Monday, December 28, 2009

Ferry Tragedy: Up to 25 Possibly Dead

A ferry sank in the waters south of Manila - near Batangas City - leaving at least 3 people dead and 22 missing.

The vessel was carrying 88 passengers and crew when it collided with a fishing boat. 60 people have been rescued.

Sea accidents are common in the archipelago of more than 7,100 islands. Full article here.

Friday, December 11, 2009

A musical interlude.

Okay, it isn't a policy issue, but when you're learning about a country, it's always a good idea to know what people are talking about on the streets. And just like in the US, Filipinos love competition reality shows. The Philippines have had two different versions of US favorite American Idol - first, Philippines Idol, and then Pinoy Idol. (And it looks like a third version will be coming next year.)

Check it out.

Season 1 winner Mau Marcelo:

And Season 2 winner Gretchen Espina.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A brief note on correct usage

This may be a naive post for those who - unlike myself - knew how to spell the Philippines before this project began (I thought there were two 'l's and one 'p', rather than the other way around). However, I for one have been unclear on the correct language to use when referring to the Philippines and its people and would like to provide a little clarification. It may seem picky and pedantic, but I always find it prudent to make these clarifications in advance of visiting and working in another land, especially where a colonial legacy exists that may have produced insensitive or derogatory terminology.

the Philippines: The original (if by "original" you mean, "first European") name of the Philippines was the Archipelago de San Lazaro, so named by Magellan in 1521. In 1543, the archipelago was renamed "Felipinas" by Capt. Ruy Lopez de Villalobos after the crown prince of Spain, who later became Phillip II. Because European colonialism is responsible for organizing the peoples of the archipelago under a single flag, there is no pre-existing indigenous name for the country. However, the revolutionary events of 1896 and 1897 produced two alternative names: The Tagalog Republic or the Republic of Biak-na-Bato.

"Ph" or "F"?: The disparity between use of "Ph" and "F" when referring to the country and its people is actually a disparity between English and Spanish. King Felipe II of Spain is King Phillip II in English (also, notice the number of 'l's). After the Treaty of Paris, when the United States bought the country, the name of the republic was anglicized, while the name of its people retained its original Spanish spelling.

Or is it "P"?: Another usage when referring to the people of the Philippines is "Pilipino". The origins of this usage lie in a contested attempt to institutionalize indigenous language, which privileged Tagalog over other native tongues and was rooted in ancient script called Baybayin. The term "Pilipino" is an attempt to appropriate the term "Philippines" into an alphabet that did not contain a letter for the sound of "F". However, a 1987 constitution restored the "F" to the word referring to both the native language and the people, designating a larger alphabet that includes foreign sounds.

Philippine: The term "philippine" is an adjective, and therefore should not be confused with "filipino" (or "filipina", retaining the the gender rules of old espanol). "Philippine" may be used to refer to a person, but only as a modifier of another personal identifier, such as "Philippine congresswoman" or "Philippine boxer". It is more commonly used to refer to objects or concepts, such as "Philippine culture" or "Philippine island".

Philippino: Just wrong.

So all of this is to say that the variant spellings and usages of Philippines, Filipino, Pilipino, et al are more or less safe to use since all usages that refer to the country necessarily invoke its colonial legacy for want of common indigenous terms.

With all that said, then... carry on.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Arroyo to Copenhagen

Business World reports that President Arroyo is attending the first three days of the 15th Conference of Parties on climate change, beginning today in Copenhagen, Denmark. Environment Secretary Jose L. Atienza, Jr., told the newspaper that "We need to be coordinated [with the G-77 group of developing nations] or our lone voice will not be heard". The current Philippines delegation is calling for deep and early cuts for developed countries. According to its own estimates, the Philippines accounts for ~0.0035 global greenhouse gas emissions.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Big Day for Pacquiao

It's been two big days for Manny Pacquiao, considered to be the best pound-for-pound boxer in the world (if not ever). A day after announcing his candidacy for the Presidency, it's been announced that he'll fight Floyd Mayweather, previously considered the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, on March 13. We won't be in the Philippines for the fight, but it'll be interesting to see how big his celebrity is while we're there -- and if it'll help his candidacy!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Journalism and Maguindanao

To date, much of the international attention in the Maguindanao massacre has focused on the deaths of the Mangudadatu family, especially since Mr. Mangudadatu had sent his family on his behalf to file his candidacy. However, as more information has surfaced, the attention and focus has expanded. Recently, it was determined that a large portion of the troupe was composed of journalists and media members, of which 30 journalists and media members were killed (a much higher number than originally thought).
While these numbers are startling, what may be even more disconcerting is the pattern of violence and hostility towards journalists and media members within the Philippines in recent years. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) highlights this trend:

Under the current government the Philippines has become the most dangerous place in the world for media workers. At least 74 journalists have been killed during its eight-year tenure, yet the Government has not acted to end the culture of impunity. At last count, only four convictions had been secured.”

