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Political Dynasties in the Philippines: In My Opinion

Next year’s Philippine midterm elections are fast approaching and it paints an all too-familiar image once again: candidates that are ei...



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December 21, 2012.
Doomsayers believe that on that fateful day, we can expect billions of people to die. It will be the day where Mother Nature will turn into executioner. They say, it will be the end of the world as we know it.

How? The following are some doomsday theories:

1. Meteorites and Asteroids

Meteorite impact hypothesis met criticism when the theory was first raised in 1980, but it has since been widely accepted that a meteorite strike could have actually wiped out the whole dinosaur population some 65 million years ago. It means that the giant pieces of rock falling from space which made exciting plots for ‘90s sci-fi movies like ‘Armageddon’ and ‘Deep Impact’ are not actually far from happening in real life. 

According to a Yahoo! News post, Russian scientists have issued some more apocalyptic predictions. An asteroid dubbed ‘Apophis’, estimated to be the size of two football fields, could collide with Earth as early as 16 April 2036 if a change in gravity causes it to fall out of its orbit. While they admit it is theoretically possible for the asteroid to hit Earth, they note that the chances are remote; in fact, they put the odds at one in 233,000.

2. Solar storms

Powerful solar storms exactly like the ones the world witnessed at the beginning of last year occur once every eleven years as the sun’s magnetic field flips over. ‘Solar Cycle 24’ has been building gradually with the number of sunspots and solar storms set to reach a ‘solar maximum’ by 2013. Super solar flares send great geysers of hot gas and huge quantities of charged particles erupting from the surface into space. These flares of charged particles, called “coronal mass ejections”, slam into the Earth's magnetic shield impairing electrical devices in their path.

This already happened in 1859. Dubbed as the ‘Carrington Event’, the solar flare lasted eight days, wreaking havoc on all of the world’s telegraphs and set buildings on fire. The National Academy of Sciences says that in modern times the solar flares could knock out 300 important transformers within 90 seconds and cut power for 130 million people.

3. Pole Shift

According to some modern astronomers and the ancient Mayan prophecy, on the winter solstice of December 21st 2012, the Earth will be in exact alignment with the sun and the centre of the Milky Way Galaxy - an extraordinary event which happens once every 25,800 years. For the first time in recorded history, our entire solar system will move below the Milky Way galaxy.

The Mayans believed that the consequences of the inter-galactic occurrence would be catastrophic. It is imagined that a magnetic field effect reversal will take place, where the entire mantle of the earth would shift in a matter of days, changing the position of the North and the South Pole. Such a rapid change in the Earth’s dynamics would result in countless earthquakes, tsunamis, global climatic change and eventually the ultimate planetary disaster, similar to the one depicted in the disaster movie ‘2012’.

The recent striking of earthquakes is pretty alarming. In New Zealand, a massive earthquake hit Christchurch on February 22, 2011 registering 6.3 on the Richter scale. Less than a month later, on March 11, Japan was rocked with an intensity 9 quake which killed 19,000 people and destroyed more than $100 Billion worth of property. According to scientist Richard Gross, because of the Japan Earthquake, the earth now revolves 1.8 seconds less 24 hours. It is also noted that about 2.4 meters of the Earth’s tectonic plates moved.

In the Philippines, the February this year was opened with a quake with the epicenter between Negros and Cebu islands which tipped 6.9 in the scales. According to Dr. Mario Aurelio of UP National Institute of Geological Sciences, a 7.2 magnitude hitting the Philippines would surely be catastrophic given the fact that the country rests in the Pacific Ring of Fire where about 1,500 earthquakes occur each year.

4. Super Volcano Eruptions

According to volcanologists, the last super volcano to erupt was Mount Toba in Sumatra, Indonesia, some 75,000 years ago. Thousands of cubic kilometers of ash and sulphur dioxide were thrown into the atmosphere - so much which it blocked out light from the sun all over the world, resulting in global temperatures plummeting by 21°c.

It is imagined that black acidic rain would have fallen due to gas poisoning. Such an event supposedly eradicated mankind, cutting the population to just a couple of thousand people, and three quarters of all living plants in the northern hemisphere are thought to have been killed.

