BUSINESS HEADLINES THIS PAST WEEK...

LONG WAIT TO ENJOY BENEFITS OF LONG-TERM ECO GROWTH  

NOV 20 --Filipinos may have to wait five to 10 more years to reap the benefits of long-term economic growth due to the still high birth rate in the country, even as the United Nations population agency urged the government to invest in the youth. Dennis Mapa, a consultant of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), said it might take the Philippines five years to a decade to enjoy the benefits of demographic dividend. Demographic dividend is defined as the economic benefit arising from a significant increase in the ratio of working age adults relative to young dependents that is attributed to a significant decrease in birth rates. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) stressed the need for the government in the Philippines and other countries to invest heavily in the youth for economies to soar. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO: DBM seeks P23.34-B supplemental budget for Yolanda rehab, LRT repairs  

NOV 20 --The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) is seeking the approval of an additional P23.34 billion as supplemental budget for 2015, which the agency said would be spent mainly on post-“Yolanda” rehabilitation as well as preparations for the 2015 hosting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit. In a statement on Wednesday, DBM said that the supplemental budget would be used to build permanent houses and rebuild infrastructure in areas devastated by super-typhoon “Yolanda” (Haiyan) in late 2013, as well as fund the rehabilitation of lines 1 and 2 of the Light Rail Transit (LRT) system ahead of the country’s APEC hosting duties in 2015. “The national treasury has already certified the availability of funds to support these projects, but these appropriations must likewise be supported by proper legislation. With the proposed 2015 national budget already subject to Senate deliberations, we need the support of the House of Representatives to pass a supplemental appropriations bill to fund these projects,” Budget Secretary Florencio B. Abad said. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO: DOE to help ailing power co-ops

NOV 24 ---The Department of Energy (DOE) has stepped in to help 13 of the most ailing and debt-saddled electric cooperatives in the country to avert power outages in their franchise areas in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. Of the 13 ECs, six have combined arrears of P10.69 billion to Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. alone for purchased power, based on data as of end-September. PSALM is the government corporation tasked to privatize state-owned power assets. The DOE and the National Electrification Administration (NEA) have identified the 13 ECs as ailing because of several indicators namely: debts owed to PSALM and to various service providers and power sources such as the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) and private power companies; negative net worth, and their system losses that are above the 13-percent cap set by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC). Failure to settle debts may result in blackouts in the areas served by ECs as they may be cut off from their sources of power. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO: DoTC: Taxis must upgrade vs Uber cabs  

NOV 20 --Taxi operators should modernize and improve their services instead of opposing technology solutions like ride-sharing app Uber. “People prefer to use these tech-based transport services because they are more convenient. It’s that simple. So my advice to taxi operators: Modernize, innovate and improve your systems and services,” Transportation Secretary Joseph Abaya said in a statement on Wednesday. “Commuters say they feel safer taking these private vehicles-for-hire, that the fleet are newer, that app services are faster and more efficient. So why put a stop to what is clearly for their benefit? Poorer services should be upgraded to match their competition—not the other way around,” he added. Abaya’s statement was the latest effort by the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) to show that it was open to new technology solutions after the arrest last month of a private vehicle owner who had partnered with Uber. The incident drew intense criticism, mainly from Netizens. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO About UBER cabs: Uber is shaking up the taxi industry. Why not just let this happen? 

NOV 18 --COMMENT FROM TORONTO, CANADA: If Toronto is Canada’s innovation hub, why is the city trying to stop the wildly successful Uber taxi and ride-sharing service from continuing to operate? Welcome to Toronto, Canada’s innovation hub, home to the MaRS Discovery District, where hundreds of millions in government money are spent “harnessing the full potential of innovation.” However, as with most Canadian cities, love of innovation can be highly abstract, even platonic. They all crave innovation, but when it actually happens city officials often have no interest in its full potential. In Toronto, proof that love of innovation isn’t even skin deep came Tuesday when city officials applied for a court injunction to stop the wildly successful and brilliantly innovative Uber taxi and ride-sharing service from continuing to operate. The city’s chief licensing official, Tracey Cook, said Uber is “continuing to operate in flagrant disregard of the laws of both the city and the province.” Uber poses a risk to public safety, the city says, and operates a taxi cab service “without the lawful authority to do so.” READ FULL COMMENT FROM THE TORONTO FINANCIAL POST...

