Archive for the ‘Philippines’ Category

Philippine rebels ambush soldiers

December 3, 2008

The military in the Philippines says communist rebels have ambushed an army vehicle, killing five soldiers and wounding two others.

The landmine and gunfire attack happened in Surigao del Norte province, in the south of the country.

Rebels seized assault rifles, a laptop computer and the soldiers’ personal belongings, an army spokesman said.

The latest ambush came after talks held in Norway between rebel and government representatives broke down.

BBC

Communist rebels in the Philippines (file pic)
Rebels say they plan to intensify attacks against the government

A rebel spokesman, Fidel Agcaoili, said before the latest attack that New People’s Army guerrillas would take advantage of “crisis conditions” faced by President Gloria Arroyo and step up its long campaign.

Peace talks held sporadically since 2004 are unlikely to resume, he said, until Mrs Arroyo’s term ends in 2010.

Peace deferred

The peace talks held in Oslo ended on Sunday with no agreement over what kind of ceasefire should be agreed….

Read the rest:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7762067.stm

Vietnam: Jobs Disappearing In Asian Tiger

November 12, 2008

The Philippine Embassy in Hanoi warned jobseekers against unauthorized recruiters promising work in Vietnam after it received reports that certain Filipinos based in Ho Chi Minh City have recruited workers from the Philippines for jobs in that city.

However, upon arrival in Ho Chi Minh without valid job contracts, work visas, and work permits, the victims found out that there were no employers and no jobs waiting for them.

The “recruiters,” who allegedly earned from the overpriced plane tickets paid by the victims, leave the recruits to fend for themselves.

By Pia Lee-Brago
Philippine Star

Philippine Ambassador to Vietnam Laura del Rosario said concerned members of the Filipino community in the city brought the matter to the embassy’s attention and noted that Vietnam’s labor market may be affected by the global recession.

The victims allegedly pawned their properties and availed themselves of loans to be able to pay the Manila-Ho Chi Minh City-Manila plane ticket arranged for them by recruiters.

The victims paid from P25,000 to P30,000 per person for the plane ticket, which is around $535 to $640. 

The airfare of Cebu Pacific and PAL ranges from $150 to $400 only.

The embassy urged all Filipinos who want to work in Vietnam to go through the proper channels of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and the Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration (OWWA) for proper documentation to avoid being victimized by illegal recruiters.

As in all other countries, proper documentation (i.e., valid contract, work visa, and work permit) is a must for foreign workers in Vietnam.

A majority of Filipinos working in Vietnam occupy executive and managerial positions in fields such as construction and engineering, accountancy, banking and investment, education, garment/textile industry, hotel and restaurant management, food and beverage, marketing, furniture industry, medicine, and foreign investment projects.

Food Security: Global Emergency

April 21, 2008

By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom

Since last autumn, “food security” has moved from an issue many in the world never or hardly ever thought about to become the number one issue in life.

Food security involves having and sustaining the supply of proper food sources for entire nations and populations.

If there is any doubt that food security is a big issue, here is something of a recap of recent related news:

–The government of the Philippines said on Sunday that food security would be the number one topic in the legislative session starting Monday. The Philippines is a huge rice consumer and almost all of that rice is imported. Unfortunately, almost all of the rice supplies to the Philippines have been restricted or stopped. The result has been unrest in the streets of Manila and throughout the Philippines. Can you imagine arresting people who refuse to stop their protests because they are hungry?

–Vietnam, the world’s second-biggest rice exporter, said it would cut exports by 22% this year, following similar moves by India and Egypt. Vietnam’s inflation hit an estimated 16.4 percent in the first quarter, the highest rate in 13 years, according to government figures. Food prices were a main component of the increase, rising 21.5 percent in the January-March period compared with the same months last year.

