philippines

The Php600k Gaming Pc

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Yoyotech’s Aurum 24K sports a spectacular interior as is water-cooled, not air-cooled.The Aurum 24K isn’t just a fast PC. Many man-hours have been invested to add lots of customization to make the PC unique.Called the XDNA Aurum 24K, the PC actually retails for £7979 in the UK, and if you paid attention in school you’ll know that 79 is the atomic number for gold, while Aurum is Latin for gold. Chemistry and Latin facts aside, the PC sports an incredible specification that is likely to be blisteringly fast not just in games but at anything you can throw at it too.

Yoyotech has chosen Intel’s Core i7-4960X Extreme Edition processor, which it has tweaked to run faster than it does out of the box, boosting its frequency to 4.6GHz.

NVIDIA’s Titan graphics cards were the most drool-worthy of 2013, and Yoyotech has included not one but two of them. It also has a gargantuan 64GB of Corsair memory, a 512GB solid state disk and 2TB hard disk, all housed in a Corsair Obsidian 900D tower case, which has been modified to hide cables and give the inside a super-clean look. (Antony Leather)

Ching Vargas: Quintessential Mother, Friend & Public Servant

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It is said that while the passing away of a person leaves a void that no one can fill, and a heartache no one can heal – it is love however that leaves a memory no one can steal.

Atty. Susan Dumlao-Vargas popularly known as Ching Vargas, former Deputy Executive Secretary of Administration and Finance, Corazon Aquino, Fidel Ramos and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, passed away on March 29, 2014 at 6:45 p.m. after battling the Big C for almost two years, a battle she fought courageously that she hoped she would win – but was not afraid to lose either – as she knew that her journey to the after-life would lead to her blissful meeting with her Creator who gave her life.

Ching Vargas left behind four finely-molded children and loved ones, good-looking Vanesa or Bunny, the eldest, who succeeds her as the Madre de familia of the Vargas family, Allan Unlayao , Bunny’s husband, and their kids, Vincent, Victoria, Yong and Vittorio; the second daughter, pretty and charming Veronica or Caron, whose lovely features and winsome demeanor take from her mom, Caron’s husband Erick Cruz, and their children, Camille and Cali. Ching’s third child is Alfred or Alfie, the handsome movie actor and now Congressman of the 5th District of Quezon City, his with beautiful Yasmine or “Yash” Espiritu, and their three (3) daughters, Alexandra, Ching-Ching and Aryana, and Ching’s last son, debonair businessman, Patrick Michael or PM – his fiancée, statuesque Christine or Krissy.

Ching’s husband Alfredo Vargas, Jr., who hailed from Sta. Maria, Bulacan predeceased Ching three years ago.

The endless stream of people from a cross-section of our society that trooped to the Sta. Maria Della Strada Parish in Katipunan Avenue, Quezon City to view Ching’s remains, and to condole with her loved ones during the wake, as well as in the last funeral rites at the Our Lady of Pentecost Parish in Xavierville, Quezon City, gave a glimpse of how Ching Vargas was viewed with love, respect and admiration by these who paid homage to her on her last days on earth.

Ching Vargas was a classic beauty and brains individual. She graduated Valedictorian in her high school class at the San Nicolas College in Surigao City, where she grew up like every typical probinsiyana lass fond of movie actors and actresses, and even collected pictures of them, dutifully and fondly brought to her by her sister, Miren Dumlao-Santos, a Ph.D in molecular biology.  She was a candidate for Binibining Pilipinas in the late sixties.

Her 1972 classmates, First Gentleman Mike Arroyo, former Ombudsman Mercy Gutierrez, Atty. Teddy Cruz, among others from the Ateneo Law School, from where she finished her Bachelor of Laws degree, recall that Ching was the classmate with beautiful face that had a captivating smile, who was a bubbly and kind student who had a talent for singing, guitar-playing and dancing. It is no wonder that daughters Bunny and Caron had exceptional singing voices, who together with Ching’s grandchildren, who apparently got the same genes, gave an excellent performance at her wake.

Ching Vargas had also a talent for oil painting as evidenced by four (4) of her oil paintings of various beautiful flowers. Ching’s law classmates, who called themselves Barangay ’72, also dished out a song for their dear departed friend. Basil Valdez, the singing sensation of the seventies and eighties also did live renditions of beautifully crafted songs that contributed to the solemnity of the occasion, flooding back memories with beautiful and unforgettable moments with the person lying in state.

