Archive for the ‘Manila’ Category

Vietnam rice troubles could affect region

March 20, 2008
by Cecil Morella 

LOS BANOS, Philippines (AFP) – Vietnam‘s farm sector is reeling from outbreaks of pests and disease that could threaten its neighbours including China, according to one of the world’s leading rice experts.

A vendor puts rice into a bag for sale at a rice market in Ho ...
A vendor puts rice into a bag for sale at a rice market in Ho Chi Minh City. Vietnam’s farm sector is reeling from outbreaks of pests and disease that could threaten its neighbours including China, according to one of the world’s leading rice experts.
(AFP/File/Hoang Dinh Nam)

Hanoi and the world scientific community have yet to find a way to prevent another crop failure following a virus attack on rice crops last year, said Robert Zeigler, head of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).

Vietnam is the fifth-largest rice producer and number three exporter in the world, and last year’s troubles hit some of the best rice-growing areas, Zeigler told AFP in an interview at the Institute, just south of Manila.

“The fact is, they got taken by surprise and they had some significant yield losses that they were just not….

An elderly woman sits sorting rice at a rice market in Ho Chi ...
An elderly woman sits sorting rice at a rice market in Ho Chi Minh city on March 6. Vietnam’s farm sector is reeling from outbreaks of pests and disease that could threaten its neighbours including China, according to one of the world’s leading rice experts.(AFP/File/Hoang Dinh Nam)

Read the rest:
 http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20080320/wl_asia_afp/foodcommodityricevietnam
chinapest_080320061706

Related:
Inflation and Food Shortages?

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Spratlys: China Worried At Nervousness Over Seismic Survey

March 13, 2008

By TERESA CEROJANO,Associated Press Writer 

MANILA, Philippines – China said Thursday it is concerned that controversy over its joint study with the Philippines and Vietnam to find possible petroleum reserves in the disputed South China Sea may harm relations with Manila.
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A Chinese patrol boat.
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Filipino lawmakers have filed several bills in Congress calling for a probe into the Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking to see if it compromised their country’s sovereignty and territorial claims to portions of the Spratly Islands.

The move follows media reports that the agreement covers Philippine territory not even claimed by China, and was allegedly signed in exchange for Chinese loans for overpriced projects.

The three-year seismic survey that ends in June 2008 is intended to detect petroleum reserves in the South China Sea. The possibility of oil and gas revenues is one reason why the remote Spratlys are under such dispute.

Read the rest:
http://malaysia.news.yahoo.com/ap/20080313/tap-as-gen-philippines-china-spratlys-fe2a5de.html

Corruption of Asian Economies Rated By Expats

March 12, 2008

From The Daily Tribune
Manila
March 12, 2008

It seems that no country in Asia can beat the Philippines under President Arroyo in the corruption game, with the country again seen by expatriates as tops in corruption.

The Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia and China are among the most corrupt Asian economies, according to results of a regional poll of expatriate businessmen released Monday, with the Philippines topping it, having obtained a 9.0 out of a possible 10 points under a grading system where 0 is the perfect score and 10 the worst.

While the Philippines retained its number one ranking in corruption, Singapore and Hong Kong retained their rankings as the cleanest economies, the Political and Economic Risk Consultancy (PERC) said in its report.

A man uses his mobile phone as he walks past a stock exchange ...
A man uses his mobile phone as he walks past a stock exchange board inside a bank in Taipei March 10, 2008. Asian stocks hit their lowest in nearly seven weeks on Monday, while the dollar was near a record low against the euro and an eight-year low against the yen after weak employment data fuelled U.S. recession fears. Shares in China, Taiwan and Singapore were down more than 2 percent.REUTERS/Nicky Loh (TAIWAN)

The annual survey covers only 13 economies in Asia and excludes other countries notorious for corruption, such as Myanmar and Bangladesh.

Some 1,400 expatriates were polled in January and February this year, PERC said.

Corruption remains a problem in the region despite huge economic progress made over the years, with governments generally lacking the political will to tackle the problem, the Hong Kong-based PERC said.

“The Philippines is a sad case when it comes to corruption,” the consultancy said in a summary report made available to Agence France Presse.

The Philippine situation is “probably no worse than in places like Indonesia and Thailand” but corruption has become politicized and is openly discussed in the media, unlike in authoritarian countries like China and Vietnam, it said.

The Philippines scored 9.0 out of a possible 10 points under a grading system used by PERC under which zero is the best score and 10 the worst.

Even in Philippine based surveys, the government of Mrs. Arroyo is seen to be very corrupt, with some seven out of 10 Filipinos distrusting Mrs. Arroyo as well as her spouse, who is perceived to be part of the conjugal partnership involved in alleged corrupt deals.

