Sunday, December 31, 2006

US Military Considers Recruiting Foreigners

By Bryan Bender - The Boston Globe
Expedited citizenship would be an incentive.

Washington - The armed forces, already struggling to meet recruiting goals, are considering expanding the number of noncitizens in the ranks - including disputed proposals to open recruiting stations overseas and putting more immigrants on a faster track to US citizenship if they volunteer - according to Pentagon officials.

Foreign citizens serving in the US military is a highly charged issue, which could expose the Pentagon to criticism that it is essentially using mercenaries to defend the country. Other analysts voice concern that a large contingent of noncitizens under arms could jeopardize national security or reflect badly on Americans' willingness to serve in uniform.

The idea of signing up foreigners who are seeking US citizenship is gaining traction as a way to address a critical need for the Pentagon, while fully absorbing some of the roughly one million immigrants that enter the United States legally each year.

The proposal to induct more noncitizens, which is still largely on the drawing board, has to clear a number of hurdles. So far, the Pentagon has been quiet about specifics - including who would be eligible to join, where the recruiting stations would be, and what the minimum standards might involve, including English proficiency. In the meantime, the Pentagon and immigration authorities have expanded a program that accelerates citizenship for legal residents who volunteer for the military.

And since Sept. 11, 2001, the number of immigrants in uniform who have become US citizens has increased from 750 in 2001 to almost 4,600 last year, according to military statistics.

With severe manpower strains because of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan - and a mandate to expand the overall size of the military - the Pentagon is under pressure to consider a variety of proposals involving foreign recruits, according to a military affairs analyst.

"It works as a military idea and it works in the context of American immigration," said Thomas Donnelly , a military scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute in Washington and a leading proponent of recruiting more foreigners to serve in the military.

As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan grind on, the Pentagon has warned Congress and the White House that the military is stretched "to the breaking point."

Both President Bush and Robert M. Gates, his new defense secretary, have acknowledged that the total size of the military must be expanded to help alleviate the strain on ground troops, many of whom have been deployed repeatedly in combat theaters.

Bush said last week that he has ordered Gates to come up with a plan for the first significant increase in ground forces since the end of the Cold War. Democrats who are preparing to take control of Congress, meanwhile, promise to make increasing the size of the military one of their top legislative priorities in 2007.

"With today's demands placing such a high strain on our service members, it becomes more crucial than ever that we work to alleviate their burden," said Representative Ike Skelton , a Missouri Democrat who is set to chair the House Armed Services Committee, and who has been calling for a larger Army for more than a decade.

But it would take years and billions of dollars to recruit, train, and equip the 30,000 troops and 5,000 Marines the Pentagon says it needs. And military recruiters, fighting the perception that signing up means a ticket to Baghdad, have had to rely on financial incentives and lower standards to meet their quotas.

That has led Pentagon officials to consider casting a wider net for noncitizens who are already here, said Lieutenant Colonel Bryan Hilferty , an Army spokesman.

Already, the Army and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement division of the Department of Homeland Security have "made it easier for green-card holders who do enlist to get their citizenship," Hilferty said.

Other Army officials, who asked not to be identified, said personnel officials are working with Congress and other parts of the government to test the feasibility of going beyond US borders to recruit soldiers and Marines.

Currently, Pentagon policy stipulates that only immigrants legally residing in the United States are eligible to enlist. There are currently about 30,000 noncitizens who serve in the US armed forces, making up about 2 percent of the active-duty force, according to statistics from the military and the Council on Foreign Relations. About 100 noncitizens have died in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A recent change in US law, however, gave the Pentagon authority to bring immigrants to the United States if it determines it is vital to national security. So far, the Pentagon has not taken advantage of it, but the calls are growing to take use the new authority.

Indeed, some top military thinkers believe the United States should go as far as targeting foreigners in their native countries.

"It's a little dramatic," said Michael O'Hanlon , a military specialist at the nonpartisan Brookings Institution and another supporter of the proposal. "But if you don't get some new idea how to do this, we will not be able to achieve an increase" in the size of the armed forces.

"We have already done the standard things to recruit new soldiers, including using more recruiters and new advertising campaigns," O'Hanlon added.

O'Hanlon and others noted that the country has relied before on sizable numbers of noncitizens to serve in the military - in the Revolutionary War, for example, German and French soldiers served alongside the colonists, and locals were recruited into US ranks to fight insurgents in the Philippines.

Other nations have recruited foreign citizens: In France, the famed Foreign Legion relies on about 8,000 noncitizens; Nepalese soldiers called Gurkhas have fought and died with British Army forces for two centuries; and the Swiss Guard, which protects the Vatican, consists of troops who hail from many nations.

"It is not without historical precedent," said Donnelly, author of a recent book titled "The Army We Need," which advocates for a larger military.

Still, to some military officials and civil rights groups, relying on large number of foreigners to serve in the military is offensive.

The Hispanic rights advocacy group National Council of La Raza has said the plan sends the wrong message that Americans themselves are not willing to sacrifice to defend their country. Officials have also raised concerns that immigrants would be disproportionately sent to the front lines as "cannon fodder" in any conflict.

Some within the Army privately express concern that a big push to recruit noncitizens would smack of "the decline of the American empire," as one Army official who asked not to be identified put it.

Officially, the military remains confident that it can meet recruiting goals - no matter how large the military is increased - without having to rely on foreigners.

"The Army can grow to whatever size the nation wants us to grow to," Hilferty said. "National defense is a national challenge, not the Army's challenge."

He pointed out that just 15 years ago, during the Gulf War, the Army had a total of about 730,000 active-duty soldiers, amounting to about one American in 350 who were serving in the active-duty Army.

"Today, with 300 million Americans and about 500,000 active-duty soldiers, only about one American in 600 is an active-duty soldier," he said. "America did then, and we do now, have an all-volunteer force, and I see no reason why America couldn't increase the number of Americans serving."

But Max Boot, a national security specialist at the Council on Foreign Relations, said that the number of noncitizens the armed forces have now is relatively small by historical standards.

"In the 19th century, when the foreign-born population of the United States was much higher, so was the percentage of foreigners serving in the military," Boot wrote in 2005.

"During the Civil War, at least 20 percent of Union soldiers were immigrants, and many of them had just stepped off the boat before donning a blue uniform. There were even entire units, like the 15th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry [the Scandinavian Regiment] and General Louis Blenker's German Division, where English was hardly spoken."

"The military would do well today to open its ranks not only to legal immigrants but also to illegal ones and, as important, to untold numbers of young men and women who are not here now but would like to come," Boot added.

"No doubt many would be willing to serve for some set period, in return for one of the world's most precious commodities - US citizenship. Some might deride those who sign up as mercenaries, but these troops would have significantly different motives than the usual soldier of fortune."

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Comelec should lease, not buy, poll computers

POSTSCRIPT By Federico D. Pascual Jr.
The Philippine Star

COMPUTERIZE?: They are still quarreling over that eternal plan of "computerizing" elections. Some senators, election officials and a motley group are locked in endless debate over the wisdom and feasibility of "automating" the process.

One group says we should rush the proposed automation – estimated to cost at least a billion pesos for the first stage – while another says that it is too late for the May 2007 elections.

Pero teka muna, will there be elections next year? With Malacañang setting aside P4 billion just to import rice next year, you can bet there will be elections as scheduled.

I write "computerizing" and "automating" in quotation marks, because I do not know exactly what their proponents and the kibitzers have in mind.

I don’t know if one term refers to computerizing the collection of the commission from the purchase of equipment and supplies, or if the other term refers to automating the cheating in the casting, counting and canvassing of the votes. * * *
FAST & FRAUD-FREE: But as this is still the Yule season, let us grant good faith and assume that they mean using computers and such electronic gear in minimizing human intervention, usually of the criminal kind, in elections.

The honorable objective, we shall grant, is to speed up the electoral process and reduce to near-zero the chronic cheating at the polls.

With that assumption, we can continue talking and dreaming of finally automating Philippine elections. * * *
WHY NOT LEASE?: Without meaning to throw cold water on the merchants of computerization, let me say right off that the Commission on Elections should NOT BUY computerized or automated equipment for conducting elections.

Instead, the Comelec should be mandated by law to just lease or rent equipment.

This is not because of the sad experience we have had with the Comelec buying P1.2-billion worth of automated counting machines in a transaction that was found to be legally flawed and therefore void from the beginning.

My suggestion of leasing instead of buying equipment stems mainly from practical considerations. * * *
OBSOLESCENCE: First point is that computers and such electronic machines are rendered obsolete in comparatively short time. That is intentional.

We hold elections every three years. The computers or voting/counting machines for 2007 (if we do buy and use them) would be too old by the time the next elections would come around three years later.

During the three-year interval, the machines would just lie idle in warehouses that require a certain ambient temperature and humidity, plus a dust-free atmosphere, that make storage alone very costly.

By the time they are taken out, dusted off, retested, and shipped to various points in the archipelago for the next elections, they may not be in top condition to ensure error-free operation in inhospitable field conditions.

On the other hand, leasing ensures that the equipment in use is always updated, the latest models, and covered by new warranties. * * *
NEWEST MODEL: So why buy massive quantities of equipment lock, stock and barrel and get stuck with them?

It is better to keep the suppliers upgrading their hardware and software in-between elections – and to offer the new models for lease when the next election is scheduled.

That way, the Comelec would always be using the upgraded or completely redesigned versions of election equipment. Electronic cheaters would be panting for breath trying to catch up.

There would be constructive competition among suppliers offering for lease their newest equipment. Foreign suppliers of election machines would find the Philippines more interesting.

Computers and their peripherals are notorious for their fast rate of obsolescence. Even for home use, this is one point to consider when buying computers and related equipment.

By leasing, the government will not have the problem of warehousing idle equipment that is near-obsolete by the time it is unpacked for reuse. * * *
COST FACTORS: All cost factors considered, I would not be surprised if leasing comes out cheaper in the long run than outright purchase of computerized election hardware and software.

