Eco-Group Urges End to Fossil Fuel Investments

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A climate crisis that risks peace and security can still be avoided by accelerating the clean energy revolution, Greenpeace said on Tuesday.

Issuing an SOS emergency alert ahead of an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) meeting in Japan, Greenpeace warned that climate change is already devastating nations, destroying lives and costing billions of dollars in damage.

“This is a crisis that knows no boundaries. Our climate is on the precipice and every ton of oil, coal and gas we are digging up and burning pushes us closer to the brink,” said Kaisa Kosonen, Greenpeace International campaigner. “But there’s a way out of this mess. Renewable energy has made a breakthrough faster than thought and is ready to challenge our old hazardous energy system.”

Greenpeace activists yesterday displayed the message ‘Climate SOS – Go Renewables’ outside the J-POWER’s Isogo 1 & 2 coal power plant and Tepco’s Minami Yokohama gas power plant near where the IPCC meeting in Yokohama to highlight the cause of climate change and the solution to the unfolding crisis.

Meeting to finalize the Working Group II report on ‘Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability’, the IPCC will discuss climate action in the context of sustainable development. The Japanese government, which is hosting this week’s meeting, is failing to meet the IPCC’s challenge.

“With IPCC’s scheduled release of this timely report, the dire scenario is no longer a threat from a distant future.  In fact, it is already happening in many countries- the Philippines in particular and across Southeast Asia which is among the most vulnerable yet least prepared to deal with climate change impacts,” said Amalie Obusan, Regional Climate Campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia and a delegate to the climate talks in Japan.  “When super typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines last November, it claimed thousands of lives and left trail of destruction that will take several years to rebuild.  We urge world leaders to recognize what scientists all over the world have been saying: to act on genuine positive solutions to climate change.”

Greenpeace says coal burning is the biggest single driver of climate change. But coal has a massive water footprint too, making it one of the largest threats to water security, add to that the air pollution problem making it clear that a move away from coal is inevitable and in fact has already started.

“While the IPCC report will make grim reading, the key message here is choice. Will we continue drifting from one disaster to another, or will we take control of our future? We’re at a crossroads and the choices we make now will determine how history judges us. To make the shift away from coal and other fossil fuels fast enough though is a key fight that communities, decision-makers and investors have to unite on,” added Kosonen.

Japan has lowered its target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and it is also emerging as the world’s biggest public investor of coal expansion overseas. Now it is planning a return to nuclear energy despite the ongoing Fukushima disaster. (Greenpeace Philippines)

DTI Welcomes Indian biz Mission to PH

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The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) recently received an Indian business mission to the Philippines that intends to explore potential business opportunities, and possibly locate and expand their operations in the country.

During the mission member’s courtesy call, Domingo noted the resurgence of the manufacturing sector in the Philippines, and the growth of capital formation in the gross domestic product (GDP) by 18 percent.

The mission was organized through the Philippine Trade and Investment Center (PTIC) in New Delhi and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).

Domingo also noted that this mission is his second meeting with the FICCI. The first was during the First India-ASEAN Business Fair and Business Conclave in New Delhi, India in March 2011.

The FICCI is the oldest and largest top business organization in India. The history of FICCI is interwoven in India’s struggle for independence, industrialization, and emergence as one of the rapidly growing economies.

The FICCI has members from India’s corporate sector, including multi-national corporation (MNC), and enjoys an indirect membership of over 250,000 companies from various regional chambers of commerce.

“India is a huge market. The distribution is excellent and you just have to find the right partner,” said Kapil Rampal, deputy head of the delegation and director of the Ivory Education Pvt. Ltd., during the DTI business forum on doing business in the Philippines.

Rampal also mentioned investment interests in pharmaceuticals, bio and thermal energy (From Rampal’s presentation), motorcycles and auto parts, mining, infrastructure, and space and defense related industry.

Rampal added that the possibilities are more than enough, and suggested to look at possibilities of collaboration and be competitive at the global level.

During the business forum, Bureau of Export Trade Promotion (BETP) Director Senen M. Perlada said that both countries can do so much, and noted that Philippine exports to India only accounted for 0.54 percent of Philippine total exports in 2013.

Total trade between the two countries grew by 8.7 percent, export by 8.6 percent, and import by 4.8 percent from 2008 to 2012, according to BETP data.

Perlada also mentioned possible products for promotion in India such as motor vehicle parts, electronic components, sanitary articles of paper (i.e. diaper, toilet paper), personal care products, high-end furniture, and garments.

Likewise, Board of Investments’ (BOI) International Marketing Department Director Angie M. Cayas mentioned the following sectors for promotion to India:  public–private partnership (PPP) projects, information technology and business process management (IT-BPM), tourism related investments, and other areas of investments such as the Special Investor’s Resident Visa (SIRV) and the Retail Trade Liberalization Act of 2000, particularly categories B and D.

In an interview, PTIC in New Delhi Commercial Attaché John Paul B. Iñigo said that the delegation is happy, and anticipates another group coming to the Philippines in the next six months.

The 14-member business delegation is composed of companies from sectors such as agriculture, hotel, hospitality, education, infrastructure, airport, food products and textile.

