Govt turfing ills ails one PH map

[Submitted by: Dennis D. Estopace, Reporter, to BusinessMirror December 2, 2010]

HAVING one national map helps evaluate natural resources –where these
are abundant and scarce, identify disaster prone areas, pinpoint human
and commodity traffic flow, and, generally, get to where one wants to
go by following a road network.
The Philippines doesn't enjoy these benefits because it has several
maps and mapping system relative to a government agency or unit.
"We're missing out on the social and economic development one national
map brings," former National Mapping and Resource Information
Authority (Namria) official Francisca N. Dayrit said.
Dayrit, who's now executive vice-president of Geodata Systems
Technologies Inc., a private company specializing on map creation and
management software, spoke to reporters Thursday or nearly a month
before a 2-day conference in Manila.
Dayrit credits the action on the leak at West Tower to the
availability of a map by the Makati City government, which she said is
a GSTI client.
"It [the drilling to locate the leaking pipe under a condominium] was
only delayed because of the elections and the purchase of more
sophisticated equipment. But because they have a map, the UP NIGS
people were able to bore a hole in a specific location."
She also cited the Manila Water Co.'s investment to have bode well for
the utility firm's move to cut non-revenue water loss from 67 percent
to just below 13 percent.
"They have maps where you can even see the meter."
Manila Water recently awarded a mapping provider for a P29-million
project in the Rizal province, according to persons involved in the
bidding. GTSI lost in the bid.
Other companies that benefited from having a basic map are those in
the fast-food delivery business and in logistics that help in managing
sales territory and identify customers and routes.
Dayrit noted that having one national map could also help spur
businesses like those in tourism and in global positioning system
(GPS) technology.
Likewise, having one cuts costs and generate revenue for government
because ten could buy just one basic map from government and each just
add their own layer relative to their core business like power and
water distribution, she added.
Dayrit added having one national map provides empirical data
especially during elections since data could show a specific number of
voters in very specific boundaries.
"A lot of information's disjointed. For example, I voted for my
barangay but I later found out in the tax mapping that I was giving to
the adjoining village."
Having one national map, she said, sets a standard that every entity
can follow and further develop.
"It can also spur people's participation because anyone can just draw
a map of their street or community and submit this to the barangay
whose officials will then consolidate the data, whether it contains
medical or health services, educational institutions' location, etc.,
and submit these to the municipal government and so on."
Citing Namria data, the Philippines needs 13,000 basic map sheets, 24
percent of which are urban areas.
But as of 2010, only 400 map sheets have been completed.
A mapsheet contains the basic information of streets, buildings, and
major utilities. Dayrit said one mapsheet can be accomplished within
two months.
Dayrit said the most important thing is to have a framework for
development; "one operating picture of where we are and where we want
to go."
However, she noted that government executives have to agree to work on
this common goal.
"They need to work together lest we really want our country to move forward."
To note, GSTI sells its products costing anywhere between P150,000 to
P4 million, some of which includes provision of training to buyer's
employees.

[Photo shows aerial view of Tomas Morato, Quezon City, Downloaded from
http://www.geodata.com.ph/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=140&Itemid=210]

Dinosaurs at Dinner

THE San Miguel Foundation for the Performing Arts was crooning about
being swayed ("Iduyan Mo") after I washed the grime my body collected
during the day.
Oh, what a day it was. The watch said it's already half-past one in
the morning and nerves continue to pump my fingers to the events that
unfolded Thursday and insights over a tall paper cup of coffee between
a fellow newspaper journalist covering the Securities and Exchange
Commission beat.
This is why citizen journalism would only work if they become like us:
eating, drinking, and breathing news even as the President sleeps,
alone or with somebody, again, our concern.
It's another Thursday evening of swapping the stories behind the
stories we tried successfully and unsuccessfully pinned down and
punched on our keyboards.
The harried waiter of Mang Inato amused to discover us sitting on the
same chairs in the same seating arrangement: our sponsor, Jeremaiah,
to the right of Philippine Star defense beat reporter Ace and who's
sitting directly across me, a general assignments reporter for the
BusinessMirror. To my left, again, Ruelle, a five-year veteran of
Malaya, the first mosquito press.
Raising a finger, Ace, who prefers this brightly-lit watering hole
beside a nightclub for the tweens, orders our common favourite:
deep-fried chicken skin. We know it's one of the reasons why voices
increase a decibel above the ordinary, but we ask for it anyway,
readying ourselves for the adrenaline rush the debates these dinners
infuse.
These dinners began five years ago as a Dutch treat in a Quonset hut
beside the stair landing of the train station in Quezon Avenue and on
a square meter of land that is now part of a shopping mall. It began
with just fellow BusinessMirror reporter Villy and I, nursing a couple
of bottles of beer to evaluate the stories we filed during the day,
the public and private officials hunting us to either praise or
threaten us with lawsuits, and the juicy tidbits on key players in our
industry: the Philippine news media.
Others joined us and before long, the grilled pork barbeque haunt
became too small. Also, it had to give way to the construction of the
place its developers call Centris Shopping Complex.
Several bars in front of the ABS-CBN Broadcasting Network replaced
that but Villy's luck, the bad side of it, rubbed off on these
establishments that closed or moved out.
Three years ago, we discovered DInoy's, a dimly-lit booze place beside
a Laundromat and gated apartment row along Scout Albano. We grew a
liking to the place because of the friendly treatment we got from the
waiters Eison and Bryan, who epitomized personalized service.
They knew who wanted the sizzling hotdog or Hungarian sausage (if
available) and how many cups of rice accompanied that order. They
already knew how many bottles of beer should be opened and to whom to
give it to. They tell us weeks ahead the days they'll be closed and
when they'll be opening. They introduced us to their mother, who cooks
one of the best tokwa't baboy Villy said he tasted.
Most of the times, they'd automatically lower the volume of their
speakers when all 12 journalists are there. Yes, there's now a dozen
journalists that were introduced to what we jokingly refer to as the
"Dinoy's Press Club."
While the range of topics grew far and wide, there was a simple rule:
anything said there should remain kept in the back of those who
listened and offered information.
Of course, there were breaches but the source of the leak was openly
chided, castigated and reminded that we have been trained to exercise
self-restraint, especially on information.
Last night, the topic was citizen journalism and how much information
journalists are duty-bound to reveal or keep from the public.
The consensus leaned on citizen reporting and that journalism is best
kept in the able hands of professionals. The bungled twitter entry of
a self-proclaimed eventologist connected to well-heeled sections of
Philippine society was used as basis.
Aside from ethics, those present last night –two are Jeremaiah's
students in the University of Sto. Tomas– noted the institutional
protection accorded to some journalists could not be enjoyed by
citizens and may put their and their family member's lives at risk.
"We are aware of the dangers of liberal application of rules as well
as the benefits of rigorous organization of facts. Let's not place
these additional burdens to the public," one of those at the dinner
said.
In between poking fun at imbecile editors and our stupidity, talk also
goes to relationship, the absence or possibilities of it and with
other or the same gender.
But like all good things, the evening must end.
Like clockwork, Jeremaiah signals for the check and while we show
hands moving to get wallets, again he admonishes us.
"Having this on me is the least I can do for good journalism."
So we go back to our respective nests, with tired hearts because of
too much laughter or chicken skin but spirited enough to hunt
confidently for what keeps it pumping the next days: news and the
responsibility to share it with the Filipino people.
Oh, may I add: looking forward again to another Thursday to these
dinners where, borrowing from a line in Howard Kurtz's story
(http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/04/26/AR2009042602297.html),
candor is the entrée.

