Malaysian Hunts for Philippine Muslim Fighters After Assault

Residents leave their village in Tanjung Labian near Tanduo, where Malaysia launched an assault with fighter jets bombing the stand-off village followed by a ground assault by troops on March 5, 2013. Source: AFP/Getty Images

Malaysian security forces searched door-to-door in the eastern state of Sabah after attacking an armed Muslim clan from the Philippines that invaded last month to reclaim territory it lost more than 100 years ago.

Police moved cautiously in an area slightly larger than New York City’s Central Park to find followers of Jamalul Kiram, a Filipino who asserts he’s the sultan of Sulu. Authorities have yet to release a death toll from yesterday’s aerial and ground attacks, which came after earlier clashes between Malaysian police and Kiram’s followers killed 31 people.

“As the intrusion prolonged, it was clear that the intruders had no intention to leave Sabah,” Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said yesterday. “The government must take action to defend the country’s dignity and sovereignty.”

The battle on Borneo Island erupted weeks before elections in both countries, with Najib facing a late-April deadline to dissolve parliament as his ruling coalition seeks to maintain a 55-year grip on power. It also comes as Philippine President Benigno Aquino aims to conclude a peace deal with a Muslim separatist group that Najib is helping to broker.

The Philippines and Malaysia will form a naval blockage to prevent more Filipinos heading to Sabah as reinforcements, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs said in an e-mailed statement. An exit channel should be created for woman and children caught in the fighting, it said.

‘Fruitful’ Attack. Malaysian security forces operating in Sabah’s Tanduo village are being cautious to avoid more bloodshed, state-run Bernama news agency reported, citing Inspector-General of Police Ismail Omar. Malaysia suffered no injuries, and casualties in Kiram’s group couldn’t be assessed, Bernama reported, citing Home Minister Hishammuddin Tun Hussein.

Three F-18 and five Hawk fighter aircraft were used in the attack, Bernama cited Defense Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi as saying.

Agbimuddin Kiram, the self-proclaimed crown prince of Sulu and brother of Jamalul, said in an interview with DZMM radio from Sabah that he couldn’t confirm casualties. About 180 members of the group, including 30 with weapons, invaded Sabah about three weeks ago.

“There will be no surrender,” Jamalul Kiram’s spokesman, Abraham Idjirani, said at a briefing in Manila yesterday, adding that the group’s followers fear for their lives.

Peace Deal. Eight Malaysian police officers and 23 Kiram loyalists have been killed in shootouts since March 1. Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario held talks with his counterpart after arriving in Malaysia earlier this week, Najib’s spokesman, Tengku Sariffuddin Tengku Ahmad, said by phone. In a statement yesterday, Malaysia’s foreign ministry said it considered the group to be “terrorists.”

The Sulu sultanate, which dates back to the 14th century, says it leased Sabah to the British North Borneo Company in 1878, an agreement that Malaysia views as a secession of the region. Sabah fell under British control after World War II and joined Malaysia in 1963, shortly after the sultanate ceded sovereignty to the Philippines.

The incident comes several months after Najib’s government helped Aquino reach a peace deal with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, a Muslim separatist group in the southern Philippines. The Moro National Liberation Front, a splinter rebel group, called the accord — which will expand the country’s autonomous Muslim region — a conspiracy between Aquino and Najib for Malaysia to retain sovereignty of Sabah.

‘Total Chaos’. “Any agreement will be problematic and will be questioned” because Sabah wasn’t included in the self-governing region, said Rommel Banlaoi, executive director of the Philippine Institute for Peace Violence and Terrorism Research. “There will be consequences on the peace talks.”

Aquino risks putting the country in “total chaos” if he orders the arrest of Jamalul Kiram, said Nur Misuari, chairman of the Moro National Liberation Front.

“It’s unbecoming for a head of state to be siding with the enemy of his people,” Misuari said yesterday. “What kind of leader are you if you abandon your own people for the sake of his friendship with colonial troublemaker Malaysia?”

Aquino tried to solve the conflict peacefully by sending intermediaries and agreeing to study the legal basis of the Sulu sultanate’s territorial claims, Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang said in a mobile-phone message.

