Monthly Archives: August 2007

Are call centers a boon or bane?

My column for UPI-Asia.

For a fresh college graduate who wants to earn more but prefers to stay in the Philippines, the most popular option is to work as a call center agent. Touted as the sunshine industry of the Philippines, the business process outsourcing, or BPO, industry has attracted hundreds of thousands of young Filipinos in recent years.

Last year, BPO companies earned more than US$3.5 billion employing about 230,000 workers. The call center sub-sector is the major component of the BPO industry, but other BPO services include medical transcription, software development, engineering and architectural design, human resource management services, legal transcription, back office and digital content.

The rise of the BPO industry reflects the phenomenal growth of the service sector. Unlike other Asian countries, the Philippine industrial and manufacturing sectors have been declining while the service sector increased significantly since the 1980s. In fact, half of the country’s employed labor force that used to be in agriculture is now part of the service sector.

The Business Processing Association of the Philippines is optimistic about the prospects of the BPO industry. According to its projection, BPO companies will employ more than 900,000 workers and revenues will reach US$12 billion in the next three years.

It also has an interesting study about the direct and indirect benefits of the BPO industry to the Philippine economy. For example, by the year 2010, BPO companies will spend US$5 billion in annual salaries and benefits, 2.4 billion Big Mac meals will be consumed, 230,000 middle-class houses will be built, 10 million iPods will be sold, 190 million Bench jeans will be used and 700,000 classrooms will be constructed from tax earnings.

Why is the Philippines an ideal investment destination for BPO companies? As the world’s third largest English-speaking country, the Philippines has a large labor pool of college graduates. The Philippines also offers the second lowest cost of operating a call center seat in the world next to India.

But industry players are also worried that the Philippines is quickly losing its competitiveness to other countries. They cite the "insufficient quantity of suitable and willing talent to fuel growth, lack of office space to achieve BPO target expansion, persistent perception of Philippines as a high-risk investment and existence of well-organized, well-resourced and highly aspirational competitors" (e.g. India, China).

Prof. Jorge Sibal quoted a 2005 study which identified the prevalence of natural disasters, security threats, data theft, high levels of corruption, slow government bureaucracy, high electricity costs, expensive telecommunications systems and the digital divide in the country as factors why the Philippines received a poor investment profile.

BPO companies are also complaining about the deteriorating English language proficiency among the youth. They blame the mismatch between the training of students and the actual needs of the industry. Alarmed by this issue, President Gloria Arroyo signed an Executive Order which made the English language as the medium of instruction in schools. Education agencies were instructed to improve training infrastructure for call center agents. Some public universities have begun hosting call center operations and a new curriculum was offered to students who are eager to work in call centers in the future.

BPO companies may be offering higher salaries but they also confront labor issues. The United States is the biggest market of BPO industry which requires call center operations during the evening. Graveyard shift workers are exposed to many health risks. They are also deprived of "socialization opportunities" with family and friends. The call center sub-sector is changing the nightlife of Manila. Bars, restaurants and convenience stores are open every morning to accommodate the night workers.

There is almost no labor union in BPO companies. Collective bargaining agreements can improve salaries and benefits of call center agents, especially the night shift workers. BPO employees admit that there are many companies which discourage the formation of labor unions.

A 2004 study highlighted some of the frustrating work conditions encountered by call center agents:

"Aside from working at ungodly hours, some work at the computer 7.5 hours a day, giving the same answers to the same questions. Workers are exposed to racist and insulting remarks and are not allowed to retaliate or hang up without the team leader’s permission. When dealing with an irate caller, they have to read a script three times to warn the caller of their improper behavior before they can drop the call. Worst, they are not supposed to be Filipinos when they talk to their callers."

Wilson Wy Tiu of the Philippine Employers and Labor Solidarity Partnership believes call center agents require psychiatric counseling. He thinks that mimicking a foreign culture every day has a negative impact on the mental health of workers.

Dr. Edgardo Espiritu, an economist and former government minister, cautions the current administration against relying on the BPO as a "major driver of sustained growth." He is worried that call centers make the Philippine "growth prospects too dependent on foreign economic cycles." He warns that BPO investments do not offer much opportunity in terms of technology transfers and linkages with other domestic industries. He notes that the BPO industry has a "limiting effect on the development of human resources in terms of acquiring new learning and skills."

Aside from nursing, call center jobs will remain the most popular career options for young Filipinos in the next few years. This is indicative of the failure of the domestic economy to produce adequate opportunities for highly skilled college graduates. The BPO industry will continue to raise government revenues and individual incomes while encouraging Filipinos to stay in the country.

But it is also dangerous to exaggerate the importance of the BPO industry. The government should put more emphasis on propelling the domestic economy as a whole rather than making public institutions and laws serve the needs of BPO companies.

It is not certain how long outsourcing will remain a profitable industry. Foreign firms can decide tomorrow if they want to shift outsourcing operations somewhere else. If that day comes, what will happen to call center academies? What is the alternative employment for English-speaking and insomniac call center agents?

Related entries:

Labor export
The doctor is out
Refugee nation

A year ago in Mongster’s Nest: The Philippine is becoming a refugee nation. Ambeth Ocampo inspired me to study history. The Petron oil spill in Guimaras and the delayed response from Congress. Who was the most active senior citizen in the House of Representatives? Terror plot in UK. Impeaching the Philippine president. From strong republic to enchanted kingdom. Gloria learned a lot from Tita Cory. Txtpower in the Philippine islands.

Random pictures from my photoblog.

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The Other Filipinos

Many Filipinos are not aware of the varied local cultures which thrive in the Philippine countryside. In fact, it may not be surprising anymore to learn that there are teenagers who can decide if they are kapuso or kapamilya but totally ignorant of their ethnic origins. It’s not just historical amnesia that plagues our youth but also the failure to appreciate our rich cultural heritage.

There are 110 ethnolinguistic groups in the country which could reach up to 10-12 million of the population. Most indigenous peoples or IP are in areas classified as public domain. Ancestral domains refer to hunting grounds, burial grounds, worship areas, bodies of water, mineral and other natural resources and lands occupied, possessed and utilized by IP communities since time immemorial. More than half of these communities are to be found in Mindanao.

The tribal communities which resisted Spanish and American colonization are now called ethnic minorities. They were the brave inhabitants of the Philippine islands whose resistance to foreign invaders enabled them to preserve their unique customs.