Journalism and Forgiveness

[Thanks to UST Journalism Professor Jeremaiah M. Opiniano for humoring me on the subject. Apologies to Jack the Scribbler for borrowing this warning: This entry contains 776 words of self-aggrandizement and may intervene in your more important tasks like updating Facebook status.]


A RUMOR prompted my return to Facebook.


Church of the Holy Sacrifice parish priest Raymond Joseph Arre
speaks about forgiveness. Video grab by Dennis Estopace.

For one, I wanted to dispel the rumor. For another, I wanted to be in the know if other rumors abound, whether or not these involved me or people in the Philippine media industry.

The tale of the tape goes that I disdain going on trips abroad that are purely junkets; that is, traveling to other countries wherein reporters are not required to submit stories. Supposedly, the sponsor is “generous” enough to spend shareholder money on journalists.

While that is true –that I prefer an overseas coverage that would be worth the trip as well as the substantial investment of the trip’s sponsor, I never declined an assignment, whether overseas or not, from my editors.

What I didn’t know was there was such a junket and someone may have tried to make me look bad to the company sponsoring the trip.

As I told a fellow reporter who told me about the rumor: I only learned there was a trip after I learned of the rumor. In addition, my editor-in-chief knew why I took a long vacation leave and, hence, could neither assign me to such a trip nor believe I will sneak under official lines for a junket.

There was one time I inadvertently forgot to tell my editor about an official overseas coverage. But that was just one time; one moment of recalcitrance.

Anyway, in this year’s rumor, someone apparently wanted to lend credibility to a 3-day junket for select reporters, at my expense.

I got pissed. A fellow reporter wants to f__k with me.

My anger, however, easily waned after recalling a good sermon by Church of the Holy Sacrifice parish priest Raymond Joseph Arre.

It was the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time and the eve of my vacation leave, when I listened to Rev. Fr. Arre share his views on forgiveness -a word that may be far from the vocabulary of some Filipino journalists.

Fr. Arre cited the story of Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector in Jesus's time, who climbed a sycamore tree just to see the prophet.

According to the Gospel of St. Luke [Lk 19:1-10], Zacchaeus promised to give half of his possessions to the poor and “repay four times over” whatever he extorted from anyone.

Fr. Arre said Zacchaeus was already forgiven even before his lips uttered the words of penance.

I am a journalist, not a tax collector; extorted from, not an extortionist.

But sitting on a brown pew inside the church –yes, some journalists attend Eucharistic celebrations– I recalled having approached a fellow journalist who felt I did him wrong.

After a year of not speaking to each other, I called and asked him for help in a writing project that didn’t materialize. It could be considered my way of saying sorry; of asking for forgiveness. We have renewed our friendship since then.

Fr. Arre’s sermon brings me back to the rumor-monger who may think I am privileged to be given overseas assignments.

I can only ask forgiveness, if he or she feels deserving of such trips as I come across as someone disdainful of such “perks” enjoyed by business reporters.

I believe journalists should strive to have or develop such virtue of forgiveness; asking for and giving it.

I think if we have wronged the public because of factual error, or extorting news or amassing fortune and fame at their expense, we should be ready to ask forgiveness. I also think a government executive or public official who has shown remorse, resigned from office, and returned to the public institution the dignity it deserved, asked for forgiveness, we should report it as so.

Both instances, however, occur few and far between in these islands.

Maybe this is because media owners are wont to protect market share than strengthen the institution represented by journalism. Maybe this is because public officials have dragged institutions to the abyss with their obfuscation of what is decent and what is larceny.

Still, I know there are journalists out there who have a sense of decency to say sorry to the public as well as rein in giving forgiveness to those who have wronged and continue to do wrong to the public.

If there are fellow journalists who felt I have wronged them, please forgive me. You can have all the overseas assignments you want, especially those that are really junkets.

And I forgive you for thinking the contrary and for spreading rumors that I disdain junkets. While the latter is a personal choice, I always try to follow where my editors point me to.

That is called obedience; another Christian virtue requiring another lengthy entry.

Happiness is a Poem

[Here’s a poem from a book of rhymes and limericks that I read to my daughters Sunday night and was encoded by my eldest Monday. We all like it and hope you do, too.]


Mr. Nobody
Author Unknown


I know a funny little man,
As quiet as a mouse,
Who does the mischief that is done,
In everybody’s house!
There’s no one ever sees his face,
And yet we all agree
That every plate we break was cracked
By Mr. Nobody.