Even from the point of view of the crooks or "commissioners" in government, leasing may prove to be more lucrative since suppliers would continue to deal as they anticipate the next round of transaction.

If a supplier sells the Comelec one entire set of voting machines one time, that’s it for many years. The machines are supposed to be good for more than one election.

After a purchase, crooks could make more money only if they made repeat or additional orders for more of the same machines for expanded election coverage or to replace broken units. This is aside from commissions from additional supplies. * * *
DOWNSIDE: One downside of leasing is the possible need for retraining election personnel and educating voters every time we change equipment.

But the specifications could be so laid out that minimal transition training would be needed for the new models. The law, or the Comelec terms of reference, could preclude a total and abrupt change of technology when leasing new equipment.

As for education expenses, for simplicity, the method and the cost of training could be built into the leasing contract.

Worse scenario: Failing to find upgraded equipment for the next round of elections, the Comelec could opt to lease the same machines used in the previous election, but with new warranties. This would reduce the training and education requirement.

RP’s Silicon Valley in the works

Quezon City Mayor Feliciano Belmonte Jr. has approved an ordinance which will pave the way for the rise of the Philippines’ version of the famous Silicon Valley in the United States that will be replicated beside the University of the Philippines in Diliman.

Council Majority leader Ariel Inton said Belmonte signed last Dec. 21 an ordinance adjusting the zoning classification of a portion of UP to pave the way for the project, to be known as UP North Science and Technology Park.

The UP North and S&T Park is envisioned to be developed into an environment conducive entrepreneurial ventures of the high technology kind such as those engage in telecommunications, telematics, information technology and biotechnology.

The contract for the development of a new science and technology park at a UP-owned property along Commonwealth Avenue in Diliman has been formally signed by UP and its partner, Ayala Land, Inc., for the development of the project which is expected to further reinforce the status of the university as a premier educational institution.

Target companies to locate in the park include firms in the high-technology fields like telecommunications, telematics and biotechnology and in the area of high value business process outsourcing such as accounting, animation, software development, design and engineering services.

Belmonte is optimistic that the project would further strengthen the thrust of the city government toward becoming the country’s information and communication technology capital.

To date, Quezon City enjoy the biggest concentration of ICT businesses and special economic zones in the country being home to more than 60 business process outsourcing companies, including Convergys, eTelecare International, Teletech, Sykes Philippines, Accenture and Globalstride, Sitel Corp., Call Asia, Epixtar International, among others.

"The project promises to be a magnet for fast-evolving high technology companies that would prove essential for the creation of a strong business and employment center in QC enough to provide more employment opportunities for its residents," Belmonte said.

Thirty-seven hectares of UP’s Commonwealth property have been identified as the initial area for the project.

"This is the best possible use for our idle assets. It will expand out academic prerogatives, and help us to fulfill our mandate of being truly a national university, serving the interests of the nation," said UP president Emerlinda Roman during a recent ceremonial contract signing held at the UP Executive House.

The idea of a technology park attached to a university is not new. World-class universities have been setting up science & technology parks adjacent to their campuses as a venue for industry and academe collaboration.

Aside from Stanford University’s Silicon Valley in Palo Alto, California, there are S&T parks in Bangalore and Hyderabad attached to the Indian Institute of Science and the International Indian Institute of Information Technology, respectively; the Tsukuba Science City at the University of Tsukuba in Japan; the Haidan Science Park at the University of Beijing in China and MIT’s Route 128 in Massachusetts. — Perseus Echeminada The Philippine Star

Mga bawal na paputok tinukoy ng PNP

Tinukoy kahapon ng Philippine National Police (PNP) ang mga ipinagbabawal na paputok na nakamamatay at nakapipinsala ng mga ari-arian.

Ito’y matapos na maalarma ang PNP sa report ng Department of Health (DOH) na umaabot na sa 126 ang naging biktima ng paputok na halos dumoble kumpara noong 2005 na aabot lamang sa 64 biktima.

Sa 126 biktima, isa na ang namatay dahil sa watusi at 8 naman ang may tama ng ligaw na bala habang ang iba ay sanhi ng firecrackers at pyrothecnics.

Kabilang sa mga ipinagbabawal na paputok ang pla-pla, trianggulo, atomic triangle, judas belt, super lolo, bawang, baby rocket, kwitis, trompillo at mga paputok na sobra sa 2 gramo ang lamang powder dahil malakas at lubhang mapaminsala.

Ipinaliwanag naman ni PNP-FED Director Chief Supt. Florecio Caccam na mahina man o malakas ang paputok kung hindi tama ang paghawak ay mapanganib.

At para maiwasan ang aksidente ay makabubuting gumamit na lamang ng torotot sa Bagong Taon. (Joy Cantos - Ang Pilipino STAR Ngayon )

‘Boga’ killing ’cracker industry

CAMP OLIVAS, Pampanga — It isn’t just imported firecrackers that are easing out locally made fireworks from the market. An improvised cannon made from PVC pipes and fueled by denatured alcohol is coming in with a bang.

Local fireworks manufacturers in Bulacan are suffering from low sales due to the entry of the latest noisemaker, the locally made boga, an improvised pipe cannon.

The boga is raking in more cash than even smuggled firecrackers, just like the piccolo, the sales of which are also killing the local fireworks industry.

An official of the Philippine Pyrotechnics Manufacturers and Dealers Association Inc. (PPMDAI) said the new craze is gobbling up sales because of its tremendous popularity.

"When I saw it last year, I knew that this PVC-pipe cannon would be a smash hit this year and would give local manufacturers a run for their money," an industry source said.

Since the materials needed to mass-produce the boga are available locally, business-minded individuals suddenly hit a "gold-mine" because the locally made PVC-pipe cannon sells for P300 to P500 and is reusable.

The source said the entry of the boga into the market this Yuletide season has also perked up the sales of denatured alcohol — the main chemical needed to produce the "explosive bang" — and the igniters used for gas stoves, which is what triggers the explosion generated by the cannon.

However, local fireworks makers still believe that the sale of locally-made firecrackers will pick up before New Year’s Eve.
By Ric Sapnu - The Philippine Star

Big quake jams Internet

HONG KONG - A strong earthquake in Taiwan has damaged several undersea cables in the region, jamming up the Internet and telecoms systems across much of East Asia, regional operators said yesterday.

The disruption was widespread, hitting services in Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong, with knock-on effects elsewhere, they said.

“Due to the earthquake that hit Taiwan (late Tuesday), several undersea data cables were damaged,” said a spokesman for PCCW, Hong Kong’s biggest telecoms company.

“Data traffic to Taiwan, Korea, Japan and the United States is affected,” he said, adding that the company was diverting data and monitoring repairs.

The spokesman said data capacity has been reduced to 50 percent and that there had been an upsurge in attempts to gain access to the Internet as people were trying to get information about the quake.

He cautioned that some Internet users in the region could experience congestion over the next several days.

Major telecom operators in Japan said damaged cables had jammed up phone lines and slowed down the Internet there.

NTT Communications, the internet and long-distance call business of Japan’s largest telecom firm Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp., said some 1,400 toll-free phone lines as well as 84 international lines used internally by companies were affected.

A major 7.1-magnitude earthquake rocked Taiwan on Tuesday, leaving two people dead and at least 42 injured. AFP

‘More harm than good in hi-tech polls’

By Rio N. Araja - Manila Standard Today

AN ELECTION lawyer yesterday urged the House of Representatives to junk a bill seeking to automate the forthcoming elections, saying the measure would do more harm than good to the Commission on Elections.

Romulo Macalintal also appealed to Senator Richard Gordon to restrain from pushing President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo into signing the law. “Unless the provision calling for a partial poll automation in 2007 is recalled or scrapped by Congress, Senator Richard Gordon should not insist that the President sign into law the alleged Congress-approved legislation seeking to automate our country’s election system.”

Earlier, Macalintal, Pete Quirino Quadra and Sixto Brilantes backed the Comelec stand for a postponement of the poll automation in 12 pilot areas in the May 2007 elections due to lack of time.

Macalintal said Gordon must stop accusing the President of being “insincere” if she would not sign the proposed bill.

“On the contrary, the President would do a great service to the nation and to our political system if she does not sign the said proposed legislation unless the provision calling for a partial poll automation is set aside or recalled since it is very impractical to implement the same in 2007”, he said.

Even if the President signs the proposed legislation on Jan. 1, it could only be effective after 15 days from its publication as provided in its effectivity clause.

“If it is published on Jan. 2, then it becomes effective Jan. 17. But while it is already effective, it cannot be implemented without Comelec’s implementing rules and regulations. And if Comelec finished its IRRs say on Jan. 20, the same has to be published in two newspapers of general circulation to take effect only after seven days from such publication, or on Jan. 27. This would greatly affect, if not cause confusion, the filing of certificates of candidacy [COCs] for senators and local elective officials.”

He said the deadline for filing the certificates of candidacy for senators and the party-lists is on Feb. 12, those seeking congressional and local seats must file on March 29.

He said with very little time, Comelec has yet to amend its rules on the filing of the certificates of candidacy considering that the rules were adopted for manual election only.

For purposes of automated election, the certificates of candidacy must be filed earlier since under the proposed legislation, the positions and full names and nicknames of the candidates shall be printed on the ballots, according to Macalintal.

He said the positions are printed without the names of the candidates on the ballots for the manual elections.

“Thus, even on the issue of mere filing of the COCs for senator and affected local elective officials, Comelec would surely run out of time to amend its rules on the filing of COCs and advise political parties and candidates of any change of deadline in filing the same,” he raised.

He also said several provisions of the proposed automated election law are impractical.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Ship Builder’s Song

Ship Builder’s Song (Yellow Submarine)

In a place, called Subic Bay
Where ship builders, are the best!
A company, that builds big ships
Made the welders, busy as bees
Its called Hanjin, and its bigtime
It made our future, sunny and bright

Chorus (2X)
We all work here
To build the biggest ships - 3x

Work start early, the day is long
Metals are heavy, welders a plenty
We can do the toughest jobs
Safety and quality, are first in our minds


To the world, we want to say . . .
The world’s best welders,
Are here to stay!