At present, the following Indian companies have presence in the Philippines: Aditya Birla Minacs Philippines Inc., Hinduja Global Solutions Limited, L&T Infotech, Biostadt India, Lupin Ltd., State Bank of India, The New india Assurance Co. Ltd., Wipro BPO Phils. Ltd., Infosys BPO Ltd., Zydus Cadila, Claris Lifesciences Ltd, Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys Technologies, Wipro, Cognizant, HCL Technologies, Genpact Intelenet Global Services, Tech Mahindra, Aegis Ltd. (People Support), WNS Global Services, Syntel Inc., Apatech Ltd., Headstrong, Interglobe Technologies, Virtusa, and Tata Motors.

Boon or Bane?

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The Philippines is not ready for the Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI) in 2015. The Initiative for ASEAN Integration refers to reducing various forms of disparities among and within member States where some pockets of underdevelopment persist, which could narrow the development gap in the region.

With the integration, people would be allowed to purchase, sell products and services, work and invest in any of the member countries of the ASEAN with lesser restrictions unlike strict protectionism. This would be enjoyed by all ASEAN member countries.

But according to Asian Development Bank, the economic integration of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will likely not be attained by 2015. Although various reasons were cited for the continued difficulties of attaining the AEC targets, what stands out is the unawareness of the private sector.

Since 2010 when this integration was first hatched, the Philippine government failed to prepare for it. In trade relations alone, where products are supposed to be exported to a less-restricted environment, the recipient chooses which products to accept or to reject.   Naturally the more superior product in terms of quality and price are allowed into the member country. How can we export cheaper products when the cost of production is high? Electricity and labor costs, which are factors to production, are high.

Also, promoting greater mobility of skilled workers and better regulation and management of unskilled labor movements are to be addressed. In the Philippines, unemployment and underemployment are pervasive. Skills do not commensurate with job requirements. Can we compete with our ASEAN neighbors in the labor market?

What about our infrastructure?

There are so many things that we have to prepare for in order to be competitive. If we are not competitive, what benefit can the Initiative for ASEAN Integration do for us? Nada.


All’s Well That Ends Well

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By Dong Maraya

Recently a Filipino citizen living in Manila has laid claim—as sultan of Sulu—to the Malaysian state of Sabah on Borneo. Jamalul Kiram III’s claim is based on a token rent which Malaysia pays the royal house of Sulu for the use of Sabah. Calling themselves the Royal Army of Sulu, the clan members said they were descendants of the Sultanate of Sulu in the southern Philippines, which ruled parts of northern Borneo for centuries.

The February 2013 invasion by more than 200 Filipinos seemed to take both the Philippines and Malaysia by surprise. At least 60 have been killed in the ongoing conflict. The Malaysian government has been forced to take the worsening situation seriously, and launched an offensive on March 5, which included fighter jet air support.

However, the Sabah intrusion did not damage ties between Malaysia and the Philippines. Nevertheless, both sides should increase their mutual engagement in the business, economic and cultural spheres. The Philippines is maintaining close ties with Malaysia despite the siege.

“There has been no strain with our relationship in Malaysia. We recognize that this was an attempt by a few that should not affect the relationship of the whole,” a Philippine government official said in a news briefing.

Malaysia is a federal constitutional monarchy in Asia. It consists of thirteen states and three federal territories and has a total landmass of 329,847 square kilometers (127,350 sq mi) separated by the South China Sea into two similarly sized regions, Peninsular Malaysia and Malaysian Borneo. Land borders are shared with Thailand, Indonesia, and Brunei, and maritime borders exist with Singapore, Vietnam, and the Philippines. The capital city is Kuala Lumpur, while Putrajaya is the seat of the federal government. In 2010 the population was 28.33 million, with 22.6 million living on the Peninsula.

The independent state of Malaysia came into existence on Sept. 16, 1963, as a federation of Malaya, Singapore, Sabah (North Borneo), and Sarawak. In 1965, Singapore withdrew from the federation to become a separate nation. Since 1966, the 11 states of former Malaya have been known as West Malaysia, and Sabah and Sarawak as East Malaysia.

The country is multi-ethnic and multi-cultural, which plays a large role in politics. The government system is closely modeled on the Westminster parliamentary system and the legal system is based on common law. The head of state is the king, known as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. He is an elected monarch chosen from the hereditary rulers of the nine Malay states every five years. The head of government is the Prime Minister.

By the late 1960s, Malaysia was torn by rioting directed against Chinese and Indians, who controlled a disproportionate share of the country’s wealth. Beginning in 1968, it was the government’s goal to achieve greater economic balance through a national economic policy.

Since its independence, Malaysia has had one of the best economic records in Asia, with GDP growing an average 6.5% for almost 50 years. The economy has traditionally been fueled by its natural resources, but is expanding in the sectors of science, tourism, commerce and medical tourism. Today, Malaysia has a newly industrializedmarket economy, ranked third largest in Southeast Asia and 29th largest in the world.

Malaysia’s foreign policy is officially based on the principle of neutrality and maintaining peaceful relations with all countries, regardless of their political system. The government attaches a high priority to the security and stability of Southeast Asia, and seeks to further develop relations with other countries in the region.