‘Tis he who always tears our books,
Who leaves the door ajar,
He pulls the buttons from our shirts,
And scatters pins afar;
That squeaking door will always squeak,
For, prithee, don’t you see,
We leave the oiling to be done
By Mr. Nobody.

He puts damp wood upon the fire,
That kettles cannot boil;
His are the feet that bring in mud,
And all the carpets soil.
The papers always are mislaid,
Who had laid them last but he?
There’s no one tosses them about
But Mr. Nobody.

The finger marks upon the door
By none of us are made;
We never leave the blinds unclosed,
To let the curtains fade.
The ink we never spill; the boots
That lying round you see
Are not our boots --- they all belong
To Mr. Nobody!

Late Afternoon After Pacquiao Fight

Photo below shows some Filipinos were in shopping malls like this one in Quezon City after the televised fight of boxer Manny Pacquiao in Las Vegas.

Video grab by Dennis Estopace.

Ten Things That Help Me Sleep


Photo taken by Ani Laya M. Estopace, 6.


I WAS a walking dead when I woke up late morning.


My shoulders ached and my feet refused to shuttle me to the bathroom with half-open eyes and slow neurons. Since I was gifted with the insight of the three stooges, I immediately concluded lack of sleep was the culprit; except for the slow neurons -it’s natural.

I remembered two friends of mine had the same experience –lack of sleep, not being zombies: a professor in a Church-run school and a writer as prolific as yours truly (based on my unintelligible standards, of course).


Anyway, I wrote up this list to help me remember what to do and what to avoid so I can avoid these late morning realizations and go back to doing what I do best: sleeping.

[Caution: May contain contents inappropriate for my 14-year-old daughter and people like her who are smart enough to see beyond the couched seriousness, which are few and far between, of contents.]
[Disclaimer: No scientific evidence offered; sarcasm abundant. These forward-looking statements are based on the experience of the author and should be regarded as professional advice only by idiots.]

1. Engage in a physical release of body fluid. Ooops; for sensitive readers: it’s a three-letter word that starts with the letter S and ends with the letter X. It’s neither a contraction of the word saxophone nor the word “sucks,” although both are tools for satisfaction. Whether and however one does this, with the presence or absence of willing participant or participants, is the least of my concerns. But based on my limited knowledge of the subject, it works! Doesn’t it, dear? Heh.

2. Clean the house. Do the household chores if there’s nobody to do it to. But sweep the floor or scrub the toilet tiles with little noise as possible, especially if neighbours or housemates are already down the rabbit hole at 12 midnight.

3. Walk, or do some exercise. I’ve recommended this to my friend who teaches journalism and has been yawning almost every afternoon at the office. Since I live inside a university campus, walking outdoors is safe. I also get to see the place where somebody recently dumped a corpse as well as meet a group of young informal settlers (read: squatters) out to have fun in the unlit recesses of the tree-filled fields.

4. Read a boring material. If the requirements for the first item in this list are absent, especially the consenting partner, grab a book or material you’ve put off reading a century ago. Go for titles like “The intricate life of a mite trainer.” I also recommend reading notes to annual reports, disclaimers appended to financial statements, and end-user license agreements. I guarantee not finishing the second sentence.

5. Watch a boring movie. If you’re not fond of the intellectual exercise called reading (which makes me wonder how you got to this point so far), then try watching television to sleep. TV shows today are so helpful in deadening the mind and shocking the brain to a stoic state. I’ve done this while in hotels on an overseas business trip and after #s 1, 3, and 4 remained ineffective. Of course, expect to wake up either with a white noise in the middle of an eerie morning or a sky-rocketing electricity bill to shock you back to sleep.

6. File things. Maybe it’s time to arrange in chronological order the receipts you’ve stored in nook and crannies. Maybe it’s time to put in alphabetical order the calling cards you’ve amassed for the past decade. I’ve done this and remained effective in making me go from A to Zzzzz even before I reach B.

7. Soak in a tub or take a warm bath. I've done this in a hotel that had a bathroom with floor-to-ceiling glass windows. There was a satisfaction of looking at the landscape of Singapore at night while naked under water and suds. Also good as a prelude to #1 in this list, or after cleaning or filing. This is also an opportunity to clean using cotton buds almost every body orifice. I said, almost! But I won’t stop anybody getting a kick of sticking cotton buds in the nether regions, …yuck. I can’t even finish the previous sentence.

8. Paper works. Some fall to sleep after bringing an attaché case full of paperwork from the office; others, just the mere thought of extending slavery after eight hours of number crunching lulls them to stupor. There’s also origami, which I do, because there’s certain calmness in folding paper. Also, I’ve been recycling papers that have one side bare: cutting these into pocket-size pieces and, using superglue, make them into notepads.

9. Empty the mind. There’s nothing like freeing the mind from worries, especially when and where to reach the first item on this list, as a better sedative. Some count sheep; others count backwards from ten or until there’s nothing except blankness of thoughts. “It is a dimension that's as vast as space and as timeless as infinity”…nunininununini... I heard some politicians have perfected emptying the mind since there was nothing to take out from it in the first place.
10. Surf blog entries like this. Wow. If you reached this stage, you really need to see a sleep doctor since I never expected such boring entries like this can keep you up. However, the Internet is a sixth dimension of sorts that offers a lot of mind-numbing tools. However, I’d rather you get a life.

Many things -such as loving, going to sleep, or behaving unaffectedly- are done worst when we try hardest to do them.
to C.S. Lewis, author of “The Chronicles of Narnia”]

Urban utopia: Ho Chi Minh City’s proletarian perks have a surprising taste

[Blogger's Note: The President's speechwriter's twisted twits prompted me to post this story I wrote for BusinessMirror newspaper in October 21, 2007. It's about another city in Vietnam, which I visited when I was 38, but hope gives an overview of why wine and how men look piqued the speechwriter's interest rather than a country's rich culture.]


Vietnameses' daily life is never without motorcycles,
which they use to go around Ho Chi Minh City
as well as transport or sell products.
Photo by Dennis D. Estopace



HO CHI MINH CITY – Some Asian destinations offer no pretensions. This city is one of them.

