Saturday, November 03, 2012

Israel remembers Philippine assistance during Holocaust

Probably unknown to all but serious history buffs, the Philippines was among the countries that opened its doors to Jews during the Holocaust.

“As Nazi persecution spread throughout Europe, President Manuel Quezon issued 10,000 visas for Jews seeking refuge,” Vice President Jejomar Binay said. “Eventually only 1,200 Jews made use of the visa, but Quezon’s magnanimity is well remembered by the Jews.”

In recognition of this gesture of help, Haifa City gave Binay a plaque of appreciation during his recent visit to Israel to honor an official invitation from the Israeli government and make his first pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

Binay also unveiled a marker expressing Israel’s gratitude for Quezon’s gesture at a small section of Manila Square, across the intersection of Manila and Ivory Coast Streets.

There is also an Open Doors Monument in Rishon Lezion that features a geometric, seven-meter high sculpture designed by Filipino artist Jun Yee Jr.

While in Israel, Binay met President Shimon Peres, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and other officials.

Binay said Israeli investors will be arriving in Manila starting next year to explore business opportunities in the country.-Interaksyon (November 03, 2012 4:24PM)

European Commission chief Barroso set for Burma visit

European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso is set to arrive in Burma's capital Nay Pyi Taw for a key trade and diplomatic visit.

He is the latest Western official to visit Burma since the country embarked on a reform programme last year.

The EU is competing for trade and investment opportunities in Burma now that most sanctions have been lifted.

Mr Barroso is also likely to raise the plight of the Rohingya minority with both the government and the opposition.

In recent months, violence between the mostly Muslim Rohingyas and Buddhists in Rakhine state has forced 100,000 from their homes.

'Peace centre'
Mr Barroso will meet President Thein Sein, who has acknowledged that attitudes towards the Rohingyas must be changed, as well as opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has so far said little about the unrest.

Over the past decade, trade links and aid between the EU and Burma have been a fraction of those with other Asian countries.

EU member states had imposed tough sanctions on the military because of repressive military rule.

In the wake of the country's reform programme, the EU is now offering around $200m (£125m) in development aid over the next year, almost as much as it has given in the past 15.

The EU is also offering Burma the same trade privileges that other low-income countries get.

It will also fund a new "peace centre" to help Burma resolve the long-running conflicts between central government and ethnic minorities.-British Broadcasting Corporation (November 03, 2012 06:50 GMT)

Philippine transgender, crowned 'Miss International Queen' in Thailand, hopes for dad's acceptance

A 21-year-old transgender beauty from the Philippines was crowned Miss International Queen 2012 in Thailand's seaside resort Pattaya, on Friday - and expressed wishes of finally being accepted as her father's "daughter".

Kevin Balot was crowned winner at the Miss International Queen 2012 transgender/transsexual beauty pageant in Pattaya on November 2. Some 21 contestants from 15 countries, all of them born male, competed in the week-long event for the crown of Miss International Queen 2012.

"Someday I want to go to Europe and to represent my country the Philippines. So I'm so proud to present the beauty of the gays back to our country, the Philippines."

Seri Wongmontha, head of the panel of judges, said: "We really looked at her at the first round, because she's lovely, and her personality is very personable, and the way she answered the question. She's really smart."

After the pageant, Balot said:

"I'm very proud to be the first here, and I hope my dad will accept me. Because in the family I'm the only boy, and my dad has big expectations of me. I made it. I won the International Queen Pageant, and I believe that my dad will accept me not only as his son but also as his daughter."

21 contestants from 15 countries dazzled at the Miss International Queen 2012 pageant held in Thailand's seaside resort Pattaya on Friday, vying for the crown in the annual competition for transvestites.

The final contestants were selected from more than a hundred entries from nearly 30 countries, and one contestant said the competition offered transvestites and transgenders a chance to show off their potentials.

"Someday I want to go to Europe and to represent my country the Philippines. So I'm so proud to present the beauty of the gays back to our country, the Philippines," said Balot, who had participated in three transvestite pageants in Philippines but was competing abroad for the first time.

As the winner of the Miss International Queen, Balot will travel to represent the transvestite pageant. She will also receive $10,000, a crown from a well-known gems store in Thailand and other gifts.

There were four Filipino transvestite contestants in the final stage, but only two made it through to the final ten.-Interaksyon (November 03, 2012 8:39AM)

ASEAN-China workshop on South China Sea document concludes

Senior officials of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China concluded their two-day workshop on a major document concerning the South China Sea here Friday, agreeing to implement the document fully and effectively to maintain peace in the region, said a Cambodian official.

"I am very satisfied with the discussion. It was a candid and frank talk and all participants from ASEAN and China had actively expressed their views," said Soeung Rathchavy, secretary of state at Cambodia's Foreign Ministry, who chaired the workshop to mark the 10th anniversary of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC).

"It is a positive sign that both ASEAN and China frankly spoke about the issue of the South China Sea," she said. "ASEAN and China are considered as a great family."

She said both ASEAN and China agreed that the DOC must be implemented fully and effectively in order to transform the South China Sea into a permanent sea of peace, stability, friendship and cooperation for mutual benefits and interests.

ASEAN and China signed the DOC in Phnom Penh in 2002, when Cambodia acted as rotating chair of ASEAN. Nine years later, the foreign ministers of ASEAN and China finally reached an agreement on the DOC Guidelines at when they met in Bali, Indonesia, in July 2011, in a fresh move to pave the way for the effective implementation of the milestone document.

"The participants agreed that drafting the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea should be made together by ASEAN and China based on consensus," she said.

According to a press release after the workshop, both sides also stressed the importance of carrying out activities related to the DOC to further promote confidence and trust as the foundation of cooperation between ASEAN and China, especially in relation to issues concerning the South China Sea.

"The workshop also underscored the importance to continue strengthening the ASEAN-China strategic partnership, which has been maturing over the years," the press release said.-The Philippines Star (November 03, 2012 12:00AM)

PH tops list of 'creepiest places on Earth'

MANILA, Philippines - On Halloween (October 31), pop culture website listed "The 8 Creepiest Places on Earth," and the Kabayan Burial Caves in Benguet were listed as number one.

