Pinoy children on highway of death

"Bata, batuta,
'samperang muta
di ka mahal ng mundo
inulila't iwinala
sino ang aangkin sa 'yo...

...Ngunit sa ibabaw nang lahat
ako'y pinahahanga mo
Saan nakukuha ang lakas
Makipaglaro sa aspalto"

Photos: Palm Sunday Ushers Holy Week Commemoration in PH

Palm Sunday formally begins among Filipino Catholics the commemoration of the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The following are photographs taken April 17, 2011, during the blessing of palm fronds -actually, coconut leaves- called palaspas in the vernacular at the Church of the Holy Sacrifice, University of the Philippines campus, Diliman, Quezon City.

Video shows Fr. Raymond Joseph Arre blessing the palaspas.

Globe says ready for disaster

BANTAYAN ISLAND, Cebu–Listed firm Globe Telecom Inc. said it is ready for disasters in view of an aftershock hit Japan and evacuation began for communities near Taal volcano.

“Globe's mission-critical systems are designed for resiliency. This is achieved not only through the installation of redundant components, but also through disaster-recovery sites [that allows us] to operate in a back-up site in case one of its facilities fails,” Edgar C. Hapa said.

Hapa of Globe’s enterprise business continuity risk management product and services delivery replied to BusinessMirror after a 7.1-earthquake hit Japan a month after an undersea seismic activity hit the north Asian country and caused disruptions in cellular phone communications and Internet connection.

On Saturday, authorities said evacuation of residents near Taal Volcano has begun after an Alert Level 2 was raised.

Taal Volcano’s …seismic network recorded six volcanic earthquakes during the past 24 hours, the PhiVolcs said in its bulletin dated April 10.

To note, Metro Cebu and Mandaue City were submerged in January after a heavy downpour that lasted for several hours.

Hapa said in an email message the company would add a fourth data center as part of its redundancy system. He, however, was not in a position to disclose the location or the amount of investment for this data center.

“At present, we have three IT data centers, which are geographically distant from each other to reduce the possibility of simultaneous system downtime due to man-made (sabotage, power failure, labor strike, fire) and natural calamities (earthquake, flooding, typhoon, avian flu).”

Hapa added that the new data center “will be located in a carefully selected site that is not vulnerable from flooding, severe earthquake ground movements.”

Likewise, Hapa said the data center was designed using inputs from consultants and recommendations from the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology and the Earthquake Impact Reduction Study of Metro Manila by the Japanese International Cooperation Agency.
A man stands under the overpass in Quezon City
waiting for the rain to pass, a day in January 2011.

“Globe’s IT systems are properly tiered or ranked according to business impact so that the necessary infrastructure, technical support and processes are appropriated to ensure business continuity. The disaster recovery platforms and processes are also regularly tested to ensure that they will work when needed, and enhanced if necessary.”

Hapa added that like other telecommunications companies, Globe is “fully aware of the importance of telco services especially during and after a disaster.”

“As a major player in the utility industry providing telecommunication services, avoidance of operational disruption is a must both in normal conditions and during emergency/disaster situations.”

Aside from continuously undertaking emergency and disaster preparedness programs for the corporate offices and major facilities, they are also reviewing our service level agreements (SLAs) with them and their disaster response capabilities to ensure that we can rely on their continuous support in case of contingencies.”

This is so because the uptime of the information technology systems is also dependent on the support structures of IT equipment vendors.

“Disaster preparedness and response has always been an integral part of Globe Telecom’s operations, with the safety and security of its employees being the paramount concern, along with the protection of its property and assets,” Hapa added.

Expert says need to heal ailing PH healthcare sector

Dr. Kenneth Hartigan-Go speaks to reporters on health financing. Photo courtesy of Maclang & Associates Inc.
 PHYSICIAN Kenneth Hartigan-Go said the poor should no longer shoulder the healthcare spending of wealthy Filipinos.

This can only be done, Dr. Hartigan-Go said, through a new payment system to replace the current one that is based on the “Fee for Service” (FFS) concept.

The FFS, according to the consultant of the Zuellig Family Foundation Inc., is a practice where patients are charged according to each service discharged during the treatment.

The new system, which Hartigan-Go said is now practiced in a few hospitals in the country but has been institutionalized in Singapore, Thailand and the United Kingdom, is the case payment.

“It’s like the paluwagan system, wherein there’s a global package of funds from which the payment for healthcare is taken and the patient is charged a small amount.”

