Tuesday, December 2, 2014

...the APEC 2015 host

PHL launches Apec 2015
By Virgil B. Lopez
Monday, December 1, 2014
The Philippines will host the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit in 2015 with the theme "Building Inclusive Economies, Building a Better World."

PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III told fellow government officials and businessmen on Monday that the world will witness next year how the Philippines has taken strides to achieve inclusive economic growth.

Speaking at the launch of the 2015 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit in Makati City, Aquino portrayed the country as a good example of treading progress without leaving others behind.

"This 2015, visitors from Apec economies will witness for themselves the vibrancy of an inclusive and growing nation...They will encounter our greatest resource: Our people, who are kind, compassionate, and talented beyond measure. And they will see for themselves an archipelago connected through a web of inclusiveness," he said.

Next year's summit, a gathering of the world's 21 most dynamic economies, will carry the theme "Building Inclusive Economies, Building a Better World," as Aquino called on Filipinos to "strive to continue being a prominent example of how economic growth should be."

The Philippine economy has grown 6.3 percent in recent years (2010-2013), the highest consecutive four-year average growth since the late 1970s.

It also received credit rating upgrades and improved rankings in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Report and Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index.

"Of course, true success cannot be measured by these numbers and distinctions alone. Rather, it can be seen in how these gains have become meaningful to our people. After all, the only real growth is inclusive growth, which has been the north star of all our government’s initiatives," said the President, who rose to power in 2010 on the back of an anti-corruption campaign.

Aquino said this can be seen in the government's commitment in pumping more money to education and expanding the conditional cash transfer program, wherein the government will provide poor families with a monthly cash grant, in exchange for pregnant mothers undergoing regular health check-ups, and children being sent to school.

"This is inclusive growth: where economic progress enables the betterment of our peoples; and where those empowered peoples can open the doors wider to even greater progress, spurring a virtuous cycle of empowerment and continuous development," Aquino said.

After the speech, Aquino led the unveiling of the logo for Apec 2015, a globe with triangles bearing the colors of the Philippine flag (blue, red and yellow).

Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo, meanwhile, said the country's hosting next year is an opportunity to highlight the significance of the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the country’s economy, and their role and integration in global supply chains.

The country’s micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) account for 99 percent of the businesses, and contribute 65 percent of the jobs generated by all types of business establishments.
Meetings among ministers and senior officials of member economies will begin next week in Legazpi City. This will be capped by the summit of heads of government on November 17-18, 2015.

Apec, which includes powerhouses United States, China, Japan, South Korea and Canada, discusses ways to facilitate free trade and economic integration each year.

Asia Pacific is home to 40 percent of the world's population and controls 54 percent of global economic output and 44 percent of trade.

The Philippines last hosted the summit in 1996 under the term of then President Fidel Ramos. (Sunnex)


...the Miss Earth 2014

Miss Philippines is Miss Earth 2014


An owner of a dance company in Cebu won 2014 Miss Earth during grand coronation night held at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City Saturday night.

MissVenezuela Maira Alexandra Rodriguez; Miss Earth Water; Miss Earth 2014 Miss Philippines Jamie Herrel. Miss Russia Anastacia Westropp, Miss Earth Fire.Miss USA Andrea Neu, who won Miss Earth Air

Jamie Herrel, 20, owner of Mactan Dynamics Dance Company, bested 83 candidates from around the world to capture the Miss Earth crown. This is the second time that the Philippines won in the environment-driven beauty contest.

In 2008, the 14th Miss World Beauty Pageant saw Karla Henry, to the first Filipina to be crowned Miss Earth.

Other winners in this year’s contest were Miss USA Andrea Neu, who won Miss Earth Air; Miss
Venezuela Maira Alexandra Rodriguez; Miss Earth Water; and Miss Russia Anastacia Westropp, Miss Earth Fire.

Other candidates who finished in the Top 18 semi-finalists were representatives from Tahiti, Korea, Colombia, Scotland, Mongolia, Zambia, Brazil, Slovak Republic, Thailand, Egypt, Mexico and Spain.

Herrel, who stands 170 centimeters and measures 32-25-28 belongs to the Kagandahang Flores beauty camp, describes herself as hyper and adventurous.

