January 2011

Philippine National Statistical Coordinating Board: GDP at 7.3 percent

Fourth Quarter 2010
Annual GDP Sizzled to its Highest Growth Rate in the Post Marcos Era
at 7.3 Percent; Q4 2010 GDP grew by 7.1 percent
Posted 31 January 2011

http://www.nscb.gov.ph/sna/2010/4th2010/2010qpr4.asp

Despite the El Niño and the diminished government spending during the second semester, the domestic economy sizzled to its highest annual GDP growth in the post Marcos era of 7.3 percent in 2010 from 1.1 percent in 2009.  The global economic recovery which resulted in record growth rates of foreign trade and election related stimuli that combined for a record first semester growth, followed by the peaceful conduct of the national elections and the renewed trust in government contributed to an economic performance in 2010 that well surpassed the government’s target of 5.0 percent to 6.0 percent.  Industry and services sectors expanded strongly in the last quarter of 2010 while Agriculture recovered after four consecutive quarters of decline due to El Niño, pushing GDP to grow by 7.1 percent in Q4.

With the prevailing sanguine outlook of both business and consumers, the economic prospects for 2011 are indeed exciting.

On the demand side, increased consumer spending for the whole year buttressed by increased investments in Fixed Capital Formation posting its highest growth rate since 2000, particularly in Durable Equipment and sustained by the double digit growth in international trade contributed to the record GDP growth in 2010.

Likewise, annual GNP accelerated by 7.2 percent from 4.0 percent last year in spite of the weakened growth in NFIA from 28.0 percent in 2009 to 6.0 percent.  For the fourth quarter, the continuing, though much decelerated demand for the services of our OFW’s caused NFIA to grow by 3.8 percent from 19.5 percent last year, pushing GNP growth to 6.7 percent from last year’s 4.1 percent.

The seasonally adjusted estimates show a surging Philippine economy as GDP jumped by 3.0 percent from a decline of 0.8 percent in the previous quarter while the seasonally adjusted GNP accelerated to 2.9 percent from 0.2 percent growth in the third quarter.

With the record pace of economic growth in 2010, per capita GDP rose by 5.3 percent from a decline of 0.9 percent in 2009.  Per capita GNP and per capita PCE likewise posted huge growths of 5.1 percent and 3.3 percent from 2.0 percent and 2.1 percent, respectively.

Growth of Major Economic Sectors

In 2010, Industry once again took the driver seat in boosting the economy with its huge 12.1 percent growth from a decline of 0.9 percent the previous year.  Services provided more than able support as it grew by 7.1 percent from 2.8 percent.  However, Agriculture, hounded by El Niño, posted a negative 0.5 percent from zero growth in 2009.

For the 4th quarter of 2010, Industry accelerated to 8.3 percent from 3.8 percent, almost sustaining its third quarter growth.  Services likewise accelerated, growing by 6.9 percent from 3.1 percent.  And AFF, after being battered for four consecutive quarters by abnormal weather conditions, rebounded by 5.4 percent from a decline of 2.9 percent.

Of the 7.3 percent growth in GDP for the whole year of 2010, 3.9 percentage points came from Industry and 3.5 percentage points came from Services while AFF pulled down the growth with negative 0.1 percentage point.

In the fourth quarter, the 7.1 percent growth in GDP came from Services, with 3.3 percentage points; Industry, 2.7 percentage point and AFF, 1.0 percentage point.

The seasonally adjusted AFF sector grew by 4.2 percent from a 1.0 percent growth in the previous quarter largely due to the growth in Palay and corn.  On the other hand, Industry rebounded to a 6.7 percent growth from a 5.9 percent decline in the previous quarter due to the expansion of Manufacturing and Mining & Quarrying.  Services sector, however, decelerated to 0.3 percent from 2.0 percent caused partly by two consecutive quarters of decline in Government Services.

