Filipino

WAR IN THE PALACE

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Tonypet J. Rosales | Editor   

IT APPEARS the most bloated government department—the Communications Group PNoy—simply can’t get the job done. To arrest the President’s sagging image, the administration is bringing more people into the fray, a move that could spark new hostilities between the Samar and Balay groups in Malacanang.

Since 2010, despite an awesome PR machinery, Malacanang never really got a hold of the public relations game. A series of missteps, snafus, blunders and miscommunications (beginning with the mishandling of the Luneta hostage incident involving a tour bus filled with Chinese nationals) have kept the President’s team of spokespersons and speechwriters busy fending off critics.

Crisis Mode

On Tuesday, a newspaper report by that the Palace is in “PR crisis mode”, hiring the services of a foreign pollster and political strategist to help reinvent the image of the President after the government’s net approval ratings plummeted to a record low.

The report said a crisis management team under Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. (Samar Group) and a political strategy team under Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas (Balay Group) has been activated to help refurbish PNoy’s image which has taken hit after hit since assuming the presidency in 2010.

A Palace source said Roxas is bringing back one Paul Bograd, the political strategist said to be responsible for Mar’s “Mr. Palengke” brand which made the DILG secretary No. 1 senator back in 2004. Bograd’s assignment: to fix PNoy’s image which suffered massively because of the Supreme Court’s adverse ruling on the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

On the other hand, Ochoa has made changes in the Palace media group starting with the appointment of Presidential Operations Office Secretary Sonny Coloma as presidential spokesperson taking the place of Edwin Lacierda who is identified with Mar’s Balay group.

Ochoa is also said to have reactivated members of the Samar group involved in the 2010 campaign, including television director and PNoy cousin Maria Montelibano. Montelibano served as head of Radio Television Malacanang (RTVM) during the time of President Cory Aquino and was also the designated point-person for media in Noynoy’s 2010 campaign.

While Bograd’s appointment can be considered a slap in the face of Secretary Coloma, observers believe that recent turn of events is symptomatic of a leadership breakdown in Malacanang. The administration is slowly falling apart and may eventually cost the ruling Liberal Party (LP) the 2016 presidential elections.

Seed of Discord

The conflict between the Samar and Balay group started shortly after Mar Roxas lost the vice presidency to Jojo Binay. Balay is the the group that met regularly at the residence of Roxas and its core is composed of the LP leadership together with the Black and White Movement and Ronald Llamas’ Akbayan. Samar Avenue in Quezon City is where Montelibano’s media bureau and Ochoa’s legal team held fort. PNoy sisters Pinky and Ballsy and Sonny Belmonte also regularly joined the Samar meetings.

The difference between the two groups emerged when Balay members started blaming Samar for the emergence of the winning NoyBi (Noynoy-Binay) tandem. In 2010, Mar’s presidential candidacy was floundering (he was usually ranked 4th in the ratings) and things looked up only after he gave way to Aquino and ran for vice president instead.

However, in the last weeks before the elections, Binay eventually caught up with Mar in the ratings.
From sure winner, Roxas became a pathetic loser. The two camps exchanged barbs blaming each other for Mar’s loss with Balay—despite the polls—claiming the Binay win as a fluke. The seed of discord had already planted as early as 2010.

The latest polls showing the President’s net satisfaction ratings at an all-time low, forced both the Samar and Balay groups to reactivate their crisis management teams. The Palace is in panic and by racing to save the President and effect a quick turnaround—Pnoy and company could find himself in even deeper trouble.

Mar’s panic is understandable because his chance of becoming the LP standard bearer and winning the presidency in 2016 is directly proportional to PNoy’s pop ratings. If PNoy crashes and burns, Roxas might as well kiss his presidential aspirations goodbye.

Serious Concerns

Palace insiders say Ochoa is concerned with the way the LP has handled the DAP issue. The August 23, 2013 speech of the President defending the DAP was reportedly the idea of Roxas who managed to convince PNoy to deliver the speech on primetime television despite Ochoa’s protests.

“Ochoa believes the (Senate President Franklin) Drilon and (Budget Secretary Butch Abad are dragging the President down with them,” the Palace source said.

