opinyon

Control

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By Ronald Roy

Senate Majority Floor Leader Alan Peter Cayetano, unabashed self-proclaimed contender for the presidency in the 2016 elections, warned that keeping secret a new affidavit by Janet Lim Napoles, the alleged PDAF scam brains, would “empower her to manipulate public opinion one way or the other.” Perhaps. However, I don’t go along with his demand that she be summoned anew by the Blue Ribbon Committee for a scrutiny of her new statement.

There is no way the public will gain enlightenment from a senate investigation of the pork scam when the culprits alluded to by Napoles are the investigating senators themselves, not to mention those other guilty colleagues — bato bato sa langit ang tatamaan ay huwag magagalit — who quietly swivel in their cool armchairs expecting vindication in a process that they fully control. This asinine and expensive circus must stop. It serves no other purpose than to fuel more speculation, sow more confusion, and facilitate cover-up schemes.

Senators are not called “lawmakers” for nothing. By their every word and deed, and as their mandate would have it, they must exemplify sedulous adherence to the lofty requirements of respect for the Law, esteem for its institutions and processes, and fear of its rule. Accordingly, our senators should now terminate the subject investigation in order to allow the Ombudsman’s Office to exercise unimpeded control of the role it is ordained by the Constitution to discharge. No, there is no cogent reason for these upper-chamber legislators to distrust their own creation: the largely statutory criminal justice system.

*****

Motorcyclists are the bane of patience. Being in total control of our streets, they freely violate traffic rules in pretty much the same way some politicians cavalierly breach the norms of delicadeza and rectitude. And can these motorcyclists quickly organize themselves into a mob at any accident site where one of them is involved! One should not find unfamiliar any of the following road situations.

Three years ago, I was driving on Edsa behind two buses that were a meter and a half apart. Suddenly, a motorcycle sped past me on my right side, surged ahead and, to my horror, raced through between the buses in a resolve to overtake them. As the buses moved toward each other, motorists and I following behind came to a screeching stop to see a gut-wrenching mishap that left the helmeted rider and his machine lying on the road in one gruesome twisted heap.

That was but one of numerous motorcycle misfortunes that had then been occurring at a very alarming rate, and the accidents have since increased without letup. Today, one wonders if authorities will ever buckle down to produce safety rules for the motoring public in general and the motorcyclists in particular, pedestrians and bystanders included.

For having been actually involved in two recent motorcycle accidents, I sometimes muse on the possibility that one day I will be a plaintiff or defendant in a reckless imprudence trial, notwithstanding the fact that in over 60 years behind the wheels, my extraordinarily diligent and defensive manner of driving has always seen me safely through — knock on wood. Hereunder are the two incidents.

As I remained at STOP position preparing to turn right to Hemady Street in Q.C., a motorcyclist drove up from behind and rested his machine between my right rear door and the embankment. From that position, he knew I would turn right since my signal lights were flashing. After the traffic light turned green, I proceeded to turn right along with the motorcycle. While I was executing the turn, the motorcycle suddenly swerved around in a split-second decision to change course.

I didn’t hit it, but its rider kicked my fender to avoid being struck. As a result of the force of the kick, he fell off his two-wheeler which scooted ahead and crashed against a concrete wall. He suffered a broken wrist and a badly damaged motorcycle. Luckily, patrol cops who witnessed the incident prevented a gathering mob of cussing motorcyclists from possibly lynching me. The hurt rider apologized for his reckless driving.

Then, another time when I was doing 30 kph on Aurora Boulevard, Manila, a motorcycle that had overtaken me suddenly crossed my path, and instinctively I swerved rightward to avoid hitting it. Unfortunately, I hit a cab. The culprit sped away and got lost in the traffic, and I gave the taxi driver a generous amount for slightly denting his fender.

This sort of road scourge cannot be totally eradicated. But authorities can control it by requiring motorcyclists to drive, at all times, directly behind a chosen vehicle, and allowing them to move therefrom only for the purpose of turning left or right to another street. Needless to state, strict enforcement and stiff penalties will produce eye-popping results, particularly in the dramatic reduction of riding-in-tandem killings. Hopefully.

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PAL Saves Sharks

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By Nicole Ann M. Aguila

All people might not know how important sharks are on our planet, thus raising awareness is the key to finally educate the whole world reasons why we must protect them.

Who would have thought that an airline company will put an effort to save marine life? Yes, Philippine Airlines or PAL just announced the ban of shipping of sharks’ fins.

