Current Affairs


No Comments 30 March 2011

By Pepper Marcelo

It’s graduation time again. In a country where one’s worth is often measured by his educational attainment, finishing college is one of the highly anticipated milestones. Never mind that the graduate is at the bottom of the class or that he came from one of those diploma mills. What matters most to many Filipino parents is that are able to send their child though college; whether the graduate gets to practice what he studied or lands a job afterward is another matter.

But the celebratory mood is short-lived. Soon after, reality sets in: many of the graduates will have a hard time finding decent jobs, much more jobs that are suited to their studies. Thus we see marketing graduates answering phones and filing records, or mass communication majors taking on contractual jobs hawking credit cards in malls. The luckier ones end up as call center agents and bank tellers, jobs that require only three to six months training in developed countries.

Clearly there is a mismatch between the types of graduates our schools produce and the kinds of skills that the labor market needs. As a result, years of studies and the concomitant cost of college education are wasted. Labor statistics show that roughly half a million graduate are unable to get work in their chosen field each year. Despite numerous vacancies, local and overseas employers often complain about the lack of employable college graduates., the official job search site of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), shows that some 125,000 local and overseas job vacancies are still open and have yet to be filled by qualified applicants. (See related story.)

A recent study by the Bureau of Labor and Employment Statistics (BLES) of DOLE shows that 1.052 million, or 39.1 percent of the unemployed, are college graduates and undergraduates. “The large proportion (50.6 percent) of the recorded 2.6 million unemployed Filipinos are young workers aged 15 to 24 and are educated with a college diploma or are undergraduates,” the study says.

Unemployable graduates

In the nursing profession, for example, there are 80,000 nursing board passers each year, but there are only a handful of job openings, according to the Philippine Nurses Association (PNA) and the Alliance of Young Nurse Leaders and Advocates. Statistics on the total of unemployed nurses are estimated to number upwards of 150,000. Many of them have become call center agents due to the difficulty of finding nursing jobs at home and abroad.

Graduates of business administration, hotel and restaurant management, and information technology are in the same boat. Statistics show that only three out of every 100 new college graduates are hired yearly because of their failure to pass competitive qualifying exams. Thus many of the graduates – or at least those with a workable grasp of the English language – end up as call center agents or bank tellers.

“Even if they’re graduates, they might not have the qualifications, competency and experience that the job requires,” says Criselda Sy, Director of BLES. “A major concern is that we’re not educationally at par with the standards of the industry.”

Moratorium on popular courses

To address the oversupply of graduates in certain courses, the Commission on Higher Education (CED) has imposed a moratorium on the opening of new programs effective this year. The following undergraduate and graduate programs were declared suspended for an indefinite period: Nursing, Business Administration, Teacher Education, Hotel Restaurant and Management and Information Technology.

According to CHED, the top five major disciplines with the most number of graduates were Business Administration and Management related Programs (114,000), Education and Teacher Training (96,000), Medical and Allied Professionals (87,000), Engineering and Technology (63,000), and Information Technology (49,000).

The moratorium is the government’s response to the proliferation of specific programs, which if left unabated would further lead to the worsening of the quality of our graduates.  The mushrooming of certain courses, according to one study, has resulted in the weakening of the Business Administration and Teacher Education programs, as well as the decline in the passing rate in the Licensure Examination for nurses.

Improving education

CHED is focused on ensuring that Philippine educational institutions are developing a national qualifications framework to improve tertiary education. It is pushing for schools to attain proper accreditation. Although CHED prescribes schools to attain the minimum requirements, it nonetheless encourages and evaluates institutions to go above the minimum targets so as to make their standards comparable to foreign standards.

CHED is working in collaboration with a technical panel of experts from the academe, as well as business and industry leaders, via their Policy Standards and Guidelines (PSGS). The multisectoral panel shall formulate academic development plans and make recommendations for specific disciplines.

“That’s our mechanism,” says Vitriolo. “Before you offer a program you have to comply with established policies and standards, which are formulated by the panel. Aside from that, there is a public hearing process, where we invite everyone, including students and parents, to attend the forum. After that, we finalize these standards for schools to follow.”

