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Google Car: Will It Work in PH?

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By Andrea Lim

Google has recently come up with a prototype that, although it looks like it came straight out of a Disney Pixar movie, is an innovation that will seem to put us forward into the twenty-first century – the ‘Google Car’.

It is basically a self-driving compact version of a Mercedes-Benz smart car, big enough to fit two adults and a few pieces of luggage in the back.

The Google Car, or ‘Goog’, possibly owes its appeal to its friendly, ‘cute’ appearance – its face having ovoid eyes and baby-blue retinas, a shiny button nose and a straight-line mouth. However, the design strategy was “a concession to a fact about glaring fact about driverless cars: To a public raised on taking the wheel, the very concept of ceding control is terrifying.”

Although most people have nothing but positive words for this development in technology, we can only speculate if and how this will be beneficial to a third-world country like the Philippines.

Take for instance, the fact that while the Google Car is driverless but may still follow rules of the road down to the letter, there are still other factors to consider. Among those are the safety of the driverless car’s passengers and of course, the other drivers.

Google released a trial product where the car has nothing save for the seatbelts, a start button, and an emergency stop button. Cliff Kuang of wired.com says that a driverless car has to be “filled with cues in the knobs and interfaces that teach the user even while it’s enticing and acclimating the audience of potential users.”
If we are to have this sort of modernization running along our streets, it should be worth noting that Filipinos are known for their short attention spans, sad to say. If a billboard of a half-naked woman along EDSA could divert drivers’ attention from the road, what more a driverless vehicle running at 60 miles per hour?

Explosive Dead Whale

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The residents of a town on Canada’s Newfoundland Island fear a blue whale carcass that washed up on its boardwalk last week could explode at any time.

The 25m (81ft) whale on Trout River’s rocky beach is one of several believed to have died in heavy ice weeks ago.

Town Clerk Emily Butler says the body is bloated with methane gas caused by decomposition and will soon reek, regardless of whether it explodes.

Local and federal authorities disagree which are responsible for its disposal.

Ms Butler said the town of 600 people did not have the resources to deal safely with the carcass, though Canadian officials say it is their responsibility.

She told broadcaster NTV that if the town were to push the whale out to sea, it could pose a hazard to passing ships.

The whale appears to have bloated beyond twice its normal size

The town, a tourist destination inside Gros Morne National Park on the Canadian island’s west coast, has seen a new type of visitor since the whale carcass came ashore.

“It’s very difficult to keep people away, simply because it’s not too often that you see a blue whale,” Ms Butler told broadcaster CBC.

Last year a sperm whale carcass that washed up on the Faroe Islands exploded as a biologist attempted to dissect it.

 

(BBC.co.uk)

 

My Fearless/Fearful JLN Forecast!

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As of our Press Deadline, Janet “Jeny” Lim-Napoles was still at the Ospital ng Makati. While the World was questioning why she had not been returned to her court designated place of detention at the PNP SAF camp in Santa Rosa, Laguna, the Authorities were pointing fingers at each other.

The Makati RTC Branch presided over by Judge Almeda said that there was no need for a Court Order to return her to where the Court had committed her. Her custodian, the PNP, said that she had not paid her hospital bills and therefore could not get a discharge or release order from the Ospital ng Makati. The Ospital ng Makati said that they had already issued a discharge order. Besides, they said that it is against the law to hold a patient because of non payment of medical bills or expenses.

Then we hear that JLM wants to stay in the hospital for at least three months. That is what the rich and infamous always want to do. Former Presidents Estrada and Arroyo were committed to the Presidential Suite of the Veterans Memorial Hospital. Former PCSO Chairman and Director Manoling Morato stayed at the SLMC, QC. Gov. Antonio Leviste and Rolito Go spent a portion of their sentences in various hospitals as well as special accommodations at the National Penitentiary at Muntinglupa.

My Fearless Forecast is that if JLM is brought back to Santa Rosa, her list of Senators, Congressmen and Executive Officials involved in the the PDAF/Pork Scandal will come out in its entirety. My Fearful Forecast is that if JLM continues to be detained at the Ospital ng Makati, her list will again be censored, evaluated and manipulated to implicate PNoy’s enemies and protect his allies, friends and KKK’s.

