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.