Competition and consumer watchdog needed

In the wake of the alleged power rate fixing scandal in electricity markets and unsafe practices among transport operators, it is time for a competition watchdog to protect the rights of consumers.

Given the penchant for regulatory capture that appears to have occurred among our transport and energy authorities, a commission dedicated to protect consumers and markets, in general, against anti-competitive predatory behaviour is needed.

So far the proposals for anti-trust legislation do not contain any provision for a dedicated watchdog with the powers to investigate complaints and penalise companies found guilty of breaching the consumer protection act.

In a country like the Philippines whose government agencies are prone to capture by vested interests, to the detriment of the rights and interests of consumers, a consumer advocate and competition watchdog would provide an additional check on the powers of industry regulators who often end up in the back pockets of big business.

The United States has its Federal Trade Commission, the European has an antitrust regulator, the Canadian government has a Competition Bureau and the Australian government has its Competition and Consumer Commission. These agencies protect consumers against fraud, deception and unfair business practices.

The promotion of consumer welfare is an area that is neglected in the Philippines. In the case of the transport sector, a recent road accident that killed 22 passengers could have been prevented if the bus operator followed road rules and did not endanger the lives of commuters. In the case of the energy sector, the alleged collusion among providers might have been prevented if there was a credible threat against unfair practices.

The same could be said of airlines, shipping, cement and a host of other industries. It is time to put the era of robber barons and booty capitalists behind us.

WASH Media Awards open for investigative journalists with water, sanitation & development stories

The Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) and the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) are now accepting entries for the WASH Media Awards.

According to the competition website, “The WASH Media Awards recognize and support the crucial role of media in raising awareness of the importance of water, sanitation, and hygiene services. It aims to promote coverage of WASH issues in the local, national and international media to have a positive influence on decision-makers, the private sector, the civil society as well as individuals and households.” Read more

Filipino social enterprise a finalist in “Project Inspire: 5 Minutes to Change the World”

Image from the Hapinoy website

HAPINOY, a Filipino social enterprise working to empower “nanays” (mothers) through sari-sari store-based micro-enterprise and micro-finance programs, is a finalist in Project Inspire: 5 Minutes to Change the World, a joint initiative of UN Women Singapore and Mastercard.

The project is a global search for projects that “help empower disadvantaged women and girls, through education, skills training, financial inclusion, social entrepreneurship.” At stake is a US$25,000 grant “to go out there and bring your vision to life.”

Established in 2007 by MicroVentures Incorporated, Hapinoy extends credit and capital infusion for nanays to set up their own Hapinoy Stores and learn to operate and grow their businesses through Hapinoy’s proprietary system. By aggregating stores and using a franchise-like system, Hapinoy is able to assure its beneficiaries of access to lower-priced goods, training, and a support system that the nanays will not otherwise get on their own.

Run by a young and dynamic team of social entrepreneurs led by Bam Aquino and Mark Ruiz, Hapinoy and its founders have been the recipient of several awards, including the first-ever MVP Bossing Awards by PLDT, the Go Negosyo Inspiring Young Filipino Entrepreneurs Award, the Asia 21 Young Leaders Summit, and several others.

Part of their Project Inspire application was a five-minute video pitching their cause (see below), which, as a finalist of the global search, will be put through a public vote and a panel screening. Voting closes on August 19, 2011 and, unlike other voting contests that allow multiple voting (such as for CNN Hero of the Year), only one vote per user is allowed.

Hapinoy – Project Inspire entry

If you would like to put another Filipino social enterprise on the global map, click this page and cast your vote HERE.



Philippine entry wins top prize in BBC's World Challenge 2010

One year after Efren Penaflorida won as CNN Hero of the Year, the Philippines again wins a global tilt for great, changemaking ideas when  Alternative Indigenous Development Foundation Inc. (AIDFI), an organization based in Bacolod City, bagged the top prize in BBC’s World Challenge 2010.

According to its website, World Challenge “is a global competition aimed at finding projects or small businesses from around the world that have shown enterprise and innovation at a grassroots level.” Now on its sixth year, it is organized and supported by BBC World News and Newsweek, in association with Shell.

“[This global competition] is about championing and rewarding projects and businesses which really make a difference,” the World Challenge website further said.

AIDFI bested11 other entries from Denmark, Guatemala, India, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mexico, Peru, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Zambia. Their project entries ranged from a coral park run entirely on solar power and water heating; a student-founded “solar energy kiosk” powering a remote African village; an online portal that connects African entrepreneurs with funding from donors and investors from around the world; and a number of others.

According to the official project description for AIDFI’s World Challenge entry:

AIDFI ram pump - BBC World Challenge 2010
The hydraulic ram pump of AIDFI | Image from BBC World Challenge website

It’s baffling how some inventions fail to achieve a tipping point. The hydraulic ram pump – which has been around for a couple of centuries. falls into this category. The Alternative Indigenous Development Foundation Inc. (AIDFI) is determined to see the ram pump finally come into its own. Using the power of a river’s flow to literally push water uphill without any other energy input, it’s proving to be a boon for poor villagers living in mountainous regions.

The ram pump can save both hours of back-breaking work carrying water and cash where expensive water pumps are replaced. AIDFI has introduced the ram pump to over 170 upland villages, and has plans to spread the benefits far and wide among poor communities.

*Learn more about the ram pump and how it works HERE.

According to AIDFI’s website, “The awards ceremony will be broadcast on the 4th of December 2010 on BBC World News and to be announced on the website on the same day and profiled in Newsweek magazine in the December 21 issue which will be on sale on 14th of December 2010.” The victory was announced ahead of time to Philippine viewers through the late-night news program Bandila, and supposedly confirmed by the BBC.