ALSO: No takers for rest of Iloilo project

NO 22 ---PHOTO: Senate President Franklin Drilon. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO  MANILA, Philippines—Some contractors suddenly don’t want to participate in the second phase of the Iloilo Convention Center (ICC) project, no thanks to Manuel Mejorada, Senate President Franklin Drilon said Friday. Quoting a public works official, Drilon said contractors have opted to stay away from the public bidding for phase two of the P700-million project for fear they would also be summoned to the Senate inquiry. As a result, completion of the high-end convention center—that will host senior ministerial meetings during next year’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit—would be pushed back to June, Drilon said. This might jeopardize Iloilo’s hosting of the Apec, he said. “Contractors and other players are getting afraid that their names and businesses will be the next target of lies being concocted, and that their names will be dragged into the issue,” he said in a statement. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO: CebuPac eyes PAL’s unused slots to Haneda

NOV 22 --Cebu Pacific Air, the Philippines’ biggest budget airline, remains keen on the coveted flights to Haneda Airport in Tokyo, Japan, as it formally seeks to take over Philippine Airlines’ unused slots to this destination. Philippine Airlines was earlier given all 14 weekly frequencies in the Manila to Haneda route but information on its website showed that three of these remained unused. Under a so-called “use it or lose it principle” the government, through the Civil Aeronautics Board, has the right to reassign frequencies that remain unused for at least six months. In the case of PAL’s unused slots to Haneda, this six-month period ends this month. In its filing in the CAB, Cebu Pacific said it was seeking the reallocation of “additional unused frequencies of three coefficients weekly seats on route Manila-Haneda from the unutilized seat entitlements previously allocated to Philippine Airlines.”  READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO Inquirer Opinion: The genius of the Filipino poor

NOV 20 --Sometimes it takes a non-Filipino to discover something great about us that we often ignore, do not notice, or take for granted. Sometimes we need foreign eyes to make us believe that there is more to what we already see. British journalist Thomas Graham came to the Philippines and visited Gawad Kalinga (GK) founder Antonio Meloto in 2012 to pick his brain about issues such as poverty in the Philippines, economic growth and many more. Graham could have been any parachuting foreign journalist, the kind that makes a quick descent, covers some ground, leaves in a rush and gives the world his or her expert views and analyses. Then calls this country “Gates of Hell” or something. Graham stayed. He immersed himself among the people—that is, the materially poor and those who work and live with them. He struck gold. READ FULL COLUMN BY Ma. Ceres P. Doyo ...


READ FULL REPORTS HERE:

Long wait to enjoy benefits of growth

MANILA, NOVEMBER 24, 2014 (PHILSTAR) By Mayen Jaymalin - Filipinos may have to wait five to 10 more years to reap the benefits of long-term economic growth due to the still high birth rate in the country, even as the United Nations population agency urged the government to invest in the youth.

Dennis Mapa, a consultant of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), said it might take the Philippines five years to a decade to enjoy the benefits of demographic dividend.

Demographic dividend is defined as the economic benefit arising from a significant increase in the ratio of working age adults relative to young dependents that is attributed to a significant decrease in birth rates.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) stressed the need for the government in the Philippines and other countries to invest heavily in the youth for economies to soar.

According to the State of the World Population 2014 released by the UNFPA yesterday, there are 1.8 billion young people worldwide who could propel economic growth.

Mapa explained that as women begin to have fewer children, the proportion of non-productive dependents is reduced. The decline should also be accompanied by an increase in the working age group to spur economic growth.

“While the country’s fertility rate is declining, it is very slow and unemployment is still very high, particularly among the youth,” Mapa disclosed.

He said high fertility and unemployment rates are the two biggest obstacles for the country to attain demographic dividend.

Based on the current trend, Mapa said it might take another five years for the country to attain the desired 2.1 percent fertility rate.

But if the government will not implement any intervention programs, he said it will take a decade or until 2025 for the country to attain the economic dividend.

Although the number of 15 to 24 years age bracket or the so-called working age group in the country is increasing, most of these workers are currently unemployed and therefore not earning right.