President Arroyo spent the day at the funerals of many of these journalists, but it seems that the real test for this government is if it will heed the recent calls of UN officials for a full investigation that leads to prosecutions.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Further Developments from Maguindanao

As the legal and political ramifications of last week's bloody election violence in the Maguindanao province begin to come to light, several new developments have been made by local officials and police. As noted in yesterday's post, the first charges have been brought against mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., who is believed to have orchestrated the massacre. Today, Philippine police are reporting a forensic breakthrough in the case, linking shells found at the scene to the gun of one of the militia members controlled by Andal Ampatuan, Jr. Allegedly, 100 gunmen were involved in the killings, including militiamen and local police officers, several of whom are now in police custody.

Other details that have emerged in recent days highlight the grisly nature of the killings. The New York Times reports that "most or all" of the 22 female victims of the killings were sexually mutilated.

As officials continue to investigate the massacre, one interesting aspect of the case that's relevant to the IEDP Human Rights team is how successfully the Philippine government is able to frame the violence as originating from local criminal activity rather than a widespread human rights problem. President Arroyo's strong alliance with the Ampatuans in fending off Islamist and secessionist groups will complicate that effort, but the response of the international community may help determine the context in which the violence is perceived.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Arroyo planning to run for Congress

The WSJ is reporting here that President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is planning to run for a seat in Congress. There is talk that the move is a prelude to a campaign by her party (the Lakas Kampi CMD Party) to turn the presidential system of the Phillipine government into a parliamentary system.

In other Philippine-related news, Andal Ampatuan Jr., a local mayor, has been charged with multiple counts of murder in connection with the hilltop massacre of 57 people last week in Maguindanao. Ampatuan is the heir of a powerful family that has strong historical ties to President Arroyo. The Financial Times notes here that many of the victims were associates and relatives of the rival Mangudadatu family, which has also historically been strong allies of Arroyo. Ismael Mangudadatu was planning to challenge Andal Ampatuan in next year's election. Last week's surge of murderous violence might be construed as a clear signal that Arroyo is regarded as a lame duck. As noted in the FT:
"The Ampatuans and Mangudadatus are both political allies of President Arroyo, and the outbreak of violence means she is no longer able to mediate over the allocation of political posts," said Ramon Casiple, executive director of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reforms, an advocacy group.
President Arroyo is apparently facing growing criticism for her administration's policy of arming local potentates in an effort to supress Muslim insurgency. Last week's massacre, which occured in predominantly Christian areas of the island, will only heighten concerns about wisdom the policy.

Monday, November 30, 2009

1st ASEAN Human Rights Office in the Philippines?

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) stated that President Arroyo reaffirmed the Philippines' standing offer to host the office of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) during the ASEAN summit in October.

Launched on October 24, AICHR is the first human rights body of ASEAN and is currently housed at ASEAN headquarters in Jakarta during its initial stage.

The Philippines is ranked Partly Free by Freedom House, which strongly condemned the recent killings in Maguindanao.

Full article.

YouTube clip of the launch of AICHR.

Price of Rice Rises

The Financial Times reports a drastic spike in the price of rice, as demand for imports rise due to decimation of large parts of the domestic crop by storms. The Philippines import more rice annually than any other country, though they will compete with demand in India this year, which also suffered crop losses.

According to the International Rice Reseach Institute, rice consumption accounts for "
41% of total caloric intake and 31% of total protein intake" for the country as a whole.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

"State of Emergency" Declared

The New York Times reports that a state of emergency has been declared in the provinces of Maguindanao and Sultan Kurat, as well as the city of Cotabo, following yesterday's massacre. 46 people have now been declared dead.

