Carlo's Think Pieces

Reflections of a Filipino in the Netherlands

Archive for October, 2009

Together, we can do it…

Posted by butalidnl on 20 October 2009

This post is my entry for the Pinoy Expats/OFW Blog Awards 2009.

There were only 60 of them.  Sixty young men and women were sent abroad by the Japanese government in 1871, to learn from Europe and America in order to help Japan modernize. Japan had then just emerged from 265 years of self-imposed isolation.  They brought home a wealth of knowledge from the West, laying the foundation for the present Japan – an economic giant in the world.

They were only 60. The Japanese experience shows what can be achieved when a country’s  citizens go abroad and learn things that can be adapted and applied in their home country.  Of the 60 who went, many became government officials who took charge of various parts of the modernization efforts.

We are with our millions. The Philippines has sent many of us to foreign shores, to work and earn money for our families back home. And we have done this – remitting billions of dollars that keep our country’s economy afloat, even vibrant.   But this is not the only thing that we send home. We send home values, insights, and a view of the world that Filipinos could not get by just watching foreign films and reading textbooks.

A wise consular official once told Filipinos abroad to “Experience your host country.”  It would be a pity to have spent many years in a foreign land,  and not have learned that country’s language,  seen its cultural heritage, or learned from its practices and values.  We would certainly enrich ourselves in all sorts of ways, if we fully “experience” our host countries. At the same time, we are contributing to the wealth of knowledge gathered by all Filipinos who had gone out and experienced the world.

We Overseas Filipinos bring back pieces of our host countries constantly – when we go home, but also while still abroad, through our letters, e-mails, social networking site postings, blogs. Little by little, the lessons from other countries are seeping through Philippine society. With millions of us abroad, the process is unstoppable.

We can speed up this process by being more conscious in learning what we can from the countries where we are. We can be more conscious in sharing with our kababayans back home about what we learn. It does not matter what country we find ourselves in – all countries have some things we can learn from. It does not matter what jobs we do abroad – all of us have something to contribute from our experiences.

Together we can do it. Our millions will become a force that will inevitably help make the Philippines into a developed country in a matter of decades. This is entirely realistic. After all, others had done this before. It is now our turn…


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Posted in Overseas Filipinos | Tagged: , | 11 Comments »

Lessening carbon emissions and preparing for disaster can be done together

Posted by butalidnl on 15 October 2009

This blog post is my contribution to Blog Action Day

Typhoons Ondoy (Ketsana) and Pepeng (Parma), which caused extensive damage in the Philippines through extensive flooding and landslides, were unprecendented in Philippine history.  They are also graphic proof for the ordinary Filipino that the climate has indeed changed, and that we should take action to respond to this. The range of responses that people want is quite wide: from those calling for radical steps to cut our carbon footprint, to those who want more disaster preparedness, and even those who want to prosecute corrupt officials for diverting emergency funds.  There are even those who think that the typhoons are a scourge from God,  as punishment for the sins of the country’s leaders.

The proposed actions generally fall in two categories: first, those which seek to lessen the country’s carbon footprint, and thus contribute to lessening the greenhouse effect; and second, those which seek to protect lives and property from the ravages of such a changed climate (and in particular, the phenomenon of severe rainfall that comes with typhoons).   And the problem is that many Filipinos may feel that the latter is the priority, and that the country can ill afford the “luxury” of limiting its carbon emissions.

But the two categories are not really mutually exclusive. There are steps which can be taken – and I believe should be taken – which address both the overall carbon footprint while increasing disaster preparedness.

Planting Trees
This has become a “motherhood” issue when it comes to floods and even climate change.  Millions of trees have been planted (although a lot more, I believe, have been cut down at the same time) but we don’t have much to show for it. What we need to do is not simply to plant the trees, but to make sure that the trees are planted where they are needed most, and that there are people that nurture and protect these trees.   This could be done in various ways. A community could be given a whole area of forest for their protection, which is paired with that community’s right to harvest from this forest.  People could be paid to act as forest rangers, whose task is to protect the trees.  And the trees should be planted especially in watershed areas – hilly or mountainous terrain – where they help to hold the soil (lessen siltation downstream). Trees should also be planted in places which experience dry periods as a result of climate change; the trees help to retain the water and thus help prevent droughts.

And at the same time, the trees would absorb carbon dioxide from the air, and lessen the overall carbon footprint of the country.