Vietnam’s urban center, named honoring its communist leader, allows guests to seep into its transformation from a war-ravaged capital to a place where one can escape the trappings of bourgeoisie pettiness.

From the airplane’s nose dive to slice through white mist toward Tan Son Nhut International Airport to the bustling city streets, the tempo of changes clutching its ten million people is at once felt.

The whole city itself is hot, literally, with high humidity and temperatures hitting above 30. Figuratively, there’s the prominence of red and gold colors in almost every mid-rise building lining the road from the airport.

The airport itself is undergoing transformation to the chagrin of Filipino workers and tourists that pine for the opening of Terminal 3. Tan Son Nhut is a notch above the Philippines’s old international airport in the sense that is has horizontal escalators or “walk-alators,” says one Pinoy working for an oil exploration project here.

Airlines staff said Tan Son Nhut airport, which is undergoing renovation and expansion, would become wi-fi ready in the next three months. Hence, they are preparing a new computer system for check-in and boarding. PAL staff were flown here to train Vietnamese on the new system.

Outside, the whole city is pulsing with life. Just sit and sip one of the many home brewed coffee at several cafés dotting the road to feel its beat. Everywhere, and at any time of the day, two-wheel vehicles like scooters, bicycles, and motorcycles carom here and there on the streets. It seems every Vietnamese –whether in jeans, mini-skirts, and the traditional cheongsam– has somewhere to go to and things to do.

Most of the restaurants here offer a view of the road so guests can ponder the symmetry that weaves these vehicles.

Even steel rickshaw driver Tung couldn’t explain why there’re few if no motor vehicle accidents in the city.

One reason could be the language barrier. Most Vietnamese speak French as second language. In halting English, Tung says the Vietnamese know how to move quickly.


A Vietnamese woman in traditional Vietnamese garb
prepares to ride her motorbike
after buying fruits and flowers at Ben Thahn Market.
Photo by Dennis D. Estopace

“We survived American bombs; we survive driving,” the 40-year-old Tung says in front of Ben Thanh Market where he and other drivers of a rickshaw –a two-wheeled bucket seat welded in front of a bicycle– offer one-hour city tours for US$15 (VND242,460 at US$1=VND16,164).

Ben Thanh Market, to note, is one of the reasons why Ho Chi Minh is a must destination for shoppers.

Located on District 1 and a five-minute walk from Caravelle Hotel where Hewlett-Packard Co. billeted Asian journalists, Ben Thanh is the most central of Ho Chi Minh City's many huge indoor markets.

From the entrance across a horse-riding monument of Ho Chi Minh, the market is organized according to rows of products. The first street block-long stalls sell garments and textiles, the second row offer lacquerwares and handicrafts, then dried and cooked food, fruits, and flowers.

An hour before it closes at 6:30 p.m. (7:30 p.m. in the Philippines), Ben Thahn remains packed with shoppers walking sideways along the aisles between stalls. The scent of linseed oil and dried shrimp mixes with human sweat and a bargain hunt, replacing the familiar smell of cordite and sulfur four decades ago.

Indeed, Ben Thanh is a utopia for shoppers not only because they could become instant millionaires for US$100 (VND1.6 million) but also because product prices could be haggled lower. A t-shirt hand-embroidered with Ho Chi Minh’s face could go for US$2.47 from the initial price of US$3.10 (VND50,000).

“What’s your price,” a vendor would say if a potential buyer asks then tries to move away. The negotiations go on until each reach their comfort zones. It’s best to go first to Ben Thahn just for a look-see and return for the actual purchase.

Fellow journalist Racquel devised an alternative to the must-carry calculator: a piece of paper. There she wrote tiered exchange rates, as in VND16,000= US$1=P44; VND65,000=US$4=P176; and, VND78,000=US$5=P220.

“The last one’s my pivot point,” Racquel said explaining that “anything higher than US$5 would be really spending.”

For the historian and the proletarian-spirited traveler, one notable must-go place here is the War Remnants Museum on Vo Van Tan Road. Opened to the public in 1975, the museum offers the reason what makes the Vietnamese tick. The eight permanent thematic exhibitions bare the numbing truth of the Vietnam War that began when the first American soldiers landed in Da Nang March 8, 1965.

Museum collections offer an in-your-face look at war: from methods of torture to the effects of 44 million liters of Agent Orange through photographs by 134 journalists, through sculptures, and actual ordinance.
A foreign tourist walks toward one of the cannons used by the Americans during their failed attempt to subjugate Vietnam and now is one of the collections at War Remnants Museum. Photo by Dennis D. Estopace

An empty stomach and open mind could help visitors suck in everything the museum offers. It is advisable to go to here before visiting the Co Chin Tunnels to experience how the Vietnamese survived the 14 million tons of explosives dropped from B-52 bombers during the war.

If you’re as slender or thin as the Vietnamese, drop into the pitch-dark tunnel some of which lead to several rooms underground where they cooked, slept, and kept as silent as moles during the war.

Above, travelers could fire an AK-47, the most powerful assault rifle invented by man and widely used by Vietnamese guerillas, for 250 dong (US$0.25) per bullet. Don’t bother hiding the bullet shell as souvenir; the tour guides would know how many are missing.

Packaged tours to the tunnels and the museum, excluding entrance fees, begin at US$4 per person (US$1=16,164 dong).

A two-day stay in this city is worth more for these reasons alone.

As the orange sky glows, the Asian visitor to these places could begin to dig deeper in his or her heart the pride of being non-Caucasian, living simply and loving a country.

This makes one wonder why so-called Filipino revolutionaries noisily promising to drive out the “white devils” –as Tung calls Americans– in Philippine political-economy passed off the warmth of Vietnam as refuge, opting for the stark cold weather of the The Netherlands.


SIDEBAR:

How to go there: via PAL, which now flies daily, and Cebu Pacific, four times a week.

Where to stay: Caravelle Hotel is where 100 journalists from Asia-Pacific region were billeted. Located on Lam Son Square, District 1, Caravelle’s rooms begin at US$250 a night. Stay at the topmost floor (24th, smoking) to get a great view of the city. District 1, to note, is considered the commercial and business district with high-end stores like Dolce Gabanna and Louis Vuitton operating side by side local-brand shops.