Let me enumerate some of the indigenous peoples of the country.

Negritos are present in northeastern, central and southern Luzon, Visayas islands and northeastern Mindanao. The most famous are the Aetas but other Negritos include the Agta, Agay, Ata, Ati, Batak, Dumagat, Remontado, Ebukid, Sambal, Mamanwa and Umayamnon. The Atis are the original residents of the world-famous Boracay Island.

It is incorrect to name all native inhabitants of the Cordillera and Caraballo Mountain Ranges in northern Luzon as Igorots. They should be distinguished as Ifugao, Kankana-ey, Ibaloi, Kalanguya, Kalinga and Tingguian.

The Mangyan group is composed of the Hanunuo, Buhid, Tadyawan, Iraya, Gubatnun; Alangan and Tau-Buhid. Other island groups include the Tagbanwa, Batak, Palaw’an, Molbog, Ken-uy, Ati, Sulodnon, Bukidnon and Kiniray-a. The indigenous peoples of Mindanao are called Lumads. Some of these ethnic groups belong to Higaonon, Manobo, Bagobo, B’laan, Mandaya, T’boli, Mansaka, Teduray, Subanen, Manguanguanon and Mamanwa.

Islamic Peoples used to inhabit most of Mindanao and Palawan. When we refer to Filipino Muslims, we are actually talking of 14 tribes: Sama Dilaut, Sama Jengeng, Badjao, Molbog, Jama Mapun, Maguindanao, Maranao, Tausug, Yakan, Sangil, Samal and Kaagan.

IP communities are either under threat of extinction or confronting subhuman conditions. According to the Stavenhagen Report in 2002, “human development indicators in IP communities are lower and poverty indicators are higher than those of the rest of society.” There are only 650 remaining Casiguranen-Agta in the northern Sierra Madre.

Gandelan Artiso A. Mandawa of the National Anti-Poverty Commission blames environmental degradation and development aggression as the major threats to IP communities. Less than a million hectares of forest are left in the country. This also means the loss of the IP way of life. Development aggression projects like dams, logging and commercial plantations not only destroy forestlands, they also displace IP communities.

Perhaps the greatest threat to upland tribes is the government’s current obsession to extract super profits from the country’s mineral wealth. In Palawan, there are more than a hundred mining applications. Expanded legal mining activities do not recognize the traditional ownership rights of IP communities over ancestral domains. Human rights violations occur when IP communities assert their right to oppose the entry of large-scale development projects. The exaggerated ‘war on terror’ of the government also threatens the peace talks with the Moro separatists.

Poverty has worsened in the country, but the situation is more alarming in the highlands. Some of our IP tribes are migrating to the cities. Some became beggars and prostitutes. Some were used to provide shallow entertainment for ignorant city dwellers.

In 1997 the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) was signed into law. It respects the “traditional resource management practices of IP communities and defines a process of recovery of lost ancestral domains.” But the law, aside from encountering the usual bureaucratic and insufficient funding issue, is in conflict with other land laws like the Mining Act and Agrarian Reform Law. There were ancestral domains which were also classified as agrarian and mining areas. Government should harmonize and resolve conflicting land claims. Ten years of IPRA did not enhance protection for IP communities. IPRA proved to be useless as government allowed big companies, including foreigners, to exploit land resources and privatize ancestral domains.

We should ditch the dangerous thinking that the Philippines should be managed as a Christian nation ruled by Tagalog leaders. This is arrogant, irrational and insensitive. We should teach the value of multiculturalism to our kids. We should not forget that the IP communities were among the original ‘majority’ groups of the Philippine islands. They became the ‘minority’ when they did not acquiesce to the unjust authority of the foreign invaders. We should exert our utmost will to prevent IP communities from being extinct.

Related entries:

The Other Radicals
Preserve Mineral Wealth
Imperial Manila

Two years ago in Mongster’s Nest: I wrote about the wealthy and powerful religious leaders of the country. I also discussed my one year stint as radio host. I expressed my opposition over the DepEd-Coke textbook deal. I uploaded my first youngblood article. A tribute for Raul Roco. And lastly, Raul Gonzales deserves to be locked at the Ward 7 of PGH.

Random pictures from my photoblog.

Street basketball is not a nuisance

Below is my article published by the Philippine Daily Inquirer four years ago. This piece was discussed in the De La Salle University Graduate School of Business through Dean Philip Juico who is my neighbor. I am publishing this in my blog in reaction to Mayor Fred Lim’s order to demolish street basketball courts.

(Believe it or not, I was a good basketball player during my elementary and high school years. I was a big fan of PBA, Ramon Fernadez, Kareem Abdul Jabar and Michael Jordan)

This refers to a news article in the Metro section last week about the banning of street basketball courts by the Metro Manila Development Authority.

I agree that basketball should be played inside a gymn or covered court. The streets are for the passage of motorized vehicles and not for playing.

The truth is the youth does not want to play basketball in the streets. First, the game is disturbed once in a while by the passing of a car. Anybody who is enjoying a basketball game on TV will be much disappointed by a sudden power blackout. Just imagine the effect on a warmed-up player who has to stop playing since a tricycle needs to pass the street. Second, playing in the streets is risky. The constant flow of traffic may both harm players and the passengers of passing vehicles.

If the youth does not want to play in the streets, why do basketball courts proliferate in the streets?

It is the lamentable lack of sports facilities in a community that pushes our youth to use the streets as their playground. Barangays which are privileged to have proper basketball courts do not worry about the youth using the streets for playing. The fact remains that majority of our youth does not have access to these sports facilities.

Basketball is played in the streets not because the youth are undisciplined and deliberate law violators. Basketball needs to be played in a big open space. The lack of this space in our communities prompts the youth to invade the streets. Look at how billiards, another favorite pastime of Filipinos, are played inside houses or sidewalks, because it can be played even with little space.

I disagree that basketball courts in the streets cause so much traffic. Do we see basketball courts in major highways? Or even in the secondary roads? Street basketball courts are built in the least travelled roads because the youth does not want their game to be disrupted. And if that road by chance suddenly is used to decongest traffic in major streets, the youth themselves will place the basketball court somewhere else, somewhere away from traffic.

The MMDA order risks the total demolition of basketball courts in the streets disregarding the benefit it gives to the social fabric of our nation. The sense of belongingness in a community, camaraderie and fulfillment by playing basketball are something not to be underestimated. Parents would prefer their children to play basketball all day than use illegal drugs which are surprisingly accessible in all communities.

