October 11, 2017

Do you want to be like Amsterdam? Why we should promote cycling in Philippines

Cycling Amsterdam by Alfredo Borba (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Amsterdam is home for 1.1 million population with over 1 million of it's population using bicycle as means of transportation. Amsterdam is the cycling capital of the world classified as developed city (capital of Netherlands). This significe that one country can be developed and used bicycle as major source of transportation (take Japan also as major example).

This is how road in Edsa Manila Philippines look like:

Heavy traffic on the EDSA in Makati City by Scandi (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
And this is Amsterdam:

Cyclists in Amsterdam, The Netherlands by Steven Lek - Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10554436

The benefits of cycling in the community is enormous.

1. Bicycle is an exercise tool, it helps you burn calories, keeps you fit while bringing you to your near destination.

2. Using bicycle reduces carbon foot prints; when you are using bicycle it means that you are not using a car. We cannot remove cars on the roads, but when you want to buy something in the grocery store, does it make sense to use bicycle instead of car? It would be really amazing to see cities filed smooth moving bicycle instead of traffic congested cars.

3. Owning a bicycle is cheaper compared to car - it reduces the pressure of owning a car which is expensive. This means that by owning a bicycle you can be mobile just like cars (well cars a very comfortable for long rides, while bicycles are good for short distances).

To rip the benefits of cycling, the government and private sector should start to invest in cycling friendly roads; and who knows we might be the next cycling capital of the world.

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August 8, 2017

Tactical Approach to Funding Free Education Law in the Philippines

Photo by https://www.flickr.com/photos/analogica/8661000014 [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Now that the free education law is now approved, the next question arises, how do we fund it? I think the first thing to do first is to have a specific computation (is it really PHP100B?), afterwards tap the budget of other government agencies that does not perform, then turn to private sector. The government can issue bonds related to this project, development banks can help as well since this is a legitimate project. Next is to improve tax collection system, this law now serve as pressure that government should collect every cent of the tax. Other ways is the improve the expense and income efficiency of every government agencies; since the government needs additional budget, expense should be accounted properly and raise the standard of government service to generate more income. In general we have government fund, the bank fund, and the crowd fund – combined it all and we can raise money. And one more thing – lessen the corruption.

To do the math, we are 100,000,000+ population, 100B/100M = 1,000; which means each and every Filipino can contribute P1,000 per year or P83 per month or P2.77 per day to raise 100B – which is feasible.

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August 3, 2017

Free Tuition Fee in SUCs?

Photo by Aerous (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno expressed his opposition for granting of full subsidy to tuition fees in state universities and colleges (SUCs). According to Diokno "... it will cost us something around PHP100 billion, hindi po kaya ng gobyerno yan". He added, "it was not in the 2018 budget of the president, in the absence of any law we cannot appropriate money for free tuition".

Ernesto Pernia, National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) Chief, pointed out that  most of the beneficiaries of free tuition will come from able families; those who have the capacity to pay tuition fee (source: GMA News - We can't afford free tuition SUCs - Duterte economic Manager).

There is no doubt that free tuition fee will be a big help to lower and middle class family.  For lower class it will help them send their children to college; for middle class it will lower  their expense and increase their disposable income (income you can use in your daily expense like food and etc). It is understandable that there will always be a challenge in allocation of government resources; Diokno highlighted that PHP100 Billion is too big for the government and that it is not included in the budget. This challenge I guest requires more tactical rather analytical solution. As a proposal, we can tap private institution and raise funds if we want to provide free tuition fee to the public.

While we have the guts to asked for free tuition, it should be noted that the priority of this project should be the poorest of the poor. What is evident today is that the student selection process of SUCs is based on intelligence (IQ) rather than family income. Thus, if the government really wants to provide college to the poorest of the poor, it should offer student sits of the SUCs directly to the poorest of the society. The government should identify those poorest family and give them directly the scholarship regardless of their intelligence level. Most of poor kids lack nutrition, good environment, and access to information; it would be false to assume that most of these student are intelligent, thus if intelligence will be the main basis to enter to SUCs, most of the poorest of the poor will fail to qualify.