This is after Greenpeace Southeast Asia, Philippine Animal Welfare Society, Marine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines Earth Island Institute – Philippines and other concerned organization started a petition that protests against their freight policy.

“The announcement of PAL is also a victory for all sharks species who are brutally murdered for their fins,” said Anna Oposa, cofounder of Save Philippine Seas and founder of the Shark Shelter Project in Malapascua Island.

The airline was previously reported tohave shipped 136 x 50 kg bags accumulating 6,800 kg of dried shark fins at a Hong Kong storeroom run by Global Marine.

Shark fins are hailed as an important ingredient on soups and traditional cures in China. But animal welfare groups toughly disagree with the trade, which usually comprises of taking only the fins and leaving the main body dead in the ocean.

“Sharks help in maintaining the balance of the marine ecosystem. Their dwindling numbers due to the growing demand for shark’s fin soup and other shark products, already upset the problematic status of our seas and oceans,” said Greenpeace Philippines oceans campaigner Vince Cinches.

“We are asking everyone to remain vigilant and make sure that PAL will honor its commitment and advise other airlines to adopt a similar shark ban to help save our marine ecosystem,” he said.

Shark finning is the practice of slicing off the shark’s fins while the shark is still alive and throwing the rest of its body back into the ocean where it can take days to die what must be an agonizing death.

Globally, tens of millions of sharks are slaughtered every year to satisfy the demand for shark fin soup; at least 8,000 tonnes of shark fins are shipped to restaurants around the world. Fishermen report that sharks are getting smaller because they are not being given time to mature.

Sharks are a critical component in an ecosystem that provides 1/3 of our world with food. The ocean produces more oxygen than all the rainforests combined, removes half of the atmosphere’s manmade carbon dioxide (greenhouse gas), and controls our planet’s temperature and weather.

Sharks play a vital role at the top of the food chain by maintaining balance in the oceans. Destroying shark populations could destroy our oceans and our life support system.

(Ms. Aguila is currently an intern for OpinYon. She is an incoming fourth year student in AB Communication Arts in Malayan College in Cabuyao, Laguna.)

 

 

Teach Your Children

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There is actually an international association of dental professionals who use eco-friendly methods.

It is called the Eco-Dentistry Association.And it offers six tips for improving dental health – and the environment.For a start, it recommends that children should start early.

It says dentistry is a healing experience and should not be traumatic. Trauma – and the fear of dental chairs and drills – is best prevented when one takes children to dental appointments at a young age.

Teach children to turn off the water while brushing the teeth.

Teenagers should try using night guards. These devices prevent damage caused by clenching and grinding related to stress.

Choose the night guard created by your dentist specific to the teenager’s bite. Be sure that it is not made of plastics potentially detrimental to the environment.

Select the appropriate mouthwash for children – the one that doesn’t contain alcohol. This is important because a tooth tonic or mouthwash should be introduced as a dental routine during the teenage years – and alcohol is certainly an ingredient that is not part of this.

Then try digital imaging. Although the technology is not so widespread in the Philippines, it is available and used in some clinics like Dr. Smile at The Podium in the Ortigas business center in Pasig and at SM North Edsa, The Annex, Lower Ground Level, Q.C.

These diagnostic images use less radiation than radiographs (also called X-rays). The digital images don’t degrade over time and are easily sent by e-mail to you, your dentists and other appropriate specialists.

And while we are dwelling on the topic of what’s the right dental care for our children, I will take this opportunity to offer a few advice for adults as well. Mind you, these recommendations come from no less than the American Dental Association.

Eating – and crunching ice cubes – is a favorite pastime, as if the cubes are part of the snacks as well. For that matter, include candy and popcorn that hasn’t popped, or any other hard chewables that should not be chewed or crunched.

This is a no-no habit as it can fracture teeth.

Clean teeth the right way. This is done by ridding of food debris the space between the gumline and the point where gum attaches to the tooth. Turn the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle in order for the bristles to reach out-of-the-way places.

Use dental floss in order to reach particularly deep pockets. Tie a single or double knot in the floss to reach food particles.

When flossing the back teeth, curve the thread around the tooth and push it underneath the gumline.

Change toothbrush regularly. A change is due when the outer bristles of the brush start to flare or look like overgrown bush instead of the straight lines they were on during first use.

Last but not least, stop smoking. Smoking is so destructive to teeth and gums that many gum specialists in the United States won’t even treat smokers with dental problems because they don’t respond well to treatment.

For more information, visit the American Dental Association’s Web site: ada.org.