Mapa pointed out that economic dividend is not automatic and substantial policies are needed to attain such.

UNFPA country representative Klaus Beck said governments worldwide, including the Philippines, should expand access to contraceptives to lower the fertility rates.

“Potential economic growth gains would be realized through economic dividend, which can occur when the country’s working age population is larger than the population that is dependent and younger,“ the UNFPA official said.

Beck further noted that women who are educated and have fewer children could have better job opportunities.

“A good education gives young people the skills and knowledge that will enable them to mitigate reproductive health risks,” Beck pointed out.

Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat Jr. said they have allocated a bigger budget to provide for the needs of the estimated 20 million young people in the country.

Baguilat said they also expect full implementation of the Reproductive Health Law in the coming months since they have allotted budget for its enforcement.

Commission on Population (PopCom) executive director Juan Antonio Perez III agreed that there is a need to expand reproductive health services.

Perez said providing the youth with family planning services is essential in enabling the country to reap the benefits of demographic dividend.


FROM THE INQUIRER

DBM seeks P23.34-B supplemental budget for Yolanda rehab, LRT repairs
Ben O. de Vera @BenArnolddeVera Philippine Daily Inquirer 6:53 PM | Wednesday, November 19th, 2014


ABAD

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) is seeking the approval of an additional P23.34 billion as supplemental budget for 2015, which the agency said would be spent mainly on post-“Yolanda” rehabilitation as well as preparations for the 2015 hosting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit.

In a statement on Wednesday, DBM said that the supplemental budget would be used to build permanent houses and rebuild infrastructure in areas devastated by super-typhoon “Yolanda” (Haiyan) in late 2013, as well as fund the rehabilitation of lines 1 and 2 of the Light Rail Transit (LRT) system ahead of the country’s APEC hosting duties in 2015.

“The national treasury has already certified the availability of funds to support these projects, but these appropriations must likewise be supported by proper legislation. With the proposed 2015 national budget already subject to Senate deliberations, we need the support of the House of Representatives to pass a supplemental appropriations bill to fund these projects,” Budget Secretary Florencio B. Abad said.

The supplemental budget would be funded with money coming from the government’s excess income and revenues.

On the sidelines of the 2015 budget deliberations at the Senate, Abad told reporters that the measure was submitted to the House of Representatives last Monday.

“We gave it to the Speaker [Rep. Feliciano R. Belmonte Jr.]; they’ll take care of that,” Abad said.

The budget secretary said that they would like it be approved “hopefully before this year ends.”

“Once it’s filed, we’ll ask the President to certify it as urgent,” he said.

According to DBM, the bulk or P16.4 billion of the 2015 supplemental budget would be spent on “new and urgent” projects, including P9.5 billion for the “Yolanda” Comprehensive Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Program.

For the hosting of the 2015 APEC Summit, P1.44 billion was earmarked.

The supplemental budget would also be used to pay P1.85-billion worth of liabilities incurred from infrastructure projects rolled out by the Department of Public Works and Highways.

Another P5.08 billion would finance “priority” projects that were previously approved but have been partially or not yet implemented. These projects were supposed to be originally funded either by the scrapped Priority Development Assistance Fund or “pork barrel,” or the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program.

“Most of these projects have already been completed, are ongoing, or are urgently needed to sustain our socioeconomic development. The passage of the proposed supplemental budget will allow us to allocate funds accordingly so we can complete these projects right away,” Abad said.


FROM PHILSTAR

DOE to help ailing power co-ops By Iris C. Gonzales (The Philippine Star) | Updated November 24, 2014 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Energy (DOE) has stepped in to help 13 of the most ailing and debt-saddled electric cooperatives in the country to avert power outages in their franchise areas in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

Of the 13 ECs, six have combined arrears of P10.69 billion to Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. alone for purchased power, based on data as of end-September.

PSALM is the government corporation tasked to privatize state-owned power assets.

The DOE and the National Electrification Administration (NEA) have identified the 13 ECs as ailing because of several indicators namely: debts owed to PSALM and to various service providers and power sources such as the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) and private power companies; negative net worth, and their system losses that are above the 13-percent cap set by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC).

