[By Erick A. Fabian]
The Philippines has the best call center agents in the world. We shouldn’t be surprised when they are pirated by companies in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand come ASEAN 2015.
All the foreign firms have to do is offer them better salaries and security of tenure.
There is one thing the government can’t stop — the continuous brain-drain of Filipino professionals which has been happening for several decades.
It started with our scientists. Then the doctors, nurses, teachers, and information technology professionals followed.
For a country relying on manpower as a major source of revenue, we will soon find ourselves empty-handed.
There is no question as to the competence of Filipino business processing operations (BPO) or call center employees. Being a former American colony for 50 years, the Philippines has produced a large pool of fluent English speakers.
Ability to mimic
Even India conceded when its BPO companies moved 70 percent of their operations here recently. Companies worldwide have attested to the Filipino’s natural ability to mimic a neutral, easy-to-understand Western accent.
With most of our industries outflanked by their counterparts in other Asian countries, the BPO industry is one of the most promising saviors of the Philippine economy.
Offshore business processing is expected to double its multi-billion dollar earnings in 2015, due to rising demand in the global economy.
As ASEAN 2015 looms, the emerging economies of Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam will be joining the BPO bandwagon.
International investors keep complaining about the corruption, infrastructure, and the difficulty of setting up a business here, seen as a major bottleneck for would-be BPOs.
We cannot blame Filipino call center employees if they eventually move abroad. There is nothing wrong with prioritizing your family’s needs, and a better offer is always tempting.
Fresh graduates of electronics communications engineering from provincial colleges are already getting offers of double compensation abroad. BPO agents will soon follow suit, because investors will find fertile ground in other Asian countries.
In fact, even military junta-ruled Myanmar is loosening up policies so foreign investors will be attracted to come and stay. The current regime at least had the sensibility to admit that they need a lot of foreign investor money to sustain their country’s economy.
US-based BPOs are here simply because the costs are much lower, and the return on investment more than makes up for the initial capital of setting up a new operation.
But more and more Filipino professionals are slowly trickling into Thailand and Vietnam, buoyed by their innate English language proficiency.
A 2013 ZDNET.com report by finance analyst Ryan Huang confirms that the Thai call center industry is pulling up its sleeves to challenge BPO heavyweights Philippines and India.
Internet speed is the lifeblood of the BPO industry, and yet the Philippines has one of the slowest Internet speeds in Asia. This is what they call the digital divide: the one who gets the information first wins.
The country has supplied the initial amount of exceptional BPO employees, but it is now becoming more obvious that we cannot respond to the skyrocketing demand.
The availability of foreign BPO companies here is a drop in the bucket. There are more than three million eligible but unemployed Filipinos. The call center industry can only employ around 600,000.
There are recent reports of Filipino professionals doing well in Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam. A quick sweep of online job listings shows random lists of companies in Asian countries recruiting Filipino call center agents with offers of better salaries and working conditions.
One gray area is that law enforcement can’t even ensure the safety of BPO workers in Makati and Ortigas who mostly work at night. Recent accounts of mugging and other crimes against call center workers abound.
Whether the government and the BPO industry can get their acts together is another story.
A year after the May 13, 2013 elections, Vice President Jejomar Cabauatan Binay is still way ahead in the race for President in 2016. Pulse Asia conducted its regular Ulat ng Bayan Nationwide (1,200 respondents with a + or – 3 % margin of error.) Public Opinion Survey from March 19 to 26, 2014. If the national elections for President, Vice President and twelve Senators had been held then, the following would have been the results (Assuming that the candidates were the same ones on the list chosen by Pulse Asia below.):
For President (% of a hundred.): Binay 40, Poe 20, Santiago 10, Escudero 9, Roxas 6, Marcos 5, Cayetano 4, Kris Aquino 4, Revilla 3 and Lacson 2.
For Vice President (% of a hundred.): Poe 24, Escudero 20, Roxas 8, Trillanes 7, Cayetano 6, Marcos 5, Kris Aquino 5, Lacson 5 , Vilma Santos 5, Jinggoy Estrada 4, Bam Aquino 3, Revilla 3, J V Ejercito 2 and Leni Robredo 1.