Under orders by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, two military battalions reached Mindanao yesterday and began setting up roadblocks and conducting searches. In addition to a prevention of future violence, the military is tasked with disarming individuals carrying unlicensed firearms - an issue which has been problematic to Mindanao in the past, but which had not been thrust into the spotlight until now. Additionally, the police have been granted "wider authority to arrest and detain" those suspected of being involved in yesterday's violence.

Monday, November 23, 2009

CNN Hero 2009

One of the 10 CNN Hero of 2009 was from Phillipine. Efren PeƱaflorida got the prize for establishing and leading Dynamic Teen Company. It was established, when he was a high school student, as a friendship club aiming to prevent other students from joining gangs. Now, Dynamic Teen Company growing big, and the teen volunteers teaches street children reading, writing and hyginic practice. Phillipine has high literacy rate and primary school enrollment (over 90%), but because of the poverty, some children still do not attend school at all and dropout rates are very high.
My entry was about education because before coming to ford school I worked in edcuation sector in Japan. Next week, I will write about relationship between Japan and Phillipine.

Political Violence in Mindanao Leaves 21 Dead

BBC reports that 21 politicians and journalists, who were abducted in Mindanao while trying to file nomination papers for a candidate in local elections, have been found dead. More members of the group, originally numbering between 30-40 people, are missing and feared to be dead.

Local reports state that the group was abducted by armed men while on its way to an election office in Maguindanao province to file nomination papers for a local mayor, Ismael Mangudadatu, who was reportedly planning to challenge local clan leader Datu Andal Ampatuan for the governor's office in the mainly Muslim province.

The Philippines armed forces report that of the 21 recovered bodies, 13 were female and 8 were male. There were signs of mutilation, and unconfirmed reports of beheading.

This incident reveals the problem of mounting violence during elections, particularly in the south. Registration for local and national races began earlier this month, and the country is to hold nationwide elections in May 2010.

Obama Announces Nomination for New Ambassador to the Philippines

On Nov. 19, President Obama announced his nomination of Harry K. Thomas, Jr. as Ambassador to the Republic of the Philippines.

Harry K. Thomas, Jr., Nominee for Ambassador to the Republic of the Philippines
Harry K. Thomas, Jr. is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service and served most recently as Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Human Resources. He previously served as a Special Assistant to the Secretary and Executive Secretary of the Department. Thomas, who joined the Foreign Service in 1984, served as U.S. Ambassador to Bangladesh from 2003 to 2005. He also served in the White House as the Director for South Asia at the National Security Council from 2001 to 2002. His other postings include: New Delhi, India; Harare, Zimbabwe; Kaduna, Nigeria; and Lima, Peru. He has served as Senior Watch Officer, Deputy Director, and Director of the State Department Operations Center; Special Assistant to the Under Secretary for Political Affairs; and Staff Assistant to the Assistant Secretary for African Affairs. Thomas holds a bachelors degree from the College of the Holy Cr

(posted on behalf of JM)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Current Events in Human Rights

Two human rights-related issues are receiving special attention in the Philippines right now. The first is the passage of the Anti-Torture Act last week, which outlaws any form of torture or use of secret detention centers. The second story is the appointment of Norberto Gonzales as National Security Advisor.
Both of these are related to the on-going accusations of torture, extra-judicial killings, and harassment by military and police. The Anti-Torture Act will not only apply to future cases of torture, but it will also allow for the prosecution of past offenders, which is estimated to be around 1,000 cases. The appointment of Gonzales is controversial because of his previous role as head of the defense department, which is accused of being linked to human rights violations perpetrated by the military and police. He's also being questioned about how impartial he can be in the up-coming elections. Although he has stated that he'll ensure that elections will be run fairly, referring to Presidential candidate Teodoro as "our incoming president" doesn't inspire a lot of confidence...

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Meaning of Manny

Very interesting article on Manny Pacquiao, the Philippines' prized boxer and the only septuple (SEVEN times!) world champion in history.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Manila threatened by climate change.

Manila is among the major Asian cities most vulnerable to climate change, Reuter reports.

Full report available here.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

HRW Urges Clinton to Press Arroyo on Killings

Human Rights Watch released a statement urging US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to press President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to prosecute military members responsible for politically motivated killings, during Clinton's visit to Manila on November 12 and 13.