Overall, free education will be beneficial to the economy, but it should be provided to the poorest of the poor to help them improve their economic status.

If you teach an intelligent student to become intelligent, he becomes more intelligent; if you help an ignorant kid to become a student; he becomes intelligent. Who should you teach?

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July 24, 2017

Thoughts: Second State of the Nation of President Duterte

Photo by Presidential Communications Operations Office [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I have watched the second state of nation of President Rodrigo Duterte and I must say that it went well specially when it comes to highlighting the national sovereignty and political & economic challenges in the country. I subscribe to the idea that there are lot of things to be done and that the patience of the public is now being challenge. When it comes to Martial Law, I still believe that “you cannot impose martial law forever in Mindanao”, thus it should be time bound, and should not violate the democratic rights of the public. Yet, I think that the public sees that there is a legitimate reason why Martial Law is being implemented in Mindanao right-now.

In this present age, radicalism will not be the solution to clustered problems being faced by the country. We need to open our eyes that the problems we are seeing now is the result of the past and the only solution is to be part of the solution. We have to accept that the past government has failed create an inclusive development (even though each administration has its own economic projects and contributions) and the only thing we can do right now is to strive hard to find solution to our own economic problems.

Filipinos are patient (resilient) this is the main trait that has made our society survive. We need to be part of the solution instead of being part of the problem; today is the day (or maybe in the future) that each every Filipino will realize that he or she has a role in solving the problems of the country. The society should have realize by now that the government cannot do everything (but the government can help). The only way to a true development lies on our hands, the role of the government is to support the society in all its power.

What I said is idealism and opinion, but I believe that we have to act now rather that wait for the government solve our problems – this is the reality. But I understand as well that each every Filipino has the right to demand from the government what is due for them.

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July 9, 2017

Universal Basic Income, AI, and Developing Countries

Waikiki Beach by Diego Delso, delso.photo, License CC-BY-SA

Hawaii has already passed the first draft of universal basic income program bill (see article: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world-0/hawaii-universal-basic-income-salary-wages-wealth-distribution-chris-lee-a7826931.html). For the reference of the majority, universal basic income program aims to provide income to each and every people without needing to work, in short, you will be able to receive money without working! But before we get too excited, where will the government get money for this program? My hunch is AI (artificial intelligence) and robots, yes you heard it right falks. AI and Robots would probably be working for Hawaii's economy and the income of these machines would be distributed to its citizens.

So what is the implication to the Philippines and other developing countries? Well I see Hawaii as a small island were big countries like US can conduct a policy experiment (well Hawaii is part of US). If the experiment succeed, this policy can be copied all over the world; resulting to replacement of low skilled workers with AI and robots, and giving the salary of these machines to the people (as universal basic income). There is nothing wrong with universal basic income program, since this is seen to be beneficial to the people of implementing country. But I believe that this will have a big impact on developing countries which relies on Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) investments. Most of the jobs being employed by BPOs are low skilled and can be replaced by an AI. Thus, if AI and robots replaced the jobs low skilled employees in developed countries, BPOs will also be most likely replaced by AIs, resulting to massive unemployment in developing countries. To further explain, because AI and robots can now do the job of low skilled workers in developed countries, and because these developed countries have universal basic income program, then there is no need for them to outsource these jobs to developing countries.

If these protectionist scenario happens, developing countries should be prepared to develop pretectionist policy as well or adapt to the changing technology economics.

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June 9, 2017

BPI Technical Glitch and the Philippines Banking Security


According to news source Rappler.com, early morning of June 7, BPI clients began reporting unauthorized transactions in their account. BPI representative said that the glitch was due to “internal data processing error”. The glitch in the system of BPI resulted to increase and decrease in the bank account balance of some BPI clients.

This is something that needs to be looked deeply by the Central Bank, as this involves financial security of the public. It is good to remember that one of the major purpose of bank is to make sure that the public money is safe.