The MMDA has a skewed appreciation of things when it only sees traffic and violation of law in street basketball courts. It should also see the creative attitude and perseverance of the youth to put up a sport facility which the government has denied them.

I have to mention here the contribution of street basketball courts to Philippine basketball. Most of our best players today and as well as before were honed in the streets when they were young. As in any other competitive sports, players of basketball can become better by playing against many types of players. Who among our professional and collegiate players can claim that their skills were merely the product of playing basketball in gymnasium alone?

I fear for the future of basketball in Metro Manila, or if you will, the country. Basketball, at present, is both a spectacle and a lived experience. We watch basketball at night and play it the following day. We admire the grace and swift moves of Johhny Abbarientos on TV and we try to emulate it the next time we play basketball in the streets.

The MMDA order may result in a situation where basketball is a spectale for the many and lived experience for the few, those who have access to gymnasiums. Of course, we do not want basketball to be played only in arcades and appreciated by watching TV alone.

I agree that basketball should not be played in the streets. But before they tear down street basketball courts, they must replace it with a proper basketball court in the said community or else face the wrath of the beseiged youth.

Mga Basketbolista Magkaisa
(Originally published in http://www.tinig.com)

Babala: bawal na raw maglaro ng basketball sa kalye. Huhulihin ng MMDA ang sinumang lalabag dito at sinimulan na nga nilang magtanggal ng mga court sa dalawang barangay sa Sta. Cruz, Maynila.

Malaki ang aanihing galit nito mula sa mga kabataan sa maraming komunidad. Marahil pati mga magulang ay tututol sa pinakabagong pulisiya ng MMDA. Ilang beses ko ng narinig mula sa mga nanay na mas nanaisin pa raw nilang magbasketball ng buong araw ang kanilang mga anak, huwag lang gumamit ng droga.

Mahalagang bahagi ng kulturang popular ang basketball sa lipunang Pilipino. Kahit nagmula ito sa ibang bansa, lubusang tinangkilik ito ng mga Pilipino at higit pa ngang minahal kaysa sa ibang tradisyunal na laro. Hindi ba’t may namamayaning kaisahan na matalo na tayo sa lahat ng kumpetisyon sa SEA at Asian Games, huwag lang sa basketball (pasintabi sa mga manlalaro ng bilyar at bowling). Kahit sa UAAP at NCAA, alam ng mga estudyante ang standing ng kanilang eskuwelahan sa basketball pero hindi na nila iniintindi ang status sa ibang laro.

Paboritong proyekto ng mga mambabatas ang pagpapagawa ng mga basketball court. Sa katunayan, sa sobrang dami ng mga proyektong ito ay ipinagbawal na ng Kongreso ang paggamit ng pork barrel para sa mga basketball court.

Maraming artista at pulitiko ang nakilala dahil sa basketball. Bata o matanda, kilala si Jaworski o kahit si Jun Bernardino. Hinahabol ng BIR ang mga manlalaro ng PBA sa laki ng kanilang kinikita. Humihinto ang mundo kapag NBA finals.

Maging sa akademya ay tinukoy ang papel ng basketball sa paghubog ng sarili nitong lenggwahe na lalong nagpayaman sa pambansang wika. Walang institusyong nagdikta kung ano ang tama o mali, pero sa buong kapuluan ay may nabuong komon na wika ang mga manlalaro ng basketball na kahit ang mga walang hilig sa laro ay naiintidihan ito.

Sinisid ang bola, tirang palaka, agawang-buko, nangalabaw, buwakaw, ala-Jawo, tirang-Caidic, tambak, kapos – ang mga imaheng tinutukoy ng mga salitang ito ay nalikha sa mundo ng basketball at kayang sapulin ng halos lahat.

Ito ang basketball, tatak Pinoy. Ang pambansang libangan, paboritong laro’t kapuso ng bawat Pilipino. Nawala na si Thalia at ang Ghostfighter pero nandyan pa rin ang basketball. Malalaos ang Meteor Garden at mga soap opera ngunit mananatili pa ring matatag ang natatanging lugar at halaga ng basketball sa popular na kamalayan ng mamamayan.

Totoo na lumiliit ang bilang ng mga nanonood ng PBA. At nakakalungkot din ang pagdami ng mga Fil-Am samantalang maraming talento sa bansa ang hindi napapansin. Pero problema ito ng PBA at hindi ng basketball ng Pilipinas sa kabuuan.

Buhay na buhay ang basketball sa kalye’t mga komunidad. Hindi humuhupa ang pagsulpot ng mga liga sa bawat barangay.

Ito ang target ni Bayani Fernando: ang basketball sa kalye, ang basketball ng mahihirap.

Tama na dapat laruin ang basketball sa loob ng gymn at hindi sa kalye. Ang kalye ay ginawa para daanan ng mga sasakyan. Pero bakit ba makukulit ang kabataan at sa kalye itinatayo ang mga basketball court?

Kung tutuusin, ayaw ng mga kabataan ang maglaro sa kalye. Una, ito’y nakakasagabal sa paglalaro dahil kailangang huminto kapag may dadaang sasakyan. Tayo nga kapag nanonood ng laro sa TV at biglang nagbrown-out, hindi ba’t nakakabitin? Ano pa kaya ang pakiramdam ng isang manlalaro na nakabuwelo na sa paglalaro pero biglang mabibitin dahil may tricycle na kailangang padaanin?

Pangalawa, ang paglalaro sa kalye ay peligroso para sa mga manlalaro at mga pasahero ng mga sasakyang dumadaan. Sabi nga nila, ang bola ay bilog at hindi mo alam kung kailan, kanino at gaano kalakas ito tatalbog. Walang gustong masaktan at makasakit, lalo na ng mga naglalaro.

Kung gayon, bakit sa kalye pa rin itinatayo ang mga basketball court?

Ang kawalan ng sapat na pasilidad para sa paglalaro ang nagtutulak sa ating mga kabataan na gamitin ang mga kalye bilang alternatibong laruan. Ang mga barangay na may mga sports plaza ay hindi naman problema ang kalye na ginagawang basketball court. Kalakhan ng ating mga kabataan ay walang access sa mga pasilidad na ito.