With Clinton expected to discuss disaster management related to the recent typhoons in the Philippines, HRW believes that Clinton's visit is an opportune time to exert pressure for the Philippines Government to improve its human rights record.

HRW wants Clinton to address key crucial human rights issues, including:
  • insufficient investigation and prosecution of numerous extrajudicial killings in which the military has been implicated
  • inadequate address of the "death squads" in Davao City
  • signing of the Anti-Torture Bill
Read full article here.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Paper Tiger?

As reported here by the New York Times, ASEAN recently announced the establishment of the Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights. Critics blasted the commission as a sham, pointing to the fact that it has no authority to wield sanctions of any kind or the power to investigate governments for alleged violations.

Another Typhoon Hits PH

Typhoon Mirinae hit Quezon Province (northeast of Manila) around midnight Friday. At least 7 people were killed and several were missing. More info here.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Mindanao hit with earthquake

Mindanao was hit with an earthquake of 4.7 magnitude on Thurs. Oct. 29.

Data here.

Tagalog Tip of the Week: Counting

Counting to Ten:

1: isa
2: dalawa
3: tatlo
4: apat
5: lima
6: anim
7: pito
8: walo
9: shem
10: samput

Interesting number fact: In the Philippines both tagalog and spanish numbers are used.  When telling time Filipinos will use spanish numbers.  When counting money, either tagalog or spanish is used.  Any other type of counting or number use general would employ the tagalog version.  Enjoy.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Two-Punch Comeback for Erap?

Not only is Joseph Estrada (former President ousted by the People Power 2 movement in 2001) planning a political comeback for the 2010 Presidential elections, but he is also making a cinematic comeback.

Estrada, known as Erap, is filming "One and Only Family," a comedy about a jeepney driver who gives his daughter's boyfriend a hard time.

In the political arena, Erap's announcement about his intention to run in 2010 has caused quite a stir, with opponents in current President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's administration vowing to take the issue to the Supreme Court.

It will definitely be interesting and dramatic to see how Erap's comebacks play out!

Read more here

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

NYT Article on Birth Control Bill

The weekend edition of the New York Times featured an article on the Reproductive Health and Population Development Act, which would mandate free or near-free government provision of condoms, birth control pills, and other forms of birth control.

The main backer of the bill in the Philppine Congress, Edcel C. Lagman, is arguing that it is needed to curb the continuing growth of the Philippine population, which sits at around 100 million and is projected to grow at a 2 percent annual clip. Lagman is apparently concerned about the development implications of unchecked population growth.

The main opponent of the bill is reportedly the church and related organizations. The Rev. Melvin Castro of the Episcopal Commission on Family and Life is quoted as arguing that the bill is unconstitutional. "The Constitution is very clear that the state should protect life from conception up to its natural end," he said.

It is likely that the bill will become a major issue in the election next May.

Hat tip to Professor Alan Deardorff for the article!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Tagalog Tip of the Week

Common Greetings:

Magandang Umaga
Magandang Hapon
Magandang Gabi

Exact translation: 
Beautiful morning.
Beautiful afternoon.
Beautiful evening.

Loose Translation
Good morning.
Good afternoon.
Good evening.

Tagalog is strictly phonetical, so letters are always pronounced the same.  Consonants are pronounced essentially the same as they are in english.  In the tagalog alphabet, "ng" is its own character and even it's own stand alone word.  It's pronunciation is similar to the english pronunciation but the g is pronounced as a hard g in the back of your mouth like you would say rang, not swimming. Vowels are pronounced as follows:

a: as in mama
e: as in tray  
i: as in tree
o: as in toe
u: as in boot
ay: as in try


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Estrada's Return

Joseph Estrada, a formerly ousted President, announces his intention to run in the 2010 presidential election, which is bound to stir much controversy.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


The IEDP Class of 2010 has been selected. Cheers!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A New Stance on Global Investment from Beijing?

According to this article in the Financial Times, there has been a growing call from China's think tanks to deploy some of China's $2.2 trillion in foreign exchange for purposes other than protection from the next currency or financial crisis. Xu Shanda, an economist who used to head up China's version of the IRS, proposed that some of the fund be diverted into loans for countries in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. The point of the program would be to raise living standards and create new demand for Chinese products in a global economy where demand from Europe and the U.S. is leveling off. More specifically:
Justin Yifu Lin, the Chinese academic who is now the World Bank’s chief economist, said in an interview last week with Caijing magazine that Chinese companies should step up investment in Africa and south-east Asia, including outsourcing some low-end manufacturing, to boost consumer demand. “This is a source for future global economic growth and a source of demand,” he said.