The list, compiled by Robert Brockway and Cezary Jan Strusiewicz, has received more than 800,000 hits and more than 2,000 Likes on Facebook.

Allow us to tell you about some of the places listed briefly:

1) The Kabayan Burial Caves, Philippines

Kabayan is found in Benguet in the Cordillera Mountain Ranges. According to, it is "recognized as a center of Ibaloi Culture."

The Ibaloi, a dominant Indigenous Peoples (IP) group in Kabayan, are known to have practised mummification of their dead long before the Spanish colonization.

Depending on the Ibaloi individual's social status upon death, the mummyfying process that used salt and herbs (after which the body was set under fire) may have taken up to two years. When the body fuilds were finally removed, the mummy was "placed inside a pinewood coffin and laid to rest in a man-made cave or in niche dug-out from solid rock."

This practice was said to have been abandoned after Christianity spread during the Spanish period.

According to, the caves were accidentally discovered by loggers clearing a mountain slope nearby. It is presumed that the loggers also found the 15 other caves in the area.

2) Chuuk Lagoon, New Guinea

CHUUK LAGOON. Screen grab from YouTube (journeymanpictures)According to, in February 1944, the US Navy launched Operation Hailstone, an attack on the Imperial Japanese Army.

As with any battle, thousands of soldiers from both sides died, their bodies left resting at the bottom of the Pacific. They remain there untouched until today.

But there's something more scary about this place than just the remains: says that, up to this day, there are still "a few million gallons of crude oil" at the bottom of Chuuk. If it spills, it can destroy the underwater ecosystem.

3) Muynak, Uzbekistan

MUYNAK, UZBEKISTAN. Screen grab from YouTube (BeaugrandRaphael)It looks like a ship graveyard in the middle of the desert today, but it used to be a city with a bustling fishing port by the Aral Sea.

So what happened to the water? Why and how did it vanish?

According to, beginning in the 1960s, "the Aral's waters have been continuously diverted for irrigation purposes by the Soviet government."

This caused the shoreline to recede and for the town to die. The remaining fishing vessels became stranded. Few people live there now, understandably.

4) Herxheim, Germany

XERXHEIM, GERMANY. Screen grab from YouTube (NohundCaro) calls this place "the largest mass cannibal grave."

Herxheim is a place in southwest Germany. In 2009, Dr. Bruno Boulestin and his team discovered the mass grave while doing an archeological excavation in the 7,000-year-old site.

While they kind of expected remains, they did not expect to discover horrifying clues of cannibalism: upon closer inspection, the human bones revealed bite marks.

A line in a piece published in in December 2009 about Herxheim goes: "Over a period of perhaps a few decades, hundreds of people were butchered and eaten before parts of their bodies were thrown into oval pits."

5) Voodoo Market, Lome, Togo

VOODOO MARKET, LOME. Screen grab from YouTube (alastair51060)People who do not understand voodoo see it as black magic, but according to, in this capital of Togo in West Africa, it is a "legitimate religion that is being practiced seriously."

In West African Voodoo, they believe that animal remains "hold magical powers that can be used to protect oneself from evil and diseases."

So imagine this voodoo market like your regular grocery store except that, instead of toiletries and chips, you see assortments of animal skulls.

Other places who made it to the list are an abandoned Moscow laboratory, Robert Falcon Scott's hut in the South Pole and the entrance to the Mayan "hell" in Yucatan.

Terrifying? Maybe.

But not for the adventurous.

It's still the long weekend.

Go choose your own adventure.-Rappler (November 03, 2012 1:31AM)

Philippines, Indonesia drive wedge between India, Asean

India is mulling suspension of negotiations on services and investment with Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean). In a meeting of Commerce and Industry Ministry on Friday, Commerce Minister Anand Sharma has concluded that the options with India are limited given the non-cooperation from certain members of Asean like Philippines and Indonesia.

In a note approved by the Ministry on Friday, it has said that India's trade with Asean is growing at a healthy pace with a CAGR of 42 per cent achieved over the last two years. Exports to Asean have doubled from $18 billion in 2009-2010 to over $36 billion in 2011-2012, while imports have registered a growth of 28 per cent growing from $25.7 billion to $42.5 billion.

Given the background India would have expected a better services offer from all Asean members, but it looks that Philippines and Indonesia are not inclined. In addition, our position on investment also remains far apart, the note further added.

In view of this, the Ministry argued that options with India are limited. As a first option, the Ministry has suggested a suspension of negotiations on services and investment and resume these at a later date.

In another option, it has said that it can also mull concluding the services agreement on the basis of existing offers and conclude separate agreement with eight Asean member States and separate ones with Philippines and Indonesia. Third option could be to restrict the investment agreement to only an Investment Promotion Agreement given the wide divergence in positions on investments.

The India-Asean summit is set to start on November 19. A Prime Minister headed panel on trade-related issues on Friday directed the ministry officials to conclude agreement for further opening of commerce with the Asean before the summit. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who will be attending the summit in Cambodia, sought an update from Trade and Economic Relations Committee on the progress of the talks with Asean to widen the existing Free Trade Agreement (FTA) beyond goods to investment and services. Services are of importance to India as they contribute over 55 per cent of the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

After implementing FTA in goods in 2010, India and the 10-nation bloc are engaged in negotiations to widen the pact. India wants service sector to be liberalised by removal of all the non-tariff barriers.-Rebuilding for the Better Philippines (November 03, 2012)

Friday, November 02, 2012

Taiwanese businessmen gear up for Phl trade mission

About 28 Taiwanese businessmen are gearing up for a trade mission in Makati City this Monday to beef up investments in the Philippines.

William Tsai, of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in Manila, said the meeting will be held on Monday at Dusit Thani Hotel, organized by the TECO and  Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA).

