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Saturday, November 17, 2012

PHL tops SEA neighbors in September export growth

The Philippines emerged as the highest-growing exporter among Southeast Asian nations in September, a performance which the government sees as a clear sign of economic recovery.
The country exported a total of $4.8 billion worth of merchandise in September, 22.8 percent higher than the $3.9 billion shipped out in the same month in 2011, official government data showed.
This makes the Philippines the “strongest performer among its East and Southeast Asian neighbors for the period,” the National Economic and Development Authority said in a statement.
Among the economies whose exports expansion figures have been topped by the Philippines are Hong Kong (15.8 percent), Vietnam (15.6 percent), Taiwan (10.4 percent), China (9.9 percent) and Thailand (0.2 percent).
“The strong export performance mainly reflected the moderate improvement in global economic activity as industrial production and business confidence indicators showed signs of recovery,” NEDA Deputy Director-General Emmanuel Esguerra said in the statement.
In a separate statement, Trade Undersecretary Cristino Panlilio said: “The country’s merchandise exports growth momentum remains robust despite significant threat posed by the crisis in the Euro area and lethargic state of the U.S. economy.”
“We have always aimed to make our export growth rate at par with our ASEAN neighbours to sustain the country’s growth,” he added.
Other countries, meanwhile, have posted drops in exports in September compared to a year ago.
Japan recorded the steepest decline at -11.8 percent, followed by Indonesia (-9.4 percent), Singapore (-4.8 percent) and the Republic of Korea (-2.0 percent).
In terms of exports from January to September, the Philippines is”only one of four East and Southeast Asian countries that posted positive growths in the first nine months of 2012,” NEDA said.
Merchandise exported by the Philippines grew by 7.2 percent to $40.1 billion in the first three quarters from $37.4 billion in the same period last year, driven mostly be manufactured exports.
“Improved overall demand for the country’s manufactured exports was mainly due to the generally favorable developments in global industrial production, with new orders further showing signs of expansion following persistent declines,” Esguerra said.
Electronic exports also snapped a five-month decline since April even as it only grew by 1.1 percent to $1.83 billion in September.
“The nearly flat performance of electronics shipments was due to the drag coming from electronic data processing units amid renewed strengths in other electronics sub-segments such as telecommunication, which was projected to surpass computers as one of the leading market drivers,” Esguerra said.
Japan was the top destination of Philippine exports in September, with a 30.8-percent share of total outbound shipments.
It was followed by the U.S., (12.6 percent), China (11.1 percent), Hong Kong (7.5 percent) and Singapore (7.1 percent).
Bureau of Export Trade Promotion Director Senen Perlada, meanwhile, said: “[W]e are optimistic to accomplish our targets to double our total exports to $100 billion by 2016 with the current development in Philippine export growth.”
This, even as he noted that exports have been “previously growing at a slower rate because of weak demand especially in our large consumer market…”

Friday, November 16, 2012

Philippines first in the world to get Google Free Zone

When it comes to the launch of tech-related products the Philippines isn’t usually the place where you’d get it first. At best we get it along with everyone else, but in most cases, especially when it comes to the most sought after gadgets (like the iPhone 5) Pinoys have to wait a couple of months.
But that’s just changed with the introduction of a service called Free Zone from Google.
Google said that it was testing out a new service that allows users to access Gmail, Google+ and Google search for free on their mobile phones. Google Free Zone does not require that you have a data plan and will work on most internet enabled mobile phones.
The Philippines is the only country in the world that has the service as of the moment. To launch the service in the country Google partnered with Globe Telecom. Google Free Zone is only available to prepaid Globe and TouchMobile (TM) subscribers.
Globe calls this a promo and says it will run until March 31, 2013. Not sure what its long term plans are for the service.
Google Product Manager AbdelKarim Mardini says the service is, “aimed at the next billion users of the Internet, many of whom will be in emerging markets and encounter the Internet first on a mobile phone without ever owning a PC.”
Mardi added, “We’re hoping Free Zone will make the mobile Internet feel like a necessity that everyone can use rather than a luxury.”
Once dubbed the cell phone capital of the world, it comes as no surprise that the Philippines was picked to be the test case for this new product.
To try out the service log-on to or from your mobile phone. You can also text LIBRE to 8888 and click on the link in the SMS.
A word of warning however, the product will allow you to check your Gmail and Google + accounts for free. You can also search the web using Google search. However once you click on links outside of Google you will be charged data rates for that service. Downloading attachments will also incur charges.
Globe on its website says that it will advise you every time you try to click on a link which leads to a chargeable page.
While this service is limited only to Gmail, search and Google+ it is a great step in reaching out to the millions of Filipinos who do not have access to the Internet. With a 33% Internet penetration rate (according to 2011 Nielsen data) there is still huge room for growth.
Back in May 2010 Facebook launched a similar service called Facebook Zero that allowed users in countries with participating telcos to access Facebook for free. In its announcement Facebook had indicated that Philippines via Smart Telecom would be one of the first 12 countries in the world to get the service.
Could this help set off the tipping point that will get more Filipinos online? Let us know what you think in the comments section below or send us a tweet using the hashtag #TechRap.
(Story courtesy of’s Michael Josh Villanueva)