YELL: O-L-O-N-G-A-P-O Olongapo (2x)
Olongapo City . . . Mabuhay

RP seeks $1-B loan for shipping sector

By Ma. Elisa P. Osorio
The Philippine Star

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) will ask for an additional $1 billion funding from the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) for the modernization of the domestic shipping industry, a top economic official said.

"We are trying to see how committed JBIC is," Socioeconomic Planning Secretary and NEDA director general Romulo Neri said yesterday in an interview.

He explained that the proposed funding is over and above the 27th yen loan package extended by JBIC to the Philippines.

The country has the potential to become a maritime power in the Southern Asian region provided government going mileage in its efforts to modernize the industry.

Neri said the countrycould be a major player in the industry due to the presence of big shipyards in Cebu and Subic.

The NEDA head had proposed jumpstarting the industry by buying ships in Japan and then leasing them to local players.

The Japanese government is supposed to lend a separate $1-billion package to the Philippines for the modernization of its maritime industry. However, the Japanese benefactors were reportedly displeased with the way the initial loan tranche for the improvement of the nautical highway were being disbursed.

Neri said the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) was disappointed with the way the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) handled the initial P10-billion loan released in 1999.

"The loans are not moving," Neri said referring to the money loaned through the Domestic Shipping Modernization Program I that DBP handled.

JICA said the term loan under DBP required an 80-percent loan value and 50-percent chattel mortgage collateral value of the vessel which became a big burden for private shipping companies to avail.

"The program was unable to achieve its objectives," JICA said.

To address this problem, JICA had proposed that the local government create the National Maritime Leasing Corp. (NMLC). Now, instead of DBP handling the shipping modernization program, the NMLC will be in charge of financing acquisition of modern vessels to be leased to qualified operators under the Finance Lease Program.

Automated poll system offered for free in ’07 polls

The Philippine Star

The automated election system "Botong Pinoy," which was developed by a Filipino company, can be used for free by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in the 2007 elections.

Botong Pinoy is one of five election systems that the government is evaluating for piloting in next year’s elections.

Probably the only election system provider supplying a complete end-to-end solution, from registration, voting, counting to transmission, tabulation, and even recounting, Mega Data said Botong Pinoy does not require a unique computer system that can only be used for elections.

Instead, it uses standard personal computers such as those usually found in schools or businesses and government offices.

Every three years, the Comelec will only need to borrow the standard computers installed in schools, where the elections are held anyway, for the one or two days needed to conduct the local or national elections, Mega Data said.

It said the Department of Education can install computers in all schools to help educate students, and the country can have fully computerized elections for free, since Botong Pinoy is being made available to the Comelec at no charge in the 2007 and 2010 elections.

The system offers no storage problems after the elections, no transportation problems and the government gets full use of its investment in computers for schools, it added.

Asked why Mega Data was allowing use of Botong Pinoy for free, Rafael Garcia IV, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Mega Data Corp., said, "We are doing it because we love the Philippines. Is there anything wrong with that?"

Mega Data is the company behind the five-minute clearance renewal system of the National Bureau of Investigation since 1977, and the two-minute driver’s license renewal system of the Land Transportation Office since 1984.

Both systems have brought these two important basic services of the government directly to the people with installations nationwide.

BCDA urged to restore investor confidence

The Philippine Star

The private sector developer of the Poro Point seaport and bulk terminal in San Fernando, La Union has urged the Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA) to "take active steps to restore lost investor confidence in the government and the BCDA" in the aftermath of the violent failed takeover of the facility in August this year.

The Poro Point Industrial Corp. (PPIC) expressed concern that BCDA officials "could be under the illusion that the violence which marred the failed takeover bid did not dent investor confidence in the government".

It will be recalled that armed groups assaulted the Poro Point seaport last Aug. 5 in a bid to remove the PPIC from the management of the facility. According to BCDA president Narciso Abaya, he ordered the takeover after Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) officials issued a cease-and-desist order (CDO) against PPIC.

Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) Director Joel Salvador, however, denied authorizing Abaya to enforce the DENR CDO. "It is absolutely without our approval and consent," Salvador said in a press statement.

Various foreign chambers of commerce decried Abaya’s move against the Poro Point developer. Robert Sears of the American Chamber of Commerce described the incident as a "flip flop on policy issues." Henry Schumacher of the European Chamber of Commerce said "conflict like this could be an indication that the government does not have the ability to honor its contract."

Michael Wooton, chairman of the British Chamber of Commerce Philippines said the Poro Point incident "could be another case of PIATCO which is not good for foreign investors".

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Family reunites and finds closure

By Alison Damast
Staff Writer Southern Connecticut Newspapers
"I am at peace because I know where he is, even if he is at the bottom of the Subic Bay in the Philippines,"

Maj. Karol Anthony Bauer sent a letter to his wife's sister in Darien in June 1941, asking her to buy a bouquet of roses with the $10 he enclosed for his wife, Marjorie, who had just sailed for the United States from the Philippines.

"Please buy Marjorie some roses for me because it will be our anniversary soon and please take Nancy off Marjorie's hands for a few days because I know what a handful she is," he wrote.

It was one of the last correspondences Marjorie and Nancy, then 5, received from Bauer, who was serving with the 45th Infantry Regiment, the Philippine Scouts.

Bauer grew up on a dairy farm in Hammondsport, N.Y, and was the second-oldest of nine children.

He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., in 1936, where he met his wife, Marjorie, at a school dance.

"He loved to dance, and he had a great sense of humor," said his daughter, Nancy Earnest, now 68. "He carried me around and spoiled me rotten."

Karol and Marjorie married in June 1937 and had Nancy soon afterward.

The family followed Bauer from his first permanent assignment with the 26th Infantry Regiment in Plattsburgh, N.Y., to the Philippines, where he was assigned to the 45th Infantry Philippine Scouts.

He was an eager officer described as a motivated "doughboy" by his fellow West Point graduates.

After the Battle of Bataan ended in the Philippines in April 1942, Bauer and the rest of his outfit were taken prisoner by the Japanese.

They were part of a group of 16,000 Americans and 54,000 Filipinos who became POWs and participated in the Bataan Death March, a brutal event in which the starving men marched north up a highway to a prison camp in the sweltering heat.

The U.S. prisoners, including Bauer, were moved to a prison camp near a city called Cabanatuan.

It's a part of history many people are unfamiliar with, said Chris Schaefer, a spokesman for the Philippine Scouts Heritage Society, a group that honors the men who served in the Philippines during World War II.

"It is an era of history that doesn't get as much attention as it probably deserves," Schaefer said. "People are very aware of Pearl Harbor for the most part but most people are not aware that the U.S. was attacked in the Philippines on the same day."

Bauer is described in a passage of the 1984 book "Some Survived" by Manny Lawton, an U.S. Army captain who wrote an eyewitness account of the death march.

Lawton encountered him in Cabanatuan and the men exchanged greetings and talked about the toll the war had taken on them.

"Bauer didn't much resemble the short wiry, neat officer with crew-cut black hair I remembered," Lawton wrote in the book. "Before me now stood a weak gaunt ghost of the West Pointer of only a few months earlier. His cheeks were sunken and his eyes deep set, but his warm smile was still with him."

Bauer, then 31, was one of 1,619 POWs transferred from the camps to a Japanese prison ship, the Oryoku Maru, on Dec. 13, 1944.

The men were subjected to brutal conditions on the ship and were crowded together, deprived of food and beaten by the Japanese.

Roll call was taken each day on the ship and Bauer was not listed as present on Dec. 15, right before the ship sank.

The ship was not marked with Red Cross emblems, and U.S. dive-bombers did not realize the vessel held 1,619 troops.

Back home, Bauer's wife and family received word he died as a POW in the Philippines. A member of the Army came to the family farm and delivered a flag to his mother, Caroline, along with the news her son had died.

"She went into such deep grieving over him that she would not say anything about him after that," said Antoinette McIntyre of Darien, formerly Antoinette Bauer, Karol's youngest sister and the only one of the eight Bauer siblings still alive.

The news also reached Marjorie, living in New York City with her daughter at the time.

"They were very much in love," Nancy Earnest said. "She was devastated by his death. As she grew older, it became harder and harder for her to talk about."

McIntyre, 80, a Darien resident, only recently learned how her brother died.

She knew he was a POW on a prisoner ship during World War II, but was unaware until several years ago he had been on the Oryoku Maru, she said.

Her son, Creighton Demarest, researched his uncle's history and discovered he had been on that vessel, known by historians as a Japanese "hell ship."

"I am at peace because I know where he is, even if he is at the bottom of the Subic Bay in the Philippines," McIntyre said. "Somehow, knowing where he had perished made me feel a little better. It put a closure to it for me at that point."

Friday, December 08, 2006

Senate passes on final reading P1.126-trillion budget for 2007

The Senate passed on third and final reading last night the P1.126 trillion budget for next year.

With a vote of 16-0 with no abstentions, the Senate approved the 2007 General Appropriations Act after more than two months of deliberation.

"This is the first time that the budget was approved on Dec. 4 for the last 11 or 12 years that I’ve been here," Sen. Franklin Drilon said.

In the Senate version, the programmed appropriations stood at P573.9 billion.

The approved unprogrammed fund was P8.4 billion less than what the House of Representatives approved in its version of the 2007 budget.

Drilon, Senate committee on finance chairman, admitted that the Senate’s slashing of the House-approved programmed funds would be the main point of contention during the bicameral conference committee debate, which is expected to start within the week.

The Senate argued that the House committed an illegal act when it realigned around P8 billion in allocations for interest payments on foreign debt with the programmed appropriations for infrastructure programs.

According to the House, its assumptions were based on the stronger peso and stock market.

