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The J Spotter

Personal insights from the J Spot author J. Angelo Racoma
( this site has moved to http://jangelo.racoma.net )

The J Spotter » Archives

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Pia at the garden


(Click for a larger version)

This was taken at Pia's grandpa's house in Sikatuna Village during a post-Christmas visit. I managed to pan the camera juuuust right! After all, it IS difficult to catch up with a very active toddler!

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

i.ph

I.PH

This is one of the newest services being offered by dotPH. It's basically a service by which individuals (Filipinos in particular) can avail themselves of their own "i.ph" domain name without the hassles of having to register for a regular domain name (such as the need to divulge one's identity). In short, the i.ph service offers "domains for individuals." In the past month, I had registered using jangelo.i.ph. I'm trying out the features, and if I like it, I'll be migrating this weblog to i.ph.

The service uses the BLOG:CMS Personal Content Management System by Radek Hulán, which is, according to dotPH president Mr. Joel Disini, one of the better blogging softwares (i.e. compared to Blogger). I do agree, since you'd have to be a techie to be able to fully harness Blogger's potentials. The barebones Blogger software is quite basic, and without third-party add-ons and some code/template tweaks, you'd end up with a blog that's quite limited.

One note, though: it's not free. dotPH charges a US$ 5.00 fee for three months or $15 a year for use of the i.ph domain name and service. But you do get a two-month free trial period to test the service(I'm halfway through this trial). Another thing: it's not as simple and straightforward to use as blogger. With some more patience, I'll get the hang of it.

Kudos to dotPH for the work put into i.ph.

Friday, December 17, 2004

MDGs: Ends without means?

I read (and have recently re-read) this article as published in the 9 Septmeber 2004 issue of The Economist (one of my preferred bathroom reading materials, =P ), and I can't help but agree with the sense that UN seems to be making a lot of "declarations" but the results of its plans are not so good, or at least its activities in the grassroots are not quite evident.

Even in my line of work (which includes serving as administrator of the NEDA Public Investment Staff's Project Proposal Monitoring System), I get to come across a number of UN project documents/proposals (not my direct responsibility, though), but I tend to wonder if these activities do, indeed, make a difference in this impoverished nation of ours. If the Philippine Government is a mess with all the bureaucratic intricacies (read: inefficient), what more with the UN, which is quite a large-scale multilateral organization?

The UN is, after all, a political organization. And it continues to enjoy an increasling level of political clout with the concept of globalization (rather, globalisation, as the Economist would spell it, the British publication that it is) gaining a hold on the world. Geographical boundaries are rendered moribund in this age of information, even by the very medium this text is currently being delivered (the Internet). Are we therefore coming close to becoming "One World United?" (Note: I do not categorically believe that the UN is evil, but hey, it might be. Anyway, I shall be posting here a copy of another article on the "new form" of evil, as published in TIME).

Quoting the article from the Economist (incidentally, you can also try typing " www.economsit.com "--yes, SIT and not IST--in your browser's address bar and you will be redirected to the correct website. Cool, huh?). Emphases are mine.

Ends without means
Sep 9th 2004
From The Economist print edition


The United Nations has set benchmarks for progress in poor countries. Are these any use?

THIS week the United Nations published its annual assessment of progress toward its Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)—targets established in 2000 for advancing welfare in the developing countries. The record, as you might expect, is mixed. Some things are improving, others are not. How far the MDG initiative is making a difference, one way or another, is unclear. It remains questionable, in fact, whether the MDG exercise, with its unimpeachably good intentions and its proliferating bureaucratic overhead, has done any good at all, on balance.

The targets cover eight areas, calling in most cases for specified improvements by 2015 measured from 1990: reduce the incidence of extreme poverty and hunger by half; provide universal access to primary education; promote the equality of women; reduce infant mortality by two-thirds (with a separate target for extending immunisation against measles); reduce maternal mortality by three-quarters; halt and reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS and malaria; achieve “environmental sustainability” (reverse the loss of forests, improve access to clean water and sanitation); and form a “global partnership for development”.