5. Global Warming

Climate change indeed has had some effects that baffled even the smartest of the scientists:
A surprising snow in Hawaii, unexplained bird fall last September 2010, and some extreme floodings in Saudi Arabia.

Based on the study commissioned by the UN, global warming is projected to increase the average temperature by 3.5 degrees over the next century. As a proof, temperatures in various regions, and/or increasing extremities in weather patterns.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has drafted the worst-case scenario. According to an assessment of how global warming could progress beyond 2100 - the normal time frame of model predictions - if temperatures rise by even 6°C rainforests will be wiped out, fertility of many soils will be destroyed and the Arctic will be left ice-free even in midwinter. London will be as hot as Cairo with air quality so poor it would endanger human respiratory systems. The world’s most populous low-lying cities like New York, Mumbai, Tokyo, Shanghai and Dhaka will be engulfed by floods after an eleven-meter rise in sea levels. Extreme weather events, like hurricanes and droughts will become more common, with climate change spreading more infectious diseases.

A flashflood like this which happened in Iligan City may also happen
in unlikely places due to climate change.

On the other hand, there is also but a large majority of naysayers regarding the December 21st 2012 Doomsday Predictions. Consider this simple inference:

In a NASA press statement, it disagrees, predicting that the polar shift event will not mean that Earth meets it fate. Experts debunked the theory, saying: “Nothing bad will happen to Earth in 2012. Our planet has been getting along just fine for more than four billion years, and credible scientists worldwide know of no threat associated with 2012. There are no planetary alignments in the next few decades, Earth will not cross the galactic plane in 2012, and even if these alignments were to occur, their effects on the Earth would be negligible”.

In a simple analysis regarding the actual date of the doomsday, one may find the setting of the date erratic, though. There have been about 514 Leap Years since Caesar created it in 45 BC.
Without the extra day every 4 years, today would already be in the year 2013. Also, the Mayan calendar did not account for leap year so technically the world should have ended in 7 months.

It’s pretty alarming on how our actions proved to put its toll back to us (read: Global Warming). But some scientists, too, seem to agree that we have the same odds of seeing the day tomorrow or on any other day as on December 21st 2012. Anything can happen, although yes, there’s no denying that we were warned.

Of these theories on doomsday, of whether or not it would happen, a thing is certain: Humans are survivors. We have survived the Y2K Millennium Bug on January 1, 2000. We have survived Year 2000’s “Planetary Alignment Doomsday Prediction”. We have gone through June 6, 2006 (6/6/6) which believed by some to be the “Rise of the Devil or the ‘Anti-Christ’ ”.

But granting without conceding that the end of the days is near; in the Philippines, there are still a lot of things that has to be answered.

Where was the Marcos’ wealth hidden?
Who truly killed Ninoy?
When will the Maguindanao Massacre case be finally closed?
When will the Philippines bag the elusive Olympic Gold?
When will justice be served for the Vizconde family?
Is Jonas Burgos still alive?
When will rise up again as a nation?

Although I believe, the most important question I may ask is:
If ever the world ends, where will you spend your eternity?


Picture Credits:

Images of Pole Shifting, Solar Storms, and Super Volcanic Eruptions are screenshots from Discovery Channel's '2012 Apocalypse'.
Typhoon Sendong Photo by Aimeelyn Fuentes.

After long and winding controversial decisions that span decades, the Supreme Court (SC) of the Philippines has finally voted for the distribution of lands to farmers (14-0). The owners of the Hacienda Luisita, Incorporated (HLI) in Tarlac will be paid with the farmland's 1989 rates as just compensation, Supreme Court spokesman Midas Marquez said in a press statement in Baguio a few hours earlier.

Victory, at last!

The SC voted 8-6 and ruled for the P40,000 per hectare payment for the controversial landholding, its value in 1989. Seven justices plus Chief Justice Renato Corona, voted to use the valuation used in 1989. Justices Presbitero Velasco Jr., Arturo Brion, Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, Roberto Abad, Jose Perez, Jose Mendoza, and Martin Villarama also voted to base compensation not on the 2006 rates.