In the case of the unprogrammed funds, the Senate approved a total of P46.4 billion, representing a reduction of P20.59 billion from the House version.

Drilon said the reduction primarily consisted of "one-lined" items amounting to a total of P30.5 billion for social and infrastructure projects.

Another P5.9 billion under the unprogrammed funds for the payment of the government’s obligation to the Chinese contractor in the North Rail project was also deleted by the Senate.

Drilon pointed out that in essence, the budget, as proposed by the President, was retained by the Senate except for some amendments.

In the case of the Presidential Commission on Good Government, the Senate adopted the recommendation of Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile to reduce its budget from P84.19 million to P1.

Enrile has long been a critic of PCGG, a fact that became more evident particularly during the Senate hearings on the losses of the Philippine Communications Satellite Corp. and its related companies.

The Supreme Court also suffered a P1.45 billion cut in its budget, largely on Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago’s demand.

Santiago, still fuming over her non-inclusion in the short-list of nominees for the post of chief justice submitted by the Judicial and Bar Council to the President, demanded that the SC’s budget be reverted back to its 2005 level.

Under the President’s budget, the SC and lower courts were given a total of P8.15 billion while under the 2005 budget, the figure amounted to only P6.7 billion.

The JBC is chaired by Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban and Santiago blamed him for her non-inclusion in the short-list of nominees.

The Senate also adopted a motion by Santiago to reduce the budget of the Presidential Commission on the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFACom) to P100.

In 2005, Santiago recommended a budget of P1 for the VFACom, which she wanted abolished. She said VFACom’s function was a mere duplication of the functions of the Legislative Oversight Committee on the VFA.

Drilon also noted that Senators Panfilo Lacson and Alfredo Lim, both Manila mayoralty candidates, have decided to waive their share in the priority development assistance fund or pork barrel. Each senator receives a total of P200 million in PDAF.

Drilon said he would try to schedule the bicameral conference committee hearings within the week.

He said that he expects the bicameral conference committee to finish its debates within two weeks or just before Congress adjourns.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Makati off list of pilot areas for automated polls

By Veronica Uy -

MAKATI City will not be among the areas where automated elections will be pilot-tested in next year’s elections.

The exclusion of the city from the pilot areas was made at the request of Makati Representative Teodoro Locsin Jr. who told the bicameral conference committee trying to reconcile the two versions of the automated elections bill about two “suspicious” incidents: the suspension of Mayor Jejomar Binay, and instructions for the city election officer to coordinate with the military for the mass registration of voters in Makati’s second district.

Locsin, who is co-chair of the bicameral committee, said the mass registration order and the “illegal attempts to have our elected mayor removed…are suspicious.”

Senator Richard Gordon agreed with Locsin that the two incidents were “very disturbing” and acceded to the solon’s request to exclude Makati from the list.

“It’s a pity because I’ve talked to Mayor Binay and he was very enthusiastic about having [automated elections] pilot-tested in his city,” Gordon said.

With Makati out, the areas the committee listed for the Commission on Elections to choose from include the Cagayan province including Tuguegarao City, Zambales province including Olongapo City, Batanes and Romblon provinces, and Quezon City in Luzon; the second district of Cebu, Iloilo City, and the provinces of Leyte, Siquijor, and Bohol in the Visayas; and the provinces of Shariff Kabunsuan, Camiguin, Tawi-tawi, and Basilan in Mindanao.

The list is still incomplete as the committee is still meeting as of posting time.

The committee also agreed to allow information technology (IT) companies without prior experience in the conduct of elections in the country to participate in the bidding for next year’s pilot-testing.

However, experience in the 2007 polls is a prerequisite for their participation in the 2010 elections.

Gordon explained that the track record requirement would limit the Comelec to a choice of foreign companies whose technologies have been used in their respective countries, which would be “unfair” to Filipino IT experts.

City told: Improve waste segregation, slaughterhouse services

By Roberto L. Bacasong - SunStar

TO REMAIN being the Hall of Famer for the Cleanest and Greenest Highly Urbanized City in the Philippines, Bacolod has to improve its garbage segregation and slaughterhouse services.

This was recommended by evaluators of the Clean and Green program in Western Visayas to Mayor Evelio Leonardia after conducting a study in the city Wednesday.

Rhodora Capulso, chief of the regional public affairs office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Region VI said that the study was meant to determine whether or not the city is practicing sustainability program after receiving the award.

The six-man team from different agencies in the region visited the city's controlled-dumpsite, slaughterhouse, and City Health Office among others.

"We are evaluating Bacolod to know if the city is doing a sustainability program."

Capulso said that the city need to focus on creating a sanitary landfill as required under the Republic Act 9003 or the Solid Waste Management Act.

"We suggest that the City provide colored garbage receptacles -- black for biodegradable and green for non-biodegradable," Capulso said.

On the other hand, Capulso disclosed that the contest for the national level was postponed last year because of inadequate funds.

"In the regional level, however, the program is still existing. We are recognizing those provinces and cities with outstanding clean and green program," Capulso said.

Bacolod, however, was excluded from the contest as it is already in the hall of fame.

If the national level award will be reactivated, Capulso said that Bacolod will be competing to four other Hall of Famer cities -- Baguio, Puerto Princesa, Olongapo and Marikina.

"The national body will be imposing a separate criteria to these hall of famer cities," she added.


Bacolod was declared as the Clean and Green Hall of Famer for three consecutive years: 2000, 2001 and 2002 and year 1997 and 1998, receiving P1 million from the National Government.

"The City has finally earned a place in the Clean and Green Hall of Fame -- one of the most coveted and prestigious awards accorded to a local government unit," Leonardia said.

On their part, the City Council has passed an Ordinance requiring all public utility vehicle owners and drivers to provide waste cans or garbage bins in their respective vehicles, while the City Government is also working for the strict enforcement of the Anti-Littering law.

Meanwhile, the Task Force Clean and Green and the Department of Public Services are the lead agencies working on these programs.

Also playing vital roles in the implementation of the Clean and Green Program are the City Engineers Office, General Services Office, City Veterinary Office, City Agriculture Office, City Health Office, Department of Interior and Local Government, and the Market Superintendent and Market Supervisors under the City Administrators Office.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Recruitment firm fires up first SMS inquiry system

Overseas recruitment agencies are often perceived as vultures who exploit desperate and hapless jobseekers who want to work abroad. As a way of changing this image problem, a local recruitment firm is turning to information technology to improve their service and enhance the public’s perception on them in the process.

Intramuros-based JS Contractor Inc., which has deployed 100,000 Filipino workers abroad since 1977, is the first overseas recruitment agency to utilize the Interactive Recruitment Information System (IRIS), an online initiative that allows applicants to easily monitor the recruitment process.

Recently, it further embraced IT as a way of life when it became the first recruitment firm to tap SMS or text messaging as a customer service tool. Simply called JSCon SMS, the service extends the capabilities of the IRIS to the mobile phone.

Mary Jean Borra, president of JS Contractor Inc., said they decided to employ SMS in their system because the mobile phone is the most pervasive and practical communication tool available in the country.

"This will save them a lot of money, especially for those applicants who are based in the provinces. Now, they will no longer need to go to our office to follow up on their applications," she said.

At R2.50 per message sent, Borra said this is much cheaper compared to traveling to the agency’s recruitment centers or even renting a PC in an Internet café.

The SMS service, according to recruitment head Ronald Remolano, would also significantly reduce the manpower hours spent entertaining hundreds of inquiries from job applicants.

The text service is for simple job search, monitoring, and inquiry purposes only. The submission of paper documents should be done at the agency’s recruitment offices in Manila, Cebu, Davao, and Aklan. Online applications, however, can be made at

To register for JSCON SMS, applicants can key in ON JSCON and send to 2800 for Globe and Touch Mobile; 216 for Smart and Talk n; Text; and 2288 for Sun subscribers.

Synermaxx Corp., an up-and-coming third-party mobile services provider, is implementing the SMS service for JS Contractor.

According to Remolano, an engineer, the company’s multi-million investment in IRIS made it easy for them to add the text messaging service, as this uses the same infrastructure of the online system. "Without the IRIS as a backbone, it would not have been possible for us to offer the SMS service."

Borra, for her part, reckoned that instead of buying new cars for its executives, the company opted to spend the money to buy the equipment needed for the system. But it’s all worth it, she said, after IRIS brought unprecedented benefits never before seen by the agency.

"The employer can view our data pool and submit their manpower requirements from anywhere, anytime.

Applicants, in turn, may also view their recruitment status from the time of selection up to their deployment," she said.

IRIS has also simplified company operations that the actual recruitment costs have gone down by as much as 60 percent, according to Borra, adding that their applicants are never charged with placement fees.

"From two months job application processing, it now only takes an average of three weeks to complete the whole recruitment process," she said.

Proving that the company has fully embraced modern technology, its headquarters in the ancient district of Intramuros is Wi-Fi enabled and houses a 24/7 videoconferencing facility for foreign clients who want to interview applicants.
By MELVIN G. CALIMAG . Manila Bulletin

Eleksiyon iuurong sa Nob. 2007

Inirekomenda ng technical working group ng mga kongresista na ipagpaliban ang halalan sa Mayo 2007 at gawin sa Nobyembre ng parehong taon, ito’y kung aaprubahan ng sambayanan ang Charter change sa pamamagitan ng isang plebisito sa Pebrero.

Mangangahulugan ito na mananatili hanggang Nobyembre ang termino ng mga senador, kongresista at mga local government officials na dapat ay magtatapos sa Hunyo 30.

Awtomatiko namang magiging miyembro ng bubuuing interim parliament ang mga senador na sa 2010 pa magtatapos ang termino.

Sa bagong parliament ay magkakaroon ng 32 regional representatives, 22 party list members at 212 district representatives.

Inaasahang isasalang sa plenaryo ng Kamara sa susunod na linggo ang mabubuong proposed amendments na magiging hudyat sa debatihan sa Chacha.