Manila outperforms 15 Asian cities in ‘shopping’ index

Tourists traveling in the Philippines not only visit the country for its natural wonders or historic sites but also to do some shopping, a new study shows.
The Philippine capital city of Manila outperformed almost 15 Asian cities in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s new “Globe Shopper Index Asia-Pacific” report.
Manila was ranked 11th out of 25 overall, with a score of 51.5 index points on five categories deemed important to shopping travelers.
These are the variety of shops, affordability of products, convenience, hotels and transport, as well as culture and climate.
It followed the top 10 Asian-Pacific shopping cities namely Hongkong, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, Beijing, Singapore, Sydney, Bangkok, Tokyo, Seoul and Delhi.
“Geographically, spiritually and culturally set apart from mainland Southeast Asia, Manila can feel different than the rest of Asia,” the report said.
“Shoppers will admire colonial architecture, stunning stone churches and lively town plazas as they stroll between shops,” it added.
Manila’s best performance is in affordability, where it ranked 8th. It also landed among the top Asia-Pacific cities in terms of convenience, sharing the 10th spot with Mumbai.
“Relaxed visa regulations make it easy to enter the country, while the city offers both affordable dining and public transport,” the report said.
Manila posted a slightly weaker performance in the culture and climate sub-index, where it ranked 11th, and hotels and transport, 16th.
Its worst performance, however, is in the shops sub-index, where it ranked 18th. “Manila does not offer a wide range of international brands,” the report said.
The study uses data from a variety of sources collected between January and February 2012.
Cities were scored based on the qualitative and quantitative assessments using standardized values on a scale of zero to 100.
“[S]hopping plays an integral part in Asian tourism,” the report said, as it highlighted an “inherent dichotomy” in the emerging term “shopping tourism.”
“Shopping, on the one hand, for all the activities associated with it, is fundamentally about the acquisition of goods or services… Tourism, on the other hand, is about obtaining experiences,” it added.
“Shopping tourism, then, to put it at its most basic, is about what you get and how it feels to get it,” the report noted.
(Story courtesy of Kim Arveen Patria ofYahoo! Southeast Asia Newsroom )

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

10 ways to boost your happiness


Happiness tip 1: Watch a comedy movie

We’ve all heard that laughter is the best medicine, and if you’re feeling down in the dumps then this is definitely true. Laughter can not only release pent-up emotions, but it also produces endorphins to boost your mood. Furthermore, research has found that laughing burns calories and boosts heart health too. To get your happiness levels up and boost your wellbeing too, pop in a comedy DVD next time you’re feeling down.
Get outdoors for a happiness boostGet outdoors for a happiness boost

Happiness tip 2: Eat yourself happy

While our outlook often changes based on external factors, if your mood is often low it may be that you are suffering from a nutrient deficiency. Research has found that having low levels of omega-3 fatty acids (which are essential for good brain health) increases risk of depression and negativity, while research by Kuopio University in Finland found that taking B vitamin supplements could help treat depression. Try choosing foods rich in these nutrients to eat away the blues.

Happiness tip 3: Get outdoors

Research has shown that low levels of vitamin D can contribute to mood disorders and depression. While vitamin D can be found in some foods or taken as supplement, one of the best sources of the mood-boosting vitamin is sunshine, which helps the body to create vitamin D. To boost your supplies of vitamin D, try to spend 10 to 15 minutes outdoors two to three times a week during the summer months.

Happiness tip 4: Have a workout

For an instant happiness boost when you’re feeling blue, try hitting the gym or heading out for a brisk walk or run. Exercise releases chemicals in the brain such as endorphins and anandamide which can boost your mood and leave you feeling great. Not only that, exercise is also good for boosting confidence levels and increasing self-esteem.