Walter Yeh, TAITRA executive vice president, expressed hope that the trade mission will enable Taiwanese firms to establish local contacts for possible setting up of businesses.

"On business, we only consider that markets meet demands and the domestic potential of the domestic market, that's most important," Yeh told The Star during a recent visit in Taichung, Taiwan.

TECO and TAITRA executives said the mission hopes to allow Filipino traders to meet with Taiwan businessmen involved in franchising of food, cofffee and tea, and hand tools.  

The one-day affair will be attended by 28 Taiwan business groups, who want to see the potential of establishing businesses in the country.

From the Philippines, the TAITRA will also be going to Indonesia which Taiwan also sees as a booming market for its wide range of products and services.

Yeh said Taiwan sees more business deals with the Philippine because it has "growing"domestic market.

In a recent visit by The Star in Kaoshiung province, TAITRA president Yuen Chuan Chao, said Taiwan sees the Philippines as a major export partner and it hopes to pursue further business and economic ties in next years despite the one-China policy of the Philippine government.

Chao said the Philippines is the second largest market for Taiwan with US $5.6-million revenues in 2011.

Chao said the Taiwan is seeing the Philippines a major export-import partner of its products which range from bolts, nuts, screws and other industrial products. Chao told The Star that trade with Manila “increased tremendously” in the recent years.

Taiwan boasts of having a developed industry for machinery, automobile parts, semiconductors and IT products among others.

“We see that Philippines will be our target market in Asia. We hope we can introduce more investment in the Philippines because your population… of course, your people are very hard working and encouraging…,” he added.

The Filipino market is good for Taiwan’s investors to “supply  parts and accessory.”  “I do think we encourage more and more investor to Philippines,” Chao added.-The Philippine Star (October 02, 2012 04:06PM)

World Bank approves first Myanmar aid in 25 years

The World Bank has approved an $80 million grant for Myanmar to support its reform drive, resuming assistance for the former pariah nation after a quarter-century absence.

The money is for infrastructure projects in villages in poor rural areas, the bank said in a statement Friday after its board of directors in Washington approved a new strategy for helping the country formerly known as Burma.

"I am heartened by the reforms that have been taking place in Myanmar and encourage the government to continue to push forward their efforts," said World Bank president Jim Yong Kim.

The focus will be on the "most urgent development needs" he added, citing education, health, infrastructure and the private sector to boost job creation.

The World Bank closed its Yangon office in 1987 and ceased new lending after the then-ruling junta stopped making payments on debts worth hundreds of millions of dollars left from previous programmes.

A hurdle for the resumption of aid has been how to deal with the unpaid money, including arrears of almost $400 million owed to the World Bank.

The Bank, which opened a new office in Yangon in August, said Friday that it was working with Japan and the Asian Development Bank to resolve the issue and expected to clear the arrears in early 2013.

Myanmar President Thein Sein has overseen a series of dramatic reforms since taking office last year, including the release of political prisoners and the election of Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi to parliament.

In response, the West has begun rolling back sanctions and foreign firms are lining up to invest in the country, eyeing its huge natural resources, large population and strategic location between China and India.

Japan agreed in April to forgive $3.8 billion of Myanmar's bilateral debt, as donors rally to help the nation's battered economy.

Myanmar also owes roughly $500 million to the Asian Development Bank, which is returning to the country for the first time since 1988.-Interaksyon (November 02, 2012 3:45PM)

Asia developing countries need pension plan: report

As the number of ageing people grows larger in Asia developing countries, people need to invest in pension and healthcare plans to ensure their prosperity in their twilight years.

A report titled "Ageing in the Twenty-First Century: A Celebration and A Challenge", jointly prepared by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and HelpAge International, says that investing in pensions, healthcare and legal protection is important.

HelpAge International's regional director for East Asia and the Pacific, Eduardo Klein, said yesterday that one thing needed to create more prosperous living conditions for the elderly was to ensure a secure minimum income in old age.

"If Indonesia can provide a steady minimum income to older persons, benefits can come to not only the older persons themselves but also their families and communities," he told journalists at the report's launch.

Since the year 2000, there are already more older people than children under the age of five. By 2050, there will be more elder people than young people under 15. Ageing is happening fastest in the developing world, caused by improved nutrition and healthcare as well as a sharp decline in the number of birth thanks to the success of family planning programmes in those countries.

With a fast-growing number of older persons, creating more prosperous living conditions for the elderly becomes a crucial issue. The report shows that investments in basic income security and pension systems amounting to between 0.5 and 1.5 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) can create a universal benefit for older persons.

"If you can guarantee a minimum regular income for older persons, you can reduce the poverty gap, lifting a larger proportion of older persons to live above the poverty line," said Klein.

The more important thing is, he said, the guaranteed minimum regular income should benefit the members of the household.

"It recovers the dignity of older persons. And, it can also promote an environment that older persons can give more in terms of their own capacity," said Klein.

UNFPA data show that countries, such as China, the Republic of Korea and Singapore, will see a rise in the proportion of elderly to the total population from around 15 per cent to some 40 per cent by 2050.

Indonesia and other countries in the region, such as Malaysia and Myanmar, will see older people amounting to 20 per cent of the total population by 2050.

"Asia is now witnessing an unprecedented growth in [the number of] older people especially in countries in East and Southeast Asia, including Indonesia. This will present social, economic and cultural challenges to individuals, families, societies and global communities," said UNFPA Indonesia representative Jose Ferraris.

The number of Indonesian people aged 60 years and above reached 24 million or 8.5 per cent of the total population in 2010, far above the figure of 1 per cent during 1960-1970. The number of elderly is projected to reach 39 million by 2025 and 68 million or 23 per cent of the total population by 2040.-Asia News Network (November 02, 2012)

China's new jet fighter hot topic among fans and experts

Chinese military fans are excited by the news that the country's second stealth fighter prototype has made its maiden flight. Meanwhile, experts and observers considered the possibility that the aircraft might be deployed on an aircraft carrier.