Sa kalye itinatayo ang mga basketball court hindi dahil likhang suwail ang mga kabataan at hindi marunong sumunod sa batas kundi nangangailangan ng malaking espasyo ang paglalaro ng basketball. Pansinin halimbawa na hindi sa kalye nilalaro ang bilyar kundi sa loob ng mga bahay o gusali dahil pwede itong pagtiyagaan gamit ang maliit na espasyo.

Hindi ako naniniwala na malaking sagabal sa trapiko ang mga basketball court sa kalye. Nakakita na ba tayo ng court sa mga pangunahing kalsada, halimbawa sa EDSA o Espana? O maging sa mga sekundaryong daan? Itinatayo ang mga basketball court sa mga hindi dinadaanang kalye, dun mismo sa kaloob-looban ng mga komunidad dahil ayaw ngang paistorbo ng mga manlalaro sa daloy ng trapiko. Kung ang kalyeng yun ay naisipang gawing pampaluwag ng trapiko, ang mga kabataan mismo ang magtatanggal ng court at ililipat ito sa ibang lugar, dun sa walang tao at malayo sa trapiko.

Mukhang may problema ang MMDA sa pagkilala sa basketball sa kalye bilang sagabal lamang sa trapiko. Hindi nito nakikita ang kapakinabangang idinudulot nito sa komunidad at sa lipunan. Hindi dapat maliitin ang positibong birtud na pinapalaganap nito sa ating kabataan tulad ng pagkakaisa, pagkakaibigan at kolektibong kamalayan. Ito ang salbabida ng ilan upang may matirang katinuan sa isang kapaligirang puno ng kabaliwan at kawalang pag-asa.

Kung nakikita ng MMDA sa mga basketball court sa kalye ay sira-sirang plywood, kinakalawang na bakal, kawalan ng disiplina at buhul-buhol na trapiko, ang nakikita ko ay determinasyon at mapanlikhang aktitud ng mga kabataan upang magkaroon ng isang libangang ipinagkait sa kanila ng pamahalaan.

Kailangang kilalanin ang kontribusyon ng basketball sa kalye sa kabuuang pag-unlad ng basketball sa bansa. Karamihan ng ating mga propesyunal na manlalaro ay nahubog sa maagang paglalaro ng basketball sa mga kalye. Katulad sa iba pang palakasan, ang mga manlalaro ng basketball ay gumagaling kung nakakalaban nila ang iba’t ibang kalidad ng manlalaro. Sino sa ating mga propesyunal ang magmamalaking nahubog ang mga kasanayan nila sa paglalaro lamang sa mga gym?

Dapat isipin ng MMDA ang pangmatagalang implikasyon ng kanilang gagawing mapangahas at elitistang hakbang sa sosyolohiya ng basketball.

Sa kasalukuyan, ang basketball ay parehong spectacle at nasasabuhay na karanasan. Pinapanood natin sa TV sa gabi at nilalaro natin sa umaga. Hinahangaan natin ang pinong galaw ni Johnny Abbarientos at sinusubukang gayahin sa susunod nating laro sa kalye.

Kung masusunod ang MMDA, matitira na lamang ang mga basketball court sa mga plaza at gymn. Magiging spectacle na ito para sa karamihan at nasasabuhay na karanasan para sa iilan. Ayaw naman nating dumating ang sitwasyon na sa arcades at TV na lamang ang ugnayan natin sa larong basketball. Sa hinaharap, ang maging manlalaro ay isang ispesyalisasyon na wala ng pangmasang katangian.

Ang basketball sa kalye ay mabisang kabaligtaran sa kapitalistang oryentasyon ng PBA o PBL. Hindi ito negosyo at lalong hindi ginagamit upang magkaroon ng makataong imahen ang mga korporasyong may pinopondohang koponan. Kapag nanonood si Danding ng PBA sa Araneta Coliseum, ang tumitimo sa isip ng mamamayan ay katoto nila ito sa pagsuporta sa Coca Cola Tigers o San Miguel Beermen imbes na yung usaping kinakaharap niya tungkol sa coco levy at landgrabbing sa Isabela.

Hindi lamang trapiko ang nasa likod ng bagong patakaran ng MMDA. Dapat itong ibunyag at mahigpit na tutulan.

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Urban Facelift
Open the gates
Sports idols

Random pictures from my photoblog

War and Piss

My author’s page is up at UPI-Asia. Below is my column for the week.

Every time the Philippine Congress is about to begin deliberations on the approval of the national budget, the military is suspiciously engaged in a fierce battle with rebels. Maybe it’s just coincidence or maybe it is calculated to justify funding support for military armaments.

An all-out war was recently declared by the government against the Abu Sayyaf bandit group which is allegedly hiding in the island of Basilan, located in the southernmost part of the Philippines. Based on media reports, the military and Abu Sayyaf forces are both suffering heavy casualties. No side is winning the war.

The civilian communities are the real victims in this raging war. Military offensives have spread to adjacent islands, which has increased the number of families affected by the war. According to humanitarian groups, at least 50,000 families were forced to flee their homes in the last two weeks. Food supplies are dwindling, schools were closed and livelihoods were destroyed.

It is no longer surprising to hear that there is a vicious war in the south. That the Abu Sayyaf still exists is the surprising news. It is also unclear why the government would insist on attacking municipalities inhabited by Muslim rebels who are not Abu Sayyaf members.

The government claims moral ascendancy in attacking the Abu Sayyaf territories. The offensives are aimed at punishing the Abu Sayyaf members who allegedly beheaded 14 marines last month. But this vindictive government reaction does not contribute to peace and development in the troubled region.

The all-out war will lead to the scuttling of peace talks between the government and Moro separatists. At present, the government has a formal agreement with the Moro National Liberation Front and peace negotiations are ongoing with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Even if Abu Sayyaf members are the supposed target of the renewed military offensive, there is a high risk that the MILF and MNLF will be drawn into the war too.

Indeed, there have been reported skirmishes between government troops and Muslim rebels. The MILF accused the military of violating a ceasefire agreement when soldiers allegedly intruded on MILF territories. Meanwhile, the MNLF demanded the immediate withdrawal of troops in other Muslim-dominated islands. It also questioned whether President Gloria Arroyo is still in control of the military.

The MILF and MNLF are actually sending a warning. The all-out war against the Abu Sayyaf is hurting Muslim communities. The military is provoking Muslim rebels to engage the military head on. Can the military withstand the combined forces of the Abu Sayyaf, MILF and MNLF? If it cannot defeat the small Abu Sayyaf bandit group, how can it even confront the bigger and organized Muslim rebel forces?