Maaari naman umanong magkaroon ng plebisito sa Pebrero kung maaprubahan ng 3/4 ng lahat ng mga miyembro ng Kongreso bago magbakasyon sa Disyembre 22 ang panukalang Chacha.

Tatanungin ang mga botante sa gagawing plebisito kung pabor siya sa mga probisyon ng Konstitusyon na ipinapanukalang baguhin o palitan.

Pangunahing layunin ng pag-amyenda ang pagpapalit ng porma ng gobyerno mula presidential tungong parliamentary.

Nais ng administrasyon na maidaos ang plebisito bago Pebrero 12 na siyang huling araw para sa paghaharap ng certificate of candidacy ng mga senador sa halalan sa 2007.

Ayon naman kay Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr., balak ng administrasyon na bumuo ng Interim Parliament, na kinabibilangan ng 236 incumbent congressmen at 23 Senador, para matiyak na kontrolado nito ang lehislatura.

Pinayuhan naman ni Sen. Joker Arroyo ang mga kongresista na umuwi na lang sa kanilang mga lalawigan o lugar at mangampanya dahil hindi naman nila pwedeng ipagpaliban ang 2007 elections dahil ito ang nakasaad sa saligang-batas. (Malou Escudero, Lilia Tolentino At Rudy Andal)
Ang Pilipino STAR Ngayon

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


Written by Gail Ilagan / MindaNews

DAVAO CITY -- "Malaki na raw ang pinagbago ng akusado sa Subic rape case na si Daniel Smith…" said the idiot in the box. She goes on to report that Smith now has a Filipino spiritual adviser. Put together two and two, and may the force be with you. Barf. The idiot hopes perhaps that her patter would make you miss asking the obvious: "Bakit kaya kinailangan ni Smith magbago?"

I wonder why when the networks report on the Subic rape case, they first report about the Americans before they report about the Nicole. Even on Philippine TV, the lady is put on the defensive with the billing she gets. The Americans, on the other hand, are getting good advice on playing up to a home crowd that does not hold judgment in abeyance until the other party has had her say.

It's sickening to watch how many among us succumb to this play on colonial mentality. It's expected of the American's lawyers to give the kind of advice that would increase the chances of the accused to look innocent. But watching players from the religious and the media institutions getting suckered is – oh, I guess that's expected, too. Disappointing, but what else is new?

I wonder just how "spiritual" (in the Filipino sense of the word) Smith would be if he does get acquitted. Would he turn the other cheek? Chalk it up to a difference in opinion? Or would he turn around with a whopping countersuit? You really wanna know how I'm betting on this?

Spiritual, my foot.

I don't really want to talk about Smith. Or about his boss, the family man, the model soldier. Yeah, yeah, yackety-yak he goes. Leave that to the idiots in the box who go gaga over a Caucasian looking face.

I want to talk about Manny Pacquiao. Man, he was lethal. And he got there by being a good student. See what warrior science can do.

Pacquiao always had talent. It's heartening to see that now he has accepted that it takes more than talent. Watching him prepare for his fight with Morales, I was struck by his single-minded focus. It's a wonder why Morales did not see that.

On the eve of that fateful bout, El Terrible dismissed Pacquiao as the same boxer he had always been. He said Pacquiao had no new moves, no new strategies – yeah, even accounting for the pre-bout strutting, it seems impossible that Morales could not have seen Roach's training direction and how adeptly Pacquiao was taking to it.

So Pacquiao goes into that first round in Condition Red with a warrior mantra playing in his head: "In and out". Short and simple. And that's what he did exactly. Morales, on the other hand, goes in tentatively feeling the water and ends up floundering on the wave of punches that he could not ride out. The guy should go home and watch Naruto. Chakra is everything. And one must have a battle plan.

That smile did it, I think. Remember Morales' smile as he entered that arena? He was just too relaxed. Meanwhile, Pacquiao was still sparring with Roach as Sarah "Geromino" belted out the Philippine National Anthem. So Pacquiao comes into the first round up and running. Morales, on the other hand, was just getting warmed up after singing along to his national anthem. The poor guy. He couldn't switch rhythms to get into the beat of the punches. It just wasn't his night. For a terrible moment there, he was five years old again, hurting bad, and looking for his father.

I like Morales. I suspect Pacquiao likes him, too. At least, he was someone to beat. But now that he's beaten, who would take on Pacquiao?

Anyway, I like Morales because (1) he respects his father and (2) he's time and again showed that he is a gentleman – gracious in defeat, ever polite, and yes, nationalistic.

I wish I could say the same of the Pacman.

Don't get me wrong, I think Pacquiao means it when he says "para sa 'yo ang laban na 'to". He's a good student. All good students seek approval. Sometimes they seek approval from the God. That's okay, the world forgives them.

Don't look now, but back home, nobody laughs anymore at Visayan-accented Tagalog. Pacquiao has dignified what used to be stuff for slapstick comedy made in Quezon City.

So I hope Pacquiao would take my advice and speak in Visayan the next time he has to address the world. You want to really dignify your people, Manny, speak your language and put your mother tongue on the map. Whatever language you speak, the world will listen because you are the Pacman.

Heck, they listened to Morales, didn't they? And didn't you beat Morales so soundly and so decisively that all he wants to do now is to go home?

It's not the world's approval you seek anymore, Manny Pacquiao. The world is at your feet.

Besides, your mug gets more airtime when the world has to pause for the translation. Give a fellow Visayan gainful employment.

It's a beautiful mug, Manny. So Filipino.

Long may you live!

Japanese firm told to rehabilitate quarry sites

By Tonette Orejas -- Inquirer

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO—The Environmental Management Bureau has ordered a Japanese contractor of the P21-billion Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx) to rehabilitate its quarry sites at the Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac.

The EMB, an agency under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, also stopped an SCTEx sub-contractor from operating a stone crushing plant and issued notices of violations to several sand suppliers in Pampanga.

Hazama-Taisei-Nippon Steel Joint Venture, the contractor of the 40-kilometer Clark-Tarlac segment of the SCTEx, has proposed two rehabilitation options for some 40 hectares of quarry sites in Barangays Asturias and Bantug in Tarlac City and Mabilog in Concepcion town.

Although issued quarry permits by the provincial government, Hazama’s sub-contractors did not obtain environmental clearance certificates (ECCs).

Anselmo Abungan, director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau in Central Luzon, told EMB Regional Director Lormelyn Claudio that Hacienda Luisita farmers “should also be consulted to determine which option they are agreeable [with].”

The United Luisita Workers’ Union (Ulwu) had cultivated some 1,000 hectares to cash crops after its year-old strike was settled in December 2005.

Claudio said Hazama and its sub-contractors had properly abandoned the sites and that consultations were ongoing with farmers on how to revive the land.

On Nov. 6, the EMB stopped R.D. Policarpio & Co. Inc. from operating a stone crushing plant in Barangay Sapang Uwak in Porac, Pampanga, due to lack of an ECC. It was fined P50,000.

The firm on Monday submitted its ECC application and was ordered to attend technical conferences with the complainants who had raised concerns about flash floods and landslides occurring in the uplands of Porac due to extraction of stones and mountain soil.

Another sub-contractor, Greens Mix Asia Inc., was issued a notice of violation for operating a sand and gravel screening and crushing plant in Floridablanca, Pampanga, without an ECC.

Four firms—Tokwing-Floridablanca Sand Classifier, Jagal Aggregates Corp., Rhoi Realty and Development Corp. and TaiPhil Sand and Quarry Inc.—were also issued notices of violation on Oct. 30. The firms had obtained ECCs but either lacked permits from other agencies or failed to install air pollution and wastewater facilities.

Claudio said that while the state-owned Bases Conversion Development Authority had obtained an ECC for the 94-km highway, its sub-contractors and suppliers would have to secure separate permits so the EMB and other DENR agencies could properly regulate them.

These problems, however, have not delayed the project since filling works have almost been completed. EMB records show that 117 sand and gravel quarry firms are operating in Pampanga.

Claudio said regulatory work in Pampanga had been hampered by the absence of Regina Vitug, environment officer of the Pampanga provincial government, in several meetings.

Vitug could not be reached through her mobile phone for comment.

The SCTEx, funded through a loan from Japan, links the Clark Special Economic Zone in Pampanga, Subic Freeport Zone in Zambales and Bataan, and Luisita Industrial Park in Tarlac. The four-lane highway is halfway complete and is due for opening in November 2007.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The decline in quality of Philippine education

ROSES & THORNS By Alejandro R. Roces
The Philippine Star

Our country’s educational system has undergone several stages of development from the pre-Spanish times and the American and Japanese colonization and occupation. Education during the early years of the pre-Spanish period was inadequate, suppressed, and controlled. Spanish missionaries served as instructors and education was religion-oriented. Only a privileged few, the elite, had access to education then but this was later liberalized through the enforcement of a decree which provided for the establishment of at least one primary school for boys and girls in each town.

During the period of American rule, beginning in 1898, English was introduced as the medium of instruction and a public school system modeled after the US school system was introduced. Several colleges and universities were established with the primary purpose of training teachers initially. Primary education through grade seven was funded by the government and free to all. Private universities and colleges were also established during this time. The relatively non-elitist system of higher education practiced during this period meant that access is practically available to everybody.

Because of the influence left by the United States on our educational system, our country has been regarded as a leader in the region with respect to achievements in education. Students from different countries were enrolled in our universities. Our economy then was second only to Japan and we were the envy of our Asian neighbors.

The quality of our education, theoretically, started its slow descent during the Marcos era. Widespread graft and corruption took its toll heavily on our economy. Because of the failing economy and lack of job opportunities then, our highly-educated workforce, including teachers, were left with no choice but to search for greener pastures in other countries. Teachers lacking the required specializations and experience were the ones left. Meanwhile, families unable to cope with increasing poverty, were forced to stop educating their children. Sadly, this has been the trend up to now.

