Monthly Archives: February 2012

Wanted PHP 5 Trillion (AUD$111 Million) Investments by 2016

Wow. Now that we have our target, let’s help the Philippine government meet this target.

From Manila Bulletin

Aquino Gov’t Sets P5-Trillion Investments Target In 6 Years

February 19, 2012

MANILA, Philippines — The Aquino administration has set P5.15 trillion investments target within its six-year (2011-2016) term with the government’s 13 investment promotion agencies (IPAs) enhancing their marketing programs to attract more foreign capital into the country.

Data showed that IPAs aim to generate a total of P5.15 trillion-worth of investments at the end of the Aquino government’s term in 2016. Investments generated by the IPAs are computed via the project cost of every enterprise they registered.

The 13 IPAs, which have separate mandates to grant tax and fiscal incentives to their registered investors, include the Board of Investments (BOI), Clark Development Corporation (CDC), Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA), Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA), Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA), Philippine Retirement Authority (PRA), Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), Regional BOI-Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BOI-ARMM), Phividec Industrial Authority, Zamboanga City Special Economic Zone Authority (ZCSEZA), Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport Authority (APECO), Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) and Freeport Area of Bataan.

From the actual P757.3 billion total investments the IPAs generated in 2011, the government expects to generate P795.2 billion this year. The investments inflow is expected to increase in 2013 with P835 billion and P876.8 billion in 2014.

The IPAs are targeting an accelerated investments inflow in the last two years of the Aquino administration with P920.6 billion in 2015 and P966.6 billion in 2016.

The Aquino administration aims to leave a total of P5.15 trillion worth of investments when the President steps down in 2016.

To enhance its investment campaigns, the BoI, which is under the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), has launched recently the Global Marketing and Intelligence System (GMIS), which will synchronize the trade and investment promotion activities of the DTI and other government agencies in a more efficient and effective structure. The BoI is the government’s premier investment generating agency.

On Friday, the DTI and other IPAs presented to President Aquino in Malacanang their investment leads for 2012-2013.

Trade and Industry undersecretary for trade and investments promotion Cristino L. Panlilio told reporters they have a good list of prospects for this year led by the investments agreements signed during Aquino’s visit to China. Panlilio expects $3 billion worth of Chinese investments would be pursued this year.

He noted the keen interest of China Trend from Hong Kong, which has proposed to develop a 10-hectare property within the Port Irene, which is part of the Cagayan Economic Zone, as an industrial estate that will house investments from Chinese manufacturers.

The Chinese firm has met with officials of the special economic zone.

In addition, Panlilio said they expect more Japanese investments this year.

“We are seeing more Japanese investors coming. They may be our biggest in 2012,” he said noting that he noticed a surge of Japanese investments in the first month of the year.

He reported that DTI would be very busy in the first four to five months of the year because of the number of inbound missions coming into the country.

“This week alone, we received two missions then the Keidanren is coming, then we are going to hold the Philippines-Japan Economic Council meeting,” he said. The first two Japanese investment missions this year were electronics from the greater Tokyo area and the other one is IT mission from Hiroshima.

“The Japanese are interested in business matching,” he added.

“We’ve also been receiving a lot of calls from Japanese companies that were affected by the Fukushima disaster, and also the Japanese companies located in Thailand because of the flooding problem,” he added.

The shortlist of Japanese companies with keen interest in investing here consists of companies that are operating in Fukushima and in Thailand with sister-company operations in the Philippines.

“These are the kind of investors that are easier to convince because they have already existing affiliations with Japanese companies in the county,” he added.

Wanted: More 1 Million Philippine Jobs

If  the SWS statisitcs are accurate, and I would believe it conducts its only reason its in business survives because of this, the number of Filipinos who need jobs are huge. Significant among the numbers is the information that 49.1% among 18-24 and 17% among 44 and over (from 46.3% and 13.8% respectively) do not have jobs. Even though this is based on a respondent base of only 1,200 respondents.

In comparison, the government using statistics from the National Statistics Office (NSO) has a respondent base of 54,000 households. The NSO estimates only 6.4% unemployed (down 7.1%).

More than the accuracy of the SWS numbers, a key issue is why the NSO reflects a very diffierent figures and trend is a cause for concern. SWS is claimed to accurate to a 3-6% margin of errors based on national and area percentages.

While similar trends are present in the US and Europe mainly due to effects of the GFC (Global Financial Crisis), the numbers if accurate show much more is needed to be done in creating new jobs. It is estimated at least 1 million jobs are needed to make a difference.

One bright view I would like to think of this information is the country has an abundant supply available for any foreign investor in need for talented people (college educated, English speaking, high customer service oriented and very competitive costs) to add value to their business.

From BusinessWorld Philippines

February 22, 2012

Unemployment up — SWS

ADULT UNEMPLOYMENT has increased, the Social Weather Stations (SWS) said in a new report, with some four-fifths accounted for by people who resigned or were retrenched.

The survey research institution said that based on a Dec. 3-7 survey last year, the proportion of adults without work had risen to 24% from 20.2% three months earlier — equivalent to an estimated 9.7 million Filipinos.

Of this number 10% were retrenched, 9% had quit and 5% were first-time jobseekers. The majority, or 7%, of those retrenched did not have their contracts renewed, 2% saw their employers close shop and the remaining 1% received pink slips.

Malacañang pointed out that the SWS figures were not consistent with Labor Force Survey (LFS) data — where some 2.1 million positions were found to have been created — but also acknowledged the need to improve the jobs situation.

The official unemployment rate, according to the National Statistics Office (NSO), was 6.4% as of October last year.

In explaining its survey, the SWS said it counted respondents who were at least 18 years old. It also uses the traditional definition of unemployment as comprising those not working and at the same time looking for work. Those not working and also not looking for a job — housewives, the retired, students, etc. — are excluded.