On the demand side, all expenditure items registered accelerated growths in 2010 with Total Exports, Total Imports and Capital Formation rebounding to 25.6 percent, 20.7 percent and 17.0 percent from a decline of 13.4 percent, 1.9 percent and 5.7 percent, respectively.  Likewise, consumer spending accelerated to 5.3 percent from4.1 percent.  However, government spending decelerated to 2.7 percent from 10.9 percent.

For the fourth quarter, all expenditure items likewise registered positive growths, except Government Consumption Expenditure which declined by 7.6 percent.  Personal Consumption Expenditure accelerated to 7.0 percent, the highest since the 8.4 percent growth recorded in the third quarter of 1988, from 5.0 percent in the same period last year.  Investments in Fixed Capital Formation grew robustly with 22.8 percent, the highest since the 27.3 percent of the fourth quarter 2000, from last year’s growth of 5.8 percent as a result of accelerated investments in Durable Equipment.  Total Exports expanded by 21.1 percent from a decline of 6.7 percent as both Merchandise Exports and Non Merchandise Exports posted robust growths.  And, Total imports accelerated to 21.8 percent from 6.8 percent in the previous year as both Merchandise Imports and Non Merchandise imports recorded double-digit growths.

ROMULO A. VIROLA
Secretary General, NSCB

The Daily Roundup: 31 January 2011

Growth forecast backed”

ECONOMISTS EXPECT growth in the fourth quarter of last year to have fallen within the 6.2-7.2% range forecast by the government, keeping the full-year result — as expected — above the official 2010 goal of 5-6%.

Analysts polled by BusinessWorld all offered forecasts within the range, contrasting with outlooks released last week that said gross domestic product (GDP) growth could have slipped below 6%.

Fourth-quarter and full-year GDP data will be announced today. Last week, Socioeconomic and Planning Secretary Cayetano W. Paderanga, Jr. said 6.2-7.2% October-December growth would help keep the 2010 result at 7-7.4%.

Read more at Business World

People power revolutions in Arab world puzzle Aquino” by Amando Doronila

VIOLENT people power revolutions are engulfing the Arab world as President Benigno Aquino III smugly struggles to halt the erosion of his popularity built on the flimsy legacy of his election as heir to the bloodless 1986 EDSA I led by his mother, the late President Corazon Aquino.

Egypt Sunday continued to be rocked by violent clashes that began last week between police and protesters demanding the immediate resignation of President Hosni Mubarak and return of democracy after 30 years of autocratic rule.

The interior ministry reported at least six people were killed and 900 injured in clashes, while protesters torched six police stations in the main cities of Alexandria and Suez in the most violent challenge to Mubarak’s rule and a string of authoritarian rulers in the Arab states of North Africa for nearly three decades.

Read more at Philippine Daily Inquirer

AFP ‘pabaon’ system had presidents’ nod: Biazon

Former Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief and now Muntinlupa Rep. Rodolfo Biazon said Sunday that the corruption in the military could not have happened without the go-signal of presidents in power.

He told ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC) that it is important to determine when the so-called “pabaon” system started and who among the chiefs of staff benefitted from it.

“There were 4 AFP chiefs of staff under Cory, 3 I think in Ramos’ time, then Erap had 2, then Arroyo had 11, so there are 21 people,” he said.

Read more at ABS-CBN News

“Food, fuel price increases likely boosted inflation” by L.D. Desiderio

INFLATION likely accelerated to 3.5% this month owing to higher food and fuel prices, analysts polled by BusinessWorld said.

The median outlook falls within the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ (BSP) 2.7-3.6% estimate. January data is scheduled to be released this Friday.

“Higher food and fuel prices were the main drivers,” University of the Philippines economist Benjamin E. Diokno said in a text message.

Read more at Business World

Latest presidential appointments bared” by M. Gonzalez

MALACAÑANG on Sunday announced the latest appointees of President Aquino, mostly in bodies attached to the Department of Science and Technology.