Malaysia is a relatively open state-oriented and newly industrializedmarket economy. The state plays a significant but declining role in guiding economic activity through macroeconomic plans. In the 1970s, the predominantly mining and agricultural-based economy began a transition towards a more multi-sector economy.

International trade and manufacturing are the key sectors. Malaysia is an exporter of natural and agricultural resources, and petroleum is a major export. Malaysia has once been the largest producer of tin, rubber and palm oil in the world.

In an effort to diversify the economy and make it less dependent on export goods, the government has pushed to increase tourism to Malaysia. As a result, tourism has become Malaysia’s third largest source of foreign exchange, although it is threatened by the negative effects of the growing industrial economy, with large amounts of air and water pollution along with deforestation affecting tourism. In the 1980s, Dr. Mohamad Mahathir succeeded Datuk Hussein as prime minister. Mahathir instituted economic reforms that would transform Malaysia into one of the so-called Asian Tigers.

Beginning in 1997 and continuing through the next year, Malaysia suffered from the Asian currency crisis. Instead of following the economic prescriptions of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, the prime minister opted for fixed exchange rates and capital controls. In late 1999, Malaysia was on the road to economic recovery, and it appeared Mahathir’s measures were working.

The Malaysian Ambassador to the Philippines Dr. Ibrahim Saad is from the northern state of Penang, a highly developed city also known as the Silicon City of Malaysia. Industrialized as it may be now, Penang is also a recognized UNESCO Heritage Site. Dr. Saad stressed that he has one wife with whom he has two sons and three daughters and he is currently doting on his four grandchildren. Though the family members are based in Malaysia, they make it a point to come once in a while as they love the surfing and diving in the country. In fact, he says, they just love the Philippines.

Dr. Ibrahim Saad is not a career diplomat. He started out in the academe, graduating with a Ph.D. in Education from the University of Wisconsin in America. He later on joined the government as a member of the State Assembly, became a deputy chief minister of and vice governor of Penang before he moved to a higher post in the Prime Minister’s department. Perhaps the call of the academe proved stronger then, because he left politics again and went back to the world of academe, becoming vice chancellor and president of a prestigious university in his beloved city until the government recalled him into active service and he accepted the post of Malaysian ambassador to the Philippines in 2010.

Malaysia is essentially a highly industrialized and developed country, and many tourists come to their shores to shop at high-end stores. They recently launched Luxury Malaysia in the country which extols their relatively cheap shopping because only gas, glasses, drinks, cigarettes and chocolates are taxed.

With a population of 25 million people and an economy that is steadfastly registering a double-digit growth (they have a per capita income of US$8,000) Malaysia needs a lot of manpower which the Philippines can provide. Currently, they have one million foreigners with work permits in Malaysia, and they are in the process of regularizing another one million workers.


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By Ronald Roy

THERE is no such thing as a conflict-free era, lifetime or moment. Conflicts are as unavoidable as typhoons and earthquakes, hunger and disease, fear and despair. They are however as natural as sunrise and spring, reliance and resolve, compassion and love.

JPE versus MDS

It’s been said that proverbial cooler heads notwithstanding, seething mutual distrust or hatred triggers tragedies that nobody wants. But I do not foresee any kind of tragic ending in the case of the ongoing JPE-MDS feud, even if Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago is known to freely order her enemies to die, or brand them as sex maniacs.
Her brutishness is such time-consuming bravado, and her stamina is so impaired by a chronic cardiovascular condition, that her performance is often suspected to be “scripted” along the patterns of showbiz entertainment. I therefore join observers who do not take her seriously.

On the other hand, erstwhile Senate President and now Minority Floor Leader Juan Ponce Enrile has surprisingly failed, in my view, to uphold his lofty stature by wasting the time of the chamber. It truly surprises that his heretofore popular trait of octogenarian wisdom and sobriety has succumbed to the enticements of getting back at his tormentor, rather than preparing a defense of himself against an ignominious pork-related charge of the capital felony of plunder. Thus, his image is seen as being further soiled or tarnished by his own hand. JPE is trouncing himself, indeed, in his conflict with MDS — which is even more ludicrous than a mismatch between a heavyweight and a flyweight.

US and Asian allies versus China

Beijing, by setting up an air zone over contested islands in the East China Sea, might have underestimated a quick response from the United States of America and her alerted network of Asian allies, with South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Australia and the Philippines linking up in a posture of defiance against China. At the same time, Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia have for years been embroiled with overlapping claims against China over West Philippine Sea areas.

Notoriously acknowledged as the region’s bullying bête noire, China is now clearly forewarned after the recent flight of two of America’s giant Stratofortress bombers over disputed East China Sea islands being claimed by her, coupled with US Vice President Joe Bidden’s “psychologically advantageous ” visit to Japan. Two principal factors obligate America to side with Japan in the event of an armed conflict with China: a mutual military defense pact and the proximity of Guam, a US protectorate, to the contested islands.

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s caveat, transcending the flexing of his country’s military muscle — which is good — is, to countless Christian believers, a grim portent of the horrors of the biblical end-of-times Armageddon, a conflict that should be avoided but unfortunately must be waged by the allies in their quest for justice, as against China’s unprincipled proclivity to bully her way thru the disputed areas without resorting to the usual peaceful UN remedies like arbitration or negotiation.