The government, meanwhile, defines the lower limit of the labor force at 15 years of age. It has also defined unemployment as including the “availability for work” concept: those who are not available despite looking for work are not counted while those available but not seeking work for reasons such as tiredness, illness, waiting for rehire/results of an application and bad weather are added.

The SWS said unemployment had fallen below 20% in only three out of 26 surveys from May 2005 to December 2011. The figure hit a record high of 34.2% in February 2009.

It added that since December 2010, unemployment has been dominated by those who had quit work or had lost their jobs due to economic circumstances.

It said unemployment was relatively high among women and among the younger members of the labor force, following the pattern in previous surveys. Among men the ratio dipped to 15.2% from 17% previously, while it increased to 35.6% from 25.6% among women.

It rose to 49.1% from 46.3% in the 18-24 age group, was basically unchanged at 29.9% from 29.7% among those aged 25-34, increased to 18.7% from 13.7% for those in the 35-44 bracket, and also gained to 17.3% from 13.8% for the 44 and up category.

Sought for comment, Labor Secretary Rosalinda D. Baldoz said that the “government uses the National Statistics Office Labor Force Survey as official reference on data on employment and unemployment.”

She added that there was no basis for comparison between the SWS poll and LFS as the latter has a respondent base of 54,000 households against the former’s 1,200 individuals.

The 6.4% unemployment in the latest LFS survey is equivalent to an estimated 2.644 million Filipinos. The figure is down from 7.1% a year earlier.

Sec. Herminio B. Coloma, Jr. of the Presidential Communications and Operations Office, meanwhilem said that “regardless of the differences in methodology,” the government appreciated “the SWS’ efforts to bring to the surface greater awareness about the employment situation.”

“We will continue to work hard at increasing the pace and magnitude of new jobs creation.”

He said that given an estimated 700,000 new graduates annually, at least one million new jobs would have to be created each year to address the needs of both new entrants and unemployed members of the labor force.

For the Dec. 3-7 survey, the SWS utilized face-to-face interviews of 1,200 adults and sampling error margins of ±3% for national and ±6% for area percentages. — from a report by J. P. D. Poblete

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Education and training are key success factors too

Now here’s another view on the current shift of jobs happening between countries as a result of globalisation. The case being stated here is the jobs lost are replaced with new ones maybe due to new technology or support services that have existing vacancies that never get filled. And the role of governments worldwide is to arm its citizens with all the skills needed for this transition.


From Sydney Morning Herald

February 25, 2012

As the media keep reminding us, the many pressures for change in the structure of our economy are causing some workers to be thrown out of their jobs. But this is unlikely to cause a decline in overall employment. Huh?

The structure of the economy – as represented by the relative sizes of the various industry sectors – is always changing. Normally the rate of change is so slow we don’t notice it. At present, however, the pace of change is much quicker than usual.

These pressures are coming from outside Australia. Many are the consequence of the rapid transition of various populous economies from developing to developed. Some of these ”emerging” economies are in South America; most are in Asia.

One big consequence of this development is that much of the manufacturing undertaken in the world is moving from the developed to the emerging economies, where labour is more abundant and thus cheaper. This is hitting manufacturing in allthe developed economies, not just us. (They’re not enjoying it, either.)

Because the emerging economies’ immaturity means they’re growing a lot faster than the rich economies, another consequence is that most of the growth in the globaleconomy comes from them. That’s been true for years; it will be even truer in the coming decade because the North Atlantic economies damaged their prospects so badly with their financial crisis.

A further consequence is that the cycle in the world prices of primary commodities – food and fibre, minerals and energy – is now driven more by the emerging economies than the rich economies.

And the different needs of the emerging economies – for energy, steel and high-protein foodstuffs – have produced a long-lasting change in the structure of world trade, where the demand for primary commodities is growing faster than the demand for manufactures, meaning the prices and volumes of commodities are growing faster than those for manufacturing.

Because the emerging economies have much more economic development to do, and because there’s a pipeline of countries coming behind China and India, the increased global demand for commodities relative manufactures is likely to last for many moons.

This is bad news for the real incomes of most of the developed countries (which tend to import most of the primary commodities they use, while gaining most of their export income from manufactures), but great news for us, since our imports are mainly manufactures and our exports mainly commodities.

Of course, both the big advanced economies and we face painful structural change as a consequence of this shift in the structure of the global economy, but I know whose shoes I’d prefer to be in.

In Australia we have to shift resources of labour and capital to the expanding mining (and agricultural) sectors from the declining manufacturing sector and elsewhere in the economy.

The improvement in our trading fortunes relative to the rest of the world is reflected in our higher exchange rate – which is thus likely to stay high for the foreseeable future. To many people, this sounds like terribly bad luck (when they’re not thinking about their next overseas holiday, that is).

To economists, however, it’s all part of the same deal. Our trading position has improved, so our exchange rate has appreciated to help us bring about the change in the structure of our industries needed to fully exploit that improved position.

In other words, by making it harder for our manufacturers (and tourist operators and education providers) to compete on international markets, the higher dollar is helping shift resources out of manufacturing and into mining and elsewhere.

Of course, the era of the emerging economies isn’t the only factor forcing change on our industries. The other big one is the continuing information technology revolution, which is presenting considerable challenges to our established media companies, the book industry, retailers and shopping-centre owners.

I started by asserting that the job losses being caused by structural change were unlikely to lead to a fall in employment overall. Why not? Because what creates jobs is the spending of income.

Starting with the mining boom, it’s bringing a lot of additional income to Australia (first from higher prices per tonne, then from a lot more tonnes). But, people object, mining is highly capital intensive so it doesn’t employ many people. It may account for 10 per cent of the value of all we produce (gross domestic product), but it accounts for only 2 per cent of total employment.