For Senators: Sotto, Drilon, Roxas, Recto, Pangilinan, Lacson, Zubiri, Gordon, Marcos, Osmena, Madrigal, Pacquiao (12th), Hontiveros, de Lima, Kris Aquino (15th), Lino Cayetano, Herbert Bautista, Jackie Enrile, Tootsie Guingona, Mitos Magsaysay (20th), Lani Mercado, Ruffy Biazon, Gwen Pimentel, Ed Hagedorn, Leni Robredo (25th), Shalani, Dingdong Dantes, Gina de Venecia, Dinky Soliman and Teddy Casino (30th).
The above results belong to the portion of the survey for public release. These are the subject matter and answers to questions that are regularly formulated and included by Pulse Asia in their regular surveys. However, there are subject matter and questions that are included and initiated and therefore paid for by individuals or organizations for their own purposes. These are not released to the mass media and to the public for a certain period of time.
In the said private portion of the above survey was the same question regarding who the respondent would vote for for President if the elections were held during the period of the survey. However, the list of candidates included former President and present Manila Mayor Joseph “ERAP” Ejercito Estrada. ERAP made it to second place, behind Binay but ahead of Poe.
As a matter of public disclosure, I would like to put on record my campaign preference and voting record for all the Presidential and Vice Presidential elections since I was born on October 12, 1948.
1948 – No memory of any political consciousness, preference or activity on my part.
1953 – Ramon Magsaysay for President. Contempt and hatred for Elpidio Quirino. No consciousness or preference for Vice President.
1957 – PPP*. Manuel Manahan for President, Uncle Vicente Araneta for Vice President.
1961 – United Opposition Party (LP/PPP/GA). Vice President Diosdado Macapagal for President, Emmanuel Pelaez for Vice President. Raul Manglapus and Manuel Manahan for Senators.
1965 – PPP*. Raul Manglapus for President, Manuel Manahan for Vice President.
1969 – I turned twenty one in October 1969. I must have registered and voted but cannot remember for whom – the NP Marcos/Lopez or the LP Osmena/Magsaysay. I volunteered for CNEA with Jimmy Ferrer, Chino Roces, Charito Planas and my classmate Edgar Jopson. I remember operating in the Quirino Ave, area of Quezon City. As early as November 1969, I already felt and foresaw that Marcos’s reelection and victory would lead to a pressure cooker effect in our society.
1973 – We were for consolidating the Moderate and Reformist Political and Protest Movement with the active and organized sectors like the farmers and labor (We did so under the Kapisanan ng mga Anakpawis ng Pilipinas.). We were united under the KAP with the FFF, FFW, PAFLU, PHILCONTU and YCW. We intended to coalesce with the LP under the Presidency of Senator Gerardo “Gerry” Roxas. We were pushing for a South North tandem of Roxas (Capiz) and Manglapus (Candon, Ilocos Sur).
1986 – LABAN/UNIDO. Cory Aquino and Doy Laurel.
1992 – PRP. Miriam Santiago and Jun Magsaysay.
1998 – Kakampi ni … . ERAP and GMA.
2004 – FPJ and Loren Legarda. After Binay took over the campaign from the ASO (Angara, Sotto and Oreta.) during the Holy Week of 2004 and after he and ERAP led the UNO and together with the NP’s Senate President Manny Villar won a majority of the Senate seats in the 2007 Senatorial elections, I believed that Binay should run for Senator in 2010. My biggest ever mistake in political analysis was believing that Binay had no chance at all of winning as Vice President in 2010.
2010 – Noynoy for President. Balimbing (sometimes Binay, sometimes Mar.) for Vice President. Binay won, beating Noynoy’s LP running mate, Mar Roxas, as well as long time leading Vice Presidentiable Loren Legarda. Loren and Chiz Escudero had led in Vice Presidential surveys for the past three years since 2007 until 2009.
After his unexpected victory in the 2010 elections, Binay was way ahead of everybody else for President in 2016. There was nobody else tall enough to challenge him on the horizon. For three years, he even led President Pnoy in popularity and satisfaction ratings in the two major survey outfits: SWS and Pulse Asia.
However, in 2012, PNoy learned his politics. He bribed the members of the Lower House to Impeach Chief Justice Renato Corona. He bribed the majority of Senators to convict him. Despite his sliding popularity, he was able to cobble together an opportunistic coalition for the 2013 mid elections. He made bilateral alliances with the Nacionalista Party, the LDP and even the Magdalo. He neutralized the Lakas and GMA’s allies and stalwarts.
