Friday, July 13, 2007

Registration for dual polls starts Sunday

By William B. Depasupil, Manila Times Reporter

UNLESS postponed by an act of Congress, the synchronized barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections would push through on October 29, said Commission on Elections spokesman Dir. James Jimenez Thursday.

Jimenez said voters’ registration for the coming polls would begin on Sunday and would run for a week, or until July 22.

As stipulated in Comelec Resolution No. 8228, people aged 18 and above on October 29, election day, may either register as first time voters or apply for transfer.

For the SK elections, people aged 15 to 17 may also register and vote, provided that they meet the six months residency requirement in the barangay units where they intend to vote.

Jimenez explained that if one has already turned 18 on or before the SK elections, he or she is disqualified to register or vote.

The barangay and SK elections were originally scheduled in October 2006 but was postponed by Congress because no funds were available.

Earlier, Comelec Chairman Benjamin Abalos Sr. said it would be better to scrap the barangay election and instead empower that municipal and city mayors to appoint the barangay officials.

“Barangay elections are divisive. There were many instances in the past that close family members were pitted against each other, destroying in the process close family relations,” Abalos said.

He said barangay elections also use up money that could be used instead to build more schools, farm-to-market roads and other vital projects.

There are 41,975 barangays in the country and the same number of SK councils. The Comelec would be spending between P2.5 billion and P3.5 billion for the simultaneous elections.

Big bucks trade

Juan Mercado -
"The flight schedule was pinned on the wall. And the pimps argued that they had an understanding with 'the chief,'" recalled the team fielded by Fr. Shay Cullen. "But the cops who came with us were from another station."

As payoff discussions raged, the Preda team sped off with a mother and a child. "If only we could have rescued all the girls, it'd have been a great day's work," the Preda team said. "Unfortunately, that was impossible. They were all teenagers. And one had a baby."

Welcome to what the US Department of Justice ranks as the third largest criminal enterprise worldwide: human trafficking. It is big bucks. "Traders" rake in $9.5 billion yearly in sleaze, the United Nations Development Fund for Women's Noeleen Heyzer said at an Asian Development Bank meeting.

Trafficking ranges from prostitution and debt bondage to forced labor and exploitation of children as sex slaves or soldiers. In this grim underground bazaar, firm data are hard to come by. "The stigma placed on victims of sexual exploitation" is one reason. There isn't "even a name for the problem at community level." Few victims are aware of their rights.

The extent is under-reported, but what emerges jolts. Fifty-four out of every 100 trafficked Filipino children are between 15 and 17 years old. "Guesstimates" of the number of child prostitutes range from 60,000 to 100,000.

In Joey Velasco's "Hapag Ng Pagasa" ["Table of Hope"] painting of 12 street kids at dinner with Christ on a slum table, one model -- Tinay, 5 -- had been repeatedly raped. "She has this faraway look," wails the aunt.

Globally, 12.3 million migrants are enslaved or in sexual servitude at any one time, says the International Labor Organization. Massive poverty, corruption and armed conflict force-feed desperate migrants, in ever greater numbers, into affluent nations that in "an age of migration alarm" are closing borders.

Girls from the villages of Thailand, Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia and the Philippines are lured into cities or abroad with pledges of well-paying jobs. Many end up in brothels. "It is not acceptable to have a crisis of survival where the only way out for a family to survive is by trafficking their daughters," Heyzer added.

"We will leave your family P3,000, which will be your usual salary in Cebu," the recruiter told the teenager, University of Nevada's Riki Repanis recalls in "Prostitution, Trafficking and Modern Day Slavery in the Philippines." The ill father rose to hug his daughter, crying: "Be careful, be careful." All nine siblings wept. But the girl insisted that she must go and help her family. "So they went to Cebu and were brought to Kamagayan, the old place of prostitution in Cebu City. That first night, she was raped by eight men."