Thousands of military enthusiasts were online on Wednesday morning, hoping to "witness" the first test flight of the J-31, which had conducted two high-speed taxiing tests on Tuesday morning and was expected to take off on Wednesday.

Without an official code name, the prototype bears the provisional designation J-31 and has "31001" painted on both sides under its cockpit.

An unknown number of enthusiasts on Wednesday morning were stationed outside an airfield of the Shenyang Aircraft Corp., which belongs to the Aviation Industry Corp. of China and is a major designer and manufacturer for the Chinese air force. The witnesses published almost all details of the test flight after it began at 10:32 am.

Photos that showed the J-31 in flight and accompanied by two J-11BS fighters were posted on major Chinese military forums.

"It is amazing! Now China has become the second nation, after the United States, to simultaneously develop two fifth-generation fighters," a netizen using the name wenwutuan said on, one of China's biggest military websites.

"Today is absolutely a historic day," said another Internet user, dzz2002. "Though we still have a long way to go before calling China a strong aviation power, we can proudly say that we have made great strides in achieving this goal."

According to the accounts of military enthusiasts who claimed to witness the test and their photos, the radar-evading aircraft conducted a 10-minute flight with its landing gear in the lowered position.

Zhai Dequan, deputy secretary-general of the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, said he had not expected that J-31 would make the debut so soon after the maiden flight of the J-20 in January 2011.

The J-20 is a fifth-generation twin-engine stealth fighter aircraft prototype developed by Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group. Since its first flight, at least two prototypes have carried out several test flights.

Zhai said the J-31 will pair up with the J-20 in combat and possibly serve on aircraft carriers.

He said the J-31 can match the US' F-35 Lightning II in future performance and may boast better avionics. But the real concern is the quality of its engine.

"We hope engines made in China can be used on the fighter jet soon," Zhai said.

China has relied heavily on imported engines for its domestically developed aircraft, experts said.

Zhai said the revelation of the J-31 shows that China will work hard on "active defence".

"The People's Liberation Army will have greater command of the air at coastal and offshore regions with the service of J-31," he said.

The J-31 has three traits that make it suitable for service on aircraft carrier: its medium size, its reliability and multiple functions, according to Du Wenlong, a senior researcher at the Academy of Military Science of the PLA.

Xu Yongling, a former test pilot and military aviation expert, told People's Daily yesterday that China has a limited number of potential choices for fighters that can be deployed on its aircraft carriers.

Judging from the landing gear and its comparatively superior mobility compared with the J-20, it is possible that the J-31 is designed to be launched from an aircraft carrier, military expert Andrei Chang told Agence France-Presse.

However, a time-consuming testing process means the aircraft is unlikely to enter active service for nearly a decade.

"It will take at least seven or eight years before it can be sold commercially," Chang said.

The J-31 could possibly be exported in the future, Xu said, suggesting some foreign countries may turn to China for its advanced fighters.-Asia News Network (November 02, 2012)

Australia wants closer ties with ASEAN

Australia will elevate its engagement with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and seek to more closely align its foreign policy with that of the bloc, Foreign Minister Bob Carr said Friday.

In an interview with the Australian Financial Review, Carr said Australia, which last weekend released a comprehensive blueprint for enhancing its ties with Asia, recogniZed ASEAN's "centrality in the region."

"I am quite happy to be associated with a shift (in Australia's level of engagement)," Carr said.

"I think we need to ease into habits of consultation with ASEAN as a grouping and with its individual members and also relax into the habit of listening to them more as they talk about their region."

The sweeping policy blueprint, "Australia in the Asian Century," released last weekend, set a series of goals for the next 13 years to seize upon Asia's rapid ascent as a global economic powerhouse.

The ambitious plan is aimed at maximizing links with booming China and other soaring Asian economies to power Australia into the world's top 10 wealthiest nations by 2025.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard said China, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea and the United States would be Australia's key partners while Canberra also decided to post a full-time ambassador to the 10-nation ASEAN.

Carr said no regional grouping was more relevant to Australia's security or prosperity than ASEAN, which groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

"I want to emphasize the sheer vitality of the economies that lie within ASEAN and their importance to Australia ... taken as a bloc it is our number two trading partner," he told the newspaper.

Carr, who travels to Indonesia and Malaysia in coming days, added that ASEAN had been at the forefront of resolving disputes over territory in the South China Sea involving China.

"ASEAN members want to see ASEAN prove itself on this issue," he said.-Interaksyon (November 02, 2012 9:36AM)

Philippines recalls South Korean noodles

Philippine authorities have ordered the recall of six brands of South Korean noodles from local shops after they were reported to contain a cancer-causing chemical.

The Food and Drug Administration said in a statement dated Thursday that the noodles made by Nongshim Co, “will be off the shelves immediately”, and called on the public to report if they were still being sold.

“The government is also undertaking inspection, collection and testing of other brands of noodles not currently identified to be contaminated as a precaution,” the statement on the agency’s website said.

The Philippine agency said its South Korean counterpart had found that the six brands contained “benzopyrene, a chemical with carcinogenic potential” in its tests.

The statement did not say if the Philippine agency had tested the Nongshim brands itself. Spokesmen of the local FDA could not be contacted for comment.

China, Taiwan and Vietnam have all reportedly had similar recalls of the same brands of South Korean noodles over similar health fears.-Black Pearl (November 02, 2012 2:24PM)

Asia’s fishermen caught in escalating sea tensions

When gun-toting Chinese guards spotted Tran Hien’s unarmed wooden fishing boat in disputed waters, they seized his vessel, detained his crew and threw him in jail.

For generations the Vietnamese islanders of Ly Son have braved typhoons and other dangers to bring home fish, but now they also have to contend with patrols sent by Beijing to assert its territorial claims.

Swept along by nationalist sentiment, and forced to venture ever further out to sea to fill its nets, Asia’s fishing fleet is increasingly on the frontline of escalating territorial tensions in the region.