The first six goals, at any rate, could hardly be questioned—nor the seventh, so far as drinking water and sanitation are concerned. One might ask, perhaps, why settle for reducing extreme poverty by only half? Why not aim for a cut of 80%, or 100% for that matter? The answer is that the UN did give some thought to what might feasibly be achieved, with increased effort by poor-country governments and donors, in the stated timescale. Fine. On the other hand, the weakness of the whole MDG concept is that it wills the ends without willing the means—something which the UN, perforce, has come to specialise in. A plan to spend an additional allocation of aid on specific interventions designed to reduce poverty, or combat AIDS, or whatever, could be judged for cost-effectiveness and ranked alongside alternative ways of expending resources on development. A statement of good intentions is unfortunately just that.

The UN seems especially proud of the progress made toward goal number eight, in which it has a vested interest—that of greater global co-operation on development. Certainly, discussion among governments about aid and development has been completely reordered by the MDG initiative. High-level conferences, working groups, declarations, strategies and programmes, all swearing allegiance to the MDG idea, are multiplying fantastically. In this sense, at least, the concept is a runaway success. However, what this is actually doing for the putative poor-country beneficiaries is harder to say. The UN observes that “many countries are in the process of retooling development programmes and strategies in line with the MDGs.” How odd. Were those governments hitherto unconcerned about poverty or AIDS? Then again, in the new assessment the UN is pleased to note that “at least 65 countries and five regions or sub-regions have issued reports geared to measuring progress on the MDGs.” Well, that's something.

Let them eat reports

For the most part, again as you would expect, progress in the substantive indicators of improvements in welfare is highly correlated with economic growth. East and South-East Asia have met or are on track to meet nearly all of the MDGs by 2015. (East Asia has seen movement in the wrong direction for just one target: the proportion without clean drinking water in towns, partly owing to rural-urban migration. South-East Asia has seen a worsening in just one area too: forests.) At the other extreme, the moribund economies of sub-Saharan Africa, taken together, have met or are on track to meet not a single target—with the exception, presumably, of the global-partnership targets for retooling programmes and issuing reports. No progress at all, or less than no progress, on poverty and hunger; on secondary-school enrolment for girls; on infant mortality or immunisation against measles; on maternal mortality; on malaria; on forests, drinking water and sanitation.

The overriding importance of economic growth suggests that aid, in itself, is no cure-all. Yet there is no question that in sub-Saharan Africa and in other very poor places, certain kinds of aid—notably those aimed at specific health interventions—are well worth undertaking. Has the MDG process at least succeeded in directing more aid to the right uses?

Not really. Aid flows increased by $2.3 billion between 2002 and 2003, but American spending on reconstruction in Iraq is included in that total, and accounts for $2 billion. Contributions to multilateral concessional funds fell by $1.2 billion. Total official aid, at $68.5 billion, stood at 0.25% of the donor countries' aggregated national incomes, up from 0.23% in 2002—but the UN's agreed aid goal is 0.7% of national income.

Additional spending on treating and preventing AIDS is recognised by the MDG initiative as a key aim, and widely acknowledged (for instance by the Copenhagen Consensus project, described in this space earlier this year) as among the most cost-effective ways to spend money in poor countries. What is the record there? Spending to halt the spread of AIDS and other diseases (notably malaria and tuberculosis) was $4.7 billion last year, a substantial rise from $1.7 billion in 2002. But this is still far less than ought to be spent: the UN reckons that $12 billion will be needed next year and $20 billion in 2006.

Meanwhile, nearly 5m people became newly infected with AIDS in 2003, more than in any previous year. In Eastern Europe and South Asia the disease is spreading more rapidly than before. In sub-Saharan Africa the pandemic continues “unabated”—partly for want of resources. As a result, MDGs or no, the region's millennium development outlook is a worsening economic catastrophe.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Loose Wire: Tips against Phishing

Jeremy Wagstaff writes (again) on phishing. He cites some tips against phishing put together by Daniel McNamara of Code Fish Spam Watch, whom he considers the "Anti-Phisher King."