A customer weighs rice at a sale-agent at the Voi market, 20 ...
A customer weighs rice at a sale-agent at the Voi market, 20 km (12.5 miles) south of Hanoi April 16, 2008. Fresh rice from Vietnam’s summer crop could start hitting the market a month earlier than usual, a top exporter said on Wednesday, bringing some relief to importers edgy over inflation and food security.REUTERS/Kham (VIETNAM)

–Egypt last week said that an advisor to the Commerce Minister announced a cutback in rice exports. “We have taken this decision to provide for the needs of the local market,” Sayyed Abul Komsan, advisor to Commerce Minister Mohammed Rashid, said. Meanwhile, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak ordered the army to start baking bread after deadly riots broke out in lines of people waiting for food.

–China this week is doubling taxes on fertilizer exports to ensure supplies for domestic farmers. China also announced that it will review land use issues nation wide. China’s government now says too much land has been turned over to industrialization and the nation of 1.3 billion people can no longer adequately feed itself without changes in policy and land use.

–Malaysia’s government said Saturday it would spend four billion ringgit (1.3 billion dollars) to increase food production and tackle price hikes as the country faces spiraling global oil and food costs.

–Last month the cost of food in Cambodia rose 24%. At this rate, the cost of food will almost double every four months. Yet pay is not rising at all: especially among the poor. Cambodia’s rural poor, who make up over 80 percent of the population, are particularly at risk from inflation.

–Cuba warned the World Trade Organization on Friday that the food security of developing countries is endangered for a variety of reasons, among them the rising cost of fuel.–Oil-rich Libya is discussing a deal to essentially rent a chunk of land-rich Ukraine on which it can grow its own wheat.

–Haitian Prime Minister Jacques Edouard Alexis was forced to step down last week because of violence linked to higher food costs, and U.N. and World Bank officials warn that more unrest is likely.

–France, sparked in part by unrest in Haiti, released $100 million (USD) in food aid to poorer nations.

A French farmer at work near Gaillargues. France will double ...
A French farmer at work near Gaillargues. France will double its food aid this year, spending 60 million euros (100 million dollars) as part of its response to the world crisis over soaring food prices, President Nicolas Sarkozy has announced.(AFP/File/Dominique Faget)

–France’s action followed a release of $200 million in food aid by President Bush exactly one week ago today.

“A lot of countries are in trouble right now,” said Lester Brown, veteran environmentalist and president of the Washington-based Earth Policy Institute. “We’re seeing various efforts made by countries to ensure they have the food inputs they need.”

On Sunday United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, “The problem of global food prices could mean seven lost years … for the Millennium Development Goals.  We risk being set back to square one.”

While Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton pick at each other without much addressing American issues, in the rest of the world the big issue is quickly becoming: How will we feed ourselves?

Philippines to Accelerate Food Security Discussion

April 20, 2008

From Peace and Freedom: A shortage of rice has created unrest in the streets in the Philippines.  As a result, as in many other countries, “food security” is now the number one topic in the government….

By Norman Bordadora
Philippine Daily Inquirer
April 20, 2008
 

MANILA, Philippines–After a six-week recess, Congress resumes its session Monday afternoon with food security at the top of the agenda and the population control bill to be given a second look.

Speaker Prospero Nograles said on Sunday all measures pending in the House of Representatives pertaining to food security should be addressed before Congress adjourns in June.

Nograles also said the chamber would pass a legislated wage hike if the regional wage boards were to fail to pass adjustments ordered by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

“Food is the priority for everyone, not only for the House,” Nograles told the Philippine Daily Inquirer (parent company of INQUIRER.net) on Sunday.

“All agriculture bills on food production and sufficiency will be discussed,” he said.

Read the rest:
http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/breakingnews/nation/view_article.php?article_id=131627

Chinese-Americans Call On CNN to Fire “Racial” Cafferty

April 19, 2008

LOS ANGELES (AP) – Chinese-Americans rallied outside CNN’s Hollywood office on Saturday to demand the firing of commentator Jack Cafferty for calling China‘s goods “junk” and its leaders a “bunch of goons and thugs.”