CHED has designated Agriculture, Mining Science, Aeronautics, Geology and Software Engineering as undersubscribed collegiate programs for which there is a big demand for qualified graduates.

Jobs of the future

In 2010, DOLE held a forum with business executives and “captains of industry” to discuss future business trends and their corresponding requirements for the next ten years (2010-11). Some of the critical concerns raised in the forum included the need to improve the analytical and communication proficiencies of students and their corresponding information technology skills, as well as honing the managerial skills of college graduates.

Through consultation and research, the government and the private sector identified 12 Key Employment Generators (KEG): Agribusiness, Cyberservice, Health and Wellness, Hotel Restaurant and Tourism, Mining, Construction, Banking and Finance, Manufacturing, Ownership Dwellings and Real Estate, Transport and Logistics, Wholesale and Retail Trade, and Overseas Employment.

In Agribusiness, for example, some of the specific in-demand occupational titles include Animal Husbandry, Agricultural Economist, Aqua-culturist, Coconut Farmer, Entomologist, Horticulturist, Plant Mechanic, Veterinarian and Pathologist.

Career guidance needed

“The problem is even if we do that, it largely remains a choice of the students,” says Vitriolo. “For example, there are very few takers in agricultural education, because they don’t find it as something as attractive [as nursing]. There are few people now taking that, but we need it, because we’re an agricultural country.”

DOLE recommends that there needs to be an intensified focus on information dissemination regarding hard-to-fill and in-demand occupations, including college degree  courses with an oversupply of skills, so that students are able to make informed decisions about their career choices.

“The business community should alert the educational sector about its labor requirements, and figure out how to attract enrollees in those areas,” says Sy. “That’s where career guidance and orientation come in. A student should be aware of what is going on in the labor market and make an informed career decision, so that after graduation, they will know where they should go.”


Current Affairs


No Comments 16 March 2011

About 34,000 people dead instantly and 24,000 dead or dying in the rubble. About 110,000 injured and needing immediate treatment. Five hundred fires raging simultaneously. Metro Manila faces these and several other horrific scenes should it be hit by a 7.2-magnitude earthquake, says a report by a multinational intelligence firm. READ FULL STORY


Current Affairs


No Comments 06 March 2011

By Karl Malakunas

Agence France-Presse

PUERTO PRINCESA – For tourists the Philippine island of Palawan seems like paradise, but for environment activists it feels more akin to a battlefield.

Murders and threats on what is promoted as the Southeast Asian nation’s last ecological frontier are emblematic of a struggle across the country, where dozens of environment campaigners have been killed over the past decade.

Father-of-five “Doc” Gerry Ortega became the latest casualty in late January when a hitman shot him in the head while browsing in a second-hand clothes shop along one of the main roads of Palawan’s capital city, Puerto Princesa.

“He received a lot of death threats,” Ortega’s wife, Patty, 48, told AFP in an interview at a cafe just a few hundred meters from where he was killed.

The murdered Ortega, 47, a veterinarian, made many enemies via a daily radio morning show he hosted in which he lambasted politicians whom he accused of being corrupt and allowing the island’s natural resources to be pillaged.

“He was a very passionate man, passionate about the environment,” his widow said.

On the far western edge of the Philippines’ archipelago, Palawan has some of the country’s most beautiful beaches, stunning coral reefs and biodiverse forests — it is home to two UNESCO World Heritage-listed sites.

But environment campaigners say Palawan’s natural wonders could be destroyed within a generation amid the frenzy to exploit them, citing as an example the destruction of countless coral reefs from cyanide and dynamite fishing.

Its reefs supply more than half the nation’s seafood, plus millions of dollars’ worth of fish to other Asian markets.

Palawan also has vast amounts of nickel, cobalt and other valuable minerals, prompting hundreds of applications to mine about half of the island.

The applications have spurred a high-profile campaign to ban all forms of mining.

Meanwhile, 11 percent of the Philippines’ remaining virgin forests and 38 percent of its mangroves are on Palawan, according to government data.

