Google Car: Will It Work in PH?
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
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.
My Fearless/Fearful JLN Forecast!
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
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
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
“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, firstname.lastname@example.org or www.facebook.com/annalizagaspar
Life Beyond Work
“Wisdom is knowing what to do next; virtue is doing it.”
~David Star Jordan (1851-1931)
Educator, Author, Peace Activist
A fulfilling and satisfying life means more than the usual office-home routine.
A university friend I haven’t seen or heard from in several years sent me a message in Facebook last month. He was asking for information on volunteer groups so that he, in his own words, “has something worthwhile to do in his life.” Though his desire to be part of a socio-civic group might have been driven by wanting to have a social life outside of work, he could easily fill that gap by NOT doing volunteer activities. Yet he chose to share his time with others with the hope that by helping improve the lives of others, he improves his too.
Young professionals like him have the resources – time and energy – to volunteer and to actually do something concrete to help improve lives. I salute him and the yuppies who are like him.
This article outlines some of the volunteer services and groups I suggested to him.
It’s that time of the year again when people go to places with cooler weather. Others choose to brave the heat and volunteer their time cleaning and preparing public schools for the coming school year. This yearly activity is called Brigada Eskwela.
Being a Brigada Eskwela volunteer means sweeping, dusting and wiping floors, windows, ceilings, and whatever surface there is. For the few days that you are part of a school’s Brigada Eskwela volunteer corps, you will do everything and anything with nary a complaint.
If you don’t know of a school looking for volunteers for its Brigada Eskwela project this summer, message me and I will get you in touch with school principals who are looking for able-bodied volunteers.
If going places is your passion, volunteering in the places you go visit will certainly enhance that experience.
Travelling becomes much more meaningful and worthwhile when it is spent enhancing our knowledge on how other people, cultures are. A growing trend is the “travel with a cause” where solo or group travellers go someplace to volunteer their time and expertise.
With the Typhoon Yolanda-affected areas still recovering from the devastation, kind-hearted Filipinos and foreigners have been organizing their vacation with the goal of helping the survivors recover. Maybe you and your friends may want to support the Yolanda survivors by going to the affected areas and physically help in the rebuilding process, say, by collecting and delivering books to public libraries.
Create Your Own
Now if the existing plethora of volunteer activities and groups don’t float your boat, don’t worry you can still volunteer by creating your own activity.
You only need to look at the needs of the less fortunate in your neighborhood, and then assess your skills and capabilities. For example, are there a lot of children who are below school age in your area? Why not create a regular reading group? You can partner with your neighborhood religious group in organizing this activity.
If reading to kids is not your thing, then why not organize a group to collect donations for care packages and deliver them to orphanages, halfway houses, etc.?
Truly when a person wants to do something worthwhile for others, only our imagination is the limit to what we can do.
As an opinion writer, I tend to shoot of my mouth with ideas on how the government and so and so elected official should do this and do that. This after all is the heart and soul of being an opinion writer. But an opinion writer who is so detached from reality is someone who is as dangerous to the society as a corrupt politician. To ground myself to the reality of the Filipino masses, I go out and volunteer. By immersing myself to what is happening on the streets, in the boondocks, I hope that my opinions are with soul.
The Gerry Roxas Foundation & Gerry Roxas Leadership Awardees, Inc. invite you to the Leader’s Forum on May 24 3PM at Balay, Araneta Center. GRLAs Quezon City Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte and DILG Usec Austere A. Panadero will speak on leadership & nation building. The Leader’s Forum is part of GRF’s year-long celebration for its 55th anniversary.
To confirm your attendance, text your complete name, high school & year of graduation to Jose Francisco “Cholo” Kawada at 0917-8824656.
Liza fancies herself a writer, but what she wants to do is to actually spend all her time reading what others have written. In the meantime volunteers her time for the Gerry Roxas Leadership Awardees, Inc. and Rotary Club of Makati McKinley’s charitable activities. Visit her Web site at thegirlninja.com, email her at email@example.com or engage her at http://www.facebook.com/annalizagaspar.