Government disbanded its airport anti-trafficking team a month ago. Why? Because every manjack trafficked. Read and squirm over what the US State Department asserted in its "Trafficking Persons Report" of June 2007:

"The Philippines is a source, transit and destination country for men, women and children trafficked for purposes of sexual exploitation and forced labor. A significant number of Filipino men and women, who migrate for work, are subjected to involuntary servitude in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, South Africa, North America and Europe.

"Women and children are trafficked within the Philippines, primarily from rural areas in the Visayas and Mindanao, to urban areas. (They do) forced labor as domestic and factory workers, and in the drug trade, and for sexual exploitation.

"A smaller number of women are occasionally trafficked from the People's Republic of China, South Korea, Japan and Russia to the Philippines for sexual exploitation... Foreign tourists, particularly other Asians, sexually exploit women and children."

Cebu City is a major destination point for traffickers. Samar, Bohol, Leyte and Negros Occidental record a rising number of victims. So do a number or Mindanao cities.

Some traffickers harness the Internet for their operations. "Many women end up working for pornography websites where they perform sexual acts in front of webcams for paying customers."

Countries need to "raise public awareness and create public outrage," adds Heyzer. And they must "make it difficult for traffickers to operate with impunity."

The Philippine record is mixed. In Olongapo City, foreign sex traffickers harass Catholic and other groups by lodging multiple libel and other suits. A major target has been Father Cullen and his hospices for the abused. Department of Justice officials seek to blunt this harassment.

The Philippines was the first country to adopt in 2003 an Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act. And Quezon City Regional Trial Court Judge Teodoro Bay sentenced a couple to 160 years in prison for peddling "starlets" to moneyed sex trade clients. There are seven convictions now.

Overall the Philippines has enough laws, says the Nevada University study. "The problem is implementation."

In Cebu, a task force operated ineptly. Police were untrained. Lawyers lacked understanding of the new law. "The net effect seems to be punishment of the girls, not the perpetrators."

"They sit there and look, like this [Cebu] 'barangay' [neighborhood district] official," the Nevada University study quotes a nun helping girls trapped in the red light district. "But he has his own bars. Many of the brothels there are owned by policemen. 'Oh, he is my customer,' a girl will tell us. And now, he is the one who imprisons me."

Anti-corruption Internet site launched

Agence France-Presse

WASHINGTON -- A grouping of companies launched Wednesday a website dedicated to collecting information about officials and governments around the world who seek bribes.

The US-based Trace International, a non-profit grouping of multinational firms, said their new website will allow people or organizations to anonymously report bribe requests.

Trace said its intent is not to collect names, to deal with those who offer or pay bribes, to investigate cases or to take legal action.

The organization wants to collect information on bribe-seeking that can be compiled eventually into detailed country reports to "shine a spotlight on trouble spots" and that companies can use to manage their risks.

"This is not a law enforcement tool," said Michelle Gavin, a member of Trace's administrative board.

Trace wants to "shine a light on the demand side of bribery," she said at a news conference.

People can report bribe-seeking by filling in an online form of no more than 10 multiple-choice questions on the Bribeline site.

Gavin admitted that whatever data Bribeline collects would not be an accurate statistical representation of any general situation, because the data it receives will all be submitted voluntarily.

Moreover, she said there is the risk of "malicious reporting" of bribe-seeking that would distort the picture, "although we think it is low."

Thursday, July 12, 2007

For Sale Prime Subic Subdivision lot

Prime Subic Subdivision lot with panoramic view of Subic Bay


I would like to offer my 277 m2 vacant lot in Alta Vista Subdivision in Subic and fronting Baloy Beach in Barretto, Olongapo.

The lot is in a prime location because it is only 5 lots from the fully equipped clubhouse and is located in the bayside giving the lot a panoramic view of Subic Bay.

The project was jointly developed by GP Homes and Sta Lucia.

The owner developer has stopped selling the prime lots and are now only offering house and lot packages starting at P8.5m to P10.5m and with lot size starting at 240 m2.

The lot value is around P1.850m, but for a quick sale, I am willing to sell at P1.5m.

I am the owner and the title is clean.