True, but what happens to all the income the miners earn that isn’t paid to their employees? Some of it goes to foreign owners and is spent abroad, but the rest goes to local shareholders and local suppliers to the industry, with Australian governments also getting a big chunk (as they should).

When the local shareholders, suppliers and governments spend that income, jobs are created. Where? At present, a lot are in the construction industry but, more generally, all round the services sector.

How can I be so sure? Because the services sector (including construction) accounts for about 85 per cent of all employment and because it has accounted for all the net jobs growth for the past 40 years.

Next, the advent of new technology often prompts employers to retrench staff as machines replace workers. People imagine these jobs have been ”lost”, but economists know they’ve merely been ”displaced” (moved).

Why? Because when companies make changes that improve their productivity (output per worker), they raise the economy’s real income. The company shares the benefit from its higher productivity among its remaining workers, its shareholders and the taxman, but often competition forces the benefit through to its customers in the form of prices that are lower than they otherwise would be. And lower prices mean higher real incomes.

The point is that as this income is spent around the economy it creates jobs around the economy. Where? Somewhere in the services sector.

Ah, you say, but are all the workers ”displaced” from manufacturing able to take up the new jobs in mining or the services sector? A lot more are than you imagine will be able to, but some will have a struggle and some individuals won’t make it.

That’s why the smart response from governments to pressures for structural change is not to help companies carry on as if nothing in the world had changed, but to help individual workers adjust to that change with help to retrain and relocate.

Ross Gittins is the economics editor.

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Cheap labour is a key success factor

Food for thought on what this article is saying. If what it is saying is true, maybe the best place to be is in the Philippines with its huge numbers of talented labour available for outsourcing the jobs from developed countries from Australia. While I would like to believe this to be true, it is not the end of the middle class or even labour in general in Australia. There will still be a lot of other things available Australia can do better the Philippines.


Have labour will travel

Posted by  in Economicson Feb 25th, 2012

We cannot say we were not warned. Many commentators about globalisation said that it would create an imbalance between labour and capital, for the simple reason that capital is free to move wherever it wants, and labour, except at the very top end, is not. And so it is turning out, with the middle classes of much of the developed world under extreme pressure, and shrinking.

There has been some rise of a middle class in the emerging economies, but it is nowhere near enough to compensate for the loss of demand in developed markets. In many respects, the US housing and debt crisis was the last gasp for a significant slice of the middle class in America after decades of declining real wages. They borrowed to keep themselves at that level, and of course it could not last. Europe’s middle class is under extreme pressure and so is Japan’s.

That much is well known. What I think is less examined is the way that economic measurements influences the formulating of government policies to deal with the economic and social implications. One of the effects of globalisation is that labour is the government’s responsibility. Capital has no responsibility except to itself, and can for the most part push governments around. Put another way, labour remains a problem of the nation state whilst capital has transcended the nation state. Maintaining employment, looking after labour, is not just a key to political survival of any democratic government, it is key to attracting the blessing of the capital markets. Strong employment (and tax collection) is key to keeping government deficits under control, without which the punishment of the capital markets is usually brutal.

So governments in developed economies are caught in a vice. To keep the work force in employment, the workers have to be able to compete with much cheaper labour forces in the emerging world. If they try to compete on price, it leads to a Catch 22 — to keep the nation’s standard of living up you have to cut workers’ standard of living. Doesn’t quite work, really.

There is always the possibility of investing heavily in areas like infrastructure or education — but this, if done aggressively, will blow out government expenditure and create unsustainable deficits that lead to the punishment of the capital markets. Another Catch 22.

There are some exceptions. The US gets a free pass on deficits because the US dollar is the reserve currency of the world; no other country with open capital markets could get away with racking up so much debt. Although it cannot be indefinite, of course. And Japan is hermetically sealed, it has blocked out the international capital markets for the most part. That, too, will eventually have a big economic cost, indeed it already has.

But for most countries, including Australia, that is the conundrum they are presented with. The most attractive durable solution is to become like Germany, whose industrial habits and structures give it an exceptional ability to maintain competitiveness. Trouble is, it is very German — not easily replicated by anyone else. Or they can pursue a mercantile route like Korea, but this is deemed to be against the economic orthodoxy; sullying the purity of price signals.

This leads me to my complaint about how economic analyses work. One problem is that economics only records a score, it is not suitable for developing strategy. And the scoring tends to be always pretty much the same — labour is too expensive and must be driven down; any form of government assistance is harmful to consumers. Policy makers must, essentially, have no policy other than to let the markets work. That is, let capital find its most profitable destination. Which for the most part inexorably leads to lower wages for much of the middle class.

Another problem with economic analyses is the persistent use of circular arguments. The key badge of honour of economists, to use Paul Krugman’s phrase, is David Ricardo’s doctrine of comparative advantage. This argument for specialisation — high wage countries specialise in high wage tasks and low wage countries do the low wage tasks and both sides benefit — is a circular argument. It says that if countries transact more, then there will be more transactions per head. Hard to argue with, as most tautologies are. But it assumes that there is a neat transfer and it is far from automatic.

Labour in high wage countries will obviously come under pressure from labour in low wage countries if there is only a finite amount of employment. In an environment of global over supply (over supply that is a function of the lack of a big enough middle class in emerging economies and also of huge technological advances), there is obviously going to be pressure on the number of jobs. The result is obvious to see in the auto industry, where car makers shop around the world to get the best subsidies from governments confident that there is an excess of labour.

Economics, in other words, is heavily biased towards the interests of capital, hardly surprising given that it is basically a record of transactions and capital flows. If capital is looked after then consumers will be fine and labour is, well, somewhere in the rear. The problem with the bias is that economic systems are whole systems. As Philip Coggan points out in this excellent talk, there is a long history of the inter-relationship between debtors and creditors, a swinging balance.