In recent years, China has begun aggressively patrolling around the contested Paracel and Spratly Islands in the South China Sea — known in Vietnam as the East Sea — using fishing bans and patrol boats to keep foreign trawlers out, according to Vietnamese officials and fishermen.

“They had guns. They trained them on us, forced us to the front of the boat, then they boarded and arrested us,” said Tran Hien, who was detained in March along with his 10-man crew near the Paracel Islands and held for 49 days.

“My first son was born when I was in the Chinese prison,” the 33-year-old boat captain said. “They took my nets, my GPS and I am now heavily in debt.”

Hien’s story is far from unusual — he and his men were held alongside the crew of another Vietnamese boat that was detained the same day. Both captains were beaten and “there was never enough food” for the 21 sailors, he said.

Hanoi says hundreds of fishing boat crews have been arrested near the Paracels and Spratlys by Chinese authorities over the last few years.

With coastal areas depleted by overfishing, the ever-growing ranks of fishermen from Ly Son — located 30 kilometers (20 miles) east of mainland Vietnam — rely on trips to the disputed archipelagos to net valuable hauls of anchovies, tuna and butterfish.

– Pawns in a maritime battle –

Hanoi claims “indisputable sovereignty” over the island chains, known locally as Truong Sa and Hoang Sa, which are several hundred kilometres off the coasts of both Vietnam and China.

And Hanoi uses the fishermen, at least indirectly, to assert sovereignty claims — rejecting any Chinese efforts to limit its trawlers, such as Beijing’s annual fishing ban.

“Our government encourages us to fish in the Paracels and Spratlys as there are a lot of fish there and it has been our fishing field for many years,” Le Khuan, 52, told AFP at his small house on Ly Son Island.

Other regional countries have policies encouraging offshore fishing to relieve pressure on coastal areas and increase their presence in their territorial waters, said a senior fishery officer at the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation.

“Of course, in disputed areas this means greater contact with other countries,” Simon Funge-Smith told AFP, adding that it was also putting “considerable pressure” on fish stocks and increasing competition between often-subsidised national fleets.

Beijing has occupied the Paracels, known as Xisha in Chinese, since a brief war with South Vietnam in 1974, and also claims the Spratlys — as do, in whole or in part, Taiwan, Malaysia, the Philippines and Brunei.

Beijing claims as its historical territory virtually all of the South China Sea, which is believed to sit atop huge oil and gas reserves as well as being home to important fishing grounds.

With more Chinese patrol boats and fishermen of all nationalities on the waters and diplomatic tensions over disputed islands running high, observers warn that an escalation is possible.

“There is a real risk… of an overreaction on either side — a fishing boat being fired upon by a patrol vessel,” said Sam Bateman, a maritime security expert at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University.

Both Hanoi and Beijing “have become much more nationalistic in response to their sovereignty claims,” he added.
Growing patriotic sentiment would also make it hard for either side to back down, with governments forced into “tit for tat” exchanges, he said.

Filipino fishermen have also complained of intimidation from rifle-brandishing Chinese personnel near the Scarborough Shoal, about 230 kilometres (140 miles) from the Philippine coast.

Rival claims flared into a major diplomatic dispute in April when Manila accused Chinese fishermen of taking endangered species, such as clams and corals, from the area.

Philippine efforts to arrest the fishermen were thwarted when two Chinese surveillance vessels arrived at the scene.
And last month South Korea’s coastguard detained 23 Chinese fishermen in the Yellow Sea after a violent clash that left one Chinese crew member dead.

– Arrest by China ‘the biggest fear’ –

The small fishing communities on Ly Son Island are shocked to find themselves at the centre of an international dispute for simply fishing where they have for generations, a local government official said.

“Fishermen here consider the fishing fields of Truong Sa and Hoang Sa their gardens, their rice fields,” Pham Hoang Linh told AFP in an interview in a yellow, peeling government building on the island as loudspeakers boomed out one of Hanoi’s routine, twice-daily propaganda announcements.

He said arrest by China is “the worst fear” of the families of the some 3,000 fishermen on the island, as without the income from fishing — typically between about $100 and $250 a trip — many islanders risk destitution.

“We try to educate our fishermen to avoid conflict. But we are operating in our own fishing fields so there is no reason to be scared,” Linh, a Ly Son native himself, told AFP.

Unless a solution is found, further confrontations appear inevitable as the fishermen of Ly Son say they will keep plying the disputed waters.

“It is our only source of income. It is our territory, our waters — we will protect our sovereignty, we will keep on fishing,” said Khuan.-Philippine Daily Inquirer (November 02, 2012 1:39PM)

WORLD NEWS: Chinese ships in disputed waters—Japan

Four Chinese government ships were in the territorial waters of disputed Tokyo-controlled islands on Friday, Japan’s coastguard said.

The maritime surveillance ships entered the 12-nautical-mile zone around one of the East China Sea islands shortly after 0230 GMT, the coastguard said.

They were sailing near Uotsurijima, they said, referring to the main islet in the disputed chain, called the Senkaku Islands in Japan and the Diaoyu Islands in China.

Chinese vessels have moved in and out of what Japan says is its sovereign territory over the last two months, since Tokyo nationalized some of the islands.

As well as the potential mineral reserves to which ownership of the islands grants access, both countries have considerable amounts of national pride at stake in the decades-old spat.

The dispute has hit the huge trade relationship between the two largest economies in the region. Senior representatives from both governments are reportedly readying for a third round of talks on the issue.-Philippine Daily Inquirer (November 02, 2012 1:39PM)

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Survey shows Indonesians worry about work-life balance

Indonesians are concerned that they spend too much time at their workplaces and have less time for their family and friends, a recent survey by Nielsen Indonesia shows.

The company released its third quarter consumer survey yesterday, saying that a happy balance between work and home was the biggest concern of Indonesians after financial stability.

"What is interesting is that the work-life balance is the second concern for Indonesians, whereas in Asia-Pacific countries it only ranks fourth," Nielsen Indonesia managing director Catherine Eddy told reporters during a press briefing in Jakarta.

