opinion

The fantasy of the P7b annual budget

January 24, 2020

IT is good to hear that, at the start of the year, the revenue collection of the city government has improved during the renewal of the business permits and payments of realty taxes. While we see an improvement in the collection, the question still remains. Can the city government really collect or earn as much as P 7 billion this year? The question is inevitable because the reported approved annual budget of the city government for 2020 is P 7 billion. With nothing concrete that can be felt about the development of the city, the P 7 billion budget becomes questionable. The taxpayers are asking on how the P 7 billion is going to be spent. The lack of transparency at the city hall always feed the people’s suspicions that the budget would only be spent to benefit some public officials. Nobody is saying ‘though that city hall is loaded with corruption. The report about the development of new hospitals in the city’s east and west districts are not enough to justify that the city is spending P 7 billion a year. Of course, there is the construction of schools here, there, and everywhere. Will the construction of these school buildings cost as much as P 7 billion, too. Come-on, Sir, the money is not spent only for hospitals and school buildings. There are other projects of the city government like the modern “Golden Home for the Aged” in Upper Puerto and the farm-to-market roads. Isn’t these projects worth P 7 billion? Well, nobody is arguing, but everybody’s asking a question. Can the city government make public its annual expenses for the last two years – 2018 and 2019? At least, the doubting Thomases would be given a clear and direct information on how the city government spent the taxpayers’ money. No matter, nobody believes that the city government could collect or earn P 7 billion a year. Unless, the geniuses at the city’s finance committee have studied the secret of magic, a collection of P 7 billion to replenish the city’s expenses is next to impossible. Did the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) approved the city’s annual budget? Anyway, there are still lots of things to be done. Perhaps, the city government could really collect P 7 billion a year and spent the money in a year’s time? The taxpayers are simply questioning that if the city government collects only a little over than P 300 million for the first quarter of 2020, then the collection of P 7 billion for the year is nothing, but a desperate dream.

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A moment of renewal, recovery with Fr. Jun

January 24, 2020

AMID my convalescence,  I managed to attend  the Anointing of the Sick officiated by Rev. Father Jun Balsamo, SSJV last week. The activity was attended by members and friends of Thrive CDO, a group of breast cancer survivors and patients organized by Karen Lluch years ago.  The group had since grown big through the years. Last week was my first time to attend the anointing but I know it is one of the Blessed Sacraments of the Catholic church and as a graduate of a Catholic school, I used to know it as the holy unction. Am not sure if there was a change of name or whether it is still the same. The anointing of the sick is a Catholic Church sacrament administered to ailing or aging Catholics and the administering priests use holy water and holy oil and offer prayers for them. I get goosebumps recalling the sins of parents and grandparents mentioned in a prayer during one service and the prayer of forgiveness is offered to clean the family of sins committed by one of their own. During these prayers, I close my eyes and shut off all noise as I concentrate my mind to recall all possible sins I may have committed as well as those committed by my family so I can ask forgiveness from the Lord. I especially think about my paternal grandfather Felix Quilang Naelga because I recalled opening the old jar where he placed a banana inside without permission. The prayers would last two hours with signs of crosses made in every prayer. I’ve never been sprinkled with a lot of holy water in my whole life except that one time. The administering priest would then give the blessing by making the sign of the cross with holy oil on the foreheads, eyes, lips, nose, chest and feet of the faithful. By administering the holy oil on the nose, the priest said the faithful would be able to smell the perceived fragrance of the Lord as well as see with their eyes the Lord’s grandeur despite our predicament. Last week’s anointing of the sick was special and meaningful for the 10 of us members of Thrive CDO in attendance plus the members of Chona Hay’s family who hosted the activity. I see it in their faces and it was especially meaningful for Chona’s sister Emma who has a second bout with cancer and for another sister. I posted pictures of the activity in my Facebook page and Dr. Manny Jaudian, Phd and a former dean of Cagayan de Oro College-Phinma’s College of Criminology saw the photos and immediately tecognized Father Jun Balsamo as a former student. It turned out that the good priest now heads the Ministry of Deliverance and Exorcism of the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro. Father Balsamo told us that any Catholic family should instill in their members the value of prayers in their daily lives and should not allow mobile devices like cell phones to dictate on their routines. It was really an inspiring time with the priest and I look forward to meeting him again. And I came to know that Father Balsamo is from Baluarte, Tagoloan town in Misamis Oriental where I was born amd raised. Pure coincidence I must say.  Rev.Fr.Roberto Dela Cuesta Balsamo,SSJV is the son of Roberto Balsamo,Sr. and Ursula Dela Cuesta Balsamo Good luck Father Jun in your ministry which I know to be more relevant in these troubling times. ************** Still talking about churches, I am very pleased to notice that my temporary church,  the St. Francis Xavier Parish Uptown Church is slowly taking shape. Since my husband Ronnie and I visit the Philippines twice a year, the St. Francis Xavier Parish Uptown Church had been my spiritual anchor.  For sometime now I didn’t understand why construction on the church had been slow when I believe that it is surrounded by moneyed, generous parishioners. Last Christmas season I saw this generosity in action with the parishioners sharing their blessings. Way to go Most Reverend Father J Julius Clavero,SSJV  you are fortunate that you have able parishioners like Dr. Dures Tagayuna and retired Regional Trial Court (RTC) Judge Evelyn Gamotin Nery volunteering for the church. Let this church withstand the test of time and I am humbled to have helped it a little. (For comments and questions email me at susanap.dennis@yahoo.com)