Thank you for your time, please advise if you are interested or if your know someone, please pass the information.

R. Teodoro
*best number to reach me is 0926-6886888
or email address at

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Developer invites IT outsourcing firms to locate in Clark

PASIG CITY, Philippines -- A developer that has announced a 3,000-square-meter office space in the Clark Special Economic Zone, has invited outsourcing firms to consider locating in its facility.

Berthaphil Inc. representative Peter Herman said the property will start accepting occupants by the end of July.

This new facility is part of an IT office park the company is building on the former US base.

The developer said the 3,000-square-meter facility can be expanded in 500-square-meter increments as business expands, said Herman in a statement.

"This provides great flexibility for BPO service providers that need to be prepared to expand operations quickly in response to client demand," Herman said.

"We've provided a footprint that allows operators to add approximately 60 seats almost on demand, quickly and efficiently. That's an enormous benefit for both BPO contractors and shared services facility operators," he added.

Berthaphil said it was offering locators purpose-designed space for training and recruitment while facilities are being fitted out.

"We want our locators to have the resources they need to make their CSEZ operations successful from the start, so we make these facilities available to them. When the doors open to their new space, they can begin operations immediately, and immediately begin earning a return on their investment," Herman said.

The developer had developed an industrial park which is home to light manufacturers and semiconductor firms from Japan, Taiwan and the United States.

Herman said the plans call for the 14-hectare IT park to eventually offer outsourcing-ready space.

Berthaphil will develop almost 15 hectares of space in the CSEZ.

By Erwin Oliva -

RP BPO firms getting ready for next 3 years

MANILA, Philippines -- Philippine business process outsourcing (BPO) companies are setting new goals and improving existing ones that aim to keep the industry going for the next two years.

The multi-faceted plan is being developed by the Business Process Association of the Philippines (BPAP) and taps into three specific components, namely talent development, search for physical locations and creating a stable business environment.

A glimpse of the BPAP Roadmap 2010 was presented by it CEO Oscar Sanez during the opening ceremonies of the ongoing Call Center Conference Exposition 2007 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Mandaluyong City.

As it is still under the second phase of development, Sanez said the BPAP Roadmap 2010 is set to be official released by the fourth quarter of 2007.

Sanez said the strategy involves not just the BPAP members but also the local communities, education institutions and local government units to ensure its success.

Under the talent development component, Sanez noted that a major problem was mismatch between the location of the potential hires and the center, followed by the problem of top talents such as engineering, accounting and nursing graduates moving to other countries.

The talent component strategy should focus on increasing financial aid to students, improve work and study flexibility, launch continuous training campaigns that are relevant to industry requirements, and developing competency tests for students and trainers in schools.

A radical approach to the problem of hiring shortage involves opening up recruitment to non-traditional talents, such as high school graduates, college dropouts and housewives, thus the need for strict competency tests.

For the location component, BPAP will be developing a set of products that identify and evaluate areas considered as "next wave" cities where startups and expanding BPOs can build new locations.

The reporting of "next wave" cities will contain the number of companies already operating in specific cities, telecommunications readiness, physical landscape, available expertise and possible challenges.

Lastly, for the business environment component, BPAP intends to beef up perception regarding the Philippines as location for operators. In so doing, the group intends to conduct risk perception survey of locators, build success case studies and launch industry-wide campaigns to address intellectual property, Internet security, among

Government involvement falls under the business environment component wherein local government units can have buy-in of locators, utilization of Bureau of Investments' "One Stop Action Centers," and lobbying to retain or protect current incentive programs.
By Alexander Villafania -

Monday, July 09, 2007

7 new Wonders of the World chosen

By Barry Hatton
Associated Press

LISBON, Portugal -- The Great Wall of China, Rome's Colosseum, India's Taj Mahal and three architectural marvels from Latin America were among the new seven wonders of the world chosen in a global poll released on Saturday.

Jordan's Petra was the seventh winner. Peru's Machu Picchu, Brazil's Statue of Christ Redeemer and Mexico's Chichen Itza pyramid also made the cut.