Beijing’s top officials should cogitate on their culture of crime and punishment, particularly their very strict attitude towards offenses involving dishonesty. Their defendants are presumed “guilty beyond reasonable doubt”, instead of “innocent until proven guilty” — which parenthetically is the norm that should be imposed for heinous crimes committed within our jurisdiction under the authority of “judicial activism”. So, one can imagine the severity of the penalty for a Chinese who steals from his neighbors in order to feed his starving wife and children.

However, Chinese moral inconsistency befuddles. In order to feed their burgeoning population in particular, and dominate the world in general, Chinese employ imperialist methods to control both the West Philippine Sea and the East China Sea to acquire all the riches found therein, like oil deposits and other energy-related resources, corals, precious metals and the like. Hmmm…Is Armageddon, the ultimate battle between good and evil as prophesied in the New Testament, just around the corner?

Andres Bonifacio versus Jose P. Rizal

It’s simply asinine, this raging debate over who the greater Filipino hero was between Bonifacio and Rizal. Without belittling Bonifacio’s heroic contributions to the Filipinos’ quest for freedom by leading the KKK revolution, it is like asking ourselves if we’re ready to revise history by hailing him now as the greatest Filipino hero, over and above Rizal. Bonifacio was born in Manila, so I’m supportive of the Manila City Council’s Resolution urging P-Noy and Congress to recognize Bonifacio as the first president of the so-called Gobiyerno Tagala (Tagalog Government).

However, the Resolution should see rough sailing on the true meaning of “Gobiyerno Tagala” as conceived by the Kapituneros, e.g., in relation to its territorial size, its structural components for legislation, execution and interpretation of laws, etcetera.

Bob Arum versus Pacquiao and Henares

Yes, why not a conflict between American boxing promoter Bob Arum in this corner, and boxing legend Manny Pacquiao and BIR Commissioner Kim Henares in that corner? We certainly would not wish to view our boxing idol as a tax cheat (i.e., a thief of our money), given that, with his sensational win over Brandon Diaz, he relieved us, if only momentarily, from the horrors of a bungling government and a couple of natural calamities. No, I refuse to accept that Manny and Kim are separately trying to deceive us over money. So, I propose we consider the following WHAT-IF scenario starring Bob as the culprit who has “shortchanged” Manny and Kim.

The speculative scenario stirs suspicion in light of a long-rumored fight-fixing boxing mafia operating in Las Vegas, Nevada, the world’s known gambling capital, of which Arum is but a member following off-camera bosses. These guys make sure they don’t cross America’s Internal Revenue Service (IRS), by remitting to it the correct taxes derived from all the fights he promotes.
With respect to the 2008-2009 period covering Manny’s bouts that are the focus of Kim’s eagle-eyed scrutiny, Arum must’ve submitted to the IRS Manny’s correct and true Income Tax Returns (ITRs), along with all tax payments due, as assessed by the IRS. But WHAT IF what Arum had given to Manny were Certified True Copies (CTCs) of falsified (watered down) ITRs?

Surely, with the many legal ways the BIR has in verifying tax documents with the IRS, Kim would then have a reason for insisting that Manny submit not the CTCs, but the original ITRs, after detecting substantial discrepancies between them. If this is the case, Manny can then proceed to sue Bob Arum for breach of contract. Likewise, with Manny’s good faith established, a reported Palace plan to grant him an “amnesty” may gain impetus.

In any event, I would have the highest respect for Manny if he stopped his gambling ways, stopped dreaming about the presidency, and stopped using the Holy Rosary like a rabbit’s foot.
(http://musingsbyroy.wordpress.com | 09186449517 | @ronald8roy | #musingsbyroy)

GILLES GARACHON : Promoting French Tourism in the PH

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FROM being an unknown destination, the Philippines is slowly becoming a favorite destination for the French. And part of the growing interest in the Philippines is a result of the efforts made by French Ambassador to the Philippines Gilles Garachon.

Tour of Duty

Serving in Manila since 2012, Garachon has almost 27 years experience in the diplomatic service, having started his career in this field in 1985. Garachon is no stranger to Asia as he was named first secretary at the French embassy in New Delhi in 1989 and later became the consul of France in Hong Kong in 1993.

Ambassador Garachon and wife Isabelle

He served as his country’s political counselor in Bangkok (1999–2003) and as cultural counselor in Jakarta (2003–2007). Before his present assignment, he headed the human resources department of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. While based here in Manila, Ambassador Garachon will concurrently serve as France’s non-resident ambassador to Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Marshall Islands. He succeeded former French envoy to the Philippines, Thierry Borja de Mozata.

Keep Momentum

Since taking the Philippine post, Garachon said French awareness of the Philippines has been increasing steadily because of aggressive cultural, political and academic exchanges between the two countries. “There is a momentum. And I think we have to keep this momentum. This is going to increase, I’m sure. There is plenty of room to increase the relations—of course—there is cultural relations, but also in the field of trade, in the field of politics, also the exchange of students between universities,” Garachon said in a newspaper interview during the French Embassy’s celebration of Bastille Day at his Makati City residence last July 14.