The government should rethink the "War on Terror" framework in dealing with the peace problem in Muslim Mindanao. The roots of the conflict in that region cannot be traced to 9/11. It does not help that the government views most bombing activities and terrorist plots as Muslim-instigated.

Even the Abu Sayyaf bandit group, despite its sinister reputation and record, can rely on community support through ethnic ties and common hatred of the military. In the battlefield, the distinctions between Abu Sayyaf, MILF and MNLF are blurred. The government’s dependence on the War on Terror doctrine prevents it from confronting the peace problem in Muslim Mindanao through a holistic, effective and creative approach.

The tense situation became more complicated when a senator accused high-ranking military and civilian authorities of deliberately allowing the 14 soldiers to be ambushed and mutilated by Abu Sayyaf members. The senator is questioning the motive of the government in fanning the flames of war. Other members of Congress are also furious over the presence of U.S. troops in the combat operations against the Abu Sayyaf.

Meanwhile, as the war continues, there is little discussion of poverty alleviation, land reform, grassroots empowerment, job creation, human rights or autonomy, which could contribute to the advancement of peace in the region.

To quote a politician during the last years of the Marcos dictatorship, "General, what is happening to our country?"

Related entries:

Losing the war
All out war
Bombing spree
A father’s lament

Random pictures from my photoblog.

Tagged: Mongster Moments

I was tagged by Atomic Girl two months ago but I was unable to reply immediately. So sorry Peachy. Below are the rules:

A person who gets tagged must write in his or her blog ten weird things or habits or little known facts about himself or herself. He or she should also state this rule clearly. At the end, he or she should tag six other people, except the one who tagged him or her.

Here goes my not so public profile….

1. I was afraid of big crowds as a child. I almost lost during a Quiapo procession. I used to attend the Black Nazarene religious festival.

2. I detest shouting. It’s unproductive, disrespectful and arrogant. Even during rallies, there is a difference between speaking out loud and shouting. One speaks to the crowd, an activist should not shout.

3. I always lose umbrellas. I tend to misplace or lose them in jeepneys, buses, buildings and other public places. During the rainy season, I have about 2-3 umbrellas. By the start of summer period, they will all be gone by then.

4. I don’t know how to use the chopsticks. My wife is embarrassed every time we eat at Japanese restaurants. But I love sushi.

5. During my freshman year, I was against the politics of the Left. I used to make fun and ignore the ‘papansin’ activists.

6. My grandfather was a former personal bodyguard of President Diosdado Macapagal. He was proud of me during the EDSA Dos uprising. He was already dead when his grandson began criticizing Gloria, the daughter of his former boss.

7. I cried after losing in the recent elections. But my disappointment turned into bitter anger when I heard of partylist groups buying their way into Congress. While we were too much engrossed over the Koko-Zubiri drama, some partylist groups were quietly negotiating the election results. Shame, shame.

8. I felt sad when SM Annex North Edsa was demolished. It was my tambayan during my high school years (1992-1996). I miss the bowling lanes, A&W rootbeer float, Wendy’s salad bar, vide game arcades, silvershop and the Annex cinemas. So many happy memories during those innocent years. But SM management seems more interested to confront the challenge presented by the refreshing and elegant (though oddly-placed) Trinoma mall.

9. I haven’t read a Harry Potter book.

10. I watched an Eat Bulaga show at the Ultra two years ago. I was supposed to attend a forum in Quezon City but I was already in Ortigas so I decided to watch Tito, Vic and Joey instead.

I now tag Lisa, Gerry, Tonyo, Ina, Leng and Rey.

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Things you don’t know about me.
Tibak survey
Candidate survey
Activist lover.

Random pictures from my photoblog.

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a South Korean

Thank you Reitch for inviting me to join Shelfari, a cool site for book lovers. Dear readers, I am highly recommending the blog of my good friend, batchmate and comrade: Lengua et Pluma. Below is my UPI-Asia column….

A few weeks ago, the South Korean Embassy in the Philippines stopped issuing visas to protest the alleged extortion activities of some Philippine immigration agents. South Korean nationals had complained of being harassed by gun-wielding officials pretending to be looking for unregistered aliens. The matter was resolved when Philippine authorities vowed to punish the rogue immigration cops.

This episode revealed that the South Korean community in the Philippines has grown so large that it actually inspired some bad elements in the government to threaten and attempt to extort money from innocent South Koreans. It also brought out in the open the slight tension between many Filipinos and South Korean visitors.

There is no doubt that the South Koreans are the most famous (some would say notorious) tourists in the country today. Every week, 42 flights carrying South Koreans arrive in the Philippines. At least 8,400 South Koreans enter the country on a weekly basis. Their favourite destinations are Metro Manila, Baguio, Cebu, Davao, Dumaguete and Boracay. Last year, 700,000 South Koreans visited the Philippines. The Bureau of Immigration estimates that over 900,000 South Koreans are staying in the country today.

South Koreans seem to be almost everywhere. They can be seen in schools, malls, movie houses, golf courses, trains, beaches, restaurants, markets and even in jeepneys — popular conveyances made from U.S. military jeeps. Filipinos are used to tourists staying in the country for a few weeks, but many South Koreans have been in the country for more than a year already. It is not surprising that a lot of Filipinos tend to suspect that there is a looming South Korean invasion.

Perhaps sensing the suspicions, the Korean Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines released a statement assuring the Filipinos that South Koreans are coming to the Philippines not as invaders but as visitors, guests, investors and partners. The statement also mentioned the numerous benefits resulting from the South Korean presence in the Philippines. Last year, US$1.2 billion dollars of foreign direct investments came from South Korea. About 2,000 South Korean companies are operating in the Philippines, employing 150,000 Filipinos. South Korean’s official development assistance to the Philippines has also increased. Last year, it reached US$167 million.

Why do so many South Koreans prefer to live in the Philippines?

According to scholars, South Korean companies began to outsource their operations in the Philippines during the mid-1980s. They took advantage of the relatively low cost of living in the country and the large supply of skilled workers. This led to the migration of some Korean factory owners, staff and their families. During the early 1990s, South Koreans dislodged the Japanese as the top visitors in terms of number to the Philippines.

The next batch of visitors was students who wanted to learn the English language and acquire college degrees in Philippine universities, which charge lower fees. In 1998, there were only 1,543 South Korean college students in the country. Last year, the number of students rose to an estimated 100,000, according to the Commission on Higher Education. The government has accredited 215 schools to teach South Koreans.