Abad is the architect of the DAP which has been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, Drilon—who failed on his promise to scrap the Senate pork—tried to make up for his failure with an attempt to salvage the impounded money by circumventing the TRO issued by the SC by having the funds declared as “savings” that the President can use in the event of a calamity. Drilon’s antics reportedly did not sit well with House Speaker Belmonte.

Sister Act

The situation has become a fight for the Aquino-Cojuangco clan’s life that even the “First Bunso” Kris has been put to active PR service.

Kris’ strategy jumps off from PNoy’s recent State of the Nation Address (SONA) where the camera cuts away to the gallery and catches the “Queen of All Media” wiping off her tears as her PNoy mouths off the sacrifices of their parents Cory and Ninoy in his impassioned speech.

On August 1, on the occasion of Cory Aquino’s 5th death anniversary, Kris even hinted on the potential martyrdom of PNoy. “He [Noynoy] can’t do it on his own. We need to stand by him and give him strength. Please pray with us also that he stays alive,” Kris told guests after the Holy Mass at the Manila Memorial Park in Parañaque City.

Kris, of course, was alluding to PNoy’s mentioning in his SONA of certain “dark forces” that were supposedly out to get him. While much of what makes the Aquino dynasty great has something to do with death, the idea of President Aquino dying to achieve a PR bonanza is totally out of the question.
If PNoy dies, then Vice President Binay becomes President defeating the whole purpose of initiating an ambitious PR mode to save PNoy’s neck and the LP from a public hanging.

What remains clear is that the scenario in the Palace remains as chaotic as ever with the administration content in plugging loopholes and providing band-aid solutions to the country’s problems. Common sense dictates that it is never wise to have two captains run a PR ship.

Right now, PNoy and company appear secure and safe—just like the passengers of the Titanic.

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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.)

Fao And Canada To Help PH Coconut Farmers

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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.

New Paradigm For Recruiting OFWs

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By Archie Almeida

LBS Recruitment Solutions Corporation isone of the prime movers in usingsocial media to recruit OFWs. Its president and CEO, Lito B. Soriano, explained that in social media recruitment, everything is transparent and much better than the classical way of recruitment. There are no hidden terms, unlike in some recruiting agencies where they refuse to divulge information.

During the 1980s, recruiting agencies do their information campaign through major newspapers. The job-seeker’s fingers will do the walking line by line on the pages of the ads section, to look for the right and suitable job position.

Nowadays,withone click of themouse, job hunters could find vacancies for jobs both local or abroad.OFWs no longer face the burden of going back and forth from theirhomes, the office of the agency, and the offices of the government for submitting required documents to look for work abroad.

Modality of Recruitment

The worker-to-employer system is commonly known as direct hiring. Mostly, this kind of hiring deviates from the legal processes and requirements of POEA. The eagerness of the applicant to work abroad can end up in a no-fair-deal.

There are a lot of downsides in this kind of situation. A foreign individual will pose as an employer but in fact he is an agent or recruiter with an agency abroad. When the recruit arrives in the destination of deployment, another contract can be entered in for another employer. At this point the recruit is helpless.

The very prevalent recruitingsystem now for jobs-abroad applicants is the worker-agency-employer. If the applicant is qualified for the job position, he is required by the agency to fulfill all the requirements, which includes passport, diploma, transcript of records, and more.It is duly authenticated by Malacañang and the Department of Foreign Affairs. Afterwards, visa will be processed for departure. Job order is verified by the POEA, alongside all the pre-requisites to be complied with.Usually, recruitment in this system is done through newspaper ads, radio, or TV.

In contrast,with the worker-agency-broker- employer system,an established broker in a foreign country will look for an employer in the local agency.In turn, the agency will look for a qualified applicant to be deployed. Terms and conditions of employment contract are explained to the OFW. Sometimes there are terms and conditionsobscured by the recruiters in the contract that can put the applicant in a compromising situation where he could no longer back off.

The last type of hiring system is the worker-worker’s agent-agency-broker-employer system. Here, the interested Filipino worker will be recruited by an individual who stands in as the worker’s agent, endorsed by the agency, who in turn will contact the broker in the foreign country looking for an employer. More often than not, in this kind of recruitment, the applicant could not do anything but to adhere to the agency’s contract and policy of unconscionable fees, either by immediate payment or salary deductions.