Happiness tip 5: Try aromatherapy

While many of us think of aromatherapy as an aid to relaxation, there are also many oils you can use to boost your happiness and help alleviate depression. Good aromatherapy oils to leave you uplifted include bergamot, geranium, neroli and jasmine. To lift your mood, try adding a few drops of these oils to water and burning on an oil burner, or create or purchase a room spray containing these essential oils.

Happiness tip 6: Take a risk

To get the endorphins going and give your confidence a boost, try challenging yourself on a regular basis. While we don’t advise you to put yourself in any danger, if there is something you have been putting off for a while out of fear, now is the time to bite the bullet and see it through. Whatever your fear – be it asking out that special someone, joining a gym or applying for a job abroad – conquering your fears will leave you feeling great as well as helping you achieve your dreams.
Talking through your problems can help you to feel happierTalking through your problems can help you to feel happier

Happiness tip 7: Talk it out

If you are feeling seriously down and have been feeling low for a while, it is important to seek some help to get through this difficult phase. Seek out a friend or counsellor to listen to your problems, or visit your GP if you think you may be suffering from depression. No matter how bad you feel it is important to remember that you are not alone and there is no shame in seeking help. As they say, a problem shared is a problem halved, and even talking through your issues can help them seem less overwhelming.

Happiness tip 8: Schedule in regular treats

To boost your happiness and satisfaction of life, it is important to make the most of those little things that boost your mood. Make a list of the day-to-day things that make you happy – such as having a catch-up with a friend, drinking hot chocolate in bed, or listening to your favourite song –and make sure you schedule one of these treats into every day. Planning regular treats not only gives you something to look forward to, but it can also subtly improve each day.

Happiness tip 9: Do something selfless

It is easy to get bogged down in our own problems, so every once in a while it is good to put our issues to one side and help someone else feel happy instead. Whether you want to take on a long-term volunteering role, make a donation to charity, or improve the happiness of someone you know with a thoughtful note or gift, making an effort to make someone else smile is a great way to get some perspective, take your mind off your problems and increase your sense of purpose and fulfillment.

Happiness tip 10: Set yourself a goal

Whether you aspire to get fit, obtain that dream job or learn how to cook something other than toast, most of us have something we long to achieve during our lifetime. Rather than putting off your dreams until a perfect moment which may never come, take some positive action and make a plan of how you will achieve your goal starting today. Having something to work towards will not only distract you from your problems, it will also reignite your passion for life and increase your excitement for the future.

Negros Occidental school wins ASEAN award for Disaster Education

[photo via Interaksyon]
A Philippine school from Negros Occidental won second place in the recent 2012 Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO)-Japan Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) Award for its Disaster Education Program.
The Iliranan Elementary School in Barangay Codcod, San Carlos City, Negros Occidental bested entries from the Southeast Asian countries – Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Led by its Principal, Gary P. Magnanao, the school is located in an upland barangay at the foot of Mt. Kanlaon where most of the sitios are part of the Mt. Kanlaon National Park, making them vulnerable to volcanic eruption and landslide.
Iliranan Elementary School, was also awarded as one of the ASEAN Eco-Friendly Schools on July 17, 2012, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
First place went to State High School No. 1 of Kungyangon, Myanmar and the third place went to MIN Jejeran (Jejeran State Islamic Elementary School) of Indonesia.
A Special Prize from the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, Ltd. for the best Disaster Risk Reduction activity carried out in small schools of less than 150 students went to Wat Soumpouathong School, Thailand. The award ceremonies will be held at the SEAMEO High Officials Meeting in Thailand this month.
The SEAMEO-Japan ESD Award was organized by the SEAMEO and the Ministry of Education,Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), Japan, in cooperation with UNESCO Asia and Pacific Regional Bureau for Education and the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, Ltd.
The Award is held every year to promote and share best practices in ESD in schools around Southeast Asia.