Likewise, the famed violinist John Lesaca played the favorite songs of Ching. Speakers after speakers at the necrological rites eulogized Ching, from her dorm-mate at the UP Diliman, Carmen Roa-Africa, her law classmates, former First Gentleman Mike Arroyo,  former Ombudsman Mercy Gutierrez, Atty. Teddy Cruz. Even retired Supreme Court Justice Flerida Ruth-Romero, who was incidentally my law professor in the UP College of Law, paid tribute to her and so with many others as well as this writer.

They were all one in saying that Ching Vargas was the epitome of grace, kindness, competence, honesty, caring and thoughtfulness. Her thoughtfulness as a friend is legendary.  She always remember to greet her friends on their birthdays, on Father’s Day, on Mother’s Day, in every special occasions – gifting them with all kinds  of souvenirs that she brought from her travels abroad.

Ching Vargas was a loving person, a principled wife, a caring mother, a doting grandmother, a very thoughtful friend. Ching Vargas not only was a public servant, par excellence – but one with solid rock integrity, unsullied and unchallenged.  In sum, Ching Vargas was a walking testament of a caring, generous, and compassionate human being.  She was the quintessential mother, friend and public servant – that is to say, she is the perfect example of a class or quality.

I met Ching in the UP College of Law when she was freshman in the Ateneo Law School though a mutual friend, Freddie Alday, who is also a lawyer. Freddie Alday describes Ching as an “extra-ordinary person” and “super kind”, who accommodated every referral he made for her assistance, regardless of their status in life or political beliefs.

Ching Vargas touched and moved many lives. Her wholesome persona, her humble ways, her accommodating demeanor, and her limitless extension of her helping hand to those who sought her assistance  won her the hearts of those who had the golden chance to cross her path – and they were legions – which was apparent from the continuous flow of people who went to her wake from day 1, to pay their last respects and say their prayers for her.

She spoke highly and proudly of her children, Bunny, Caron, Alfred or Alfie, and PM whom she showered with undying love, endless tenderness and unyielding devotion as a single parent for twenty (20) years. That she molded her children to her admirable image is quiet evident by the boundless charming traits they have exhibited to those who came to share in their grief.

Ching Vargas reared her children under circumstances not exactly comfortable and ideal, yet her innate goodness and fierce mother instinct moved her to raise them into fine individuals.  That she deserves admiration from those who look for a role model of a mother, in unquestionable.

In her death bed, Ching Vargas asked her children to strictly live by the highest standard of ethics, of which she herself lived, of which qualities are apprehended to her name: integrity, competence, compassion and honesty.

On July 16, 2013, 10:07 a.m., apparently hearing from the news that I have been engaged by Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte to handle the case of Davao policemen charged of murdering the kidnappers of a Chinese businesswoman while she was in captivity, I received the following message from Ching:

“Good evening Sal! Hurrah, you are the Davao cops’ lawyer. My heart bleeds for the police. Warms regards to you and Mayor Duterte. Hope he remembers me.”

Her compassion for the policemen despite adverse public perception on men on uniform could not be hidden.

Of course, the popular and controversial Mayor Rodrigo Duterte of Davao City remembers Ching Vargas. Despite Mayor Duterte’s hectic and back-breaking  schedule, coming from Kuala Lumpur, as an official guest of the Department of Tourism of Malaysia, he went to pay his last respects to her personal friend at her wake on April 2, 2014, at about 2:00 p.m. before he flew back to Davao.

Merci Gutierrez, the former Ombudsman, one of her closest and dearest friends, she is a wedding Godmother to Caron, while Ching was the baptism Godmother of Mercy’s daughter, lawyer Marge Gutierrez,  Ching, and I had dined together at a fine dining place in Ortigas Center sometime before she fell ill – and in our exchange of text messages – we planned to have a three-some dinner as soon as Ching got well.  Of course, we had hoped she would lick the big C – but as faith would have it, we finally have that dinner at the wake on April 2, 2014 – with Ching in our midst but in the spiritual plane.

Farewell our dearest friend Ching Vargas, we will miss your abundant charming ways, your unparalleled thoughtfulness, your beautiful face and endearing smile.

