Friday, December 15, 2006

My Alternative Technology Christmas Wish-List

Did you know that the true cost of Christmas in the United States if based on the song “The 12 Days of Christmas” is $18,920 in 2006, which is a 3.1 percent increase from the year before? The PFA blog wrote about the 22-year tradition of the PNC financial services group in cheekily calculating the US economy during the year based on their “Christmas Price Index”. If the verses are repeated and the 364 items, including labor hired, are bought, the total cost would be $75,122. The figures this year show increased inflation, higher skilled labor costs, and surprisingly, more expensive items if one surfed the internet instead of visiting a store/vendor. Spare change for our politicians and the rich. If I had that money though, the following would be my alternative technology Christmas wish list:

For those living in cities, especially in high-rise apartments, wouldn’t it be nice to grow your own organic vegetables, herbs, or even plants? Using hydroponics (without soil) and aeroponic (fine mist) growing technology in smaller personalized units make this possible. AeroGarden markets a $150 unit that lets you harvest herbs in two-three weeks with hardly any effort and water. Of course, cheaper and do-it-yourself kits are available. Kitchen wastes and even paper can be turned into compost by using more modern and easy to use auto-composting bins such as the NatureMill, which is still a bit pricey at $400.

What would happen if every child had a computer, even the poorest of the poor, and could connect to the Internet? What would the possibilities be for economic productivity, education, and personal/community growth? The One Laptop Per Child is an ambitious initiative to develop a $100 laptop that will be attractive, energy efficient, durable, and Internet-capable. Some organizations, such as are teaming up with sponsors, and aim to give brand new units for free to the poor. Computers can connect through the internet cheaply through a grid of “self-healing nodes” and can be solar-powered as proposed by the Green Wi-Fi group. According to GrameenPhone founder and MIT entrepreneur guru Iqbal Qadir, information and communication technologies (ICTs) such as computers, the Internet, and telephones enable the poor and vulnerable in three ways: connect the village to the world, create business opportunities, and generate a culture of entrepreneurship. GrameenPhone, in ten years, has garnered 10 million subscribers. For Qadir “connectivity is productivity”. Of course, functional but old computers can still be used and can even connect to the Internet using open source software and other recycled equipment.

Another critical issue is the lack of water supply infrastructure in poverty-stricken rural areas. Without funds for a municipal wide system, households need to provide for their own potable water supply. Communal deepwells with pumps may be located quite a distance from the home. One innovative way of transporting water is through a hand-driven pump such as the $90 Lehmans hand-powered transfer pump, which can transfer 25-30 gallons per minute. For community-wide projects, a firm helped design and install the AquaMeter™ system, which they claim is the “world’s first solar powered, pre-paid municipal water distribution system in Ronda, Cebu, the Philippines.” Rainwater harvesting, water impoundment, and water pumping can be powered by the sun’s energy. The technology has been used worldwide, including in Tawi-Tawi, Philippines and can be made affordable.

The other side of supplying water is conserving it. One piece of equipment that needs improvement is the urinal. Why flush it with potable water, when you can go waterless? Improvements in materials, biodegradable cleansers, no moving parts, and savings of 1.5-3 gallons per flush are some of the clear benefits of waterless urinals. Plus, it’s safer because, in the absence of flushing, microbes, bacteria, and viruses cannot thrive in the dry areas. Check out the Waterless and Waterless Urinals websites.

The World Bank reports that 1.1 billion people live on $1 a day, while 2.7 billion live on $2 a day. Obviously, this doesn’t leave much for basic needs, one of which is transportation. In depressed rural areas, public transport is sporadic and costly. Bad roads exacerbate the difficulties. Bicycles can help fill in this gap. Manufacturing them can also be a source of livelihood. WorldBike is one example of NGOs working on making the bicycle not only a means of transport but also a tool for economic productivity.

For those in urban areas, bikes, if more portable, can encourage the use of mass transit systems. A light, foldable bike makes this possible. Some of these bikes do exist, such as the expensive Brompton Folding Bicycle (over $600). Other folding bike models are half the price according to Larry Lagarde of

Solar power is one feasible technology applicable to areas with many sunny days as the American Southwest and much of Asia including the Philippines. It has many applications from backpacks with photovoltaic cells to recharge your various gadgets to solar electric bikes. One very important and needed application of solar energy is in refrigeration especially of vaccines and medicines for rural, powerless, and disaster-afflicted areas. The SolarChill is designed to be “environmentally sound, battery free, technologically reliable, affordable and multi-source powered” and is expected to cost from $1500-2000. They are looking for manufacturers.

As solar power generation scales up, I was fascinated to stumble upon one company that actually commits to sell to American households solar power at a fixed and guaranteed price. Citizenrē now has over a thousand customers and will be attractive to those seeking a more sustainable lifestyle that, at the very least, is carbon-neutral. For those planning to build their dream home with wood as part of the construction material, you may want to explore wood plastic composites (WPC) that use wood wastes and plastic. JER Environtech, established by Fil-Canadians, developed alternative panel boards and raw material composites that have better mechanical properties, are cost-effective, environment friendly, and non-toxic. They have joint venture companies or manufacturing plants in Canada, the United States, Philippines, Malaysia, and the UAE. It looks like a good stock investment and is listed on the Toronto Venture Exchange (TSX.V) under “JER”.

These are but some of the alternative technologies that the country could use if made affordable and culturally appropriate. That is the task of the Pinoy Innovator.

Despite the challenges we face, the Philippines is number 17 in terms of human well-being and environmental impact. The indicators are life expectancy (70.4 vs. reasonable ideal of 82 years), life satisfaction (6.4 vs. 8.2), and ecological footprint or use of natural resources (1.2 vs. 1.5), all of which account for the country’s happy planet index (59.2 vs. 83.5). Vanuatu was number 1. . The United States was in 150th place. Its life satisfaction (7.4) and life expectancy (77.4 years) were good, but its ecological footprint (9.5) and HPI (28.8) were horrible. You can calculate your own HPI at

Lastly, in this age of recycling and re-use, it’s ok to recycle gifts, and be like what Elaine of Seinfeld called the re-gifter. :-)

I hope you and your family have the very best of Christmas. Don't forget the Christ in Christmas!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Lamy: World Trade at the Final Crossroad, but will the West give in?

