are lacking.
“The project established the critical rainfall rates at which landslides will most probably occur and the people were trained to use an empty soda bottle (cut into half and turned upside down) to measure the rainfall. Once the rainfall readings reached the critical rainfall levels, the people will hit the bells (made of old gas tanks) to inform and advice the whole community for preparation and evacuation to safe areas,” the Foundation said.
At least 20 villages have already benefitted from the project and no more casualties were reported in the project site since the installation of the Bell and bottle early warning system, according to the Foundation.
Carino’s Rainforestation project, meanwhile, involves restoration farming through the planting of native or indigenous tree species in combination with agricultural crops.
“The two-ha rainforestation demonstration site in Negros Oriental proved that planting indigenous and endemic trees can be done along with income-generating fruit trees, cash crops, ornamental plants and cut flowers which provided additional livelihood opportunities for the community,” the Foundation said, noting that six municipalities have adopted the program.
The Foundation will announce the other winners in other countries.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

...the Canada's Top Country for New Immigrants 2014

Philippines Was Top Source Country For New Immigrants To Canada In 2014

Canada Immigration News
MAY, 2015

More than 40,000 Filipinos became permanent residents of Canada in 2014, making the Philippines the top source country for Canadian immigration last year. The Philippines had previously been the top source country in 2012, with China having been the top source country in 2013.
Canada also issued nearly 47,000 visitor visas to Filipinos in 2014, a 56 percent increase since 2006.
The number of new permanent residents from the Philippines is up from 14,004 in 2004, a near three-fold increase in just one decade. Many of the Filipino newcomers originally came to Canada under the Live-In Caregiver Program, now simply the Caregiver Program after modifications made last November. The government of Canada’s immigration plan for 2015 states that it aims to convert between 26,000 and 30,000 caregivers to permanent resident status this year.
In just a few short decades, Canada’s Filipino community has grown to become one of the country’s largest immigrant demographics. The more than 700,000 people of Filipino descent in Canada make up one of the country’s larger diaspora communities, and this number is increasing constantly. Filipino workers in Canada are important to both the Canadian and Philippine economies. While workers in Canada help to fill important labour shortages, families and friends in the Philippines benefit from remittances sent from Canada.
About half of Canada’s Filipino population lives in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), with Vancouver hosting the second-largest Filipino population in Canada and Winnipeg also home to a large number of Filipinos.
“Oftentimes, individuals will first come to Canada as temporary workers, leaving spouses and children behind. But many Filipinos have also worked hard to bring their immediate families to Canada. Once permanent residence is achieved, they are then able to reunite with their families in Canada,” says Attorney David Cohen.
“Canada’s generous family sponsorship rules allow permanent residents to sponsor not only children and spouses, but parents and grandparents as well. These include the popular Parent and Grandparent Sponsorship Program as well as the new Super Visa Program, which offers long-term visitor visas to qualified applicants. The introduction of these family reunification programs has contributed to the upsurge in new arrivals from the Philippines.
“Within the broader Filipino community in Canada, we have observed success after success of smaller communities that have flourished across the country. The story of Filipino immigration to Canada is a story shared between a proud people and a welcoming land.”

Monday, May 18, 2015

...the PH economic growth

Philippines Growth Racing Ahead of Neighbors

  • By
  •   Wall Street Journal | 18 MAY 2015
President Aquino campaigned in 2010 on fighting corruption and reducing poverty.
Zuma Press
The Philippines’ economy is shedding its reputation as a laggard and outpacing others in the region—with the fastest growth rate among major economies in East Asia after China.
The country notched growth last year of just over 6%, and the central bank targets growth of 7% to 8% in 2015. That compares with 0.9% in Thailand and 5% in Indonesiain 2014.
For years, the Philippines was viewed as a sluggish economy marred by graft and bureaucratic inefficiencies.
President Benigno Aquino III, who came to power five years ago, has launched an anticorruption corruption drive and has focused on public spending to help lift growth.
The government is planning to spend $13 billion on infrastructure this year, up from $2.8 billion in 2010, and has earmarked $18 billion for 2016. Already this year, the government has approved six major projects with a price tag of just under $8 billion, including a 400-mile rail line connecting the capital of Manila to the southern province of Albay.
The Philippines has other advantages. It has a growing working-age population that speaks English, with more than 60% of the population between the age of 15 and 64. There’s a large overseas workforce that sends huge amounts of money home each month. And unlike many credit-addicted economies in the region, household debt levels are among the lowest in Asia.
“It’s going to be one of those countries that’s likely going to grow just because they’re getting a few things right, and those few things right are actually quite important,” says HSBC  economist Trinh Nguyen, referring to the Philippines’ low debt levels, improving governance and demographics. “Relative to everyone, I think they have a good story.”
All of this has helped to stoke demand, especially as inflation remains benign because of cheap oil prices. Last year, private consumption generated more than 60% of growth in gross domestic product, driven by a 5.4% bump in consumer spending and a 2.8% rise in employment.
Remittances, which make up about 10% of GDP, are crucial. Low wages at home have pushed many Filipinos to look abroad for work. Remittances have been growing at about 7% annually since 2009, writes ING. Data released last week showed remittances in March rose 11% on year to $2.1 billion, the fastest pace in six years.
There are risks to the Philippines’ outlook.  Exports contracted in the first quarter because of weak demand and a relatively strong Philippine peso. The currency has gained more than 7% against the euro this year, which led to slimmer remittances in January and February.
Slowing remittances are the central bank’s “biggest concern,” Ms. Nguyen wrote in a research note. About 15% of the Philippines’ remittances originated from the eurozone in 2014, according to Barclays BCS -0.37%.
Another risk is the country’s dependence on foreign investment in stocks and bonds, which can quickly be yanked out of the country if the U.S. raises interest rates later this year. That could force the Philippines to follow suit, stunting growth.
Portfolio flows for 2014 were $2.5 billion compared with just $800 million of direct investment, which is harder to pull out, according to data from Barclays.