The Nielsen survey, which involved 500 Indonesian respondents through online interviews, showed that 24 per cent felt that balancing work and personal social life was a major concern that affected confidence indicators. The survey reported that 31 per cent of respondents ranked their economic situation as their most important concern.

Meanwhile, citizens in neighbouring countries do not think that their office workload affects their relations with family and friends, with the exception of those living in Singapore and Philippines.

Work-life balance was not listed as among the top-five concerns among citizens of Vietnam, Thailand and Australia, while it ranked fourth in terms of major concerns among Malaysians.

Based on respondent interviews, there is also a tendency among respondents to believe that their jobs had become more stressful in recent years, which Eddy argued was a rational consequence of the country's rapid economic progress.

"Employers [in Indonesia] have to respond [to this survey] by providing more flexible working hours for their employees," she suggested.

Despite the concerns, Indonesia retained its position as the country with the highest level of consumer confidence among the 58 countries surveyed by Nielsen, thanks to economic resilience stemming from its robust domestic consumption.

According to Nielsen, Indonesia's consumer confidence index was 119 in the third quarter, on par with India as the world’s most confident country. Consumers are considered optimistic if the index is above 100 and pessimistic if it is below 100.

The survey shows that 80 per cent of Indonesians are optimistic about the state of their personal finances over the next year, and 65 per cent of Indonesians are confident about job prospects in the country. In comparison, only 13 per cent and 6 per cent of Koreans are confident about their financial condition and job prospects, respectively.

Another interesting fact, noted by the survey, is the fact that Indonesian consumers are less keen to spend their disposable income, especially for the purpose of vacation or for buying new clothes.

Only 29 per cent of Indonesians opt to spend their spare money on holidays and vacations, well below Asia-Pacific countries’ average of 36 per cent, while only 16 per cent of Indonesians prefer to splurge on new clothes.

Most Indonesians, or 73 per cent, prefer to put their spare money into savings, making Indonesia the country with the highest savings rate among the Asia-Pacific countries surveyed by Nielsen.

"If you see people flocking to shopping malls in Indonesia, the question is: 'Are they really spending?' I think it [going to shopping malls] is more about lifestyle […] they are not all about shopping," Eddy said.-Asia News Network (November 01, 2012)

ADB grants US$20m to combat HIV in Laos, Vietnam

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is granting US$20 million in grants and loans to help Laos and Vietnam address the growing risk of HIV infections in border areas including casinos.

"As people and products move more freely across borders, so do communicable diseases, such as HIV," ADB economist Emiko Masaki said in a statement.

"This project will help in strengthening the HIV response systems of Vietnam and Laos to protect their most vulnerable populations with information, skills, supplies and access to quality healthcare services," she said.

The statement said the border regions had some of the poorest and most isolated populations, "with limited access to health services and limited knowledge of HIV risks."

"New cross border roads, and the mushrooming of hotels, casinos and other businesses in border areas, have increased the threat of HIV infection," it said.

The statement noted that adult HIV prevalence was modest at 0.4 per cent in Vietnam and 0.2 per cent in Laos.

"But the disease has spread to all districts in Viet Nam and is rising in border zones. Meanwhile, being surrounded by countries with higher HIV prevalence has created a high-risk environment for Lao PDR," the statement said.-Asia News Network (November 01, 2012)

Myanmar's neighbors urged to let in refugees

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - Myanmar's neighbors should prepare to accept refugees from the country's Rohingya minority who may try to flee abroad to escape bloody communal violence, refugee organizations said Thursday, November 1.

Violence in Myanmar's Rakhine state pitting Buddhists against members of the Muslim Rohingya minority has killed dozens since June and swamped refugee camps in the country, with tens of thousands fleeing the bloodshed.

Rohingya have for years trickled abroad to neighoring Bangladesh and, increasingly, to Muslim-majority Malaysia by boat. The violence has sparked warnings of a potential surge in refugees opting for the dangerous sea voyage.

Bangladeshi police say about 130 people are missing after a boat sank Sunday while carrying Rohingya refugees heading for Malaysia.

"We are appealing to countries to keep borders open and to ensure safe access and whatever assistance they can provide," said Vivian Tan, Asia-Pacific spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

"The main thing is that they have a safe place to land," she said.

Rohingyas, a Muslim minority who speak a Bengali dialect in mainly Buddhist Myanmar, claim decades of persecution.

The government views the roughly 800,000 Rohingya in Rakhine as illegal Bangladeshi immigrants and denies them citizenship.

Decades-old animosity between Buddhists and Rohingya exploded in June after the apparent rape and murder of an ethnic Rakhine woman sparked a series of revenge attacks.

Human Rights Watch warned this week of a potential "dramatic increase in the number of Rohingya taking to the sea this year" in the wake of the unrest. - Agence France-Presse

Aid and refugee agencies have said they were monitoring the situation and no large-scale exodus had yet been detected, but they urged nearby countries to prepare.

The UNHCR in Malaysia has registered some 24,000 Rohingyas as refugees but community leaders estimate actual numbers in the country could be double that.

Malaysia largely turns a blind eye, allowing them into the country but denying them any sort of legal status that would allow access to health care, education and other services, activists say.

Malaysia must prepare for more arrivals and provide access to such services, said Sharuna Verghis, co-founder of Malaysian refugee help organisation Health Equity Initiative.

"It is a humanitarian crisis. That's why a regional solution is needed, and part of the solution must be that everyone does their bit," she said.

"Countries need to show their generosity and compassion at this time of crisis."-Rappler (November 01, 2012 4:05PM)

Manila 11th most attractive for foreign shoppers, says Global Blue

Manila was ranked 11th in the Globe Shopper Index, published by Global Blue, a few points behind Delhi and ahead of Taipei, with Hong Kong topping the index as the most attractive city for international travel shoppers in Asia-Pacific.