Anne Hathaway admits Les Miz singing can’t compare to Lea Salonga

Lea Salonga
While she was preparing to sing the ballad “I Dreamed A Dream” for the movie version of the musical hit “Les Miserables,” Hollywood actress Anne Hathaway admitted that her singing couldn’t compare to that of Filipino Tony Award-winner Lea Salonga.
In the cover story for the December issue of Vogue, Hathaway, who plays Fantine in the movie – the same role performed by Salonga on Broadway and on the 25th anniversary concert of “Les Miserables” – said her most daunting challenge in the movie was singing “I Dreamed A Dream,” which is probably the most recognizable song in the musical.
“A few weeks before we filmed it, I realized how I was going to have to sing it, and that it wasn’t going to be pretty,” Hathaway told Vogue. “First of all, it could never have compared with Patti LuPone or Lea Salonga or even my mom, really: powerful singers with big, beautiful voices. I knew I couldn’t offer that, but I also knew it wouldn’t be appropriate. If I went for sounding beautiful while looking like this tragic wreck, it would be ridiculous. And I saw an opportunity, because of the nature of film, to just go for it and let it be alive and present and raw.”
Hathaway’s mother played Fantine in a touring production more than 20 years ago.
“I’ll never forget it—I just sat there sobbing,” she told the magazine of her mother’s performance. “And I don’t think it was just because I was watching my mother die, though that was definitely part of it. I was just so moved and felt so connected to her and the music and the whole production. I’ve been in love with the show ever since.”
Salonga, in her official Twitter account on Tuesday, thanked Hathaway for the kind words.
“Thank you, Anne Hathaway, for mentioning my name in Vogue in the same breath as Patti Lupone. Here’s hoping our paths cross someday,” she said.
In her interview with Vogue, Hathaway also revealed that she lost 25 pounds for “Les Miserables.” Before the start of shooting, she said she went on a “strict cleanse diet” and lost 10 pounds then followed it with “a near-starvation diet, consisting of two thin squares of dried oatmeal paste a day.”
“I had to be obsessive about it—the idea was to look near death,” she told the magazine. “Looking back on the whole experience—and I don’t judge it in any way—it was definitely a little nuts. It was definitely a break with reality, but I think that’s who Fantine is anyway.”
“Les Miserables,” which also stars Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe, will hit US theaters on Christmas Day.
(Story courtesy of ABS-CBN News)

Monday, November 12, 2012

Iraq eyes hiring of up to 2,000 Pinoy doctors, nurses

MANILA, Philippines - Despite the existing deployment ban, the Iraqi government wants to hire Filipino doctors and nurses.
Health Secretary Enrique Ona said yesterday that Iraqi Ambassador Wadee Al-Batti had paid him a visit, asking permission to hire some 1,000 to 2,000 Filipino nurses and doctors.
“The opportunity of our health workers to go abroad is really big because the worldwide demand is tremendous,“ Ona said.
He said Al-Batti expressed the intention of the Iraqi government to get the services of these health professionals.
“They want as many nurses as we can give them. But the problem is the hostile situation there. There is a ban there and the only thing we want also to be sure of is the safety of workers. We want to make sure that they are safe,” he said.
Except for the Kurdistan region, a deployment ban is in effect in Iraq.
The ban was imposed following the kidnapping by Iraqi rebels of Filipino worker Angelo de la Cruz in July 2004.
The kidnappers had demanded the pullout of Philippine troops from Iraq.
The government yielded to the demand, which resulted in the safe release of De la Cruz on July 21, 2004.
Meanwhile, Rustico Jimenez, president of the Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines, said there are also demands for healthcare professionals in India.
“For the past two years, every time there is a meeting of all hospitals all over Asia, they (Indian hospital officials) would ask me for 200,000 nurses and other healthcare workers,” Jimenez said, adding that during a recent seminar on Hospital Management Asia in Vietnam, he was again reminded of this.
Aside from doctors and nurses, medical technologists, radio technicians and pulmonology physical therapists are also in demand in India.
Jimenez said he had already informed nurses’ organizations of the job opportunities but there were no takers.
Ona said the government is doing its best to improve the benefits and working conditions of healthcare workers so they would not be lured into working in foreign hospitals.
“We really have to make our health system robust and to do that, our Philippine Health Insurance System must also be robust,” the health chief said.