Pascal Lamy's commentary at the Inquirer last December 7, 2006 conveniently forgot to mention the Cororaton paper published by the World Bank, which stated that using the computable general equilibrium model (CGE), the current Doha round of WTO negotiations will adversely affect rural households in the Philippines because of increased import prices and decreased export demand for agricultural products. Poverty is expected to slightly increase and will affect rural households, unemployed, and self-employed. Consumption prices are expected to rise more on average than household nominal incomes. A Doha accord will also increase world prices. See Cororaton, Caesar B., John Cockburn, and Erwin Corong (2006). Doha Scenarios, Trade Reforms, and Poverty in the Philippines: A CGE Analysis. IN Poverty and the WTO: Impacts of the Doha Development Agenda, Hertel, Thomas W. and L. Alan Winters, Editors. Palgrave Macmillan and the World Bank, pp. 375-402.

Friday, December 08, 2006

72 hour RSVP: Electronic petition against torture & killings

Thank you for this petition. Although I support your proactive action against torture and political killings in the Philippines and Bush's (inaccurate use of the phrase) "War on Terror", I cannot sign the petition unless you elaborate how the demanding "the removal of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as president of the Philippines and replace her with a coalition government comprised of representatives from different sectors of Philippine society" can be effected and will lead to petition’s stated goals.

The petition needs to expound on this because the specific demand has serious implications. My initial reading of the 2005 Philippine Human Development Report revealed that:

1) The Philippines has two of the longest running insurgencies in the world, i.e. communist and Moro insurgencies with significant human, social, and economic consequences;

2) Social injustice, poverty, lack of basic infrastructure and services are some of the root causes of these insurgencies and are evident in conflict areas;

3) There is discrimination against Muslim Filipinos by the Filipino populace;

4) The total cost of the conflict up to the present is about $2-3 billion;

5) Some recommended strategies include: (a) pursue both a national policy and constituency (civil society) on peace with less emphasis on a military solution; (b) a comprehensive and customized approach to addressing the Moro conflict; (c) maintaining communication lines to the Communist insurgency leading to negotiations; (d) including the peace process in any constitutional changes; (e) working for good governance, and (f) working for social reforms and human development.

All are well and good, but if I were to walk in the shoes of the military and their families, how do we address:

1) The relative poverty of most military families?

2) The 1359 soldiers killed and 605 injured by the NPA since 1986?

3) The 131 soldiers killed and 27 injured by the MNLF since 1986?

4) The 475 soldiers killed and 499 injured by the MILF since 1986?

(In comparison, note that since 1986, NPA killed and injured were 1404 and 184 respectively. MNLF killed and injured were 207 and 12 respectively, while MILF killed and injured were 1178 and 207 respectively. The Ramos administration era had the least casualties, while the Arroyo administration has surpassed the previous three administrations in casualties)

The Filipino people need a more comprehensive solution to the country’s problems than just a demand to end “the harassment, detention, torture and political killings of activists by the Philippine military and other paramilitary agents”. How about more pressure on the minority elite and power brokers who are using parts of the military and police to maintain the status quo in the Philippines? What about the internecine killings of leftists by their own? What about the reported harassment of initiatives such as Alter Trade in Negros? Are revolutionary taxes and attacks on infrastructure justified? What about the use of child soldiers? The petition cannot just hide under the blanket phrase “support progressive causes”.

If there is a demand that is appropriate, it should be the demand that Filipino scholars provide the Philippines with a more critical and thought-out action plan on human and national development.

Best regards and please keep me in the loop.


Dear colleagues,

Some U.S. scholars and writers have signed this petition against torture and the political killings in the Philippines. We plan to disseminate this petition here in the U.S. and in the Philippines. If you will support our petition, please send me your name and your affiliation or your place of residence.

Please respond in 72 hours, on or before Dec 11, Monday, 5 pm, Eastern standard time.


A statement by concerned citizens, residents, academics, writers and artists of the United States to protest violence and killings in the Philippines and around the world

"This country doesn't torture, we're not going to torture."

-- President of the United States George W. Bush, Oct. 17, 2006

The Bush administration's War against Terror is what one scholar has called a "state of exception,"-- "a legal civil war that allows for the physical elimination not only of political adversaries but of entire categories of citizens who cannot be integrated into the political system." We consider this state of exception as an exception to internationally recognized codes/practices of war and values of human rights. This War against Terror is itself as a government-sanctioned form of terrorism enabled by such laws as the Military Commissions Act signed by President Bush on October 17, 2006.

The new law allows:

· the permanent detention of anyone, including American citizens;

· the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) will be allowed to resume "aggressive interrogations" in secret prisons;

· that those currently detained in Guantanamo and other prisons cannot challenge their detentions in a court of law due to the suspension of habeas corpus;

· that the permanent detention and "aggressive interrogation" of an individual will be based solely on the decision of the President of the United States.

In the Philippines today, the Philippine President Gloria Macapagal
Arroyo and her U.S.-trained and financially supported Philippine
military practice its own state of exception. In June 2006, the Arroyo government declared an "all-out-war against progressives by branding critics of her government as "terrorists". Since September 16, 2006,

· 776 activists have been killed in the past five years of the Arroyo administration;

· more than 169,530 individual victims, 18,515 families, 71 communities and 196 households have been affected by the political killings;

· those killed or "disappeared" were farmers or worker activists, priests, clergymen, lawyers, journalists and students;

At a time of surveillance, detention and deportation in the United States, torture, genocide and war in Iraq sanctioned by the Bush administration, the torture and killings of Filipino activists in the Philippines are global effects of the War against Terror. In the United States and in the Philippines, we witness states of exception that are in fact states of death.

We are concerned citizens, residents of the United States, academics,
writers and artists who strongly denounce the global-U.S. War on Terrorism which provides legitimation as well as financial and military support for the Arroyo regime's domestic war against its own citizens. We call on the international community to protest the U.S.-led war in Iraq and to show solidarity with Filipino human rights activists and community leaders.