“We understand free speech,” Lake Wang, 39, told the Los Angeles Times. “But what if Cafferty said this about other racial groups? I think he would be fired. I think he’s jealous of China.”
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A crowd estimated by police at 2,000 to 5,000 gathered, chanting “Cafferty, Fire,” and singing Chinese songs. The crowd was peaceful, and no arrests were made, police Sgt. David Torres said.

Another two dozen people holding Chinese flags also demonstrated outside CNN’s corporate headquarters in Atlanta.

A call to CNN representatives seeking comment was not immediately returned.

Cafferty made the comments during an appearance on “The Situation Room” that aired April 9.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080419/ap_on_re_us/cnn_protest_1

Jack Cafferty prepares for an appearance on CNN's 'The Situation ...
Jack Cafferty prepares for an appearance on CNN’s ‘The Situation Room,’ Wednesday, June 21, 2006, at CNN’s New York headquarters. China on Thursday April 17, 2008 snubbed an apology from CNN over remarks by one Cafferty as a wave of verbal assaults on foreign media raised concerns over coverage at this summer’s Beijing Olympics. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu rejected CNN’s explanation that commentator Jack Cafferty was referring to China’s leaders — not the Chinese people — when he described them as ‘goons and thugs.’ CNN said it apologized to anyone who thought otherwise.(AP Photo/Kathy Willens, FILE)

Perils in The Price Of Each Grain of Rice

April 3, 2008

By David Ignatius
The Washington Post
Thursday, April 3, 2008; Page A17

You may have missed the front-page article in the New York Times last Saturday, with the one-column headline written in clipped newspaperese: “High Rice Cost Creating Fears of Asia Unrest.” But this little story could be an early warning of another big economic problem that’s sneaking up on us.

The new danger is global inflation — most worryingly in food prices, but also in prices for commodities, raw materials and products that require petroleum energy, which includes almost everything. Prices for these goods have been skyrocketing in international markets — at the same time the Federal Reserve and other central banks have been hosing the world with new money in their efforts to avoid a financial crisis.

That’s an explosive mixture. It risks a kind of inflation that would trigger panic buying, hoarding and fears of mass political protest. Actually, this is already happening in Asia, according to the Times.

The price of rice in global markets has nearly doubled in the last three months, reports the Times’s Keith Bradsher.
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Fearing shortages, some major rice producers — including Vietnam, India, Egypt and Cambodia — have sharply limited their rice exports so they can be sure they can feed their own people.

Bradsher summarizes the evidence that food shortages and inflation are fueling political unrest: “Since January, thousands of troops have been deployed in Pakistan to guard trucks carrying wheat and flour. Protests have erupted in Indonesia over soybean shortage, and China has put price controls on cooking oil, grain, meat, milk and eggs. Food riots have erupted in recent months in Guinea, Mauritania, Mexico, Morocco, Senegal, Uzbekistan and Yemen.”

World Bank President Robert Zoellick rang the alarm bell in a speech yesterday. He noted that since 2005, the prices of staples have risen 80 percent. The real price of rice rose to a 19-year high last month, he said, while the real price of wheat hit a 28-year high.

Zoellick warned that this inflation is having political repercussions: “The World Bank Group estimates that 33 countries around the world face potential political and social unrest because of the acute hike in food and energy prices.” To cope with the topsy-turvy economy, Zoellick made an innovative proposal that countries running a surplus, such as Saudi Arabia and China, devote 1 percent of their “sovereign wealth” funds to investment in Africa‘s poor countries. That could yield up to $30 billion in development spending.

Now, cut to the Federal Reserve. At a time when global inflation is raging, you might expect that the central bank’s first priority would be to dampen inflationary expectations in the United States. But because of its worries about a financial meltdown, the Fed has been doing the opposite — drastically cutting interest rates in an effort to unclog the financial markets. The cheap money didn’t stop the Wall Street bank run — it was the Fed’s bold plan to absorb subprime debt that did that — but it may well add fuel to the inflation fire.

Related:
Lowly Rice Grain Impacts Global Economy

Vietnam and India move to limit rice exports

Inflation and Food Shortages?