He won nine out of twelve Senate seats: Poe, Legarda, Cayetano, Escudero, Angara, Bam Aquino, Trillanes and Cynthia Villar.The UNA got only three seats: Nancy Binay in fifth place, JV Ejercito in eleventh and Greg Honasan in twelfth place.
For the past year, he has managed to stifle most of the Truth in the Pork (PDAF) Scam and Scandal. A year ago, Ben Luy had already been rescued from Janet Lim Napoles’ benevolent detention. The MOST connection was at work to control the NBI investigation. However, the information was leaked to the PDI, which came out with a series of exposes on or about July 20, 2013.
The Administration still managed to manipulate the evidence (including COA investigations and reports) and the witnesses to focus on those in the opposition: Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla. Meanwhile, information implicating Senators, Congressmen and Executive officials belonging to the Administration have been kept from the Mass Media. The NBI, DOJ and the Ombudsman have pussyfooted on the investigation and prosecution of the guilty who belong to the LP and the Administration.
Pinoy has given Mar Roxas and his cohorts all the budget, exposure and power to help the LP position its favourite but weak Presidentiable for the 2016 race. On the other hand, they have done everything to deprive Binay of the budget, exposure and power that he deserves as the President’s appointee as HUDCC Chairman and Presidential Adviser on Overseas Filipinos.
Four years on since the May 2010 National Elections, Binay has maintained his lead. The lead is so big that even if Binay, Erap, Grace Poe, Bongbong Marcos and Bong Revilla were too all run together with all the LP and Administration candidates that can be put up, Binay would still win. If you were to total all the percentages of the Administration candidates for President, this would come out to 43 – 45 %. On the other hand, Binay, Miriam, Bongbong and Bong would total 55 – 58 %.
By Miguel Raymundo
The country celebrates Labor Day this week to honor the working class. Sharing the labor front’s woes, OpinYon finds it fitting to tell how dishonored labor made Henry Sy the richest man in this country. This is the story of Ligaya Cruz.
As she walked past SM mall in Makati city, a bitter memory flashed through her mind.
Over a decade ago, Ligaya Cruz and other mall workers were brutally dispersed by the mall’s security guards aided by some baton-wielding policemen for picketing.
She later suffered a miscarriage.
Like their colleagues in other strike-plagued SM branches in Metro Manila then, they protested the so-called “555” – the insidious practice of mall owner, ethnic Chinese taipan Henry Sy, to renew workers’ contracts every five months or after so-called “end of contracts.”
Also referred to as “endo,” such scheme of hiring and firing workers has become alarming across many key industries, specifically in SM, the nation’s largest mall operator.
Ever shrewd that he is, Sy has been resorting to contractualization, obviously to skip labor laws which provide a six-month minimum contract to entitle the workers to certain monetary benefits, including leaves with pay, and the right to join unions.
In 2003 alone, SM employed 20,000 contract workers, the biggest on record by a single retail-based company. That number has since ballooned to over 30,000 now as the tycoon diversified his money-spinning businesses — ranging from retail to property, banking and finance and tourism infrastructure.
Wealth Means Crime
The figures undoubtedly make Sy as the nation’s undisputed king of contractualization, lending credence to widely-held beliefs that for every great wealth, there’s a great crime behind.
Altogether, Sy –the nation’s richest businessman — personifies sheer capitalist greed coupled with a freeloading mindset, casting doubts on his often-told rags-to-riches story.
Not surprising why critics label Sy as the ethnic Chinese tycoon who built his mall empire on the blood and sweat of slave labor, particularly women.
More often than not and with impunity, their contracts are terminated without notice even during peak shopping seasons such as Christmas and school opening, thus the flurry of strikes hounding SM over the past years.
Job contractualization, which has turned the Philippines into a nation of cheap labor, began during the Marcos dictatorship of 1970s-mid-1980s when a decree was signed allowing companies to hire workers on contract for special work.
Tenure Versus Contractualization
Amid intense lobbying by profit-hungry business elites, the job contracting scheme has been institutionalized – and legalized — in the succeeding administrations as an integral part of the country’s Labor Code, allowing labor contracting and sub-contracting.