My very educated guess is that while JLN (born January 15, 1964) started out in business dealings with the government fifteen years ago, she made it big when she learned and graduated to the level of PDAF.  This was during the GMA Administration between January 2001 and June 2010. She and her husband, Marine Major Jaime “Jimmy” Napoles, were charged in connection with a 1998 3.8 million peso Kevlar Helmet Procurement Contract divided among seven dummy corporations. Her husband was dropped from the case. Janet was acquitted in 2010.

By the time of the May 2010 National Elections, JLN had accumulated huge sums of money from the multi billion peso Ghost Deliveries of fake Projects of JLN NGO’s. My Guess is that JLN gave the Noy – Mar/LP Campaign a big campaign contribution in the hundreds of millions of pesos. And that is why JLN’s Scam phased in effortlessly into the Aquino Administration of the “Matuwid na Daaan”.

The Expose of the JLM PDAF Scam was triggered by the serious illegal detention of Ben Hur Luy from Dec 19, 2012 to March 22, 2013 by JLN and her brother Reynald “Jojo” Lim.  On the behest of Ben Hur’s parents, the NBI rescued him from a JLN house that was being used as a retrest house. While in NBI protective custody, Ben Hur started to about JLN’s operations. Meanwhile, JLN continued to harass Ben Hur and use influence and wealth in her favor. JLN retained the MOST Law Office.

However, on July 12, 2013, the PDI came out with a series on the JLN PDAF Scam. In the meanwhile, Social Media had discovered and encountered the high living lifestyle of the Lim – Napoles Family. A month later, on Friday, August 16, Netizens almost spontaneously called for a Million People March and Rally at the Luneta for Monday, August 26, a holiday.

Meanwhile, the NBI – DOJ – Ombudsman investigation and prosecution as well as the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee’s Hearings focused on the three opposition Senators, namely Senators Enrile, Estrada and Revilla to the neglect of other Legislators, Executive Officials and NGOs.

Meanwhile, the serious illegal detention case filed by Ben Hur Luy against JLN and Reynald “Jojo” Lim matured under media and public watch from NBI Investigation to DOJ Prosecution and finally the issuance of warrants of Arrest by the Makati RTC versus Jeny and Jojo. This was followed by the posting of a reward for information leading to Janet’s arrest.

After hiding for several weeks, Janet surrendered to President Aquino and DILG Sec Mar Roxas in Malacanang after a nightime “Hide and Seek” with Presidential Spokesman Lacierda. Then, Noy and Mar escorted JLN to Camp Crame. The purpose of the whole charade was to secure JLN’s cooperation in the one sided Investigation and Prosecution of the three Opposition Senators.

Meanwhile there was the promise of comfort and leniency for the VIP Accused Criminal and Detention Prisoner. However, six months passed with no hospital arrest as promised. That is why the Lists started to threaten to come out.

Peter Cauton: Pinoy Startup Mastermind

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Peter Cauton considers himself a career HR Practitioner turned serial entrepreneur. But he is more than that. Technopreneurs and aspiring startups all over the country know him more as an inspirational speaker and a founder of several startup companies. He is an expert on how to get someone’s dream tech business started, and how to sustain it.

He started his first company, STORM Consulting back in 2006. The company has since grown by leaps and bounds and is now called STORM Rewards.

Peter Cauton is considered a leader of the Filipino Startup Movement via his site Juan Great Leap (juangreatleap.com). His mission in life is to inspire others to take the great leap into entrepreneurship. In his interview with Tech In Asia’s Raya Edquilang, he was asked: What was that defining moment when you made a conscious decision that helping others is what you want to do?

He answered, “In 2008, I made the biggest career decision of my life – I took the leap, kissed my corporate career goodbye and went full-time to help my struggling startup. Considering it was in the middle of the recession and I had a newborn son, it was an idiotic decision. By God’s grace, it worked out. In 2011, not only was I making a good living running my own firm, I also founded more startups. I just felt incredibly blessed.”

