14 December, 2006

New US capital controls imposed as China sparks currency meltdown

No, China has not yet decided to dump its Treasury bonds… but give it time.

AsiaPundit closely tracks both the Chinese currency and the US dollar. However, we don’t pay nearly as much attention to global prices for base metals. As such, we are a bit late in bringing you details of a global currency meltdown that is so severe that the United States is passing new capital control measures.:

NickleWASHINGTON — People who melt pennies or nickels to profit from the jump in metals prices could face jail time and pay thousands of dollars in fines, according to new rules out Thursday.
Soaring metals prices mean that the value of the metal in pennies and nickels exceeds the face value of the coins. Based on current metals prices, the value of the metal in a nickel is now 6.99 cents, while the penny’s metal is worth 1.12 cents, according to the U.S. Mint.

Under the new rules, it is illegal to melt pennies and nickels. It is also illegal to export the coins for melting. Travelers may legally carry up to $5 in 1- and 5-cent coins out of the USA or ship $100 of the coins abroad “for legitimate coinage and numismatic purposes.”

For those who, like ourselves, are deficient in mathematics that means that a US nickel is worth almost 40 percent more melted down than it based on its denomination. Chinese demand for base metals is generally cited as a prime reason for rising prices.

And it is not just the US. This is indeed a global currency meltdown. As this 2003 article notes China has been seeking European coins for melting. Within Asia, there is massive smuggling of the Philippine peso to buyers in China.:

MANILA : With a face value of less than two US cents the humble Philippine one peso coin may be worth next to nothing at home but in metal-hungry China it spells big bucks.

So much so that smuggling of the coins has become something of a growth industry in the Philippines and a major headache for the central bank.

According to local media reports, the coins are sold in China for 1,000 pesos (US$20) per kilogramme and the metal derived from melting them down is used in the manufacture of electronics goods like mobile phones.

YuanAs we have not heard any reports of the melting of the Chinese yuan, we assume that either the nickel-plated steel material is worth more in coin rather than base-metal form or that owners of blast furnaces in China are betting on further appreciation of the local currency.

However, if anyone knows differently please comment — AP may yet consider requesting that our employer pay us in coins.

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by @ 5:55 pm. Filed under China, Money, Asia, East Asia, Economy, Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, Philippines

20 July, 2006

Asians Trapped in Lebanon

While Western states are evacuating civilians from Lebanon, Asian domestic workers are, as usual, trapped. Ellen Tordesillas says 34,000 Filipino’s are in the country.:

It’s ironic that the Filipinos in Lebanon, who now are scampering for safety amidst the Israeli bombing of Hezbollah places in the war-torn country, went there because they were escaping poverty in the Philippines.

The Department of Foreign Affairs places the number of Filipinos in Lebanon at 34,000. Majority, some 25,000, are domestic helpers while the rest are employees in hotels, UN organizations or married to Lebanese nationals.

Other countries, mainly the Americans,Australians, and Europeans are evacuating their nationals. Yet Philippine officials are still talking of moving Filipinos to “pre-designated safe areas.” It’s pathetic.

At Sepia Mutiny, it is noted that 93,000 Sri Lankans, including 86,000 domestic workers, are similarly stranded.:

… the case that stands out is Sri Lanka, with an estimated 93,000 nationals in Lebanon of whom 86,000 are women employed as domestic labor.
According to a recent article in Middle East Report, Sri Lankan domestic workers have become ubiquitous in Lebanon. You won’t be surprised to learn that the employment process is shady and the workers often mistreated.

Given the number of people involved, the conditions on the ground, the fact that many workers don’t have papers, and the expected resistance of employers to allow their domestics to leave, it’s likely that more than a few young Sri Lankan women will become “collateral damage” of the Israel-Hezbollah war.

by @ 10:02 pm. Filed under Asia, East Asia, Philippines, South Asia

21 June, 2006

Asian Cities are Rude

Via Miyagi, we learn that Asian cities came out at the bottom of the list in global courtesy rankings based on a survey by Reader’s Digest.:

CourtesylionA Reader’s Digest survey conducted in 35 various cities across the globe analysed and tested the politeness and helpfulness of people in each urban centre. More than 2000 separate tests of behaviour were conducted to try and find the world’s most courteous place….
Researchers awarded the cities points for various tests such as holding doors open for other people, assisting in picking up dropped documents and whether shop assistants said “Thank you” to customers after they paid…
Asian cities featured highly on the survey’s least courteous list. Hong Kong, Singapore, Taipei, Bangkok and Seoul were all ranked in the bottom ten. Other unhelpful cities included Sydney, Moscow, Milan and Amsterdam.

The bottom of the list is a who’s-who of great Asian cities including Bangkok, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Taipei, Singapore, Seoul, Kuala Lumpur and Mumbai. No mainland China or Japanese cities are mentioned in the list.

AsiaPundit is actually shocked by this, in no small part because New York captured the number one position as the most courteous. The Big Apple is a favorite city, but it does not have a reputation for politeness.