Deputy Presidential Spokesman Abigail Valte also announced that the President has approved the nomination of Catherine Mary R. Biazon—the wife of former Liberal Party (LP) Rep. Rozzano Rufino Biazon of Mutinlupa—to a board seat at the John Hay Management Corp.

Read more at Business Mirror

PNoy on Lexus: This is the last time I will talk about cars” by Amita O. Legaspi

President Benigno Aquino III has just about had it talking about his cars to inquisitive reporters.

Seen aboard a bullet-proof Toyota Lexus when he visited the victims of the Makati bus bombing Tuesday, Aquino took extra time to explain on Friday that he did not buy the armored vehicle. He said the car, which model belongs to Toyota’s luxury line, was leased by his brother-in-law and lent to him.

“This the last time I will talk about cars unless any of you says it has impact with the national interest,” Aquino said, in obvious reference to earlier media reports about his passion for expensive cars and his efforts to explain his recent purchase of a Porsche 911 Turbo.

Read more at GMA News

Government to bid out 2-3 PPP projects in first half” by Iris C. Gonzales

The Aquino administration is eyeing to bid out two to three infrastructure projects in the first half of the year under its planned public-private partnership (PPP) for infrastructure.

“Our hope is we bid out at least two to three projects in the first half of the year. At this stage, we are not yet at liberty to disclose which one but we can assure you that we are committed to bidding out at least 10 in 2011, and more in 2012 because the need for infrastructure in our country is quite substantial,” Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima said over the weekend.

Read more at The Philippine Star

Limiting population won’t be of help, says CBCP” by Gerard Naval

THE Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines yesterday slammed what it said was the government’s efforts to limit population, describing it as nothing but a short-sighted solution to poverty.

CBCP president Bishop Nereo Odchimar said the Aquino administration is endangering the future of millions of Filipinos by promoting contraception use for the current generation.

“A government that pursues the short-sighted policy of contracepting the present generation is committing the resources of future government to provide for the social security requirements of this contracepted generation,” said Odchimar during the 102nd CBCP Plenary Assembly in Manila.

Read more at Malaya

Bill preparation delaying Aquino’s 1st LEDAC meeting” by Ana Mae G. Roa with JPDP

MALACAÑANG will likely not be able to fulfill its intention to convene the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) by today, preferring to ensure that complete texts of proposed priority bills will be presented in the first meeting of that body.

President Benigno S. C. Aquino III told reporters on Friday that priority measures the executive branch will push via the LEDAC are still being drafted.

“We are in the last steps of drafting the bills… We’re still trying to finish it this month,” Mr. Aquino said when asked if the Palace will be able to convene LEDAC within the month, as he had preferred.

Read more at Business World

DSWD to take over rice subsidy for poor” by Iris C. Gonzales

The National Food Authority (NFA), the state-owned grains agency, will no longer provide subsidized rice to the poor as this role would now be transferred to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

The move is part of efforts to reform the NFA.

Budget and Management Secretary Florencio Abad said that the provision of subsidized rice to poor consumers has now been proposed to be transferred to the DSWD through its conditional cash transfer program.

Read more at The Philippine Star




Every change begins with re-imagination

Makati Skyline
The Philippines: How can we contribute towards its progress?
It has been said time and again that every act of creation in the physical world begins with creation in the world of imagination.

Before a home is built, it is first an architect’s blueprint, and even before that, a picture in the architect’s mind.

Before a song becomes a hit single, it is first some notes on a page, and before that, a few bars ringing in the songwriter’s head.

Before a book becomes a best-seller, it is first a series of drafts that form a manuscript, and before that, words, dialogues, and characters dancing around in the author’s head.

Every structure and machine that was ever built, every idea that had become a glitzy advertising campaign or a movement, every Hollywood blockbuster, every technological wonder out in the market–even every living thing on this planet, whether its birth was planned or unplanned–was created first in someone’s mind.