Carbage Recycling
People were scandalized by all the garbage that clogged the rivers, mixing with the flood waters, and with some garbage even ending up hanging from electricity lines when the flood had receded.  The handling of garbage in the Philippines is primitive – it is just a matter of gathering the garbage from households, etc and dumping them somewhere – where people go through them looking for things to resell (and in vary dirty conditions).  And some people merely dump their garbage in the most convenient open space or waterway. But Metro Manila has grown too big for this primitive handling of garbage.   We need to put in place a modern garbage collection and processing system which would recycle everything that could be recycled. Segregation of garbage should be done – preferably at the source. So, paper, plastic, tin cans, glass,  “green waste” (leaves, and other compostable materials), electronic products, appliances, should be gathered separately.  This could be done either by stimulating people to gather them house-to-house, just like what they already do for used iron,  paper and glass.  We could also put up a modern garbage handling plant to fully segregate the “rest” garbage.  Experience in other countries show that more than 90% of the garbage can be recycled. This leaves only a small amount of garbage which could either be incinerated or placed in  landfills.  And energy can still be generated by this: incineration plants could be used to produce electricity, and landfills could be set up to produce biogas.

Recycling garbage is not only good for helping to unclog the drainage system of Metro Manila; it also helps to lessen global warming. The materials which are recycled don’t have to be produced from scratch – and this in turn saves on the energy used to produce them.

Expand the Light Rail Transit System
The LRT  system in Metro Manila was able to operate even under flooded conditions during Typhoon Ondoy, for the simple reason that it is elevated.  It would be a good idea to consolidate and expand the extent to the LRT system in order to provide more commuters with reliable all-weather transportation.  Expansion should be considered also in places such as the C5 highway or the South Expressway.  In addition to expanding the places reached by the LRT, its capacity should also be increased by adding more trains.

An expansion of the reach and capacity of the LRT has also definite benefits for the world’s climate to a modest degree.  LRT passenger growth will be at the expense of cars, buses and jeepneys – and this will mean a reduction in gasoline and diesel consumption, resulting in less CO2 emissions.

The three measures above will, in addition to making the country more prepared for disaster and lessening carbon emissions, also help to stimulate the economy and provide jobs to many people.

Posted in environment | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Peso will appreciate against the dollar till May 2010

Posted by butalidnl on 3 October 2009

The peso is set to appreciate significantly against the US dollar in the next few months. In August, it was hovering almost around Php 49: 1 US$; but slowly, it has gained strength to its present 47.50: 1. But this is just the beginning, the peso will steadily climb in value  from now till at least May 2010.

Remittances
The recent disaster that struck Manila will cause an increase in inward remittances in the coming weeks,  as Overseas Filipinos send money to their relatives who were affected by the flood. And this will be on top of the remittances that are set to come in to pay for school expenses – final exams are coming, and then this will be followed by tuition fees, etc. By the time this wave of remittances are over, there will then be the Christmas surge in remittances.

This surge of remittances is likely to cause the peso to strengthen against the dollar. The school and Christmas surges were expected, but the “Ondoy” relief remittance surge will be an additional factor to strengthen the peso. And in addition, we could expect the national elections in May 2010 to further increase the inflow of money from abroad. This happens every time there is an election, especially during national elections. It seems that money kept abroad by politicians, and by businesses,  is tapped for campaign expenses.

Weaker Dollar
The US dollar is getting weaker. It has weakened against most major currencies, and this is likely to worsen by the end of the year. In addition to the overall lowering of confidence in the dollar, we need to factor in the actions of Central Banks throughout the world. They are likely to lower the percentage of dollars they keep as foreign exchange reserves by the start of 2010. It is but proper that they do so, with the decreased trade with the US and the expectation that the US dollar will weaken.

If the dollar decreases in value against major currencies, it will also decrease in value against the peso.  One factor is the exchange rate effect on remittances – OFs outside the US will remit the same amount in their own currency, but this will result in more dollars/pesos received by their beneficiaries. Similar mechanisms affect trade, investments, and other monetary flows.

Portfolio Investments
The recent disaster will result in a lot of Filipinos drawing down their savings. At the same time, insurance companies need to liquidate a big part of their reserves in order to be able to pay all those who incurred damages during the flood. All these withdrawals of money will tighten the supply of money, and increase interest rates on loans, bonds, money market placements etc. International money managers will take note of this, and bring their funds into the country to take advantage of the widened interest rate differential.  We would note this as an increase in “portfolio investments” by foreigners.  This will add to the already increased net inflow of money into the country, and the resulting appreciation of the peso.

All these will mean a significant strengthening of the peso vis-a-vis the dollar, at least in the period till May 2010. What happens later will depend on the state of the world economy and the Philippine economy by then.

Posted in Overseas Filipinos, peso-dollar rate, Philippine economics, Uncategorized | Tagged: | 1 Comment »