Ambassador Gijsbert Anton Boon von Ochssée : Pushing for PH Trade with the EU
AMBASSADOR Gijsbert Anton Boon von Ochssee—The Netherlands ambassador to the Philippines—believes Manila is ready for business with the European Union. “International business is..where the Philippines belongs,” von Ochssee told reporters during a trade conference in Cebu last month. Von Ochssée said that among the areas of cooperation that can be discussed between the EU and the Philippines includes the economy, environment and social approaches, which are important to the business community.
“If you look at the Philippines by its growing population (and) growing business, you have to be more mindful about the environment, more mindful about the social aspects,” von Ochssée said. Dutch firms, in particular, have also expressed keen interest in taking advantage of the collaboration opportunities with local companies, specifically in the fields of energy, agriculture, water, and water management. The Netherlands and the Philippines can boost knowledge and technology exchange to expand partnership, von Ochssée added.
The Philippine government has been pursuing efforts that would allow it to strategically position itself to further boost trade and investments with Europe. These efforts include moves to start negotiating for free trade agreements with the EU and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and to apply for qualification under the European Union’s new Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) scheme or GSP+.
Data from the EU showed that EU-Philippines trade declined by 4 percent to 9.9 billion euros in 2012, due partly to global slowdown in the electronics sector. At 9.9 billion euros, however, EU-Philippines trade is nearly back to its pre-crisis level in 2007, according to the EU. In terms of bilateral trade in 2012 between the 27 EU member states with the Philippines, three out of the Philippines’ six main EU trade partners (namely Germany, Netherlands, France, UK, Italy and Belgium) registered trade surpluses, while 17 registered trade deficits.
In terms of foreign direct investments, the EU remains the largest investment partner of the Philippines with its total stock of investments rising further to 7.6 billion euros as of end-2011. The EU is also the fifth largest host of land-based migrant Filipinos and remains the largest employer of Filipino seafarers. Filipino migrants living and working in the EU as well as Filipino seafarers manning European ships, together sent US$2.8 billion (2 billion EUR) to the Philippines in 2012, making the EU the second largest source of remittances to the Philippines.
Also, the EU remained the fifth largest source of tourists to the Philippines in 2012, with the number of EU tourists reaching a record 349,000 and an increase of 10 percent in 2012, EU data further showed.
Trade and Investments Relations
The Netherlands has always been an important trading partner for the Philippines since formal relations were established between the two countries in 1958. In 2011, the Netherlands continued to be the top EU export market for the Philippines accounting for 3.6% of total exports (US$1.7 billion). Main exports include electronics and semiconductors, processed food, animal and vegetable fats, and clothing.
The Netherlands is also a consistent top source of the Philippines’ foreign direct investment (FDI). During the last 15 years, the Netherlands has been the third largest foreign investor to the Philippines (after Japan and US). Also, to date there are at least 130 Dutch companies established and represented in the Philippines.
Transport and Logistics
The Netherlands and the Philippines have strong and long-standing bilateral relations and economic cooperation in the maritime sector. The Philippines, crewing capital of the world, is the primary source of seafarers for the Dutch fleet (currently employing more than 10.000 Filipino seafarers).
In the framework of international agreements on maritime cooperation, a bilateral treaty between the Netherlands and the Philippines on the recognition of seafarers certificates, both governments annually hold the Joint Committee on Maritime Affairs (JCMA). Furthermore, the joint venture between the Royal Association of Netherlands Ship-owners (KVNR), the Shipping and Transport College in Rotterdam (STC) and the Palompon Institute of Technology (PIT wherein the KVNR provides the nautical academy support in terms of maritime training programs (officer level).
In terms of logistics, opportunities have been identified in upcoming projects relating to the bulk handling and logistics support facilities for agri-food commodities and fisheries products. The Philippines is also developing airport facilities to be a international gateway in terms of air shipping-cargoes with domestic and international flights. The Philippines’ strategic location makes it an ideal hub for logistic service providers in Asia as capital cities in Japan, Korea, China, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Indonesia are all reachable within four hours by plane from Manila.