There is also a long history of the relationship between capital and labour. When capital markets were largely national, there was an obvious interrelationship between wages and the consumer demand on which decent returns for capital investment depended. Pay the workers well and they would buy the stuff you made. But now, capital is global and the investment is global. That relationship has been destroyed, leaving governments to pick up the peieces.

It is not just the case that the finance sector has privatised the profits and socialised the losses. The finance sector has profoundly altered the interdependency of the system on which they, and everyone in developed economies, ultimately depend.

The cost of preventing climate change

Saving the world from further climate change is going to cost big time.  For Australia its going to cost AUD$100 Billion just to replace coal based power for an area just twice the size of Sydney. You can just imagine the total cost to cover the entire Australian continent (coal generated power is the main source of electricity for the entire country).

Australia Going Solar – Gonna Cost Ya, Mate

OilPrice.comPublished on Date December 6th, 2011 by

Green activists, take note – forAustralia fully to embrace solar power, Canberra would have to spend $100 billion, with photovoltaic cells to generate the electricity covering an area twice the size of Sydney in order to replace Australia’s indigenous inexpensive coal-fired power plants with renewable energysources.

This is not an insignificant figure, as Australian coal currently generates 80 percent of Australia’s electrical energy output.

The grim statistic was contained in the recent report, “Keeping the Home Fires Burning,” issued by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.

So, who is the Australian Strategic Policy Institute? Tree-hugging, wallaby and kangaroo friendly ecological leftists or energy company flacks?

Uh, no.

According to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute website, “ASPI is an independent, non-partisan policy institute. It has been set up by the government to provide fresh ideas on Australia’s defense and strategic policy choices… It aims to help Australians understand the critical strategic choices which our country will face over the coming years, and will help government make better-informed decisions.”

Accordingly ASPI’s conclusions cannot be seen as either energy industry shills nor environmental advocates, which makes them accordingly worth careful consideration.

The report starts ominously, “Australia, like all modern economies, needs an assured supply of energy to function effectively. As a net exporter of energy, Australia is well placed in most respects. But we are still reliant on external sources of oil.”

Authors Andrew Davies and Edward Mortimer pull no punches, first noting that Australia’s massive indigenous energy reserves of coal and natural gas would shield it from political disruptions in the Middle East before adding, ”The energy security policy challenges of the next 20 years are likely to pale into insignificance compared to those that will arise when the availability of fossil fuels declines significantly. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like renewable sources of energy will be able to provide adequate substitutes, at least based on current technology. Developing countries are even less likely to be able to adopt alternative energy sources on a large scale. As a result, any large reduction in fossil fuel usage will most likely be due to scarcity and price rather than choice. The timescale is decades rather than years, and the decline of existing fuel stocks will be gradual rather than precipitous, so there’s scope for technological advances to come to the rescue – but there are no obvious solutions at the moment.”

So, solar power to the rescue? According to the authors, ”The requirement (to generate solar power per capita) can also be expressed as 200 square meters of panel per person, or about four times the average amount of roof area per person in Australia today.” As for the country weaning itself off fossil fuel power and diverting to solar power generation, the authors conclude, “As a rough estimate, if the cost per panel could be halved (due to economies of scale), the total cost would be around $100 billion.”

What to do?

Davies and Mortimer suggest that in conjunction with neighbors New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Island countries Australia develop a strategic oil reserve to maintain transport and industry if and when Middle East disruptions imperil supplies.

For a government sponsored institute providing “fresh ideas,” ASPI seems stuck in a “business as usual” rut, looking at the immediate bottom line versus the long-term picture.

As for establishing an oil strategic reserve, the rising tensions in the Middle East over Iran’s nuclear programs could change the dynamics of Persian Gulf oil exports to East Asia long before strategic reserves could be established.

Australia does indeed have significant reserves of coal as well as access to natural gas, including the offshore Sunrise natural gas field, shared with Timor Leste and estimated to contain 5.1 trillion cubic feet of liquefied natural gas and 226 million barrels of condensate, the largest petroleum resource in the Timor Sea. Development of the field with Timor Leste has been blocked by disputes with the Timorese government for the last nine years.

Charming as the idea of boring holes in the ground and pumping Middle Eastern oil down them for a rainy day, would it not be in Australia’s interest to negotiate fairly with Timor Leste over the Sunrise field? Even if solar power gives Canberra sticker shock, it seems preferable to make local arrangements for more environmentally friendly fuels such as natural gas rather than continuing to import hydrocarbons from the Middle East or burning local coal. Best then, at the end of the day, it’s an economic issue, with quality of life considerations coming second.

But if Canberra has to give its energy import policies hostage to fortune, Timor Leste is a lot closer than the Persian Gulf.

Article by John C.K. Daly, appearing courtesy

Effect of Climate Change

I hope with the level of natural calamities growing worst in the Philippines, the government is aware and would seek to address the damage to life and property but taking serious planning and preparation before these happen. In the Philippines and Vietnam the changes in climate is real.


Adapting to Climate Change in Vietnam and the Philippines

CelsiasPublished on Date May 26th, 2011 by Celsias

I stumbled across a documentary programme on BBC World a while back, Nature Inc. It visited two Asian regions where the impacts ofclimate change are being experienced and described the active local measures under way to cope with them. It’s the sort of programme we ought to be seeing a great deal moreof as the evidence of climate change effects accumulate around the world. The narrator presumably felt obliged to mention in passing that skeptics dispute the impacts of climate change identified by the local people, but that kind of disputing will surely wither in the face of the realities such populations are facing. Facing with energy and purpose in the two cases covered by the short documentary.