Is there an opportunity here for the Philippines?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Whither the Philippines in the New Normal?

PIMCO is one of the biggest and savviest bond fund companies in the world, and they're predicting that the global economy is entering a new phase, a "new normal" in their parlance. Finance and leverage were behind the frothy activity of the last few decades, and especially the last one. Many economies grew briskly, and much of global demand originated from the American consumers, who were finding money to pay for things by essentially borrowing from China and Japan.

The financial crisis that came to a head last year has changed everything, or so it is said. The process of deleveraging, which will take years, means that rich countries like the U.S., Japan, and the European Union won't be quite the massive sources of demand they once were, and poorer countries won't be able to follow the classic and well-trodden path of export-led development. As PIMCO's Curtis Mewbourne notes here, rapidly developing countries like Brazil, Russia, India, and China (the so-called BRIC countries) can no longer rely on overseas demand as an engine for growth. They have to stimulate domestic consumption, and that's what they're likely to attempt.

Assuming that the PIMCO read is correct, it's obvious what the important questions are for countries like the Philippines. How are they going to fit in a global economy increasingly driven by BRIC consumption (read: China), and what can they do to position themselves to succeed in the new normal?

Small Businesses Suffer

As feared, small businesses have been hit hardest by the typhoons. Read here.

The Library of Congress on the Philippines

Anyone wanting to get started on learning a bit more about the Philippines could do a lot worse than reading through the Country Profile put together by the Research Division of the Library of Congress. Published in 2006, it's a touch dated (but not much), but it's still a great source of basic information on Philippine history and a terrific place to get acquainted with the key features of its economy, politics, and society.

If you prefer to download the PDF, just click here.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Only a Quarter of the UN Philippines Fund Raised So Far

BBC reports that the UN appeal for $74m has raised only $19m so far.

The Philippines government has estimated the cost of the back-to-back typhoons to be at least $350m, with losses to agriculture and fisheries expected to total much more.

Due to disease risk, the UN may increase the size of its emergency appeal. The UN's emergency relief co-ordinator, John Holmes, says: "The crisis is by no means over. Indeed the hard work is just starting."

Monday, October 12, 2009

See for yourself

Bond(age) & Kidnapping

According to a few bankers, the Philippines government asked banks to submit proposals to manage its 3rd sale of dollar-denominated bonds this year. Treasurer Roberto Tan has stated that the government is "evaluating" a U.S. currency sale, but has yet to verify the bankers' statement. Last week, Finance Secretary Gary Teves said the government may sell at least $250 million of dollar bonds in response to this year's record budget shortfall, which has been exacerbated by the recent flooding. More info here.

Father Michael Sinnott, a 79-year old Irish missionary, was kidnapped yesterday by 6 gunmen in Pagadian City, Mindanao. Father Sinnott, who has been in the Philippines since 1976, runs a school for children with hearing difficulties. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the kidnap, but there is suspicion of the Abu Sayyaf, an al-Qaida linked guerilla group.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Typhoon Parma's Damage

Typhoon Parma has caused a series of landslides in northern Philippines, leading to more than 160 deaths. More here .

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Philippines and the UN's HDI 2009

Is it possible to array the "human development" of different countries along a single continuum? Can you rank different countries in terms of their "human development"? Can you summarize the "human development" of a particular country using a single number? If such things seem possible to you, is doing so desirable or dangerous? Is such an enterprise meaningful or misguided?

Whatever you think, it's clear what the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) thinks. Yesterday, it released its annual Human Development Report, which contains its Human Development Index, last calculated for 2007.

I won't go into the wonky details about the calculations. Let me simply note today that the Philippines comes in at #105, right behind Algeria and just ahead of El Salvador. This puts the Philippines in the "Medium human development" category. You can find the full rankings in the summary of the report.

Other southeast Asian countries in the same category include Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Cambodia. After a quick glance at the summary, it seems that Singapore ("Very high human development") is the highest ranked country in the region, followed by Malaysia ("high human development"). Norway leads all countries, and the United States is thirteenth.