Webopedia.com defines phishing as:

(fish´ing) (n.) The act of sending an e-mail to a user falsely claiming to be an established legitimate enterprise in an attempt to scam the user into surrendering private information that will be used for identity theft. The e-mail directs the user to visit a Web site where they are asked to update personal information, such as passwords and credit card, social security, and bank account numbers, that the legitimate organization already has. The Web site, however, is bogus and set up only to steal the user’s information.
...
Phishing, also referred to as brand spoofing or carding, is a variation on “fishing,” the idea being that bait is thrown out with the hopes that while most will ignore the bait, some will be tempted into biting.


While Filipinos are not as likely to divulge sensitive information that may be useful to Phishers aside from passwords (i.e. bank details, or rather bank details to accounts that are well-funded), I have read about bad experiences of some Pinoys with Phishing emails. Okay, actually, I had been victim to such an attack myself (involving a Yahoo account), but that was eons ago.

In the end, it's best to scrutinize such emails even if they look official or from the source they claim. There are obvious signs that an message intends to phish, such as the target URL, the sensitivity of the information required, and spelling/grammatical errors in the text.

Some tips I'd like to add:

  • Turn on your browser's status bar (click view--status bar). This way, if reading email via web, you can easily check the target URL of a link by hovering your mouse cursor over it. Hence, you can more or less determine if the page will lead you to an official website when you click a link. For instance, some phishing messages claim to have come from Citibank, but have "www.citibank.com.xxxxxxx (replace xxxxxxx with your favorite top-level domain), but the URL is clearly not that of Citibank's website. Sometimes, the target is legit, but the codes will send your information somewhere else!

  • Turn on your file manager/explorer's extension-viewing capabilities. I don't understand why, by default, newer versions of Windows (i.e. XP) have this feature turned off by default. With this, you can easily see the file type of an attachment, and thus you can pinpoint what types of files you should avoid (EXE, COM, CMD, BAT, PIF, SCR, and some document files that may contain malicious macro code).


Some tips to consider to avoid being victimized by such phishing expeditions as posted in Loose Wire:

User Tips

Standard Phishing Emails

  1. Just remember that NO bank will ever, ever ask you to confirm details via email. If a bank seriously needs you to confirm information they will always require your physical presence or at the very least by phone.

  2. Banks never need you to confirm your password or PIN. They run the systems and if they ever run into problems with these it's much simpler for them to scrub the current records and replace them with new ones.

  3. They tend to be pretty un-imaginative using the same wording over and over again. Have a read through some previous phisher emails and you'll soon spot some common patterns.

  4. There's always the obvious clue that the bank that requires you to confirm your details is not one you actually bank with.

  5. Ebay/Paypal Scams - Just like the banks these guys never need you to confirm your details. They do control the systems so it's far easier for them to reset the information than to get the client to verify it.

  6. Remember this simple fact. The emails claim that due to whatever issue you need to verify your details. A quick bit of common sense shows that if they've screwed up the data they have what exactly are they going to verify against?

  7. The emails always threaten account closure if you don't comply. If a bank was seriously considering closing your bank account that would almost certainly contact you in writing (via good old snail mail) or over the phone.


Job Scams

  1. Remember these jobs scams don't just arrive via email. There have been cases of the phishers inserting these jobs into real job sites. The job sites generally do a good job of scrubbing these fraudulent job listings but occasionally they will miss one or two.

  2. Job scams are sometimes sent out via broadcast ICQ/MSN messages. If you receive an email from someone you do not know offering you a job, particularly if it offers large amount of income for very little work, treat it with extreme suspicion.

  3. Any job that offers you to make thousands a week is automatically suspect. No legitimate job (other than that of a CEO) will ever pull that sort of cash.

  4. The jobs scams almost always claim they are a European company have troubles doing overseas money transfer. This is ridiculous. Todays financial systems allow for businesses to transfer money anywhere they want in the world without resorting to wiring services such as Western Union.

  5. A "job" that pays by percentage kept from a money transfer is not legal from a tax point of Remember in the real world the employer needs to pay the appropriate amount of payroll tax. The way the jobs scams operate falls outside of this area.


Trojan Lure Emails

  1. These emails are almost always designed to get an emotional not rational response. As such the will claim things like your credit card has been charged, there is some form of huge natural disaster/terrorist attack or some of other story designed to make people click on the link out of fear or curosity.