The mind is a truly wonderful, powerful thing. According to an article in The Scientific American , “If your brain worked like a digital video recorder in a television, 2.5 petabytes would be enough to hold three million hours of TV shows. You would have to leave the TV running continuously for more than 300 years to use up all that storage.”

But what happens when the mind is bogged down by present-day realities, by heavy baggage coming from the past, by worries about what will happen in the future–where to get the next meal, how to pay for the bills, the state of a loved one’s health? Imagination weakens, and we succumb to the false perception that every day is going to be just like the next, that nothing will change and things will always stay the same.

But consider this: as recent as five years ago, the women of Payatas were condemned to a live of poverty, working all day to make and sell rugs that were valued at just P1 each. Then in came a group of friends and colleagues that called themselves Rags2Riches, and the lives of these rug-makers, these “nanays”, were transformed. Rags2Riches worked to create more value out of the rugs by working with some of the Philippines’s most talented and internationally-renowned fashion designers, and the nanay’s products then became highly coveted fashion accessories.

A little over three years later, R2R, as the company is also called, is now a multi-awarded social enterprise employing hundreds of “nanays” who earn about 20 to 50 percent of each bag made, which in turn cost around P400-2,000+ each. The company itself has won tens of thousands of dollars, pounds, and euros in grant money to expand its operations.

All this in less than five years–all with a little help from creative minds with hyperactive imaginations.

According to the Psychology Dictionary, “Imagination is the faculty through which we encounter everything. The things that we touch, see and hear coalesce into a ‘picture’ via our imagination. The way we understand things… the way that we ‘make sense’ of things is through our imagination. The ability to problem-solve… to see things from a different perspective… to empathize… all happen because we have this technicolor, multi-channel, curious imagination. Imagination IS the ability to create perceptions. Novel perceptions. Fantastical perceptions. Hypothetical perceptions.”

But what if the perceptions could possibly become more than just fantastical or hypothetical? Ten years ago, nobody thought that blogs would have the power that they do now. Nobody had imagined how the world could be connected through social networks called “Facebook” or “Twitter.” Nobody imagined that governments would be so threatened by these new forms of communication that they would have to be shut down in certain countries. Five years ago, consumers could only wish for something like the iPad. And 25 ago, nobody would have thought that a bloodless revolution was at all possible.

Miraculous things can happen when we open our minds to the possibilities, when we break the shackles of our past and present to look at the world and all its possibilities through different lenses–when we take ourselves out of ANY box and begin to re-imagine.

The Philippine archipelago connected by high-speed trains? Why not?
Thirty years ago, we didn’t even imagine there would be MRTs and LRTs in the metro–and traffic of this magnitude. Why can’t we re-imagine Philippine transportation for the rest of the 21st century?

A country less dependent on coal and oil and powered by renewable energy? Why not?
At present, only 33% of our energy needs are supplied by coal and oil combined. Thirty-two percent (32%) is actually supplied by natural gas, and another 33% is supplied by a combination of geothermal and hydro power. Can we bring down the numbers of coal and oil? Most certainly!

A professional football league in the Philippines–finally? Why not? Mid-last year, when the rest of the world was going ga-ga over the World Cup, we could only dream of fielding our own football team into the professional leagues. The Azkals‘ victory in the Suzuki Cup semis changed all that, and now Filipinos are realizing why the rest of the world loves football.

A Philippines that can leverage its biodiversity to earn revenues for the protection of our ecosystem? Why not?
Brazil was able to maximize the Amazon Rainforest, setting up the Amazon Carbon Exchange and getting polluters in North America, Europe, and Japan to pay for carbon credits that are now being used to preserve parts of the Amazon. Why can’t we learn from the rest of the world and adapt to create our own working models?

At the turn of the second decade of this century. it is imperative that we begin looking at our present and future through perspectives that have otherwise been called “crazy”, “impossible”, and “far-out”. It’s important for us to leave the baggage of the 25 years post-EDSA, or the 100-plus years post-Spanish colonialization, behind and begin re-imagining a future that is worthy of the lives we want to live, the lives we want for our children.