Despite the legal cover, contractualization is considered as labor’s greatest menace.
Paradoxically, while it fattens an employer’s income, it deprives those hired of job security, better pay, benefits and allowances and union rights.
After busting the militant employees’ union at SM in 2003, Sy has since banned labor activities across its malls and department stores. Any sign of union organizing effort among employees is immediately met with sanction or outright termination.
Amid rising restiveness in the labor sector, not a few lawmakers have proposed passage of House Bill 5110, or An Act Strengthening the Workers’ Security of Tenure. It noted that there are millions of skilled and talented Filipinos in the labor force today who don’t have regular jobs. They are forever trapped in the vicious cycle of grinding poverty.
Daily, some 6,000 Filipinos leave at Manila’s ports to look for jobs abroad, no matter the slave-like working conditions awaiting them in foreign lands.
Attempts by labor leaders to muster political support for the bill fell on deaf ears.
Last year on the eve of Labor Day on May 1, they asked President Aquino to certify the long-stalled bill as urgent.
To their dismay, Aquino thumbed down the request, arguing that the bill—if approved – would pose more harm than good to his much-ballyhooed job-creation program.
“Companies might hesitate to hire because of certain provisions and therefore, deprive our workers of the opportunity to gain employment, “he argued.
To Aquino, he reckoned that should the bill become a law, only 1.8 million would benefit, while an estimated 10 million Filipinos could lose their jobs. His figures run counter to the faceless and countless multitudes of jobless Filipinos.
In reaction, labor leaders warned that as long as President Aquino sides with the capitalists at workers’ expense, this country will continue to wallow into the mire of poverty.
“Our already constrained wages have remained stagnated since Aquino came into power,” they said, adding that regular jobs have become very scarce.
Worse, the increase in contributions to the Social Security System and PhilHealth had added a financial burden to the lowly paid workers in the midst of surging poverty level.
Another adverse factor which could diminish the workers’ purchasing power is the impending hike in the price of liquefied petroleum gas and electricity and the transport fares of state-run Metro Rail Transit and Light Rail Transit in Metro Manila.
“All these are detrimental to ordinary wage-earners as the government continues to sacrifice our welfare in the altar of corporate interests and has remained inutile to our most pressing concerns,” the Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP) said in a statement.
Summing up, the militant labor group noted that “the past three and a half years have opened our eyes to the painful truth that the Aquino government is undeniably anti-worker to its very core.”
As contractualization persists, there’s no denying that overall, it only led to a sharp decline of the Filipino workers’ level of productivity, one of the lowest in the Asean region.
Added to a dehumanizing pay scale and the government’s neglect of their plight, no wonder why labor has increasingly turned to militancy, driving away potential investors.
This explains why job-creating foreign direct investments had shied away from the Philippines, not to mention its excessive tax rates, leading to a jobless economic growth.
These days, bureaucrats boast that the economy is one of Asia’s fastest-growing and yet inexplicably, jobs and other income-earning opportunities had become increasingly next to impossible to find.
The hard reality is that unemployment rate rose to 27.5 percent, or an estimated 12.1 million, as 2.5 million Filipinos joined the ranks of the jobless between September and December last year.
The unemployment rate soared even as the economy surprisingly grew 7.2 percent, the second-fastest after China’s, showing that the economic growth was not inclusive.
Three labor groups—Trade Union Congress of the Philippines, Partido ng Manggagawa and Kilusang Mayo Uno — warned that “jobless economic growth” would continue unless the evil of contractualization is decisively addressed with political will.
The harder reality is, the likes of Henry Sy, mega-investors and rags-to-multi-billion American dollar wealthy, have taken control over government.They have the power to order Congress to craft laws intended to exploit labor and the natural wealth of the country.
Their likes can bend laws and corrupt people in the courts of justice and “rob” farmlands from poor peasants. Worst, they make even the President their puppet,while burying the Filipino in deeper poverty.
Small scale coconut farmers in the Philippines will soon receive assistance to restore their livelihoods severely affected by last year’s Typhoon Haiyan, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization said today.
It is estimated that in Region VIII alone, some 33 million coconut trees were either damaged or destroyed, affecting the livelihoods of more than one million coconut farmers.