Statistics show that our students consistently perform poorly in the National Admission Test or NAT; highlighting the current sorry state of education in our country. The NAT performance for school year 2005-2006 showed 54.66 percent and 44.33 percent average scores for sixth graders and senior high school students respectively. The students performed poorly in the three core disciplines – Math, Science, English, and also in Filipino and Hekasi (social studies, civics and geography). House Deputy Majority Leader Eduardo Gullas recently stated that at present, there are 23,866 lecturers in secondary levels teaching math and science subjects without the required specializations. In math alone, only 20 percent of these teachers took the subject as their major during college. A nationwide test also showed that most grade school and high school students only had 45 to 60 percent mastery levels of the core disciplines – way below the 75 percent minimum set by the Department of Education.

Our students today are going to be our country’s leaders tomorrow. We have to ensure that they get the kind of education that will prepare them for the challenges of the future. It is good that our government has identified the problems afflicting our educational system and are taking steps to address these. If we cannot do something about this, then our country’s competitiveness in an ever-increasing global community will eventually erode. As what Claude-Adrien Helvetius, a French philosopher, once said: "Education made us what we are."

Methane lights up Payatas dump

By Perseus Echeminada -The Philippine Star

Quezon City Mayor Feliciano Belmonte Jr. switched on yesterday the perimeter lights powered by a 100-KW pilot methane plant at the Payatas controlled dump facility, the first landfill facility to generate electricity in the country.

Under The Payatas Gas to Power Generation project, methane gas produced by decomposing garbage deposited at the dump are collected and converted into electricity through the Pilot Methane Power Plant.

Col. Jameel Jaymalin, Payatas operations group chief, said electrical distribution lines were installed around the 12-hectare disposal facility.

"The ceremonial switching of lights by Mayor Belmonte highlights the significance of this clean and renewable source of energy," Jaymalin said.

The pilot plant was a result of the study on the extraction and commercial utilization of methane gas from the dump undertaken by the Philippine National Oil Company- Exploration Corp. (PNOC-EC) under a memorandum of agreement with the Quezon City government in 2002.

The PNOC-EC study revealed that the dump could produce sufficient gas for the next 10 years, enough to provide power to the Payatas community.

A project that will extract and collect landfill gas will soon be undertaken in order to clean the environment and ensure the safety of the disposal facility. Once implemented, the project can qualify as Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) under the Kyoto protocol.

During the initial launching of the project in 2004, Belmonte said the project would benefit poor residents. Each scavenger family earns only P250 to P300 a day.

The Quezon City government has gained national acclaim as the first urban center to implement the Solid Waste Management Act, by pioneering the conversion of the Payatas open dump into a controlled facility.

The extraction of the methane is aimed at containing the gas buildup and preventing future accidents in the area as methane is a highly combustible gas.

But the PNOC found out that there is enough gas to generate electricity within the area, so the city government decided to tap the energy.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Cinderellas defend Alaska Cup on Sunday

THE gritty Baguio Cinderellas will defend their ladies open title Sunday in the 11th Alaska Cup at the posh Ayala Alabang Village in Muntinlupa in a bid to maintain their 16-year dominance in the sport.

They snatched the crown in a breeze this time last year despite traveling straight to the venue and playing without sleep due to lack of funds for billeting.

This time, however, the squad left early for the much-needed rest, given the stronger field that is expected to include teams from Korea, Japan and Guam in the seven-a-side blitz competition.

From Alabang, the girls will shift to Olongapo on Nov. 24-25 to again defend their nth crown in the Kicksand Beach Tournament they last ruled last April.

Former national stand-out Annaliza Umoc-Cabanilla and playing coach Richelle Tabisula, both with the original team formed by sportsman Manny Javellana in the 1980s, will lead the twin campaigns.

A combination of youth and experience, the line-up will be completed by second-generation recruits Romadallana Llanea, Judith Doctolero, Melody Buccahan, Maggie Pakipac, Marissa Manaday, Regine Formaran and newcomers Shiela Tabangcura, Katie Sutherland, Jovelyn Velasco and Carol Baguitan.

So-called for having to scrounge support to be able to compete, the Cinderellas leaned anew on the city government and the Benguet Electric Cooperative (Beneco) to be able to defend the twin crowns.

Acting Mayor Reinaldo Bautista Jr. already directed City Sports coordinator Edison Villafuerte to work out anew the city's sponsorship of the team which had ruled four national cups and numerous invitational titles.

Beneco, which had teamed up with the city in supporting the multi-titled team in previous outings, has committed the services of a back-up vehicle for the two tournaments.

The team initially gained national prominence in the early 1990s for topping the YKL-Fuji National Cup in Quezon City after saving their school stipends to pay for a jeep transport.

Heartened by the initial victory, the girls went on to win the 1991 and 1993 Baguio National Invitational and the 1993 Philippine Ladies Football Association Cup. Lack of funds prevented them from defending the Philfa Cup in Davao in 1994.

With support from businessman Dan David who drove for them, the girls recaptured the Philfa Cup in Sta. Cruz, Laguna in 1995 with a 1-0 overtime victory over defending champion Davao.

The winning goal came on the 13th minutes of overtime on a Friday the 13th, from 16-year old Roberta Sandejas whom the team recruited to complete the 11-memberline-up for the crucial final game.

The comely girl, who went on to join the varsity team of La Salle, was rendered blind when somebody threw acid on her face several years ago. Informed of the tragic incident, the Cinderellas sold old newspapers and bottles, raising over P20,000 which they handed over to the girls' to support her recovery. (Ramon Dacawi - Sun Star)

Saturday, November 11, 2006

RP government service among worst in the world

By Sandy Araneta - The Philippine Star

Government service in the Philippines is one of the poorest in the world, based on studies by international groups, the president of the Development Academy of the Philippines (DAP) said yesterday.

DAP president Antonio Kalaw Jr. told a press conference that the country’s bureaucracy ranked 49th among 61 countries in the 2006 World Competitiveness Yearbook, and 77th among 117 countries in the Global Competitiveness Report of the World Economic Forum.

Kalaw said as a development organization, DAP has been working with government on how to solve the problems of a bloated bureaucracy, duplication or overlapping of functions, and inconsistent public service delivery.

He said it is unfortunate that despite various projects and resources to reform government agencies, the problems still persist.

"This dismal performance has once again resulted in a call for major reforms in business and government efficiency. The ills of government prevent effective and efficient delivery of public goods and services,’’ Kalaw said.

"The bureaucracy is being challenged to address more seriously the resonating calls for good governance, accountability and transparency, among others. The need and clamor is for government to deliver quality public service," he said.

He said that as early as the mid-1980s, DAP has been helping the government and the private sector achieve productivity and quality.

Kalaw said the academy has been helping private and public agencies comply with quality standards set under the International Standardization Organization (ISO).

The Presidential Committee on Effective Governance (PCEG) and DAP sought to institutionalize the rating of performance excellence in government through ISO 9001:2000 quality management system or QMS.

DAP’s Center for Quality & Competitiveness, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM)-Organization and Productivity and Improvement Bureau, and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) collaborated on the project, which started in September 2003.

President Arroyo issued Administrative Order 161 on Oct. 5, 2006, "institutionalizing quality management system in government." Aside from helping improve the quality of public service, AO 161 also hopes to promote accountability, participation, predictability, and transparency in government.

ISO hosted yesterday the "Third Annual Conference on the Institutionalization and Demonstration of ISO 9001:2000-Aligned Quality Management System (QMS) in Government’’ at the DAP building in Pasig City.

Some 200 participants from 61 government and private sector agencies attended the conference

UNESCO Philippines pushes entrepreneurship education

By Pia Lee-Brago, The Philippine Star

UNESCO Philippines Secretary-General Ambassador Preciosa Soliven stressed yesterday that entrepreneurship should be part of Filipino culture.

"Entrepreneurship is very significant in our country and I hope this conference will get things done because in our culture, entrepreneurship is not natural," Soliven said at the launching of the Pinoy Technopreneur School-on-Air Radio Teachers’ Training and Project held at the Department of Foreign Affairs.

She said UNESCO was tasked to declare a decade of sustainable development that gives importance to entrepreneurship.

She said entrepreneurship is a way of transmitting knowledge to inspire businesses and foster economic independence.

"And I am proud to say that we are with countries that will become centers of Asia-Pacific education, giving importance to sustainable development,’’ Soliven said.

"Our stand is we cannot sustain anything without human capacity. We are promoting, in the center, education for sustainable development,’’ she added.

She cited the need for the curriculum of the country’s 42,000 elementary schools to be revolutionized, reformed and scientifically-based.

Meantime, UNESCO officials joined Science and Technology Secretary Estrella Alabastro in handing over course modules on entrepreneurship education to 11 participating schools.

The participating schools are University of Mindanao (Davao City); Aklan State University (Banga, Aklan); Leyte State University (Baybay, Leyte); Columban Colleges (Olongapo City); Angeles University Foundation (Angeles City); UP Los Baños (Laguna); Technological University of the Philippines (Manila); OB Montessori (Greenhills, San Juan); Management System Consultants School (Laguna); ERDA Tech Foundation (Manila); and Ploughshares Inc. (NGO-Social Entrepreneurship) in Quezon City.

The project has received funds from UNESCO-Jakarta and the Technology Application and Promotion Institute of the Department of Science and Technology.

The course contains 10 modules developed by experts from the Asian Institute of Management and the Leading Entrepreneurs Toward Sensing Global Opportunities (LetsGo), a non-profit organization, and Andy Ferreira, a professor who is also an entrepreneurship guru.

The modules cover Introduction to Entrepreneurship, Self Mastery, Enterprise Mastery, Situation Mastery, Starting the Enterprise, Passion, Skills/Technology Delivery, Market, Seizing the Opportunity, and Resource Generation.

Friday, November 10, 2006

A unique medical academy

By Tessa C. Mauricio , Life & Times Editor

Who else can revive a weakened body but a doctor of medicine? This is why The Manila Times School of Journalism placed an emergency call to Dr. Bajet A. Nour of Philadelphia, USA: To help boost the somewhat weakened perception of the Filipino health-care worker on the global front, following the widely publicized nursing exam scandal in June.