Friday, May 15, 2015

...the Asia's Pride

4 Filipino 'Asia's Got Talent' acts bring pride to Philippines

By CNN Philippines Staff
15 May 2015

El Gamma Penumbra, Gerphil Geraldine Flores, Gwyneth Dorado, and the Junior New System brought pride to the country as they performed their finest pieces for the 'Asia's Got Talent' grand finals.

(CNN Philippines) — Filipino talent was abundant in the grand finals of TV talent show Asia's Got Talent as four out of the nine acts were from the Philippines.
El Gamma Penumbra, Gerphil Geraldine Flores, Gwyneth Dorado, and the Junior New System brought pride to the country as they performed their finest pieces for the Asia's Got Talent (AGT) grand finals.
Other acts were from Singapore (Dance Thrilogy), Thailand (Talento), Mongolia (Khusugtun), China (Gao Lin and Liu Xin), and Japan (Triqstar).
The winner will be announced on TV channel AXN on Thursday (May 14).  The prize includes $100,000 and an opportunity to perform at the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore.
The audience at home will ultimately determine who wins the first season of AGT.
Asia's Got Talent is hosted by Marc Nelson and Rovilson Fernandez. Grammy-winning musician David Foster, Taiwanese-American pop idol Vanness Wu, former Spice Girl Melanie C., and Indonesian rock icon Anggun judged the competition.
Know more about Filipino prides Gwyneth Dorado, El Gamma Penumbra, Gerphil Geraldine Flores, and the Junior New System.

Gwyneth Dorado


The talented 10-year-old songstress has always been interested in music. She's an all-around musical performer, having learned how to play the keyboard, piano, and guitar — mostly through YouTube tutorials.
Asia's Got Talent is the first talent competition she joined. 
When she is not practicing for her performances, Dorado is a typical student who tries hard to excel in school.
For her finals performance, Dorado performed a stripped-down version of Sia's hit "Titanium."

El Gamma Penumbra

Filipinos first heard of shadow play group El Gamma Penumbra when they became a finalist in Pilipinas Got Talent in 2013, but the whole world took notice when they became a finalist in the AGT.
The team members from Tanauan City, Batangas decided to join AGT for the reason that they wanted to experience the international TV stage and show what the world what they can do as performers.
That simple dream led them to realize that they now have an opportunity to honor the Philippines and to make the Filipinos proud.
Judge Anggun pressed her Golden Buzzer for El Gamma Penumbra, which automatically advanced them to the competition's semi-finals.
Their shadow play final performance featuring the song "Colors of the Wind" was a touching tribute to Mother Nature. Judge Anggun was moved to tears by the performance.

Gerphil Geraldine Flores

The 24-year-old powerful soprano singer has always been hooked to the classical music because she feels it transports her to a different world.
When AXN asked Flores as to what she will do with the prize money is she wins, she said she will help her family. Aside from that, she wants to help aspiring musicians to achieve their dreams.
Flores also joined Pilipinas Got Talent five years ago.
Flores is the second Filipino act to get the coveted Golden Buzzer when judge David Foster gave it to her — immediately sending her to the semi-finals.
She chose to sing 'The Impossible Dream' from the musical Man of La Mancha for her final performance.