Global Blue’s expanded Globe Shopper Index added 25 Asia-Pacific cities to the existing 33 European cities and ranked them on the experience they provided to international travel shoppers. The rankings were based on five categories covering shops, affordability, convenience, hotels and transport, and culture and climate. Global Blue developed the Globe Shopper Index in partnership with the Economist Intelligence Unit as an essential planning tool for all international travel shoppers searching for their next shopping destination in Europe and Asia-Pacific.

Manila’s performance was driven by its score in the “affordability” category, where the place ranked well for its affordable two- and four-star hotels and cheap public transport. Manila’s ranking was also helped by the range of large shopping malls in the city, Manila was fourth on this criteria, with five malls available to globe shoppers.

However, Manila was pushed down the rankings due to a poor performance in the “hotels and transport” and “shops” categories. Its low rank in this category was mainly due to the limited availability of hotels and the quality of its public transport made the city less attractive to globe shoppers. Despite having many large malls, the city offered a limited range of international brands, which weakened its performance in the “shops” category.

Whether shoppers care most about finding a great place to lunch, or an open-all-hours shopping culture, whether they just wanted great prices or are looking for the biggest variety of luxury goods to choose from, the Globe Shopper Index is the place to start researching a destination city. Shoppers can visit, select the city features most important to them and find the cities that best match their preferences. They can then share their preferred cities online with their friends to gather shopping tips.

Global Blue works with more than 270,000 of the world’s favorite retailers, shopping brands and hotels in over 40 countries. It serves more than 60,000 travellers every day. The company said its ambition was to become the beacon for international shopping and spending across the globe. Global Blue’s headquarters are in Nyon, close to Geneva, Switzerland.

Having invented the concept of tax-free shopping 30 years ago, Global Blue offers a wide range of services that help consumers shop and spend wisely when they are in foreign countries, and merchants and banks increase their revenues from the lucrative traveller market.

The Globe Shopper City Index-Asia-Pacific measures the attractiveness of 25 major Asia-Pacific cities for international travel shopping. A city’s index score is made up of 38 criteria, which are grouped into five categories covering shops, affordability, convenience, hotels and transport, and culture and climate. Criteria were assessed quantitatively (for example, number of passenger flights annually), or qualitatively, such as the likelihood of bargaining a discount in various stores.

Each city has an average category score. All five category scores were averaged to give an overall index score. Criteria scores were converted to an index score between zero and 100. The EIU developed all the criteria and categories independently. All categories were given equal weighting in the index. Index cities were selected based on visitor numbers and economic importance while also factoring geographic diversity.
Index Table

1     Hong Kong   68.5        
2     Kuala Lumpur65.0        
3     Shanghai    63.0        
4     Beijing     60.6       
5     Singapore   60.1       
6     Sydney      58.5       
7     Bangkok     57.0       
8     Tokyo       56.4       
9     Seoul       54.7        
10    Delhi       52.8        
11    Manila      51.5        
12    Taipei      51.4        
13   Auckland     50.1
14    Bangalore   49.6
15    Guanzhou    48.4
16    Mumbai      48.3
17    Jakarta     45.7
18    Osaka       45.1
19    Ho Chi Minh City 44.9
20    Busan       44.7
21    Nagoya      38.5
22    Colombo     36.3
23    Dhaka       35.7
24    Karachi     34.1
25    Yangon      29.8

-Philippine Daily Inquirer (October 31, 2012 10:59PM)

PH stands out among booming markets

The Philippines has strong growth prospects over the medium- to long-term due to a large degree to policies of the Aquino administration that have succeeded in leveling the playing field for foreign investors, a ranking official of Goldman Sachs said.

In a briefing late Tuesday, the investment banking giant’s vice chair, Carl Stern, pointed out that the country’s economic growth was poised to even surpass its peers in the so-called “Next 11” list of booming emerging markets published last year.

“Your growth prospects look quite good relative to the alternatives out there,” he told reporters during a one-day visit to Manila to meet the firm’s local clients. “The Philippines is certainly one of the fastest-growing economies.”

The Next 11 list was published by Goldman Sachs economist Jim O’Neill last year, citing Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Turkey, South Korea and Vietnam as the emerging market economies that would lead global growth in the 21st century.
O’Neill is the same economist who coined the term BRICs in 2003, representing the booming economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China.

“Among the Next 11, the growth forecast for the Philippines of 5, 6, 7 percent [gross domestic product growth] certainly ranks very favorably,” said Stern, who joined Goldman Sachs after serving as president and CEO of the Boston Consulting Group.

The visit of the high-ranking official of one of the biggest investment banks in the world represented an important milestone for the firm, which, until recently, has kept a relatively low profile in the Philippine financial market.

Stern said the growing emphasis on the Philippines was due, in part, to the economic difficulties being experienced by the advanced economies of the United States and western Europe.

“Investors go where there’s money to be made,” he said, referring to emerging markets in general and the Philippines in particular.

The Goldman Sachs vice chair acknowledged the fact that the Philippines has experienced several boom-and-bust cycles in the past, but expressed optimism that the current economic upswing being experienced was a unique event mainly because of the Aquino administration’s thrust at improving overall governance in the country.

“The job that your government has done in anti-corruption, among many things, is setting a more solid, predictable foundation for the kind of capitalism that we practice,” he said.-Philippine Daily Inquirer (October 31, 2012 11:06PM)

PH donates $250,000 to Sandy's victims

The Philippine government yesterday donated some $250,000 to the American Red Cross, in an effort to help the victims of superstorm “Sandy” in the US East Coast.

US Ambassador Harry Thomas Jr. confirmed the Philippine flood aid in his Twitter account.

“Thank you Gov. of the Philippines who will donate $250 K to the American Red Cross to help victims of Hurricane Sandy. True partners and friends!” Thomas said in his tweet yesterday.

The hurricane, which slammed the US East Coast on Tuesday, claimed 55 lives in eight states and billions in property damage.

Meanwhile, the Philippine embassy in Washington advised yesterday Filipinos caught in the path of hurricane Sandy to remain vigilant and take the necessary precautions since the danger posed by the storm is not yet over.