The growing number of South Koreans in the country has also made an impact on local culture. South Korean TV programs and movies dubbed in Filipino are popular in the country. A few years ago, a South Korean student won a nationwide TV search for new teen stars. It’s hip for young Filipinos to sport South Korean fashions. Korean restaurants, convenience stores and health resorts are sprouting everywhere. Airport personnel are learning to speak the Korean language.

But the high number of South Korean visitors also has a downside. A number of conflicts have arisen between these visitors and local residents. A country club once posted the sign "No Koreans allowed," which has since been removed. In Baguio City, Filipino golfers refer to Camp John Hay as ‘Kim Jong Hay’ because there are more South Koreans than locals in the recreation center. The Korean Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines admits that there are some South Koreans "who are rude, not behaving well and disturbing Filipino culture and the living environment."

But there may be other reasons why some Filipinos continue to view the presence of South Koreans with distrust. We can cite the Filipinos’ bitter and painful experience as colonized subjects of Spanish, Americans and Japanese invaders. We have a long history of foreigners pillaging our precious natural resources, insulting our culture and exploiting our people. Can we blame some Filipinos for doubting the good intentions of the South Koreans?

Most Filipinos have dreams of going abroad to seek better opportunities. Some cannot understand why foreigners, South Koreans in particular, would prefer to stay in a poor country. Rich families even send their children abroad because they look down on the country’s substandard educational system. But South Korean parents are eager to enrol their children in Philippine schools.

The language barrier is also a major reason why Filipinos and South Koreans do not understand each other. Filipinos could have wrongfully interpreted the South Koreans’ failure to mingle with the locals as a sign of arrogance. But this could only be a simple case of miscommunication on the part of South Koreans who barely know the English and Filipino languages.

Behind the contemptuous attitude displayed by some Filipinos over the "irritating" presence of South Koreans in the Philippine islands is a sincere feeling of gratitude, flattery and surprise that many South Koreans have chosen the Philippines as their second home. Sometimes, we show our affection by feigning hatred. South Koreans are definitely welcome to stay in the Philippines.

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On fishy waters

Extreme weather events alarm the public, my blog entry for Global Voices. New pictures in my photoblog. I added new blogs and websites in the Mongster Link. Visit Yehey! News.

We associate global warming with either drought or super typhoons. We highlight the dwindling clean water supply and low agricultural output. We need to cite another important resource which is under threat: fisheries.

Sixty percent of the population resides in coastal areas. Demersal fishing areas are estimated at 224,434 km2. From 583,785 municipal and commercial fishing operators in 1980, the figure rose to 1.49 million in 2002, most of which were municipal fishers. Approximately 2.37 million people currently depend on municipal fishing as primary source of livelihood.

Fish contributes 22.4 percent of the total protein intake of the average Filipino. GDP contribution amounted to 2.3 percent in 2004. Fisheries accounted for 24.85 percent of the total agricultural production also on the same year.

The Philippines is the second biggest producer of aquatic plants (includes seaweeds), eleventh in world aquaculture production of fish, crustaceans and mollusks and eigth in top fish producing countries. Philippine coral reefs rank second to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef in diversity of reef fish. Its seagrass communities are considered the most diverse in the Asia-Pacific region.

Biologists have identified twenty-five biodiversity hotspots in the planet “that are exceptionally rich in endemic species but increasingly threatened by human activity.” The Philippines is among these. For example, 32 percent of coral reefs are in poor condition. Of the 439 marine protected areas, only 10 percent is achieving habitat protection. Mangrove forests, which serve as fish nurseries, are overharvested. Today only 20 percent of the country’s original mangrove forest remains intact.

All major bays and gulfs in the Philippines are heavily exploited (read: overfished). The important fishing bays include the Manila Bay, Visayan Sea, Carigara Bay, Burias Pass, Samar, San Miguel Bay, Guimaras Strait, Ragay Gulf, Maqueda Bay, Honda Bay, Leyte Gulf and Illana Bay. We may have the sixth longest coastline in the world but it does not translate to unlimited marine resources.

What are some of the factors which caused the depletion of marine fishery resources? We can identify poaching, intrusion in prohibited fishing areas, conversion of fisheries habitats into other uses, pollution and siltation, red tide, use of fish aggregation devices, catching of immature/ juvenile fish, use of illegal and destructive fishing methods and increased use of fine mesh nets to catch fish including mosquito net. We can also blame the trade policy of allowing bigger and better-equipped foreign fishing boats which compete with municipal fishers in exhausting marine fish supply in the country.

There seems to be abundant laws and regulations to protect marine wealth. We have the Fisheries Code of 1998, Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act of 1997, Local Government Code of 1991, National Integrated Protected Areas System Act and the Environmental Impact Statement system. Are these laws implemented properly? Is there an overlap of policies between different national and local agencies? Is the funding adequate for the fisheries sector? Does the government recognize the deteriorating state of fisheries resources?

Our notion of an impoverished agricultural worker is limited to a burly landless peasant toiling in the fields all day. Fishing is the other face of agriculture. Reduced fish catch means reduced contribution to the economy. We tend to overlook the sad plight of small fishers. We ignore the poverty which is also prevalent in the coastal areas.

Coastal hapitats need to be protected and rehabilitated. Conflicting fisheries laws should be harmonized. Small fishers, especially the women, need to be given alternative livelihoods. Fishing communities need to be aware of the endangered condition of our marine resources. Can the government realign a portion of the emergency assistance funding for farmers to municipal fishers?

We may be a nation of 7,107 islands surrounded by bodies of water but this will mean nothing if there is no more fish supplies to catch. Oh what tragedy if someday the Philippines will have to import fishes from its neighbors.

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Tulay lupa*

Jose Saramago’s Stone Raft is about a group of traveling individuals trying to adapt to the stark reality that the big island where they live, the Iberian Peninsula, is literally drifting away from Europe. Saramago depicted how various institutions, groups and communities are reacting while the island is moving away from the European continent. I was instantly amazed by Saramago’s unique narrative and rich imagination. I particularly liked the subversive idea when the people, at a time of clueless confusion and chaos, stormed the hotels and occupied the vacant rooms. At that moment, the housing problem of Portugal was solved. Can we do that here?