Given that coconut trees take six to eight years to reach productivity, small-scale coconut farmers need interim support to engage in livelihood diversification activities to ensure an income, as most relied solely on coconut trees as a source of livelihood.
Working with the Government of the Philippines, and supported by the Government of Canada, FAO will work to enable small-scale coconut farmers to begin the process of intercropping, crop-diversification and livelihood/poultry raising activities. This will help these communities secure their livelihoods while waiting for the newly planted coconut trees to become productive.
Canada’s Ambassador to the Philippines, H.E. Neil Reeder, reaffirmed in Manila today the commitment made last week by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to early recovery and long-term reconstruction programmes including disaster risk reduction activities in the Philippines.
The CAD$ 6 million confirmed by Canada to FAO will help FAO and the Government of the Philippines support the rehabilitation efforts for small scale coconut farmers. Acting FAO Representative in the Philippines, Rajendra Aryal, highlighted the importance of the community and needs-based approach so as to ensure that what is being delivered meets the real needs of the typhoon affected small scale coconut farmers.
“I want to express my sincere thanks for this Canadian contribution, as it will enable FAO to support more than 11,000 coconut farming households. After having consulted local communities, in close collaboration with the Department of Agriculture, Department of Agrarian Reform, Philippine Coconut Authority, Bureau of Animal Industries and other relevant Government institutions, we will be providing small-scale coconut farmers with vegetable seeds and also seeds for tubers such as cassava and sweet potatoes, which take only about three months to grow,” Aryal said. “Further, the farming communities will be provided with poultry and small livestock ruminants and post-harvest equipment.”
Crop diversification and intercropping will provide key access to income and restore self-sufficiency, building the resilience of communities to withstand future disasters.
“Our approach is very much demand based and very much community driven,” Aryal emphasized.
Making landfall four months ago, Typhoon Haiyan (locally known as Yolanda) claimed over 6,200 lives, displaced millions and devastated the agriculture and fisheries sectors. Striking between two planting seasons, the typhoon destroyed ready-to-harvest, harvested and newly planted rice crops, and severely affected the livelihoods of the coastal fisher communities.
FAO responded to an official Government request for support to affected rice farmers, providing 75 percent of the Government-requested rice seeds. Thanks to this coordinated response by FAO, the Government and other partners, farmers who would otherwise have been unable to plant in time for the December/January planting season were able to go back to their fields, and will soon be harvesting the first rice crop since the typhoon hit the country.
Despite strong typhoons that ravaged agricultural lands last year, Department of Agriculture Secretary Alcala told about 1,500 farmers that they had produced 18.44 million metric tons of rice, enlisting the Philippines as the fastest growing rice production country in Asia.
Alcala lauded the Central Luzon farmers for helping achieve the highest rice harvest in the Philippine history during the Farmers` Lakbay Palay hosted by the Philippine Rice Research Institute in Science City of Muñoz, Nueva Ecija, April 1-4.
The production also made the country 97-percent rice self-sufficient in 2013. Although three-percent short of the 100 percent target, the country, however, registered a 16-percent increase within three years. The country was only 81-percent rice self-sufficient in 2010.
With the rice sector`s performance last year, the agriculture secretary discouraged the public from focusing on the deficit in the 100-percent rice self-sufficiency target.
“We have tried hard. Nawa`y [mapahalagan] natin, lalo na sa mga nasa Manila, ang pagpupunyagi nating mga magsasaka. Hindi ho tayo titigil sa 97 percent. Magpupursige pa din tayo para ang isasaing ni Juan dela Cruz, dito ipupunla, dito itatanim, dito aanihin (May we, especially the city dwellers, value the efforts of the farmers. We’ll not stop at 97 percent. We’ll work harder so that the rice that we’ll serve on our table will be planted and harvested in the country),” Alcala said.
Alcala, who also unveiled the latest rice technologies, urged the farmers to be receptive of new farming practices as this may help them reduce production cost and make the price of rice more competitive in the market.
“We can`t solve problems such as rice smuggling in an instant. We still have a long way to go to stop rice smuggling. As long as our production cost is high, rice smuggling will always be around,” he said in Filipino.