We therefore appeal to concerned progressive citizens of the world
community to:

· call for an end to all U.S. sanctioned terrorist acts including the
detention, deportation and torture of immigrants and other so-called enemies of the state, as well as the occupation and war in Iraq;

· call for an end to the the harassment, detention, torture and political killings of activists by the Philippine military and other paramilitary agents;

· demand the removal of George W. Bush as president of the United

· demand the removal of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as president of the Philippines and replace her with a coalition government comprised of representatives from different sectors of Philippine society;

· organize local fora, start solidarity organizations to raise consciousness build support for the Philippine progressive movement;

· envision and make real global justice, self-determination and human
dignity for all.



Members and associates of the Critical Filipina and Filipino Studies Collective (CFFSC)

individual signatories not shown

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Traffic suggestions

A recent PhilStar columnist (Wilson Lee Flores) discussed his recommendations to solve Metro Manila's horrendous traffic. Apart from the usual calls for better traffic enforcement, listed below are my additional suggestions.

1. Use economic incentives/disincentives. Pricing modifies behavior. There is no need to confiscate driver's licenses. However, impose traffic fines on a progressive basis, meaning the bigger the engine displacement, the stiffer the fines. Bigger vehicles occupy more road space and many of their drivers tend to violate traffic laws. Their recklessness have more significant traffic consequences.

2. Percentage of traffic fines should go to socialized housing. A major cause of traffic is the squatter problem. The garbage-flooding-traffic link is due to the lack of adequate infrastructure (roads, drainage, water supply, sewerage, transportation nodes, etc.) and social services (garbage disposal) in squaatter areas. Squatters are a 40% reality of Metro Manila. Address the squatter problem and you root out a major cause of traffic.

3. Shame them. A number of the traffic violators are politicians and bus drivers. Traffic hotspots should have cameras that are linked to a website, which the public can access. This website should also be a repository of pictures, the license plates and car details of power trippers-traffic violators. I wonder how owners and firm officers of unruly, dirty, and polluting buses will react when they are publicly identified. All fines imposed and collected should be posted online for the public to check anytime.

4. Night workers. All road construction and maintenance should be done only during nighttime. This should be strictly enforced. Violators must be fined or bonds foreclosed.

5. Busways. We all agree that we need mass transit, preferably light rail or a train system for Metro Manila. However, the costs involved, issues of conflict, and the land needed make it almost unfeasible. Light rail/railways are desirable because these are dedicated lines that ensure consistent travel and pick up/drop off points. Why not reclaim one lane of EDSA and the other major roads and make it these dedicated busways or buslanes? The only cost would be the bus stations. Bid out the busway and the right to put in buses that are clean, environment-friendly, safe, and have professional drivers. They can charge a bit more than the buses. Estimate maximum number of buses needed for profitability. Check out

6.Buy out South Expressway toll contract and rebid.
The Skyway is an embarrassment. The residents of Paranaque all the way to the Laguna and Batangas should not suffer because of the business incompetence of CITRA/Stradec. They should give up management control if they can not extend and expand the Skyway system. Let in other business parties now.

7.Buy out jeepney franchises in major roads or phase them out in five-ten years. Society and government need to address this anachronism and major deterrent to efficient traffic management.

The goal is to solve multiple problems/issues using economic incentives. Culture always wins. There are ways to tweak Filipino practices that lead to more desirable behavior. Of course, all these are dependent on political will and transformational leadership. Alas, that is another discussion.

Friday, October 27, 2006

The Constitution and Presidential power

In one of Philppine Center for Investigative Journalism's (PCIJ) books, it noted that the President is the only who can appoint some 3,000 plus positions in a government office or gov't owned and controlled corporation (GOCC). Indirectly, the President can influence the appointment of another 100,000-200,000 positions in the bureaucracy throughout his/her administration.
If only for that reason, we should amend or revise (take your pick) the Constitution.
Media credibility is low in both the Philippines and in the US, hence the rise of alternative/independent media and the need to triangulate (look at different sources) information.
The political actors involved and the responsiveness of the Constitution to the country's needs and realities over time are two distinct discussion points that we should not conflate. Who will do this for us?

A Nation Weeps circa 1996

Something I wrote over 10 years ago after the Ozone Disco fire that killed 150 youngsters...

A Nation Weeps

Of all the graphic images on TV of the grief and suffering of the Ozone tragedy, it was his image that struck me the most. This Bembol Roco-look alike, with his strong chiseled face, bald head above the hundreds of others outside the burnt disco, megaphone in hand, was pleading with anyone and everyone for information on his missing child. He was even willing to give an instant reward to anyone with useful information; "Maawa na po kayo sa isang naghihirap (?) na ama...". The camera caught him, as he turned away, with eyes closing and the look of a strong, courageous, proud but grieving father who had just lost a loved child.

Nothing affects us more as when many young people suffer a fate as those at the ill-fated Ozone disco. The nation's future, each parent's inspiration, life's meaning is best shown in the smile of youth. And when they suffer, unnecessarily, unjustly and in this case, because of incompetence, greed, graft and corruption, then it becomes a national tragedy. Like the massacre of toddlers at Dunblane, the Ozone tragedy has left us in a state of shock and grief. Yet everyday, violence to the youth occurs in many ways and in different places because of the same reasons that caused the Ozone tragedy, as well as a distorted sense of the value of human life.

Life's events are usually ironical. The disco's name was taken from the earth's gaseous layer that protects us from the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays. The disco burnt down and killed youngsters by roasting them or by suffocating them. These young people were celebrating the end of school and the future that brought (new) beginnings. The fire ended these futures abruptly and permanently. My boss says, when you criticize always suggest an alternative. But what can you give, when the alternatives were already there? Even the month was entitled "Fire Prevention Month".

We the youth, feel that life outside our homes and loved ones is an endangered one. During the Marcos regime, the enemies and the dangers seemed to have been defined and one acted accordingly. Today, the enemies and dangers seem to be everywhere and are undistinguishable. Who should be answerable for the dangers posed by safety, security, peace and order and environmental problems? What should one do? Why do tragedies such as Ormoc, Doña Paz, Gretchen, Mendiola Massacre happen in this day and age?