AP’s immediate reaction is to disregard the survey as a vacuous marketing gimmick, but he will briefly entertain the possibility that it is an accurate measure.

This article suggests there has been a change in NY since 9/11 and Rudy Giuliani’s politeness bylaws — noting a $50 fine for putting feet on subway seats. It the latter is the case, Singapore’s government should ask why its creation of a Fine City and it’s 37-year long courtesy campaign have been such a failure.

(Image of Singapore’s Courtesy Lion, ubiquitous in the City State, stolen from the Singapore Kindness Movement website.)

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by @ 6:57 pm. Filed under Culture, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, India, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Asia, East Asia, Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, Philippines, South Asia

6 June, 2006

Philippine Phalluses Irk Censors

Regulators in the Philippines are threatening to ban a documentary program after it ran a cultural item involving old women and wooden objects.:

THE PHALLUSES are carved out of wood. Some are painted with lipstick, others decorated with flowers and ribbons. A few are huge, like rocket launchers, while others are more human in scale.

 Blog Wp-Images Lukayo2They are the handiwork of the lukayo, women way past their sexual prime who dance at weddings where they wave the phalluses like trophies, brandish them like swords, twirl them like batons, or thrust them like, well, phalluses.

According to Ramon Obusan, who will be named the National Artist for Dance on Friday, the dance of the lukayo is a nearly 200-year old ritual that celebrates marriage and binds communities. For the women who take part, he says. “it is also a chance to assert their independence” and to mock male power, which the phallus represents.

On May 22, GMA 7’s multi-awarded documentary program “i-witness” featured the lukayo of Kalayaan, Laguna and showed old women decked in brightly colored ribbons, faux jewelry and gaudy flowers, some in boots and oversized sunglasses, all of them displaying phalluses of various sizes and shapes. They were dancing, singing bawdy songs and looked like they were having the time of their lives.

It was the first time anything like this was seen on Philippine television and it provided viewers a peek of what dance and culture scholar Obusan calls “the depth of the phallus in our culture” and that remains as a residue from our pre-Hispanic, Hindu-Malay past.

But the program, hosted by veteran television journalist Howie Severino (who is also a member of the PCIJ board), now risks being suspended by the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) for violating Section 2, Chapter 4 of the implementing rules of the board, which prevents the airing of sexual content in a “patently lewd, offensive and demeaning manner.”

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by @ 11:14 pm. Filed under Asia, East Asia, Southeast Asia, Philippines, Media, Censorship

5 June, 2006

Asia Blog Awards: Q1 2006-2007

AsiaPundit is pleased to announce the commencement of the new round of Asia Blog Awards. The awards are based on the Japanese financial year, which ends on March 31, and nominations are now open for the April 1-June 30 period, full-year awards are to be based on the quarterly contests.

Details are below, nominations for the below categories can be made on the individual pages linked below until the end of June 16 (Samoan time).

Awards are at present limited to English-language or dual-language sites.

Region/Country Specific Blogs:

Non-region specific awards:

Podcasts, photo and video blogs must be based on original content — which means a site such as Danwei.tv is acceptable but TV in Japan is not (although it is an excellent site).

Some categories may be deleted or combined if they lack a full slate nominations - and some may be added should it be warranted.

Winners will be judged in equal parts on: (a) votes, (b) technorati ranking and (c) judges’ selection.

While judges will naturally have biases, they will hopefully offset imbalances in other areas (such as inevitable cheating in the voting and inflationary blogroll alliances in the Technorati ranks).

The names or sites of the judges will be public.

Judges will be ineligible for nomination. As the awards largely intend on providing exposure to lesser-known sites of merit, we are hopeful that authors of ‘A-list’ sites that tend to dominate such contests will disqualify themselves by being judges.

The contest has been endorsed by previous ABA host Simon who is also serving as a judge (thereby disqualifying Simon World).

Traffic — the most telling and accurate measure of a site’s populatity — may be a consideration in future awards. However, at present, there is no clear or universal way to accurately measure and contrast traffic (sites such as Sitemeter, Statcounter offer results that cannot be compared, while services such as Alexa.com do not work for sites that are not hosted on independent domains).

This is all imperfect and will be tweaked in future events (with transparency, of course).

Most importantly, this is intended to be fun.

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by @ 3:02 pm. Filed under Japan, South Korea, Blogs, Singapore, China, Pakistan, India, Taiwan, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Cambodia, Asia, East Asia, Northeast Asia, Myanmar/Burma, Southeast Asia, Philippines, Media, South Asia, Thailand, Web/Tech, Weblogs, North Korea, Mongolia, Nepal, Central Asia, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Tibet

11 May, 2006

Public Transport Stinks

On top of being cheap, there may be a good reason that the independent jeepney is a popular form of transit in the Philippines. Most public transit still leaves something to be desired. For example, as illustrates, you can still get open-air seating on a jeepney. Meanwhile, Manila’s bus drivers are being .:

 55 137824405 5025Dbf015MANILA (Reuters) - Bus drivers negotiating the sweltering streets of Manila have a new thing to stress about — their armpits.