Supreme Court Justices Lucas Bersamin, Maria Lourdes Sereno, Roberto Abad,Estela Perlas-Bernabe, Bienvenido Reyes, Mariano Del Castillo, and Diosdado Peralta, meanwhile, voted to have a lower court assess value of the hacienda, Marquez said.

The Hacienda Luisita is second largest single piece of contiguous land in the Philippines next to that of the Yulo’s in Laguna [1]. It measures 6,435 hectares located in the province of Tarlac owned by the Cojuangco Family, the relatives of President Benigno Aquino III. It is ‘as large as the cities of Makati and Pasig combined’ [2].

It can be noted that during the time of Cory Aquino, she implemented the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program in 1988, a Philippine state policy that ensures and promotes welfare of landless farmers and farm workers, as well as elevation of social justice and equity among rural areas.

The agrarian reform law was expanded to accommodate landowner desire for a stock distribution option (SDO) to supplant actual land transfer. The extensive Aquino property was promptly placed under SDO which disabled the distribution option.
Yes, that's the Hacienda Luisita Mall right there.

It was a sweet victory that the farmers have waited after more than half-a-century of picketing that sometimes ending to massacres [3]. The Cojuangco family, however, had been asking for compensation of around P1 million per hectare, or around P5 billion, from the government.


[1] Arsenio Acuña, lawyer and planter representative, actually said that Land reform is the biggest menopausal blunder of this President (referring to Corazon Aquino). In Putzel’s A Captive Land, 270.

Picture Credits:

Job generation is one of the recurring themes the politicians never fail to mention during their election campaigns. But up to this point, the country is still on the losing side in the global jobs-generation field.

A certain job is being paid to provide a service or to produce and supply a product to others in the economy that they are willing to pay for. The country’s products, goods, and services hoist the economic status of the country.

According to CIA estimates, we rank 67th in the highest unemployment rate in the world. In the figures released by the National Statistics Office, the unemployment rate in the Philippines rose from 7.5% in 2009 to 8% in April, two years ago. This means that the 2.8 million unemployed ones in January leapfrogged to 3.1 million in April. Majority of the employers are cohesive in saying that the unemployment rate is a sign that most companies are struggling due to the economic crisis.

This administration boasts that the economy grew a few points but one has to be critical on this, considering that the rise in percentage doesn’t necessarily mean that it helped create jobs. According to Prof. Leonor Briones of the University of the Philippines in an interview, she said that “there is such a thing as a ‘jobless growth’. The overseas remittances of the workers abroad don’t help in the increase of domestic employment. The money goes to consumption and not necessarily to job creation”, she added.

As of this writing, the country has 17.4% unemployment rate; compare this to the province with the lowest rate of 19.8% - Agusan del Norte. In this part of the Philippines, two out of ten people in the province of Agusan del Norte in the Southern Philippines don’t have jobs.
Add to that rate the dynamics of 1.873% population growth rate and the one million graduates struggling to look for jobs every year; you will get a picture of a great need for job-creation in a country where majority is composed of the youth. In the words of International Labor Organization Country Director for the Philippines Lawrence Jeff Johnson, “It is essential that we have to actually ensure that we can provide decent and productive jobs here at home for young people”.

While it is true that there is a handful of employment facilitation programs being given by the Department of Labor and Employment; this proved to be not enough to generate enough jobs to even out the economic scale.

The DOLE recently announced the existence of the labor and employment plan, the “Philippine Labor and Employment Plan” together with its other plans for employment. But is it already implemented? Is it being lobbied already in the government to our policy actors and implementers?

Dear lawmakers, fulfill your promises. I am calling your attention.

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I have to manifest this first before starting off with this article: I believe that tourism is the most important and has the strongest potential in actually driving the economy.

It is true that there a lot of things that make our country stand out from the other countries. Well,  we speak better English,  we are the brand of Asians without the usual uptightness and shyness, and we are a grinning people.

Our uniqueness is further embodied in the slogans WOW! Philippines, Pilipinas Kay Ganda, and the more recent one, “It’s More Fun in the Philippines”.  The Department of Tourism devised this slogan simply but it actually clicked. It was wittily composed where you’d thought it says one thing but actually means another. And this refers to a certain unique Philippine feature or trait.