He said that rice smuggling persists in the country because domestic rice prices are uncompetitive to Southeast Asian countries such as Vietnam.“Production cost in the Philippines is [about P11 a kilo] while in Vietnam, it`s around P6,” he said.
Alcala said that if farmers can peg production cost even at P8, rice smuggling will be minimized.At present, PhilRice is on its second season of implementing Palayabangan: 10-5 challenge, a nationwide farming competition that aims to produce 10 tons/ha yield at only P5 input cost per kilogram of palay.
Nothing much can be expected from US President Barack Obama in his April 28-29 official visit in Manila.While he is likely to reassure the Philippines of Americans’ commitment to defend the Philippines in its raging territorial dispute with China, it will not make a difference, given how the US has been badly treating its Asia-Pacific ally over the past decades.
Since both countries forged their so-called Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) in 1951, the US hardly cared about the poor state of the Philippines’ military capability.
Calls by Manila for increase in American military aid usually fell on deaf ears among policy makers in Washington. Whatever the Americans gave were nothing more than second-hand hardware – either of World War II vintage or their leftovers in the Vietnam war era.
Now that the geo-political situation has vastly changed, it’s time for both strategic allies to redraw their treaty or risk overtaken by new and bold challenges.
From what was once dubbed the “sleeping giant,” China has suddenly awaken, emerging as the biggest threat to the Philippines’ security interests as both have interlocking claims to the oil-rich Spratlys islands.
With superior naval assets patrolling the disputed chain of islands, China has bullied the Philippines, long perceived as militarily weak.
In the face of China’s aggressiveness in asserting its sovereign claims to the Sprawls, also referred to as the west Philippine sea, Manila in not a few times wanted to invoke the MDT which many politicians label as a mere paper tiger.
But thanks to cooler heads, the MDT remains as a last resort mechanism to avoid what’s likely to be a bigger problem – war.
Hopefully, Obama will use his two-day visit to assess the Philippines’ defense needs, especially in light that the two countries will enter into a new security alliance under the banner of the so-called enhanced defense security agreement.
An offshoot of months of hard bargaining, Filipino negotiators were hard put as they had to reckon with the Constitutional ban on the presence of foreign bases on Philippine soil.
In the end, they had to compromise as Manila agreed to allow US forces the use of Philippines-builtmilitary installations.
For both countries, it’s a win-win situation as they usher in a paradigm shift in their strategic ties, given China’s surging aggression in the hotly contested Spratlys.For the US, Manila’s nod to a new pact gives the Americans the leeway needed as they reposition their defense forces from theMiddle East to Asia.
Under Barack’s pivot policy, the Philippines plays a crucial role because of its strategic location in keeping peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.
But more than the much-needed military materiel, the Philippines badly requires America’s political succor as its row with China has assumed complex dimensions.Neither has China eased up in its flexing its military muscle in the high seas nor has it showed signs of flexibility in its diplomatic rapport with the Philippines.
As the world’s policeman, the US is in the best position to cool the tensions between Manila and Beijing for the sake of regional peace and stability.
“Thanks! But no thanks!” That is how I feel about the drainage improvement, reblocking and repaving of Balete Drive from Aurora Boulevard to E. Rodriguez Avenue in Baranggay Mariana, Quezon City. The way it was done is almost the perfect model of how such a project should be done on an important alternative route to EDSA to the East and to Gregorio Araneta Avenue to the West. Gregorio Araneta Ave. or C 3 is the base of a triangle formed with Aurora and E. Rodriquez (formerly Espana Extension.) as the legs that meet at Cubao just short of the intersection of Aurora and EDSA (formerly Highway 54).
We received a written notice from our Baranggay Chairman, Regina Celeste “Bong” C. San Miguel dated March 25, 2014, warning us residents that the following side streets would not be accessible from Balete Dr. for a period of one week during the month of April: 3rd Street, Dama de Noche, Bouganvilla and Sampaguita Streets.
The first sign of work was the raising of all the water pipe manholes (Manila Water) by about two inches. Next, came the drilling of the cement paving in the areas that were to be re blocked. My only negative observation in this age of weekend long re blockings, was that a week was allowed to pass between the drilling and the tearing up of the cement paving prior to the re cementing by blocks (I suppose that is what is meant by re blocking.).