Nour and his team of medical doctors and educators were in Manila this week to lay the groundwork for the establishment of a local campus for the Global Medical Academy (GMA).

GMA, known in the United States and some 70 other countries as the “university without walls,” is ready to offer courses to Filipinos that lead to medical qualifications, which are suitable for licensing in most regions of the world, including the USA, Europe and Australia.

During a visit to The Manila Times offices on Tuesday, Nour explained that GMA’s schools of Medicine, Nursing, Health Science and Graduate Study degree programs all follow a curriculum that is based on the United States medical curriculum. “That, in itself, means the students are getting top quality curriculum, which makes them eligible to go to the United States and get a license there should they acquire US citizenship,” he said.

“[This is possible] because the key area is that the program has to be World Ethics-accredited, which places GMA in the World Health Organization book of medical schools. Again, that’s how the students are allowed to sit on the United States medical licensing—or wherever they come from, for that matter—whether Dubai or Australia.”

Globally competitive students

Moreover, GMA complements the US-standard theoretical instruction with a pioneering IT-based feature and an internship program that together make its students globally competitive very early on in the training stage.

“The didactic portion of the program is offered online,” Nour said. “We have a very high-quality content of medical curriculum that is supported through long-distance education that will allow students here to communicate with doctors anywhere in the world, thereby opening the doors to global medicine.”

As for the practical component, the last two years of the program give students the opportunity to complete clinical rotations in one of the university’s privately owned hospitals or clinics in parts of the world, including those in the United States, Australia, France and Great Britain.

In effect, the complete program should be able to minimize any competence issues for future Filipino health-care graduates of the school (if the issues continue to exist four or five years from now) or, on a more positive note, further enhance the value of the Filipino health-care worker in the international medical community.

Mission-based medicine

Established in 1994, Global Medical Academy is first and foremost involved in what it calls “mission-based medicine,” born of Dr. Bajet Nour’s impassioned sense of social responsibility. A native of Egypt, he lived in the face of poverty in his formative years and experienced firsthand the sad state of health-care services in a Third-World country. “By God’s grace,” he said, he was given the opportunity to study medicine in the United States, and eventually practice as a general and trauma surgeon, but without forgetting his roots.

Even as a medical student, Nour would volunteer to join medical and emergency missions in developing countries (mostly in Africa), a commitment that intensified in this compassionate young man beyond graduation.

Realizing his calling

During one such mission Nour realized his calling to use his profession in helping as many people as he can in as many parts of the poorer world.

Sometime in the early 1990s, he found a very sick young girl, barely in her teens, while on the road in an African country. Nour took her off the street and brought her back from a fever that made her unconscious.

“She was very frail when I found her, and even when she finally opened her eyes, I knew she was still in very bad shape.” Hardly able to speak from her condition, the girl struggled to inform her caregiver that she had no money to pay him for treating her.

“I told her she didn’t need to pay me. The next thing she did was to pull out a little black pouch from the pocket of her tattered clothes and weakly flung it on the table.”

Trying to hold back tears as he continued his story, Nour recounted how dust, a rusty pin, a small picture of Jesus and a gold ring fell from the pouch. “She said this is all I’ve got. She gave this ring to me and made me promise never to take it off,” he quietly added, showing his right hand.

Today, the ring serves as a constant reminder of Nour’s responsibility to help the poor and the sick. Tragically, the young girl died from complications, but her death has helped save countless other lives in the last decade, through some 70 medical clinics, which Nour and his group have set up in the poorest and most remote communities in the Third World.

Mission Philippines

According to Nour, the educational component of his work is fairly new, and was inspired by the stark reality that the developing nations are in desperate need of health-care workers.

“The lines are endless at medical missions, and there’s never enough time to get around to everyone in the limited number of days we have with them. At some point, I thought that if we could only train some of the members of the community to become doctors and nurses, then the people would have health care available to them all year round. They wouldn’t need to wait for the wealthier countries to help them.”

Using the Global Medical Academy as a springboard, Nour worked out a system that would generate funds for the project: “GMA is geared toward training 70 percent of students from First-World countries, which will make up for the tuition to support the 20 to 30 percent that we now want to enroll in the Philippines and in other developing nations.” To make sure he put his message across accurately, he declared: “We’re not asking for tuition; the Philippines gets a free program.”

Nour added that it is in this capacity that The Manila Times School of Journalism invited GMA to the country. “For the purpose of improving the economy, quality of education and standards of living through health care. Had it not been for this invitation, we probably would have gone somewhere else.”

Before coming to the Philippines, GMA instituted a large-scale operation in Bangladesh, which will serve as the model for the college it will establish at the Center for Excellence in Education at the Subic Bay Freeport. Once completed, the center, which sits on a three-hectare property, will offer additional internationally accredited degree programs in the arts and sciences, maritime, information technology and engineering, through two other colleges—The Manila Times School of Journalism and the US-based Seattle Maritime Academy.

“We aim to help”

“Because our main purpose is to help, the benefits of the whole system are multifaceted. In addition to the scholarship, we will also be able to promote local tourism and economy by bringing 70 percent of our First-World students on clinical rotation in hospitals and poor and remote communities here.” That single act will naturally result in money coming in from the First-World students, while instigating an improvement in health-care services.

“Moreover, we will use doctors and nurses here for the school, to help stimulate the economy. We also want to join courses with other medical schools and hospitals because our purpose is certainly not to compete with anyone but to become a team. This is beneficial to the rest of the academy because you have very high quality and competent doctors and nurses in the Philippines.”

A global commitment

Aware that GMA and its affiliate companies (Med Soft, Deda and Brain Monster, which operate the online component and market the project) arrived in the country at the tail end of the long-drawn-out nursing exam scandal, Nour disclosed, “Personally, the whole situation encouraged me to come here all the more because we have a program that promotes ethics and faith, and that’s part of our mission. We have a global commitment and our No. 1 priority is to make everything topnotch in terms of medical ethics. Our goal is not only to teach people medicine but to teach them how to be better persons, how to be better caregivers, and how to integrate their faith, learning and belief in God in the medical mission.”

Dr. Nour’s Mission Philippines team is composed of Michael Sanders, president; his wife, Kimberly Nour, chief financial officer; Dr. Mark Volpe, M.D., executive vice-president; and Josephine Merka, project relations officer.

Nour is concurrently chief executive officer and director of international development.

Ideally, Global Medical Academy would want future Filipino graduates to stay in the country and to take part in a more permanent and self-sufficient health-care service in far-flung communities and depressed areas. However, it is also aware that many Filipinos seek to find employment abroad.

To this, Dr. Nour responded: “Indigenous training is really what our work is all about, so we primarily look out for students who are willing to stay in their country once they get their degree.”

The institution is not just about textbooks, lectures and hands-on training. It is about a noble mission that needs, not just a mind for medicine, but a heart for compassion

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

EDITORIAL – Young and unemployed

The Philippine Star

Despite modest economic growth, the country isn’t producing enough employment opportunities. Adults can cope with this by finding jobs overseas. Most young workers do not have such opportunities. And they are the worst hit by the lack of jobs in developing countries, according to the International Labor Organization.

The ILO reported that youth unemployment is on the rise in developing countries, where young workers account for a greater proportion of the labor force than adults. From 1995 to 2005, the number of unemployed youths aged 15 to 24 jumped from 74 million to 85 million worldwide, the ILO reported.

The problem is slightly different in the Philippines, where laws against child labor ban adolescents and people in their late teens from joining the workforce. Yet youths can be seen working in farms and in hazardous places such as mines and makeshift firecracker factories. Poverty drives many families to make every able-bodied member earn his or her keep, with even girls working as housemaids. More unfortunate children are sold for sex.

For those who are old enough to work legally, however, there aren’t enough jobs in this country. The ILO said the highest youth unemployment rate was registered in Metro Manila and Southern Tagalog. Most of the unemployed were college undergraduates followed by high school and college graduates. The ILO attributed this to the deteriorating quality of Philippine education, discriminatory hiring practices and weak linkages between education and training institutions.

The government can address the problem with some help from the private sector. Programs can be developed to provide short-term training for youths so they can quickly enter the workforce in sectors where they are needed. Such employment opportunities can also be designed to allow young workers to pursue higher education or vocational training. There are many employment opportunities for young and able-bodied workers. With some training and coordination with the private sector, more young people can enter the workforce.

Friday, October 06, 2006

US embassy in Manila issues new rules for visa application

By Veronica Uy
STARTING November 1 this year, applicants for non-immigrant visas to the United States would be required to use an electronic visa application form available for free on the Internet, the US embassy in Manila said in an advisory.

“The US Embassy will no longer accept handwritten or typed applications after November 1,” it said.

The new rule, the US embassy said, would speed up the interview and application process, and save time for the applicants. About 1,000 Filipinos apply for US visas every day, one of the highest visa applications in the world.

“[Applicants] will spend less time in the consular section on the day of their interview since they won’t have to wait for embassy staff to manually collect information from handwritten or typed applications,” it said.

Instead of writing their information by hand, applicants may download and complete the form via the Internet, They will be required to bring a printout of the completed three-page form with bar code to their interview. “When printed, each [form] has a unique 2-D bar code that US Embassy staff can electronically scan in order to input the applicant’s information. Use of the [form], which has been available online for more than three years, allows for quicker and more accurate data entry,” the advisory said.

The embassy said all other processes and requirements for applying for a non-immigrant visa remain the same.

To make a visa interview appointment, applicants are advised to call 1-909-101-7878 (accessible only within the Philippines through a PLDT or Smart landline) Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., except on Philippine and American holidays.

“You can also schedule an interview via the Internet using the VisaPoint™ system, a web-based appointment and information system available at,” it suggested.