Faced with complaints from commuters fed up with the stench at the front of the bus, taxi and train, Manila authorities have reminded drivers to wash and deodorize daily during the heat of the summer.
“We understand that drivers must earn money to support themselves and their respective families,” said Bayani Fernando, chairman of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority. “It is only right that in return, these drivers must observe proper hygiene.
“If they have body odor or armpit odor, ask the advice of doctors for treatment. But I think if they only take a bath every day, and maybe they can use “tawas” or deodorant, then there would be no problem.”
Temperatures in the sprawling Philippine capital regularly hit the high 30s Celsius from mid-March to mid-May.
Some of the estimated 30,000 public drivers often strip off to beat the heat but Fernando reminded them to maintain decorum.
“They must also refrain from wearing slippers and shorts,” Fernando said.

(Via Carl)

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by @ 11:39 pm. Filed under Asia, East Asia, Southeast Asia, Philippines

27 March, 2006

philippine recap and press corp dress codes

AsiaPundit is well out of his depth when it comes to Philippine politics, but Connie Veneracion at Global Voices has a useful summary of the issues - and the complexities - of the situation since the lifting of Proclamation 1017.

For those those who believe that a mere change in leadership will solve the country’s problems–the turmoil will end when Gloria Arroyo leaves Malacañang, voluntarily or by force. Luis Teodoro writes about a proposal by Senator Edgardo Angara who thinks there is a legal way of calling for snap elections. The Black and White Movement staged another “mass action” on Friday, March 24th, which the police forces did not even monitor–it was a picture taking event. Caffeine Sparks laments that the group’s latest slogan, Patalsikin na! Now na!, is “so…text message-y, as if it were almost a joke.” Interestingly enough, it is rather reminiscent of the burgis (bourgeois) practice of mixing Tagalog and English made (in)famous by colegialas in the 1970s.

For those who view the Philippines’ problems as mere manifestations of a deeper social and cultural malaise, there is no quick solution. Newbie blogger Arnel Endrinal points to 10 problems that have not been solved through the past five administrations, including the current one. Class interests make it difficult to draw up any program that will be acceptable to all–if the majority really cares about solutions at all. As Luis Teodoro sums it up–the middle class and the poor are equally self-centered. The middle class is too concerned with maintaining its lifestyle; the poor is “too focused on survival to care.”

The tension between the government and the media has not abated. Danny Arao writes about an urgent motion filed by the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG), a human rights lawyers’ group, for a speedy resolution of a petition filed earlier this month that stems from a pronouncement by National Telecommunications Commission head Ronald Solis to the effect that government can legally impose guidelines on broadcast news media.

Also of interest, Jove Francisco speculates on whether the casual dress of the Philippine presidential press corps says something about the press, or about Arroyo.:

State Of Emergency 024Journalists assigned to the palace wearing jeans, trendy shirts and non-leather footwear is now common sight around Malacanang, specifically inside the Kalayaan Hall Press Working Area (PWA).

I’m one of those reporters who wear MAONG at least once or twice a week. (Ahem, ang palusot ko, lagi naming may formal wear ako sa crew cab ng team ko, just in case!) (Saka lagi naming sinusundan si PGMA sa mga rugged areas)

Now, why is this trend happening samantalang two administrations ago, taboo yan?

The answer came out during the meeting this afternoon.

Most reporters covering the presidential beat do not bother to “dress for respect” anymore because most of the main palace activities of the president are “restricted” in nature naman.

If not for “photo-opp only”, “in house coverage only”.

And there’s more: as time goes by the media’s access to President Arroyo has turned from minimum to nil. She hates ambush interviews. She tapes her declarations inside the blue room, closed door. She holds live round table broadcasts inside the blue room, but the reporters are now relegated to “usis”. Parang mga tao sa harap ng buffet table tapos biglang aalisin ang inaabangang pagkain. She leaves right after her broadcast, di siya pwede kausapin. Unlike before, the MPC can’t go inside the main palace ng basta basta to stake out for cabinet officials under the huge trees there. Soon, we will be transferred to the New Executive Building.

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by @ 1:56 pm. Filed under Asia, East Asia, Southeast Asia, Philippines

15 March, 2006

regrets:lack of thai and philippine coverage

AsiaPundit has been generally ignoring the rest of Asia while covering the NPC in Beijing. Normal updating will be further disrupted for a trip to Nanjing from Thursday for a much cooler event. Along with travel days, AP will be taking a break to spend time with Mrs AsiaPundit and our Infinite Cat Dee Dee. Regular updates will not be resuming until next week. This is regrettable as there is really interesting stuff happening on the rest of the continent.

As a site that aspires to be a pan-Asian tabloid, AP is particularly upset that he hasn’t had the time to keep abreast of events in the Philippines and Thailand. There is serious tabloid fodder in both countries at the moment.