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When jeepney drivers cross the line

January 21, 2020

BY the time this column sees print, we may only have a few more days left before we enter February, the second month of the year and this means I only have a few more days left to spend with family before heading back to the US. Suffice it to say that I have enjoyed my time back home in Cagayan de Oro City and nearby Tagoloan town in Misamis Oriental and God willing, I pray that my husband Ronnie and I don’t encounter any last minute inconveniences or anything major that may happen in the remaining days of my vacation in this City of Golden Friendship. It’s a lot more worrisome in Luzon, where Taal Volcano is supposed to erupt any time soon.  In fact based on my monitoring, the canceled flights heading to Manila may or may not impact on my scheduled trip back to the US and I may have to do some last minute re-scheduling which I hope not to do. At any rate, it’s been quite a treat meeting old and new friends, spending quality time with my family and grandchildren and touching base with old media colleagues from way back.  It’s especially nice spending Christmas and New Year here in Cagayan de Oro City even with the occasional ground ‘hiccup’ or quake that rattled the nerves. Aside from former media colleagues, I also chatted and spent time with old classmates—an alumni homecoming at the St. Mary’s Academy of Tagoloan town—at the and old co-workers at the local judiciary where I spent my early professional career before venturing into the local mainstream media.  Good times to say the least.                       ******************* Last week, I did talk about in passing the confrontation between drivers of the modernized public utility vehicles (PUVs) that serviced commuters heading to and out of Bugo and the drivers of the decrepit, aging passenger jeepneys who felt threatened by their competition. Based on what I read online, the passenger jeepney drivers were supposedly angry enough to demand that passengers get off the modern air-conditioned passenger vehicles and transfer to their aging, decrepit units.  As to how the passengers reacted, your guess is as good as mine. Suffice it to say that there was no violence other than the angry outbursts typical of any heated confrontation between conflicting parties that if left unchecked would border close to the edge of something a bit more dangerous which nobody especially the passengers want or need. While I am grateful that I can either ride a taxi or have Ronnie drive me around, even if driving in the city’s streets ticks him off to no end,  I can still remember my days riding jeepneys especially during my youth in Tagoloan town or even during my mainstream media days. And if in my old age I would still be riding jeepneys I just might, just might be confronting those jeepney drivers who demanded those passengers of modernized passenger vehicles to get off and transfer to their old, smoke-belching jeepneys without any legal, moral or what have you grounds to justify such outrage.                       ********************* The owner of these modernized passenger vehicles, a cooperative, said they are willing to dialogue with these drivers but these drivers have yet to show their faces much less signify their willingness and objectivity to accept said invite for a dialogue preferably mediated by both City Hall and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB). But should these drivers show up and make a scene again, and bully the passengers into transferring to their jeepneys, then they will invite not only legal action but public antagonism for their stubborn refusal to comply with the government’s modernized public utility vehicle (MPUV) program. Last I heard the commuters who rode these modernized passenger vehicles have not been complaining about anything and have in fact enjoyed riding them.  Would the drivers and operators of these decrepit, smoke-belching jeepneys deprive said commuters of this convenience just so they can earn money from their expense? A dialogue is in order and based on my reading the riding public is open to having better passenger vehicles plying Cagayan de Oro City’s streets than the ones they have been riding on for all these years.  I hope this will be but the first step towards modernizing mass transport here in the city.