In the past, we used to put our money under our bed, inside the cabinet, and other places that we think it’s safe. Then, banks convinced us that our money is safe with them. In the past were bank records (current balance, debit, credit, and etc) were kept manually using paper and drawers, (I’m assuming) the only security measure to be done is to keep the records lock in the cabinet, have a back-up cabinet for the records, and have a security personnel.

Now, after many decades, banks are using database and super computers to store banking records to accommodate millions of bank clients. The question now is how do we keep the records safe? Take note that most of our bank records today are stored inside a big computer, unlike in the past were you can access the bank drawers and pull out the record (only fire [burned records] and other fortuitous even will totally erase your records). Now, a small tweak in the computer code, a virus/malware attack, or a computer hardware breakdown can totally change or erase the banking records (but this is not to say that we cannot retrieve those records). The point is, banks should be prepared when negative events happen, there should be always be a back-up of banking records (may it be papers inside a cabinet).

A question before I end the write-up, how do you make a person with bank account an instant billionaire? Answer, add nine zeros to his/her account balance (000,000,000). We are now in the internet era were measurement of wealth is just a record in the computer. Hopefully, BPI computer expert personnel will find the “bug” (term for the wrong code that is causing a problem to a computer program) and hope it will not repeat again.

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June 2, 2017

Attack in Resorts World: Strengthening Philippines Security

Google News Top Stories in the Philippines

[Updated] Recent news suggests that, that Philippines security is being challenge. Yesterday, Thursday night, June 1, 2017 (other news source indicated Friday Morning), a gunman attacked (fired shots and set fire) Resorts World Manila resulting to death of 35 bodies (others reported 36 death)  (source: ABS-CBN, CNN, and Manila Bulletin). Authorities have disclaimed that the attack was from terrorist group citing that the cause was more related to rubbery.

Whether it is a terrorist or rubbery attack, the scenario is generally a public security issue; yet, it cannot be conclude as major security threat since that affected is less than 1% (or even make it 2%) of the population (our population is more than 100M). Our country has experienced many types of terror and crime in the past years, this is not different. While many mourn for the lost, it is important to have an objective look at the scenario so it would not happen again.

We have seen major efforts to improve security in this country, it is just, there are criminals, terrorist and others that keep on improving their tactics as well; even developed countries have a share of difficulty of stopping these people. At the end of the day, we have to keep moving and improving the security measures in this country for a better tomorrow and for peace.  

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May 24, 2017

Thinking Martial Law in Mindanao


Armed Forces of the Philippines by Sgt. Matthew Troyer (https://www.dvidshub.net/image/721166) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Yesterday, May 23, 2017, President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao triggered by the attack of the Maute Group (an Islamist Group classified by Philippine Army as terrorist) in Marawi City (according to news source, rappler.com). According to Section 18, Article VII of the 1987 Philippine Constitution, the President, “in case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety is requires it” may place the country under martial law.

This brings us to the assessment that the declaration of martial in Mindanao is constitutional or lawful. My opinion on this is that as long as the declaration will help solve the terror problems in Mindanao; then declare it, but there should be a time frame. Within two (2) months and the problem is not resolve, the government should think of new solutions to address the problem.

Many Filipinos have been abused by the misused martial law in the past years of 1986, by now; the people already knew how it feels to be deprived of liberty. Declaring martial, in my opinion, is good as long as it serves the benefit of the society and is time bound; you cannot declare martial law forever; it should be used to resolved heinous  problems. Martial law should not be used to concentrate power in the hands of the few that will result to deterioration of the power of the society, power of the people, power of the Filipinos.

It is too early to conclude what this recent martial law declaration will bring, but it is my hope (and maybe the hope of others as well) that this will bring peace to Mindanao and the whole country.