Events in the latter country seem to be now getting much more attention from the Western press. Times of London correspondent notes on the paper’s official Asia blog that he has been flown in from Tokyo to cover the collapse of Thaksin’s government.

As for tabloid fodder - as if nationalism and cronyism were not enough - Richard aptly adds a sexual element into the story.:

Sex Workers 2

I encountered this group of ladies among the anti-Thaksin protesters along Ratchadamnoen Avenue, a few hundred yards from Government House in Bangkok.

They are standing in front of their painted cardboard box, one of dozens painted by demonstrators from various organisations. As it makes clear they are members of the Thailand Sex Workers’ Network.

They were distributing a statement apologising to their fellow Thais for the support which they had formerly given to Thaksin. Since his election in 2001, there has been a clamp down on Thailand’s world famous bars, clubs and massage parlours. The Network also objects to the unannounced on-the-spot urine tests which the police are now empowered to make in their “war” against drugs .

“We are just victims, and this leader despises us, and tramples on our dignity, regarding us as stupid buffalo,” the statement reads.

As for the Philippines, where there are a fantastic number of journalist bloggers,, Ellen Tordesillas reports that evidence of Gloria Arroyo’s alleged electoral fraud has now seemingly been revealed visually as well as on audio tape.:

 Wp-Content Photo3 01

AsiaPundit generally prefers that governments are removed democratically when the means are available. As both the Philippines and Thailand can remove leaders through the ballot or the courts, it would be unfortunate if either Arroyo or Thaksin were ousted by coup or rebellion.

AsiaPundit is not impressed with either leader, but he is not impressed by their opponents either.

As a Canadian, AP had waited more than 12 years for a reprehensible government to be replaced by a dreary opposition. That’s democracy and AP believes that it works better than any other existing system over a long term.*

(*However, AP is working on a system where governance could be based on voting on plans submitted by investment banks rather than parties or personalities. Choosing between UBS or Morgan Stanley would be better than voting Liberal or Conservative, Republican or Democrat, Arroyo or film star, etc…. AsiaPundit favors corporate governance).

by @ 12:01 am. Filed under Asia, East Asia, Philippines, Thailand

28 February, 2006

thaksin and arroyo


The year of the dog should be interesting for Asia. A little over two months ago, AsiaPundit visited Austin’s site and questioned the possibility of a coup happening in either Thailand or the Philippines, arguing that after a decade of democratic rule it seems unlikely either country would really care for a return of dictatorship (even if elected governments were seen as corrupt or incompetent).

Two months has made quite a difference, and while neither country seems likely to suffer a coup, stability has suffered a double blow. The pace at which the governments of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra have unravelled is impressive.

While it’s quite possible that some sort of people-power backed coup was being planned in the Philippines, its success was not assured, and Arroyo’s declaration of a state of emergency seems extreme. That civic groups are now reproducing literature on what constitutional rights citizens have under military rule is disheartening. Todd Crowell has a good summary of recent events.

The situation in Thailand is more surprising, while Arroyo has been facing increased pressure since the alleged election fraud allegations emerged last summer, the populist Thaksin was simply facing growing rumblings from a relatively weak opposition. The backlash to the sale of his family’s Shin Corp conglomerate to Singapore’s Temasek went far beyond expectations. The Foreigner in Formosa has a good backgrounder.

The Foreigner and Todd, of course, are far removed from the events and have the extra perspective that distance provides. Bloggers on the ground provide a more varied perspective.

From Thailand, Magnoy’s Samsara offers some links to opposition mixed media projects and an outline of the coalescing of Thailand’s opposition.

From the Philippines, a greater multitude of English-language voices is available: MLQ3 has amazing coverage and linkage following the events of Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Torn looks at the restive situation and the legality of 1017. the Unlawyer thinks it’s 1972 all over again. Carlos backs Gloria.

And from the mainstream press, there’s a lot of commentary that would have unimaginable just a couple of years ago including this piece praising the stability and democratic development of Indonesia compared to the neighbors.

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by @ 11:04 pm. Filed under Indonesia, Asia, East Asia, Southeast Asia, Philippines, Thailand

24 February, 2006

philippines in ’state of emergency’

Saying that a coup was being plotted against her government, Gloria Arroyo has declared that the Philippines is now in a "state of emergency."

Arroyo-055-06I Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, President of the Republic of the Philippines and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, by virtue of the powers vested upon me by Section 18, Article 7 of the Philippine Constitution which states that: “ The President…whenever it becomes necessary,…may call out (the) armed forces to prevent or suppress…rebellion…, “ and in my capacity as their Commander-in-Chief, do hereby command the Armed Forces of the Philippines, to maintain law and order throughout the Philippines, prevent or suppress all forms of lawless violence as well any act of insurrection or rebellion and to enforce obedience to all the laws and to all decrees, orders and regulations promulgated by me personally or upon my direction; and as provided in Section 17, Article 12 of the Constitution do hereby declare a State of National Emergency.

The above is from the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism blog - which is currently providing far too many articles to link to individually. Go read the site.

Torn and Frayed also have live updates from a Manila anti-Arroyo march.

