October 21, 2019

Human beings have been created in the “image and likeness” of God and the primary purpose of their existence is that through them, the divine purpose of the Universe will be unfolded.  Unfortunately, such biblical lines have become purely rhetorical.  Human beings, according to a study of the Oxfam University, have been reduced to “self-gratification machines,” so enamored in self- promotion, external looks, religious trivialities and whose mindset is already captured by so much materialism and consumerism.      What has happened to the claim that human beings are “embodied spirits”, more spirit than body? As spiritual beings, we glorified in the biblical lines that “what would profit a man if he gains the whole world, but suffers the loss of his soul?” Don’t glorify the mundane, what matters is our spirituality making it a priority to develop spiritual values of love, compassion, service, oneness with nature and to live the essence of life in oneness with the Supreme Being.      That is not true anymore.  In a research asking what is the purpose of one’s life, 98% of the respondents replied that we are all here on earth just to make money.  Materialism is the call of the times and the veneration of the profit motive has captured the mindset of all governments, institutions, religious groups, universities and even so called religious leaders.  The ego-ic mind has indeed triumphed and there is so much denigration of spirituality horribly manifested that one is the “appointed son of God.”      The “Armagedon War” is not yet over and it is the diabolic mind that is winning, even sacrificing Mother Earth to the altar of greed and profit.  Indeed, the unimaginable is become imaginable that is, the end of life on earth as Gaia (mother earth) is now dying and humanity is facing the sixth extinction.       Amidst the planetary risk that is so glaring due to climate change. the science of denial is winning perpetuated by the mainstream media controlled by global corporations.  Don’t you know that the 19 fossil companies are earning some 5 trillion dollars every year and they cannot stop their greed through the continuous emission of carbon dioxides? On the other hand, global corporations are earning 2 trillion dollars from use of coal-fired powered plants despite the fact that these plants are giving Gaia the final death blows.      All of us are acutely aware that the world is changing profoundly. Everywhere, gross inequalities, decline in social justice, ecological turbulence due to climate change, crisis in democracy, financial and economic instabilities and lately, violent extremism – are phenomena which unfortunately are becoming ordinary.  These dysfunctions caused by the contemporaneous development paradigm must now be rectified. But as “self gratification machines,” we do not care what is  happening to mother earth, what is happening to the poor and the oppressed as big corporations are continuously exploiting our Indigenous People, our farmers, our, our fisherfolk, and those in margins as big corporations and big politicians have connived to continue the use of lands and our ecosystems.      Look at Mindanao! Our choicest of lands are controlled by these corporations and expanding so fast in cohorts with big politicians.  Don’t you know that these plantations, about 200,000 hectares are using 14 kinds of chemicals, about 8 of these are already banned in other countries?  Don’t you know that these corporations are facing legal charges for causing cancer especially in Puerto Rico?  While they are closing in other countries, they are here expanding in Mindanao,  planting high value crops to satisfy the consumerist lifestyle of the people in advanced countries while we Filipinos cannot even produce our basic staples like rice and milk.      We Filipinos have already lost so much of our ecological wealth. Where are the 17 million hectares of dipterocarp forest, home to the richest mega-diversity on earth?  Of the 13 major bays, 10 are already biologically dead to the detriment of coastal communities who are becoming hungry and the poorest of the poor?  Where are our Indigenous People who were once masters of the land that they were using in the spirit of service and sharing but are now in the marginalized areas?      As self-enamored, we do not care.  What we care about is what’s happening in “Probinsiano.” Pasayawin mo lang ang isang guapong kindidato, panalo na” as we are so enamored in superficialities. We are here because through us, let the divine purpose of the universe unfold.  That’s how important we are! Let us all be one, oneness of mankind, oneness of God’s creation and oneness of religions – all for the greater Glory of God.

Is traffic sign of a thriving economy?