“There’s only so much we can do if the Kirams insist on this course of action,” he wrote. “It defies logic.”

Copyright: BusinessWeek

Swedish firms eager to invest in the Philippines

Swedish firms are interested in investing in manufacturing in the country after a business delegation was in the country last month, the Trade department said in a statement yesterday.

A total of 12 companies from Sweden had a briefing with the Trade department to discuss investment opportunities in the Philippines.

“I believe that there is great potential for an increased bilateral dialogue between the Philippines and Sweden and strengthened business and industrial relationships,” said Head of Delegation Eva Walder who is also the director-general for Trade of the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the statement.

Companies represented in the delegation were Atlas Copco Group, Celemi Systems AB, Clean Motion, Comex International, AB Electrolux, Telefonaktiebolaget L.M. Ericsson, Svenska Handelsbanken AB, Ikano Group, SEK, Tetra Pak, Volvo Car Corp. and the Swedish Foreign Trade Association.

“What is encouraging for us is the heightened interest of foreign investors in the Philippines. There is a solid stream of business missions coming and we believe this as a vote of confidence in our government’s capacity to effect significant long-term structural and policy reforms,” said Trade Undersecretary Adrian S. Cristobal, Jr.

He added that “strategic investments in these high-potential growth sectors, especially in manufacturing, generate employment opportunities and stimulate more development in the rural areas.”

A More Positive Outlook on Philippine Economy, Claim Polls

More Filipinos are optimistic that their lives and the economy will improve this year, as those who said their lives became better in the past year also rose, a new poll showed.

Personal and economic optimism were found to be “high” and “very high” based on results of the Dec. 8-11 Social Weather Stations survey originally published in BusinessWorld Monday.

Of the 1,200 adults surveyed nationwide, 37 percent expect their lives to improve in 2013 while only 8 percent see things getting worse. This brought the net personal optimism score to +29, up from +27 in the August 2012 survey. Net economic optimism also jumped two points to +19 percent, with 33 percent of respondents optimistic and 14 percent pessimistic.

Change in the quality of life in the past year, meanwhile, was “fair” based on results of the SWS survey. This, as 25 percent of Filipinos reported improved quality of life versus 32 percent who claimed otherwise. The ABC class as well as the “masa” or class D posted “very high” personal optimism scores of +40 and +30 respectively. Class E respondents had a slightly less rosy outlook, but personal optimism in this class remained “high” at +24.

Metro Manila respondents remained most optimistic among with “very high” scores despite a one-point drop to +35. Optimism was also “very high” at +35 in balance Luzon and “high” at +23 in Visayas. Mindanao posted a “fair” optimism score of +19, however.

In terms of the economy, “very high” optimism scores have been recorded across all classes: +28 among the ABC, +19 among the masa and +16 among the class E respondents.

Mindanao posted the lowest economic optimism score of +9 or “high” compared to “very high” scores in all other areas. Economic optimism was recorded at +21 in Metro Manila, +26 in balance Luzon and +11 in the Visayas.

The ABC class posted the highest net percentage of gainers over losers at +29 or “very high.” It stayed “fair” at +7 among the masa and “mediocre” at -17 among class E respondents.

Area-wise, meanwhile, net gainers remained “fair” in Metro Manila at -7 and in balance Luzon with a net zero. It also stayed “mediocre” in Visayas (-13) and Mindanao (-18).

DOLE lists jobs that are currently in demand

Looking for a job? The Labor department on Thursday bared there is a huge demand for workers in construction-related industries abroad, while a lot of local companies are looking for professionals.

The Department of Labor and Employment in a statement said that based on ads for jobs abroad, the demand for trade and related workers was the highest, followed by professionals, service workers, laborers and unskilled workers, plant and machine operators, officials of government and special interest organizations, technicians and associate professionals, and clerks.