Image stolen from here.

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by @ 7:26 pm. Filed under Asia, East Asia, Southeast Asia, Philippines

8 February, 2006

asia press freedoms 2005

China has shown a sharp downward trend in press freedoms last year, while the Philippines remains dangerous and North Korea abysmal.:

While some countries in Asia have remained stable with regard to media freedom, there have been sharp downward trends in several Asian countries, particularly China, Nepal, the Philippines and Thailand.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and Freedom House, a non-governmental organization that monitors press freedoms around the world, assessed the levels of press freedom in countries based on the prevailing legal environment, political and economic situation and the overall attitudes of authorities towards the media.

The surveys were generally concordant in their results, with China, Nepal, North Korea and the Philippines remaining the biggest causes of concern for journalists in Asia.

"Compared to last year, there really aren’t many positives in Asia," said Karin Karlekar, Managing Editor of the Freedom House survey. "While some countries have remained steady [Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong], we can see downward trends in many countries in the region."

North Korea was found to be the worst country in all surveys, showing no signs of improvement over the past couple of years. All media in North Korea continue to remain tools of Kim Jong-il’s state, while all foreign media are repeatedly portrayed by the regime as "liars" seeking to destabilize the government, according to the Freedom House report. However, the report also suggests that an increase in international trade has resulted in greater contact with foreigners, which might allow for greater access to international news reports in the near future.

China has also shown a sharp downward trend in 2005, said Karlekar, which can be attributed to increased censorship of newspapers and radio stations, and greater Internet surveillance.

According to RSF, the so-called "broadcasting Great Wall" in China has been growing over the past year: The Voice of Tibet, the BBC and Radio Free Asia are among the radio stations jammed by the government in 2005. 

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by @ 8:19 pm. Filed under Japan, South Korea, Blogs, Singapore, China, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Asia, East Asia, Northeast Asia, Asean, Myanmar/Burma, Southeast Asia, Philippines, Media, South Asia, Thailand, Weblogs, Censorship, North Korea, Tibet

7 February, 2006

how to write about the philippines

Torn and Frayed offers a writing guide for new arrivals in the Philippines.:

It is essential that your first sentence should include the words “7,000 islands”. Sprinkle the text with such phrases as “vibrant” (perhaps the most useful word when describing the Philippines), “crystal clear waters”, “hellish pollution”, “idyllic stretch of white sand”, “monster traffic”, “sunset”, “mishmash of cultures” “3,000 pairs of shoes”, “ferry disaster” and “vibrant (there it is again) night life”.

When describing the politics of the Philippines, you should always describe it as an “exuberant democracy”. Mention no politicians other than film stars or Imelda Marcos.

Never use the word “prostitute”, “bargirl” is much nicer. When describing nightlife make sure you mention the “ubiquitous San Miguel” and the fact that Filipinos eat only balut.

There is no need to discuss the history of the Philippines beyond a brief mention of the Bataan death march.

Since smiling Filipinos seldom venture out from beneath their palm trees (and then only to ride their beloved jeepneys to church), there is rarely any need to discuss the economy. However, if you must, you will find “default”, “$1 a day”, “stagnant”, “airport”, “unfulfilled potential”, “overseas remittances”, “hopeful” and “next year” useful phrases.

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by @ 9:05 pm. Filed under Asia, East Asia, Southeast Asia, Philippines, Media

6 February, 2006

the philippines vs india

In a BBC survey, the Philippines in the only country where the majority respondents have negative views of India. Manish at Sepia Mutiny asks “why does the Philippines hate India?”

A new BBC World poll says that people in the Philippines, South Korea, France, Finland and Brazil think India is a negative influence on the world (via Style Station). Pakistan was not polled. On the other hand, Iran, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, the UK and Russia rate India highly. Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the African countries polled are most neutral about India, while Sri Lanka and India are most neutral about the U.S.

Though India’s global profile has grown significantly over the last year, it fails to elicit strong feelings… The exceptions are two Muslim countries with positive views: Iran (71% positive) and Afghanistan (59% positive). The only country with widespread negative views is the Philippines (57% negative). Notably, India’s small neighbor Sri Lanka has a mere 4 percent reporting negative views and a robust 49 percent expressing a positive one.

Europeans are divided about India. At the positive end of the spectrum is Great Britain (49% positive, 30% negative) and Russia (47% positive, 10% negative), while at the other end are France and Finland—both being 27 percent positive and 44 percent negative. The US leans slightly positively (39% positive, 35% negative).


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by @ 7:50 am. Filed under India, Asia, East Asia, Southeast Asia, Philippines, South Asia

5 February, 2006

rent control

Philippine urban planner Urbano dela Cruz has states the obvious on rent control, though it’s unlikely the politicians will listen:

If there is a third rail in Philippine politics, it is rent control. The law has been extended countless times (the latest incarnation is RA 9341 which extends RA 9161) and though each time the law is passed or extended and sunset date is set, it is nevertheless predictable that it will be extended or renewed next time the law is set to lapse.