Failure to settle debts may result in blackouts in the areas served by ECs as they may be cut off from their sources of power.

Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla has stepped in to hold regular dialogues among local government units, local communities and power producers in the areas served by these problematic cooperatives.

The debt-ridden ECs are the Pampanga III Electric Cooperative Inc. (PELCO III), Albay Electric Cooperative Inc. (Aleco), Camarines Sur III Electric Cooperative Inc. (Casureco III), Masbate Electric Cooperative Inc. (Maselco), Ticao Island Electric Cooperative, Inc. (Tiselco) and the Northern Samar Electric Cooperative Inc. (Norsamelco).

In Mindanao, the problematic ECs are the Tawi-Tawi Electric Cooperative Inc. (Tawelco), Basilan Electric Cooperative Inc. (Baselco), Sulu Electric Cooperative Inc. (Suleco) and the Lanao Sur Electric Cooperative Inc.

The Mindanao cooperatives are the biggest thorn on Petilla’s side with their huge amount of debts.

Of the 13 ECs, for instance Magelco in Mindanao has the biggest system loss at 41.23 percent while Lasureco in Lanao del Sur has the biggest debt to PSALM at P6.77 billion and to NGCP at P1.612 billion.

NEA, for its part, has been trying to improve the operations of ECs especially with its charter now stronger after President Aquino approved charter amendments last year.

Republic Act 10531 or An Act Strengthening the National Electrification Administration, Further Amending for the Purpose Presidential Decree 269, as Amended Otherwise Known as the National Electrification Administration Decree, was signed on May 7, 2013.


FROM THE INQUIRER

DoTC: Taxis must upgrade vs Uber Miguel R. Camus @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 4:00 AM | Thursday, November 20th, 2014

MANILA, Philippines—Taxi operators should modernize and improve their services instead of opposing technology solutions like ride-sharing app Uber.

“People prefer to use these tech-based transport services because they are more convenient. It’s that simple. So my advice to taxi operators: Modernize, innovate and improve your systems and services,” Transportation Secretary Joseph Abaya said in a statement on Wednesday.

“Commuters say they feel safer taking these private vehicles-for-hire, that the fleet are newer, that app services are faster and more efficient. So why put a stop to what is clearly for their benefit? Poorer services should be upgraded to match their competition—not the other way around,” he added.

Abaya’s statement was the latest effort by the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) to show that it was open to new technology solutions after the arrest last month of a private vehicle owner who had partnered with Uber. The incident drew intense criticism, mainly from Netizens.

The DOTC’s stance, however, also comes at a time when Uber is facing negative publicity worldwide.

It is currently under fire overseas for comments reportedly made by one of its executives on how the firm can finance smear campaigns against journalists critical of it and how Uber personnel can access customers’ private travel information.

“We have not, do not and will not investigate journalists. Those remarks have no basis in the reality of our approach,” an Uber spokesperson said in an e-mail to Inquirer, referring to statements reportedly made by Emil Michael, Uber’s senior vice president of business, at a private event. The incident was first reported by Buzzfeed.

Uber further clarified its privacy policy in a Nov. 18 blog post. “Uber has a strict policy prohibiting all employees at every level from accessing a rider or driver’s data. The only exception to this policy is for a limited set of legitimate business purposes. Our policy has been communicated to all employees and contractors,” it said.

The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) is set to hold a hearing on Nov. 24 in line with a plan to update its rules to accommodate technology solutions like Uber, a ride-sharing service available in several countries.

The LTFRB has identified the existing “vehicles-for-hire” category as the likely classification for Uber vehicles, it said. While considered “colorum” since these vehicles are operating without a transport franchise, the LTFRB has not taken any further action since the DOTC signaled its intention to work with the service.

Ginez earlier said that the arrest in Manila stemmed from complaints filed by various groups, including the Philippine National Taxi Operators Association.

Uber has been facing challenges and even protests in other parts of the world, mainly by taxi operators, who say it and other similar apps allow the operation of illegal public transportation services which are regulated and require a government franchise or permit.

During a recent hearing, congressmen criticized the LTFRB for allowing Uber to operate in the country despite the fact that its vehicles may be considered colorum.