Hartigan-Go said, however, that understanding and higher consciousness over this health financing are crucial since “strengthening health financing would strengthen the health system.”

“And everything will fall into place.”

Hartigan-Go said coming up with a new system of spending for health care, including human resources and equipment, aims to reduce out-of-pocket expenses to only 15 percent.

“An average number of Filipinos have to spend transportation, accommodation, and food, among others; with costs close to 60 percent. They borrow from their relatives and neighbors.”

Direct or OOP payments for medical bills usually include professional fees of doctors, prescribed medicine and laboratory tests, and, in many cases, the travel expenses to the urban areas for advanced health care intervention.

The large OOP expenses, Hartigan-Go said, is inimical against the poor as “only the rich are able to afford healthcare because they can afford OOP.”

However, he said there’s a need to provide incentives to doctors and physicians so that they neither won’t order unnecessary laboratory tests nor prescribe drugs that add up to the expenses of the patient, especially if they’re poor.

“The idea is not to take from poor more money.”

Hartigan-Go said the savings from this payment method can go to the upgrade of the medical facility and other technological development.

The quality of health services provided to the poor, nonetheless, shouldn’t be less because they pay less, he added.

This can be done if the people are aware that they have this right to quality health service, Hartigan-Go said adding the government should also be aggressive in explaining the case payment method to the private sector.

Hence, he noted they will go back to Cebu where they held a summit on healthcare in January, to the northern Philippines, and to Laguna for healthcare literacy training sessions.

Hartigan-Go said about 40 tertiary hospitals would pilot test the case payment method.

[Story filed with BusinessMirror newspaper on April 12, 2011.]

Lawyer says fuel stockpiling won’t solve high oil prices

NON SEQUITUR, a partner of former Napocor chief Cyril del Callar said of government’s move to subsidize fuel consumption of the public transport sector.

“Injecting supply in the market doesn’t mean lower oil prices; it doesn’t follow,” lawyer Jose Moises F. Salonga told some 120 participants of a 2-day conference early April on “Doing Business Amidst New Threats.”

Speaking on behalf of Del Callar, Salonga said that the Philippines cannot control oil prices as the Energy Department reported a 0.25-centavo increase in the common prices of gasoline Tuesday.

In its oil monitor report, the Department of Energy revealed that while the price range for diesel, automobile LPG, and 11-kilogram liquefied petroleum gas products remained unchanged since March 29, gasoline products increased from the P52.10-to-P58.12 per liter price range, to P51.85-P57.87 by April 5, 2011.

Government can’t do this by stockpiling or regulating prices, Salonga said adding that doing so would only place the state in a precarious financial position.

“What if government bought US$2 billion worth of oil in March and the prices drop by April?”

Salonga noted that stockpiling is also expensive as it requires P1.8 billion or at least US$30 million, excluding US$600 to US$700 million spending for storage tanks.

Stockpiling, he explained, is the last of an eight-phase DOE plan to ensure oil supply that includes coordination with industry players (phase 1) and international collaboration (phase 7).

As it is, Salonga said, industry players are mandated by law to ensure a 30-day stockpile.

The Ateneo Law School graduate spoke four days after President Benigno C. Aquino III issued Executive Order 32, instituting the public transport assistance program or “Pantawid Pasada.”

The EO issued April 1 was anchored on a view that the socio-political crisis in Middle East and North African countries like Libya, Qatar, Bahrain, and Yemen, “triggered the high fuel prices.”

The EO cited the recommendation of the Inter-Agency Energy Contingency Committee for the Philippine government to “adopt a contingency program to address the adverse effects of the oil price hikes on the prices of fuel, food and other basic commodities, particularly among the vulnerable sectors of the society, such as the public transport sector, the riding public, and the consuming public.”

However, Salonga said the high oil price in the world market is mainly due to speculation “and actually should be going down in view of the adequate oil supply.”

Citing International Energy Agency data, Salonga said that the price of oil, which hovered above US$100 per barrel is estimated to be overpriced by US$20.

“Supply actually exceeds demand and based on our analysis, supply won’t run out in the next five years.”

Still, Salonga said he’s not against stockpiling.

“But let’s call an emergency stockpile as emergency stockpile. I’m more predilected for reducing taxes than the fuel subsidy program.”

[Original story sent to BusinessMirror newspaper on April 5, 2011.]