Arroyo, who has a Ph.D. in economics, must KNOW about the damaging effects of rent control and so I DO NOT UNDERSTAND why she approved the current extension. Or why anyone who took some basic economics in college (i.e. -our lawmakers and policy wonks) would approve of it. -Apart from it being POLITICALLY UNTOUCHABLE.

I am by no means neo-liberal in my economics but the left and right sides of the spectrum of economic thinking (from the chicago school/washington consensus to socialists and the welfare state architects of northern europe) agree on the destructive effects of rent control. It distorts not only the market but damages the built environment itself:

“…rent control diverts new investment, which would otherwise have gone to rental housing, toward other, greener pastures—greener in terms of consumer need. They have demonstrated that it leads to housing deterioration, to fewer repairs and less maintenance. For example, Paul Niebanck reports that 29 percent of rent-controlled housing in the United States is deteriorated, but only 8 percent of the uncontrolled units are in such a state of disrepair. Joel Brenner and Herbert Franklin cite similar statistics for England and France.” (Walter Block, 1990)

Assar Lindbeck, whom I quote above, is a socialist. Paul Krugman has this to say:

“The analysis of rent control is among the best-understood issues in all of economics, and — among economists, anyway — one of the least controversial. In 1992 a poll of the American Economic Association found 93 percent of its members agreeing that “a ceiling on rents reduces the quality and quantity of housing.” Almost every freshman-level textbook contains a case study on rent control, using its known adverse side effects to illustrate the principles of supply and demand.”

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by @ 10:21 pm. Filed under Asia, East Asia, Southeast Asia, Philippines

31 January, 2006


That the Chinese love capitalism more than Americans is no surprise. Although the data for the Philippines is eye catching.

YuanThough Mao Tse-tung’s portrait still hangs in Tiananmen Square, a recent poll shows that the Chinese are crazier about capitalism than are Americans. In fact, they top the world-wide rankings in their zeal for free markets. No wonder Mao isn’t smiling.

In a poll conducted for the University of Maryland’s Program on International Policy Attitudes between June and August last year, fully 74% of Chinese citizens said they agreed with the statement "the free enterprise system and free market economy is the best system on which to base the future of the world." The Philippines, at 73%, and the U.S., at 71%, were second and third. The poll, which surveyed 20,791 people in 20 countries, seems like a pretty good snapshot of current sentiment, as such things go.

Remarkable, isn’t it, that residents of the Middle Kingdom have maintained their appreciation of the benefits of free enterprise through six decades of oppression and economic backwardness imposed by their Communist cadres? Then again, for a culture in which common New Year’s greetings include "I wish you happiness and many riches" and "may you make great profits," should we be surprised? Most Hong Kong residents are spending the current Chinese New Year holiday politely distributing packets of crisp new cash to friends and family. They have to earn this gift cash somehow.

(Via East Asia Watch)

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by @ 11:58 pm. Filed under China, Money, Asia, East Asia, Economy, Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, Philippines

22 January, 2006

flea markets and regulation

In an essay that could be applied to much of the developing world, Roehlano Briones argues, rightly, that the dominance of flea markets in the Philippines is the result of too much regulation of businesses.:

1. What do you think does this tiangge (flea market) popularity says about the state of Philippine economy and consumer behavior?

Flea markets are a fixture in the Philippine (and many other) economies. As a matter of routine, they do not give receipts, hardly any sort of registration, and hence belong to the underground economy. The underground economy as a whole constitutes over forty percent of Philippine output. Fancy that.

What the undergroundization of the economy tells us (and flea markets is one sign of that) is that cost of going formal is high. According to the World Bank, the Philippines is ranked 113 out of 155 countries in terms of the ease of doing business. Incredible. Who are the best? New Zealand, Singapore, US, Canada, Norway, Hong Kong, in that order. We are 89th in terms of starting a business, 91st in terms of dealing with licenses, 82nd in terms of ease of hiring and firing workers, 92nd in terms of registering property, and a whopping 121st in terms of getting credit. Just to start a business, the average waiting time is 48 days, whereas in developed countries it is only 19.5 days; the cost of starting is up to one-fifth of per capita income, whereas in the latter it’s below 7%. Now should we wonder why the informal economy is so large? And why the informal economy in New Zealand is less than 13% of its national output?

(Photo of Quiapo Market stolen from Scent of Green Bananas)

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by @ 8:29 pm. Filed under Asia, East Asia, Economy, Southeast Asia, Philippines

11 January, 2006

new delhi vs manila

Torn and Frayed says everything you really need to know:

I know that you are all dying to read my witty and erudite insights into the differences and similarities between India and the Philippines, but that seems too much like hard work, so I’ll distill all our shared observations from three weeks into one word: moustache.

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by @ 11:35 pm. Filed under India, Asia, East Asia, Southeast Asia, Philippines, South Asia

9 January, 2006

talking head on imelda marcos

Via Carlos Celdran, AsiaPundit is alerted to a great travelogue by former Talking Head fromtman David Byrne in the Philippines, doing research for a musical on Imelda.