About 100 million votes were cast by the Internet and cellphone text messages, said New7Wonders, the nonprofit organization that conducted the poll.

The seven beat out 14 other nominated landmarks, including the Eiffel Tower, Easter Island in the Pacific, the Statue of Liberty, the Acropolis, Russia's Kremlin and Australia's Sydney Opera House.

The pyramids of Giza, the only surviving structures from the original seven wonders of the ancient world, were assured of retaining their status in addition to the new seven after indignant Egyptian officials said it was a disgrace they had to compete.

The campaign to name new wonders was launched in 1999 by the Swiss adventurer Bernard Weber. Almost 200 nominations came in, and the list was narrowed to the 21 most-voted by the start of 2006. Organizers admit there was no foolproof way to prevent people from voting more than once for their favorite.

A Peruvian in national costume held up Macchu Picchu's award to the sky and bowed to the crowd with his hands clasped, eliciting one of the biggest cheers from the audience of 50,000 people at a soccer stadium in Portugal's capital, Lisbon.

Many jeered when the Statue of Liberty was announced as one of the candidates. Portugal was widely opposed to the US-led invasion of Iraq.

Another Swiss adventurer, Bertrand Piccard, pilot of the first hot-air balloon to fly nonstop around the world, announced one of the winners -- then launched into an appeal for people to combat climate change and stand up for human rights before being ushered off the stage.

The Colosseum, the Great Wall, Machu Picchu, the Taj Mahal and Petra had been among the leading candidates since January, while the Statue of Christ Redeemer received a surge in votes more recently.

The Statue of Liberty and Australia's Sydney Opera House were near the bottom of the list from the start.

Also among the losing candidates were Cambodia's Angkor, Spain's Alhambra, Turkey's Hagia Sophia, Japan's Kiyomizu Temple, Russia's Kremlin and St. Basil's Cathedral, Germany's Neuschwanstein Castle, Britain's Stonehenge and Mali's Timbuktu.

Weber's Switzerland-based foundation aims to promote cultural diversity by supporting, preserving and restoring monuments. It relies on private donations and revenue from selling broadcasting rights.

The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO, keeps a list of World Heritage Sites, which now totals 851 monuments. But the agency was not involved in Weber's project.

The traditional seven wonders were concentrated in the Mediterranean and Middle East. That list was derived from lists of marvels compiled by ancient Greek observers, the best known being Antipater of Sidon, a writer in the 2nd century B.C.

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Statue of Zeus at Olympia, the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, the Colossus of Rhodes and the Pharos lighthouse off Alexandria have all vanished.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

P1.5-B school launches ‘pay later’ plan for seamen

By Marlon Ramos - Inquirer

CALAMBA CITY—Almer Postor’s dream of becoming a seafarer and earning enough for his family now looms larger than ever.

The reason: The opening of a new P1.5-billion maritime school in a sprawling industrial park here where Postor is now enrolled on a scholarship.

Postor is actually among the first batch of students enrolled at the NYK-TDG Maritime Academy (NTMA) whose opening last Friday was graced by President Macapagal-Arroyo and officials of the Japanese government.

NYK stands for Nippon Yusen Kaisha, a Japanese shipping company considered to be the oldest in the world and the largest in Asia.

TDG, or Transnational Diversified Group, is a Filipino-owned company which serves as the local partner of NYK.

Capt. Antonio Dael, dean of the Center for Shipboard Training and Continuing Education at NTMA, said one of the main thrusts of the maritime school is to help poor but intelligent students like Postor fulfill their dreams of becoming successful merchant marine officers.

Dael said the school has a “study now, pay later” plan where students may enroll without having to pay all the tuition up front.

He said the tuition ranges from P70,000 to P75,000 per semester, which includes board and lodging.

He said 90 percent of the 120 students who belong to the first batch of NTMA enrollees had availed themselves of student loans.