On Slums and Floods

Check out a NY Times article on Typhoon Ketsana revealing the Philippines' weaknesses in infrastructure and disaster-response preparedness. The article also covers the issue of relocating slum dwellers (which would clear waterways) and the political and culture barriers of doing so.

While shantytowns and residents' garbage disposal practices indicate issues of development and infrastructure in the Philippines, Evangeline Perdito reminds us that the the poor should not be blamed for the troubles of Metro Manila, but that the real culprits are poverty and a lack of employment opportunities. She states:

“Who would want to live under this bridge? We don’t, but where would we go? We cannot go back to the province because there’s nothing for us there.”

A Plug for: Newsbreak

Check out Newsbreak for an in-depth understanding of Philippine events through comprehensive stories, investigative reports, analysis, and insider information.

Newsbreak covers the following areas:
  • Congress
  • the Presidency
  • Security Sector
  • the Judiciary
  • the Media
  • Local Governments
  • Elections
  • Business
  • the Economy
  • Human Trafficking*
*their Human Trafficking section is particularly comprehensive and worth checking out!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

It's gotta be the shoes. Or not.

After her husband was ousted from power in 1986, it was discovered that Imelda Marcos had left behind a staggering 2,700 pairs of shoes in Malacanang Palace, their former official residence in Manila. Nowadays, it seems that no mention of her is complete without a snarky reference to her shoe collection.

Who was this woman who amassed so many shoes that she could wear a different pair every day for more than seven years and not wear the same pair twice? Who was Imelda Marcos in her own words? What can the story of her life tell us about the Philippines under the Marcos regime? What can our response to her story tell us about ourselves?

Anyone interested in these questions can't miss the upcoming, campus screening of Imelda, a prize-winning documentary by Ramona Diaz.

The International Policy Student Association (IPSA) at the Ford School will be hosting the screening on October 6, 2009 at 6:30pm in Room 1230, Weill Hall.

Imelda debuted to wide, critical acclaim. In 2004, it was nominated for the grand jury prize in documentary film at the Sundance Film Festival, where its cinematographer, Ferne Pearlstein, won for best documentary cinematography.

Diaz and her crew obtained remarkable access to Marcos, spending a month shadowing her all across the archipelago and even staying with her at her 42-hectare, seaside compound in Olot. The result is a portrait of the first lady that Diaz herself likens to a litmus test of sorts:
After interviewing dozens of supporters and detractors of the former first lady, I have found that Imelda seems to be a kind of litmus test for how Filipinos think of ourselves and our relationship to the "masses"—how can we love the people if they love her? How do we resist her imagery and what she stands for and how she defines Filipino pride without distancing ourselves from everything Filipino? I am not sure that this film gives us definitive answers to these questions. My one hope is that it poses the right questions.
For more on the film, check out this online feature on PBS.

A little luck

Luzon and the Philippines escape a devastating hit.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Parma Projected for Landfall on Saturday

Typhoon Parma remains on course with the Philippines and is expected to hit the island on Saturday. Parma has had sustained high winds of 138 mph and some speculate that the typhoon may evolve into a super-typhoon, which means winds may ultimately exceed 150 mph. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has ordered mandatory evacuations of lower lying areas in the path of Parma. Meteorologists anticipate that the storm will move slowly as it passes over the island, causing more flooding, mudslides, and major property damage. More information can be found on

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Parma Tracker

As the Philippines braces for another oncoming storm, you can follow the most recent weather reports here. We're all keeping our fingers crossed that the storm takes a northernly path and dissipates east of the continent.

Faces to the Flood: Ondoy's Aftermath

People are stranded in Cainta, province of Rizal, eastern Manila.

A boy is lifted onto the roof of a building to escape the flooding in the Quezon City suburban of Manila. Nearly a month's worth of rain fell in just six hours Saturday, triggering the worst flooding in the Philippine capital in 42 years, which stranded thousands on rooftops in the city and elsewhere.

Residents clamber on electric wires to stay out of floodwaters while others wade neck-deep in Cainta Rizal, east of Manila.

A victim of floodings is rescued in Pasig City , east of Manila . Authorities rushed rescue and relief to thousands of people who spent the night on the roofs of their submerged houses in Manila and surrounding province.