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Unlimited time off

January 21, 2020

CRITICS say giving workers unlimited time off can actually deter them from taking holidays - so are minimum leave policies the answer? An interesting question by BBC-author Maya Yang... . It reminds me on my own. For example, I decided to stop teaching. I found out, that from month to month, I really got only very limited time for myself and my family. In 2014, the leadership at social media management company Buffer noticed something odd. Despite an unlimited leave policy implemented in 2012, employees were barely taking any holidays. To encourage people to take more time off, Buffer – which employs remote workers globally, primarily in the US and Europe – introduced an incentive: a $1,000 annual holiday bonus to each employee (and an additional $500 per partner or family member). It was a roaring success. In fact, it was too successful, costing the company too much money. Buffer pulled the plug on the policy in June 2016. Later that year, Buffer changed tack: instead of offering unlimited leave, it decided to strongly encourage employees to take a minimum of 15 work days off per year. Using an online planner, employees input leave requests and HR personnel track the number of days people take off via a collective calendar. Buffer’s minimum leave policy is unusual, even for a tech company. Unlimited time off is a much more common perk among start-ups and other tech firms – but despite the name, unlimited leave can feel like anything but. Often, workers are at the mercy of their workloads, managers and company culture, a situation which can discourage people to take a fair amount of leave. Could insisting that people take a minimum number of days off be a better way to ward off burnout? Well, maybe. Talking again myself: I am in the great situation deciding about my days off and and a maybe unlimited time off. Just to avoid a burnout... . How about millions of Filipino workers? It's interesting to know, that  every country in the European Union is required by law to offer at least four weeks of paid holiday, with varying accrual policies per country (Austria takes the lead with 35 days of annual paid holiday). Similarly, in New Zealand, employers must provide employees with at least four weeks of paid holiday, not including public holidays or sick leave. Philippines is much more different. Yes, I know... . While still staying in Germany, I had the pressure of needing to prove myself and the mentality that I shouldn’t take many days off. Most often, it’s up to management to create a culture where workers feel comfortable taking leave, says Sir Cary Cooper, an organisational psychology professor at the University of Manchester. Many bosses lack the social and perceptive skills to detect employee burnout and remind ambitious employees of the importance of taking breaks. Creating choices? Why not. While minimum leave policies don’t operate solely on ‘trust’ placed in employees, it’s not a model that is feasible for all companies – for those with tens of thousands of employees, tracking individual and collective leave, let alone scheduling individual holiday check-ins and reminders, would be very difficult to scale. +++ Email: doringklaus@gmail.com or follow me in Facebook, Linkedin or Twitter or visit my www.germanexpatinthephilippines.blogspot.com or www.koausdoringsclassicalmusic.blogspot.com.

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Mankind’s survival hangs in efficient communication