We give no answers but our best effort. Our hearts and sympathy go to the over 150 grieving families that are suffering now. May God Bless you as the nation weeps with you.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Petron responds to letter

Chair and CEO
PETRON Corporation
39/F Petron MegaPlaza
358 Sen. Gil Puyat Avenue, Makati City
Tel. No. +63 2 886-3888
Fax No. +63 2 886-3064

Dear Mr. Alcantara,

As a Petron shareholder, I am both disappointed and disgusted with the slow and bumbling, if not incompetent, emergency response of Petron management, led by you, to the Guimaras oil spill. Your management and communications teams were deathly silent and invisible during the critical days of the spill when contingency measures, which should have been in place years ago, should have been activated immediately. Instead, your management team SEEMS to have put much of your energy and effort at averting a PR crisis. How I wish the spill control measures were mobilized as quickly as your press releases.

Petron's slow response betrays its CSR and HSE policies. I hope you can address this weakness immediately and identify those responsible for this environmental disaster. Please also explain Petron's continued use of single-hull vessels even after recent oil spills.

Your recent statement mentions actions that are still clearly inadequate to the task at hand and is replete with plans. There is no time to lose. Mobilize as many people as possible, get the best technical help available here in the country and abroad, and DO NOT SCRIMP ON THE EXPENSES.

Walang presyo ang kalikasan ng Pilipinas at kabuhayan at kalusugan ng Pilipino.

Maraming salamat po.

Hecky Villanueva
Date: Sat, 2 Sep 2006 07:57:24 +0800
From: "Mendoza, Ana Maria C."
To: "Melanie Manaog" , "Hecky Villanueva"
CC: "Ruivivar, Virginia A."

Dear Melanie and Hecky,

Based on the evaluation of the incident, the first concern and action was to contain the spill. The technology for underwater survey is not available locally considering the depth is about 640 meters. Even our PCG does not have the technology, expertise and facilities to do such. Through the P & I club, efforts were done to source a company that has ROV capability. Normally this is very hard to find considering that a number of oil drilling operations worldwide are using this technology. Eventually, we were able to find one from Japan and this also entailed documentation processing, clearance from japanese government, 4 day travel time, etc.

I hope I was able to enlighten you with the above. Rest assured, Petron is doing everything possible to contain the spill, clean-up and rehabilitate the area. For regular updates, please visit

Thank you for your understanding.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Petron flunked Guimaras crisis test

I disagree with calls that we boycott Petron. Petron stands between the Filipino people and foreign oil companies. The competition it brings forth (not as great as before) sort of pressures the other big oil companies to moderate their prices. It is not Petron's fault per se, rather Petron's officers' fault. Thus, like the Rapu-Rapu mining mess, Petron oficers and the board all need to be accountable for this. If we are really serious, we should even be buying petron stocks so we can get on the Board and issue stockholder resolutions calling for their resignation, investigation, and if possible, criminal prosecution. Certain people were responsible for this and should be held accountable. Let them identify all the culprits. Hurting Petron only hurts us. Petron's management leadership is a huge disappointment...

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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

What connects Gawad Kalinga, RockEd, Filipino Martial Arts, and OFWs?

What connects Gawad Kalinga, RockEd, Filipino Martial Arts, and OFWs?

After a three year absence, my current visit to Metro Manila (or Manila) provides me an opportunity to assess changes thereat. Manila is afterall the 20 th most urbanized and dense megalopolis in the world. Hence, what happens in Manila has global implications. I begin with the bad news, since current management thinking posits that starting with criticism is actually more effective than with praise.

Manila is still a place of contrasts, inequality, and social exclusion. Urban poverty is glaring and an inescapable reality despite the gleaming buildings, new malls, flashy cars, and beautifully dressed people. The urban poor, living in over 500 squatter communities comprising at least 40% of the urban population are ubiquitous as they manage to be economically productive as low-wage workers/laborers. They are our household help, security guards, restaurant servers, government workers, drivers, etc. Like the year-long intense humidity of Manila, the urban poor are omnipresent.

Transport-wise, Manila roads are still traffic-choked, grimy, and soot-laden because of too many old, ill-maintained, smoke-belching buses, jeepneys, and tricycles. The vehicles clog the narrow and unmaintained highways and roads. Overpasses and even the new MRT and LRT systems are dirty and have unpainted, soot-laden walls with minimal landscaping. Drivers neither follow nor understand traffic regulations. Lastly, traffic enforcers are more concerned with apprehending traffic violators rather than ensuring smoother traffic flow. Traffic structures such as barriers, public urinals, and signs are painted with effeminate colors that only reinforce our showbiz "dumbing down" commercialism.

Commerce-wise, the tiangge phenomenon, while spurring economic activities, and like our billboard-laden roads, is a visual blight on once respectable commercial establishments. The mish mash of layout, poor maintenance, fake/ pirated items for sale, and no dress code generate a predatory/aggressive atmosphere amidst dirty surroundings. These dirty indoor marketplaces reinforce the unsubstantiated negative perceptions of "Muslim" traders.

Societal institutions such as politicians, the media, and church are still mired in politics, mud-slinging, and crass commercialism. The tri-media, in cut-throat competition for business survival, continue to focus on destructive sensational reporting and influence-peddling. Politicians cater to their and others' vested interests, while religious leaders oppose and denounce politicians and policies without providing cogent and viable alternatives. No transformational national leader is in the offing. The entertainment industry, from the producers to the actors, has engaged in a seemingly wholesale conspiracy to create the dumb Filipino.

These are just but a few of my negative impressions of Manila, which friends and family have also articulated. However, there are improvements and innovations that are truly impressive and I take great joy and pride in writing about them.

The first is that civic consciousness is evident everywhere. A great many Manilenos are neither greedy individualists nor alienated urbanites. I am a happy man because many of my friends, relatives, and colleagues have not given up on learning new things, and importantly, improving the economic and moral conditions not only of their families, but their communities as well. Gawad Kalinga (GK) for example is a world class nation-building movement recruiting one million members that has built nearly 20,000 homes in nearly 800 communities nationwide and in six other countries. GK's slum eradication, housing provision, human dignity, spiritual upliftment, and social healing programs, as well as community development activities are contributing to urban revival. In the process GK is transforming squatter communities, supporting the building and materials industry, providing education, training, skills, and livelihood opportunities, assisting preventive health initiatives, and promoting a culture of integrity, transparency and honest, hard work in all levels of society. All these lead to a sense of nationhood. I have not seen a truly holistic and effective model of development such as that of GK.