She said “the Philippines is absolutely beautiful with their high mountains, blue beaches, their amazing sunsets, big waterfalls, the delicious food, the exotic animals, the hospitable people and so much more. It’s hard to promote one eco-tourism spot because the country itself is absolutely breath-taking and you can never get enough of the Philippines.”


...the California Wellness Foundation BOD

Fil-Am named to board of top California health grant-maker
Inquirer.net/US Bureau
02 December 2014

WOODLAND HILLS, California – Filipino-American investment executive Joe Lumarda has been appointed to the board of directors of The California Wellness Foundation (Cal Wellness), the foundation recently announced.

Joe Lumarda

Lumarda, senior vice president and investment counselor of Capital Group Private Client Services — a leading investment management firm in Los Angeles — was appointed to the board along with Debra Nakatomi, president of Nakatomi & Associates in Santa Monica.

Nakatomi and Lumarda were elected at the foundation’s September 2014 board meeting; they will commence their service on January 1, 2015.

“We are thrilled to expand our Board by welcoming Joe and Debra,” said Barbara C. Staggers, M.D., M.P.H., Cal Wellness’ Board chair. “They will both bring a wealth of knowledge from their vast experiences in the nonprofit, philanthropic and corporate sectors.”

Lumarda is a seasoned philanthropic business leader; he spent 16 years at the California Community Foundation in the roles of vice president for development, executive vice president and chief operating officer.

He is the board chair of the Center for Nonprofit Management, and a board member of Saint Joseph Healthcare Foundation, Pasadena Child Health Foundation and Southern California Grantmakers. (Lumarda’s full biography here.)

Lumarda said joining Cal Wellness’ Board feels like a natural fit.

“What I love about Wellness is its holistic focus,” Lumarda said. “I was raised to believe that wellness is not just about health care in terms of hospitals and clinics. It’s also about the health and safety of the community as a whole. With the Foundation’s new leadership, renewed strategies and a focus built upon its legacy, it’s an excellent time to be joining the Board.”

Nakatomi is president of Nakatomi & Associates, a Santa Monica-based communications firm dedicated to advancing social change, promoting equity and designing awareness initiatives for nonprofit, public and private organizations committed to social good.

Debra Nakatomi

She has served regional, national and global organizations committed to expanding philanthropy for women and girls, promoting health equity and advancing wellness for underserved communities.

Nakatomi is former board secretary and international commissioner for Girl Scouts of the USA and chair-elect of the Little Tokyo Service Center Community Development Corporation. (Nakatomi’s full biography here.)

Nakatomi says she has admired the Foundation’s steadfast commitment to funding key health issues.

“Over the years, I’ve been a partner and an observer of the Foundation and have witnessed the impact of its sustained attention on such issues as violence prevention and increasing diversity in the health professions,” Nakatomi said. “I believe the role of a funder is to support community voices through policy advocacy, public education and being responsive to the needs of all communities.”

“I am so pleased to welcome Joe and Debra to our distinguished group of trustees,” said Judy Belk, Cal Wellness’ president and CEO. “They are both passionate about addressing disparities in our state and using expertise in their respective fields to advance health and wellness in California.”

To view videos of Lumarda and Nakatomi commenting on their appointments, please visit the Sound Bites page on CalWellness.org.

The California Wellness Foundation is a private independent foundation created in 1992 with a mission to improve the health of the people of California by making grants for health promotion, wellness education and disease prevention.

Since its founding in 1992, Cal Wellness has awarded 7,523 grants totaling more than $899 million.


...the NYC human rights chair

Fil-Am named chair of New York human rights commission

Momar Visaya
AJPress/Inquirer.net News Partner
02December 2014

NEW YORK CITY—Mayor Bill de Blasio recently announced his appointment of Carmelyn P. Malalis as the new chair of the City’s Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), acting on his commitment to promote New York City’s progressive human rights law and effective community relations in a diverse city.

New Chair of NYC Commission on Human Rights Carmelyn P. Malalis. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Malalis joins two other Filipino-Americans currently serving in key posts under de Blasio administration – Minerva Tantoco as the city’s chief technology officer and Maria Torres-Springer as the head of the Department of Small Business Services.