Dr. Joseph D. Lim is the Dean of the College of Dentistry, National University, President/CEO of Dr. Smile Dental Care & Laser Center and honorary fellow of the Asian Oral Implant Academy and the Japan College of Oral Implantologists. For questions on dental health, e-mail jdlim2008@gmail.com or text 0917-8591515.

Cacao Industry Bids For ‘Sweet Success’

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The rebirth of a Philippine world-class product

By Allysa Faye Greganda

By 2020, the world’s need for cacao beans is projected to increase by 30%, yet the country’s production has yet to meet the demand. If our cacao industry can do so, then there is hope for the Philippine agricultural sector.

While Filipinos crave for imported chocolates, better think again: first-rate quality cocoa can be grownin your backyard. It is the same reason why the Department of Agriculture keeps an eye on this delectable opportunity for the country’s agri-production.

This month, DA just handed an initial P14M for cacaoagri-business zones (CABZs) in Davao City.

Being endowed with such perfect soil composition and sun temperature, the Philippine’s cacao industry is a potential big exporter—only if more farmers would invest into it.

The truth is, cacao seeds do not grow in thewestern countries known to produce these mouth-watering chocolates, including Japan. Raising cacao trees haveclimatic requirements.

Land capability

Rainfall should range from 1250 to 3000 mm per annum while 1500-2000 mm during dry season of not more than 3 months. Maximum temperature is 32°C and the minimum is 18°C. Altitude of the area must lie between 300-1200 meters above sea level.

Cacao thrives best in areas with evenly distributed rainfall throughout the year. As of now, cacao plantations can be found in the areas of Mindanao specially Davao and CALABARZON (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon) in Luzon.

The cacao industry has never grown into its full potential. Moreover, we even import 20,000 metric tons of cocoa beans from Africa last 2008 up to this date, costing $42 million a year.

During 1980s, Philippines has shared 20% of the world’s need for cocoa. The industry declinedaltogether with the rise of CARP.

Discovering these lost chances, the DA and Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) made partnerships with different companies to help boost cacao farming in the country.

BAR also collaborated with Cocoaphil for the Sustainable Cacao Program. The target now is to be able to produce 100,000 metric tons by 2020 from our usual production of 25,000 metric tons yearly.

As for the initial funding, P1.75 million has been allotted for the distribution of seedlings.

P2.5 million goes for production equipment’s and machinery. Post-harvest facilities and other infrastructure costs P6.22 million, marketing development services amounts to P200,000, while P615,000 budget allotted in training for new and current cacao industry players.

Made in the Philippines

“Dry like a full bodied well-aged red wine,” these were the words Shawn Askinosie of the world’s famous Zingerman’s Deli said to describe the Philippine Tablea (chocolate).

So far, there had been few who attempts in making it into the exporting world—all by themselves. Rob Crisostomo started as a simple farmer then eventually founded the Seed Core Enterprises in Davao.

He now exports container load of Philippine cacao to Barry Callebaut, the world’s largest supplier of high quality chocolate and cacao products. It just proves that cacao made in the Philippines is globally competitive.

This will not only give glory to the country but also provide livelihood for many families.

The secret of Philippine cacao beans is in how our farmers carefully process the seedlings from planting, harvesting and even in quality control phase. Filipino women are the usual laborers in cacao plantations. DA said that this type of farming is gender-sensitive, that is why women are the preferred laborers.

As of now, there are 20,000 hectares of cacao trees in Davao, and 70% of the annual production of the crop come from the same province. The industry has helped 16,000 farmers and 340 cooperatives, according to Cocoa Foundation of the Philippines.

Indeed, this industry has becoming a good source of livelihood for most Filipinos in the South.

Harvesting Hope

It is a wise decision for DA to finally revive the cacao industry. This can even lift the country into poverty. We should focus more into utilizing our lands because the Philippines’climate and environment has the perfect set up for growing such crops.

Our true wealth is our agriculture because not all countries are capable of producing crops such as cacao beans. Our government has to realize that prosperity in our country does not merely relyon just ICT, business empires and technology.

It will be beneficial for the country’s economy if the budget allocation for this industry is increased.

(Ms. Greganda is a graduating student of AB Communication in the University of Perpetual Help System Laguna. She is currently working in OpinYon as an intern. She also loves sweets, including chocolate.)

Ties That Bind

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Ex-Im Bank provides a variety of financing mechanisms, including working-capital guarantees, export-credit insurance and financing to help foreign buyers purchase U.S. goods and services.

In what could be a landmark deal, the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank) has signed a US$1 billion energy-based memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Philippines’ Department of Energy (DOE).