Meanwhile, the drainage was dug up and redone in a few parts of Balete Dr., mainly in the short stretch from 3rd Street to Aurora. Unlike the EDSA re blocking that was supposed to be done “One Time, Big and Fast Time” during the Holy Week holidays (giving rise to the package deal “Bisita Iglesia cum Stations of the Cross”, the latter being the EDSA traffic one had to endure to go around the seven Churches.), Balete Dr. was finished with a new thick coat of asphalt overlay over the old cement paving by early Holy Week, Holy Monday, I believe.
I don’t know who was responsible for our Balete Dr. project – Quezon City or the National Government’s DPWH? I don’t know who was responsible for planning and implementing the project with such a high level of professionalism – the DPWH, the City or the Baranggay? The reason why I include our Baranggay Government as the possible author of such a good example is what I learned when I last attended our Baranggay Assembly several years ago.
At that time, theManila Water was digging up Dona Magdalena Hemady Avenue (a parallel North – South street between Balete and Gilmore Avenue.). Usually, when the utility companies dig up a street they just dig as wide as their drainage or water pipes require to be able to be put in place. Then, they just replaced the foundation and paving on top of the pipe, and not always in uniformity with the untouched portions of the street.
At that time, our Baranggay Council was requiring Manila Water to replace the disturbed foundation and paving block by block. Manila Water was crying “Ouch!” in the pocketbook and asked for the assistance and intervention of the then City Mayor, now Speaker Francisco “Sonny” Belmonte.
Look around the Metropolis and you will see many streets where the surface is uneven because of either the utility diggings or the repaving that has not taken account of the height of existing manhole covers. The latter results in a series of holes in perfect alignment in an otherwise new and perfect asphalt overlay (The thicker the new asphalt, the deeper the hole.).
That was the “Thanks!” to whoever – National, City or Baranggay, was responsible portion. Now, the “But No Thanks!”
My parents transferred from Santol Street at the boundary of Manila and Quezon City to our home on Balete Dr., between Campanilla and Sampaguita Streets, Rosario Heights, Cubao, Q. C. in 1941. I grew up here. I lived here since 1948 except 1974 – 1975 and 1978 – 1981. I still remember the time in the 50’s when the area bounded by Balete and Dona M. Hemady still had rice paddies. The entire block across from us on Balete was vacant except for Talahib grass and burned every summer. The main roads, Balete, Hemady, Gilmore, Broadway (now Dona Juana Rodriquez Avenue) and Victoria Avenues were asphalted. However, all the side streets were merely gravel roads.
The White Lady of Balete Drive (Garchitorena y Recto) lived at Balete, Bouganvilla and Hibiscus Streets. She haunted Balete Dr. and became the best known Ghost in the Philippines well ahead of the White Lady of Loakan in Baguio City.
There was a time when we had a Quorum of the Senate living in our community now better known as New Manila. Our Barrio was organized under the leadership of an American neighbour – Mrs. Mariana Wilkinson. The first election was held at our house when the QCPD still used Volkswagen Beetles as Mobile Units and Patrol Cars.
Gradually, progress caught up with our community, as well as with the White Lady. The main streets were cemented. The side streets were asphalted. The empty lots were filled with houses. Then, our Baranggay became a favourite for Townhouse Developers. Land values went up. Real Estate taxes went up too.
Local governments got their ERA share of National Taxes. Baranggays got their share too. They had so much money that they paved and repaved roads and streets that were good enough as residential roads. When I met Mayor Belmonte more than ten years ago at our Thursday Club at Annabel’s on Morato, I thanked him for repaving our street – Campanilla. However, I suggested that, we should have saved the money and used it for building bridges across the Diliman Creek and the San Juan/San Francisco River to decongest the few streets that do cross these water obstacles.
He agreed and informed me that that was his priority. Our road, transport and traffic planners complain that our roads are finite and limited but that the number of vehicles keeps on increasing. According to them expropriation of land and the relocation of occupants for the building of new roads is expensive and tedious. However, we have so many roads that are only partially usable because they are dead end streets due to creeks and rivers that traverse or block them.
Very little expropriation and relocation is required to turn a dead end road into a more useful alternate route to decongest the existing neighborhood thoroughfares. The cost of a small bridge is relatively small in this age of flyovers and underpasses. Some examples of these strategies are the following bridges across the Pasig River: Makati – Mandaluyong, Pandacan and Rockwell.