Motorcycles form part of the Vietnamese’s daily life.
Photo by Dennis D. Estopace.

Where to eat: Lemon Grass, a block across Caravelle, is a four-storey restaurant offering mild-Vietnamese food, which is light on the use of lemon grass, a staple in Vietnamese cuisine. Try the soft-shell crab and, of course, the spring rolls. In 2007, there were two branches of Jollibee, one of which is near the museum at Nguyen Thi Minh Khai road. Also, check out the Mandarin restaurant on Ngo Van Nam Street and their eight-meal course.

How to move around: Taxis of the sedan and off-road types could be easily flagged but know ahead how much the fare would cost since some drivers charge double than what the meter shows. From the Caravelle to Ben Thahn, for example, the five-minute ride’s just under VND17,000 or US$1. Better yet, walk.

What to carry: Umbrella or hat, for protection against the sun or rain; cash; camera; street map; and, high alertness, especially when crossing streets.

Portrait of a Business Paper as Filipino

[This is a story I wrote for BusinessMirror in celebration of that newspaper's fifth year October 5. Am posting an edited version here to commemorate Nick Joaquin, who I tried to honor through this 817-word story.]


THEY don’t read newspapers like the BusinessMirror; they savor the experience.

They allow the words to drip like honey into the cerebellum, enriching a broad view of Philippine business.

That was how the paper was conceived five years ago, after several months of dry-runs and focus-group discussions.

The old hands of Filipino journalism and the youngbloods in business reporting decided to throw away the blandness in today's news gathering, reporting and writing on markets, the economy, and events important to people buying and selling everyday.

They became fiercely loyal to harnessing the elegance of the English language sans denigrating the language of business.

By avoiding a bifurcation of economics and politics, BusinessMirror broke the mold that business journalism was only for those adept at jargons.

By breaking the mold of a business paper, BusinessMirror devoted ample space to sports and lifestyle, motoring and gadgets, science and technology –news and information equally-savored by those doing business.

And by doing so, the paper reached sections of the population neglected by the lumbering giants of print media: young men and women burning with a spirit to grow in and with their country through business.

The paper helped stoke the fire of entrepreneurship and prop the flagging confidence to grow of small businesses, of scientists and technologists, and of mid-size investors.

At the same time, those seasoned in the ways of the market discovered that another credible source of information and opinion helped rather than befuddle an already-crowded media industry.

Indeed, BusinessMirror’s debut in 2005 was at a time the business of reporting business was clutched in a monopoly.

The ancients’ view held there was no more room in an inn filled with newspapers. Some said they failed to find logic behind the paper’s decision to go into print in an Internet age.

The paper’s owners, however, may have found solace in George Bernard Shaw who said that "some men see things the way they are and ask, ‘Why?’ Some dared to “dream things that never were and asked, 'Why not?'"

The market responded by returning the respect the paper bestowed on the reading public.

Months before it turned one, the paper’s story on labor-management relations in a globalized era won a top award in the 17th Jaime V. Ongpin Awards for Excellence in Journalism.

Three years later, the paper was honored for having received the prestigious United Nations Correspondents Association (UNCA) Award for excellence in reporting on humanitarian and development affairs.

A year later, in 2009, Abano would again bring honor to the paper and Philippine journalism as she received the highest recognition during the Developing Asia Journalism Awards.

Of course, the market’s sweetest gesture was when the Rotary Club of Manila named BusinessMirror Newspaper of the Year award in 2007, or barely two years since the paper began.

It was a feat since the paper’s competitor was recognized by the Rotary Club only after more than a decade of existence.

By not shortchanging the reading public, the BusinessMirror has further enhanced its reputation as a credible incisive source of news and information not only of business but of the context of the deals and relationships involved.

In the end, according to the Sunday Call newspaper, writing on the The New York Times’s 50th anniversary, such reputation is a journal’s “real capital.”

Paraphrasing Sunday Call’s piece: in these days when the rise of so-called “new” media fuels the buzz of white noise and continuous sensationalist and gotcha journalism, the demand for decent business writing is greater.

But, indeed, “one need not be dull to be respectable,” the Sunday Call penned.

BusinessMirror, in the past five years and in the next five years, would tread on that path to make business journalism and the paper “very interesting.”

Here, what comes to mind are the characters in A Portrait of the Artist As Filipino that the late Nick Joaquin assigned the role of journalists.

One notable character there is Bitoy Camacho, a reporter given the temerity of a veteran newsman and the temperament of a greenhorn.

Joaquin gave Camacho's character the intelligence reserved for the learned as the reporter opened the scene by comparing the old Manila to the Tyre and Sidon; “a Babylon in commerce and a New Jerusalem in its faith.”

Camacho is presented both a professed lover of Spanish poetry and a willing student of art awed by the portrait of an artist on his career’s twilight years.
BusinessMirror and its reporters, hopefully, would attain the luminous role that Joaquin bestowed on Camacho as the paper now has made its mark like the portrait did on the characters in the late national artist’s seminal work.


News: Jobs growth slow amid business optimism

[Filed by Dennis D. Estopace, Reporter, for BusinessMirror October 14, 2010]

 

A BETTER Christmas this year; but with less number of employed.

So says economist Victor Abola who presented the Dun&Bradstreet Inc. business optimism index (BOI) showing a positive outlook for the fourth quarter (Q4) by 260 companies.

Abola's holiday cheer is shared by those in the construction and retail sectors that continue to push up volume of sales, net profits, and new profits.

Overall BOI for Q4 this year is up six points to 70 percent, according to the D&B survey done mid-September in the midst of a sharp drop in 10-year T-bond yields and strengthening peso.

"The growth is coming from volume of sales in the retail sector as Christmas nears and spending is expected to increase. Expect corporate giving to also increase," Abola said on Thursday.

The BOI in net profits is also up 13 points to 63 percent; the same with new orders at 33 percent (up four points).

Personally, Abola said, he "expects robust growth [in gross domestic product] above six percent in the third and fourth quarters."