Specifically, the MOU targets renewable-energy and liquefied natural gas projects in hopes of upgrading and expanding the Philippine energy supply as part of US-Philippines bilateral cooperation.

“The arrangement is a win-win for both our nations and evidences our deep ties and cooperation on numerous economic fronts,” Ex-Im Bank Chairman and President Fred P. Hochberg said in a statement released by the US embassy in Manila.

The MOU was signed recently in Washington, DC by Ex-Im Bank board director Patricia Loui and DOE undersecretary Raul B. Aguilos.

Under the MOU, Ex-Im Bank and the DOE will exchange information with an eye to matching development needs in the Philippines with innovative goods and services offered by American exporters.

Financing Mechanism

Since 1993, Ex-Im Bank provided US$1.3 billion in energy-sector finance to the Philippines.

“We aim to outdo ourselves and target another billion with this memorandum of understanding,” Loui said.

“Our expertise can contribute both to the renovation of current energy-production facilities and the construction of new ones,” she added.

In 1994, Ex-Im Bank financed the first project-finance transactions in the Philippines for geothermal energy – the Cebu geothermal, US$170 million; and the Mahanagdong geothermal project, also in Cebu, US$211 million.

Ex-Im Bank is an independent federal agency that creates and maintains U.S. jobs by filling gaps in private export financing at no cost to American taxpayers.

The Bank provides a variety of financing mechanisms, including working-capital guarantees, export-credit insurance and financing to help foreign buyers purchase U.S. goods and services.

Guarantees

In the past fiscal year alone, Ex-Im Bank earned for U.S. taxpayers more than US$1 billion above the cost of operations.

In FY 2013, Ex-Im Bank approved more than US$27 billion in total authorizations to support an estimated $37.4 billion in U.S. export sales and approximately 205,000 American jobs in communities across the country.

This year, the Bank approved a record 3,413 transactions– or 89 percent–for small-businesses.

The Ex-Im DOE deal is in line with the U.S.-Philippines Partnership for Growth (PPG), program.

The highly innovative program, which resulted from US President Obama’s September 2010 policy directive on global development, is a high-level initiative focused on economic growth in countries committed to good governance.

In the Philippines, the PPG aligns with policy reform areas outlined by President Aquino in the Philippine Development Plan.

Beyond Traditional

Under the plan, the US has committed to placing the Philippines on a path to sustained and more inclusive economic growth, and elevating it to the ranks of other high-performing emerging economies.

As envisioned, the US-backed PPG takes a comprehensive approach to development that reaches beyond traditional foreign assistance.

It also aims to address the most significant constraints to growth and to stimulate inclusive economic expansion. A joint analysis identified governance and inability to capture revenue as the top constraints to growth in the Philippines.

The PPG leverages the resources and tools of partners, especially the private sector, to increase the effectiveness of policies and institutions necessary for development.

USAID and Millennium Challenge Corporation provides more than US$800 million funding over five years to support PPG projects.

The U.S.-Philippines five-year Joint Country Action Plan prioritized the creation of a more transparent, predictable, and consistent legal and regulatory regime.

Similarly, it seeks to foster a more open and competitive business environment, strengthen the rule of law and support fiscal stability through better revenue and expenditure management.

The U.S. government has committed to a sustained inter-agency engagement in support of the PPG’s goal and objectives.

Since2011, the Philippine government has made significant progress in implementing policy and institutional reforms.

It has also achieved remarkable improvements in economic growth, competitiveness, tax revenues, and sovereign debt ranking to ensure that the growth generated is inclusive and sustainable.

Samsung Finally Launched the Samsung Galaxy K Zoom

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Good news for photography enthusiasts: Samsung finally launched the Samsung Galaxy K Zoom.

Along with its unusual camera lens, it offers a 10x optical zoom lens with optical image stabilization that can go from a focal length of 24mm to 240mm in just a snap.

It is pretty versatile for those who love to capture selfies, food, landscapes, concerts and other events.

K Zoom runs with the latest 4.4.2 KitKat version of Android OS and TouchWiz interface. There are several new enhancements on this device,including GoogleNow,an application that actively listens to voice commands.

It is also power-driven by a hexa-core processor made up of two 1.7GHz ARM A15 cores paired with four 1.3 GHz ARM A7 cores.

That means this smartphone has improved performance and will use power more efficiently,while being easy on battery life.

Techies will probablyraise their expectationsfor smartphone technology done by  other big-name manufacturers, because Samsung has raised the bar with this new product line. (Niks Aguila)

New Exodus

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[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.

New players

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.

Gray area

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.