The sad thing is, only a few agencies are using the new hiring method, because there is a need to be transparent in dealing with the applicant. This is because the potential OFW often asks questions on salary, the placement fee, how much will be spent in order to get the job, and other perks.

The New Thrust

The profile of users of social media the country is unevenly distributed. The working force from 18 to 24 years old is around 36% or equivalent to 10.41 million whilethose whose age ranges from 25 to 44 is 6.91 million or 21.5%.

This is why the LBS put a new thrust in the manpower-pooling business by way of utilizing Internet technology, not only for the applicants but for the prospective  employers as well. It uses the worker-agency-employer modality.

“In the advent of fast-paced change in technology, the traditional recruitment channels has changed as well. It’s online and in social media. Gone are days of placing ads in the newspapers in recruiting OFWs.This is the new thrust of the manpower-pooling business,” Soriano says.

Applicants can fill up forms or download it using and easily received updates, notifications on-line anytime and anywhere in the world they are via email and cellphone.

“They can also just sign up for an account with all the profile and resume and requirements, for the job position they are applying for, and we will look for employers. All questions and queries of the applicants are answered in the website e.g. from salary up to minute details of employment. In this way, meeting of minds between the applicants and the agency are done without the appearance,” Soriano adds.

LBS boosted the chain of qualified applicants in its online application system from February 2012 to March 31, 2014.It dramatically reached more than 28,000 users, higher than the past years.

By using mobile recruitment applications in Android and iOS Apple mobile phones, it is easy and accessible for recruits to apply and monitor the status of their applications. There are real-time customer care services for applicants that are immediately responded to as well.It also lessens the burden and costs of marketing, and the number of quality and ethical employers abroad increases.

Digital technology and social media has changed the game of looking for manpower.  It is a new paradigm that other recruitment agencies should adapt. LBS Recruitment Solutions’ use of online sourcing gives the company an edge that other traditional manpower agencies do not have. This is what makes the company a leader and gamechanger in the recruitment business.

(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

 

 

Gian Javelona: The Pinoy ‘Steve Jobs’

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Gian Javelona is the kind of person who would reach for the stars. In a recent interview with Rappler’s Ezra Ferraz, he confided, “When I was a student, I always dreamed of having a company. I wanted to build something that any person could use and a product that could change people’s lives. I remember my classmates were laughing at me when I told them that one day I would have a company that will beat Apple, and that I will name it OrangeApps.” We can imagine who is laughing now, but Gian is modest about his success.

Gian Javelona is only 20 years old, and he is now the CEO of of his own company, OrangeApps. How that happened is based on several factors. In the first place, Gian has never given up on his dream of becoming an entrepreneur. He has always dreamed of having his own company even when he was still a student. One plan has remained on his mind: To build something that any person could use and change people’s lives.

To be a successful entrepreneur, Gian knows that you have to surround yourself with other people driven to succeed. A person can learn from them by absorbing their knowledge and ideas. The young CEO also has an attitude of confidence and resourcefulness. He has never allowed other people’s suspicions to get him down. This outlook helped him find the right people for his company. People have asked, “How can a 20-year old CEO successfully run a company?” He knows this is how many people think but he chose to ignore naysayers.

Building the company from scratch can be overwhelming. Javelona knows that there are issues he has to deal with. He confesses that building his OrangeApps team was the most difficult experience he has ever had. It’s not just because people looking down on his age, but there are other matters at hand. For one, it is hard to get people to join a very young company. It is another challenge to convince them when he can’t even assure them of a regular salary. For so many people, it is too risky to join a company that nobody has heard of.

Despite these circumstances, Javelona found inspiration in the story of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. Gian claims to have watched the biopic ‘The Social Network’ ten times, and he identifies with what Zuckerberg went through during the early days of  Facebook. Coincidentally, both Gian and his idol Zuckerberg started out by breaking rules. Zuckerberg built Facemash, precursor to Facebook, by taking the photos from Harvard’s website without permission. Gian created and released his first mobile app, a PUP-based mobile portal that accesses public information on the university’s website, without notifying PUP.