“I’m confident that with Carmelyn at the helm of CCHR, this agency will be a robust enforcer of our fundamental civil rights and improve community relations among New Yorkers throughout the five boroughs,” de Blasio said in a statement.

“Hailing from Brooklyn to Brazil and ranging from rabbis to pastors, today’s appointees represent a diverse, progressive and exceptionally qualified group sharing an unwavering commitment to safeguard the rights and dignity of all people in New York City.”

The appointment happened three weeks after Public Advocate Letitia James called on de Blasio to fire the current CHR Commissioner Patricia Gatling.

“New York City has some of the strongest anti-discrimination laws in the country,” James wrote in a letter published by the Observer.

“Unfortunately, due to a moribund agency culture that results in lax enforcement the citizens of this City do not fully benefit from these laws,” James added.

Malalis, most recently a partner at Outten & Golden LLP and the co-chair of the firm’s LGBT Workplace Rights and Disability and Family Responsibilities Discrimination practice groups, is a highly regarded and accomplished attorney who brings years of experience representing and advising clients in employment discrimination litigation, as well as other employment-related matters.

During her time at Outten & Golden LLP, Malalis successfully represented employees in matters involving claims of sexual harassment and discrimination based on race, national origin, sex, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, age, pregnancy, disability and religious discrimination, among others.

The new chair and commissioners will be charged with leading the agency’s efforts to enforce New York City’s Human Rights Law—one of the most comprehensive civil rights laws in the nation—and with educating the public about it and encouraging positive community relations.

“I commend Mayor Bill de Blasio on his appointment of Carmelyn P. Malalis as the new chair of the City’s Commission on Human Rights and his naming of eight new commissioners to the agency. These appointments strongly reflect the Mayor’s unwavering commitment to protect the human rights and dignity of people in our great city. I congratulate all of the appointees and wish them great success in their new positions,” said Council Member Mathieu Eugene.

Malalis, whose parents come from the Philippines, co-chairs the Diversity in the Legal Profession Committee of the American Bar Association Labor and Employment Law Section.

She is also a member of the New York City Bar Association’s Executive Committee. Malalis has previously served as an advisory committee member of the LGBT Rights Project at the Human Rights Watch, chair of the New York City Bar Association’s Committee on LGBT Rights, and board member of Queers for Economic Justice.

“I am proud to say I personally know many of the Mayor’s appointees to the City’s Commission on Human Rights, and I can attest to their integrity, dedication and commitment to protecting the rights of all New Yorkers,” said Council Member Daniel Dromm. “I commend Mayor de Blasio for revitalizing this very important commission.”

For the past decade, Malalis has worked as a partner at Outten and Golden LLP—one of the City’s premier plaintiff law firms—and its co-chair of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Workplace Rights Practice Group and the Family Responsibilities and Disability Discrimination Practice Group.

In these roles, Malalis has been tasked with a large litigation and negotiation docket, including class actions and individual client cases, and she advises clients on a broad array of employment-related matters. Malalis’s work also includes several advocacy and pro bono projects in collaboration with grassroots organizations and legal services providers advocating on behalf of low-wage and immigrant workers; LGBT employees; and women in the workplace.

Prior to Outten and Golden LLP, Malalis was a litigation associate at Sullivan & Cromwell LLP, and she has served as a judicial law clerk for the U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald L. Ellis.

Malalis earned her J.D. from the Northeastern University School of Law and received a B.A. in women’s studies from Yale University. She and her spouse live in Park Slope, Brooklyn, with their two children.

De Blasio also named eight new commissioners to the agency: Ana Oliveira, Catherine Albisa, Arnaldo Segarra, Domna Stanton, Steven Choi, Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, Jonathan Greenspun, and Reverend Dr. Demetrius Carolina.