Your children will miss your boundless love, your everlasting caring, and your unending tenderness – but the sweet memories you left behind shall be in our hearts and minds forever – and as we look up above the galaxy of stars – we will remember you as we see the brightest of stars – because among the mortals that walked amongst us – you were the brightest, the kindest and the most loving. We love you Ching Vargas.

For feedback: Please text mobile Phone No. 0917-5655100. Email:salvadorpanelo@rocketmail.com. Facebook: panelosalvador@gmail.com

 

 

Thanks! But No Thanks!

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“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).

 

Money Wins

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By Ray L. Junia, publisher

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Capital Market

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

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

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

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

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

Campaign Weapon

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why MVP?

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

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

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

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

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

No Formal Talk

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

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

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

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

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

Technocrat

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

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

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

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

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

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

Outburst

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MVP Is The Wrong Leader 

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

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

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

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

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

MVP for 2016 VP

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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.

Conserve Energy, Doe Asks Public

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Agency issues power-saving tips

AS part of its campaign to promote energy security, the Department of Energy (DOE) has asked the consumers to use fuels and electricity judiciously, especially in summer months when demand will be high.

Some simple household energy-saving tips are posted on the DOE website and http://www.wattmatters.org.ph.Equally important, the DOE is also encouraging consumer to buy products that carry an energy label. Yellow energy labels are mandatory on household air conditioners (except inverter type), household refrigerators (size range: 5-8 cubic feet), compact fluorescent lamps (self-ballasted), linear fluorescent lamps, circular fluorescent lamps and ballasts.

To reduce electricity bills associated with cooling homes, look for a high Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER) when buying a new air conditioning unit. EER refers to the cooling efficiency of the unit.For refrigerators and freezers, the yellow energy guide bears the Energy Efficiency Factor (EEF) of the unit.

The higher the energy efficiency rating, the lower the energy consumption.For fluorescent lamps, the energy label indicates the light output in lumens, power consumption, lamp efficacy and average life. More lumens mean more light output. The higher the efficacy rating, the lower is the energy consumption.The safety tests, on the other hand, are being administered by the Bureau of Product Standards of the Department of Trade and Industry.

In addition, the DOE has established state-of-the-art laboratory facilities for performance testing of television sets, washing machines, refrigerators, and freezers through the assistance of the Asian Development Bank.

The DOE has envisioned that with the stakeholders’ cooperation, integrating energy efficiency will significantly help in achieving energy security, optimal energy pricing, and a sustainable energy plan for the country.

The DOE also warned the public against false claims of some companies that their products, when attached to electrical appliances or lighting products, can reduce energy consumption.

In its statement, the DOE has emphasized that it is not endorsing uncertified “energy saving” devices for use by consumers.These devices should undergo testing using the acceptable technology verification protocol to prove claims regarding the functional performance of such devices, it said.

“We do acknowledge the inventors’ ingenuity in coming up with such energy-saving devices, but we hope their products are really energy-savers so we can help the people reduce their energy consumption and thus save money, particularly at this time when the supply and cost of electricity have stirred public concern,” DOE Undersecretary Loreta G. Ayson said.

She added the government continues to monitor the energy performance of appliances and lighting products covered by the energy standards and labeling program through laboratory tests.

It added that consumers should be extra cautious in purchasing energy-saving devices and consult with the DOE-Consumer Welfare and Promotions Office through the following: Text: 0917-581-2925/Call: 840-2267/Tweet: @doe_ph before making any purchase.

Plans, Funds Needed For Disaster Management

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Senator Loren Legarda recently emphasized on the need to allocate sufficient funds and prioritize the implementation of action plans for disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM) and climate change adaptation and mitigation (CCAM).

Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committee on Climate Change, said climate experts have already warned of the grim scenario that nations, especially in Southeast Asia, could face due to the warming climate.

“The newest IPCC Report states that seas will rise by 26-82 centimeters by 2100. Sea level rise is a great threat to small island nations, and for an archipelago like the Philippines, it would mean more floods. We have already seen and experienced the wrath of Yolanda, how the surge of seawater engulfed communities. We cannot prevent a storm, but we can save our communities from devastation if we actually fund and implement our disaster and climate resilience plans without delay,” said Legarda.