ImeldaSol Vanzi joins us — she lives on the same floor. She informally handles Imelda’s relations with local and international media. She runs a website that collates Philippine news: http://www.newsflash.org. She’s 61, she tells us, and she immediately sits down, opens a beer and launches into a tirade during which she disputes all the conventional wisdom about the Marcos regime and Imelda. She just naturally assumes (rightly, I suspect) that she’s not addressing a group of loyalists.

She says, for example, that she instructed a video cameraman to hide in the basement of the palace when it was being overrun — after the Marcoses fled — with instructions to videotape the state of things as they were the moment the family left. She claims that this video shows that the various stories of half-eaten tubs of caviar and other evidence of excess were “urban myths”, as she referred to them. Proof that these things were planted — by Cory Aquino and others, so she claims.

She also claims the Americans most likely killed Aquino (I thought Marcos said it was the Commies?) and that Imelda was never poor as a child. This latter claim is relative; she certainly wasn’t as poor as the people living in the shanties squeezed along the riverbanks.

— but, well, by all accounts she did live in a garage while children of the fist wife lived in the house, and then things went downhill from there. As someone from an important local family she was relatively poor.

Sol segues into a riff on the very limited class mobility in the Philippines. How, if you are from a provincial town you are handicapped, even if you are from a “good” family there (this mirrors Imelda’s situation.) Anyway, she implies, as do others, that it is almost impossible to rise above your station — your accent will give you away, and even if it doesn’t folks will ask you where you’re from and then the game’s up. Shades of the UK.

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by @ 12:23 am. Filed under Asia, East Asia, Southeast Asia, Philippines

4 January, 2006

philippines: still deadly

AsiaPundit has had the pleasure of working alongside many Filipino journalists and has almost always been impressed, which makes the following news more depressing. AP suspects that part of the reason the death toll among reporters in the Philippines is so high is because they do their jobs so well.:

UjpThe Philippines was second only to Iraq as the most dangerous place for journalists in 2005, two international media watchdogs, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and the Paris-based Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF), said today.

Worldwide, last year was a deadly one for journalists with 47 killed, most of them deliberately targeted because of their work, according to CPJ. “Kidnappers in Iraq, political assassins in Beirut and hit men in the Philippines made murder the leading cause of work-related deaths among journalists worldwide in 2005,” the US-based watchdog said. (Read the CPJ report here.) The killers, CPJ added, targeted journalists “to silence them for their criticism or to punish them for their work.”

RSF, however, had a higher casualty count, with 63 journalists killed and 1,300 others physically attacked or receiving threats. It said last year’s total was the highest since 1995. It reported six journalists killed in the Philippines last year because of their work, while several others were murdered for unknown reasons. “Their enemies were no longer armed groups but politicians, businessmen and drug-traffickers ready to silence journalists who exposed their crimes,” said the RSF report.

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by @ 11:42 pm. Filed under Asia, East Asia, Southeast Asia, Philippines, Media, Censorship

30 December, 2005

stalking imee



Imee R. Marcos is the eldest daughter of the Republic of the Philippines’ 10th President Ferdinand Edralin Marcos and First Lady Madame Imelda Romualdez Marcos. Highly intelligent and well-educated, she has proven her worth as a strong leader, a wise lawmaker and a powerful voice in Philippine politics and society. Her ideals and principles and her courage to stand by them are highly admirable. As a dedicated mother and a multi-faceted career woman endowed with beauty, charisma and a strong character, she has been a great inspiration to many. Like her parents and siblings, Bong Bong and Irene, she is also well-loved by so many of her countrymen.
As an avid admirer, I have created this website to express, through songs and poems, my personal feelings and admiration for her. I have had a B-I-G CRUSH on her since her Kabataang Barangay* days.

(via Walk this Way )

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by @ 9:53 pm. Filed under Asia, East Asia, Southeast Asia, Philippines

28 December, 2005

human security report

The 2005 Human Security Report has listed the top 10 ‘Warmongers; (as Harry describes them) since the end of World War Two and and two Asian nations make the top 10:


Peacefully rising China and gentle Thailand fall into a crowded seventh place with six international armed conflicts each.

In other sections, Burma solidly beats India for the country with the highest number of conflict years - with Ethopia, the Philippines and Israel rounding out the top five.


But it’s generally good news for east Asia, which hasn’t had a major inter-state conflict since the 1970s.


Full report here (pdf).

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by @ 8:25 pm. Filed under China, India, Cambodia, Asia, East Asia, Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam

13 December, 2005

an asean constution

Rajan has come upon a preliminary draft of the proposed constitution for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean):

Asean7. Freedom of movement of people and goods shall be guaranteed except

a) When there is a national monopoly or well-connected corporation like Proton and PT Tri Polyta that needs to be protected.

b) When there is a pointless, wasteful, inefficient national industry that needs to be protected

c) For Jews…err, Israelis, in Malaysia and Indonesia.

d) For Filipinos and Indonesians going to Malaysia and Singapore, where in Malaysia they shall be placed in humiliating, delapidated camps where their rights shall not be protected.

e) To Acheh, Papua or occasionally, parts of the Spice Islands in Indonesia, the mountains of Vietnam, most states of Myanmar and the entirety of Laos, God-forbid any reporter sees anything there.