Specifically, the following are the occupations with the highest demand overseas (1 being the most sought for, and 25 being the least):

  1. Electrical Technician
  2. Carpenter
  3. Pipe Fitter
  4. Scaffolder
  5. Steel Fixer
  6. Mason
  7. Welder
  8. Quality Control/Assurance Inspector
  9. Light Duty Driver
  10. Rigger
  11. Waiter
  12. Service Crew
  13. Aluminum Technician
  14. Foreman
  15. Plumber
  16. Design Engineer
  17.  Machine Operator
  18. Iron Worker
  19. Industrial Electricians
  20. Tig Welder
  21. Janitor/Janitress
  22. Mechanical Design Engineer
  23.  Barista
  24. Baker, and
  25. Room Attendant.

Meanwhile, vacancies in jobs in the Philippines are mostly for professionals; clerks; service workers; officials of the government and special interest organizations; trade and related workers; laborers and skilled workers; plant and machine operators; and for farmers, forestry workers, and fisherman.

In detail, jobs with a huge demand from domestic companies or local units of global firms are the following:

  1. Sales Professionals
  2. Accounting Officer/Accountant
  3. Mason
  4. Call Center Agent
  5. Quality Assurance/Control Engineer
  6. Cashier
  7. Civil Engineer
  8. Office Staff
  9. Engineer
  10. Mechanical Engineer
  11. Secretary
  12. Electrical Engineer
  13. Human Resource Personnel
  14. Driver
  15. Marketing Officer
  16. Receptionist
  17. Project Engineer
  18. Waiter/Waitress
  19. Telemarketer/Telecommunication Officer
  20. Project Manager
  21. Estimator
  22. Architect
  23. Instrument Engineer
  24. Recruitment Specialist, and
  25. Administrative Officer/Staff

Cebu, 8th Best Site for BPO

ITS booming business process outsourcing (BPO) sector has again gained Cebu City a place among the world’s best.

Tholons, an advisory company on global outsourcing and investments, included the city in a list of preferred outsourcing destinations in the world.

In its “Top 100 Outsourcing Destinations Report for 2013”, Tholons listed the city in eighth place. This is a notch higher compared to the city’s ranking last year.

Aside from Cebu, six other Philippine destinations were included in the list. Manila is now third, moving up from fourth last year. Davao ranked number 70; Sta. Rosa, Laguna, 84; Iloilo City, 93; Bacolod City, 94; and Baguio City, 99.

Tholons ranked the cities based on the quality, availability and skills of the workers in its BPO industry, cost of operations, infrastructure, cost of living, risk profile and quality of life, among others.

According to the report, the Philippines enjoy a more vibrant Information Technology (IT)-BPO industry than either Indonesia or Malaysia.

“Based on the events of 2012, the Philippines continued to garner interest from large, Western providers, not only as an offshore delivery location, but likewise as a potential rich domestic market for IT services,” Tholons said.

In 2012, 17 new BPO companies opened in Cebu.

The Cebu Investment Promotions Center estimates that there are already about 95,000 people employed in the BPO sector in Cebu.

Upon learning about the city’s recent achievement, Mayor Michael Rama said he welcomed the inclusion of the city in Tholons list.

“That wonderful accolade will be for all of us. It was a great surprise personally for me,” he said in his regular news conference yesterday.

Philippines Gateway to Halal Market

The Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM) has cited the Philippines’ gaining popularity as a global business platform and gateway for the $632 billion halal food market.

“Halal’s increasing global popularity stems from strict cultural and religious adherence to its quality standards that make it synonymous to health and hygiene,” said CITEM Executive Director Rosvi Gaetos.

Halal is a major component of the International Food Exhibition (IFEX) Philippines which will be beld on May 16 to 19, 2013 at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City.

CITEM is currently undertaking preparations for the forthcoming IFEX Philippines, a biennial event and the premier international sourcing hub for the finest ethnic Asian food, ingredients, and raw materials.

The event would have an entire pavilion devoted to Halal to give the industry players all the room they would need to market their products to a vast foreign audience.

Halal pertains to foods that are allowed under Islamic Law. Haram, on the other hand, refers to foods that Muslims are forbidden to consume such as pig and dog and their derivatives, carnivorous animals except animals that only eat fish, amphibians such as frogs, crocodiles, turtles, and seals, among others.

Under the Islamic Law, it is likewise forbidden to use dirty equipment during preparation, processing, and manufacturing.

This development has turned the Halal seal into an international symbol of good quality and marketability.