Agriculture and Food
During the trade and investments seminar conducted in The Hague, The Netherlands last September, Filipino economists and business leaders led by Antonio Villegas and Alaska Milk CEO Wilfred Uytengsu, Jr. encouraged Dutch businessmen to take advantage of business opportunities in the Philippines in the food and agriculture sector. The agri-business sector (agro-processing and agricultural inputs manufacturing and trading) remains a leading sector in the Philippines and continues to be an important source for the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth.
The Netherlands is also the Philippines’ largest market of crude and refined coconut oil as well as the 4th largest market for pineapple and pineapple products. Exports from the Netherlands to the Philippines consist of meat and poultry products, agricultural inputs (i.e. veterinary and animal health products), animal feeds and other food products (processed food, fruits and vegetables, dairy). With food-security being an issue and growing demands of the domestic agri-business sector, the Embassy will focus on niche opportunities for Dutch companies.
Presently, there are about 70 Netherlands-based agricultural companies with representative offices in the Philippines.
While some engage primarily in wholesale or retail of agricultural goods, some companies have expanded to offering added value services such as technology transfer activities in the areas of livestock artificial insemination, plant and/or seedling development and dairy farming.
To further promote and strengthen economic relations, the following Dutch trade instruments are also offered in the Philippines:
Matchmaking Facility (MMF) – The MMF assists local businesses particularly small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in developing countries to establish joint business relations (investment, trade or knowledge transfer) with Dutch companies. Application for MMF should be made and submitted by the local company to the Netherlands Embassy for initial evaluation.
Private Sector Investment Programme (PSI) – PSI programme supports innovative investments in emerging markets to stimulate private sector development, create employment opportunities and contribute to economic growth. Investments and application need to be done by Dutch companies in cooperation with a local partner. The Facility for Infrastructure Development (ORIO) – ORIO is a grant facility intended to contribute to the development, implementation, operation and maintenance of public infrastructure in developing countries. Applications should be made by the central government, local governments or public enterprises and submitted through the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA).
The Sustainable Water Fund (FDW) – is a Public Private Partnership facility which aims to finance projects in the area of water safety and water security. The projects should lead to poverty alleviation, sustainable economic growth and self-reliance.
The Philippines also benefits from the services and expertise of the following Dutch trade support organizations: Center for the Promotion of Imports from Developing Countries (CBI) – CBI assists local companies in exploring export opportunities in the Netherlands and Europe.
CBI sends technical consultants to the Philippines to provide training to small and medium business enterprises. The Philippines Exporters Confederation Inc. or Philexport is the local partner of CBI in the Philippines. Senior Experts Programme (PUM) – sends experienced Dutch senior managers to the Philippines to provide on-site advice on sales and marketing, administration, capacity building among others to entrepreneurs in developing countries. PUM representative offices are located in Cagayan de Oro, Cebu and Davao.
After super typhoon Yolanda struck the Visayas, The Netherlands was also one of the first countries to come to the aid of the Philippines. Dutch Humanitarian NGOs were able to collect a total Php1.5 billion (25 million EUR) for Yolanda victims in the Philippines–in addition to Dutch government contribution of Php350 million (6 million EUR). A national action for public fundraising for humanitarian assistance to the Philippines has resulted in a contribution of 25 million EUR. From early morning until midnight all Dutch broadcasting companies have cooperated to inform the public about the catastrophe that was caused by Typhoon Yolanda and to call for funds.
Dutch citizens have donated en masse for the victims of Yolanda. Through events and activities involving national politicians, DJ’s, singers, actors, TV personalities, sportsmen, artists and others, as well as hundreds of volunteers, funds have been raised by the Cooperating Aid Agencies (SHO). SHO is a partnership of Dutch aid organizations that collectively raise funds for aid to the victims of major humanitarian disasters.