The first section of the documentary went to the region of Albay in the Philippines. In the office of the Governor, Joey Salceda, preparations were under way for the evacuation of some tens of thousands of residents from beach areas which might have been at risk from the tsunami following the Japanese earthquake. In 2006 a typhoon of enormous force had hit the region with the loss of 600 lives. The governor now has a zero casualty policy, and the successful evacuation in advance of the possible tsunami was an evidence of this.

Weather-related disasters are common in the region, and the people are in no doubt that they are being worsened by climate change. The protestations of the skeptics are not for them. A fisherman commented simply on the observable change from thirty years ago:

“Today the typhoons are getting stronger. The weather is very erratic. It’s very dangerous now to go fishing.”

The governor speaks of the investment that is being made in disaster risk reduction. It is not only making people safer, but also better off. The local economy has grown while the national economy has been stagnant. The price of doing nothing, the governor says, is more than triple the price of doing something. Food for work programmes for low income families have resulted in canal clearing and reforestation and the restoration of mangroves as a barrier to storm surges. An ambitious resettlement programme is under way to move people from areas vulnerable to sea level rise and storm surges to new housing built on higher ground. Sweet potato cultivation, much less vulnerable to storm damage, is encouraged to take the place of rice.

But the governor in his busy office acknowledges that these are band aid solutions. The only long term solution he sees is for the world to agree on an international accord.

“Every day I pray for a psychic shift in the world view of the national leaders of the world. Adaptation is not the only answer, although adaptation is very critical at this point for us. It is our imperative, but mitigation is now very definitely the global imperative.”

The second section of the programme went to the Mekong Delta in Vietnam. Already a million hectares of rice paddy fields have been contaminated by salt water. The Vietnamese government has begun planning for a one metre rise in sea level by the end of the century. The consequences of doing nothing would see more than a third of the Mekong Delta flooded by then.

A spokeswoman for the Tra Vinh Commune People’s Committee was direct:

“I can tell you climate change is having a big impact on agricultural production and on the lives of the people because of the intensified drought, the saline water coming in, as well as the stormy weather. They’ve all had a very negative effect on agriculture and as a result on the income of the farmers.”

Mangroves are the first line of defence, forming a natural barrier against sea erosion. However half of Vietnam’s mangroves have already been cut down, mainly for shrimp farming. The documentary recorded the work of a German international aid organisation working with villagers in the group management of mangrove replanting programmes. The villagers are finding many benefits from better storm barrier protection, less sea water contamination of rice crops, and the harvesting of the sea life which inhabits the mangroves such as crabs and clams. Their daily income has increased.

One rice farmer has adopted adaptive measures against salt water intrusion which philippines storms have produced a big improvement in his yield. He floods his fields from the canal, but then straight away pumps the water out again instead of leaving the fields flooded as has long been normal practice. The ensuing problem of weeds he deals with by planting the rice in rows and weeding between them, an operation which improves the rate of growth.

Biotechnology research is also under way in laboratories with the intent of producing rice varieties which will better cope with such problems as salinity. The scientist who spoke with the documentary crew wanted to make the point that that the scientists spend time talking with and learning from the farmers, a feature which is often emphasized in studies of adaptation.

It’s heartening to see adaptation under way in such vulnerable areas of the world, and good to know that it can even bring some improvements in living conditions. But I have no doubt that the Vietnamese working on these issues would echo the sentiments of the governor of Albay who prays for global attention to the mitigation of what can only be the worsening effects of climate change.

Article by Bryan Walker, appearing courtesy Celsias.

Let’s fast to feed the hungry

This Lenten season let’s add a special meaning to our fasting by making a contribution to this campaign to feed 40,000 malnourished children.

From the National Catholic Reporter

Manila archdiocese’s Lenten campaign aims to feed 40,000 children

 23 February 2012

Nuns distribute ashes at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Shrine in Pasay City, Philippines. (John Lagman)

MANILA, PHILIPPINES — Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle of Manilain his Ash Wednesday message appealed for donations to a campaign to raise about $937,000 to feed 40,000 malnourished children.

His message, posted on the archdiocese’s website, was reported in media and discussed by priests during Ash Wednesday Masses.

“We are called upon to support each other in solidarity by praying, fasting and giving alms to the poor as we undertake our conversion journey in preparation for Easter,” Tagle wrote. He said the archdiocese’s FAST2FEED 40K campaign for Hapag-asa (“Table of Hope”) will benefit hungry children from around the country.

Catholics walking out of churches around Manila after services toldNCR they would try their best to help the anti-hunger program.

Nenita Pena, a laundrywoman from the Redemptorist-run Shrine of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Pasay City, south of Manila, said she wants to give at least 50 pesos a week inside church envelopes.

“I want to help those who don’t have anything to eat and show how grateful I am that my six children are eating rice every day,” she said. This is all she could aim for on her daily wages of 400 pesos from doing laundry for three families, she said.

Better-off wives and office workers at Greenhills Shopping Center chapel east of Manila said they, too, would set aside money to donate to the church.

Hapag-asa, a supplemental feeding program for undernourished children 6 to 12 months old, was launched in 2006 in partnership with Caritas Manila’s Pondo ng Pinoy (“Fund of the Filipino”) and Assisi Development Foundation.

Under the program, children in 36 dioceses are served meals made from local produce prepared with a lentil/rice mix containing 25 vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. Children have said joining the programhelped change their eating habits and enjoy foods they previously did not enjoy, such as vegetables.

Volunteers and relatives feed the children once a day, five days a week for six months. Nurses, teachers and other trainers run sessions for family members about nutrition facts and methods for food preparation, home management and other values. Teachers from the government’s agency for technical and vocational training run classes for meat processing, soap-making and other prospective sources of family income.Tagle has engaged directly with workers, beneficiaries and relatives in activities with children and parents in various Hapag areas.