On the local level in Quezon City we have the example of the following bridges across the Diliman Creek: East of EDSA, we have the Kalayaan Ave/K – J/Miami and K – H/Cambridge bridges. West of EDSA, we only had the Morato Ave bridge in the 40’s. To this were added the bridges on Scout Jimenez Street (formerly Leyte Street) and T. Gener (formerly K – B Street) and the Roxas bridge behind the St. Luke’s Medical Center (QC).
MANNY V. Pangilinan has repeatedly said he is not running for President in 2016. But he could be running for Vice President, instead. That is, if Vice President Jejomar Binay got his way.
Speaking to reporters, the former mayor of Makati City confirmed he is considering MVP as his running mate in the 2016 polls—and with good reason.
Considered as one of the most influential men in the country today, MVP is the perfect running mate for any presidential aspirant since he is at the helm of corporations and industries crucial to the Philippine economy: Philippine Long Distance Company, infrastructure giant Metro Pacific Investments Corp., Manila Electric Company, Metro Pacific Tollways Corp., Maynilad Water Services Inc., gold producer Philex Mining and the biggest local power player Manila Electric Company. And with vast holdings in media, health services and various other industries, MVP already wields enough power and financial resources to propel his chosen political allies into the halls of power come 2016.
But MVP is not the only person in Binay’s list of potential bets for VP. Last month he was mouthing off the name of another MP—that of Saragani Representative and boxing legend Manny Pacquiao—as running mate. Another potential mate for Binay is Ate Vi, Batangas Governor Vilma Santos Recto. But like MVP, Vilma has also repeatedly stated that she has no plans of seeking higher office in 2016.
With 2016 just around the bend, the Liberal Party is said to have already begun to raise funds for the campaign kitty of its next presidential standard bearer be it Mar Roxas or Kris Aquino. The LP, too, would benefit immensely having a man of MVP’s stature in its corner.
Let’s put ourselves in MVP’s shoes for a minute. Would it be wise to associate with any single political party in 2016? We think it’s not. And MVP knows it very well that for the sake of his business empire it is best to remain neutral and to stay out of politics.
“There is no political blood that runs through my veins,” MVP said back in October. “I believe I can serve our people better some other way,” he said.
Business and politics do not make good bedfellows. By staying neutral, MVP can play all sides of the fence and emerge a winner regardless of the outcome of the 2016 polls. All he has to do is to spread his bet—put money on the ruling party, on the opposition and the long shots, too. This way, MVP’s business empire is guaranteed to survive and thrive beyond 2016.
With the onslaught of hot summer weather, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is urging the public to be particularly mindful of their water consumption not only to save money on water bills, but more importantly, to protect this precious resource.
DENR Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje said that although water service providers have already assured that there will be a steady and ample supply of water during the dry months, usually from March to May, “it would still be advisable for us to use our water supply prudently.”
“We would have to consider that water is not only for domestic or household use,” Paje pointed out. “We have to share our supply with the agricultural sector to irrigate our farmlands, which are vulnerable during the dry season; and with the power sector to generate electricity that is more in demand now for cooling purposes.”
The environment chief said that while it is true that with the sweltering summer heat comes added pressure on water consumption, it would help if everyone will take some time to watch on a daily basis and limit water usage as much as possible.
He advised people to apply to water usage the same principles used in solid waste management.
“Reduce water wastage by using only the amount you need. Reuse what you can for other purposes such as using laundry water to clean your cars or floors or in flushing toilets,” Paje said.
He added: “Make water conservation a habit, no matter what the season, and adopt a lifestyle that would have less negative impact on our precious water supply.”
Paje also called on the public to avoid throwing their trash everywhere as it could end up clogging waterways and contaminating the water supply.
He warned that since very little rainfalls are expected during summer, waterways could end up clogged or stagnant and become breeding grounds for disease-carrying insects, as well as cause flooding in the ensuing rainy season.
The DENR head likewise appealed to visitors of ecotourism sites to respect nature by keeping it all in a natural and pristine state as possible.
“With the Holy Week just around the corner, let us not only reflect on our purpose in life, but also on what we can proactively do for our Mother Earth especially in light of climate change,” Paje said.