Pinoy maids to get $400 monthly minimum in Dubai

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) - The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said foreign recruitment agencies based in Dubai have pledged to implement the Philippines' household reform package that grants more protection to Filipino maids.
“I am happy to note that the new SEC (Standard Employment Contract) for HSWs (Household Service Workers) to be deployed to Saudi Arabia has motivated other Middle East countries to follow suit and also formulate their own modes of giving our HSWs the kind of protection they truly deserve," said Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz.
The reform package includes paying Filipino maids a minimum of $400 a month or at least P16,000 and non-charging of excessive fees..
Dubai's move follows Saudi Arabia's which earlier yielded to the Philippine government's demand to grant those reforms.
Meanwhile, Labor Attache Delmer Cruz added that the important provision of the joint statement of commitment is with regards to the perennial problem of repatriation.
“I am happy to report to the Secretary that the Philippine LRAs (Licensed Recruitment Agencies) and the Dubai FPas (Foreign Placement Agencies) have agreed to solve the problem once and for all. Together, they will facilitate the repatriation of distressed workers they deploy and cooperate fully with proper authorities in doing so," said Cruz.
Cruz also said that the Philippine Overseas Labor Office will strictly monitor compliance of the parties to their joint statement of commitment.

Joanna Ampil plays Grizabella in Cats musical int’l tour

Joanna Ampil
Filipina stage actress-singer Joanna Ampil will play the role of Grizabella in the UK and international tour of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “cats” in 2013.
Ampil will perform in 10 UK cities, including Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Manchester, Wolverhampton and Southampton, plus Dublin in Ireland and Oostende in Belgium.
Grizabella performs the musical’s most beloved song “Memory.” Ampil sang it during her audition in London. “I sang for the director Chrissie Cartwright; the choreographer Gillian Lynne was also there.”
In the middle of the song, Ampil said she was so moved, she started crying. “Maybe that was how I won the part.”
Ampil is a multi- awarded musical theatre actress from the who has performed in several West End musicals, including Miss Saigon, Jesus Christ Superstar and Avenue Q.
She has played the roles of Eponine and Fantine in Les Misérables in London until 21 June 2008. She was also invited by Sir Cameron Mackintosh to perform the role of Kim in the Australian premiere in Sydney of Miss Saigon, and in 2011 she performed the main role as Thanh in the showcase performance of the new musical The Real Love.
Ampil is also heard on several West End cast recordings, for example the Jesus Christ Superstar (1996 London Cast) recording as Mary Magdalene and on the Miss Saigon: Complete Symphonic Recording as Kim.
Ampil has released two solo albums, and all the proceeds of these albums are donated to the Sun and Moon Home for Children in Manila, initiated by Miss Saigon composer Claude-Michel Schonberg. Her first album, Joanna Ampil was recorded in Abbey Road Studios in London and her second, Try Love, in the Philippines.
She is also a stage play actress for “The sound of music” in Newport Performing Arts Theater in Resorts World Manila as Maria from 2011-2012.

Canadian Prime Minister says Phl is Emerging Asian Tiger

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper with President Benigno Aquino III [photo by AP/Bullit Marquez via Inquirer Business]
Visiting Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper sees the Philippines as “an emerging Asian tiger,” agreeing with the bullish outlook on the country of political and business leaders from many other parts of the world.
To demonstrate Canada’s confidence in the Philippine economy, Harper pledged to increase Canadian investment in the country in his meeting with President Benigno Aquino.
Bilateral trade between Canada and the Philippines amounts to US$1.5 billion.
Mr. Aquino and Harper agreed to cooperate on defense and trade, and committed to people-to-people exchanges between the Philippines and Canada.
Mr. Aquino and Harper also announced that the Philippine Department of National Defense and the state-run Canadian Commercial Corp. had signed a deal to help Manila buy military equipment to defend its territory.
The deal was signed amid a territorial dispute between the Philippines and China over islands and waters in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
President Aquino said the deal would help the Philippines build up its defense and security capabilities. He declined to elaborate.
But Harper said the deal would “enable the Philippines to acquire the equipment and expertise it needs to fulfill the country’s defense and security agenda.”
Under the deal, Philippine purchases of equipment and expertise from Canada’s C$12.6 billion (US$12.6 billion) defense industry are guaranteed by the Ottawa government, according to a Canadian government statement.
Mr. Aquino and Harper discussed the progress in the Aquino administration’s good government program and the gains in the peace process, particularly the signing of framework agreement for peace with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
At the news conference, Mr. Aquino and Harper did not cite specific amounts for Canadian investment, but Harper described the Philippines as an “important economic partner” and an “emerging Asian tiger.”
Mr. Aquino said the Philippines was open for business under a new management, and that he saw the visit of Harper as a “recognition of the change of atmosphere in the Philippines.”
“We do see increased commercial trade ties between our countries,” Mr. Aquino said.
He said it was “logical to assume” that the $1.5 billion two-way trade between the two countries is “just the starting point.”