“Nationwide, Hapag-asa was able to feed more than 200,000 hungry and malnourished children last year,” Tagle said. A total of 2,910 children were fed in Manila archdiocese alone, he said.

This year, the program’s goal is to feed 2,000 children, he announced, asking Catholics to pitch in for the feeding cost, which is 10 pesos a day per child for six months.

When his predecessor, Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales, led the program launch six years ago, the Food and Nutrition Research Institute reportedly found 3 out of 10 children 0-5 years old were suffering from chronic malnutrition and were underweight and short for their age.

A child eats in Tondo, formerly Manila's largest slum area. (John Lagman)

A child eats in Tondo, formerly Manila’s largest slum area. (John Lagman)

The 2008-2009 expanded survey of 17 regions using World Health Organization measures found the prevalence of underweight children in the same age group was 20.7 percent, down from 27.4 percent in the 1989-90 survey. However, it remained almost the same between 2003 and 2008.

“Generally, under-nutrition among this age group is still a public health concern,” the report says.

Why are these children not getting enough to eat? Poverty has long been blamed for hunger, but a recent survey of the independent research group Social Weather Stations in Dec. 2011 found a much larger proportion of Filipinos rated themselves as hungry even though self-rated poverty fell from 52 percent in September 2011 to 45 percent in December.

Tackling the ‘very big issue’ of poverty

Bishops-Businessmen’s Conference for Human Development (BBC-HD) national co-chairman Meneleo Carlos Jr. said the government, the business sector and others have a role in the problem and the solution. To alleviate poverty, “inclusive growth” is key, he said.

“Poverty is a very big issue, and that is so not only for the church,” Carlos said. “Government is also cognizant of poverty, and that is why its Philippine Development Plan aims for ‘inclusive growth.’ Seventy percent of the country cannot grow without paying attention to the 30 percent left behind.”

According to the plan, poverty has prevailed because economic growth does not benefit the poor. The Philippines’ population grows more than 2 percent per year, but per capita incomes on average have grown by only 20 percent in real terms from 1981-2009.

Critics have complained against an “anti-people” national budget, with $5.1 million allotted to health and $8 billion for debt servicing.

High government spending, an energetic service sector and remittances from millions of overseas workers boosted development under the lead of the country’s former president, Gloria Arroyo. However, the government has failed to create jobs, with unemployment rates averaging 10 percent between 1990 and 2005 and 7.5 percent in the succeeding four years.

“We should clarify what we mean by progress,” said Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo of Manila, who heads the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) Commission on Social Action, Justice and Peace. “Progress should include benefits for the people.”

He cited the impact of laws that do not promote “responsible development,” such as the Mining Act of 1995, and “infringe on rights of people to land, water and resources from which they get their food.”

The government needs to exercise stronger political will with programs like land reform that directly affect food production, Pabillo said.

He said the eviction of migrants from cities and indigenous people from their communities (and sources of food) caused the hunger. Relocation settlements assigned to those evicted are often far from work, school or their farms, aggravating poverty and hunger, he said.

On Monday and Tuesday, a group of indigenous Dumagat people from Casiguran in the Aurora province traveled almost 250 miles to Manila to present their complaints to the Commission on Human Rights and the CBCP media and to appeal for help in their fight to stop the creation of Aurora Pacific Economic Zone (APECO), which they say was implemented without public consultation.

Economic zones “are a waste of people’s money because many of these ports become smuggling points,” Carlos said. “They become political interests so you cannot move against them.”

He said he thinks the church’s collection of alms for food for the poor as well as the church’s effort to help indigenous people is more important in alleviating poverty and hunger.

Government and business can help by adding value to the farmers’ output, he said. For example, farmers lose a lot of the harvest because of the lack of post-harvest facilities. If the government built more farm-to-market roads, farmers could cut their losses, he added.

Carlos said BBC-HD does what it can to help the farmers.

“Sometimes we put in drying facilities so they can convert fruit to candies or something saleable,” Carlos said. “We can also bring in the technology on how to wrap them up in very attractive packages. Basically, industry would like to help, but we have to be able to get to the countryside to do what we are supposed to do.”

BBC-HD would also like to help with reforestation, but Carlos said the government needs to give businesses rights to the public land so business can provide the technology, such as the ability to grow seedlings so they become commercially viable more quickly.

“Hopefully this government’s attitude is to think of the improving the lives of poor people in their quest for ‘inclusive development,'” Carlos said. “And that means [government officials] will not just make money for themselves, but also for the people.”

If you knock an animal on the head, its only polite to eat all of it

Reading this article reminds me of all the very tasty traditional Filipino dishes I enjoyed growing up. Living in Australia, I hope to enjoy these dishes again through the help of a well known Filipino chef.  I hope to share the experience with my Australian born friends and associates. However, I am not too sure how to approach them in a way where they become comfortable enjoying the food.

From the Sydney Morning Herald

Champing at the bits

Kirsten Lawson
February 21, 2012

What are you thinking when you order the crumbed brains or the devilled kidneys? The skewered hearts? Are you daring yourself, or establishing your general sophistication?

Or perhaps you’re well into the second half of life and, for you, the odd bits on the menu are simply what’s familiar, the tastes that take you back to childhood.

This is pretty much where it started for Jennifer McLagan, a former Melburnian who now lives in Canada and has made a career out of writing food books that challenge. Her first was Bones. Then Fat (which she loves and celebrates as highly healthy). Now it’s Odd Bits, a book that, in glorious detail and marvellous straight-talking, plunges right into the midst of spleens, stomachs and intestines, gizzards, brains, lungs, feet, cheeks and ears.

There is a dare factor, McLagan recognises, in the growing interest in the lesser cuts. But those who eat offal and other confronting bits of animals for the thrill of the weird are only part of the picture. For people such as McLagan, it’s about respecting the animal, not wasting tasty and useful food and doing things the way her parents did.