Manhattan Green Solutions: A Green Business Model
by Miriam Tan-Fabian
Big is Not Always Bad
I have always had a deep-seated distrust of big businesses. Unconsciously, I often feel that big business translates to increased environmental impact just due to the sheer size of a company’s operations. When I thought about it though, I recalled that the equation would be totally different if a company’s core competencies are green and pro-environment. One such wonder is Manhattan Green Solutions. Mr. Haresh Daswani, environmental head and manager of MGS, gave me the insider’s scoop on his company.
Conscious Pro-environment Commitment
Reading through the company website, (manhattangreensolutions.com), MGS’ motto is “Welcome to a Greener World,” as a leading environmental and product solutions consultant for companies who wish to reduce their carbon footprint, as well as reduce their operational costs. Digesting this small bit of information encouraged me to delve deeper into the company. I liked the part where the MGS asserted that operational costs can be minimized, if not eliminated, with green and environmental technologies. Oftentimes, businessmen have a popular and deep-seated notion that caring for the environment, including complying with environmental laws, means an inherent trade off between the company’s bottomline and the environment. Such a mindset is wrong and MGS proves it.
One such way is to consciously create products that are good for the environment. Manhattan does this through five major products, the Oxygenics Water Saving showerheads, Veltia hand dryers, Efergy energy monitors, EcoGreen LED lights, and Bioball waterless urinal solution. For example, the Oxygenics series of showerheads allows up to ten (10) times increased oxygen content in the water which helps stimulate and rejuvenate skin cells. Compared to other brands, these products exert 30% stronger water pressure which helps reduce anywhere from 23-70% water and energy consumption when compared to usual commercial brands. And since these showerheads are made of a patented durable resin called Delrin, these showerheads do not clog nor corrode while it resists mineral buildup. Best of all, these futuristic showerheads also have some cool-sounding model names like Vortex, Storm, X Stream, and Five Star Resort.
Starting it Green
Apparently, all of these product innovations involved a conscious choice on MGS’s part, so I had to ask how the company started. Haresh explained that while MGS was initially a trading company, he wanted it to go in a different direction so they initially delved into several comprehensive researches on the environment. This fueled a concern for the current state of our surroundings and a commitment that something had to be done to make things right. At that time, many solutions seemed ineffective and while there were ideas of creating novel green products for the local market, all of these had yet to be made. Finally, these products had to be geared towards the context of the Philippines.
The company has already achieved much by creating and selling their products, but while it can readily just rest on their laurels, Haresh wanted more. When asked, “What is unique about your company that is different from other companies that have environment-friendly products?” He answered, “We are not mere traders. We are consultants presenting product solutions. We initiate in-depth researches and understanding of each of our products. This allows us to properly demonstrate them while being convinced that they are indeed solutions to a problem. We are solution providers more than just product importers”. In addition, MGS provides a staggered payment scheme to all companies, hotels, resorts, hospitals, and other institutions that buy the company’s showerheads by bulk. This set up allows customers to pay affordable monthly payments for a year which would ultimately come from savings from the use of the company’s showerheads. Thus, it is a win-win scenario for everyone. Users of these showerheads enjoy a refreshing shower experience, the purchasing company spends less and is able to pay MGS more conveniently, and MGS itself earns in the process while promoting a stronger tie-up with its bulk buyers. In fact, MGS has already partnered with such bigwigs as Fitness First and several hotels in Manila, Cebu, Palawan, and Boracay.
Challenges from Local Context
Despite MGS’s outstanding accomplishments, Haresh was candid about the company’s many challenges when he explained that one problem was, “Market maturity and understanding of product feasibility given that many managers in the Philippines just run on the command given to them, rather than presenting a novel idea to resolve their issues. Many are still stuck to the idea that a good suggestion is riskier than just following what your boss has ordered you to do”.
Need: A Little Boost
When I asked Haresh if the government has extended any kind of support, he said, “None at this point”. However, when I quizzed him what the government can do for Manhattan, he answered, “We would like our products to be better promoted and used in cities. We hope to be given audience to discuss how we can provide new solutions that others never thought about”. With all the good work that Manhattan has been done and is doing, it should obtain more help so that it can continually do good.
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