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.