However, the growth has remained fallow in terms of jobs, as six of eight sectors covered expect slower job creation by 9-point lower in the fourth quarter. Only the construction and retail sectors expect employment to increase.

Abola said this can be explained by the continuous activities in the construction sector as developers "continue to build subdivisions and condominiums."

Likewise, the retail sector, having posted a decline in inventory on higher Christmas sales, will need to hire and expected to hire temporary workers.

The biggest decline in jobs growth expectations level are in the transport, communications and utilities sector and the services sector, which include business process outsourcing companies.

Other sectors that expect slower job creation this quarter include: manufacturers of durables; manufacturers of consummables; wholesalers; and, finance, insurance, and real estate.

"They're not hiring people at the same pace as in Q3 but at a reasonable rate," Abola said.

He emphasized the rising optimism of the electronics sector despite the strengthening of the peso.

Abola credited this to the increased volume of sales rather than the strategy of hedging against the weakening greenback.

"PEZA firms now have brighter outlook than all firms in general."

Abola also noted that the country's exports is expected to lead growth "and continue to be robust."

"But the main explanation is not the United States," he said citing that the country's exports by destination is now the East Asia and Asean bloc, forming 51.70 percent of trade.

The US is now just a little above the EuroZone as a destination of Philippine exports, composing of 16 percent and 15.20 percent, respectively.

Japan, also a traditional importer of Philippine products, has a 12.7-percent share of the exports pie.

Combined, however, these countries form less than 45 percent as a destination, Abola noted.

Abola said he expects a strong peso to continue to negatively affect exports, remittances of overseas Filipino workers, and BPOs.

It also has a bad effect on tax collections, he added.

Abola said based on his computation, for every peso increase in the currency's value on an annual average, the government loses P15 billion on tax revenue.
 
[Photo caption: Grocers fill up carts in a supermarket in Quezon City. Ringing cash registers boost optimism of retail business sector but a death knell for unemployed in other industries.]

An Affair to Keep

I’VE been having an affair for seven years.

My wife of 16 years –we celebrated our anniversary October 22– has approved of it, most of the times.

I’m lucky since I married a woman who not only has an impeccable taste in cute things –none of which relates to me– but also was blessed with the patience of a monk.

A monk’s patience was also required for me to enter this affair that began in 2003 with a phone call from Arnold, who was then a reporter covering the central bank beat for the Manila Times.

The call arrived as I was waiting for a squid to turn brown on a grill under a makeshift canopy in the middle of the dessert. That’s how I describe that field between a cemented subdivision and the tree-lined hill in Zambales, the province inundated by volcanic ash from the Mt. Pinatubo eruption.

That call started my affair, not with Arnold, now the Times’s business editor, but with journalism, the Philippine version.

It’s been said that journalism hasn’t been kind to marriage.

I’ve heard stories of couples who broke up because the journalist spouse spent more time chasing a story and out of the home than on a chaise lounge watching romantic TV shows like The Walking Dead.

I’ve also heard stories of fathers missing their children’s important activities in school.

I recall being out of the country when the school principal called my wife to an urgent meeting because a bully mistook my daughter for a wimp. My wife dutifully chided my daughter for using an expensive Parker pen in stabbing the bully‘s arm. As her punishment, my wife cut short their usual 2-hour-long dinner in our favorite pizza place.

I agreed she could’ve used a cheaper pen.

The pizza, and of course, time with my family, is one of the high costs of this affair I have with journalism.

I want to emphasize this is the Philippine version of journalism because the affair requires high costs. One of these costs is the price of beer, which increases in reverse proportion to my ability to pay during trysts with those also having their own jealously-guarded affairs with journalism.

Yes, there are also people like me who have maintained affairs with journalism but kept their marriage and the sanity of their spouses intact.

For some, doing so was as easy as PAG-ASA predicting a typhoon.

For my part, I never allowed my affair with journalism get the upper hand of my better half.

Like journalism, I learned it’s better to seek out and bare the truth –being true to my life partner, than allowing lies to cover up other lies.

Oh, there are arguments, over my inability to fend off the attraction of creditors, for one.

But being truthful has kept us together everyday for nearly a decade now.

That’s why this affair with journalism, the Philippine version, is something I intend to keep.

Fail: touch pad directory

There's a new kind of shop in this mall that caters to "Photogoraphers."



News Video: Netsuite

video

[Video of Netsuite Inc. chief executive Zach Nelson in a press conference Thursday on Oneworld.ph. Video taken by Dennis Estopace, reporter, using a mobile phone.]

News Video: Netsuite

video[Video of Netsuite Inc. chief executive Zach Nelson in a press
conference Thursday on Oneworld.ph. Video taken by Dennis Estopace,
reporter, using a mobile phone.]

World Bank Contest

The World Bank Group kicked off on Thursday its "Apps for Development"
competition, the first global contest of its kind.
In a statement datelined Washington, the WB said it challenges
"software developers and international experts around the world to
enter the contest."
Entries must be filed by January 10, 2011.
"Help change the world by using the World Bank's data collection to
help find solutions to today's development challenges," the statement
quoted president Robert B. Zoellick as saying.
"Create applications to analyze and tackle the world's long-standing problems."
The competition challenges developers to create software applications,
tools, data visualizations or "mash-ups" –whether web-based, mobile,
through SMS, smart phone, desktop, or tablet.
There are only two requirements for entries: use the World Bank Data
Catalog and address one of the eight Millennium Development Goals
(MDGs).
"The World Bank is seeking creative 'apps' that bring ground level
insights of the development challenges posed by the MDGs," the
statement also quoted WBG development research data group director
Shaida Badiee.
"Our collection of global data on the economy, human development and
the environment is a remarkable resource. The apps created in this
competition will allow policy makers, researchers, and civil society
to track the impact of policies, develop new solutions, and measure
improvements more accurately."
"We'd like to see examples of developers everywhere using our data and
combining it with their own data to build really useful applications
addressing local problems. That's the power of crowdsourcing
innovation and that's the essence of the challenge," the statement
also quoted World Bank Institute innovation practice manager Aleem
Walji.