The school authorities told him to shut it down because security issues started cropping up. This did not discourage Gian. It just made him more determined as he fixed the app in one month. He tried once more by doing a relaunch. The app was an instant hit with  PUP students in just three days. The users grew to around 2,000 active users out of a school population of 70,000 from over 20 campuses. He shares, “The President of PUP called and asked me to present the platform. Sometimes, you need to break some rules to make big things happen.”

In spite of this success, some people still question his capability to run a company at a young age. He responded by building the company “like someone would build a family – you have to make sure there is chemistry.” He picked people whose way of thinking is out of the box, like he is. He also chose those he knows he could work well with.

When asked how a person can unlock his or her true potential, Gian thinks it has something to do with the Philippine educational system. The country’s institutions of learning still have a long way to go to match its global counterparts. What it is doing now, according to Javelona, is to force students towards a job marketplace where being employed relies on skills that constantly change every year.

This is why Gian’s biggest advocacy is youth entrepreneurship. He is constantly invited to speak to young people in symposiums and seminars. Javelona believes young people should consider becoming entrepreneurs. On this, he thinks that education is the main problem. Our educational system molds students to be employees and not employers. He emphasizes, “If you ask a student today, what they want to do after graduation, most will say that they want to work for a big, local company or go abroad and earn big money.”

Last year, Gian was accepted to Ideaspace Foundation’s incubation program for young entrepreneurs. He remembers a funny moment when he is presenting his ideas to Coach Chot Reyes and Manny V. Pangilinan, and he was just wearing a regular shirt. He admits not knowing that he needs to have financial projections and a business model. “I didn’t even understand what those words meant back then,” he says good-humoredly. Even so, Javelona’s time at Ideaspace was life-changing. He actually recommends the incubation route for those who want to build a startup, but have no idea how, for as long as they are determined to see their business ideas come to life.

The people at Ideaspace assisted the young entrepreneur in terms of incorporation, financial projections, valuations, and marketing. Gian says, “Through them, you will meet the best people in the industry, including entrepreneurs, technologists, social innovators, and other aspiring startup founders.”

OrangeApps recently launched the app Khawna. The name comes from the Tagalog phrase ‘ikaw na’ (that’s you), a teasing way to praise a person who has done anything remarkable or impressive. It coincides with the company’s slogan: “It starts with you.” Gian believes that all of us can make a difference in the world.

According to him, Khawna is a learning platform where you could learn skills currently required by the industry. He believes that the app bridges the gap of industry learning and makes education available to everyone around the world. The learning platform offers online classes that emphasize hard skills, such as science and technology, engineering, mathematics, and entrepreneurship.

Gian says, “Imagine a kid in a rural area attending a class on entrepreneurship from his mobile phone, one taught by industry experts. What will happen to the Philippines? There are 7.93 million underemployed Filipinos and 6.24 million out of school, young Filipinos. With Khawna, we can make every Filipino employable.”

He hopes that this would result in more students aspiring to become entrepreneurs and create their own startup companies. In this, Javelona is very optimistic. He shares, “I’m really happy to see successful startups operating in this country, such as Kalibrr, Guestlist.ph, and TimeFree Innovations. They inspire young startup founders to keep pushing forward – They help us realize that disrupting industries here in the Philippines will lead the country to a better future.”

Every time Gian talks to students, he reminds them of how many huge tech companies started out as small ventures. He emphasizes that all of these tech companies like Microsoft and IBM started the way he and other young entrepreneurs started. “They were built by human beings like us. So it’s not impossible for Filipinos to also build a billion dollar company in the future,” he says.

For a lot of students and fresh graduates, it will be their first time to be told through Gian’s talks, that they can do something other than compete for entry-level jobs. He shares, “For the first time they see a Filipino company who wants to build something that can definitely change lives. I always tell them that ‘the sooner you start, the faster you will learn.’ I hope that inspires them.”

Many young Filipinos are so impressed and inspired by Javelona’s story. Many of them want to work for OrangeApps, and some feel encouraged to start their own company. Some of these young people started out as Khawna’s earliest users. They see the app as a launching pad to learn the skills they need to survive and succeed in the job market. Gian hopes that most of them can become future innovators, entrepreneurs, and industry leaders who will help uplift the country’s economy.

