As a resident of Quezon City in Metro Manila, I grew up with typhoons and floods during the monsoon season that normally lasts from June to September. People in cities have learned to live with floods, and perhaps, not learned from the experience enough to change mindsets, lifestyles. Our drains continue to be clogged, motorists get stranded on the road, families still live in danger zones so much so that entire communities get evacuated, lives and livelihoods are lost, year in, year out.
Climate change is definitely upon us. You don’t need to have a scientific mind to realize this, as recent natural calamities have shown in the Philippines, which also swept through some parts of Southeast Asia causing hundreds of casualties and losses to the economy: Typhoons Ondoy (International name: Ketsana) and Pepeng (Parma) in 2009 that flooded Metro Manila; Sendong (Washi) in 2011 which was recognized as the world’s deadliest storm in 2011; and Pablo (Bopha) in 2012. Certainly, this is a little discomforting and makes us a little bit apprehensive about our future. To lessen our anxiety about this phenomenon, it helps to ask questions and get answers. It’s also good to know if something is being done to address the problem – and know that it is being done right.
The Aquino government has been very aggressive in its approach to address the problem of climate change. It staffed the Climate Change Commission (CCC) and made it functional. The CCC coordinates and provides oversight and policy advice on programs and projects on climate change. It is also tasked to craft the National Strategic Framework on Climate Change and the National Climate Change Action Plan (NCCAP). The latter serves as the country’s roadmap to effectively deal with the problem. The CCC also takes a strong stand in international negotiations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Last month, during a visit to the Philippines I had the opportunity to meet some of the 28,000 families* whose lives have been changed by the Manila Water Supply Pilot Project.
We visited Southville in Barangay San Isidro in the Rodriguez Municipality. This neighborhood was built from a government-financed housing project that resettled about 10,000 poor households. They used to be informal settlers, some living along the Manggahan floodway or Pasig River that were affected by the flood caused by typhoon Ondoy (International name: Ketsana).
|Bananas for export go through rigorous quality inspection. The plantation employs some 2,000 workers in Maguindanao, Mindanao.|
“It was a war zone, one of the most dangerous places on earth.”
That’s how Mr. Resty Kamag, human resource manager of La Frutera plantation based in Datu Paglas (Population: 20,290) in Maguindanao (the Philippines) described the national road traversing the town from the adjacent province.
Residents and travelers, he said, wouldn’t dare pass through the highway after three in the afternoon for fear of getting robbed, ambushed or caught in the crossfire between rebels and government soldiers.
“That was before the company started operations here in 1997,” said Mr. Kamag. La Frutera operates a 1,200-hectare plantation for export bananas in Datu Paglas and neighboring towns, providing jobs to more than 2,000 people.
|Photo from Aktionsbündnis gegen Aids through a Creative Commons license|
It was Christmas dinner two years ago, in 2010, among my gay friends. I just came back from an expat assignment in the US, and was greatly enjoying the uniquely Filipino way of celebrating the cheery season. Towards the end of that dinner, one of my close friends came up to me saying he wanted to speak with me in private.
The two of us went outside the restaurant, and in a dark corner of the parking lot he told me he wanted me to be among the first to know. Early that month, he had himself tested for HIV, and found out he was positive. I was so shocked that no words came out of my mouth, I remember just giving him the tightest hug I could, my mind blank, my heart racing, not knowing what to say or do next. He was my first close friend who came out to me as HIV-positive.
You are walking inside a mall when suddenly you feel the call of nature. What do you do? You desperately look for signs pointing to the nearest toilet. But what if you are not in the mall? What if you are in an unfamiliar place, then what? Worse, what if you are on the road in a remote location?
Fortunately, there’s an app for this kind of emergency. The Imodium Toilet Tracker is a handy thing to have. With just one check on your smart phone, your problem is solved – a toilet is located for you and a crisis is averted. After finding a toilet however, the next thing you would be concerned about is the availability of toilet paper and/or running water.
"After four decades, peace is within reach. Let's grasp it with both hands and never let go," said Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, during the signing of the Framework Agreement between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front on October 15, 2012.
Weeks after that historic event, these words from the Malaysian Prime Minister continue to reverberate in my mind. For I grew up in Mindanao, right at Ground Zero of this decades-old tragic drama that has claimed tens of thousands of lives.
I have been guided by a teacher even before I was born. My mother was a teacher.
|Noel Aspras in the Philippines says that "even the lowliest of farmers owns a cellphone now" because it has become a necessity. Watch the video below.|
When I lost my mobile phone two years ago, I felt dismembered. After all, my cellphone was constantly by my side, serving as alarm clock, calendar, and default camera for those ‘Kodak’ moments you couldn’t let pass. It was also a nifty calculator that I turned to when splitting restaurant bills with friends.
After grieving the loss of my “finger” for two days, I pulled myself together and got a new, smarter phone that allowed for faster surfing on the web, audio recording and a host of other functions that, well, made me quickly forget the lost unit. A blessing in disguise, I told myself.
So when no less than a farmer from Pagsanjan in the Philippines’ Laguna province told me that mobile phones were “no longer a luxury, but a necessity,” and added that “even the lowliest of farmers riding on a carabao (water buffalo) owns one,” I couldn’t agree more.
|Click image to view larger version.|
In this digital age, it’s easy to forget that there is a staggering amount of physical goods moving across the globe. Most trade—80 percent by volume—moves through seaports. Trade in developing countries makes up a good chunk of the total, and is growing fast. Handshake, IFC’s quarterly journal on public-private partnerships (PPPs), reports trade in developing countries is growing at nearly 14 percent.
And a lot of this trade is happening in Asia. In its June 21, 2012 issue, the Economist reports that the center of gravity of cargo trade is shifting from Europe to Asia. So it should come as no surprise that Asia is leading investment in seaports. Handshake reports that from 2000-2011, the East Asia Pacific region accounted for nearly $14 billion—32 percent—of private investment in seaports, mainly from China. The Philippines and Singapore are also major Asian investors in seaport projects.
Much of this investment comes through PPPs. Does this really make a difference? I’d say it does. Private sector financing and expertise make seaports and shipping more efficient. This in turn benefits emerging markets, which are becoming more and more engaged in global trade.
Could seaport investments be a predictor of future trends in trade? If so, Asia will become even more of a trade hotspot than it is today.
For further information, read Issue #6 of Handshake: Air & Sea PPPs.