It is not at all impossible. It can be done. Why do I believe so? Because the mind is a truly powerful thing, and when enough of us engage in collective re-imagining, there is no limit to what we can achieve together. It has already begun; we just need to keep going and keep re-imagining.

Why one Egyptian ISP is still online

NewsGarage wrote:

According to France’s Le Monde, Noor provides essential services to the Egyptian stock exchange in Cairo. Thanks to this, the stock exchange’s site is one of the few Egyptian sites still available online. In addition, Le Monde also writes, Noor provides services to large multi-national corporations, including Coca-Cola, Pfizer and Exxon Mobile. Domestically, Noor also provides network services to Egypt Air. Because of this, Noor is likely considered to be an important economic asset and will probably continue operating throughout this crisis. We have to wonder, though, why the company couldn’t keep these business services up and running and didn’t have the ability to cut its regular subscribers off at the same time..”

Assumption college receives bomb threat

ABS-CBN News wrote:

“A bomb squad is now combing the area to check if the threat is real. It was supposedly received at around 9:00 a.m. on Monday.

ABS-CBN Business Correspondent Maiki Oreta said: “My daughter is in kindergarten there. This morning we’ve received texts from parents, [it] was also confirmed by a friend of ours from the college department that around 9am this morning they received a bomb threat at the College Department.”

Mostly, Twitters are retweeting the bomb threat as news, so far, hardly any commentary on the matter.

Special report: Egypt in a Global Context

By George Friedman

It is not at all clear what will happen in the Egyptian revolution. It is not a surprise that this is happening. Hosni Mubarak has been president for more than a quarter of a century, ever since the assassination of Anwar Sadat. He is old and has been ill. No one expected him to live much longer, and his apparent plan, which was that he would be replaced by his son, Gamal, was not going to happen even though it was a possibility a year ago. There was no one, save his closest business associates, who wanted to see Mubarak’s succession plans happen. As his father weakened, Gamal’s succession became even less likely.Mubarak’s failure to design a credible succession plan guaranteed instability on his death. Since everyone knew that there would be instability on his death, there were obviously those who saw little advantage to acting before he died. Who these people were and what they wanted is the issue.

Let’s begin by considering the regime. In 1952, Col. Gamal Abdel Nasser staged a military coup that displaced the Egyptian monarchy, civilian officers in the military, and British influence in Egypt. Nasser created a government based on military power as the major stabilizing and progressive force in Egypt. His revolution was secular and socialist. In short, it was a statist regime dominated by the military. On Nasser’s death, Anwar Sadat replaced him. On Sadat’s assassination, Hosni Mubarak replaced him. Both of these men came from the military as Nasser did. However their foreign policy might have differed from Nasser’s, the regime remained intact.

Mubarak’s Opponents

The demands for Mubarak’s resignation come from many quarters, including from members of the regime — particularly the military — who regard Mubarak’s unwillingness to permit them to dictate the succession as endangering the regime. For some of them, the demonstrations represent both a threat and opportunity. Obviously, the demonstrations might get out of hand and destroy the regime. On the other hand, the demonstrations might be enough to force Mubarak to resign, allow a replacement — for example, Omar Suleiman, the head of intelligence who Mubarak recently appointed vice president — and thereby save the regime. This is not to say that they fomented the demonstrations, but some must have seen the demonstrations as an opportunity.

This is particularly the case in the sense that the demonstrators are deeply divided among themselves and thus far do not appear to have been able to generate the type of mass movement that toppled the Shah of Iran’s regime in 1979. More important, the demonstrators are clearly united in opposing Mubarak as an individual, and to a large extent united in opposing the regime. Beyond that, there is a deep divide in the opposition.