The Philippine Senate has an ongoing investigation on the alleged corrupt deals with China where huge kickbacks have reportedly been received by what has been termed “The Greedy Group” plus plus, where ZTE National Broadband Network witness Dante Madriaga, linked the presidential couple to the scam.

There are two other projects also in partnership with China, that are said to be corruption-filled, and where kickbacks have also been received by top Malacañang officials. These are the NorthRail and SouthRail projects, both of which are also scheduled for hearings at the Senate.

The latest fray on corruption, coupled with the sovereignty issue is the joint exploration agreement with China.

Expatriates who were surveyed by PERC also found China to be mired in corruption, coming in at number three.

China’s score worsened to 7.98 from 6.29 last year with corruption seen to be as widespread as ever despite Beijing’s efforts to clamp down on it.

“The economy is growing so rapidly that even low-level officials are able to amass illicit fortunes.

“The penalties for getting caught might be draconian, but graft is so widespread and the potential rewards so great that people seem to be more than willing to take the risks.”

As in the 2007 survey, Thailand remained the second most corrupt economy after the Philippines with a score of 8.0 after the military, which seized power in a coup in 2006, was seen to have failed to tackle the problem.

“The kingdom’s economy has been marking time for two years while it sorts out political problems in which allegations of corruption figure prominently,” said PERC.

Indonesia, which ranked behind Thailand with a score of 7.98, has made improvements under President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono but the perception of the civil service as one prone to graft remains strong, said PERC.

“International ratings agencies might have improved Indonesia’s foreign and domestic currency debt ratings recently, citing the government’s efforts to tackle corruption… however, the problem is still very serious,” said PERC.

Corruption is also perceived to have worsened in Malaysia, which scored 6.37 in the survey, worse than last year’s grade of 6.25, but the country retained its number six ranking in the poll.

Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s failure to carry out his promise to fight graft was one of the key reasons his ruling coalition suffered its worst ever results during last Saturday’s elections, PERC said.

“A promise to fight corruption was the main campaign theme that won (Abdullah) a big increase in voter support in the last national elections (in 2004),” the consultancy said.

The pressure is now on Abdullah, who rejected pressure to step down despite the poll setback, to show he is serious about fighting corruption in his second term as prime minister, said PERC.

It is not only PERC that has come out with these findings of a corrupt Philippine economy.

Poor governance and corruption are two major complementing constraints on growth of the local economy, which has fallen behind its neighbors in East and Southeast Asia, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said in its latest country report.

The ADB report also cited poor national revenues, lack of infrastructure and waning investor confidence as hurdles to growth.

In its report “Philippines: Critical Development Constraints,” the ADB said the country’s economy has fallen behind its neighbors in East and Southeast Asia over the past five decades.

It cited studies suggesting that the Philippines ‘ ranking in the control of corruption and maintaining political stability have worsened.

It also said that the pace of poverty reduction has been slow and income inequality remains stubbornly high.

The report added the Philippines has lost momentum in controlling corruption, and has allowed Vietnam and fairly soon, Indonesia, to pass it.

“In the case of political stability, the Philippines has slipped, particularly relative to the 1998 level,” the report added.

The ADB cited studies that show causal relationships between corruption, political instability and weak rule of law, on one hand, and investment, on the other hand, in the country.

“The perception of worsening corruption was found to partly explain the low investment rate in the Philippines. Poor governance was also found to translate into higher lending rates, reflective of premiums for worsening corruption, political instability, and internal conflict, acting as disincentives to private investment,” it said.

The study noted a key reason for weak revenue generation, which are leakages in revenue collection, was “rooted in persistent corruption and patronage problems.”

Governance concerns not only weaken investor confidence, they underlie most other critical constraints. For instance, corruption undermines tax collection; political instability hinders investment and growth and reduces the tax base; and both contribute to the tightness of the fiscal space.

Poor infrastructure is a result of insufficient development spending and of poor governance, the latter causing leakages and misappropriation of public funds, it added.

Similarly, poor governance hinders the pace of poverty reduction, as it reduces growth of incomes and productive employment opportunities. It is also a major factor contributing to inequalities in access to education, health, infrastructure, and other productive assets, as well as to weaknesses of many poverty reduction programs, it said.

“The Philippines must raise revenues, improve infrastructure, strengthen governance to build investor confidence, expand its industrial base and improve access to employment and development opportunities to increase growth and reduce poverty,” the ADB said.

It noted the data released by the government wherein 26.9 percent of families in 2006 were below the official poverty threshold, up from 24.4 percent in 2003.