Peter felt the need to pay it forward. He also wanted to write a book. He shares, “It would consist of some of the lessons I learned in leaving corporate and developing my startup. But after some months, I found that it was just a huge step to develop material from scratch into a book. So I thought of something I had never thought I do – write a blog. I remember writing my first post. I dilly-dallied a lot, postponing pushing the ‘publish’ button for as long as I can. In many ways, starting a blog was scarier than writing a book. The exposure was instant. What if people hated what I wrote? Or thought ‘this guy is a hack’? But I thought, like my startup leap, nothing worthwhile is ever accomplished without some risk. And so I clicked publish. The blog has almost taken a life of its own now. I totally did not forecast how much it would resonate with people. Its been an amazing blessing for me.”

His idea for Juan Great Leap is to do advocacy work to promote startups. One of their plans is to popularize Juan Great Leap conferences. “In the last one, sponsored by Ayala, we attracted over 200 people to a learning session/panel discussion. We are planning another one on March 2nd: a mass ‘speed dating’ event with 20 awesome startup founders. These bigger events are geared towards creating a mass learning opportunity for participants.”

Juan Great Leap also organizes smaller meetups, called Open Coffee. Every month, around 40 to 50 people participate. The meetup is geared towards collaboration and helping other aspiring techpreneurs. Peter says that the meetup is open to people from any part of the startup process from ‘I have an idea’ to ‘I have just sold my startup.’

The main attraction in Juan Great Leap events, according to him, is the open floor where people have two minutes to pitch anything to the group – an idea, a problem to solve, a need, a survey. The idea is to learn, share and have fun.

“Aside from these, I meet two to three entrepreneurs for coffee every Saturday morning. We talk about everything and anything – from startup ideas, outlining opportunities, and even the spiritual side to startups. A couple of people I’ve met at Startup Saturdays have become dear friends of mine, some also who I’ve had the privilege to mentor,” he adds.

Asked about the greatest challenge for Filipino tech startups, Peter remarks, “There aren’t enough entrepreneurs to take on the multitude of great ideas which are available. Right now, you see the same people in startup events – this is very good of course, as we are creating a strong community, but we need more people to join in. The biggest challenge is to inspire even more Filipinos to take that great leap!”

In the midst of his success, Peter admits that he has made mistakes anyone could possibly imagine. But he did not allow mistakes to stop him from pursuing his goal. “By sheer perseverance, passion, and prayer, STORM is still standing after nearly 7 years, and has been growing steadily,” he says.

Peter knows that being a technopreneur is also a process of learning things about yourself. He muses, “What I’ve learned about myself in recent years is that I really love the startup process – I absolutely love getting the right ideas and the right people together in solving great problems. I guess the HR person in me never left – I want to help other people find their passions. With this end in mind, can it get any better than rallying people to build startups, new entities that are supposed to center around the entrepreneur’s passions?
Looking around what has been happening in the startup scene around the world, I feel the Philippines has been left out a bit. I look at the Techcrunch-type sites around and I notice more and more extremely passionate, talented people taking huge leaps in pursuing their dreams, almost on an everyday basis.”

Peter has some words of wisdom for fresh college graduates and young aspiring entrepreneurs:

“Our graduates by and large think of one path: to make a resume, get hired by a corporation, and work their way up the corporate ladder. Then maybe get an MBA in 3-4 years, ideally abroad, and then resume going up that ladder. Talk to any business graduate of any school and this is what you’ll hear. This is the mind-numbingly singular plan.”

“Ever think about starting a business? What if you took that leap 2 years ago?
It is shuddering to think how many dreams have been quashed, how many creative impulses wasted, how many spirits have been broken, in these corporate jobs where positions matter more than people.”

Peter continues, “No way in hell is this because of a lack of talent. Filipinos are world-renowned talents. No way is it because of a lack of ambition. It is because of a lack of perception. A perception that, yes, someone in her twenties can put up a great, world-class startup. That, yes, you can make a dent in the universe.”

His final piece of advice for those who want to become entrepreneurs?
“Take that leap, Juan.”

Stop Exploitation Of Marine Life, Says Senator

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AS the world celebrated Earth Day last April 22, Senator Loren Legarda renewed her call to protect marine biodiversity and preserve the country’s ecosystems.

Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, said that the country’s natural resources, especially those within our seas, are crucial to the survival of Filipinos, especially that the Philippines is an archipelago.

“We are fortunate to have been blessed with abundant natural resources. In fact, we are one of the 17 megadiverse countries, home to majority of Earth’s species. Unfortunately, we are also one of the world’s top biodiversity hotspots, with a large number of species that are endangered or threatened with extinction,” she lamented.