October 18, 2019

SPEAKER Alan Peter Cayetano believes that congested roads in Metro Manila and other key urban centers in the country are signs the economy thrives  — a product of success so to speak. But reality check says otherwise, contrary to Cayetano’s narrative. Take this as a grain of salt: Metro Manila commuters and motorists alike spend more than an hour, on average, in traffic every day. This places  Metro Manila as  the 3rd worst in traffic in Southeast Asia. This was among the findings of a recent survey conducted as part of a study commissioned by ride-sharing platform Uber. The survey places Metro Manila 3rd worst in the region, with an average of 66 minutes stuck in traffic daily. It comes after Bangkok, Thailand, which is said to have the worst traffic (72 minutes), and 2nd worst Jakarta, Indonesia (68 minutes). The best performers in terms of traffic are Singapore (30 minutes) and Hong Kong (35 minutes). On top of the 66-minute traffic experience, drivers in Metro Manila  also spend an average of 24 minutes per day searching for parking. The  bare truth is that traffic congestion in Metro Manila  is caused by multiple causes. Here are three  of the most common: too many cars on the roadway, inadequate mass transit system,  and too many   obstacles  on the road that translate to network overload. And Cagayan de Oro is no exception to this traffic milieu. Traffic  in the city has long been a common headache  of every Cagay-anon. And it remains unclear until now  how traffic hampers urban life and the city’s thriving economy. Like Metro Manila, the  increasing number of motor vehicles in the city could be the  obvious culprit, taking into account the presence of  so many car dealers in cutthroat competition. Cayetano’s take of Metro Manila’s traffic mess is but a great escape  from reality. The  ordinary commuter has a  far  greater view of  what is really happening on the ground (ruffy44_ph2000@yahoo.com).

Not only love is in the air...

October 17, 2019

WHILE I was staying in Manila for a couple of days, I experienced it 24/7.  Getting into a traffic jam is every driver's nightmare. Endless minutes (or worse: hours) in which nothing's moving forward can turn what should be a short car-ride into a seemingly never-ending odyssey. But congested streets aren't just annoying for commuters — they have far-reaching consequences. But not only in Manila. Europe's environmental watchdog has warned that city dwellers in Europe are at risk of life-threatening air pollution. The report recommends EU countries take rapid action such as decreasing the number of cars in cities.      Poor air quality caused 412,000 premature deaths in Europe in 2016, the most recent year data is available, according to an EU report released on Wednesday. Meanwhile is it 2019. Sixteen of the EU's 28 member states reported at least one case of unacceptable levels of nitrogen dioxide that surpass legal EU limits. Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain were all found to have unsafe levels of the gas that's among the major vehicle emissions. The report recommends European countries reduce the number of cars to lower nitrogen dioxide levels — and therefore air pollution. An air quality expert at the European Environmental Agency and author of the study, Alberto Gonzales Ortiz, warned that air pollution is "currently the most important environmental risk to human health." The report referred to World Health Organization (WHO) figures that found heart disease and stroke were the most common reasons for premature death due to air pollution, followed by lung disease and lung cancer. The study also found that certain groups including children, the elderly, pregnant women and people living close to roads and industrial areas were more vulnerable to its effects. While the level of dangerous particles in European cities was dropping, Ortiz said it was not falling fast enough. In line with EU law, member states are required to examine the level of a range of pollutants and take action if pollutants, such as ozone matter, exceed healthy levels. As we all know: cities across the whole world pledge air pollution changes, but are they ready? Over 30 mayors from across the globe have pledged to deliver clean air for the 140 million people living in their cities. Delivering clean air on such a scale will take both ambitious targets and concrete action.  Believed to cause 7 million premature deaths every year, air pollution is increasingly recognized as a silent public health emergency. Quoting British journalist Holly Young, "It's perhaps the most explicit illustration of how closely intertwined our health is to the state of our environment. Its particles have been found in human hearts and brains. It has been linked to asthma, Alzheimers, dementia, cancer, and stroke as well as mental health issues and miscarriage". Despite its known damage, over 90% of people around the world still breathe dirty air. The Clean Air Cities Declaration announced at the World Mayors Summit this month in Copenhagen is a notable attempt to move the dial in tackling the issue. Held by C40, a network of over 90 cities dedicated to tackling climate change, 35 mayors and pledged to deliver clean air for the 140 million citizens in their cities. The declaration highlights that the air pollution crisis is one "rooted in social injustice," due to the way it typically hits the poorest and most vulnerable communities hardest. According to WHO it is low- and middle-income countries that suffer the biggest burden from air pollution. +++ Email: doringklaus@gmail.com or follow me in Facebool, Linkedin or Twitter or visit my www.germanexpatinthephilippines.blogspot.com or www.klausdoringclassicalmusic.blogspot.com.