“For instance, under the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act, every province, city and municipality should have a Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (LDRRMO), and every barangay should establish a Barangay Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Committee. Do our LGUs have these local DRRM offices? Are local DRRM officers equipped and trained to carry out their tasks? These local DRRM offices should be created to institutionalize arrangements and measures for reducing disaster risks, and enhance disaster preparedness and response capabilities at all levels,” she added.

The Senator added that with the threat of rising sea levels, LGUs must be ready to confront the worsening floods. To do this, LGUs must update their data on flood hazards and vulnerabilities, invest in flood protection and mitigation, identify safe land for families to live in and implement the solid waste management law at full speed.

“We have seen enough tragedy. Studies that warn us of our vulnerabilities have been coming in every year. Nobody can say we have not been warned. It is time disaster risk reduction and resilience efforts as well as climate adaptation and mitigation measures are given a fair share of the national budget and serious attention by our government and by every citizen,” Legarda concluded.

A Healthy Risk? Ancient Answers

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By Philipp Gassner

ONE hot summer day in ancient Sicily thousands of years ago, Noble Damocles is guest at a banquet of his tyrant king Dionysius. Surrounded by magnificence, power and authority, Damocles envies the ruler and exclaims: ‘My king, you are truly extremely fortunate’. Promptly, Dionysius offers to switch chairs with Damocles, so that Damocles can taste that very fortune. When Damocles accepts the proposal and sits down in the throne surrounded by every extravagance, Dionysius had arranged a huge, razor-sharp sword hanging above the throne, held only by a single hair of a horse’s tail.

Whereas the ‘Sword of Damocles’ has become a byword for a happy situation overshadowed by danger, risks to our health don’t always have to be as extreme. Of course, there might always be a meteorite on its way to – very improbably – wipe all the life from our green Earth. Yet, everyday life health risks are much more tangible.

Pollution from Pandora’s Box

And air pollution ‘is the single biggest environmental health risk’ with around seven million deaths a year, according to a report the World Health Organization (WHO) issued last month. However, much worse affected than New York is Southeast Asia – now the most polluted region in the world with more than five million deaths from air pollution. Does this pollution stink from Pandora’s box we have opened?

As such evil, the health risk of air pollution can be seen: once freed, it can have persistent and ubiquitous consequences.

Climate Change Oracles

Thousands of years after their creation, people in Greece are often in doubt about important questions in their lives. On such hesitations, the blind seeress Pythia can shed light. She is the most famous oracle and lives in the city of Delphi. One day, a weary king comes to the temple and asks the oracle if he would win the battle. She smiles and tells him a great king would win the battle. That was exactly what he had wanted to hear and he goes away happily. However, when he leads his men into battle, they lose and he is killed by the other king – the great king.

Pythia’s prophecies are enigmatic and ambiguous. They might reveal that a major danger is impending, but they won’t tell how high its probability, severity or distribution might be. The oracle is characteristic for many environmental health risks nowadays, which have high uncertainty with regard to both risk dimensions. Take climate change, already causing an estimated 150,000 deaths annually. These occur, for instance, from more frequent extreme weather conditions, like Typhoon Haiyan, or from affected patterns of food production, impacting on malnutrition.

The same is true for biodiversity loss and the degradation of ecosystems: for many of the world’s poor, one of the greatest environmental threats to health remains lack of access to safe water and sanitation, says the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity. Water resources are replenished and purified by water ecosystems. When they are lost, human health and well-being is undoubtedly put at risk, while exact probabilities, the severity or distribution remain yet unclear.

Cyclops Diseases

While sailing home from the Trojan War, the hero Odysseus and his men come ashore to restock their food and water. They are thrilled to find a cave full of sheep, build a fire in the cave, and cook some sheep on a sharpened stick. ‘Uaaagh’, suddenly echoes through the cave and a one-eyed giant appears at the mouth of the cave, swinging a club. Swiftly, Odysseus grabs a sharpened stick and blinds the Cyclops, who is restricted by his one eye. Odysseus and his men get safely away by pretending to be sheep making bah-bah sounds until they crawled to safety.

The Cyclops’ limitation to perceive only one part of reality with his one eye describes also many health risks. When viewing them, only one side can be ascertained while the other remains unsure. It is often the case that risks are greatly underestimated whose magnitude can be grasped but whose probability of occurrence is uncertain or continuously changes.