Halal foods are prescribed for the world’s 1.8-billion Muslims, consequently yielding a global annual market that constitutes some 20% of the world’s entire food consumption.

“In support of the Philippine Export Development Plan’s Halal Development Plan, a special participation rate for IFEX Philippines 2013 will be offered to Halal-certified companies, Halal certifiers, as well as Halal-compliant restaurants and hotels, if they exhibit,” said Gaetos.

“This development underscores CITEM’s strategy of using IFEX to help make the Philippines a leading Halal producer in the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA), now poised to become the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), a unified regional production and trading block by 2015,” she added. (EHL)

Philippines, the ‘world leader in love’

The number of Pinoys who claim to be “loveless” reportedly rose, but data from a global poll show that the Philippines is the country with the “most widespread feelings of love.”

The Philippines topped what U.S.-based pollster Gallup called the “most comprehensive global index of love ever constructed.”

The global survey, conducted in 136 countries in 2006-2007, asked respondents: “Did you experience the following feelings during a lot of the day yesterday? How about love?”

“The world leader in love is the Philippines, where fully 93 percent of the population reported feeling love,” Gallup said in its blog.

“Rwanda isn’t far behind at 92 percent, and Puerto Rico is the only other population surveyed where at least nine in 10 respondents reported feeling love,” it added.

Rounding out the list of 10 countries with the most widespread feelings of live are Hungary, 89 percent; Cyprus, 88 percent; Trinidad & Tobago, 88 percent; Paraguay, 87 percent; Lebanon, 86 percent; and Costa Rica and Cambodia, tied at 85 percent.
The Philippines’ new title as world leader in love comes after a local survey showed that nearly four out of five Pinoys said they have no love life.

The Social Weather Stations survey results also showed that nearly four out of five Pinoys believe that “love cannot be planned and pursued, it just comes to a person.”

But Gallup noted that “love” felt by respondents are not necessarily the romantic kind but “may also be the love of a child, a parent, family, or good friends.”

“On a typical day, around 70 percent of the world’s population report that they experienced love the day before,” Gallup said.
While more than nine out of 10 Pinoys say they experience love, in some countries, the figure drops to less than three out of 10.

Armenia is at the bottom of the list of countries in terms of feelings of love at only 29 percent, followed by Mongolia and Uzbekistan, both at 32 percent.

Also in the bottom 10 are Kyrgyztan, 34 percent; Morocco, Belarus and Georgia, 43 percent; Kazakhstan, 45 percent; Moldoca, 46 percent; and Azerbaijan and Tajikistan, 47 percent.

But Gallup said “it is important to note that differences between countries may be due to how cultures define “love” and not in actual day-to-day experiences.

For example, in some countries, the idea of “love” is restricted to a romantic partner, while in others it extends to one’s family members and friends.

Models posed nude for Mali

Holding letters that spell out ‘Naked Truth: Mali the Elephant Is Suffering,’ a group of models and actresses pose for a People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) photo shoot in Makati on Tuesday. Models Bianca Valerio, Amanda Griffin Jacob, Geneva Cruz, Daiana Menezes, Sheena Vera Cruz, Mia Ayesa, Julia Sniegowski, Ornusa Cadness, Isabella Gonzalez, and Sanya Smith are campaigning for the transfer of Mali the elephant from the Manila Zoo to a sanctuary in Thailand. Photo by Danny Pata

Wearing nothing more than placards and a grim-visaged determination, several female models and local celebrities posed nude for a People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals advertisement that called for the transfer of the Manila Zoo’s lone resident elephant, Mali, to a sanctuary in Thailand.

Put together, the words and letters printed on the placards the ladies were undressed with read, “Naked truth: Mali the elephant is suffering”.

PETA insists that Mali is in a wretched state in the Manila Zoo given that her enclosure is too small for her, she has some kind of foot disease and she’s suffering from “profound loneliness” having had no other elephant companion in decades.

One of the free-spirited celebrities in the PETA ad, actress/singer Geneva Cruz, explained to GMA 7 news program “Saksi” that Mali is in very unfortunate circumstances relative to elephants in the Thai sanctuary.