Monday, December 1, 2014

...the PHL governance report

PHL climbs in World Bank's governance report

December 1, 2014

The Philippines rose in the World Bank's latest governance report, which bode well for the country's business climate in attracting more investments.
Based on the 2013 Worldwide Governance Indicators (WGI) report the Washington-based multilateral lender released Monday, the Philippines improved its rankings in four out of six indicators, showing that the Aquino administration’s agenda on good governance is creating a positive impact on how the world sees the country.
More than 200 countries and territories were covered by the global surveys for the 2013 WGI report.
It is a positive development that the Philippines has improved on tough indicators, National Competitiveness Council co-chair Guillermo Luz told GMA News Online.
"I agree that our ranking should go up as there's no question that the government has put up a lot of improvements in governance," he said.
"The WGI will be positive for the country as investors, credit ratings agencies always look at governance indicators," he noted.
In an e-mailed statement, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. said the country’s achievement in the area of governance complements the gains on the economic front – including maintenance of within-target inflation and stability in the financial system.
"These accomplishments will help attain the goal of a sustainable and a more inclusive growth,” he said.
In latest WGI report, the four indicators where the Philippines registered better percentile rankings in 2013 compared with 2012 were in “voice and accountability,” “political stability and absence of violence,” “rule of law” and “control of corruption.”
Under “voice and accountability,” the Philippines’ ranking improved to 47.9 last year from 46.9 percent in 2012, which means it fared better than 47.9 percent of the countries and territories covered.
Under “political stability and absence of violence,” the Philippines’ percentile ranking rose to 16.6 from 14.2.
Under “rule of law,” the country’s percentile ranking jumped to 41.7 from 36.5.

Corruption control
The biggest improvement was in the area of “control of corruption,” where the Philippine ranking leaped to 43.5 from 33.5.
The better ranking the four indicators is a welcome development for the Aquino administration, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima said in the same statement.
"International recognition of the Aquino administration’s good-governance agenda is vital in gaining confidence, which is necessary for our quest for even more investments,” he said.
In the area of “regulatory quality,” the Philippine ranking was unchanged at 51.7
It was only in the area of “government effectiveness” where the percentile ranking of the Philippines slipped, particularly from 57.9 to 56.9. The Philippines’ percentile ranking in government effectiveness has, nevertheless, improved since 2010 when it ranked 54.1 in view of improvements in the assessments from data sources used in the WGI.
The Philippines has made substantial leap in its WGI rankings since the start of the Aquino administration took the helm of government in 2010.
The most notable improvements from 2010 to 2013 were in the areas of “political stability” and “control of corruption,” under which the country’s rankings jumped in double-digit terms.
The Philippines’ latest ranking in “political stability” was up by 11.4 percentage points from only 5.2 in 2010. Political stability, as defined by WGI, reflects perceptions of the likelihood that the government will be destabilized or overthrown by unconstitutional or violent means, including politically motivated violence and terrorism.
Moreover, the Philippines’ latest ranking in “control of corruption” was up by 21.1 percentage points from 22.4 in 2010. WGI defines Control of Corruption as reflecting perceptions of the extent to which public power is exercised for private gain, including both petty and grand forms of corruption, as well as "capture" of the state by elites and private interests.
This pace of improvement since 2010 was faster than Indonesia’s 6.4-percentage point jump (to 31.6 from 25.2), Thailand’s 1.2-percentage point improvement (to 49.3 from 48.1), Vietnam’s 5.4-percentage point gain (to 36.8 from 31.4), and Malaysia’s 5.5-percentage point increase (to 68.4 from 62.9). – VS, GMA News

Saturday, November 8, 2014

...the stunning Island

The Philippines: a cruise around the stunning islands of Palawan

The Philippine island province of Palawan offers gorgeous beaches, aquamarine waters and secluded coves. Now, an ethical boat tour meanders wherever passengers choose to go, and offers a close-up of village life on the water’s edge

    Palawan’s El Nido bay and Cadlao island at low tide. Photograph: Alamy
The endless ocean, broken occasionally by sand-fringed islands, stretched before me. A salty breeze caressed my face and two magnificent sails billowed bright in the sunlight as we headed into the unknown. I was on an oceanic adventure, sailing across the Palawan archipelago in a replica of a boat that first crossed these Philippine seas more than 1,000 years ago.