“While growth has picked up in recent years, with the economy in 2007 posting its highest growth of 7.3 percent in the last three decades, both public and private investment remain sluggish and their share in gross domestic product has continued to decline, raising the question of whether the current economic momentum can be sustained,” the report said.

It also identified a number of critical constraints to economic growth and the fight against poverty in the next five to eight years for the Philippines .

“Targeting and removal of the most critical constraints will lead to the highest returns for the country. It will spur investment, which in turn will lead to sustained and high growth and create more productive employment opportunities,” said Ifzal Ali, Chief Economist of ADB.

“This would ensure that the fruits of development are shared by all,” he added. With Michaela P.del Callar and AFP

To Oprah and All Her Fans: Everything is Relative

November 5, 2007

By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom
November 5, 2007

Oprah Winfrey, “Who hasn’t had a bad day in her life,” according to celebrity disaster control and public relations consultant Peter Shankman of Manhattan, issued a teary-eyed apology to her South African school’s students and their parents after allegations of child sexual abuse by a matron were uncovered.

Ms. Winfrey, the highly regarded mega-millionaire, has invested some $40 million into an South African education center for about 150 young women, which is highly commendable. 

Oprah Winfrey

Oprah said whenever a child has the courage to come forward, adults should listen.

Oprah also said the revelation of the allegations had sparked “one of the most, if not the most devastating experience of my life.”

Now, child abuse and any sexual abuse is insidious, life-changing and often devastating.  It is not to be belittled.  But it is not death, cancer or the life that refugees face either.

Oprah Winfrey said, “This has shaken me to the core.”

This is as bad as Oprah’s life has ever gotten?  Or will ever get?
Talk Show host Oprah Winfrey smiles as she arrives for the Chicago premier of 'The Color Purple' in a  Thursday, May 3, 2007 photo. Winfrey has pulled a discredited children's book, Forrest Carter's 'The Education of Little Tree,' from a list of recommended titles on her Web site, blaming an archival 'error' for including a work considered the literary hoax of a white supremacist.  'The archived listing was posted in error and has been removed,' Winfrey spokeswoman Angela DePaul told The Associated Press on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2007, adding that she did not know long 'Little Tree' had been on the site. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, file)

Oprah Winfrey

We think what really brought Oprah to tears was the revelation that Jay Leno wouldn’t be able to talk about her dilemma because his writers are on strike. We heard one PR queen say, “She cried like a baby when she heard the story broke on a night with only late night re-runs. Now THAT’S a TRAGEDY.”

And by emphasizing her own emotional distress, Oprah seemed to cover over the people really hurt and wronged.  The students.  Her students.  A PEOPLE Magazine editor we spoke to said, “Oprah is partly to blame.  She put her name on that school then didn’t ensure a safe environment.  She needs to step up.”

Even Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post wrote, “I did wince yesterday when she called allegations of sexual and physical abuse at the girls’ school she founded in South Africa ‘one of the most devastating, if not the most devastating experience of my life’ — seeming to make it all about her, not the alleged victims.”

On the November 6, 2007 TODAY show on NBC, feelings were expressed, but in very muted tones.

Oprah promised to love, cherish, comfort and care for her “little ones” and she handed out her cell phone number.

She told the media she was their “Mamma Bear.”

But when you are 5 or 6 time zones away and in a different culture and on a different continent, the amount of hugging and helping has to be done through accountants.

We believe, if a crime committed in Africa is the worst thing ever to happen to a Chicago-based multi-millionaire and TV personality; then life is just about as terrific as it can be. Oprah apparently has no clue about what is going on in cancer treatment centers, refugee camps and millions of other places filled with tragedy, crime, unlawful death, pain and agony.

Heck, in Thailand and Cambodia they just don’t abuse little girls, they sell them to predators first.  Try human trafficking as a real cause for celebrity interest.

Oh, Oprah has HEARD all the stories, and even visited some slums in her limo: but she is always free to travel home to her Ivory Tower.

Fifteen minutes in the slums of Bombay or Manila, we bet, would make Oprah lose her lunch.  She’d have no fluids left for tears.

We are tired of teary-eyed divas with few worries worth noting. 

Paris Hilton cried after she was sentenced to a Hollywood slammer for, what, 23 days? Ellen cried because she had to send a puppy (that she had already given away to someone else) back to the adoption agency.  

And Heather Mills cried, I guess, because she might only screw Paul McCartney out of $60 million: not the full $300 million she thinks she deserves.  And besides, says Heather, the newspapers have been “simply wicked.”
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Well my heart is broken.