RE UBER CABS  --COMMENT FROM THE TORONTO FINANCIAL POST

Terence Corcoran: Uber is shaking up the taxi industry. Why not just let this happen? Republish Reprint Terence Corcoran | November 18, 2014 7:28 PM ET More from Terence Corcoran | @terencecorcoran


Terence Corcoran: The reason the taxi industry has been slow to change is city and provincial regulation that protects taxi operators from innovation and competition.
David Ramos/Getty Images

If Toronto is Canada’s innovation hub, why is the city trying to stop the wildly successful Uber taxi and ride-sharing service from continuing to operate?

Welcome to Toronto, Canada’s innovation hub, home to the MaRS Discovery District, where hundreds of millions in government money are spent “harnessing the full potential of innovation.” However, as with most Canadian cities, love of innovation can be highly abstract, even platonic. They all crave innovation, but when it actually happens city officials often have no interest in its full potential.

In Toronto, proof that love of innovation isn’t even skin deep came Tuesday when city officials applied for a court injunction to stop the wildly successful and brilliantly innovative Uber taxi and ride-sharing service from continuing to operate.

The city’s chief licensing official, Tracey Cook, said Uber is “continuing to operate in flagrant disregard of the laws of both the city and the province.” Uber poses a risk to public safety, the city says, and operates a taxi cab service “without the lawful authority to do so.”

This is language from the 1930s and the 1950s or 1970s, when the taxi industry was a war zone of thuggish operators and rioting drivers who were brought to a semblance of peace with heavy regulation that persists to this day. But times have changed, and Toronto’s incoming mayor, John Tory, may well be the first mayor in Canada to have some grasp of the new realities. “Uber and services like it,” said Mayor-to-be Tory in a statement, “are here to stay. It is time our regulatory system got in line with evolving consumer demands in the 21st century. As Mayor, I intend to see that it does, while being fair to all parties, respecting the law and public safety.”

In Montreal, home of the just-completed Montreal Summit on Innovation to promote the use of technology, Mayor Denis Coderre declared technology innovator Uber to be illegal. In Vancouver and Calgary, city officials have dug in against Uber, raising the usual complaints about illegality, safety, insurance, fares, driver criminality and warnings about passenger risks.


FROM THE INQUIRER

No takers for rest of Iloilo project TJ Burgonio @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 7:35 AM | Saturday, November 22nd, 2014


Senate President Franklin Drilon. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—Some contractors suddenly don’t want to participate in the second phase of the Iloilo Convention Center (ICC) project, no thanks to Manuel Mejorada, Senate President Franklin Drilon said Friday.

Quoting a public works official, Drilon said contractors have opted to stay away from the public bidding for phase two of the P700-million project for fear they would also be summoned to the Senate inquiry.

As a result, completion of the high-end convention center—that will host senior ministerial meetings during next year’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit—would be pushed back to June, Drilon said.

This might jeopardize Iloilo’s hosting of the Apec, he said.

“Contractors and other players are getting afraid that their names and businesses will be the next target of lies being concocted, and that their names will be dragged into the issue,” he said in a statement.

Mejorada has filed a plunder complaint against Drilon, Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson and Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez, alleging that the convention center was overpriced.

Wikipedia, whispers

Appearing at the blue ribbon committee hearing on the project, the former Iloilo provincial administrator admitted he merely relied on Wikipedia and “whispers” of local architects to back up his allegations.

Contrary to his claim, Mejorada said he had no proof of conspiracy among the three officials to jack up the price of the project.

The controversy, however, has struck fear in the hearts of some contractors, said Public Works regional director Edilberto Tayao.

Contractors who took part in the bidding for the first phase did not join the bidding for the second phase, Tayao said.

“Contractors with the capability to complete a project as big as the ICC did not join anymore, and those who remained were hesitant to bid at lower than P200 million, which is above the project’s approved budget of contract of P187 million,” Drilon quoted Tayao as saying.

Delayed

Because of the delay, the completion of the project is being pushed back to May or June next year, Drilon said, quoting Tayao.

“It is unfortunate that just because of lies, and of spiteful and baseless allegations hurled against the project and its proponents and implementers, Ilonggos could lose the opportunity of hosting the 2015 Apec meetings, along with all the tourism and economic developments prospects that this event brings,” Drilon said.

Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, who sought an inquiry into deals between Hilmarc’s Construction Corp., the contractor of the first phase, and local government units, branded Mejorada’s testimony a “dud.”

This sparked a debate among senators on whether to call another hearing on the matter.

The Senate President, who admitted being the project proponent, vowed to answer questions on the project.

“I have nothing to hide, and I will hide nothing. But this sinister agenda of some should not spoil the progress of Ilonggos, who have been trying to achieve their dreams of progress in the past years, made possible by opportunities provided by the present administration,” he said.

The state-of-the-art convention center is being built inside Megaworld Corp.’s P25-billion Iloilo Business Park in Iloilo City. It will rise between Megaworld’s posh hotels, Richmonde Hotel and Marriott Courtyard Hotel.

Megaworld donated a 17,371-square meter lot worth P521 million as site for the ICC.


FROM THE INQUIRER

CebuPac eyes PAL’s unused slots to Haneda Philippine Daily Inquirer 1:20 AM | Saturday, November 22nd, 2014


A Cebu Pacific plane . RICK ALBERTO/INQUIRER.net

Cebu Pacific Air, the Philippines’ biggest budget airline, remains keen on the coveted flights to Haneda Airport in Tokyo, Japan, as it formally seeks to take over Philippine Airlines’ unused slots to this destination.

Philippine Airlines was earlier given all 14 weekly frequencies in the Manila to Haneda route but information on its website showed that three of these remained unused.

Under a so-called “use it or lose it principle” the government, through the Civil Aeronautics Board, has the right to reassign frequencies that remain unused for at least six months. In the case of PAL’s unused slots to Haneda, this six-month period ends this month.

In its filing in the CAB, Cebu Pacific said it was seeking the reallocation of “additional unused frequencies of three coefficients weekly seats on route Manila-Haneda from the unutilized seat entitlements previously allocated to Philippine Airlines.”

“The plan is to progressively phase in the remaining PAL frequencies to Haneda in the first half of 2015,” PAL spokesperson Cielo Villaluna said in a text message.

The flag carrier mounts 11 flights from Manila to Haneda weekly, its latest international flight schedule showed.

Flights to Haneda are coveted, especially by business travelers, because it is located about 30 minutes away from central Tokyo by car. In comparison, traveling from Narita International Airport gateway to central Tokyo takes about an hour.

“We have a ‘use it or lose it’ rule but it’s not a hard and fast rule,” CAB executive director Carmelo Arcilla said in an interview Friday. He said the CAB needed to weigh the reasons why a carrier failed to maximize the use of its allocation and sometimes, extensions were given.

The CAB has set a hearing on Cebu Pacific’s petition for Dec. 10, the filing showed.

Cebu Pacific, which flies daily from Manila to Narita, sought half of the 14 frequencies given to Philippine carriers as early as last year.

These were eventually all awarded to PAL, which launched twice a day flights from Manila to Haneda starting March 30 before scaling down the service about a month later.

Cebu Pacific, whose filing comes months ahead of the busy summer season in 2015, said it had already pre-sold about 25 percent of its seat capacity in the next three months, underscoring the growing demand for affordable air travel.

The company said in a summary of its third quarter analyst briefing that forward bookings for December until February 2015 were up 12 percent year-on-year.

The carrier, which has a fleet of 52 planes, said in its recent financial report that passenger volume increased by 14.8 percent in the first nine months of 2014. The carrier is targeting to hit 17 million passengers for 2014, up 18 percent from year-ago level. Miguel R. Camus


INQUIRER OPINION

The genius of the Filipino poor Ma. Ceres P. Doyo  @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:07 AM | Thursday, November 20th, 2014


Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

Sometimes it takes a non-Filipino to discover something great about us that we often ignore, do not notice, or take for granted. Sometimes we need foreign eyes to make us believe that there is more to what we already see.

British journalist Thomas Graham came to the Philippines and visited Gawad Kalinga (GK) founder Antonio Meloto in 2012 to pick his brain about issues such as poverty in the Philippines, economic growth and many more.

Graham could have been any parachuting foreign journalist, the kind that makes a quick descent, covers some ground, leaves in a rush and gives the world his or her expert views and analyses. Then calls this country “Gates of Hell” or something.