Monday

October 4, 2010 / Monday [682 words]

ABOVE-NORMAL pitch voices and Steppenwolf crooning about a Highway to
Hell brought me out of slumber at 7:00 a.m. It's going to be a good
day.
I slid out of the beige cotton sheets at the same time admonishing my
youngest daughter to finish her cup of warm chocolate.
"Hurry up. We're gonna be late for school," I said gently rubbing her
hair and then telling her 17-year-old yaya to put a little bit of cold
water in the cup.
After doing so for my own cup of hot coffee, I browsed through the
files I downloaded Saturday but which I failed to do so Sunday as I
cleaned up the room and files that have been wanting my attention
since August.
The trip to my daughter's school, run by the local Protestant church,
was uneventful, thankfully. She told me we were 20 minutes early for
the 8:30 class and I asked her why so.
"There's going to be a birthday party," she beamed. I mentally kicked
myself for not bringing a gift she can share with the celebrant and
her classmate whose parents, I know from experience, are going to feed
the 18 students in my daughter's senior kindergarten class.
There and then I remembered forgetting two items even after having
packed the night before the things I planned to bring with me Monday:
my mother's senior citizen ID card and the gift for my daughter's
classmate.
When I checked my To-Do list for the day, I noticed forgetting to list
these items.
It has been difficult for me to schedule in detail in advance –as in
months ahead– my activities and items to prepare for a particular day.
I can't seem to resign from the fact that as a general assignments
reporter for a newspaper precludes me from doing so.
I have used PERT-CPM and followed Peter Drucker's advice to break down
every project into activities. The latter has been working so far but
it's still not a hundred percent effective since there's nothing
constant in my job except change.
My fellow reporter VG can attest to my meticulous drawings of matrices
on pieces of paper recycled from press releases and hand-outs. I
divide the free white space into seven columns and two rows where I
place the days, dates, and the activities I plan to do so on each box.
Just one call from the desk will make me crumple the schedule rendered
useless because of a reportorial assignment.
I can imagine those in the police beat who can't predict a murder or
suicide of a member of a prominent family. The recent hostage-taking
incident would have thrown a wrench into their schedule.
"Hey, honey about that lunch, can we move it later? Oh, wait,
someone's firing a gun. Raincheck?"
Good thing there's nothing like that over the weekend. For VG,
however, he says he's cursed since many marine accidents almost always
occur either late Friday evening or early Saturday morning, after he's
scheduled a free time with his wife.
"Dear, about that road trip to the north, can we move it nearer the
sea or along the coast line? There's a good place near the Coast Guard
office."
So I rely on lists. I list the activities to do before taking a shower
and where to go after having put on my clothes. I list these almost
two weeks before the day they're planned to be accomplished.
You can call it being anal but the system has helped contain my sanity
in the ever-changing world of hunting or writing the next story.
Listing has also given me the illusion that there is order in what I
do. And it's also fun putting a red checkmark on my accomplishments
for the day –like brewing coffee– and a circle for the things
unaccomplished –like doing research or writing the story bumped so far
ahead of its deadline.
For the more valuable things, however, like painting a smile on my
daughter's face for having me bring her to school, which is a rarity,
it's a list always written in my heart.
***
News agencies carried reports on President Benigno Aquino III's dance
with the Catholic church on reproductive health issues and the offer
of some fraternities of reward for the capture of the bomber who threw
a grenade in last week's bar examination at the De La Salle University
in Taft, Manila.

***
New website visited: www.ranker.com, which lists the top of whatever,
submitted by readers.
***
Quote of the Day: "Innovation is not the product of logical thought,"
Albert Einstein as quoted by Mac Taylor in CSI NY's episode on
"nexting."
***
New word of the Day: "Nexting" (v.) the process of hitting a key on
the keyboard to meet a random person in a video-chat feed.

[Photo of Makati skyline after an evening downpour. Taken via Nokie
e63 from a table of two drunks near Makati Medical Center.]

Vendors say new site for San Mateo’s public market ‘environmentally hazardous’

[Guest post: Ivy A. Garcia, University of Santo Tomas Journalism program]
SAN MATEO, RIZAL—VENDORS operating in a public market at Brgy. Gitnang Bayan II here said the relocation of this municipality’s decades-old public market to an area near the Marikina River poses many environmental hazards.

The San Mateo Public Market will be refurbished for the building of a planned Pamantasan ng Bayan ng San Mateo and the marketplace will be transferred to Kambal Road that’s not near to both the San Mateo Dumpsite (a waste transfer station) and to a slaughterhouse, but also near the San Mateo River.

Speaking on behalf of the market’s vendors, Atty. Gioan Legazpi said market vendors plan to file a water pollution control and abatement case against the San Mateo local government before the Pollution Adjudication Board of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA).

The opposition stems largely from the environmental hazards and alleged violations of some existing laws that the relocated public market’s new location will pose.

Legaspi said it is okay to relocate the public market to a place that is not a hazard-prone area like the planned one in Kambal Road.

Legaspi approximates that the new site for the public market is less than 10 meters from the river bank.

Legaspi cites Presidential Decree 1067, or the Water Code of the Philippines, where article 51 provides that “the banks of rivers and streams, and the shores of the seas and lakes throughout their entire length and within a zone… of 20 meters in agricultural areas and 40 meters in forest areas… to the easement of public use (for) recreation, navigation, floatage, fishing and salvage.”

“No person shall be allowed to stay in this zone longer than what is necessary for recreation, navigation, floatage, fishing, or salvage or to build structures of any kind,” article 51 of PD 1067 provides.

Legaspi also said local officials of San Mateo failed to secure an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) from DENR for the new site of the public market. As well, the planned site of the public market also lacked an environmental impact statement system, this being required by Presidential Decree 1586.

Since the new site is also near the Laguna Lake, Legaspi said constructing the market in the planned site has no “discharge permit” from LLDA.

According to Republic Act 4850 that created the LLDA, a discharge permit is the authorization LLDA gives to any industry or establishment that discharges any liquid wastes or regulated effluents to the Laguna Lake.