Western media has read the uprising as a demand for Western-style liberal democracy. Many certainly are demanding that. What is not clear is that this is moving Egypt’s peasants, workers and merchant class to rise en masse. Their interests have far more to do with the state of the Egyptian economy than with the principles of liberal democracy. As in Iran in 2009, the democratic revolution, if focused on democrats, cannot triumph unless it generates broader support.

The other element in this uprising is the Muslim Brotherhood. The consensus of most observers is that the Muslim Brotherhood at this point is no longer a radical movement and is too weak to influence the revolution. This may be possible, but it is not obvious. The Muslim Brotherhood has many strands, many of which have been quiet under Mubarak’s repression. It is not clear who will emerge if Mubarak falls. It is certainly not clear that they are weaker than the democratic demonstrators. It is a mistake to confuse the Muslim Brotherhood’s caution with weakness. Another way to look at them is that they have bided their time and toned down their real views, waiting for the kind of moment provided by Mubarak’s succession. I would suspect that the Muslim Brotherhood has more potential influence among the Egyptian masses than the Western-oriented demonstrators or Mohamed ElBaradei, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, who is emerging as their leader.

There is, of course, the usual discussion of what U.S. President Barack Obama’s view is, or what the Europeans think, or what the Iranians are up to. All of them undoubtedly have thoughts and even plans. In my view, trying to shape the political dynamics of a country like Egypt from Iran or the United States is futile, and believing that what is happening in Egypt is the result of their conspiracies is nonsense. A lot of people care what is happening there, and a lot of people are saying all sorts of things and even spending money on spies and Twitter. Egypt’s regime can be influenced in this way, but a revolution really doesn’t depend on what the European Union or Tehran says.

There are four outcomes possible. First, the regime might survive. Mubarak might stabilize the situation, or more likely, another senior military official would replace him after a decent interval. Another possibility under the scenario of the regime’s survival is that there may be a coup of the colonels, as we discussed yesterday. A second possibility is that the demonstrators might force elections in which ElBaradei or someone like him could be elected and Egypt might overthrow the statist model built by Nasser and proceed on the path of democracy. The third possibility is that the demonstrators force elections, which the Muslim Brotherhood could win and move forward with an Islamist-oriented agenda. The fourth possibility is that Egypt will sink into political chaos. The most likely path to this would be elections that result in political gridlock in which a viable candidate cannot be elected. If I were forced to choose, I would bet on the regime stabilizing itself and Mubarak leaving because of the relative weakness and division of the demonstrators. But that’s a guess and not a forecast.

Geopolitical Significance

Whatever happens matters a great deal to Egyptians. But only some of these outcomes are significant to the world. Among radical Islamists, the prospect of a radicalized Egypt represents a new lease on life. For Iran, such an outcome would be less pleasing. Iran is now the emerging center of radical Islamism; it would not welcome competition from Egypt, though it may be content with an Islamist Egypt that acts as an Iranian ally (something that would not be easy to ensure).

For the United States, an Islamist Egypt would be a strategic catastrophe. Egypt is the center of gravity in the Arab world. This would not only change the dynamic of the Arab world, it would reverse U.S. strategy since the end of the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. Sadat’s decision to reverse his alliance with the Soviets and form an alliance with the United States undermined the Soviet position in the Mediterranean and in the Arab world and strengthened the United States immeasurably. The support of Egyptian intelligence after 9/11 was critical in blocking and undermining al Qaeda. Were Egypt to stop that cooperation or become hostile, the U.S. strategy would be severely undermined.

The great loser would be Israel. Israel’s national security has rested on its treaty with Egypt, signed by Menachem Begin with much criticism by the Israeli right. The demilitarization of the Sinai Peninsula not only protected Israel’s southern front, it meant that the survival of Israel was no longer at stake. Israel fought three wars (1948, 1967 and 1973) where its very existence was at issue. The threat was always from Egypt, and without Egypt in the mix, no coalition of powers could threaten Israel (excluding the now-distant possibility of Iranian nuclear weapons). In all of the wars Israel fought after its treaty with Egypt (the 1982 and 2006 wars in Lebanon) Israeli interests, but not survival, were at stake.