Junior New System

The funky dance group Junior New System prides themselves as a group who performs hiphop with a twist.
They teamed up on 2009, and since then, they have dominated the dance floors where they perform.
In the semis, Junior New System received unanimous nods from the judges to head to the grand finals.
Prior to AGT, these young boys were named the grand winner in the National Commission for Culture and the Arts and the Arts NCCA Sayaw Pinoy in 2012 and 2013 in the Hip hop category.
The Junior New System showed off their dance moves to a song mash-up while clad in American football uniforms.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

...the Asia's most resilient economy

'Philippines resilient to external risks'

Posted at 05/12/2015

MANILA - The Philippines is expected to continue to hold up well to external headwinds as it has enough fiscal space to counter any global risks, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima said.

Purisima said the country remains one of the region’s most resilient to external shocks due to its sound fundamentals that compare well with many regions in the world.

“We have built ample buffers that strongly position the Philippines to weather changes in the external environment. We are less vulnerable to external risks, but we will never be complacent,” Purisima said.

Purisima issued the statement amid fears the US Federal Reserve will raise interest rates by June or September, its first rate hike since the financial crisis.

Countries that are still running large deficits are vulnerable to flight of capital if the US Fed raises rates sooner or more aggressively than expected. Some emerging markets are heavily reliant on foreign inflows to fund fiscal or current account deficits.

With higher US interest rates, corporations and banks that borrowed in dollars could face additional pressure if they don’t have matching revenues or assets.

Purisima said the Philippines has sustained current account surpluses that began in 2003 with foreign exchange reserves growing significantly on the back of steady remittance flows and a growing business process outsourcing industry.

Vulnerability to foreign exchange risk is tempered with the country’s heavy bias towards local currency. Interest payments have been locked at low rates with the country’s debt portfolio predominantly in fixed terms.

Apart from these, the ratio of the country’s external debt has dropped to 15 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) or 0.5 times the Philippines’ dollar reserves – one of the lowest levels in Asia.

Purisima noted that only four percent of external debt will be maturing within a year, reflecting an average residual maturity of over 11 years.

An improved export manufacturing sector has narrowed the trade deficit further easing balance of payment pressures.

Monday, May 11, 2015

...the First Filipino UK councilor

First Filipino borough councilor elected in UK

Miguel Sevida
Updated 12:35 PM, May 11, 2015
Cynthia Barker's win marks the first time any Filipino is elected to this level of public office in the United Kingdom

Miguel Sevidal
Updated 12:35 PM, May 11, 2015
HISTORIC WIN. Conservative party member Cynthia Barker becomes the first Filipina elected Borough Councilor in Hertsmere in this 2015 United Kingdom elections. Photo from Gene Alcantara's Facebook page
HISTORIC WIN. Conservative party member Cynthia Barker becomes the first Filipina elected Borough Councilor in Hertsmere in this 2015 United Kingdom elections. Photo from Gene Alcantara's Facebook page
MANILA, Philippines – British-Filipina Cynthia Barker was elected as councilor of the borough of Hertsmere and councilor of the town of Elstree and Borehamwood in the recently held general elections in the United Kingdom Thursday, May 7.
As councilor, Barker will oversee the administration of Hertsmere, a local government unit in Hertfordshire, southern England, and one of Hertsmere’s local towns, Elstree and Borehamwood.
This marks the first time any Filipino was elected to this level of office in the UK, a feat met with delight from her kababayans.
Gene Alcantara, an immigration adviser based in London, said Barker’s victory is “a very encouraging wake-up call to the Filipino community in the UK” as it shows how Filipinos are empowered and represented in the British community.
Prior to Barker’s victory, the highest position a Filipino held in local government was town councilor. Previous campaigns for higher offices, including 3 candidacies for Parliament, were unsuccessful. Alcantara ran for Parliament in 2005 and 2010.
The recently concluded UK elections saw David Cameron returning as Prime Minister after the Conservative Party he leads won a majority of seats in Parliament, securing 326 of 643 seats.
In the making
In an interview with The Filipino Expat, Barker recalled how she arrived in the UK to join her mother, an overseas Filipino worker (OFW).
“[My mother] made the same sacrifice that most OFWs make, sent all her money home while she worked long hours to ensure that the family was well-fed and educated,” Barker said.
Since then, Barker has immersed herself in British society through studying and exploring the city. She admitted that she has “gotten used to Western ways and got accustomed to the British way of life.”
But despite this, Barker has not forgotten the Filipino values her parents instilled. According to Barker, her Filipino values are what made it possible for her to adapt to British society.
Barker boasts an impressive list of political involvement and community engagement, which Alcantara attests to. In her local town of Elstree and Borehamwood, Barker is involved in the residents’ association, local church, primary school and Rotary Club.
“I have always been curious about everything that happens in our local town,” Barker pointed out.
Barker said she has always found politics important. A Conservative, Barker admired the way the party ran policy in her local town and got involved with their political campaigns even before becoming a full member.
Filipino involvement
Barker called on her fellow Filipinos in the UK to become more involved in British politics and community building.
“I hope that Filipinos will be encouraged and take an active part in the community and the whole of the country,” Barker said.
According to Alcantara, more political involvement from Filipinos is expected following Barker’s victory.
“The vital point about it is that British-Filipinos are participating in the political process,” Alcantara added.
He ultimately hopes for a Filipino to be elected as a Member of Parliament in the House of Commons, which he believes “will give [Filipinos] a voice in national politics.”
However, Alcantara is also wary of the challenge posed by apathy among Filipino voters in the UK. He hopes Barker’s victory will better encourage Filipinos to vote not just in the UK, but also in the 2016 Philippine national elections.
Barker remarked that Filipinos are recognized by the British and as a significant sector in the UK. “The British are open and they embrace us.”
This is in stark contrast to the disposition of British Filipinos in the 1980s when they were fairly new migrants. Alcantara added that from being a “hidden community,” Filipinos in the UK have gained significant visibility and representation over the years. –
Miguel Sevidal is a Rappler intern.