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/04/02/AR2008040202997.html?hpid=opinionsbox1

Vietnam and India move to limit rice exports

March 29, 2008

By Keith Bradsher
The International Herald Tribune
March 29, 2008

Vietnam and India on Friday tightened limits on rice exports, joining Egypt and Cambodia in trying to conserve scarce supplies for domestic consumption at the risk of triggering further increases in global rice prices, which have roughly doubled since the start of this year.Soaring prices for rice, a staple for nearly half the world’s population, are already causing hardship across the developing world, particularly for urban workers. Together with rising prices for other foods, from wheat and soybeans to pork and cooking oil, higher rice prices are also contributing to inflation in many developing countries.

Rice-importing countries have become increasingly desperate, with fast-food restaurants in the Philippines even cutting rice portions in half.

Ben Savage, a rice broker at Jackson Son & Co. in London, said that even before the latest restrictions by Vietnam and India, international rice trading had practically stopped as exporters had become reluctant to sell as they waited to see how high prices would go. “The market has pretty much ground to a halt for the past few weeks,” he said.

Read the rest:
http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/03/28/business/rice.php

Inflation and Food Shortages?

March 28, 2008

By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom
March 29, 2008

There could be darker clouds ahead as inflation in seval parts of the globe is causing governments to diminish food exports.

Today Vietnam, the world’s second-biggest rice exporter, said it would cut exports by 22% this year, following similar moves by India and Egypt.

Analysts said the government of Vietnam wanted to stabilise domestic food prices.

Farmers work in a rice field in Dong Anh District in Hanoi,Vietnam, ...
 Farmers work in a rice field in Dong Anh District in Hanoi,Vietnam, Wednesday, March 26, 2008. A sharp rise in the price of rice is hitting consumer pocketbooks and raising fears of public turmoil in the many parts of Asia where rice is a staple.(AP Photo/Chitose Suzuki)


Vietnam’s inflation hit an estimated 16.4 percent in the first quarter, the highest rate in 13 years, according to government figures. Food prices were a main component of the increase, rising 21.5 percent in the January-March period compared with the same months last year.

In December Vietnam’s inflation rate was 10%.

The BBC reported Global rice prices have soared by 50% in the past two months raising supply concerns across many sectors of the world.

AFP reported from Egypt today that an advisor to the Commerce Minister announced a cutback in rice exports.

“We have taken this decision to provide for the needs of the local market,” Sayyed Abul Komsan, advisor to Commerce Minister Mohammed Rashid, told AFP.

Workers clean rice for packing at a market. Egypt is to suspend ...
Workers clean rice for packing at a market. Egypt is to suspend rice exports for six months, from April until October, to try to meet the demands of its own people hit by soaring food prices.(AFP/File/Tang Chhin Sothy)

“Rice is a staple food in Egypt and the main substitute for dough whose price has gone up following wheat price rises on the international market,” he explained.

Thailand, the world’s largest rice exporter, could face a shortage of rice at home after skyrocketing prices world-wide have encouraged traders to substantially increase their export volumes, Prasert Kosalwit, the director-general of the Rice Department, said yesterday.

The Philippines and Cambodia already have rice shortages.  Both countries import most of their rice from Vietnam and Thailand.

China subsidies

While rice prices have risen primarily because of increasing demand from population growth, they have also been lifted by poor recent crops in Vietnam.

Vietnam has been battling with rice infection and a small invasion of insect pests for two crop seasons.  China has sid it fears its own rice harvest will be impacted.

Neighbouring Cambodia has also recently introduced limits on rice exports.

China is the world’s biggest rice producer, but almost all of its crop is kept for the domestic market.

With the world’s largest population to feed, Beijing keeps rice prices subsidised.

It said on Friday that it would now pay farmers more for both rice and wheat in an attempt to boost crop production and cool surging inflation.

Related:
 Vietnam rice troubles could affect region

Lowly Rice Grain Impacts Global Economy

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.
Photo
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