”As a child, I ate a lot of odd bits,” she writes in her book. ”My mother made wonderful soups from bones and hocks, unctuous oxtail stew and home-made meat pies filled with a palatable mixture of odd bits. I sucked the marrow from bones and ate ox tongue set in wobbly jelly every Christmas.”

It wasn’t all good. Tripe (stomach) in white sauce and crumbed lamb’s brains she remembers with anything but fondness. Sunday-night brains were no better and McLagan says her habit was to eat the breadcrumb coating, then slip the brains into her dressing gown pocket to throw out later.

She now counts the throwaway cuts among her favourites. Her tripe epiphany was in France, at the home of a child she tutored, when she ate tripe before knowing what it was. It was the beginning of a journey that took her into head cheese, intestines, pig’s feet and blood sauce, all the way to brains – which she didn’t try until much later, thanks to a chef friend in Toronto (where she lives with her husband).

”It’s a moral issue when it comes down to it,” McLagan says over the telephone, quoting London’s Fergus Henderson as saying, ”If you knock an animal on the head, it’s only polite to eat all of it.”

”We can raise an animal well and slaughter it quickly but the most respect we can show is to use all of it and not waste any of it,” she says. ”If we start throwing bits away … that’s kind of immoral.”

People have short memories, she says, pointing out that British menus, as well as those in the US, were full of offal a few decades ago. Hugely influential US cookbook The Joy of Cooking has a recipe from the 1980s for cockscombs.

Cockscombs? Why would we eat cockscombs? Their shape makes them a fabulous garnish, McLagan says, and they are very gelatinous. They’re fiddly. You need to soak them in salted water for a few hours to remove any blood, then blanch, then while they’re still hot, rub off the membrane that covers them, using a towel and coarse salt to help. Then you cook them slowly over a few hours and they take on the flavour of their cooking liquid. It doesn’t need to be savoury. McLagan recalls eating cockscombs as part of dessert in Montreal, where they had been simmered in the juice of blood orange. It tasted, she says, like an orange jelly bean.

Take chicken’s feet, for which McLagan would have you use scissors to cut off their nails, then ”if there are any hard or rough pieces of scaly outer skin, hold them over a gas flame or use a propane torch to blister and loosen the pieces and then rub them off with a towel”.

Pig’s ears also require patient work. First, you need to singe or shave off any hair and clean them thoroughly inside, then you need to salt them for two days before poaching them for a couple of hours in a court bouillon. You then flatten them by weighing them down in the fridge overnight. Finally, you’re ready to roast or grill them, or just use as is, sliced in a salad. Ears make up for a lack of meat with crisp or chewy skin (depending how you cook them), she says, and with crunchy cartilage.

To McLagan, heart, liver, spleen, kidneys, stomach, intestines and caul fat are no less than an ”exotic treasure trove” but she acknowledges it’s easy to lose sight of the fact she’s dealing with what to many people are the most difficult parts of the animal to eat. ”The truth is that some parts, while tasty, have very challenging textures,” she says.

But she puts much of our distaste at odd bits down to cultural differences. What’s unusual in one culture is everyday in another.

She’s not big on insects, she says, but recognises that oysters are eaten alive, as are witchetty grubs.

”Some things are much more challenging than others to eat just because you’re unfamiliar with them,” she says.

McLagan notes that pork belly, not in the least fashionable only a few years ago, is now the darling of the restaurant menu and working its way into home kitchens. Asked what might appear next on the popular plate, she nominates blood, which is appearing on menus in North America in the form of blood sausage. Australian diners will also be finding it on menus, even in desserts, for which McLagan offers a couple of recipes.

McLagan traces the disappearance of odd bits to the rise of the supermarket and the switch, as she puts it, to ”people going to buy their meat at the same place they buy their toilet paper”.

Odd Bits by Jennifer McLagan (published by Arum, distributed by New South Books), $40.

This story was found at:


The benefits of fasting during Lent

With last Wednesday being Ash Wednesday for Catholics, the start of the Lenten season has begun. Read this article to appreciate the scientific take of Lent and know even beyond a religious observance it is beneficial to our lives.


Jeffrey Kluger

Lent and the Science of Self-Denial

The hidden health benefits of religious rituals that require willpower
By JEFFREY KLUGER | @jeffreykluger | February 23, 2012
Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Marked with a cross of black ash on the forehead, Catholics pray during an Ash Wednesday Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle on Feb. 22 in Washington.

Kluger’s latest book is The Sibling Effect: What the Bonds Among Brothers and Sisters Reveal About Us.

When it comes to good-time holidays, Lent does not rank very high. Nor do Ramadan or Yom Kippur, of course, and no wonder. They are all about saying no to something (or many things) you love. Where’s the egg nog and holiday joy in all that? But we observe these less-than-festive celebrations all the same — and we have good reason to do so. There are hidden benefits to so much ritualized self-denial.

One of the open secrets of all religions is that even if you don’t care for the priestly raiment in which their traditions come draped, some of them can be very healthy all the same. And those, like Lent, whose secular message is nothing more complicated than practicing self-control, can be among the most salutary of all — something science is beginning to prove.

(PHOTOS: Mardi Gras Mayhem)

Willpower is a quality that can be in short supply in all of us but it’s one that, as we report in this week’s TIME, is increasingly seen as cultivatable. Indeed, the best way to think of willpower is not as some shapeless behavioral trait but as a sort of psychic muscle, one that can atrophy or grow stronger depending on how it’s used. What’s more, neurologists and behavioral psychologists generally think of willpower as what’s known as “domain general,” which means that the more you practice it to control one behavior — say, overeating — the more it starts to apply itself to other parts of your life like exercising more or drinking less.