Embassy data showed French tourist arrivals in the Philippines increased by 14 percent from 29,591 in 2011 to 33,709 in 2012.
Garachon said promoting the Philippines in France was his “main difficulty” as an ambassador, as most French knew only nations that figured in their history.

“French people… see the geography very linked to history. And if a country has historical links with France, then it appears on the map. But for the Philippines, we never had any historical connection. Not at all. So for French people, the Philippines is just a question mark,” Garachon said.

“So part of my job and part of the job of the ambassador of the Philippines in Paris is to make French people discover more about the Philippines,” Garachon, who had been posted to Hong Kong, Jakarta and Bangkok before being assigned to Manila, said.

Philippine Exhibit

To boost its image in France the Philippines hosted a three-month exhibit of pre-colonial art at the Quai Branly Museum in Paris from April to July. “I think this exhibit is a great occasion. [All over] Paris, you had a signboard about this exhibit about the Philippines, with beautiful pictures,” Garachon said.

“People loved it and because they were discovering something completely new. In France, nobody knows about the art of the Philippines. And so they discovered it and they enjoyed it very much,” he said.

The exhibit brings together Philippine pre-colonial art and artifacts from collections in the Philippines, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Austria and the United States.

It is the largest exhibit of Philippine art in Europe, according to the French Embassy in Manila.

History of Relations

History tells us that the relations between the Philippines and France go beyond 60 years. A French consulate was established in Manila in the late 19th century, during the time when the Philippines was still a colony of Spain.

When the Spanish expedition under Ferdinand Magellan reached the Philippines, 15 Frenchmen were among its crew. This includes Jean Petit of Angers, lieutenant of Trinidad and Bernard Calmette, chaplain of San Antonio.

French missionaries also contributed to the spread of Christianity in the Philippines. The first Diocesan seminary in the Philippines, the seminary of St. Clement in Manila, was set up with the aid of French Monsignor Charles-Thomas Maillard de Tournon in 1704.
French traders, technicians, soldiers, and officers and crews under the Manila Galleon trade also came to the Philippines. The French recognized the potentials of the Philippines in the trading sector by the 17th century. France discovered the potential use of abaca in the manufacture of naval supplies, particularly ropes. Despite the Spanish colonial government’s restrictions against foreign trade, French and other foreign traders were already in Manila before it was formally opened for foreign trade.

First Consul

France became the first country to establish a consul in Spanish Philippines, followed by Belgium, the United States and finally Great Britain in November 1844. France established its consul in Manila in March 1824.

Diplomatic relations between France and the Philippines was officially established on June 26, 1947 with the signing of the Treaty of Amity. The short-lived First Philippine Republic had a diplomatic representative in Paris in 1898 when the United States and Spain were negotiating the terms for peace in what has come down in history as the Treaty of Paris.

French travel accounts of the Philippines in the 18th and 19th centuries help Filipino historians recreate the past. These publications are illustrated with charming photographs and engravings that provide a visual link to the Spanish Philippines.

Historic Visit

In a historic visit to the Philippines last October French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault met with President Benigno Aquino III and discussed ways to enhance the two countries’ political, economic and cultural relations.

Ayrault was accompanied by a 130-member delegation composed of ministers, parliamentarians and businessmen. The visit, founded on the theme, “Enhancing Philippine-French Relations Through Political, Economic and Cultural Cooperation” is intended to renew bilateral ties between the Philippines and France and propel the countries economic partnerships to greater heights.

Bilateral Trade

According to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), bilateral trade between the the Philippines and France amounted to U$1.143 billion in 2011 as French investments in the Philippines reflected a “significant increase” with total approved investments of PhP1.145 billion, up 90 percent compared to 2010.

The DFA said that French companies such as LaFarge, Total, AXA and Alcatel “have strong presence in the country and have committed to increase their investments in the coming years.”

Leading French companies like RATP Dev and Thales have also expressed their interest to participate in the bidding for flagship projects under the country’s Public-Private Partnership (PPP) program.

The Philippines and France are expected to be sign contracts in various various sectors such as energy, aviation and aeronautics, transportation, infrastructures, electronics, healthcare and environment in the next few years.

France has been supportive of Aquino administration’s development priorities particularly in the areas of “climate change, green infrastructures, sustainable urban development and services including transport, water supply and sanitation, agro-forestry and biodiversity protection, and capacity building for local government units.”

People Exchange

Both countries also enjoy a strong people-to-people exchange as there are 50,000 Filipinos in France and about 4,000 French nationals living in the Philippines.

Most Filipinos in France are engaged in the services sector and skilled professionals. In 2011, Filipinos in France remitted a total of $51.3 million.


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Bridging the Cultural Divide

Ambassador Knut Solem of the Royal Norwegian Embassy

Despite the stark distinction between Philippine and Norwegian cultures, Solem explained that this should not hamper growth and development. Solem said that to thrive in the sea of personal and cultural differences in a global organization, leaders must build cross cultural synergy through cultural knowledge.

PH-NO Cooperation

The long-standing bilateral maritime cooperation between Norway and the Philippines is a prime example of cross cultural synergy according to Mr. Solem. With approximately 25,000 Filipino seafarers on board Norwegian vessels today, the Philippines has been Norway’s valuable partner in the maritime sector. The Norwegian involvement in the maritime industry in the Philippines does not rest on employment of seafarers alone. Norway has also been significantly involved in raising the quality of education and training of seafarers in the country.