Another burgeoning movement is RockEd Philippines, which strives to promote Pinoy culture and the bayanihan spirit through alternative education strategies for the general public, the youth, and teachers ("train the trainors"). Like GK, RockEd does not seek funding support for its initiatives. Educators, artists, athletes, business leaders, and professionals have provided expertise, time, effort, and resources to numerous teach-ins, trainings, concerts, educational video clips, etc. that generate individual, community, and institutional resource bases for the more productive yet civic- conscious Filipino.

The movement of the overseas Filipino worker (OFW), expatriate Filipino, and their local partners is another inspiring development with significant implications for the country. The estimated eight-million strong OFWs have the technical and global exposure, as well as the monetary resources, which they are beginning to mobilize to support the Philippine economy, their families, and communities, promote Filipino culture and solidarity, and lobby for political and economic reform. OFW groups are engaged in a vast array of initiatives from free health clinics to livelihood cooperatives.

A specific example is the advocacy and partnership among practitioners of Filipino Martial Arts (FMA- kali, arnis, pikita tirsii, yaw-yan, etc). Like the famed Balikbayan dancers, FMA practioners, whether they are Filipino or of other nationalities, have been advocating Filipino culture through FMA. FMA incorporates and documents (via books, online newsletters, websites, conferences, tournaments, seminars, etc.) Filipino history, language (martial arts terms), Filipino cultural values of integrity, courage, and righteousness, an aspiration and commitment to make a cultural pilgrimage to the Philippines (supports the tourism and martial arts crafts sector), and global Filipino solidarity. FMA in their own quiet, unique, and self-effacing ways are promoting the best of the Filipino.

What is common in all these movements? One, the middle class Filipino has realized that nation-building starts with the individual with the education, training, resources, commitment, consciousness, and courage to initiate change and reform. New societal institutions need to be formed because existing ones such as political parties, media, church, etc. are dysfunctional. Politics is in the process being redefined by GK, RockEd, OFW, FMA, environmentalists, artists, etc. to one based on meritocracy and competence, transparency, integrity, and helping the fellow countryman. If you initiate something of societal good and you do it well, the resources, both material and human, soon follow. In reaction to the sensational media and dumbing down entertainment industry, I have witnessed the explosion of the use of the internet and online communities, alternative media, information and communication technologies (ICT), grassroots mobilizing, alternative education strategies, and other innovative forms of information exchange.

As those with ulterior motives go about their nefarious activities, we are witnessing many notable community-based initiatives. The new politics that leftists and libertarians both aspire for but never quite achieved in the country is being developed by these social movements.

Take Makati for example. Whatever apprehensioins we have on a Binay dynasty, some of the country's best-run barangays can be found in the city. These programs include the Salcedo weekend market, the free Lifeline and subsidized health services, the ecological solid waste management programs, the landscaping and numerous beautification projects in the residential villages, household help skills enrichment programs, well maintained and lighted roads, good security, traffic management, etc. All employ a holistic perspective of community solidarity and pride, social learning, skills training, environmental awareness and action, peace and order, preventive health, transparency and accountability.

The Philippine urban story will be one of highly visible and high performing barangays and towns vis-à-vis embarrassing stories. Thus, Pasay continues to be known as the "armpit of Metro Manila", while Parañaque is just recovering from years of showbiz scandals of Joey Marquez and Alma Moreno. Quezon City is positioning itself as the nation's IT capital, while Makati, in its self-destructive mode, will have action star Lito Lapid most probably running against Binay. Puerto Princesa remains a green city, while Dumaguete (which actually refers to all of Negros Oriental) is a balikbayan and tourist dreamland.

Another development is that the business sector continues to discount the antics of politicians, media, and the Church. I think most Filipinos realize that these institutions are not working for their welfare. The services sector continues to attract both investments and business despite the political squabbles. Microenterprises as well as business process outsourcing (BPO) projects are sprouting every where. Private education and health services are expanding. The telecom sector is thriving. The mining industry and other natural resources projects, as one professor observed, is learning from the mistakes of the past, including the recent past (Rapu-Rapu), and is positioning itself to be a major driver of national economic growth, including industrialization, and a proponent of corporate social responsibility (CSR). CSR is a social movement within the corporate world and if successful will be a radical revolution in how Philippine business operates in the 21 st century.

I have ridden on both the MRT and LRT lines, which were always full. While their soot-laden walls/pillars need to be cleaned, these mass transit systems are important transportation nodes and emphasize the need for world-class infrastructure if Manila is to develop. A colleague recently observed that the administrations since Marcos have failed to invest in infrastructure development as much as the dictator. If the trend continues, he expects the rehabilitation of the Marcos legacy because what will remain will be the once-considered white elephant Marcos projects. The NAIA-3 terminal remains an international embarrassment and a folly when we have the former Clark Airbase runway as a viable new international airport that could easily jumpstart the economic development of northern and central Luzon.

Nevertheless, the private sector has managed to rehabilitate the northern expressway and there seems to be a commitment to extend the Skyway. Rail projects north and south of Manila are in the offing despite political harassment. Bulacan province, north of Manila, is benefiting from increased economic activities and relatively competent local officials. Property development firms owned by the Ayala, Lopez, Concepcion, etc. and Chinoy taipan families are beginning to appreciate the commercial benefits accruing from landscaped, energy-efficient, clean, upgraded, and well-managed facilities. This speaks well of the new generation of managers. The gas stations have become focal points in the national highways serving aside from gas, food, drinks, cash withdrawal, and importantly, clean restrooms. Clean restrooms are a vital component of the tourism sector and I'm glad business is recognizing the value of this basic need.