Lead by example

October 15, 2019

IN THIS country, you seldom see politicians and government officials take public transport like jeepneys, buses or light rail transits. With a few exceptions, government officials, appointed, elected or otherwise, feel they are the blessed ones, the cut above the rest, so to speak and therefore riding in public transport is basically a taboo for them. Or simply put, these officials, particularly the elected ones, believing they are ‘first class citizens’ don’t ever bother to look back where they once belong. The only time they join with the ‘masa’ is during election period -- riding   whatever available public conveyance to the delight of the media and their supporters.   We have a multitude of government employees that take public transportation every business day, but an elected official would rarely take public transportation as they would be chatted upon, accosted, and jeered, making themselves a target by today’s standards. In contrast, their counterparts in other cities and countries are  regularly taking public transportation. They ride the bus or the train as a matter of course, yet they suffer no abuse. In Indonesia, President  Joko Widodo   bans public  officials from using their cars on the first Friday of every month. And if 91 per cent of the delegates to the Swiss Parliament can take the tram to work, why can’t our politicians and government officials   use public transit, instead of  cars, to get to work?   In the 17th Congress, there was this  proposed House Bill 6195, which mandates elected and appointed public officials with the rank or equivalent of division chief to department secretary to ride public land transport to and from work and for official business at least once every calendar month during weekday rush hours. Public utility vehicles listed in the measure are passenger buses, commuter trains, light rail, taxis and transport network vehicle service, public utility jeepneys and passenger tricycles. For air and sea travel, officials will be mandated to take economy class. The President, Vice President, the Chief Justice and the Justices of the Supreme Court, however, are exempted from the proposed bill as well as officials with existing physical handicaps or serious medical condition, security threats and concerns. Public service improves when it is rendered with empathy and compassion. Public service requires living modestly and does not mean entitlement to perks such as business class and first-class accommodations with airlines. The proposed measure also tasks the Philippine National Police, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and the Presidential Security Group to formulate the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the law. Some government officials have expressed support for the proposed bill, saying it would be better for them to personally experience commuting during rush hours. Government officials, including Malacañang staff and those in the Cabinet, are urged to commute at least once a week to understand the plight of commuters amid complaints on how the government is handling the public transportation problem particularly in Metro Manila. Secretary Sal Panelo has already set the tone. Time for our politicians and government officials to heed  this clarion call: lead by example. (ruffy44_ph2000@yahoo.com)

Bank of the Philippine Islands’ (BPI) green finance framework

October 14, 2019

BPI Capital Corporation President Rhoda “Chiqui” Huang was ecstatic as she reported to her board late last month.       BPI Capital, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI), had acted as Sole Global Coordinator for two recent consecutive issues - spaced five days apart – of the BPI Green Bonds.       The first was denominated in Swiss Francs (CHF) and the second in US dollars.      In late 2018, Credit Suisse and Union Bank of Switzerland pitched CHF Bonds as an alternative funding source to BPI. Last June, BPI management visited investors in Zurich and Geneva to engage CHF investors in a potential inaugural transaction and to introduce BPI, which is attempting to diversify its investor base.       On August 29, BPI launched its CHF 100 million two-year green bond issuance, achieving several firsts: 1) first CHF-denominated bond from the Philippines 2) first offshore ASEAN Green Bond offering by a Philippine Bank 3) first negative-yielding bond to be issued out of the Philippines and Southeast Asia.       Huang reported that investor response to BPI’s first CHF bond was a pleasant surprise. The CHF bond was oversubscribed just 90 minutes after the opening of the market.       The CHF 100 million 2-year Green Bond successfully priced at MS+96.8 bps (-0.02% YTM), inside the tight end of the initial price guidance.       Similarly, BPI has been monitoring the international bond markets for an opportune window following the reestablishment of its Euro Medium Term Note (EMTN) program. BPI decided to proceed with the US Dollar bond deal to take advantage of the tightest credit spreads.       On September 3, just 5 days after the successful CHF issue, BPI raised US Dollar 300 million, 5 years, via an ASEAN Green Bond Issuance. BPI successfully priced the dollar bond at T+120 bps.       “This represents a negative new issue premium of -6 bps, which is unprecedented,” Huang enthused.       “This represents the first new issue discount from the Philippines since the Republic of the Philippines bond offering in 2018 and the largest new issue discount for a Southeast Asian bank since 2016.”       SEC Commissioner Ephyro Amatong, a prime advocate of the ASEAN Green Bond, was so elated he approved the registration of the bonds as ASEAN Green within a day.       Translated in layman’s terms, the foregoing cases simply mean that foreign fund sources – asset managers, private banks, insurance companies – are willing to lend to BPI at attractive rates because of their faith and confidence in the resilience and growth story of BPI.       BPI entered the market with an Issuer Rating of Baa2 (Moody’s), BBB+ (S&P) and BBB- (Fitch).      S&P Global Ratings recently raised BPI’s credit rating to “BBB+” putting the BPI on a par with the above-minimum investment-grade granted to the country.      Here is what is even more astonishing. in the case of the Swiss Franc deal, on maturity, the lenders are paying BPI US Dollars 40,000 for the privilege of lending BPI CHF 100 million! Now, try to beat that.       BPI President and CEO Cezar “Bong” P. Consing quoted Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III as saying: “Lia (National Treasurer Rosalia V. De Leon) should also do a Swiss Franc deal.”      But the bigger story is how the funds will eventually be redeployed.       In line with the Ayala Group’s sustainability blueprint, BPI has developed its own Green Finance Framework. The Framework has been established to continue BPI’s  thrust to promote positive environmental and social practices in its core markets.      The Green Finance Framework establishes the following procedures: 1. use of proceeds 2) project evaluation and selection 3) management of proceeds and 4) reporting.      Thus, the proceeds of the two bond issues will be allocated to selected Eligible Green Projects.       These Eligible Green Projects fall in the following categories: 1) renewable energy 2) energy efficiency 3. sustainable water and wastewater management 4) pollution prevention and control and 5) green buildings.       Disclosure: The writer is an Independent Director of both BPI and BPI Capital.       Note: You may wish to share the foregoing via Facebook, Twitter or Linked-In.