Solem said Norway’s century-long involvement in the Philippine maritime sector has been strengthened by the country’s excellent human resources. “The Philippines has a big potential for growth,” he said. Because of this, the ambassador said that Norway has been eyeing on investing in more industries in the Philippines.

Bilateral Relations

The Philippines and Norway have a long history of bilateral relations, owing mostly to cooperation in the maritime sector. Today, relations between our two countries have expanded to encompass not only the shipping industry, but also other business sectors, labor migration, and peace and reconciliation efforts.

There are approximately 18,000 Filipinos living in Norway. They are a very well-integrated minority group in the Norwegian society with a high level of participation in the work force. There is also a variety of active NGOs and interest groups working to promote Filipino culture in Norway. Every year the celebration of the Philippine Independence Day takes place in many communities around the country.

On the other hand, about 3,000 Norwegians are living in the Philippines. Some do business, some do charitable work, whilst others have established new families—or come to spend their retirement under the Philippine sun.

Trade and Economic Relations

Economic relations between our two countries comprise shipping, investments in industry, investments from the Norwegian government pension fund, and services, goods and commodities trade. The Philippines Norway Business Council (PNBC) unites the Norwegian business community in the Philippines and currently has more than 45 member companies and institutions. The Norwegian Embassy is a founding member and is permanently represented in the board of the council.

“The trade figures show a positive trend, cooperation, both multilaterally and bilaterally, is expanding, and the number of our respective nationals living in or visiting each other’s country increases year by year,” Solem said in a message on the embassy website. A lot of the business is still shipping related, but other sectors follow suit. There is also trade with services, goods and commodities. Chemical products are the main export commodity from Norway to the Philippines, followed by fish.

Conversely, electronics, machinery, transport equipment and miscellaneous manufactured articles account for about two thirds of the imports to Norway from the Philippines. Norwegian companies are showing an increased interest in the Philippines. Notably, investments in industrial enterprises have grown in recent years and have shown good profit margins. The energy sector shows promise, with the Philippines having significant potential in the development of hydropower plant and possibly large amounts of untapped natural gas and oil resources. Norway as an energy nation has decades of competence and experience in utilizing and managing such resources.

During the Nordic Ambassador’s Luncheon with Department of Trade and Industry Undersecretary Ponciano Manalo last June Solem called for two-way development of commercial cooperation, where the focus is not only on how Nordic companies can tap into the Philippine markets, but where Philippine companies also realize the potential of the Nordic region as a market. Secondly, he raised the importance of public and private sector collaboration in promoting trade and investment opportunities.

EU Maritime Audit

A maritime audit conducted in April 2013 by a European Union (EU) team on the Philippines’ maritime education and training put the Filipino seafarers’ future in jeopardy, particularly those working on vessels registered in the European Union (EU) countries. Solem finds this condition most serious, but expressed hoped that the Philippines will comply with the 1978 International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (SCTW) to which the Philippines is a party.

“We sincerely hope that the necessary improvements will be done, but time is limited, and the seriousness of the situation should not be underestimated. But, he continued, “do look at this also in the positive way; to make such improvements, to ensure the necessary quality, control mechanisms etc. is the best investment the Philippine government can make. Through compliance with the said convention international demand for Filipino seafarers will just continue to grow!” Solem said.

Another audit was scheduled last month and Solem said Norway will abide by an EU decision. Although not a member of the EU, Norway is associated with the Union through its membership with the European Economic Area (EEA). Norwegian shipping companies employ about 25 000 Filipino seafarers aboard their ships or in shipyards, accounting for one third of the total number of seafarers on Norwegian controlled vessels.

The Norwegian Training Center in Manila provides relevant training for Filipino seafarers serving on Norwegian ships. Maritime cooperation has remained one of the key elements of our bilateral relations. The Norwegian Maritime Authority (NMA/Sjøfartsdirektoratet) is currently assisting the Philippine Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) in an attempt to ensure that maritime/seafarer education is in compliance with the STCW Convention. A number of Norwegian shipping companies have offices in the Philippines.

“Filipino seafarers are not only important to us, I dare say they constitute a cornerstone of our maritime industry.” In light of this, as well as of the urgency of the matter, we have already given technical assistance to MARINA. Both we and other governments are willing to give further assistance, but needless to stress, the final responsibility lies with Philippine authorities,” Solem said.

Diplomatic Relations

Norway established diplomatic relations with the Philippines in 1948. From 1952 to 1956, Norway was represented by a Consulate, later, by a Consulate General in Manila. The Embassy was opened in 1967. The Embassy has three sub-sections, the Maritime Section, the Consular Section and the Visa Section. Norway also has a Honorary Consulate in Cebu. Today, Norway is the only Nordic country to have an embassy in Manila.
The Philippine Embassy in Norway was established in 2008, when it moved from Stockholm due to increasing cooperation in energy and the maritime sector, as well as the increasing number of Filipinos living in Norway. Today the embassy covers all the five Nordic countries from Oslo.