Manila remains the arena of debilitating politics, graft and corruption, and poverty versus innovative community-based initiatives and social movements in human rights, environment, housing, livelihood, health, education, and CSR. It is Manila's human resources that shape the present conditions and will influence how Manila will develop in the near future. I am guardedly optimistic.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

On citations, hyperwages, and Gawad Kalinga

What a wonderful phenomenon the internet is. One can upload useful data for the benefit others, including those who check whether they are influencing the thought processes of others. For the StreetStrategist, it should be gratifying enough that what he writes about may not only be taken seriously, but that the practice of seeing things from different perspectives and applying it to different contexts has been recognized and adopted. That is the most radical contribution the StreetStrategist could make. Or maybe, just deep down in his inner most self, he thinks like an anthropologist?
On another note, I do not see any conflict between Hyperwages and social movements like Gawad Kalinga (GK). I have never taken an either-or stance. Hyperwage is an economic theory. GK, in some aspects, practices Hyperwages. Last week, I had coffee with the GK founder in the former slum colony of BASECO, which in January 2004 suffered a catastrophic fire that burned down 3,400 homes. Since then, GK and Habitat for Humanity Inc. (HFHI) helped build about 1,000 and 1,500 homes respectively. GK though used a more holistic approach of values formation, sweat equity, livelihood, skills, and educational opportunities, environmental programs, preventive health, etc., while HFHI just built the homes and did not provide post-housing community development support. The results are glaring.
GK’s coffee shop, named Bayani Coffee- they are brewing heroes, is in the BASECO GK Village. It is airconditioned and uses surplus Starbucks furniture. Coffee retails for P65 a cup and they do brisk business when open (usually during build or work days, which is quite often). The barista/servers that day were Fil-Am volunteers but they expect to transition to local hires paid with living wages. SMART and the Ateneo, two GK supporters, are planning to hire a total 50 staff to oversee their respective GK projects as part of their corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives. So, the free-rider issue against GK is non-existent. GK aims to eradicate the culture of dependency prevalent in poverty. Nothing is free when participating in GK programs. You either reciprocate with sweat equity in home building, participation in skills and values formation programs, or community development participation. GK communities aim to be economically productive communities and thus can be laboratories for Hyperwage Theory experimentation if something can be arranged. GK proponents come from the private sector and can understand the principles behind Hyperwages.
New theories are paradigm shifts, which have a revolutionary trajectory. Social movements are useful vehicles in paradigm shifts. I think HT and GK are complementary and hope to further explore this.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

A second comment onTruth and Dale Abenojar

I completely forgot to note that in the global warming (GW) debate, the denialists have demanded balanced or equal reporting of both sides. While in theory this is desirable, they have manipulated it in such a away that when there are public announcements of a peer-reviewed scientific paper concluding that human activities are worsening (there are natural causes too) GW, the denialists will come out with a press release or editorial questioning it on political and not scientific grounds. So, the debate shifts to politics from science and if you analyze the ratio of media articles between scientific discussions to political editorializing, there are more of the latter. There are now more than 2,500 scientists worldwide who have stated that GW is real and worsened by man. The skeptics have so muddled the GW discussion that the GW scientists have challenged the few skeptics to bets of as high as $10K. Only two Russian (the right-wingers couldn't get their paid skeptic scientists to bet) scientists agreed to the bet. See:

What does this have to do with Dale? When he contacts the media (by email, fax, interviews, etc), he is actually demanding equal news coverage. When he gets it he plays the role of "minority dissent", which if played "humbly" (fake) inspires sympathy and support. Reporters need to be careful and should balance out providing equal media coverage and sifting through what is fact and what are emotional or editorial/personal points of view.

Thus, I like how U.P. Mountaineer founder Boboy Francisco responded to the Inquirer interview and how he ended it: Dale must prove his summit claims.

"In God We Trust, all others bring data" - W. Edwards Deming

Green Map Metro Manila

Truth and Dale Abenojar

I am intrigued at the installment or strip tease of Dale Abenojar's evidence on his alleged Everest summit. "Carefully" timed press releases, unverifiable photos and a summit certificate, media interviews, open letters, forwarded emails, and lazy bloggers and newspaper people recycling these "planted" news on blogs and websites have created the impression in some that Dale may have been Pinoy Everest #1.

It reminds me of what Berkeley linguistic Professor George Lakoff labels the "framing" of the discussion. In the global warming (GW) debate, GW denialists, with significant funding from vested interests, seek to create the impression, through the gullible media and public, that the science of climate change is "fuzzy" or "junk" science. In the case of Dale, what he seems to be doing is to first protray himself as the lone climber (like Romy) ostracized by an envious mountaineering community, who despite all the difficulties and lack of support, has been able to achieve his dream (parang OFW). It is effective, since it inspires sympathy. All he has to do next is to proclaim his success to websites and newspapers who neither require nor want verification. Once it is printed or posted, then the information gains a life of its own through website feeders. Low investment in time and effort, but high payoff- until the truth comes out.

I reiterate my opinion that Dale must present verifiable proof on his summit claims. As with the peer-review process in the publication of scientific papers, he must allow his peers to assess/evaluate what he claims. This is his obligation and duty to mountaineering in general and Philippine mountaineering in particular. We've learned from Marcos' fake WWII medals and the Tasaday hoax. Will the name Dale Abenojar follow next?

On the other hand, we should not allow summit disputes (see last year/2005 Official Mt. Everest Summits article and here) distract from the achievements of FPMEE and Romy.

"In God We Trust, all others bring data" - W. Edwards Deming

Monday, May 29, 2006

Response to Arming the Media Members

I hear you Mr. Ortigoza.

However, I think the long-term solution to the safety of mediamen is a larger base of credible and effective media practioners. What do I mean by this?

The current set-up of the tri-media in the Philippines is focused around a handful of large entities owned by powerful persons/organizations that can protect themselves. The other side is the countryside media that is vulnerable to threats and violence as we have seen. Media persons who incur the wrath of the powerful are singled out. They are exposed, isolated, and have practically no one to turn to.

The "small' media people need to band together and protect each other in a more innovative way. Media , as it is structured in the Philippines, does not protect the media person who takes on the powerful. Beyond guns, the effort should be on expanding the media base and putting in place mechanisms that allow for widespread gathering of information, protecting the informant and media person, and ensuring that an expose leads to concrete action. My suggestions below propose that the task of the "expose" media should go beyond being a profession, but should be a MOVEMENT for good governance. How to do this?