My trip was a taster of a new tour by local company Tao Philippines, which offers off-the-beaten-track sailing holidays between El Nido, in the north of long, thin Palawan island, and Coron, further north, off Busuanga island. Taking in areas few tourists visit, it directs some of its profits to funding community projects across the islands.

The newly built boat, christened Balitik (which means “constellation of Orion” in Hiligaynon, a language of the Western Visayas region of the Philippines), was their latest and most ambitious project. We were to spend three days at sea, setting off from Coron and stopping at different islands each night, with only a vague route planned. Most of the journey would depend on the wind, the weather and the whims of the crew and guests. It was a chance to go off-grid and see Palawan’s beauty, untouched by tourism.

The day was perfect as we boarded – cotton puff clouds drifting across the sky, the luminous aquamarine ocean shifting gently. It was difficult to believe that just a year earlier, typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest storms in recorded history, tore across this region, leaving 8,000 people dead or missing and four million displaced. By the time it hit Palawan, in the south-west Philippines, its force had waned, but small island communities were devastated.

Gradually, people here have been putting their lives back together, with Tao Philippines at the forefront of the mission to deliver aid to the area. Today, there is little evidence of any damage in the region – though thousands are still waiting for new homes in the worst-hit areas, such as Tacloban and Guiuan, in the east of the country.

Balitik was something to behold. At 22 metres long, with room for 20 guests and a crew of nine, it is the largest boat of its kind in the Philippines today, a reconstructed paraw, the traditional Philippine outrigger sailing boat once used to transport cargo and passengers.

I had watched the boat’s development before I saw it in real life, following the trials and tribulations of its birth on a blog. Balitik was much bigger than initially planned, much costlier and much more demanding, but when I first laid eyes on it, I could see why the owners of Tao Philippines – British sailing enthusiast Jack Footit, Eddie Brock, a Filipino who met Footit while waiting tables in Edinburgh, and Gener Paduga, an avid sailor who grew up in Palawan – had put their heart and soul into the project.
Accommodation at one of Tao Philippines’ base camps.
Now, three kayaks were shuttling back and forth between the shore and the boat, bringing supplies and guests on to its bobbing deck. A flurry of activity on board signalled our imminent departure, as the crew scuttled into position, gathering up the ropes. Datu, the boat’s jack russell, scampered to attention. Balitik was ready to set sail.

I settled in, putting my bags below deck and chatting to Eddie, Gener and Lito, a former smuggler turned boat captain. Gener showed me around the captain’s den, pointing out the old navigation devices, used when sailors relied much more heavily on the constellations. Aside from modifications to make the boat more reliable and comfortable than its ancient counterpart (including a motor for windless days), a lot of effort had gone into recreating an authentic experience of traditional boat life.

Vegetables hung from the roof of the kitchen – originally a measure to stop rats getting to them on long journeys, though thankfully no rats were to be seen, and the crew had brought along a pig, as is the tradition, to eat any leftovers.

Days rolled by at a leisurely pace. I sprawled under the decks’ canopies, mesmerised by the shimmering ocean, and watched occasional passing fishermen making their rounds of pearl farms. As the sun crossed the sky, I too shifted position, finding cosy nooks within the mesh of ropes snaking across the boat. Two nets at the prow soon became my favourite viewing pouch and siesta spot.

Aerial view of the Palawan archipelago.
Several times a day we’d stop to explore secret snorkelling spots, hidden caves or picture-perfect bays. I donned my snorkel and mask and dived into the cool deep blue, seeking sunken wrecks, stingrays and schools of tropical fish.

In the evenings we moored at the islands where Tao has base camps. First was Pinagbuyutan, where a dense, knotted jungle crept up to the mangrove-fringed shore. The low hum of crickets, cicadas and lapping waves accompanied me as I strolled at sunset to my hut on the beach. The paradise landscapes of Cadlao island, with its virgin chalk-white sand backed by limestone cliffs, could indeed have been the inspiration for Alex Garland’s novel The Beach. He was living in the Philippines when he wrote it.