Norway supports a number of Filipino development projects, as well as NGOs working for human rights and social development in the Philippines, through its Peace and Reconciliation Fund. Norway is the third-party facilitator of peace talks between the Philippine Government (GPH) and the Communist movement, NDFP. In addition, Norway participates in the International Monitoring Team (IMT) in Mindanao related to the peace process between the Government (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Malayvieng Sakonhninhom : Ambassador of Lao PDR to the Philippines

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Experiencing the World

MALAYVIENG Sakonhninhom, Ambassador of Laos to the Philippines, is a woman ahead of her time.
Malayvieng wanted to become a journalist in a communist country—where journalism is seen as a ticket to experience the world. But her path took a different turn at the age of 19. Her Journalism scholarship to a French university—which she had kept secret from her parents—was accepted. However, she had to give up her dreams of being a journalist at the behest of her mother.

“[I] cried…very frustrated. But in our society at that time, that’s ok,” Malayvieng said in a newspaper interview at the parlor of the Lao PDR Embassy in the exclusive Magallanes Village in Makati City. Malayvieng said their society was very conservative during that time and mothers kept their daughters close to home where they could be protected adequately. With no local universities offering Journalism, Malayvieng took up Law and Administration instead. She specialized in administration, negotiation and diplomacy, and satisfied her writing bug by contributing to the school newspaper, focusing on women’s rights.


After university, she won a scholarship to the Soviet Union with Southam Sakonhninhom, a good college friend—who would later become her husband. This time Malayvieng took the trip Russia. “We studied together, we were in the same class, we shared notes and books…but no copying [during exams],” recalled Malayvieng. “The scholarship was six years, we helped each other. The Russian language is very difficult and it’s very cold there.”

Romance blossomed despite the severe Russian winters, perhaps because of the warmth Malayvieng and Southam drew from each other. They joined the Foreign Ministry in 1982 and, a year later, they had their first daughter, Souridahak. The baby was barely a year old when Southam was posted to Paris, and then to New York, and then Belgium.

Meanwhile, Malayvieng served in the MFA’s Home Office in Vientiane while he was away and served as mother and father to their girls—Souridahak and Sourignahak. “As diplomats we have to learn to live separately,” Malayvieng said. She saw Southam in February when he came over from Brussels and accompanied her on her official rounds within the Philippines. The life of a diplomat is exciting because of all the traveling, but it’s a life for which her daughters seem to have no interest.

“Ok, that’s interesting to travel, but they don’t like,” Malayvieng said with a chuckle. Souridahak now works for the World Bank in Laos, while Sourignahak is studying in De La Salle University. Distance hadn’t hampered their family ties, though. “There was no discussion to leave the MFA. We love our work,” Malayvieng said. Until five years ago in Laos, if both the husband and wife are serving with the Foreign Ministry, only one of them could get posted overseas. With the growing number of diplomat couples, the practice was abandoned so that both husband and wife would have an equal opportunity to get a foreign assignment.

First Posting

In 2011, the Philippines became Malayvieng’s first posting.
Malayvieng acknowledged with quiet laughter that her husband’s gender was a factor in his promotion before hers: “Because he’s a man, because I’m woman…We [came from] the same school, same university, after that he has been promoted. Finally, we are in the level of ambassador. Same.”

“He went abroad three times…I just been posted for first time and straight to be ambassador,” she added.
There’s no real competition between the couple. They co-authored a book on international law in 2007, and wrote another on protocol. The second book’s cover shows a photo of her presenting her credentials to Malacañang. Malayvieng is now working on a third book about extradition. She recognizes that she is a far cry from the young girl who dreamt of becoming a journalist, the same one who occasionally lied to her parents so she could go out with her friends. Malayvieng recognizes she is also quite unlike her own mother.

Her daughters were born into a society that is now different from hers, and she has adjusted to this more modern society: “When I was little, at that time, the parents very conservative. My daughters’ time is different so I had to modernize. What I could not get, I give to my daughters.”

Asked if there is anything more she wants to achieve at this point, Malayvieng candidly acknowledged that her goal is to finalize President Benigno S. Aquino’s visit to Laos: “As ambassador, that’s what we all want [to achieve].”

PH-Lao PDR Relations

In a speech delivered during the Eight Ambassador’s Forum at the Asian Institute of Management last May 31, Malayvieng provided insights on the economic development trends in Lao PDR, and developments on the Lao PDR-Philippines relations. She opened her speech with background information on Lao PDR and its foreign policies. “Laos has been fighting for liberation and peace since the 18th century.  After a long civil war that ended the constitutional monarchy under Sisavang Vong, the country established a single-party socialist republic in 1975.  In 1986, the country undertook an open-door policy which aimed at improving the country’s economic condition.  Being a landlocked country bordered by Myanmar and China to the northwest, Vietnam to the east, Cambodia to the south, and Thailand to the west, Laos PDR has always pursued the ‘foreign policy of peace, independence, friendship and cooperation.’ Laos PDR has desires to be a land-linked nation by connecting to its neighboring countries and enhancing regional and international integration.”