“Thirty-six years [old na] yun, dapat may pamilya na. Kasi, siyempre, nasa reproductive system natin mga babae, yung, gustong magaanak,” explained Cruz.

Model Sanya Smith was sweeping with her views, as she flat out said, “I think we should shut down that zoo once and for all.”

However, the Manila Zoo said that PETA and its supporters should respect the zoo’s decision to keep Mali. They further insist that Mali is well taken care of as she is well fed and given vitamins.

Furthermore, the zoo said the trip to Thailand may be dangerous to the pachyderm’s health. “The long distance transportation is very stressful to the animal because she is ‘fairly old’,” said Manila Zoo Zoological Division chief, Dr. Donald Manalastas.

But PETA senior campaigner Ashley Fruno wasn’t convinced as she had some fighting words for the Manila Zoo, “We can guarantee you, as long as Mali is suffering at the Manila Zoo, we will keep fighting for her freedom.”

Filipino consumers 2nd most optimistic in the world

Filipino consumers are the second most optimistic in the world, according to a global survey by Nielsen.

The Nielsen Global Consumer Confidence Index showed India was still the most optimistic consumer market in the world in the fourth quarter of 2012. The Philippines ranked second, followed by Indonesia, Thailand and United Arab Emirates.

The Nielsen survey showed global consumer confidence dropped at the end of 2012, weighed down by US budget talks and euro zone crisis. More than 60 percent of respondents said the next 12 months would not be a good time to spend.

The survey showed consumers in the Asia Pacific were most upbeat but even there 59 percent said the next 12 months would not be a good time to spend.

The Nielsen Global Consumer Confidence Index dipped 1 point in the fourth quarter to 91, after rising 1 point in the third quarter, and was 2 points higher than a year earlier.

A reading below 100 signals consumers are pessimistic about the outlook. Only 10 of the 58 markets surveyed reported a reading above 100.

“With continuing uncertainty concerning the United States debt ceiling and mandated spending cuts, along with as-yet tentative signs of economic stabilization in Europe, we can expect continued caution and moderate growth in the first quarter of 2013,” said Venkatesh Bala, chief economist at The Cambridge Group, a part of Nielsen.

“The major downside risk continues to be in Europe, where policy missteps within the European Union or within individual countries could damage fragile consumer confidence and take hold globally.”

Confidence in China edged up slightly while Norway was the only developed market to be ranked among the top 10 most optimistic consumer markets globally.

In the United States, confidence dipped slightly between the third and fourth quarters but job prospects improved.

Since the survey was conducted U.S. lawmakers have reached a deal to avoid automatic tax rises and spending cuts, although they face more showdowns over fiscal measures in coming months, and economic data has pointed to a sluggish recovery.

The Nielsen survey was conducted between Nov. 10-27, 2012 and covered more than 29,000 online consumers across 58 markets.

Php100,000 gifts for 100-year old Pinoys, soon

Pinoys will have more reasons to live beyond 100, as a new bill seeking to provide cash rewards for centenarians moves closer to approval.

At least 8,000 senior citizens aged 100 up are set to receive P100,000 from the government upon the enactment of the Centenarian Act.

The measure, whose versions have both been approved in the Senate and House of Representatives Monday, is now headed toward ratification, the penultimate step of legislation.

This, after Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman moved to expedite the bicameral conference committee’s approval of a reconciled version of the measure.

“Living to be a centenarian, or three decades past the life expectancy, is therefore an achievement and a distinction worthy of emulation and public recognition,” Lagman, the bill’s pricipal author, said.

Lagman said he agreed to Senate amendments on the bill, which will give 75 percent discount on goods and services that centenarians will avail.

The bicameral conference also tasked a National Committee to validate the true birth year of a centenarian before releasing the centenarian gift of P100,000 to the applicant.

Aside from the cash gift, the bill also seeks to allow local government units to give additional rewards to centenarians in their area.

Once enacted, the Centenarian Act will also extend the same rewards to Filipino centenarians living abroad.

Given the level of development in the country today, Lagman said the average Filipino can expect to live to an average of 71 years.

He said the pursuit of living to be 100 demands immense self-discipline, citing studies which showed that while genetics play a role in longevity, the dominant factor in living long is lifestyle.