Commuters wade through waist-deep floodwaters after heavy rains dumped by Tropical Storm Ketsana (locally known as Ondoy) on Saturday, Sept. 26, in Manila , Philippines.

Residents cross a flooded street with the use of a rope in Quezon City.

Thousands of people in the Philippine capital and nearby towns were marooned by flash floods after a strong tropical storm hit the main island of Luzon.

A Philippine Air Force aerial shot shows damaged houses in Marikina City , Metro Manila. More than 70 people were killed, Manila was blacked out and airline flights were suspended as a powerful tropical storm battered the main Philippines island of Luzon. Residents wait to be evacuated from a partially submerged house during flooding in Bocaue, north of Manila

Residents are evacuated by police boats during flooding in Cainta Rizal, east of Manila.

An aerial view aboard a Philippine Air Force chopper shows devastation brought by Tropical Storm Ketsana in Cainta, province of Rizal , eastern Manila.

A woman grieves in Pasig City , east of Manila

Parma isn't just a city in Italy

Unfortunately, it's also a "super-typhoon" that is menacing the Philippines.

Parma might make Ketsana look like a gentle spring shower. CNN is reporting that Parma's winds are now being measured at 150mph. Remember that Ketsana yielded the heaviest rainfall in nearly 40 years, and it has disrupted life for more than 2 million people, with more than half a million of them evacuated from their homes. At least 246 people have lost their lives.

According to the NOAA, a "typhoon" is what a "hurricane" is called in the northwest Pacific Ocean, west of the dateline. That means that Parma is a Category 4 hurricane, right on the edge of becoming a Category 5 hurricane. You may remember that Katrina was briefly a Category 5 storm before striking New Orleans as a Category 3 storm.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Helping Out from Afar

To Members of the Ford School and the UM Community:

The humanitarian crisis in the Philippines is very real, and the need for assistance is immense. At the beginning of the week, nearly half a million people were estimated to have been displaced from their homes by Typhoon Ketsana, named Ondoy in the Philippines. That's as many people as live in all of Kansas City, Missouri. Conditions remain challenging. Standing water has yet to drain off in some areas, and a thick, viscous layer of mud covers the street in other areas. There is reportedly one toilet for the 3,000 people staying at the Cainta evacuation center, which is located in San Andres, a low-income neighborhood in a municipality just to the east of metro Manila. The threat of infectious disease remains high.

Thankfully, if you'd like to make a charitable contribution to the relief effort, there are plenty of great options.

Google has set up a page with detailed information on specific people in need of rescue and help as well as links to charitable organizations who are leading the relief effort, including the Philippine National Red Cross, Kapuso Foundation, and ABS-CBN Foundation. Most of the links are to online interfaces that allow you to donate via credit card or PayPal. Remember to pay attention to whether your contribution is denominated in Philippines Pesos (PHP) or US Dollars (USD)!

Michigan's Center for Southeast Asian Studies has also set up a very informative page with links.

Other options include Save the Children and the Bayani Movement, both of which have created Web pages dedicated to Ondoy-related relief efforts.

Please let us know in the comments if you have additional suggestions, and thanks for considering a donation.

Our thoughts also go out today to the victims of the tsumani that just struck Samoa.

Yours truly,

The IEDP Board

P.S. Today the exchange rate is 1USD = 47.33PHP.

The USD is strong relative to the PHP. According to the the Economist's Big Mac index last July, a Big Mac in the Philippines cost about 99PHP, or 2.05USD. Someone buying the same tasty delicacy in the U.S. would have paid 3.57USD. That implies that the PHP was undervalued relative to the USD in July. The 99PHP that you could have used to buy a whole Big Mac in the Philippines would have gotten you a little more than half a burger in U.S. Another way to think about the same thing: With the same three-and-a-half dollars that you could have used to buy a single Big Mac in the U.S., you could have bought almost two Big Macs in the Philippines.

Sison Off EU List

This report today from the Philippine Daily Inquirer:
(UPDATE) Exiled Filipino communist leader Jose Maria Sison has been taken out of the terror list of the European Union, learned Wednesday.
This could have a negative impact on the Philippine government's efforts to fight the Communist insurgency (NPA).