Postor, 17, was able to enroll at NTMA because of a scholarship from NYK-Fil Ship Management Inc. (NYK-Fil), one of the biggest manning agencies for seafarers in the country.

Dael said the establishment of the school was actually the brainchild of NYK-Fil, which provides seafarers for NYK.

Healthy environment

Located at the foot of scenic Mt. Makiling, the school offers a healthy environment for students.

Aside from the school’s five buildings, it also has a 10-foot deep large swimming pool which allows students to have real-life “on sea activities” like operating a lifeboat.

Dael said because of their commitment to develop highly skilled seafarers, the school installed state-of-the-art equipment to better prepare their students for their shipboard training.

In addition to dummy engine rooms of ships, laboratories and classrooms required in maritime schools, NTMA built a modern bridge which allows students to experience what it is like to navigate a ship.

A bridge is the “cockpit” of large sea vessels where the navigation room for the captain and his crew is located.

Situated on the third floor of the Mariner’s Building, a building built to look like a ship, the mock bridge has five projector screens which move as the student navigates the ship.

First of its kind

Dael said their bridge simulator is the first of its kind in the country.

“In an instant, a student can navigate through the Singapore Strait or any other location in the world. It is as close as real bridges,” he explained.

The school also has a fully operational engine room, speech laboratories, radar room, computer room and 12 classrooms.

Designed to be a boarding school, NTMA has 90 rooms which can accommodate 360 students at a time.

He said unlike other schools, NTMA will limit its students to only 120 per school year.

As a four-year college course, students are required to take up three years of academic schooling and one year of shipboard training.

At present, the school offers the BS Marine Transportation course for those who want to be ship captains and BS Marine Engineering for cadets aspiring to become chief engineers.

Dael said apart from their academic load, students enrolled at NTMA are also required to spend two-hour reading session in the library.

On school days, the cadets should likewise complete a two-hour duty as guards.

Dael said this is to discipline the students and prepare them for the life of a seafarer.

He said NYK had also ordered the construction of four ships just for the use of their students.

Job demand

A few years back, NYK-Fil saw the increasing demand for seamen as a result of the construction of new sea vessels worldwide.

Dael explained that the imminent lack of ship personnel was based on a five-year study done by the Baltic International Maritime Council (BIMCO), the world’s biggest organization of private shipping companies.

He said for NYK alone, there would be 10,000 new job offerings as the company’s current fleet of 750 ships would be increased by around 130 ships.

This means that students of NTMA are assured of jobs after graduation, he said.

Most popular

“Shipping remains to be the most popular, most practical and safest mode of transporting goods today,” he said.

And Dael said the prospects for a better life for Filipino seafarers were high because “Filipinos remain to be the nationality of choice of foreign shipping lines.” (See Global Pinoy, Page A23.)

As of 2005, Filipinos accounted for more than 28 percent of all maritime officers employed by shipping companies.

A far second were Russians who make up 6.8 percent of the total seafarers in the world.

P1.7-B remittance

Dael said records from government agencies showed that Filipino seamen remitted more than $1.7 billion last year.

He said only the demand for nurses topped seafarers among the opportunities open to Filipinos abroad.

A starting third mate (the lowest rank of merchant marine officer) receives an average monthly salary of $1,500 to $1,800.

A ship captain, on the other hand, gets $4,000 to $6,000 a month.

Postor said he still could not believe that he’s only a few years away from achieving his life-long dream.

The school will be conducting entrance exams for the second batch of NTMA students on Oct. 27. Interested individuals may contact the school at 049-549-0923 and 049-549-0933.

Ladderized education pushed

THE Commission on Higher Education yesterday said 98 percent of state colleges and universities are already implementing the government’s ladderized educational program.

CHED Commissioner Dr. Nona Ricafort, who leads the implementation of ladderized education, said CHED’s agenda is to increase the number of private higher educational institutions offering ladderized education.

“So far, only 35 percent of private colleges and universities are ladderized,” Ricafort, one of the guest speakers at the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization sponsored forum in Greenhills, San Juan, told reporters.