The proposed site of the new public market is, Legaspi claims, even near the San Mateo Waste Transfer Station. Thus, Legaspi says the site violates section 15 of the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, or RA 9003, which provides that no establishment shall be set up within 200 meters from open or controlled dumps, or from sanitary landfills.

School for a market

The existing site of San Mateo’s public market was once a patch of land since the early 1950s, and vendors covered their stalls with umbrellas or cloth. In 1992, during the time of former San Mateo Mayor Amo Santos, this patch of land was cemented and a two-storey building was constructed.

“Maria,” who has been a vendor at the market for 44 years, said the facility “is still a public market”.

But the construction of the second storey was left unfinished and unused until the administration of then Mayor Jose “Peping” Diaz finished construction and made the second floor a local college.

This school, called the Pamantasan ng San Mateo, is sometimes called “U.P.” for “upper palengke [market]”.

Maria said the planned location for the public market is rarely visited because the area’s foul smell comes from the San Mateo landfill, and “it floods there easily” since the San Mateo River is just a “few meters” behind.

But current San Mateo Mayor Jose Rafael “Paeng” Diaz, son of the older Diaz, said protestors are people “who hate discomfort and who don’t want to be relocated” since they have been used to being in the old place.

As for the waste transfer station in Kambal Road, Diaz said it will be moved to a sanitary landfill in Brgy. Pintong Bukauwe, which has been operating since 1990.

Diaz added the site of the new San Mateo public market will have a site development plan, a larger parking area, and a “more organized” drainage system.

As well, Diaz said the new market will also have a sewage treatment plan to cover the waste water coming from the planned market’s wet section.

This is unlike the current market, Diaz claims, where the waste water system goes straight to San Mateo’s drainage system.

“So it will be cleaner [in the wet section of new public market’s site]. Nobody will fall even when the area’s slippery; no rats and cockroaches will roam around. There will also be a more orderly electrical system compared to the existing market’s electrical system that looks like a spaghetti,” Diaz said.

The Pamantasan ng Bayan ng San Mateo has been a plan of former Mayor Jose “Peping” Diaz.

In the current Pamantasan that has 600 enrollees, tuition fees per semester cost only P4,000. Before, the tuition is only P2,000 per semester.

Mayor Diaz also said that current place of the old market is an ideal site for the Pamantasan ng Bayan ng San Mateo, because it is at the center of the town,

The relocation of the market in Gitnang Bayan II may also ease traffic on the main road, the younger Diaz said.


[Disclaimer: This article was edited by Ms. Garcia’s professor Jeremaiah M. Opiniano. To reach the author, email: vhygarcia_04@yahoo.com]

News [Archive]: RP firms behind Asian neighbors’ in governance ranking

[Submitted by Dennis D. Estopace, Reporter, to BusinessMirror on Sept. 26, 2010.]

 

A RESEARCH being sold for US$350 tagged Philippine companies as lagging those in eight other Asian nations in governance.

Responsible Research Pte. Ltd. ranked the Philippines as just a notch above the People's Republic of China but at the ninth position according to the research firm's proprietary Asian Sustainability Rating (ASR) for 2010.

"Outside of a few top-performing companies the Philippines universe is characterized by widespread non-disclosure," the Singapore-based company said in a statement.

"Reflecting on the deeply entrenched culture of corporate philanthropy many companies see sustainability as the activities of the company foundation rather than an embedded part of corporate practice," it added.

Responsible Research noted that two companies in the Philippines ranked low among 542 publicly-listed companies it applied ASR with.

Food and beverage conglomerates San Miguel Corp. and Jollibee Foods Corp. were in the 474th and 502nd position, respectively, among the total rated firms. Responsible Research gave a low 11 percent to San Miguel while Jollibee was ascribed nine percent.

The highest is a hundred percent ASR to which no company reached. The highest rating of 87 percent was ascribed by Responsible Research to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. The lowest ASR of three percent were ascribed to five companies, two of which were domiciled in Taiwan and one each in India (Indiabulls Real Estate Ltd.), Indonesia (PT Delta Dunia Makmur Tbk.), and South Korea (GS Holdings Corp.).

South Korea led the ASR per country ranking, followed by India, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Taiwan, and Hong Kong.

In the statement, Responsible Research said its ASR methodology "is based on a set of 100 sustainability indicators, split into four … categories –General, Environment, Social and Governance, which cover disclosure on the main elements of ESG [environment, social and governance] risk."

According to the report released mid-September, Responsible Research scored all companies "across the same ESG factors based on publicly available information only."

"In order that the end results are as unbiased as possible, there is no engagement or questionnaire of the companies in the methodology."

The firm's statement, however, contradicts this when it said that "few companies in our universe are willing to provide a direct named contact for ESG queries from stakeholders."

"Normally, when a contact is given, it is often someone in the PR or corporate communications office, revealing a commonly held belief in Asia that sustainability reporting is more of a marketing tool to prove a company's 'green' credentials," it added.

Two other companies in the Philippines fared better in the ASR: Ayala Land Inc. (ALI), ranking 15 of the total 532 companies, and Manila Water Co. (MWC) at 64. Both, to note, are subsidiaries of Ayala Corp.

ALI was given a 78-percent ASR while MWC got 61 percent.

The report said that it analysed 20 companies in the Philippines, which got a 29% country ASR, tailing Hong Kong with 33-percent ASR, but ahead of China that was given a 20-percent ASR.

"Outside of the top three or four companies, our Philippines universe is characterised by a widespread lack of disclosure on environmental and social indicators and mostly immaterial reporting in general," the report said.

It added: "Reflecting on the deeply entrenched culture of paternalistic corporate philanthropy, many companies in the Philippines see sustainability as the company Foundations' activities, rather than an embedded part of business practice."

The Philippines, to note, had the lowest free float market capitalization of US$20 billion among the ten countries. China has the highest free float market capitalization at US$1.951 trillion.

Responsible Research said that companies included in the ASR who "would like to access [its] full indicator breakdown" can do so by paying the equivalent of P15,050 (at US$1=P43).