More information about the new system is available at, the US Embassy Consular Section at (632) 528-6300 or fax (632) 523-1356, while information on the non-immigrant visa application process can be found on the US embassy’s Web site at

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Fast-forward to Subic

By Gabby Libarios
Manila Standard Today

WHICH one do I get?” I asked with a huge smile on my face, hoping that the tone of my voice conveyed my overflowing eagerness to drive one of the swish cars parked infront of us. A girl from Honda pointed to the maroon car, handed me the key, and said, “enjoy driving.”

But of course. I was seconds away from driving the eighth generation Honda Civic, who in their right mind would not be thrilled? Besides, it would be a great chance for me to get my hands on a brand new car. My relationship with the beatup car my father handed to me had been giving me headaches for the past week.

All was going swimmingly well, until I learned all the cars had been taken by the other teams. “You can drive Honda Jazz instead,” ad and promo supervisor Apple Ting from Honda said.

My mouth hung open. Owen Bautista, my navigator teammate from Manila Bulletin that day, looked at me with sad, sorry eyes. I could not believe it. We were about to embark on a treasure hunt/race to Subic and the people from Honda were giving us the subcompact car, as compared to the others who were getting Honda’s all-new power sedan.

It simply wasn’t fair.

But instead of sulking like a kid who just found out none of his friends was coming to his birthday party, I picked up my bag and told Owen, “Let’s go.”

There was no point in complaining to Amiel Cabanlig, the organizer of the event, either. He’d simply laugh at us, or blame me for being terminally slow.

We knew there was one thing to do and that was to pull off a surprising win. We thought of proving them all wrong, that despite driving a supermini, the smallest class of car, we could win.

What Owen and I did not know was we’re in for the biggest surprise.

Power with a capital P

What Honda Jazz lacked in size, it made up for in performance. The moment I laid my hands and felt that soft dimpled surface of the steering wheel, I felt that the car was trying to tell me something.

It was no ordinary car. I patted the wheel, grinned, and thought, “we could do this.” I knew that Owen, who was sitting quietly beside me, was thinking the same.

We were in Watty Piper’s little engine that could.

So after stuffing ourselves full at Jollibee in Petron North Expressway—the starting point of the treasure hunt/race—we did not waste any second dillydallying with the controls or the meters on the dashboard. I just stepped on the gas and let Jazzy do its magic. Owen, too, grabbed the roadbook and read the clues faster than saying money in a bank.

Thanks to its electrically assisted power steering, the car responded to my every turn with ease. Even road imperfections were peanuts, posing no threat to our smooth driving.

With Jazz’s 1.5-liter VTEC engine, my competitive spirit, and Owen’s knack for recognizing roadside clues without second glances, we cruised down the wide road with a big smile on our faces. We were the perfect team.

By the time we reached San Fernando exit, whizzing past tricycles and rusty old trucks, we had forgotten about the race. We were enjoying ourselves too much to care about the other teams that were ahead of us.

So it did not bother us when we learned that we were the third team to reach the finish line (The Subic Tollway), losing the race to the teams of Rome Jorge of Manila Times and Michael Kho Lim of The Daily Tribune, and Lazslo Lim and KanKan Ramos of We’d had our fill of stories, jokes, and laughter for the whole day that winning the race and an Asimo doll would not have had made a difference.

Being in Subic, which was in a celebratory mood because of a Mardi Gras, was enough for us. We were miles away from Manila and worlds away from work.

One big party

Honda promised us a weekend of partying and pampering. And that’s exactly what we got.

Some of us had a taste of heaven at the La Rossa Spa. At the well-appointed relaxation hub of the Subic Bay Yacht Club, they indulged in luxurious treatments and massages, one of which was the “Synchrotherapy Spa,” a technique administered by two therapists working simultaneously. Interestingly, it’s one of the services that got many tourists, local or foreign, coming back for more.

I opted for the Chakra Hot Stone Massage, a centuries-old technique that made use heated basalt stones. While the therapists applied long, gliding strokes from the neck down to the legs, these hot stones were placed on the “energy centers” along the spine, creating a soothing and relaxing sensation throughout my entire body. It was a piece of heaven, indeed.

After freshening up at the Binictican Housing Area, we headed for The Legenda Hotel, the only five-star hotel in Subic. There we partook of the hotel’s sumptuous buffet, made even more special by the friendly conversations with hotel manager Cheryl Singzon. It was a long, tiring day, so a few of us had second, third, and fourth helpings of each dish.

When dinner was over, we all opted for a night cap. Our tour guide, Leo Aluso of Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority tourism department was more than happy to take us around Boardwalk, Subic’s version of Manila’s Baywalk. There we saw a beauty pageant, endless band performances, standup comics, and droves of merrymakers, who all came to take part of the festivities.

We were all having a great time. That’s why when it was time to go back to Manila, we could not hide our frustration.

Back to reality

It was a good thing I had something to look forward to. Before we left Subic, the people from Honda promised me that no matter what, I’d be driving back to Manila in a Honda Civic. So I was in high spirits again. Fortunately, the car that eluded me for almost three days did not disappoint.

It was everything that I expected to be. Equipped with a 1.8-liter i-VTEC engine, which I later learned was a progression from its predecessor’s 1.7-liter engine, it was a lumbering piece of pure metal and muscle, making me feel as if I owned the road.

The large cabin makes the unit perfect for a large family, with enough leg room to accommadate small luggage, thanks to its ingenious flat floor.

The dashboard was a thing of beauty and convenience. Designed to improve driving safety, the the digital speedometer is set ahead of the driver, allowing him to check his speed without ever having to leave his eyes off the road.

Everything is designed for leisurely and stress-free driving. The handbrake lever is strategically placed not in the center, but closer to the driver for easier lifting. Even the gas, brake, and accelerator pedals are mounted on the floor, reducing the risk of foot slippage. Dual map lights in front came in handy, especially at night when we could not find our way back to our accommodations.

The weekend in Subic was good, but driving back to Manila in Honda’s all-new Civic was way better.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

FedEx Focuses On China

Robert Malone,

Fedex came to China in 1984 and has come to consider it one of the two anchor points of a growing global economy. The other of course is its home base of the U.S.

FedEx (nyse: FDX - news - people ) developed its air and ground express service with its founding in 1971. It became FDX in 1998 and FedEx in 2000. Today it consists of a network of companies whose philosophy is "operate independently, compete collectively and manage collaboratively."

FedEx's growth as a commercial carrier and transportation solutions provider has matched the growth of international and national trade. The company sees a rapid acceleration of the supply chain. Service does not stand still, and what was fast yesterday is not fast today for FedEx.

Over the past 22 years, since it first launched its China operations, there have been many milestones, including the 1999 launch of its industry simplified Chinese Web page and the company's first direct flight from southern China to North America with next-day service launched in 2003. In 2005 it launched flights to Europe from China.

Its job is to integrate services globally through control, strategy and technology. It now has plans to increase service to 100 more cities in China over the next few years. The FedEx country headquarters is now in Shanghai.

"China is a major piece of business for FedEx. I have been based over here for 18 years," says David Cunningham, president of FedEx Express Asia Pacific, who is in Hong Kong.

As for doing business within China for China. "We are not in that business now, but it is something we are interested in because of the size and the scope of the market," says Cunningham. "The dynamism of the market is evolving very rapidly. The size of the domestic cargo market is one of those that is growing and is forecast to be the fastest growing for the next 20 years."

FedEx's Asian operations launched with a hub in Subic Bay in the Philippines back in 1995. "It was essentially an ex-military base and empty when we moved in," says Cunningham. "This helped us serve intra-Asia movements. It connected Japan and Singapore and all Asia and the Philippines, Taiwan, Australia."

Cunningham says that Subic Bay was a hub and spoke system and is the type of network that FedEx uses today. That facility was a victim of its own success: It has grown so rapidly that it will shortly reach capacity. Now FedEx is looking for a facility to continue to grow.

"If you are looking to locate a hub, an intra-Asia hub, you have to look at the regulatory environment," says Cunningham. "You have to have the right airfield; you have to have it in the right geographical location. You also have to the air services agreement."

That is why FedEx has decided to find an airport for the expanding business environment of the Pearl River Delta, which serves 40% of China's export volume. The Bao'an Airport is just such a facility, and it will allow FedEx to increase capacity as business moves ahead.

"One of the problems you have in Asia is having the capacity to keep up with the growth," says Cunningham. "With its centrally controlled economy, China has been making substantial investments in their infrastructure that includes port facilities, airports, roads and cargo terminals. This is what makes it possible for them to continue to support their ever-increasing economic growth."

"Hong Kong resonates six inches off the ground," says Michael L. Ducker, president of FedEx Express International. "It is a city that energizes, and the national sport is business. We have five different regional offices with our U.S. office in Memphis and our European office in Brussels and our Asian office in Hong Kong."

FedEx's China strategy is simple: having a robust business in Asia's largest nation. It is also a key for FedEx worldwide, according to Ducker, since the company considers itself one big global network. Their business is as much a network business as a telecom company. Every pipe they add on to the network increases the utility to the user.

"When people ask what the next growth market is going to be, I say eastern China, middle China and western China," says Ducker. "They are great growth markets. These large economies are keys to us because they come at the headwaters of the supply chain if you will."

Ducker suggests that FedEx's priorities in China consist of continuing to expand international business in three networks: a trans-Pacific network to the U.S., a transcontinental network to Europe and an intra-Asia network to the rest of Asia.

And finally FedEx plans to expand its portfolio, as customers have different requirements. This translates into expanding forwarding capability, service territory and improving cycle times.

Ducker see FedEx's innovation to be in implementing its power pad handheld technology, which gives instantaneous shipment information to customers in China. The second application is electronic interface and liberalized customs procedure. FedEx has applied new technology to the process of customs clearance.

"We see globalization as using the Internet to connect people large and small to the global economy. People are now able to source for themselves globally," says Ducker.

FedEx has built its business on the basis of moving fast with new technology and service. It appears that it's extending the corporate strategy to include the relatively new focal point called China that is bursting with energy and business--making it a primary node within its supply chain network service.