If Egypt were to abrogate the Camp David Accords and over time reconstruct its military into an effective force, the existential threat to Israel that existed before the treaty was signed would re-emerge. This would not happen quickly, but Israel would have to deal with two realities. The first is that the Israeli military is not nearly large enough or strong enough to occupy and control Egypt. The second is that the development of Egypt’s military would impose substantial costs on Israel and limit its room for maneuver.

There is thus a scenario that would potentially strengthen the radical Islamists while putting the United States, Israel, and potentially even Iran at a disadvantage, all for different reasons. That scenario emerges only if two things happen. First, the Muslim Brotherhood must become a dominant political force in Egypt. Second, they must turn out to be more radical than most observers currently believe they are — or they must, with power, evolve into something more radical.

If the advocates for democracy win, and if they elect someone like ElBaradei, it is unlikely that this scenario would take place. The pro-Western democratic faction is primarily concerned with domestic issues, are themselves secular and would not want to return to the wartime state prior to Camp David, because that would simply strengthen the military. If they win power, the geopolitical arrangements would remain unchanged.

Similarly, the geopolitical arrangements would remain in place if the military regime retained power — save for one scenario. If it was decided that the regime’s unpopularity could be mitigated by assuming a more anti-Western and anti-Israeli policy — in other words, if the regime decided to play the Islamist card, the situation could evolve as a Muslim Brotherhood government would. Indeed, as hard as it is to imagine, there could be an alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood designed to stabilize the regime. Stranger things have happened.

When we look at the political dynamic of Egypt, and try to imagine its connection to the international system, we can see that there are several scenarios under which certain political outcomes would have profound effects on the way the world works. That should not be surprising. When Egypt was a pro-Soviet Nasserite state, the world was a very different place than it had been before Nasser. When Sadat changed his foreign policy the world changed with it. If Sadat’s foreign policy changes, the world changes again. Egypt is one of those countries whose internal politics matter to more than its own citizens.

Most of the outcomes I envision leave Egypt pretty much where it is. But not all. The situation is, as they say, in doubt, and the outcome is not trivial.

The Egypt Crisis in a Global Context: A Special Report” Republished with permission from Stratfor

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Finding Your Niche

“It’s all about finding your niche.”

These were the words BBC anchor Rico Hizon told me during a writing forum sponsored by The Philippine Star last Saturday which includes writer Butch Dalisay, National Bookstore’s Miguel Ramos and award winning filmmaker Pepe Diokno.

Niche, Hizon says means a field or interest that you can excel. In his case, it was business and financial news that paved way for his career in international media. He also advised to new media practitioners like me to continue improve my craft just like he does by going to the BBC School of Journalism for training every year.
Essentially the topic is all about writing as a profession but the topic during the forum has expanded for me in Philippine setting which I decided to tackle in my latest writing.

It occurred to me that finding a niche is what the Philippines needs. Both Hizon and Dalisay mentioned marketing as an essential tool if one must go out there to field him or herself in writing. Good marketing is what this country needs not just in tourism, business and arts but as an overall. But unfortunately, this is not the case.

Marketing involves money and money is what this country lacks or lack thereof. With the recent happenings in the country, Filipinos wonder how we can market with all the red tape and corruption.

We have good marketers. They can market the country all over the world but they must think and think with various strategies in mind. Still fresh from the Pilipinas Kay Ganda fiasco, marketing guys must look from an international point of view such as language and infrastructure. Figures are essential event the most basic ones such as how many is the population, the interest, GDP and all. It all plays a factor to finding the niche.