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by @ 8:20 pm. Filed under Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Cambodia, Asia, East Asia, Asean, Southeast Asia, Philippines, Thailand

28 November, 2005

AsiaPundit loves Google Earth. As noted here earlier, the Spy Satellite for the Masses has brought us pictures of places that were usually off limits, such as Pyongyang, Beijing’s Zhongnanhai party compound and South korean presidential compound Cheong Wa Dae.

Now, a Filipino blogger uses the tool to expose what is possibly illegal logging in Laos:

Lao Landclearing-Thumb

I’ve been using Google Earth to get an idea about some of the landscapes in rice growing regions for a project I’m working on and I came across what appear to be cleared areas in Northern Laos.

These bare patches seem to be limited to the area roughly bounded by the red circle in the inset image. There aren’t any obvious sites like these in the highlands in neighboring Vietnam.

If you look carefully you can even see that there are light green patches on the landscape that I assume are cleared areas that are regrowing, indicating that the process has been going on for at least a few years.

If you know anything about land use in this region, I’d be curious to hear from you about it. (Blog commenting is off for a while due to excessive spamming…)

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by @ 11:21 pm. Filed under Asia, East Asia, Southeast Asia, Philippines

21 November, 2005

philippine president’s electoral machinery

The real big news comes from Newsbreak, actually. Five stories:

Madame Operator, Part I: At long last, the various camps that worked with, against, and without knowing, each other during the President’s campaign are fleshed out. The President’s role as the one knowing everyone and having the big picture is clarified, too:

NEWSBREAK revisited the 2004 Arroyo campaign. We established the following:

*There were at least four groups that operated independently of each other. Only the President knew of the businesses of all four.

*The President worked with unaccountable persons in three of the parallel groups.

*Ms. Arroyo appears to be the first post-Marcos presidential candidate to have combined and maximized electoral dirty tricks from over half a century, foremost of which were the utilization of the armed forces for partisan activities, and tampering with election results.

*The alleged large-scale cheating was easily carried out because the election manipulators who honed their skills since the time of President Ferdinand Marcos, and who worked in the campaign of Fidel Ramos, also played crucial roles in the Arroyo campaign.

Madame Operator, Part II: The “Little Big Brother” and “Antidote” Groups in the President’s electoral machinery are described: they’re the most interesting. “Little Big Brother” refers to the President’s younger brother, Diosdado Macapagal, Jr.; the “Antidote Group,” the magazine says, infiltrated the House of Representatives to steal and substitute electoral documents:

We reported that the operation in Mindanao during the canvassing period, which was led by Garcillano, was done in haste and that operators only tampered with the figures in the certificates of canvass. The figures, therefore, could not be supported by the data in the election returns and statements of votes. Since Fernando Poe Jr. had filed a protest, there loomed the possibility that the mismatch in the figures would be discovered. Thus, there was an operation to sneak into the ballot boxes in Batasan the election documents with “corrected” and consistent figures.

Suspicious Operations: How a War Room was established within the premises of the Department of National Defense to “covertly monitor electoral results”:

Based on documents gathered by NEWSBREAK, it appears that the plan was hatched in February 2004 under the cover of an information and communication technology (ICT) support plan for the DND Election Action Committee (Deac). This action committee is a first in contemporary DND history.

Supposedly, the ICT support plan aimed, among others, to identify problem areas, facilitate database buildup of identified areas of concern; map out and monitor election-related events and enable network connectivity of the Deac. Tapped for the ICT support plan was the Defense Information and Communication Office (Dicto).

In the Shadows: Who wiretapped Virgilio Garcillano and who ordered the wiretapping? At last, something approximating an answer (and the President’s brother won’t like this article):

The motive? Some of the key campaign supporters of President Arroyo were not certain of Garcillano’s loyalties. They wanted to make sure that he was working for the President alone, thus the decision to monitor him. Note that the recorded conversations were those between the President and Garcillano during the most critical part of the election period, the canvassing of votes, or weeks after election day.

The other leading investigative journalist’s group, PCIJ, has three stories on food and the Filipino. One is about corned beef, which has become a Filipino staple; besides beef there’s carabao in those cans, too. The other story is an ironic story indeed: at a time when life is getting harder and harder, why are more and more Filipinos getting fat?

In other news:

The Palace announces that the President does not blog. Really. So, uh, if you didn’t know, Philippine President Joins Blogosphere is a parody blog. Really. But what can’t be ignored is that ( according to Leon Kilat) .

Mindanews has survival tips for traveling in Mindanao.

Israel announces it’s going to welcome more Filipino caregivers.

by @ 4:15 pm. Filed under Philippines

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