Friday, May 8, 2015

...the Philippines paradox

Philippines' Economic Development and the 'Pacquiao Paradox': Shining Individually, Whimpering Collectively

Richard Javad Heydarian Headshot

For years, I have covered the emergence of the Philippines as the darling of global investors. (In fact, a number of my works on HuffPo have focused on this issue.) After countless exchanges with economists, consultancy agencies, and businessmen in the country and beyond, it is quite clear to me that there is a growing sense of optimism (Keynesian "animal spirits") in and over the long-term economic potentials of the Philippines. Business confidence is building up.
Undoubtedly, the Southeast Asian country is once again on the radar. Certain macroeconomic trends are highly encouraging, particularly in terms of inflation and interest rates, projected annual growth rates, fiscal reforms, debt payments, gross foreign reserves and trade and investment inflows. Recent years have also seen growing regulatory predictability in the government and sustained efforts at closing the country's gnawing infrastructure gap.
Yet, sustained economic development doesn't take place in a vacuum. For the Philippines to become a true "tiger economy" in the coming decades, it has to also experience some changes in its cultural foundations.
A Country of Stars
I vividly recall a poster advertising "Filipino singers" in the elevator of an upscale hotel in Beijing when I was there for an academic visit few years back. Of course, there was nothing surprising about Filipino singers performing in major hotel chains. After all, from the Middle East to East Asia and North America, I constantly came across affable, highly competent, and extremely nice Filipinos, who were at the forefront of the hospitality and tourism business.
But what struck me was how, especially when it comes to singing, being a "Filipino" alone represents a brand. If you are Filipino, you are expected to be a great singer. Countless Filipinos, from Charmaine Clarice Relucio Pempengco to Christian Bautista, have made it big on the international stage. When it comes to singing and dancing, the Filipinos can compete with the best in the world, and often emerge as the indisputable victors. Not to mention, the Philippines' superpower status when it comes to beauty pageants. I have lost count of how many Filipinas (pure- or part-Filipino) have managed to make it to the top 5-10 contestants in every major global beauty contest.
No wonder then that many see the Philippines as the extension of Latin America into the heart of Asia, an island nation filled with the Iberian spirit of musicality and overflowing talent. In certain sports, especially the "Four B's" of basketball, billiards, bowling and boxing, the Philippines has also showcased its ability to go toe-to-toe with the best in the world. From the Philippines' impressive performance in the latest FIBA World Championship, to globally-renowned billiard wizards such as Efren "Bata" Reyes, Francisco Bustamente, Dennis Ocrollo, as well as world bowling champions such as Rafael "Paeng" Nepomuceno, it is clear that there has been no shortage of world-class talent in the Philippines.
Above all, perhaps, stands Manny "Pacman" Pacquiao, who is widely considered as one of the best pound-for-pound boxers of his generation. He is the first and only boxer to have won world championships in eight divisions, and his recent (controversial) loss to Floyd "Money" Mayweather should take nothing away from his impeccable legacy.
Yet, astonishingly the Philippines stands among few counties which have yet to win a single gold medal in the Olympics. Despite having one of the most articulate and talented journalists, lawyers, and artists as well as an army of engineers, doctors, and scientists, the Philippines is yet to break out of its "lower-middle income trap". And despite having among the world's best singing and dancing talents, it is South Korea's"K-pop" phenomenon, which is transforming the entertainment landscape in Asia.
The Philippines is a paradoxical nation, where individual glories often clash with a long history of collective disappointment.
The Anti-Asian Values
Singapore's late-founder, Lee Kuan Yew, was fond of talking about the peculiarities of the so-called "Asian Values" (AV). He always insisted that unlike Western countries, Asians are more predisposed to thinking and behaving in collective-communitarian terms, putting the interest of the family and broader community above their individual impulses.
"I don't think there is an Asian model as such. But Asian societies are unlike Western ones... [an Asian person] is not pristine and separate," Lee Kuan Yew argued in an interview with Foreign Affairs back in 1994. To be fair, the legendary Singaporean leader had a more specific notion of "Asia" in mind, since he was primarily referring to "Confucian countries" of China, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Singapore and Vietnam.
His Malaysian counterpart, Mahathir Mohamad, was even more all-encompassing in conceptualizing of and passionate in his advocacy for the notion of "Asian Values", consistently questioning the universality of liberal democracy, which is primarily found upon the principles of individualism, procedural accountability, and freedom of expression. Instead of embracing democratic capitalism as the ideological end point of history, he envisioned an alternative episteme anchored by principles of deference to authority, limits on individual freedom, and emphasis on hard work and economic productivity.
Obviously, the concept of "Asian Values" has been largely discarded by the experience of countries such as India, Indonesia, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, which have embraced liberal democracy, albeit with certain modifications, without necessarily becoming "un-Asian". For its critics, the AV concept has been largely dismissed as a thinly-veiled propaganda for autocratic leadership and, quite ironically, an orientalist perspective, which ignores the almost universal demand for Vox Populi and freedom of expression.