Graham stayed. He immersed himself among the people—that is, the materially poor and those who work and live with them. He struck gold.

What began as a journalistic assignment or curiosity—the Philippines being touted as one of the fastest growing economies in Asia—became a personal journey. Along the way, Graham also found some answers to a nagging question that challenges the title of his book. “If there is indeed genius in the poor, then why are they poor in the first place?”

What is this genius all about?

Graham responded to Meloto’s challenge: “Come alongside the poor, befriend them, partner with them, and you will discover their potential. But don’t take my word for it, experience it for yourself.”

Graham writes about his experiences and shares his reflections in his book, “The Genius of the Poor: A Journey with Gawad Kalinga.”

GK is a community development foundation that began small in 1994 (officially in 2003). Its flagship program was poverty alleviation focused on housing for the poor. Its first humble target of 700,000 homes in seven years has become five million families crossing the poverty line by 2024.

Well, GK has since ventured into so much more. It has gone into social entrepreneurship and social innovation in GK communities, and has attracted thousands of Filipino and foreign volunteers, young people so fired up that many of them left their comfort zones and gave up their cozy jobs to get involved in nation-building with wealth-challenged communities as base.

I have written about GK projects a number of times and I can say that every time I go to a GK community (my recent visits were in The Enchanted Farm in Angat, Bulacan, and in Payatas Trese in Quezon City), there is always something new growing out of the ground or breaking out of the box, so to speak.

Graham saw for himself what bayanihan is all about, what “walang iwanan” (no one gets left behind) and “the best to the least” really mean, what servant-leadership entails. I don’t want to get ahead of his story, so here’s a “trailer” on how it all began.

Graham confesses that after he met young people at a GK Center for Social Innovation (CSI) one night, he felt “envious of their commitment, compassion and courage, qualities that I felt were missing in my own life.” They were not merely complaining about inequality in the country, he writes, they were doing something about it.

“A few weeks later, I make the most drastic decision in my (so far) unremarkable career. Ditching my shirt and tie, I decide to extend my stay in the Philippines for a few extra months. My purpose: to travel up and down the country, to try to figure out whether Tito Tony’s love and admiration for the poor is a perspective that I can embrace as well.

“Very soon, the well-paid job and a thirty-fourth-floor condo in Makati are things of the past. Instead, I am living in Tony Meloto’s mosquito-infested lowly basement with half a dozen young sweaty Frenchmen for company.”

Graham’s book (now being translated into French) is not heavily laden with statistics and high-brow jargon about wealth and poverty, development and underdevelopment. One meets in the pages of his book real persons with names, addresses and life stories—stunning, sad, amazing, heartbreaking—to share. In their company he saw, as if for the first time, his own life in a different context.

One might ask if Graham is not perhaps romanticizing the poor, they who have lived lives mired in vice, violence, criminality and hate. Where is the “genius” he is talking about?

Graham quotes Emong of Bagong Silang: “Even if you’re a drug addict or criminal like I was, you can change in a minute if you realize that you can help others. We need to give people a chance to help others and do good. As soon as you realize that others care about you, you gradually begin to care about them, too. This is the basis for change.”

Graham reflects: “Genius, I have discovered, lies not just in individual brilliance in some area of human activity, but in a supremely positive, humane attitude to life, to its ups and downs, to its unfairness and opportunities, and above all, to other people—family, neighbor, stranger. In this respect I have glimpsed genius in the impoverished… And in the process I have been taught, not how to pass an exam or appear intelligent, but simply how to live a more authentic human life.”

The poor’s genius—their transforming genius—begins in the heart, not in some area of their grey matter. That is my understanding of Graham’s journey of discovery.

The book launch is at 4 p.m. on Nov. 29, Saturday, at Fully Booked in Bonifacio Global City. The book is sold at the main store of Human Nature in Quezon City. Call 224-2222 or e-mail customer.service@humanheartnature.com.

* * *

Happening this weekend is “Uncovering Asia: The 1st Asian Investigative Journalism Conference” at the Crowne Plaza in Pasig City. This coincides with the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism’s 25th anniversary. Close to 300 journalists are attending.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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