“The Philippines also has one of the world’s richest marine ecosystems, characterized by extensive coral reefs, sea-grass beds and dense mangroves. But despite this richness in marine resources, about 3.9 million families still experienced hunger in the last quarter of 2013 and many of those living in coastal communities remain poor with 4 of 10 coastal residents living under poverty line,” she added.

“We must all work, in our own and simple yet big and determined steps, to help resuscitate our ailing environment. Let us turn away from extractive and consumptive way of living and strive to make a positive impact on our natural resources—may it be by saving on fuel, energy and water consumption, recycling, proper solid waste management or growing trees,” Legarda said.

“We must put an end to the exploitation and exportation of corals as well as the fishing and taking of any rare, threatened and endangered species. Our fishermen should stop the use of fine mesh net, explosives and other poisonous substance in our seas,” she added.

Last April 22, the Senator launched a video documentary on Philippine marine biodiversity to raise awareness on the current condition of the country’s marine life and underwater resources.

The project is a collaboration with award-winning director Brillante Mendoza, in partnership with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Philippine Information Agency.

The documentary features marine videos from underwater videographer Robert “Bobbit” Suntay and his fellow videographers Jan Acosta, Boogs Rosales and Wowie Wong from the Network of Underwater Digital Imagers (NUDI).

“We celebrate Earth Day every year on April 22 and we are reminded to nurture our planet which abundantly provides us with the resources we need to survive. We are encouraged to strengthen our commitment to save the Earth and contribute to the sustainability of our nation,” Legarda said, in concluding her speech.

The senator also warned that neglecting our marine resources can result to hunger and poverty for millions of Filipinos. “Its (marine ecosystem) destruction affects the livelihood of coastal communities, our food supply, our tourism and our economy.”

Money Wins

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By Ray L. Junia, publisher

Binay is aware of MVP’s anti-politics stance, but feels his much-vaunted technocracy is what the country needs in the face of a globalizing economy.

 

Speculations are rife that business mogul Manuel V. Pangilinan (aka MVP) may yet throw his hat in the political arena come 2016.

That depends though on the ongoing talk between the emissaries of Vice President Jojo Binay and MVP for their possible tandem in the next presidential elections.

From the rumor mill, word leaked that Binay personally handpicked his emissaries, some of them MVP’s Ateneo classmates and business leaders, to persuade the tycoon to join politics.

That was the same tact used by then presidential bet Richard Gordon in the last national elections when he wanted to rope in MVP as his running mate, but the tycoon begged off.

Binay is aware of MVP’s anti-politics stance, but feels his much-vaunted technocracy is what the country needs in the face of a globalizing economy.

Capital Market

MVP, an IVY League-trained investment banker, has built a multi-billion peso corporate empire, spanning from Indonesia to Thailand, Hong Kong and the Philippines, under the umbrella of Indonesian conglomerate Salim Group. Their businesses cater to every human need – from womb to tomb.

Some of the MVP-steered companies are among the biggest – in terms of assets and revenues — not only in the Philippines, but even throughout Asia as well.

They include the blue chips Philippine Long Distance Telephone (PLDT) and Meralco whose listed shares allow the public to own them via the Philippine bourse.

In more ways than one, PLDT and Meralco help woo foreign investments in the capital market, an integral part of the economy.

Being public utilities, their rising rates may drag down, however, MVP’s popularity come election time.

Campaign Weapon

Most likely, other contenders will associate MVP with a regime of high prices as a campaign weapon against him.

But politics is a game of numbers which often fluctuate depending on prevailing risks and opportunities.

Taking all things equal, MVP may yet emerge as a surprise package, given the rough-and-tumble nature of politics in a country long driven by partisanship.

There’s another hitch to Binay’s likely choice of MVP for the nation’s second highest public office.

The plunder cases notwithstanding, Senator Jinggoy Estrada minced no words in making himself available as Binay’s second in command for the 2016 polls.

Jinggoy’s preference has caught Binay in a bind since they belong to the opposition party UNA along with Jinggoy’s father, Manila Mayor Erap Estrada, and Senator Juan Ponce Enrile.

Why MVP?