Roy Baumeister, a psychologist at Florida State University and author of the straightforwardly titled book Willpower, has conducted experiments in which subjects were given uncomfortable tasks to perform in a lab, such as holding their hand in ice water or squeezing an exercise grip. They were then sent home and given a random rule to observe for two weeks — not swearing, say, or using the non-dominant hand for certain things like opening doors. After that period was over, they returned to the lab. Those subjects who had been assigned a rule and had followed it did better on their ice water or hand grip tasks when they tried them again than a control group that had been given no such homework. The two weeks of practicing resolve seemed to have generalized itself to other situations.

“An Australian group did something similar,” says Baumeister. “They had people work on a problem in their lives — like managing money — for two weeks. Then they came back and had to focus on a computer task that involved catching three moving triangles while a distracting comedy video played. Doing the work at home seemed to improve their motivation in the lab.”

(MORE: The Science of Favoritism: Why Mom Likes You Best)

The precise mechanism at work here is not clear. Changes in behavior are often reflected in — or enabled by — changes in the brain, but studies with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) have not yet shown any physical differences in the brains of people who practice lab-assigned discipline tasks. Still, other kinds of focus and training do change the brain.

“Both exercise and meditation lead to greater neuron density in the prefrontal cortex,” says Kelly McGonigal, a psychologist at Stanford University and author of the new book The Willpower Instinct. It’s in that region that executive skills such as impulse control and judgment live — making it a very good place to be adding neuronal connections. Even if the short-term exercises Baumeister assigns don’t have the same demonstrable effect, McGonigal has little doubt that they still “train up the skill set involved in self-awareness and practicing habits consistent with your goals.”

That sense of conscious adherence and regular practice is precisely the reason religious observances that prescribe strict rituals of self-denial can be so powerful. Every time an observer of Lent craves — and resists the lure of — a forbidden indulgence is a tiny reminder of a commitment made. The same is true for Muslims who tolerate their Ramadan hunger until the sun goes down. And while the 24 hours of Yom Kippur do not provide the same weeks-long training the other holidays do, the rules are stricter — with no food, no water, no bathing or washing, from sundown to sundown. Most of the day is spent in synagogue as well, which can be a trial of its own for people growing woozy with hunger.

(MORE: The Secrets of Self-Control)

The expressed liturgical purpose of all of these holidays is to teach piety, humility and submission and to atone for wrongs. But present-day spiritual leaders also speak of just the kind of willpower calisthenics the scientists do, though they call it “transfer training.” Prohibitions against shellfish and pork in Jewish homes may have begun long ago with health concerns over the cleanliness of both foods, but modern inspections have effectively eliminated that worry. Still when you can pass up bacon no matter how good it smells or say no to a just-boiled lobster with a cup of drawn butter, that same facility with discipline can be applied to other areas of your life.

Distilling religious ritual down to scientific principle can be tricky — not just because it diminishes the more transcendent experiences of believers but because it can seem to  justify a sort of cynical dismissiveness in non-believers. But — culture-war absolutism not withstanding — both truths can exist simultaneously. A vigorous workout at your gym may make you feel great — but so can a joyous round of gospel singing, clapping and foot-stomping. Are rising endorphins and lower cortisol levels involved in both? Probably. But is that all that’s going on? Not to the believers it isn’t.

The best thing about science is that hard, empirical answers are always there if you look hard enough. The best thing about religion is that the very absence of that certainty is what requires — and gives rise to — deep feelings of faith. Lent — and Ramadan and Yom Kippur — teach both.

Read more:

Wind power here we come

Wind power is another renewable energy that can be easily harnessed in the Philippines. Here are two which can be used for small power needs.

From CleanTechies Blog

Two Small Wind Turbines Get Certified

Posted: 23 Feb 2012 04:00 AM PST

The Small Wind Certification Council (SWCC) has issued its first two full certifications and consumer labels to the Bergey Windpower Excel 10 and the Southwest Windpower Skystream 3.7.

The two small wind turbines were tested by engineers at West Texas A&M University’s Alternative Energy Institute and the U.S. Department of Agriculture facility in Bushland. They are the first units to get approval from the Small Wind Certification Council.

The consumer labels show the Rated Annual Energy, the Rated Sound Level and Rated Power. SWCC has also published official certificates and a Summary Reports for the Excel 10 and Skystream 3.7. The reports contain each turbine’s respective tabulated power curve and acoustic data, tower design requirements, and confirms that each meets all of the AWEA Standard’s requirements on durability, mechanical strength, safety and function.

SWCC also awarded Conditional Temporary Certification to the Xzeres-442SR, which joins the Evance R9000, and the Evoco 10 kW in receiving the certification. Additional requirements of the AWEA Standard are required by SWCC before it releases consumer labels for conditionally certified turbine models. Applicants must submit a full application package, including acoustics data reanalysis.

SWCC is an independent nonprofit based in New York that issues certificates and consumer labels that list estimated annual energy production, sound level and rated power output when wind speed is 24.6 mph, the standard established by the American Wind Energy Association.

“The full certification of two turbine models is a major leap forward in establishing consistent consumer ratings and aiding incentive programs with determining eligibility,” said SWCC Executive Director Larry Sherwood. “Our labels allow easier comparison shopping and will help small wind turbines gain mainstream acceptance.”

Small wind turbines are becoming more popular and manufacturers are trying to boost their market presence by submitting their products to evaluation processes. In 2009, nearly 10,000 units were sold in the U.S. Although there are several obstacles to wider adoption of small wind turbines, such as zoning ordinances and public acceptance, there are incentives and rebates for small wind turbine owners, like the ones listed by the Texas State Energy Conservation Office.

Article by Antonio Pasolini, a Brazilian writer and video art curator based in London, UK. He holds a BA in journalism and an MA in film and television.

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