Uncommon, odd, unaccustomed

October 14, 2019

Our globe and its population bear innumerable strange facts. Following many people’s opinion, this world shows mostly worried characteristics and symptoms nowadays. No wonder. Just try to consume and digest today’s headlines and news from all around the globe. Yes, I’m experiencing very strange feelings while watching and reading the daily news.      On the other hand: It is a world with quickly bridged distances -  our Mother earth is becoming smaller and smaller. Any tourist, even with little time and with only a small budget, can travel to other faraway cultures. But joining them as well as different races and religious communities requires first of all, great care, tact, instinctive feelings, empathy, and logical ideas.      The stranger whom we meet for the first time during a business meeting, for example, maybe an uncommon, odd and extraordinary guy. He may be someone from a foreign country, who speaks another language and whose skin is of another color. He may be a migrant, a restless hiker or the expatriate in our neighborhood.      The foreigner beside you and me can become a provocation or a challenge. Strangeness can become exoticism. Maybe, that’s why my family and I decided to move to the Philippines. On the other hand - going abroad can open other and even better horizons. We must not feel as “a stranger in paradise”. By the way, I never did!      However, a migrant bears a juxtaposition of optimism (even calculated optimism!), confused feelings, nostalgia, and homesickness. Yes guys, during the first  years of my expat’s life here in the Philippines, the round trip ticket was always in my mind, because no one among us can escape his native roots.      But, I am really a lucky guy. I experienced an amazing tolerance in the Philippines. A real practicing tolerance. Until  now! Already, during my first business meetings, I met supportive, forbearing and  broad minded people. A wonderful mix of different cultures without giving up own identities... .      The following quotation remains always in my mind: “I have nothing to offer but blood, sweat and tears!” - The British statesman and former Prime Minister Sir Winston L. Churchill (1874-1965) said this in 1940 - certainly, in a sad interrelation during World War II. Anyway, I like that remark. Blood, sweat and tears. Because of new challenges and changes - also as an expatriate in the Philippines doing business here.      Every new challenge in a strange country means a change. Changes in life are necessary and important. Let’s alter or make a difference; let’s put one thing for another; let’s shift; let’s quit one state for another; let’s take fresh clothing. Let’s burn the “lock fat” away. Blood, sweat and tears - and remember: nothing comes from anything. +++      Email: doringklaus@gmail.com or follow me in  Linkedin, Facebook or Twitter or visit www.germanexpatinthephilippines.blogspot.com or www.klausdoringsclassicalmusic.blogspot.com.


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