We have all been saying that we have the most beautiful beaches in the world, Boracay being the top destination but how can we accommodate if accessibility and accommodations are not properly addressed? Places such as Batanes, Siguijor, Camguin Islands and Bantayan Islands are good places to visit but transportation is a problem. Accessibility is very important if we want foreigners to visit and I believe we should not discount the fact that the Filipino is also a market to watch, now that flying has become a lifestyle to many.

We must address a niche, a niche that many have tended to over look. If we address the niche, then we have reached the level of the countries that we envy and who knows, they will envy us in the end.

Gringo wants everybody to have a gun

I have never suspected Sen. Gringo Honasan of intelligence. After reading the story below I’m sure any and all suspicions you may have had that he has any brains will vanish forever.

    Honasan: Phl not ready for a ‘gunless society’
    By Perseus Echeminada (The Philippine Star) Updated January 30, 2011 12:00 AM Comments (24)

    MANILA, Philippines – Sen. Gregorio Honasan yesterday said the Philippines is not yet ready to be a “gunless society” because the government is still unable to ensure the safety of the citizens from lawless elements. “A gunless society can only exist if the government can protect the citizens,” he said in a news forum in Quezon City.

    Honasan, chairman of the Senate committee on public order and illegal drugs, said law and order in the country has deteriorated to a point where there is confusion on who should be in charge of the rising criminality.

    “Who is in charge? The Department of National Defense, the Philippine National Police?” he said. A bus was recently bombed in Makati City, killing five and wounding several others. Two car traders were also recently killed. Honasan also said law enforcement agencies merely react to terror attacks and high-profile crimes instead of preventing them. Because of this, he said, calls for a total gun ban and the revival of the death penalty will not deter criminal and terror activities in the country.

.

“A gunless society can only exist if the government can protect the citizens.” That’s the premise, right? Okay, so let’s everybody run around with a gun.

Do we have to walk the senator through what happens when everybody out there is armed? Do we have to rub his nose in the blood?

Would you feel safer if the person next to you has the same type of gun? Of course not. That’s why the senator’s suggestion guarantees an arms race for the most lethal portable gun. How long does Honasan think it will take before someone upgrades his 9mm handgun to a submachine gun and that to a rocket launcher and so on if everybody has the same type of gun?

Okay you can keep a gun at home and you can use it to shoot intruders, your relatives, your spouse, your children, or yourself and any of them can use it on you, accidentally or on purpose. What you do inside your home is none of my business unless we are neighbors and your bullets rip through my walls. But to carry a gun out on the streets and bring it to work and to the playground just because you might run into armed thugs? By the way, one of the victims of those carjackers had a gun. What good did that do him?

There will still be criminals if there were no guns but the thing is ‘no-gun’ criminals will have to do their work within arm’s reach of their victims. They cannot commit bodily harm from a “safe” distance so, gunless, they risk being overpowered by their target.

Of course, someone like Honasan will argue that that’s why everybody should have a gun. But a shoot-out is not the same as a tussle, innocent bystanders do not get hit by stray slashes. So why give criminals the means to commit crime from a safe distance?

Let he who wants to do bodily harm to another do it with his hands, a bladed weapon, or a bludgeon at least he will get some exercise.

‘Yun lang.

Scholarship grants posted at DoLE website

The Department of Labor and Employment has announced that as one of the members of the government’s Exchange Visitor Program (EVP) Committee, it has agreed to post the notice of availability of scholarship grants under the Enhancement Training Sponsorship Project (ETSP) of the EVP to the department’s website.

In a report to Labor Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz, DoLE International Labor Affairs Bureau (ILAB) Director Ma. Celeste Valderrama said the ETSP is one of the efforts of the government to enhance the skills pool of the Philippines while allowing Filipino professionals to find better income overseas to support their families.

Valderrama said the EVP Committee of the Philippines is now accepting applications for scholarship grants under its ETSP project which is funded by the EVP participants who are undertaking alternative arrangements in lieu of the two-year home country residency requirement of the EVP.

Read more at the Philippine Daily Inquirer