1. Those threatening or killing media people must be exposed immediately. They, including their families, must be exposed and isolated. Their sources of (ill-gotten) wealth, political protectors, etc. publicly identified. Information is more powerful than guns and when used effectively can confront the powerful.

2. Disseminating these information must be done regularly for the long-term with follow-up stories.

3. A mechanism should be set up to receive tips, protect the informant, relay the information to the proper authorities and to the general public.

Media, and for that matter citizens, to protect themselves, must make more use of information and communication technologies (ICT). Websites that expose the corrupt and the violent should be set up. These websites should have a flat organization using a cooperative approach, say 100 founders, some of which live abroad. Manning and running it should be such that anyone can pose an expose as long at it is verified and credible. The political website (1 M volunteers) is an example. The Indian website that exposed official corruption is another example. Tips/expose to be posted should have a mechanism for its verification. Anonymous volunteers (think dedicated anti-corruption watchdogs, political and human rights activists, environmentalists, etc.) can help maintain and expand the site. If reporters are threatened to be quiet they can post anonymoustly.

Blogs are another form of ICT that can be used. Just imagine if you have 100 blogs suddenly writing about Congressman Taga ordering the hit on Reporter PatayKangBataKa for the next two weeks. What do you think the impact will be on the mainstream press and government?

Unity in numbers, effective management of information, and linkaging/ helping one another is the way to address violence against the media.

By Mortz Ortigoza

Why I'm for the Arming of Media

I'm a businessman but moonlight as a take -no -prisoner columnist in a news weekly in Pangasinan for several years. In this vocation I saw and learned the tentacles of corruptions at its worst as perpetrated by local officials in the executive, legislative, and judiciary branches of government here.

Like our serious brothers and sisters in other parts of the country, we expose these malefactors not for monitorial consideration, but with patriotic dedication to extinguish these tumors that gnawed the moral fibers of this country. As a consequence, we are being peppered to death

The reasons why numbers of journalists being killed is rising in the Philippines because we have bozo like Vice President Noli de Castro who pooh-poohed the proposals from different sectors of arming us.

In an internet article posted at on May 24, 2006, the vice president said that implementing a measure to arm media, people may see it as an indictment of the failure of our law enforcement authorities to maintain peace and order. He added that arming media men was, and never will be the answer to the spate of killings of journalists. It will only exacerbate the situation.

Failure of our law enforcement, Mr. President?

You made me puked.

Our people have known a long time ago our law enforcement was a fiasco. Just take a look at those waylaid:

Since democracy was restored in 1986, there were 79 journalist killed. 42 of these were murdered under the administration of President Gloria Arroyo.

And I don't know what lucky number I belong on this increasing figures of media guys who are reassigned to take a beat in either Heaven or Hell. Though an armed media is quite bizarre to look at, It' s the best thing we can do for now. Imagine, my peer in profession as sitting ducks for target shooting by killers hired by corrupt government officials that we exposed.

The commonsensical thing this helpless government can do is to train us how to handle and carry firearms if not long arms.

With Secretary Raul Gonzales asking us what help the government can do for this alarming deaths, then it's time to tell him, and the president that what we need is for them to teach us how to be responsible gun holders. For her to issue an order to the chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP) to have a special mode of processing for us to avail for license, and permit to carry firearms outside our residence.

For majority of us who don't have financial capacity to buy this lethal piece, then it's time for Congress -pronto - to make this great service by amending the Firearms Law so our brother and sister who make our democracy more transparent can bear the said arms too fro free.

Remember, these things are issued to them not only as protection but as deterrence to assassins to think twice before pulling the trigger.

It's far fetch for Noli boy "the electoral product of the shallow minded bakya crowd-- fearing the danger of an armed media men because they will abuse it

We have those high school graduate if not lowly security guards and barangay captains who strut on the streets with a gun tucked on their waistline. Have you heard them shooting each other, or poking their pieces to everybody's face?

Seldom, if none.

That analogy will be the same, if not much better to a much intelligent media people whose talents made them taller then the "mechanical" blue guards, and those idiotic barangay officials whose only accomplishment was to crow their pathetic accomplishment before their friends in a beer drinking orgy.

Besides, the fear of de Castro, Senator Richard Gordon, many of our peers in the profession, and others about rogue in our rank is only a fly on the ointment.

These people can still be discouraged as what we see on the said guards and officials.

These people know any mishandling of firearms have respective criminal imprisonment.

Discharging of firearms, poking it to another, and shooting somebody have consequential penalties like alarm & scandal, grave threats, illegal discharge, attempted, frustrated, or consummated homicide or murder. Not to mention the civil liabilities for the culprits.

Our brother and sister would surely wouldn't like these. What they want is they can practice their profession without fear because of a visible assurance of protection besides them.

So forget that fear Noli boy, Senator Gordon, and those nincompoops in the media industry .

What we should fear for goodness sake, our ranks are being decimated to extinction. And we have to do something for it.

Would the Filipinos allow the forces of evil reign on this country? Where the name of the game is survival of the fittest, the strong rules, and the weak-though they are great in numbers play only the subservient role.

Oh by they way. With that justification of unnecessarily of arming us since the PNP can provide us bodyguard. Was it too much of a hassle for the police force who bellyache that it is undermanned? Was it a hassle for those poor media men who got pretty wives, who will pay for the jitney rides, and food of his body guards who most of time shadow him, notwithstanding the vulnerability of the fidelity of his wife because of the presence of a handsome police protector.

The primordial issue here is what makes our democracy ticks because we have a healthy media that check the abuses of the three branches of the government which couldn�t effectively check themselves.

What makes everybody�s life exciting is because we have these courageous members of the fourth estate that are willing to sacrifice their lives just to expose corruption.

Corruptions particularly in the local level like overpricing of government projects, protection of illegal gambling, prostitution, drugs, and other anomalies. Notwithstanding, corrupt judges, officials and rank and files of national agencies like those in Public Works and Education that are based on the provincial areas

As what the quote from Edmund Burke said: "All it takes for evil to flourish is for good men to do nothing."

My fervent hope, there are still good men and women in the public and private sectors who can still hear our wail for the greater good of this country.