“From the post cards it’s a great tourist area,” Robert Chan, a crusading environmental lawyer and executive director of Palawan NGO Network Inc, told AFP from his rundown headquarters in Puerto Princesa.

“But if you talk about the resources that really mean something for biodiversity or medicines eventually for our future generations, if you talk about its old growth forests, if you talk about mangrove forests, if you talk about its coral reefs, were losing it.”

While there are many laws to protect Palawan’s natural resources, they are no match for the lawlessness and corruption that permeates all of Philippine society, according to environment campaigners and some politicians.

“The biggest obstacle really is the temptation of money from big industries and (those involved in) illegal activities,” Edward Hagedorn, the long-time mayor of Puerto Princesa, told AFP.

Hagedorn, regarded by Palawan’s environment activists as one of their most important political allies, has banned mining and logging in Puerto Princesa which, although a city, has huge tracts of forests and white sand beaches.

“Outside the city destruction is happening very fast,” he said.

Hagedorn said powerful figures had often tried to bribe him to permit environmentally destructive practices, such as allowing truckloads of seafood that were illegally fished to be flown from his city’s airport.

“You’ll be surprised. Law enforcers, judges, come into my office (offering money and) asking for me to give them a chance,” he said.

Environment campaigners say that, amid this chaos, they have to perform functions that government bodies and law enforcers should be doing, which often pushes them into very dangerous situations.

Attorney Chan, 43, said four environment activists from local communities he had worked with over the past decade had been murdered.

Chan and his colleagues train communities to resist destructive environment practices by filing law suits, but also to confiscate equipment such as chainsaws used for illegal logging and even boats used for illegal fishing.

Under Philippine law, citizens are allowed to seize equipment used in illegal activities and arrest those involved.

Over the past 10 years, Chan said he, his colleagues and the communities they worked with had seized more than 360 chainsaws, two large ships, about 20 small outrigger boats and rifles.

But the successes are tempered by a sense of danger.

Chan, who is married and has a young daughter, recounted losing an activist in 2006 who had been working to oppose illegal logging and the cutting down of mangroves in his community.

“We found him in a shallow grave in a beach. He had been specifically buried there for us to find him,” said Chan.

“His testicles were taken off, put into his mouth, his tongue was cut out, his eyes were gouged out, his fingernails were taken out, he had around 16 stab wounds.”

Abdelwin Sangkula, another Puerto Princesa-based campaigner, said he had also received many death threats over the past few years.

“I’m worried about my safety and the safety of my family. But I will continue with my fight, said Sangkula, 39, who has three children and was a regular guest on the murdered Ortega’s radio show.

“I don’t know whether it’s just in my blood, but I see injustice and unfairness with what’s happening in this province.”

Abraham Mitra, the governor of Palawan who is also chairman of the province’s sustainable development council, did not respond to requests by AFP for comment on the allegations made by the environment campaigners.

The development council has run full-page advertisements in national papers recently rejecting claims that the local environment is being destroyed, and insisting that mining applications are being approved in a responsible manner.

In the case of Ortega, the accused gunman and four other people alleged to have been involved in the killing have been arrested.

His widow has filed documents with the justice department accusing a powerful local politician of masterminding the murder.

The politician, who has not been arrested, has gone on national television to deny any link to Ortega’s killing. Police investigations are ongoing.





1 Comment 04 March 2011

By Cecil Morella

Agence France Press

MANILA — Philippine blogger Bryan Yambao went from reading his mother’s magazines to the front rows of the world’s top catwalks at warp speed, as the Internet demolishes the exclusive barriers of high fashion.

Supermodel-thin and fond of wearing colorful hats, fur-collared cardigans and handbags, the 24-year-old is now an industry heavyweight who hangs out with the likes of supermodel Naomi Campbell and designer Marc Jacobs.

“If you ask me, all of my dreams have already come true. What else can you ask for,” Yambao said in a speech at an independent fashion bloggers’ conference in New York late last year.

Yambao’s vehicle for fashion stardom is his online journal at, which delivers fresh, irreverent, and witty critiques of the world’s newest trends on expensive clothing and accessories.