Lord Have Mercy! These are DISASTERS? Whoever is listening to this drivel and thinks these are real tragedies should run, not walk, to the nearest neighborhood AA meeting and hear an hours worth of real life problems. Heck, in Vegas there are guys that have lost more money gambling than Oprah has ever MADE. Now that’s a tragedy. And a fifteen minute visit to a communist prison in Vietnam or China, we’ll bet, would more than quadruple the trauma Oprah is experience because of sexual abouse 5,000 or more miles away.

And ladies of America, if you have sympathy for these hugely rich people with bad nail and manicure tragedies: go find someone with real heartache and lend a hand. Don’t stew for one second over these charlatans.

Remember “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina”?  The song about the tragedy of Evita Peron? Well, she slept herself into South American stardom and didn’t deserve one tear drop.

At least Marie Osmond figured out that tears had been shed over, and over, and over again.  So she fainted!

Evita and Marie deserve no tears.

And neither do any of the above mentioned show people of dubious intentions and questionable tragedies.

Related:
Rich, Good Looking Doesn’t Make You Happy: So Crying on TV Gets Attention?
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Oprah the Avenger

By Eugene Robinson
The Washington Post
November 6, 2007

I  can’t summon any schadenfreude for Oprah Winfrey, just sympathy — both for her good intentions and her determination to live up to them. And I pity anyone foolish enough to stand in her way.

I did wince yesterday when she called allegations of sexual and physical abuse at the girls’ school she founded in South Africa “one of the most devastating, if not the most devastating experience of my life” — seeming to make it all about her, not the alleged victims. Still, my heart refused to harden.

I recalled that when Winfrey opened the $40 million school in January, I criticized her dismissal of inner-city kids here in the United States as only interested in “an iPod or some sneakers.”

I thought that insult was gratuitous and wrong. But I couldn’t argue with her basic point that South Africa has desperate poverty and a rudimentary educational infrastructure, and I applauded her attempt to give a few special girls an opportunity beyond their wildest dreams.

Now that the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls is back in the news, but for all the wrong reasons, I’ve got to applaud the way Winfrey is handling the situation. I have the sense that she wouldn’t hesitate to do a little “enhanced interrogation” of some staff members if that was what it took to get to the bottom of what really happened.

A now-fired dormitory matron at the school, Virginia Mokgobo, 27, was arrested last week. She pleaded not guilty yesterday to charges of assault, indecent assault and soliciting underage girls to perform indecent acts and was released on bail.

Police said that at least seven students had submitted statements in support of the allegations, but it was not known how many were alleged victims of abuse and how many were witnesses.

“When I first heard about it, I spent about a half-hour going around my house crying,” Winfrey told South African journalists yesterday, speaking from Chicago in a video news conference.

All about Oprah? Not a fair question, when you recall that Winfrey has disclosed that she was the victim of sexual abuse as a young girl. There’s every reason to believe that the allegations of abuse at the school have, as Winfrey said, “shaken me to my core” — not her celebrity core, but her real core.

Since first hearing of the allegations in early October, she has flown to South Africa twice. She put the school’s headmistress on administrative leave and has since said that she will not renew the woman’s contract — the first step in what she described at her news conference yesterday as “cleaning house from top to bottom.”

She apologized personally to angry parents, telling them, “I’ve disappointed you. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.” She has hired her own investigative team to assist South African authorities, and if someone is found guilty of the charges, I wouldn’t be surprised if Winfrey offered to build a new prison.

Of course, we don’t yet know if any abuse actually took place. The magistrate who released Mokgobo on bail told her, “These kind of offenses are very prevalent in this court” — an acknowledgment that sexual abuse of girls, usually by male teachers, is far too common in South African schools. But in the case of Winfrey’s school, we don’t yet know the specific allegations, much less whether there is evidence to support them.

We know that students complained months ago about not being allowed to eat junk food — hardly a red flag. But we also know that some parents began complaining in March, just two months after the Leadership Academy opened, that the school was too strict in limiting visits, telephone calls and e-mail contact with their children. In retrospect, that might have been an important warning.

Winfrey’s school — lavishly appointed, with state-of-the-art science labs and a yoga studio — is meant to be an island of unlimited possibility. But isolating the school’s 450 students so thoroughly from negative influences may also have kept out needed sunlight — and may have allowed problems to fester in the dark. As Winfrey cleans house, I think she might want to restructure the model and allow more of an organic relationship between the school and its community.

She gave the students her private phone number and e-mail address so they can contact her immediately with problems and concerns. Winfrey may not be an expert on running a school — yet — but I’m confident she understands the most important thing: There is no more sacred trust than caring for other people’s children.

The writer will answer questions at 1 p.m. today here. His e-mail address is eugenerobinson@washpost.com.