Ambassador Jose Cuisia Jr. said that although Sandy has weakened since making landfall on Monday evening in New Jersey, it continues to bring rains and strong winds that could pose serious threats to populated areas as it heads toward Canada in the next two days.

“Sandy is a disaster still ongoing,” Cuisia said in a statement as he appealed to the Filipino community to make sure that none of the estimated 460,000 Filipinos in the US East Coast will end up as casualties, even as the death toll of the storm climbed to 55.

“We would like to remind our kababayans, particularly those in New Jersey and New York, to remain in their homes until such time that authorities say that it is safe for them to venture out,” Cuisia said, warning that affected populations face risks from floodwaters, downed trees and power lines.

He said members of the Filipino community in the affected areas should wait until basic services such as power and transport have been restored before leaving the safety of their homes.

The embassy and the Philippine Consulate General in New York said they do not have the exact number of Filipinos directly affected by Sandy, but they have received reports that some Filipinos were evacuated in Atlantic City, Jersey City, New Milford and other areas in New Jersey as well as in City Island and Staten Island in New York due to floodwaters.

Consul General Mario de Leon said reports from the leaders of the Filipino community also indicated that a large number of Filipinos are among the 8.5 million people in 13 states who are currently without electricity.

He said there are also reports that several Filipinos sustained some damage to their homes in Nassau and Queens counties in New York as well as in Hamden and Stamford in Connecticut as a result of violent winds and storm surges.-Black Pearl (November 01, 2012 1:24PM)

Indonesian Inflation Quickens as Weakening Currency Boosts Costs

Indonesia’s inflation accelerated to a 13-month high in October as Asia’s worst performing currency this year boosted the cost of imports, reducing the scope for interest-rate cuts to counter falling exports.

Consumer prices climbed 4.61 percent from a year earlier last month, after rising 4.31 percent in September, the statistics bureau said in Jakarta today. The median of 20 estimates in a Bloomberg News survey was for a 4.59 percent gain. Exports fell 9.4 percent in September from a year earlier, the sixth month of declines.

Bank Indonesia has refrained from adding to a February rate cut to prevent further weakening the rupiah, which has dropped more than 5 percent this year in the biggest decline among 11 Asian currencies tracked by Bloomberg. Southeast Asia’s biggest economy has so far withstood the global slowdown amid Europe’s debt crisis, with growth forecast to hold above 6 percent for an eighth quarter in the three months through September.

“The weakening currency has hurt inflation,” Destry Damayanti, chief economist at PT Bank Mandiri in Jakarta, said before the report. “Most likely in November prices will be stable as there’s no pressure from food and transportation. There’s no strong reason for the central bank to change its monetary policy this month.”

The rupiah fell 0.2 percent to 9,630 per dollar as of 10:45 a.m. in Jakarta, according to prices from local banks compiled by Bloomberg.

The exports decline in September followed a previously reported 24.3 percent drop in August. Imports rose 1.2 percent from year earlier.

Consumer prices rose 0.16 percent last month from September, today’s report showed. The core inflation rate was 4.59 percent, compared with a 4.12 percent pace in the month before.-Bloomberg (November 01, 2012 12:18PM)

Kingdom of Canada Prime Minister will fly to the Philippines for Trade, Investment, and Security pact

Canada's Harper to travel to Hong Kong, Philippines

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Trade Minister Ed Fast will travel to the Philippines and Hong Kong November 10-11, officials said Wednesday (November 1, 2012).

While in Manila on November 10, Harper will meet with President Benigno Simeon Aquino to discuss bilateral trade and investment, security cooperation and regional issues.

The next day, the prime minister will travel to Hong Kong where he will meet with Hong Kong chief Chun-ying Leung "with a view to further strengthening an already deep and historical relationship," said a statement.

The Philippines is the top source of immigrants to Canada, with nearly 500,000 people of Filipino origin residing in the country. Canada is also home to half a million individuals of Hong Kong descent, second in numbers only to the United States.-Rebuilding for the Better Philippines (November 01, 2012)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

ASEAN urged to retain central role in global, regional affairs

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) should retain its central role in international and regional issues, given the moderated position of the 10 member countries, its Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan said Tuesday.

Speaking at the lecture series organized by Malaysia's Global Movement of Moderates Foundation in Kuala Lumpur, Surin said ASEAN should keep its central role as countries around the bloc are entangled with heavy historical burdens.

"ASEAN has been given the middle role, the centrality," he said. "we serve as that driving force to create a new architecture in East Asia."

ASEAN provides a more comfort platforms for other countries to solve disputes, he told the audience that mainly consisted of academics, government officials and diplomats, saying he hopes China and Japan, which have been embroiled in territorial disputes recently, will meet "at the highest level" during the upcoming ASEAN summit in Cambodia.

Surin, whose tenure as ASEAN secretary general is ending by the end of this year, hailed the achievements by the regional group in opening up and economic prosperity since its establishment four decades ago.

"Our market has been integrated, we are attracting a lot of interest around the world. Many major powers are knocking on our door, trying to come in, even they are far away on the other side of the globe."

He also praised the value of moderation embraced by ASEAN countries. "We could only be here because we stood firm on what we believed in, and that is the way of moderation", he said.

First mooted by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak at the UN General Assembly in 2010, the concept of Global Movement of Mederates was adopted by the ASEAN summit in Phnom Penh in April.

During his speech, Surin also urged the 10 ASEAN members, namely Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, to further promote and practise the ASEAN charter, which he dubbed as the "roadmap to the future" of the regional bloc.

He said the charter must be a "living document" among the 600 million people living in Southeast Asia, if ASEAN want to be active in the international arena and to create confidence among potential investors.

"For four decades, we are trying to be very accommodating to each other, trying to bring each other along, trying to find reasons to excuse each other for not following the commitment."

"But then the world has changed, this (the ASEAN chapter) has become the center of growth,"he said.-The Philippine Star (October 30, 2012 10:00PM)