The site attracts more than 200,000 unique visitor hits a day, while nearly 52,000 people follow his Twitter stream, giving the jet-setting former web designer from Manila awesome powers to thrash or promote a product.

The blog is also studded with money-spinning ads that would be the envy of fashion magazines that have only a small fraction of his readership.

Recent posts told of his labors to buy Prada’s red men’s wingtips (“It’s the shoe of the season, no doubt”) and how Hollywood stars Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher stole the thunder from fashion figures at a Sao Paulo show.

“I’ve heard several rumors that they were paid about half a million dollars to be here. Celebrities. They always f— up the whole experience,” Yambao ranted.

Drawing heavily on the Paris Hilton playbook, the blog is also as much a homage to the author as style, with photos of him in outrageous, gender-bending outfits.

“Shower me with attention and inflate my ego. Email photos of your love and I’ll add you to my ever-growing collection. Be creative! Be spontaneous!” he wrote.

The biggest fashion labels indeed do work super hard to inflate his ego, as evidenced by one of his latest posts for the current fashion week in Paris.

“I’m trying to enjoy the calm before my set of shows,” he wrote.

“My invites are starting to pour in. So far I’m confirmed at Isabel Marant, Mugler, Balmain, AF Vandevorst, Gareth Pugh, Rochas, Damir Doma, Chanel, etc. Can’t wait to receive more of my invitations!”

The traditional media also love him.

“Bringing androgyny and attitude to the blogosphere since 2004, Bryanboy’s reflections on fashion never fail to entertain,” Elle magazine wrote, in an excerpt posted in his blog.

“With his sharp wit and cheeky style choices, Manila-based blogger Bryanboy is on the brink of international stardom,” Teen Vogue wrote.

Yambao’s extraordinary online career began with him blogging about his foreign travels in 2004.

But he had always been drawn to fashion, even as a 10-year-old studying at a strict Manila Catholic school.

“I would steal my mum’s magazines and read them at school,” Yambao said in his New York speech last year. Yambao initially agreed to be interviewed by AFP but then did not reply to e-mailed questions.

From a puny readership of his friends and family, the blog took off in 2007 after his posts caught the eye of Jacobs, the influential American creative director of French design house Louis Vuitton.

“I discovered this sort of satirical little film that Bryanboy had done of me, and I was really amused by it. I started to look at the blog and I thought, this guy is so into fashion,” Jacobs said in a clip posted on Yambao’s site.

Jacobs named an ostrich leather tote bag, BB, on his own 2008 fall collection, in the Filipino blogger’s honor.

“Love your passion for fashion,” the designer gushes in a post on Yambao’s site. “After all, where would designers be without enthusiasm like yours?”

In 2009 Dolce and Gabbana put Yambao and other top bloggers on the front row at the Milan fashion week, beside traditional industry arbiters such as Vogue’s Anna Wintour and Suzy Menkes of the International Herald Tribune.

Menkes, the doyenne of the fashion press, said bloggers had democratized an industry that had long been used to having everything dictated from the top down by the fashion houses.

“And then along comes Twitter and all of a sudden somebody walks out of a, say, Louis Vuitton show and says, ‘That show sucked. I hated it,'” she said in an interview posted online from last year’s Berlin’s fashion trade show.

“But that can go viral and other people can answer… and suddenly you’re faced with three million people saying negative things. It’s pretty terrifying for these brand managers.”

Yambao, who had had his Facebook account fill up with a maximum 5,000 friends a long time ago, appears to revel in the irony of a Third-World blogger dictating to the rich what to wear.

“It did happen to me, you know, somebody from the boonies, in the Philippines,” he said in his New York speech.

One of Yambao’s friends from the Philippines, fashion reporter and blogger Ingrid Go-Chua, said his spectacular career in breaking through one of the world’s most exclusive industries was an inspiration across Asia.

“A lot of Asian people look up to him. He’s like a beacon of a person. In the Third World, you never thought that dreams would come true but he made them come true. He’s put the Philippines on the map,” she told AFP.


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