“We’re targeting to increase the number to 60 to 70 percent by next school year,” Ricafort said.

Earlier CHED, in coordination with the Technical Education and Skills Development, worked for the “ladderization” of eight college programs.

These include Bachelor of Science in Hotel and Restaurant Management, Nursing, Information and Communication Technology, Mechanical Engineering, Marine Transport and Engineering, Agricultural Technology, Criminology, and Technical Teaching Education.

The system was designed to help students taking technical and vocational programs to obtain a college education through an unconventional route.

Ricafort said through the ladderization program, students who were unable to finish college can still be hired in a tech-voc job. Jeffrey Tiangco

In the oil industry, Smuggling may deter new investments

By MYRNA M. VELASCO - Manila Bulletin

The worsening problem of smuggling enmeshing the oil industry is seen hampering inflow of more investments in the sector.

This was an opinion shared by Pilipinas Shell country chairman Edgar O. Chua as he called on the government to intensify efforts to rein in such illegal activities pervasive in the industry.

In line with this direction, he proposed the creation of a task force that shall focus on solving, and possibly ending, the industry’s smuggling problem; as he noted that such activities do not only deny the government of much-needed taxes but also endangers consumers because of questionable quality of the smuggled oil products.

Chua said he put forward such proposal in a recent meeting with Energy Secretary Raphael P.M. Lotilla; citing that competitive forces will not reign rightly in the industry if rampant cases of smuggling are not resolved.

The Shell executive explained that competitive forces in the industry can be distorted by smuggling "because they can underdeclare their value and volume;" consequently, these considered pseudo-industry players can sell their pump products cheaper; even at P20 per liter; which is almost half the price of gasoline products.

The Department of Energy (DoE) has initiated various efforts in the past to solve oil smuggling; but it had its hands tied because this is a responsibility it shares with other government agencies, like the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Bureau of Customs, among others.

"We should recognize that it is happening. The industry and the DoE can’t do it alone. A no non-sense task force should be in place to target these oil smugglers," Chua said.

For several times in the past, the energy department has been constantly challenged to make public the entities or companies involved in oil smuggling; as this could serve as an initial step to restrain the perpetrators.

A study previously undertaken by the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) indicated that the government incurred P1.1 billion of foregone revenues from 1999 to 2001 alone because of smuggling.

Since then, it was noted that smuggling activities have not been diffused; instead, it just worsen over the years.

At that time, the energy department thought of pushing for a penal cause on smuggling (with extreme penalties) that shall be incorporated as part of the amendments in the Oil Deregulation Law.

Previous studies have also listed several hotspots for oil smuggling; including the ports of Subic, Bataan, Manila Bay, Cebu, General Santos and Davao plus free ports and economic zones which are accorded special privileges.

The other channels identified are through the depots in the coastal areas and barges plying the Pasig River; and at the distribution level, through distributors selling to independent traders, small retail outlets or makeshift drum-pump retail stations with huge price discounts. (MMV)

Friday, July 06, 2007

RP as ASPAC educ hub?

By: Egay Serrano

The good news daw is that the Philippines is fast emerging as the newest educational hub in the Asia-Pacific region as a result of the continuing influx of foreign students in various schools of the country with 2006 Bureau of Immigration records showing more than 30,000 foreign students had secured special study permits and student visas.

The bad news is that according to former Education secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad, “half of the country’s student population is not even in school,” adding that the tragedy is manifested in the very fundamental problems of access, a high drop-out rate, and a very low reading proficiency.

Immigration Commissioner Marcelino Libanan said Koreans account for about 95 percent of the foreign students, mostly minors and teenagers enrolled in various private schools and learning centers throughout the country.

This is one bit of good news for Koreans who have discovered that tuition rates here in Manila are more affordable for them compared to the high cost of getting a good, English-based education in their own country. Aren’t we rejoicing on the wrong side of the issue?

While foreigners are taking advantage of the comparatively low tuition in the country’s privately-run schools, the grim reality remains that millions of Filipino students could not even afford to go to school.