  2. Some lure pretend to be questsions from eBay or PayPal people. Most of the time these emails looking slightly out of place


General Tips

  • By cynical. Seriously. The way the internet is today end users no longer have much of a choice but to approach anything they are presented with on the web/email as highly suspect until you feel you have enough hard evidence to prove it.

  • Keep your windows machines up to date. Yes even if you are on dial up. The time you spend now could save you from a very expense headace down the road. Make sure you run Windows Update at least once a month.

  • Use anti-virus. Doesn't really matter which one you use as long as you actually keep it up to date. All current anti-virus systems are simply signature based checkers and can only check for trojans they actually know about.

  • DON'T treat anti-virus and firewalls as the magic bullet for this problem. Despite what many companies will try and sell you there is NO all in one cure for this. There is always a way around firewalls, there is always some lag time between the time a new trojan is released and when the anti-virus companies update their signatures. Having said this you should still use these products because most of the time they will help save you.

  • If you receive an email you're unsure about ask the place is supposedly from. It's worth it just to double check it now than pay the price in the future.

  • If you come across an email you know to be fraudulent try and make steps to inform the bank/company involved. Most major ones these days have a facility to do this now.

  • If you have become embroiled in one of the money laundering job scams you need to cease contact with the scammers. Don't send them emails saying you've found them to be a scam and don't respond to their inquiries. Then contact your bank's anti-fraud department. Depending on the level of service of your bank's helpdesk this may take a little work but once you get through to the anti-fraud department you should find it is staffed by competent and understanding people who will work with the police in order track the stolen money. Be aware this process may result in your account being frozen for a few days while this happens. Better this than potentially being charged with aiding and abetting fraud.

  • If you have been involved in a job scam like the ones we've seen to date do not try and hold onto the money from the "job". Remember some that money has been stolen from some other person's account and you have no more right to it than that of the scum that stole it in the first place.


Monday, December 13, 2004

Senator Manny Villar: Taxi Drivers Should Not Choose Or Refuse Passengers

Finally, better rights for the taxi-riding public? As a frequent taxi rider myself, one way I address the problem of having one too many a choosy taxi driver is by being myself choosy with the cabs I ride. In fact, I believe that it's more economical to ride the newer-model vehicles, in particular those post-year 2000 Toyota Corollas, since you get to enjoy a safer and more comfortable ride (i.e. cooler air conditioning, firmer and more ergonomical seats, and generally a cleaner feel), and with generally a faster travel time. Thus, I make it a point to refuse cabs that do not look or sound well-maintained, or whose drivers seem badly-groomed, unruly or disrespectful. And as much as possible, I make it a point to call for a cab (from several reputable taxi companies) instead of flagging one down, especially with more distant destinations. Some of my usually-called transpo companies (if calling from outside Metro Manila, use 02 as area code. Replace 0 with +63 if for some reason, you find the need to call a cab from outside the Philippines):


  • MGE - 363-6096, 364-8260
  • R&E - 330-1654, 362-1890
  • Basic - 900-1447 to 48 (plus PhP 70)
  • Taxi Dispatch - 373-TAXI (8294) (plus PhP 50)


Angelo

An excerpt from the media release:

VILLAR: TAXI DRIVERS SHOULD NOT CHOOSE OR REFUSE PASSENGERS

Commuters should not be inconvenienced by such practice of taxi drivers

...
Senator Manny Villar, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Order, says the common practice of taxi drivers who choose or refuse passengers should be stopped, since it unduly inconveniences commuters.
...
Senate Bill 782 upholds the promotion of the general welfare of the Filipinos, particularly equal access to public services and utilities such as transportation. It provides for penalties to taxi drivers who violate the law.

According to Villar, the concerned authorities such as the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), the Land Transportation Office (LTO) and the Land Transportation, Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) have also been issuing warnings to taxi drivers and operators in being choosy in rendering services, but to no avail.