Tribute to the victims of Typhoon Ondoy (Philippines.Sept 26,2009)

Ketsana and climate change

From a Reuters story: Delegates from around the world are attending UN-led environmental talks in Bangkok, where a Philippine negotiator sought to link the emergence of Typhoon Ketsana to climate change:
"Ketsana is clearly a manifestation of the consequences of global inaction in addressing the immediate impacts of creeping climate change," chief Philippine climate negotiator Heherson Alvarez told reporters.
The talks are aimed at coming with up an international agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


The human toll continues to mount in the Philippines. Alas, there may be more rain to come. One can only hope that officials find a way to respond effectively to the immediate needs of the people who find themselves displaced from their homes. This humanitarian crisis is quite naturally the most direct and obvious impact of Ondoy.

Yet it is also worth taking a brief moment to ponder what kind of economic, political, and social problems Ondoy will unexpectedly expose and what the longer-term consequences of the storm will be. Like the 1995 heat wave in Chicago or Hurricane Katrina ten years later, natural disasters have a way of illuminating the deep, structural issues that a community confronts.

According to a report by Bloomberg, Economic Planning Secretary Augusto Santos announced that official growth rate projections may be revised downward. Infrastructure and agricultural production have been especially hard hit.

A general election will be held next year on May 10, 2010.

Near Makati City: 25 September 2009

Monday, September 28, 2009

Ondoy Disaster Situation Map

A post-storm ('Ondoy') disaster situation map as prepared by the GMANews.Tv staff:

Kansas City, MO

A sobering litany of numbers from The Times (UK):
More than 450,000 people were driven from their home, and 115,000 of them were in evacuation centres, including an open air sports centre where 300 people huddled in family groups, along side piles of human waste and 11 coffined bodies.
The number of displaced people amounts to the entire population of Kansas City (according to 2008 estimates by the U.S. Census).

One of the biggest challenges now, provided that the Philippines catches a lucky break and escapes further rainfall, is making sure that everyone has food and clean water. The potential for a massive outbreak of infectious diseases is high.

A graphic from the Philippine Daily Inquirer shows where on the archipelago the flooding has been concentrated and indicates that a flabbergasting 80 percent of metropolitan Manila was submerged at some point.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Philippine Flooding: Tolls Expected to Rise

Tropical Storm Ketsana continues to devastate Manila. The National Disaster Coordinating Council has the death toll at 86 as of Monday (9/28/09, PH time), but officials say this figure does not include at least 100 other fatalities. Many more fatalities are expected to be reported. The U.S. Embassy in Manila has pledged at least $50,000 in disaster aid.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Asia rebounding?

Earlier this week, as reported in the New York Times, the Manila-based Asian Development Bank published a detailed report raising its growth forecasts for developing Asian countries.

The report contains an informative five-page assessment of economic prospects for the Philippines.

Its headquarters, where most of its 2,500 employees are based, is pictured above. Maybe we'll get a chance to visit it on the trip.

According to information on its Web site, the ADB was founded in 1966 to fight poverty in Asia. It is financed by contributions from 67 member countries, two-thirds of which are located in Asia. Its biggest regional member is Japan, and its biggest non-regional member is the United States. Each of them contributes roughly 16% of the bank's capital.

Most of the ADB's assistance goes to government and the public sector, but it also provides some private-sector help in the form of equity investments, loan guarantees, and direct loans. It gave out more than $10 billion in loans last year, and it provided $1.5 billion worth of assistance to the private sector. It has a triple-A credit rating, which enables it to tap into capital markets at the best rates.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Staying informed

A good place to get a daily dose of news from the Philippines on the Philippines is It's the companion Web site to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, which is one of the most widely read newspapers in the country.

Hat tip to Tim C.

Getting up to speed

A short selection of recent articles on the Philippines in The Economist is available here. Some of the content is restricted to subscribers only.

If you are a student at the University of Michigan, you have free access to loads of useful, timely information on the Philippines. Just go to this list of online databases at UM's library and click on the link to the Economist Intelligence Unit. Especially useful is their Country Profile and Country Report for the Philippines. You may be asked to sign on using your uniqname and password.

The reports themselves look a little boring and wonky, but don't be fooled; they're essential reading.

Inaugural post

This is a new blog aimed at students participating in the International Economic Development Program (IEDP), a unique educational opportunity offered every year by the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan. Next year, students with the IEDP will be traveling to the Philippines, a sprawling, archipelagic nation in southeast Asia. More details soon.