Out of 10 students entering Grade 1, six will complete the elementary course, four will get through high school, and two will enter college, according to the Department of Education. “We do not know if the two who will enter college will get a degree or even a job,” says Alice Alafriz PaƱares, deputy director of the DepEd’s National Educators Academy of the Philippines.

To stem the drop-out rate among school children who come from poor families, the Department of Social Welfare and Development has come up with a band-aid approach, which is essentially what’s in place, in resolving the crisis in the country’s educational system.

Poor parents will soon have a very compelling reason to take their children to school everyday, says DSWD Secretary Esperanza Cabral since a child who logs perfect or at least 85 percent class attendance in a month will get P300 for the family; while a trip to the health center every month would add P500 to the household kitty.

The monetary incentives will be offered to families belonging to the “poorest of the poor,” in order to break the vicious cycle of poverty and illiteracy in the country, said Secretary Cabral in a press briefing on Thursday.

A family will receive the P300 monthly allowance for each child—either in elementary or high school—who is able to complete at least 17 school days in a month. At least three children per household could avail themselves of the program.

A family could make as much as P15,000 annually which, according to Cabral might, would serve as enough incentive for parents to keep their kids in school instead of enlisting them to work at home or in the fields.

For a long-term solution to be had, government and private sector should work together in addressing the decline in the quality of education, especially at the elementary and secondary levels; and resolving affordability of getting our youth to schools and the big disparity in educational achievements across social groups. For example, the socio-economically disadvantaged students have higher drop-out rates, especially in the elementary level.

Government should also allocate the highest proportion of its budget to education, while private sector and industry groups should help in correcting a large proportion of “mismatch” between training and actual jobs resulting in the existence of a large group of educated unemployed or underemployed.

We can only lay claim to being the education hub in this part of the world if we ourselves can educate our own people.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

CHEd, printing office develop fool-proof diploma

By Michael Lim Ubac - Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines -- The government is determined to wipe out the Recto diploma mill which through the years has catered to millions of out of school and undergraduate Filipinos, including overseas workers, pretending to hold college degrees.

The National Printing Office (NPO) and the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) signed a memorandum of agreement Thursday for the printing of “highly securitized paper” for college diplomas.

NPO, the agency that prints government forms, said the same security features applied in the printing of ballots, election returns and certificates of canvass would be incorporated in the manufacture of diplomas.

This will include the use of water marks, bar code and other high-tech printing technology previously utilized only in the printing of currencies such as the peso and dollar bills.

“Our aim is to put them out of business, and that people will no longer patronize them,” said NPO chief Felipe Evardone, summing up the government's response to the ready made counterfeit college diplomas peddled along a stretch of Claro M. Recto Avenue in Manila.

Evardone said the “Recto University” has given “a bad name to the patriot and statesman” Claro M. Recto, and the country as well.

According to Evardone, some higher institutions of learning have complained of lecturers and even professors gaining teaching positions by virtue of a fake Ph.D. or master's degree.

C. M. Recto Avenue has been home to a thriving diploma mill where an ostensible University of the Philippines diploma could be had for about P1,500.

Throw in a few more P100 bills and you have a newly minted TOR, or transcript of records, complete with flat 1 grades, and signatures of college secretary, university chancellor and president for authenticity.

Evardone said the Recto phenomenon, which blossomed during martial law, could be blamed on Filipino's ingenuity and of course the high premium put on education by society -- not to mention some people’s warped values.

For some people, getting the easy and less-expensive route appears palatable, he said.

“Also, it is easy to fake college diplomas. In Recto, they have people with a golden hand, plus the advent of computers allowed them to cut and past signatures of school officials.”

The Manila City Hall has repeatedly raided these labyrinth of counterfeiters, to no avail, recalled Evardone.

So the best way to defeat them is for the government to go high-tech, thus cutting the supply side, he said.

On the demand side, government should prove that those who will avail themselves of their services will face “risk and embarrassment,” he added.