Some nights, I basked in the rawness of nature; on others I laughed and played with village children, who would show me their favourite swimming spots or beachcombing treasures. When we docked at one island, a boy ran up to me and ushered me to his hut, where his pig had just given birth. He proudly showed me the heavy mother and her dozens of suckling piglets.
Gener fishes from the back of the boat.
Gener fishes from the back of the boat.Photograph: Aya Lowe
Gener would fish from the back of the boat, and when I wanted to hide from the wind and the sun, I retreated to the kitchen, which was always bustling with activity and smelled strongly of coconut milk or grilled fish. Meals were Filipino food at its most basic and tasty, using ingredients found around us. Stuffed squid marinated delicately in calamansi (a type of lime), curries of vegetables grown in Tao’s organic gardens, grilled grouper fish and banana lotus. Dinner became a theatre of food, and I dug my feet into the sand and sipped rum and pineapple cocktails while colourful fish and squid were brought out to be grilled.

Relaxing on Balitik
Relaxing on Balitik
As the days passed I learned more about the scale of the project to recreate a paraw from the crew. Eddie, Jack and Gener had hatched the idea because they wanted to revive the Philippine sailing traditions that had almost died out with the arrival of the motorboat in the 1970s. Only a handful of small traditional sailing boats exist for show, in tourist hotspots such as Boracay.
Finding men to build the boat had been the initial hurdle. There were no blueprints or diagrams. Knowledge of boat-making was passed down from generation to generation, so they searched the Philippines to find three master carpenters who still remembered the traditional structure: Jaime Maltos and Bernando Conche from Palawan, and Celso Conde, a boat builder from the Sulu sea to the east. After two years of research and building (five types of wood were used), they fulfilled their dream and successfully launched the largest paraw in the Philippines.

For the traveller who wants to go where few tourists have gone before, the trip is a dream come true. Traversing these seas by boat is really the only way to explore the remotest islands and discover their rare beauty. And a tour that doesn’t adhere to any particular schedule, that changes and evolves depending on the weather and the whims of its passengers, yet takes care of everything, is hard to find.

The fact that our tourist pesos were helping the people on these islands get back on their feet again allowed us to bask in the glow of doing good, as we soaked up the culture, the food, and the glorious scenery of the open sea.


Friday, September 19, 2014

...the PH ranking in 2016

PHL seen in world's top 30% in competitiveness by 2016 – DTI's Domingo

September 19, 2013
GMA News
The Philippines is on track to being ranked within the top 30 percent economies in various competitiveness surveys by 2016, a Cabinet official said Thursday.

“We will be in the top 30 percent in most if not all competitiveness surveys... by 2016,” Department of Trade and Industry Secretary and National Competitiveness Council (NCC) public sector chair Gregory Domingo told a press briefing.

For example, Domingo said the Philippines competitiveness ranking in the World Bank's Doing Business report is seen increasing to the 62nd spot “or better” in 2016.

Based on the World Bank's Doing Business report, the Philippines ranks 138th out of 185 countrie

The World Economic Forum, on the other hand, recently moved the Philippines six places up to 59th in its Global Competitiveness Report of 148 countries.

Domingo said that government reforms creating a conducive environment “will be in place” by 2015.

“Once we achieve these reforms, doing business in the Philippines will be easier and that should improve our rankings,” he said.

At the same briefing, NCC private sector co-chair Guillermo Luz said the country is likely to improve its ranking by 20 to 25 places in the next Doing Business report next month.

“We have not been doing well in this report so we spent a lot of time reviewing this report,” he said, adding that the NCC's report sent to the World Bank shows improvement in eight out of the ten indicators being tracked.

Reforms cited include cutting down steps and days in starting a business, dealing with construction permits, getting electricity, registering property, getting credit, protecting investors, paying taxes and trading across borders.

Officials maintained that reforms are being undertaken not to improve the country's competitiveness ranking, but to attract more businesses and investments to the country.

“We are putting in reforms for entrepreneurs. If our ranking does not improve but more want to invest here, then we are competitive,” Luz said.

The government wants to seize the Philippines' favorable economic conditions – robust growth as well as healthy payments and fiscal position – by providing a more conducive environment for businesses and investments.

“Our relative competitiveness in Asia and ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] is the best it has ever been and will continue to improve,” Domingo said. – SOA/BM, GMA News