A few weeks ago, while waiting for my flight in the new and impressive Iloilo airport, I thought of Saramago’s novel and tried to imagine the consequences if a similar magical thing would happen in the Philippine archipelago. Instead of drifting away from Asia, the 7,107 islands which comprise our nation-state will start to merge to become one big island. I’m curious and excited to imagine the wild, interesting and fatal consequences.

What if the merging will start tomorrow? How long will it take for the 7,107 islands to complete the fusion? Let’s begin the transformation…

Start with Luzon. Mayor Nani Braganza of Alaminos is alarmed to hear that the Hundred Islands are nowhere to be found. The former Hundred Islands have become one island and it has merged with San Fabian, Pangasinan. Babuyan islands suddenly became attached to Cagayan. But the Batan islands are quickly drifting towards Taiwan.

Polilio island fused with Quezon mainland near Infanta. Catanduanes became part of Camarines Sur. Rapu-rapu island integrated with Sorsogon. Burias and Ticao islands merged with Masbate before uniting with Albay, Sorsogon and Northern Samar.

Corregidor clinged to Bataan. Mindoro drifted towards Batangas. Marinduque waited for Romblon islands before attaching to Quezon near Lucena. The Palawan islands attached to the lower part of Mindoro. Kalayaan islands or Spratlys decided to join the Philippine archipelago. Other nations filed a protest in the UN.

How about in the Visayas? Surprisingly, Guimaras preferred to cling to Negros. Panay integrated with Negros. Siquijor joined Panglao island before being glued to Bohol then to Cebu. Bantayan island linked Panay-Negros with Cebu-Bohol. On the eastern front, Samar merged with Leyte. Biliran fused also with Leyte. The ruling cult in Dinagat province ordered the island to veer towards Southern Leyte. Eastern Visayas began drifting towards the Bicol region. Boracay and other crown jewels of Visayan seas did not move an inch but they were forced to combine with bigger islands when the rampaging Visayas provinces started quickly moving towards Luzon.

Tawi-Tawi and Sulu were anticipating the integration with Sabah but it never materialized. They decided to join Basilan, then Zamboanga. Samal fused with Davao. Camiguin was annexed by Misamis. Siargao merged with Surigao. The Mindanao landmass began drifting towards Visayas.

Suddenly, the Philippines became Luzviminda. Finally, there was “unity” in the country. How did the people react?

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo clarified that she was joking when she promised to bring the Philippines to the enchanted kingdom by creating super regions. The President’s allies blamed the supermaids for the merging of the islands. Sec. Raul Gonzales accused the ‘Cory Magic’ of causing the mayhem.

A commission was formed to investigate the phenomenon; Sec. Angelo Reyes was appointed head. Civil society is complaining they have no representation in the body. Rep. Bongbong Marcos will testify that half of the islands really belonged to his father.

Sec. Eduardo Ermita wants emergency powers for the president to address the problem. The Lower House agrees. Speaker Jose De Venecia wants to pursue charter change in light of new geopolitical realities. Senator Aquilino Pimentel announced that he will agree as long as there are safeguards and if a federal government will be established. Senator Kiko Pangilinan said he is neither pro or against the drifting of the islands as long as the will of the people is respected. Senate President Manny Villar appealed to the public that sipag at tiyaga are needed in times of crisis.

The military blamed the terrorists, coup plotters and communists. A batallion was sent in Basilan to look for voodoo terrorists and rebels. Mayor Fed Lim believes he is guilty since he once quipped “evacuate or evaporate” on national TV. Comelec passed a resolution declaring that it has nothing to do with the missing islands. Senator Miriam Santiago blamed UP. Businessmen blamed the deteriorating English proficiency of Filipinos and the minimum wage hike. The Left blamed US imperialism.

Catholic bishops exhorted the faithful to pray. ‘The end of the world is near,’ religious preachers and quacks warned the public. Oil companies announced they will hike oil prices due to altered shipping routes. World Bank advised the government to privatize assets and allow foreigners to own huge parcels of land. The Asian Development Bank proposed new set of taxes. Bayani Fernando wanted to arm MMDA personnel with bolos to stop the movement of the islands. The Opposition urged the President to resign. Erap still has no idea, nasa sauna pa siya.

TV networks provided live coverage and exclusive footages of the merging islands. Hollywood bought the film rights of the spectacle, Mother Lily protested. Edu Manzano warned DVD vendors not to sell fake copies of the documentary. Rock stars visited the Philippines to raise awareness and funds for the displaced Filipinos. Scholars debated whether the islands moved upward or downward. SWS released a survey showing most of the Filipinos are happy over the drifting of the islands.

Then, the islands stopped moving. What will happen next?

Can we live side by side in harmony without the seas to separate us? Will other regions stop complaining of Tagalog imperialism? Can we forget our cultural differences and begin to live as a “united” community? Will we realize that the cultural divide is actually a false issue? That we share the same physical traits and most of all we confront the same problems: income gap, landlessness, oppression, alienation. Will we realize that the problem is not religion or language or culture, even identity? – the problem is the domination of a few families in appropriating our natural and human resources. From Luzon to Mindanao (and elsewhere too), it’s the same story of wicked “exploitation of man by man.”

*Inspired by Edicio dela Torre’s invitation to re-imagine the Philippines and Indonesia as one archipelago instead of two nation states.

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Human rights and hypocrisy in ASEAN

Look for me in Facebook and Twitter. My Peripheries column for UPI-Asia:

The regional forum of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations was held last week in Manila. The forum was attended by foreign ministers of member countries and representatives of Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, China, the European Union, India, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Mongolia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, the Russian Federation, Sri Lanka, Timor Leste and the United States.

One of the achievements of the forum was the drafting of an ASEAN Charter which will be finalized this year. The draft Charter affirms the group’s adherence to democracy by rejecting unconstitutional means of changing governments. It also includes a provision for the creation of a Human Rights Commission in the region.

Some analysts described the draft Charter as ‘toothless’ since member countries can choose to ignore some of the democratic commitments contained in the document. ASEAN will continue to forge decisions and resolutions through consensus and not through voting. A government official argued that consensus-building is the "ASEAN way of doing things."

This means ASEAN will still be unable to discipline its own ranks since a recalcitrant member nation can easily prevent the building of consensus. An example of this failure, which remains a controversial issue within the group, is its inability to sanction Myanmar over its dismal human rights record.