A Lifeline to the Future

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Water is life, and without water, all life forms would be dead. Without water, we could not grow food, and without food, all life forms would be dead too. Since we grew up with water around us, we have perhaps assumed all along that water will always be there, in the same way that air will always be there. These two assumptions may be correct, but what if both the water and the air would become polluted? And what if the supply of clean water would dry up, and no more water would come out of our faucets?

In a manner of speaking, air is a renewable resource in our country because every day, the winds would sweep away the dirty air into the oceans around us. This might be true for now, but what if the time will come when the density of the air pollution would be too much for the winds to sweep away? The fact is, we are no longer measuring the levels of air pollution in our country, so much so that we may not even know whether the levels are still normal or not.

In theory, water is a renewable resource everywhere, provided that the natural sources of water are preserved, and provided further that the natural process of water collection is also preserved. As God and nature has provided for, the natural sources of water are our watersheds, and it does not take a genius to understand that. While it may have taken a whole bunch of fools over the generations to destroy our watersheds, it will not take a genius to reclaim and restore our watersheds, even if it would again take many generations to do that.

We might actually have many geniuses around us, but we do not need them to tell us that if we bring back the trees around our watersheds, it will bring back the water in the short run, and it will eventually ensure the continuing supply of water in the long run. And if that is not enough incentive for us to do that, let us ask these geniuses to explain to us that if we bring back the trees, these trees would also hold the water in their roots, a scientific fact that would prevent floods in the lowlands.

For those who could not chew gum and walk at the same time, we would perhaps need the geniuses to explain that producing water and preventing floods are not the only benefits of bringing back the trees to the areas around our watersheds. It might be too complicated to explain, but these trees would not only produce food in the form of fruits and leaves, these would also produce oxygen that would clean the air, and counter the carbon pollution in the air. Again it might be too complex to explain, but the trees would actually absorb the carbon in the air, a natural process that also weakens or slows down global warming.

It is a scientific fact that global warming is the cause of climate change. That is generally speaking, but to be more specific, it is deforestation that is the cause of flooding in the lowlands. Since these correlations are so obvious, we should also do what is also obvious, and that is to reforest our mountains by planting and growing trees. Mind you, I am not just talking about planting some trees here and there; I am talking about growing trees in all parts of the mountains. Call it any other name you like, but I am talking about reforestation, back to the density of trees that was existing before the uncontrolled logging began.

Mga Anak ng Inang Daigdig (MAID), an organization of young people founded by Fr. Ben Beltran in what used to be the Smokey Mountain dumpsite was awarded about 120 hectares of land in the Montalban mountain area by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), under a Forest Management Agreement (FMA) scheme. These young people have already planted fruit bearing trees in the area, along with cash crop vegetables. As fate would have it, MAID is also helping the members of the Dumagat tribe in the area, who are now also planting their own trees and vegetables. As it is now, the harvests of MAID and the Dumagat tribe are already being sold within the Diocese of Cubao, with the support of the good bishop there. As it also happened, slash and burn farming, locally known as kainginhas slowed down in the area, because the local kaingineros have now found an alternative source of income.

As long as the people in Cubao will keep buying the organic products coming from the farms of MAID and the Dumagat tribe, they will be able to keep as supply chain going that will not only assure their customers of healthy food, they will also assure the entire metropolis with a sustainable source of water forever, aside from preventing floods in the lowlands, hopefully also forever. This is the reason why I am calling it a lifeline to the future, a lifeline of food and water forever.

Indigenous Communities Conservation Areas (ICCA) is an international framework that recognizes the ancient role of the indigenous peoples in conserving their own ancestral domains. They have been doing that forever, and it would make sense to provide them the resources that could make them do that forever. Whether or not the indigenous tribes in the Philippines have been granted their Certificates of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT), they could be tapped to implement reforestation programs in their own areas, following the pattern of the program that MAID started. Where there is a mountain, there is always a watershed. And where there is a watershed, there is always a sustainable source of water that could be tapped for now and for the generations to come. Let’s do this.

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