Batangas Governor Vilma Santos, wife of Senator Ralph Recto, and Gawad Kalinga founder Tony Meloto are also being bruited about as Binay’s possible running mate, but both have declined so far.

Reckoned with the credentials of movie actress-cum-politician Santos-Recto and low-cost housing builder Meloto, why MVP?

So far, only Binay has openly declared he’s gunning for the presidency when Aquino’s six-year term ends by 2016.

As if MVP is on top of the heap, so to speak, Binay somehow hinted his bias and preference for the tycoon as his running mate for VP.

“If possible, the person should have a track record that will be of help to us in improving the country. Who can give that but of course an economist,” he said, apparently referring to MVP, himself an economics graduate cum laude from the Jesuit-run Ateneo de Manila.

No Formal Talk

Citing his experience as a local government executive, Binay recalled the days when he was mayor of Makati city, the country’s financial hub.

“One of my guiding policies when I was a mayor was to run the city government of Makati as if it were a corporate entity, “he said.

In wooing MVP into his fold, Binay believed he could prop up the values of efficiency and effectiveness in governance to get votes once the campaign in the run-up to 2016 heats up.

He noted that MVP’s experience as an investment banker could be an advantage to the new government as funds would be needed to push projects that address poverty, unemployment and other socio-economic ills plaguing the country.

Binay clarified though that he has not had formal talk with MVP who began his career as an investment banker in Makati city in the early ‘60s.

Technocrat

Although they met on several occasions, Binay said, they did not discuss the 2016 polls.

Once rumored eyeing the presidency, MVP stands out as one of the most powerful men in the country, being at the helm of companies that are leaders in industries considered crucial to the Philippine economy.

These include the infrastructure giant Metro Pacific Investments Corp., biggest gold producer Philex, as well as Metro Pacific Tollways Corp., and Maynilad Water Services Inc.

So far, MVP has kept mum on what may be described as a snowballing move to draw him to what could be his unchartered territory – politics.

Last year, some political commentators believed that MVP evoked strong potentials for either as president or vice president, citing his impeccable credentials as a business leader and a technocrat.

They noted how he turned around the once loss-making companies such as PLDT into highly profitable ones because of his management skills and expertise.

Outburst

But MVP, who has long shunned politics, said in a statement that “there is no political blood that runs through my veins… I believe I can serve our people better some other way.” To him, his role as a businessman is enough to help the country’s economy grow.

Nonetheless, the tycoon agreed that elections ‘provide a rare opportunity to define the country’s long-term economic and social priorities, and form a broad consensus around them.”

That sense of optimism is a far cry from what he uttered some two years ago – “kung ako lang,” he was quoted as saying, “I’d pack up and go back to Hong Kong,” headquarters of the Salim-owned flagship First  Pacific Co. Ltd. “Ang gulo-gulo n’yo!” (You are troublesome)

That infamous outburst, which has gone viral on the internet, was an angry reaction to how critics demonized him for kowtowing to Beijing in his bid to form a joint venture with a state-owned Chinese company to explore oil in the Spratlys, claimed by both the Philippines and China.

Likening MVP’s move as “sleeping with enemy,” critics lashed out at him over his plan to allow the Chinese to explore part of the nation’s territory.

MVP may cite one plausible explanation that business is business since his group holds a substantial stake in the exploration rights granted by the Aquino government to an oil field in the Spratlys, also referred to as west Philippine sea.

Whatever it is, the torrent of criticisms could be a litmus test of MVP’s expected transition from a hassle-free corporate milieu to the abominable dog-eat-dog world of politics.

MVP Is The Wrong Leader 

To MVP, abominable is not how he would describe Philippine politics even with his pretensions to be fed up with the dirty ways of our politicians. From all indications he has mastered the art of Philippine politics as he has turned out to be the master of many of the country’s political leaders.

It is common suspicion that many of the country’s political leaders are in the payroll of big business. And MVP is one at the front of big business. This suspicion has earned credence from the favored concessions big business get from the government.

That MVP could be tempted to run for vice president or president is a perception created by MVP himself. That the thought sometimes flirts in his mind could be a product of his experience in making his principals’ money win candidates who don’t deserve to be in office.

Should MVP take the dive into politics, preferring not to be simply the manipulator, there is strong reason he will win. He has command of billions of pesos in money machines and control over national media.