The United States, while praising ASEAN’s commitment to uphold democratic values, also expressed disappointment over the failure of Myanmar’s ruling military junta to respect and protect human rights. Other nations have similar appeals, saying Myanmar should hasten democratic reforms.

Indeed, Myanmar’s government is guilty of committing human rights violations. But Myanmar is not the only human rights violator in the region. It may be ASEAN’s problem child, but governments of other member countries are also notorious bullies and human rights offenders.

If Myanmar were asked to explain the continued detention of pro-democracy leaders, it can always retort by inquiring about the torture of suspects in Indonesia, the crackdown on bloggers in Malaysia, censorship in Thailand and killings with impunity in the Philippines.

Let me highlight the case of the Philippines, since it is the main proponent for the creation of a Human Rights Commission. The Philippine government, which is part of the United Nations Human Rights Council, is accused of abetting human rights violations. Various local and international bodies have pinpointed the involvement of soldiers and police forces in extrajudicial killings, abductions and the harassment of local activists, journalists and other critics of the government. The Philippines is among the most dangerous countries for journalists. The Arroyo government has surpassed the Marcos dictatorship in terms of human rights abuses. There may be no military junta in the Philippines but the unpopular Arroyo government has shown its subservience to military generals in order to remain in power.

ASEAN member countries have lost the moral ascendancy to preach respect for human rights. This is the legacy of ASEAN, forty years after it was created.

Myanmar may even accuse the United States when it comes to failure to protect civil and political liberties, citing torture and other abuses inside the Guantanamo prison. The United States is also guilty of violating the rights of the Iraq people to secure their own freedom.

Yes, Myanmar deserves to be punished for the rampant human rights violations committed by the junta. ASEAN and the rest of the world should demand immediate democratic reforms. But we should send the same message to other member nations. Myanmar does not have a monopoly on violating human rights. It can always reply to its pretentious neighbours: "We are all part of the same hypocrisy."

Analysts have derided ASEAN for its insufficient efforts to promote political and civil liberties in the region, which the ASEAN Regional Forum has attempted to address. But economic and socio-cultural rights violations should be discussed as well. Southeast Asia has been hailed as one of the world’s vibrant economic regions. Yet the majority of people living in this region are languishing in poverty. There is a huge income gap between rich and poor in the region. ASEAN member countries should account for the millions of people who lack such basic necessities as food, shelter and education.

Perhaps the best example of ASEAN’s unwillingness to admit widespread violations of economic and socio-cultural rights was the attempt of the Manila government to hide slum communities and informal vendors from the sight of visiting dignitaries. Old houses were prettified, rooftops were painted, sidewalks were adorned with flowers, walls were erected to conceal squatter colonies and small vendors were ejected near the venue of the ASEAN forum. This seems to be the "ASEAN way of doing things" — to obscure the embarrassing poverty in the region.

It appears that all those big statements about upholding human rights, economic prosperity and commitment to democracy were all empty rhetoric.

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Coping with climate change

Scientists have predicted that there will be an average increase of +2 degrees Celsius in the world. In 2004, South Cotabato registered the third warmest year on record. Global warming, not terrorism, is the single biggest threat to the future of mankind. Are we aware of the negative impact of climate change to our local ecosystem?

Environmentalist group Greenpeace has a study which provides a detailed report on the vulnerabilities of Philippine provinces. Below are highlights of the report:

Global warming will lead to coral bleaching, sea level rise and extreme weather events such as long periods of drought and severe typhoons.

Coral bleaching will affect livelihood of more than a million fishers in the country. It will also destroy the country’s diverse marine ecosystem which is considered the second largest coral cover in the world.

A one meter rise in sea level is projected to affect 16 regions, 64 out of 81 provinces, at least 703 out of 1,610 municipalities, inundate almost 700 million square meters of land and threaten 36,289 kilometers of coastline. In Sulu, the vulnerable areas may reach up to 7,972.83 hectares. In Palawan, the land area at risk covers 6,428.16 hectares.

The Legazpi mudslide triggered by typhoon Reming was the second deadliest disaster of 2006 in the world. Six out of nine tragedies from 1991 to 2006 occurred at provinces which are highly at risk to typhoons and variability in precipitation. These provinces also have a high poverty incidence rating. Poor provinces are less prepared to cope with the harsh impacts of natural disasters.
In 2006, natural calamities affected eleven million Filipinos. Economic losses reached P20 billion. Assistance and donations amounted to 500 million while rehabilitation cost is P10 billion. Greenpeace is correct when it opined that “the true cost of tragedies is not limited to economic losses but also lives lost, families displaced and ecosystems damaged.”

Greenpeace is recommending adaptation and mitigation measures to avert the worst impacts of climate change. Adaptation measures include programs such as “comprehensive vulnerability assessment and hazard mapping, efficient disaster preparedness and management, modern forecasting capabilities and sustained programs to raise awareness.”

Greenpeace is calling for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent in 2050. This means the Philippines must switch from fossil fuel dependence to renewable energy. Energy efficiency measures must be promoted. The Philippines’ wind power potential – 70,000 MW – can meet the country’s current energy demand seven times over. Greenpeace claims that the energy from the sun that falls on half the land area of Quezon City can provide the power needs of the entire country for a day.

During her recent State of the Nation Address, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo vowed to push for renewable sources of energy. She mentioned the wind farm in Ilocos Norte but she also reported the construction of three coal-fired power plants in the country. The irony was not lost on worried environmentalists.

Policymakers need to tap clean sources of energy without compromising food sufficiency. Enactment of the Biofuels Law may reduce dependence on imported oil but it will also consume vast amounts of land which could have been used for food production. Government needs to harmonize food and energy needs of the country.

I laud the decision of the President to include climate change in school curriculum. But the President sent a wrong message to students by appointing politicians and bureaucrats in the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and Department of Energy. Mayor Lito Atienza and General Angelo Reyes are not recognized for their expertise on environment and energy. The President’s allies in the Lower House also nominated Representatives Iggy Arroyo and Mikey Arroyo as committee heads of the environment and energy sectors. Is the President really aware of the urgency of the situation? Is she really concerned with the negative consequences of global warming? Or is she more eager on how her family and closest allies can profit from the environment crisis?

In the future, I believe we will have to vote for leaders who have theoretical and practical knowledge on how to adapt with the deteriorating state of our fragile environment. At present and in the next elections, we have to endure the false claims of leaders that they are prepared to handle the worst impacts of natural disasters.

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