Although the Philippines and Laos have little history of cooperation, there are initiatives to change this. The visit of the Prime Minister of Laos in May 2012 was seen by many as a critical initial step towards improving Laos-Philippines relations. There are planned activities and programs that will help build closer friendship and cooperation. Laos will soon host the first Joint Commission on bilateral cooperation in 2013; and is also arranging for the visit of President Choummaly Sayasone to the Philippines.

Bilateral Consultative Mechanisms

A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Philippines and Laos was signed on May 6, 2008 establishing the Philippines-Lao PDR Joint Commission for Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC).
Laos offered to host the inaugural JCBC in Luang Prabang. The inaugural JCBC, however, has yet to be convened.

The Philippine Embassy in Vientiane recommends support of the establishment of the Philippines-Laos Parliamentarians’ Friendship Association as this will facilitate a dynamic and proactive parliamentarians’ dialogue between the two countries and contribute to strengthening cooperative relations.
It may be noted that the Philippines is among the countries listed in the Lao National Assembly website as having an existing Lao-Philippines Parliamentarians’ Association.

The Association was established by Resolution No. 156/ST of 14 November 2011 (Resolution of the Standing Member of the National Assembly on an Appointment of the implementation of the Lao-Philippines and Brunei Parliamentarians’ Friendship Association.

Australia-PH Launch NCR ‘Risk Maps’

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“NO city and municipality is safe from natural hazards and disasters. However, not all hazards have to lead to disaster.”

This was the  overarching message during the “Launch and Handover of Multi-hazard and Risk Maps for the Greater Metro Manila Area” held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Ortigas, Pasig City as the Australian and the Philippine Governments recognize the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction.


(image credit - http://australasianinlandmissions.com/)
(image credit – http://australasianinlandmissions.com)

Handed over to Greater Metro Manila Area (GMMA) officials during the launch were hazard and risk assessment maps which are expected to aid local government units in enhancing their local disaster risk reduction management (LDRRM) plans.

An average of 87 maps for each of the 24 local government units (LGUs) in GMMA were handed over.  Also handed over was the exposure database containing physical information, population and socio-economic characteristics of communities.  These are vital information in determining people, assets, and activities that will likely be affected when a disaster strikes.  The maps and exposure database may also be used as a resource in preparing improved land use and contingency plans and targeted investment programs.

National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) Executive Director, Undersecretary Eduardo Del Rosario said, “The local government units and the local chief executives must know the hazards and risks in their respective communities. Records have shown and past experiences have proven—from Ondoy, Pepeng, Habagat, Maring, and the 7.2 magnitude earthquake in Bohol last Tuesday—that disasters can strike anywhere.  Measures must be taken to reduce vulnerabilities and to minimize threats,” he said. “We may not be able to prevent disasters, but we can empower ourselves to prevent lost lives and further deplete our economic resources.”

Australian Ambassador to the Philippines Bill Tweddell said, “The increasing scale and frequency of natural disasters are costing the country millions every year, and studies have shown that due to changing climate patterns and the rapid urbanization in GMMA, it can get even worse.”

“Natural hazards, however, do not have to lead to disasters especially if we are able to carefully assess the risk of an area and properly plan for the long-term. But we can only do that if we have the data. The Australian Government is pleased to have worked closely with the Philippine Government in producing these maps which can now help us prepare for such scenarios.”

The maps and the accompanying data are results of the ‘Risk Analysis Project’, a three-year collaboration of the Australian Government aid program with Geoscience Australia, the Philippines’ Office of Civil Defense, and the agencies under the Collective Strengthening of Community Awareness of Natural Disasters (CSCAND), which include the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, National Mapping and Resource Information Authority, Philippine  Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration, and the Philippine Institute for Volcanology and Seismology.
Apart from the maps however, the proponents of the project also emphasized the need for cooperation and collective action to reduce the vulnerability and enhance the resilience of urban communities. In 2012 alone, the Philippines had the most disaster-related deaths in the world with over 2,300 lives lost. All members of the community, from the government to the residents, thus have the responsibility to take part in disaster risk reduction. We must all be proactive in helping reduce the risk of our community,” said Usec Del Rosario.

AMBASSADOR WILHELM M. DONKO : Man of Literature and the Arts

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BEFORE shifting to foreign service, WILHELM Maximillian Donko—Austrian Ambassador to the Philippines—was a writer and journalist by profession.

Born in Scharding, Linz, Donko worked as a free-lance journalist in the 1980s writing mainly about US naval issues. And even after joining the Austrian diplomatic service in 1990, Donko never lost his love for writing.

(In photo: Madame Yan Donko and Ambassador Wilhelm Donko)
(In photo: Madame Yan Donko and Ambassador Wilhelm Donko)

Coming to Manila in 2009 from his first posting as ambassador in Korea, Donko is the author of two books: “An Austrian View of the Philippines 1858” (published in 2011 by e-publi GmbH—Verlasgruppe Holtzbrink, Berlin) and “A Brief History of the Austrian Navy” (published in 2012).

In his first book, Donko brings to light the chronicles of the frigate Novara, the first Austrian warship to make a port call in the Philippines. Basically, a scientific mission, Norvara had renowned Austrian scholars and artist Josef Selleny who chronicled the mission by through paintings sketches, drawings and aquarelles. #OpinYon #Austria #Foreign #Arts #Literature

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