January 21, 2020

WE write about the coming of the new age as the year 2020 unfolds. At the start of the year in January 2020, everyone is apprehensive when the Iran-US conflict almost blow out of proportion. Fearful of the possible consequences, the community of nations watched the Iran-US tirade with cautions. The angst -ridden doomsayers paint crimson red the Middle East as the horror of a nuclear war circulates around the world. Not an exception, the Philippines banned Iran-Iraq bound overseas foreign workers. The availability of the state-of-the-art communication technology provided the world an updated development as Iran and United States exchanged barbs. The incident was the offshoot of the killing of Iran’s top General Qassem Soleimani. The US admitted to have perpetrated the killing using an armed military drone. An updated information provides the protagonists an accurate view of the condition unfolding between the two countries. The community of nations also heaved a sigh of relief as the high emotions between Iran and US subsided amid threats of major attacks. Had it not for the accurate and timely information about the real condition of the US-based troops in Iraq, things would have been different. The Iran-US simmering barbs remind us of the various war events that shaped the world. For instance, the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand of Austria started a chain of events leading to WW1 in 1914, which ended in 1918. The WWII (1936-1945) was caused by Germany’s violation of the Versailles Treaty. The peace treaty was signed by Germany, Japan, and Italy, which ended WW1. While scholars and war analysts outlined a number of causes that precipitated world war the issue about misunderstanding and miscommunication among diplomats was listed as one of the top causes of war. An accurate and timely information through an efficient and effective communication between arguing countries is an ingredient to prevent the possible escalation of conflict. Certainly, the prudent exercise of timely and accurate communication has prevented the rash and aggressive moves of either Iran nor US that might have ended in a major armed conflict in the Middle East. With the cooling down of Iran and the US, the world appears to be safer at the moment. In spite of the thaw, the relationship between the two countries remains fragile. In no time, the Iran-US conflict might erupt anew. However, with an efficient communication and adept diplomacy, world leaders believed that a major armed conflict could be easily resolved. The world is fortunate to have been gifted of an advance communication technology as the new millennium sits in. In the years ahead, communication technology will dictate the fate of the human race.

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Cebu’s devious hotel owners blaspheme ‘Sinulog’ festival

January 18, 2020

CEBU'S Sinulog festival has become one of the notorious seasons for unscrupulous entrepreneurs, especially hotels, inns, and lodging house owners. For instance, on normal days, the hotel room rates of Cebu’s middle-class hotels are pegged at P 600.00 to P 800.00 per day. During Sinulog, the hotel rates of middle-class hotels and Inns are up four times from its original rates. Thus, the P 600 per day room rates becomes P 2,400 more or less per day. A new rate for the 2020 Sinulog is now also adopted by the calloused hotelier in Cebu City. There are reports that the daily Sinulog rates of P 600.00 have been increased to P 4,000.00. The hotel and Inn owners would no longer accept a daily stay – take note, a daily stay. Instead, the hotel has imposed a three-day stay for prospective visitors. In other words, the visitor would now pay a total of P 12,000 before they could stay in the hotel during the duration of the Sinulog. Blasphemous! There are many complaints, least the Cebu media about the exorbitant rates. Isn’t it a sacrilege? A Cebu journalist confided that their complaints were turned on deaf ears by hoteliers, inns, and lodging house owners. “The hotel and restaurant owners have reportedly agreed about the notorious Sinulog rates,” he said. Incredulous! While these rates are adopted in the city’s downtown areas, it is also lamentable that the Cebu city government is turning a blind eye about the scandalous hotel rates. More often, one could not but admit the thoughts that the Filipino traits are actually “shrewd,” “opportunists,” and “insensitive.” The Cebuano hoteliers appear to demonstrate the Filipino’s negative values, in stark contrast to the much ballyhooed “hospitable” Filipino character. However, there are exceptions. There few decent and unknown hotels, inns, and middle-class lodging houses in Cebu City. The owners and management of these hotels and inns still maintain the daily room rates on ordinary days. Hotels in the neighboring outskirts of Mabolo, Mandaue, and Talisay are still on normal daily rates. Considering the traffic and the distance, the visitors prefer to stay in the city’s downtown district. Here the hotel owners make a killing. Others are for members only. Discriminatory! Since the Sinulog festival is basically a tourism-oriented event, the Cebu City’s Tourism Office must innovate to resolve the issue. One, is allowing “tent visitors” to utilize the Plaza Independencia. The Plaza Independencia is ideal because it is within walking distance to the Santo Niño de Basilica, home of the venerated Santo Niño and Magellan Cross. Making Plaza Independencia a “tent city” during Sinulog would be an added revenue to the city’s tourism. They could collect a maximum of P 500.00 per day to tent owners -regardless of the number of occupants. However, the city’s tourism office must secure the area from possible intruders by hiring security personnel and police to secure the area. Latrines for bathing and relieving could be installed in the plaza’s safe corner. Here at P 10.00 for each who relieves and another P 10.00 for bathing would be fair. For those without tents, the tourism office could rent some. With this, the unscrupulous hotels, inns, and lodging house owners will ultimately return the room rates to ordinary day.

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