But despite these efforts, a more careful look at the statistics on Southeast Asian Countries’ International Tourist Arrivals reveal that our country actually doesn’t stand at par with our counterparts in the region.

My manifestation in the prelude of this article apparently implies that we have the potential in the tourism industry. Well, let me tell you why: tourism is labor intensive (both in human capital and natural capital) yet we have the natural resources, beaches, mountains, and historical sites. We have everything that it takes to maintain the tourism industry and actually develop it.

But why are we still behind in the numbers game of international tourism?

In the recent headlines, there was an American who made an ‘infamous’ video skit on his personal reasons why he dislike the Philippines. Because of this, there came a huge wave of Filipino netizens were infuriated on his rather opinionated skit (I admired the script, by the way).

But before we get angry at the things we feel that seem much like a bashing to our culture, I believe that anyhow, it is important for us not to bark on the wrong tree but in fact look that there is an ample basis on his contentions.

In most of my travels around the country, these are some noteworthy problems I found that may be the same with what you also may have experienced and observed. First, our people seem to have a culture that exploits the strangers and tourists instead of helping them. There's at least a large minority of people in the tourism industry which exploits tourists. We take advantage of them. Secondly, we lack physical infrastructure. Our terminals, ports, and airports are not up to par. It clearly affects our reputation and did I mention that NAIA is ‘formerly’ the worst airport in the world? And lastly, the domestic peace and security issues we have.

How can it be more fun if you lose your bucks to an overpriced taxi fee? Or can’t find a decent toilet with a tissue paper inside them? Or maybe lose your wallet thanks to a fast sprinting snatcher? All the badrep we get boomerangs on us, these tourists won't come back anymore after bad experiences they’ve had here. They'd disparage us because of their sad experiences.

The new DOT slogan may have become both a ‘Twitter trending topic’ and a Facebook meme but I say that it is not enough. These slogans don’t even have continuity. We frequently change our slogans not like with that of the catchy Malaysian or Thai taglines.

I believe that before talking about having ‘more fun’ here, we first have to make sure we stick to the assurances of those catchy words.  A slogan would not be enough to attract our foreign friends and it has got to be followed up with absolute commitment. We have to make sure that our products and services live up to our slogan’s promises and only then can we truly say that it is indeed more fun here.

The Department of Science and Technology’s Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (DOST-PCHRD) awarded the Mindanao State University – Iligan Institute of Technology the country’s first “Tuklas Lunas” Center last March 16. DOST-PCHRD's "Tuklas Lunas" is a drug discovery and development program which will be the country’s central research program to find natural substances for curative purposes.

The “Tuklas Lunas” Center will collaborate with PCHRD to harness natural substances indigenous to the Philippines for drug development, said executive director Dr. Jaime Montoya. Accordingly, MSU-IIT will be the central office for Mindanao chosen for its track record, its staff capability, and institutional capacity. Through the said initiative, “regions which are building their capacity in health research are encouraged to identify their problems and search for solutions”, Montoya said.
Lagundi for cough, why not?
 Lagundi (Vitex negundo) and sambong (Blumea balsamifera) are two of the local plants developed to become a main ingredient in cough syrups and kidney stone removers, respectively. Other projects of PCHRD this year include the development of drugs for dengue treatment and tuberculosis.

DOST has been promoting the development of local plants for medical purposes through biotechnology development. It also aims to establish a Drug Discovery Database which will store information on all researches conducted on natural products. This will serve as a tool in guiding researchers as to which species have the potential for further research leading to the discovery of new drugs. This could be worth billions of pesos and could put the Philippines in the global map for research in medical technologies, Director Montoya said.

CASS Lounge: One of the student lounges inside MSU-IIT.
As a “Tuklas Lunas” Center, MSU-IIT is expected to generate cooperation among the nearby universities and research institutions towards collaborative researches in discovering potential drug sources in endemic terrestrial and marine species in the Mindanao Island. Two more centers will be opened in Luzon and Visayas, with partner institutions to be named soon while another 17 regional health research facilities will also be opened for support functions.


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