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January 26, 2017

From TV to Internet to Creating

Man Uses Laptop By Bill Branson (Photographer) - A Caucasian male uses his laptop computer at his desk. A desktop computer with dual monitors is visible in the background. Commons Licensing: Public Domain

90s babies witnessed the boom of television and internet. Nowadays, people are learning that they can be part of the media; from passive (TV) to interactive media (internet) everyone can post a photo to Facebook and as a result entertain someone. A person can post a video in Youtube and as result educate someone about a thing. A writer can create a blog and influence the world. A software developer can share his app in android market and help someone to become productive. An entrepreneur can go to e-commerce website and sell his products. A recording artist can share his music to music streaming application and earn from it. A service provider can go to freelancer website and provide his service.

With technology, people can pursue their passion while earning, this can be leapfrog to a productive society. For example, if your passion is cooking you can post a video about food; if your passion is wood working you can post a video about creating furniture; if your passion is about plants you can post videos about gardening. If you can’t create videos, you can write your passion on blog sites. You can profit from your videos and write-ups by allowing advertisements. But it is important to note that your earning in internet depends on the quality (sometimes quantity) of work and marketing (promotion) & creative efforts as well. Internet is not instant millionaire maker, but better than without, it helps start-ups to pursue their passion and build their business.

When you have found your passion internet is a great place to start.

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January 7, 2017

Philippines in Year 2017: Improving Infrastructure & Technology

Makati Skyline By j_0_n [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Development in the infrastructure and technology are two ways of connecting people; and connecting people creates development opportunities.  For this year 2017, this will be two of the main keys to open the doors of Philippines development (and other developing countries).

It is very clear that Philippines is a developing country - which means that there are lots of economic challenges that need solution. Developing infrastructure specifically in the transportation, energy, and telecommunication sector are essential to fast track economic development. Infrastructure development in transportation, for example, will result to higher mobility (more movement) in goods, services, and people. Moreover, improving energy infrastructure (such as renewable energy plants) can lower the cost of energy and would be crucial for addressing long term economic development.  Lower energy cost could result lower price of goods, which could increase the purchasing power of the people, and in turn could encourage investment in the country.

On the other hand, improvement in the telecom infrastructure will speed-up internet, which means faster activity or productivity in the internet. Previous years have seen how internet have shape the lives of millions (more than 10 million) of Filipinos. Filipinos socialize shop, communicate, book rides & flights, work & create, and study using the internet. Thus, it would be an added value if communication infrastructure will be improved.

On the other side of the fence, these developments have cost and involve money investment. While the stakes are high, it should be put in mind that the cost of these projects should not be shouldered by the public. It is assumed that there are government funds which could be used to finance these projects. Furthermore, putting the burden to the public will result to lower purchasing power in general, since majority of the population comprise low income earner. Thus, the inclusive utilization (usage) of planned infrastructure can be encouraged by lowering the cost of usage which could help enhance the purchasing power of the public. As others ask, what is the purpose of development if only few can use and benefit from it?

Security & Mobility

Last year show case the effectiveness of the campaign of Philippine National Police (PNP) against war against drugs. This is a sign that Philippines security is improving, even thou there are still lot of things to be done.

Security is very important for a mobile society; people need to feel safe while walking or roaming around the street; while socializing and doing business in the corner; tourist will not tour the islands of the Philippines if it is not safe, thus, will affect the income of tourism industry.  Last year was a good year for the PNP, hope this will continue and further improve in 2017.

Tourism & Environment

Philippines tourism is a game changer for the country. Tourism can create jobs and small businesses that can benefit marginalize member of the society.  For year 2017, it is seen that tourism industry will continue to generate more income for the country; yet, the benefit of this low hanging fruit depends on the tourism promotion in the international arena.

The competitive advantage of visiting and living in the Philippines is that people can do more and visit different provinces and see different places at a lower cost compared to developed countries; plus, the unmatchable Filipino hospitality.

Relatively, improving the environment (e.g. thru pollution control especially in the mega cities) would be an added factor in enhancing tourism; as the slogan says "you plant a tree you save the economy".

There is a big optimism for year 2017 as people continue to increase spending (as of Dec 2016, inflation is 2.60%), this is a sign of growing economy but has its own consequence. For example, traffic jams have increased due to increased in purchase of private vehicles. To support Philippines economic growth, right infrastructure must be put in place and proper policies must be implemented.
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