Among Asian countries, the Philippines perhaps stands as the extreme opposite of the so-called "Asian Values". It is a country where individualism and lively public discourse undergirds the body-politic, animating the conduct of day-to-day politics and the broader national political culture. It is a country where the mainstream media constantly prioritizes endless gossip about individual celebrities over deep strategic discussions about national interest and development.
It is a country where actors and entertainers are constantly overwhelmed by public attention, while intellectuals are constantly pushed to the margins of public discourse. It is a country where the interests of an individual and his/her family stand as concrete, tangible priorities, while notions of nation and nationalism are treated as largely abstract points of reference, fondly cited in poems, movies and history books.
Philippine Exceptionalism
To be honest, I am not very convinced with cultural theories on national development, always preferring to focus on the impact of trade and industrial policies, the state-building process, and the structure of opportunity in the global economic system. The concept of "culture" is itself too broad and imprecise, often interchangeable with religion, national psyche, or "institutions", which pertain to regularized practices that have gained value over time, shaping the behavior of societies and individuals.
A century ago, leading sociologist such as Max Weber dismissed the ability of Confucian countries such as China to ever catch up with the West, (mistakenly) arguing that Far Eastern cultures tend to emphasize submission, passivity, and spirituality over the mastery of nature and a hunger for material accumulation, which underpin capitalist modernization. Yet, the past decades have seen the likes of Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, and China emerging as history's greatest (capitalist) economic miracles. Confucian Vietnam is obviously in the midst of its own industrialization bonanza.
As Fareed Zakaria cogently points out in his Foreign Affairs interview with the Singaporean leader, "Cultures change. Under the impact of economic growth, technological change and social transformation, no culture has remained the same. Most of the attributes that Lee sees in Eastern cultures were once part of the West. Four hundred years of economic growth changed things."
Few recall how in the past even Germany and Japan used to be dismissed as non-Western countries, predisposed to autocratic rule. The European intellectual giant Jurgen Habermas' post-World War II personal project was precisely about transforming Germany into a more Anglo-Saxon like democratic polity. Today, Germany and Japan stand as among the most stable democratic societies in the world, untouched by the bickering and political paralysis that afflicts old democracies such as the United States and France.
Obviously, culture is malleable and subject to change. But in the case of the Philippines, decades of economic stagnation has gone hand in hand with cultural immutability. While a predatory oligarchy has instituted a "shallow capitalism", and exploited hollow electoral institutions in the country, a persistently individualistic/family-centered culture, in turn, has come at the expense of building a collective, national spirit, which has been instrumental to development of most countries in the region.
Perhaps, instead of just creating global stars, the Philippines should also develop a socio-economic ecosystem, found upon a progressive national culture, which nurtures the talents of and provides opportunities for fruition of the vast potentials of the broader Filipino population -- that is to say, every Juan/Juana de la Cruz. And the Filipino political leadership, media, and intellectual class should play a key role in this transformation. This is their sacred duty.