"In God We Trust, all others bring data" - W. Edwards Deming

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Coffee mugs

Speaking of coffee mugs, I hope someone could modify the common metallic or plastic body coffee mug with a ceramic/porcelain liner inside. I'd be in coffee nirvana and can get by discussing anything with anybody. And don't talk to me about paper, glass, or styrofoam cups please :)...

"In God We Trust, all others bring data" - W. Edwards Deming

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Abaya's Next: Antartica article and Dale Abenojar's dubious claim

On the claim of Dale Abenojar that he summitted Mt. Everest and is therefore the first Filipino to reach Mt. Everest, the onus should be on him to prove that he reached the summit. It is NOT for any of us to disprove it. That's how any statement from the mountaineering community should be "framed". Since he made the claim, then he should show the pictures he or his guide took. he should get the "statement" from the Everest lady-historian who documents the climbs. He should get the certification from the Nepalese climbing association. He should also present proof that he got that free meal from the restaurant that awards those who made it to the top. Lastly, he should show his feet and whether he indeed lost a toe or not.

Dale, grow up and quit trying to steal the glory of Leo, Erwin, and Romy. Attached below is a nice article from A. Abaya on the significance of the achievements of Leo, Erwin, and Romy. Read on.

Next: Antartica
By Antonio C. Abaya
Written May 21, 2006
For the Standard Today,
May 23, 2006
We salute our intrepid mountain climbers Leo Oracion, Erwin Emata and Romi Garduce, and their support teams for their success in being the first Filipinos to climb Mount Everest. They have done their country proud.
And congratulations should also go to the corporate sponsors who made their success possible. In particular, taipan Lucio Tan and his corporations, as well as to the rival TV networks ABS-CBN and GMA-7, who sponsored competing teams of mountain-climbers. They apparently received no financial support at all from the government.
Mr. Tan is said to have exhorted the climbers, when they paid him a pre-climb visit, to do it as matter of national pride. "do it for the country. I'd like to see the national flag waving at the summit of Mount Everest. Make the Philippines proud."
Someone here, at least, understands the value of symbolical acts, such as the conquest of Mount Everest, in instilling national pride. Sad that neither President Arroyo nor any of her predecessors does and did, since this is really one of the functions of national leaders: to make the people proud of themselves, their country and their nation.
Several years ago, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad sent national teams funded by the Malaysian government, not only to climb Mount Everest, but also to trek to the South Pole in Antartica, and to the North Pole in the Arctic. The idea was to instill the "can-do" spirit among Malaysians.
And that is not all, as I wrote in my article Emulating Mahathir (Oct. 06 2004). Mahathir also masterminded the building of the Petronas Towers, to become the tallest building in the world at that time. By contrast, when President Ramos proposed in 1995 the building of what was billed as the Centennial Tower in Luneta for the Philippine Centenary in 1998, conceived to be a contender for the "tallest building" title, it was hooted down by the wise men and women in the press. We are doomed by our own media to being a " can't do anything" country forever.
And it was Mahathir's idea that Malaysia build a national car, the Proton, and a national motorcycle, admittedly with foreign minority partners. Not just by assembling parts manufactured in other countries, but by progressively fabricating more and more of those parts domestically, eventually including their engines. They have since produced more than two million Protons, tens of thousands of which have been exported. That is real industrialization, not mere assembly of imported components.
By contrast, the Philippine automotive industry, which started at least 25 years ahead of the Malaysian, never graduated beyond assembling imported components, except for some innocuous parts like wire harnesses and seat upholstery (in which, at any rate, the raw wire and fabric material are still imported).
And it saddens me that the world-class victories of Manny Pacquiao in boxing and Bata Reyes and Django Bustamante in billiards have not been utilized by the national leaders to launch talent-search competitions in those two sports among our young people, to develop new pools of talent and, incidentally, instill national pride and give them positive outlets for their youthful energy.
That boxing and billiards are two sports that are popular among the masa should have been added incentive for government to promote these sports among them, to instill in them not only national pride, but also the spirit of self-discipline and a striving for excellence among an underclass seduced by drugs, gang violence and mindless TV fare such as Wowoweee and Eat Bulaga..
Not just in sports. Anyone who watches DVDs of the world's best symphony orchestras: Berlin, Vienna, London, Amsterdam, New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Montreal- would notice that there are always several Asians among the orchestra members. But they are invariably Chinese, Japanese and/or Korean. No Filipinos, even though, culturally, we have a closer affinity for Western musical idioms than do northeastern Asians.
What this means is that young Filipino (serious) musical artists are not being given the opportunity to hone their skills abroad. Even the superb Gustav Mahler Jugend Orchester (Youth Orchestra) under Claudio Abbado, which has members from more than 20 countries, including Cuba and Venezuela, does not have a single Filipino.
Whatever one may say about Imelda Marcos and her pretentiousness and vulgar extravagance, she at least was personally responsible for the training to world-class caliber of Cecile Licad in the US and Rowena Arrieta in the Soviet Union. By contrast, in spite of their more pedigreed upbringing, neither President Aquino nor President Arroyo - forget the culturally ignorant Estrada and Ramos - did or has done anything to promote music and the arts.
And not just in sports and music, and their potentials for nation-building, are our national leaders clueless and uninterested; they are more so in science and technology.
Sometime in December 1989, I suggested in private to a highly placed individual that the Aquino government negotiate with the US and Soviet governments for the inclusion of qualified Filipino military officers in their astronaut-cosmonaut training programs.
I never heard any feedback to that suggestion, but since 1989 astronauts-cosmonauts from Japan, China, Korea, India, Indonesia, Brazil, Israel, etc have flown into space orbit
Imagine what a boost to national pride it would have been if the Philippines had been the first Third World country to have an astronaut-cosmonaut orbiting in space. In addition, such a symbolical act would have endeared the military to the government and discouraged coup-plotting by malcontents.
It would or could have been used to boost young people's interest in science and technology, as it certainly did in the US in the late 1950s, when the US strove to overcome the lead of the Soviet sputniks.
Most of all, it would have given media and the entire population some new authentic heroes to look up to, instead of the usual tiresome glib-talking politicians and brainless showbiz fornicators that Philippine media love to shower their attention.on.
On to Antartica!. *****