Then we will have placed another wrong person to lead this country from poverty, for while he has been active in corporate social responsibilities and sports, the truth is, he is one of the major reasons the country is very poor and why millions are without jobs and penniless.

(Mis)Taxes For Sari-Sari Stores

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“A bad beginning makes a bad ending” ~ Euripedes

Laoag City – The slow and tedious, not to mention expensive, processes of registering a business and compliance with tax requirements with the Bureau of Internal Revenue make Teresita* question her decision to open a sari-sari store to augment her husband’s, a tenant farmer, income. For the privilege of operating a sari-sari store, she has to issue official receipts and deal with the BIR every month, for percentage tax** among others.

“Issue an official receipt for every sale even if the buyer didn’t ask for it, but if the sale is below P25 and the buyer didn’t ask for one, then you don’t have to issue a receipt,” the BIR officer emphasized during the tax  briefing at the Revenue District Office No. 1 in Laoag City. “If you don’t issue a receipt, you will be fined P10,000! If your customer asked for a receipt and you didn’t give him, that’s a fine of P20,000!” she warned.

“Everything is very confusing,” Teresita told her seatmate at the briefing. “To travel to the city every month to pay taxes, I will spend an additional P184 for public transportation expense,” she added.

Additional transportation expense is not the only additional costs Teresita has to think of is she wants to open a sari-sari store. Not only will she need to pay 3% of her monthly sales to BIR, but she also have to pay for the cost of printing official receipts. For a farmer and a housewife, just the additional P184 in monthly transportation expense is a lot.

Isn’t there an injustice in this tax requirement for sari-sari stores? Is it really fair to ask them to issue official receipts? Is it fair that sari-sari store owners, who are mostly marginal earners, be burdened with monthly tax compliance? Is it fair that people who barely earn enough to buy for their necessities are burdened with additional costs in exchange for the privilege of owning a sari-sari store?

When asked why this so much tax compliance burden for sari-sari stores, the same BIR officer said that the official receipts will help BIR determine if sari-sari stores are truly earning marginally. She added that it is not enough for sari-sari store owners to declare they are marginal earners, but they have to show BIR receipts that they only sold so much.

I understand the country, through the BIR, needs to increase its tax collections so it can improve basic services to the country, but ensuring that all sari-sari stores report their actual sales and requiring them to pay taxes on these sales every month too much of a burden? The combined annual sales of all sari-sari stores in the country couldn’t possibly equal the one year sales of PLDT which, as of 2013, was P 164.1 billions. So isn’t BIR efforts more aptly rewarded if it focuses its efforts in policing the country’s biggest corporations and ensuring that they pay the right taxes?

The cost of ensuring that every single sari-sari store comply with this rule and the additional benefit, increase in tax collections, are clearly not commensurate. Isn’t there a better, less onerous way for the government to collect taxes from sari-sari stores? With the combined brilliance of the people at BIR, I am sure they can think of something.

The tax rules governing tricycle and jeepney drivers and operators are an example of this brilliance. I don’t know how it is in the other parts of the country, but in the boondocks I call home, our neighborhood tricycle driver earns more than the nearest sari-sari store. Why not require sari-sari stores to pay a fixed amount of taxes every quarter? If Teresita is required to pay P750, which is equivalent to a total sales of P25,000, a quarter in taxes, this would still be preferable to spending almost P600 every quarter in transportation expenses for monthly tax compliance.

What is it with sari-sari stores that they are dealt with differently? Could it be that requiring sari-sari stores to issue official receipt with the threat of thousands of pesos in fines if they don’t is a sign of a wider epidemic? Is this the beginning of the slow death of common sense in BIR?

What will be the next result of this slow death of common sense? Maybe, ask the fish vendor at the wet market to issue official receipts, too?

*Not her real name

**Percentage tax is a computed as 3% of total sales and is paid monthly to the BIR

Liza M. Gaspar is a wealth coach and personal finance enthusiast. She also volunteers for the Rotary Club of Makati McKinley (rcmmckinley.org) and the Gerry Roxas Leadership Awardees (grlawardees.org). Engage her in a discussion about anything you fancy at http://www.thegirlninja.com, liza@thegirlninja.com or www.facebook.com/annalizagaspar