Prominent examples are vector-borne diseases. Mankind has always co-habited with innumerable other living forms. While many of them support us, some few can transmit infectious diseases between humans or from animals to humans. Such vectors are, for instance, mosquitoes, ticks, flies, or fleas. These benefit from tropical climate, inefficient water management, low priority for health impact in development activities, unplanned urbanization and widespread poverty, but also factors of a changing environment.‘Vector-borne diseases have significant impact on socioeconomic status of communities, and they vigorously fuel the vicious circle of poverty,’ says Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director of the WHO Southeast Asia, indicating the severe effects of such environmental health risks. Nevertheless, cyclops-like, we can’t fully grasp the probabilities of environmental impact. But there is no need to turn to stone.

How to Kill the Beast

In ancient Greece, the world was full of dangers. Some novel phenomena affect people today with the same fear and dread. Instead of turning into stone, however, there are solutions at hand. Remember, Medusa was defeated in the myth with a smart strategy, using a mirror, rather than looking directly in her eyes. Such strategies are emphasized by the World Health Organization (WHO), which is reinforcing the linkages between health and environment. An example is ‘Integrated Vector Management’, promoting greatest disease control benefit, while minimizing negative impacts on ecosystems, e.g., from the excessive use of chemicals.

The WHO works with partners to provide education and improve awareness so that people know how to protect themselves and their communities. But even more important are the conservation of a healthy environment and the mitigation of climate change to minimize the environmental health risks in the first place. On this focuses the ‘Health and Environment Linkages Initiative’ by the WHO and the UN Environment Programme, as does the ASEAN Center for Biodiversity in the region.The Philippine-based Center, supported by the GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit) since 2010, coordinating sustainable use and conservation of biodiversity. After all, the best risk management is prevention: Healthy ecosystems for healthy people. Let’s take this wakeup call seriously and avoid Cassandras’ destiny:

Cassandra was a beautiful young priestess at Apollo’s temple, with great ambition. One day, the mighty god Apollo swings by and is delighted by Cassandra. He is fond of making a deal. If Cassandra kisses him, he would give her the gift of prophecy so she could see into the future. Cassandra does not hesitate. As soon as she is able, she looks eagerly into the future. But she does not like what she sees: Apollo is helping to destroy her beloved city of Troy. She spits in his face. Apollo is furious, and since he could not take away his gift, he adds to it. From that time on, Cassandra could see the future, but no one believed a thing she said. Later, when Cassandra warned her people that the Trojan horse was a trap, nobody paid the slightest attention. They laughed at her and widely opened the doors …

 Philipp Gassner is a consultant for science and sustainability communication at the GIZ-assisted Biodiversity and Climate Change Project, implemented by the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity, Philippines.

Us Upgrades Ph Aviation Status

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PAL (Philippine Airlines) president Ramon S. Ang commended the Civil Aviation Authority of the Phils (CAAP) on receiving a Category 1 status from the US Federal Aviation Administration. The PAL head considers this major achievement for the Philippine aviation industry. “This will no doubt boost our country’s travel and tourism sectors and the economy in general,”says Ang.

With this upgrade, the Philippines now joins the ranks of the important aviation nations in the world made up of 79 countries that meet the US safety standards. According to Ang, this means that country is definitely back on the global aviation map. The Philippines used to be on the Category 2 blacklist for six years when it failed to comply with international flight safety standards in the past.

Ang says that it is great news for Philippine Airlines, as this means that it can immediately deliver the kind of flight experience that customers would be eager to try, repeat and share via the new, state-of-the-art Boeing 777-300 ERs that will be deployed for the flag carrier’s non-stop flights to Los Angeles and San Francisco. He says that PAL can finally be able to execute on future plans to expand its route network in the US, one of PAL’s biggest passenger markets.

Without a doubt, this upgrade ushers in a new chapter in the flag carrier’s trans-pacific service. “We look forward to serving our customers and kababayans both here and in the United States, and providing to them the trademark warmth and hospitality that PAL has always been known for,” the airline president says.

(Mis)Taxes For Sari-Sari Stores

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“A bad beginning makes a bad ending” ~ Euripedes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Not her real name

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

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