"Its about time, we issue stiffer penalties because it seems that mere warnings do not work in disciplining taxi drivers. I just don't want commuters and passengers to be unduly inconvenienced by the unlawful behavior of taxi drivers. In fairness to them though, there are still a lot of fair and disciplined taxi drivers around," further cites Villar.

Friday, December 10, 2004

SAGIP-BUHAY INFANTA

I got an email detailing the plight of residents of Infanta, Quezon, and linking to the SAGIP-BUHAY INFANTA website. The welcome text of the site is copied below. With the calamity our fellow Filipinos have experienced, I think anything we can contribute would be deeply appreciated.

Angelo

SAGIP-BUHAY INFANTA: "PLEASE HELP THE CALAMITY VICTIMS OF INFANTA, REAL AND GENERAL NAKAR QUEZON

For Cash/Check Donations:
BPI Bank Account
SAGIP-BUHAY FUND
BPI, Sta. Ana Manila
Savings Acct. No.: 3223-3892-35

For Donations in Kind, the following items may be dropped at:
CMN Office c/o Fr. Francis Lucas
No. 2307 Pedro Gil St., Sta. Ana Metro Manila, Philippines
Tel. Nos. (632) 563-7321, (632) 563-7313, (632) 564-4480
Fax: (632) 563-7327"

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

ISAW: Why are malicious hackers succeeding?

A 6 December post on the Internet Security and Warfare (ISAW) weblog.

Why are malicious hackers succeeding?
ISAW (Internet Security And Warfare):

...
Malicious hackers are always one step ahead of everyone else. Most of the time sysads will only know that their system has been compromised when their website is defaced or when they detect that their system is acting weird. By then, it’s already too late because it means that somebody has already been inside the system.
...
Recommendations:

(1) Absolute security can never be achieved. Instead of using anti-anything alone (spam, virus, hacker, spyware, etc.), it is also important to properly educate system users. These two things, when coupled together, will result in a more secure network.

(2) Network security should be proactive; do not wait for security breaches to happen before doing something to secure your network.

(3) Develop sound security policy and force users to follow it. A policy is an outline of security practices that every employee in a company should follow.

(4) Subscribe to security mailing lists to be updated on what is going on. Patch and update your system regularly to avoid breaches.

(5) READ, READ, READ.

(posted by PI Flashbulb)


Sensible Recommendations, IMHO. Anyone interested in securing their systems should act proactively. After all, hackers with malicious intent (i.e. crackers) are usually one step ahead of everyone else in terms of security (and breaches, thereof).

- Angelo

NEDA budget's approval deferred

In a hearing Tuesday, November 8, 2004, the Senate Finance Subcommittee G, chaired by Senator Manuel A. Roxas II, deferred approval of the Proposed Year 2005 Budget of the FY 2005 budget of the Office of the Director General (ODG) of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), or the NEDA proper (or mother agency), pending resolution of issues raised by Senator Richard Gordon. In particular, Senator Gordon sought clarification on NEDA's role in the processing and approval of the Subic Bay Port Development Project. He expressed concern on the appropriateness of the investment, which involves a loan by the National Government from the Japan Bank for International Cooperation amounting to 16.45 billion Yen, when at the time he was chair of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), the SBMA had already bid out to the private sector the construction of the ports, at no cost to the Government.

According to Senator Roxas, NEDA should be able to submit, in writing, within the next few days the agency's responses to the issue raised, as well as to other possible concerns that are likely to be raised in the floor deliberations during the Plenary Session for the agency's budget. NEDA targets to provide the required documents by December 15.

The subcommittee also deferred approval of the proposed budget of the Philippine National Volunteers Service Coordination Agency (PNVSCA), but approved that of the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB), National Statistics Office (NSO), Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), Statistical Research and Training Center (SRTC), and the Tariff Commission (TC). The aforementioned institutions are all NEDA attached agencies.

The Plenary Session to discuss the NEDA budget, and that of other Executive agencies is expected to be held sometime in January of 2005.

(Providing technical support to NEDA officials, the author was in attendance during the hearing, and the previous day's briefing for Senator Roxas, as well as the Appropriations Committee hearings and Plenary Session floor deliberations in the House of Representatives for the NEDA budget and the Development Budget Coordination Committee/DBCC.)

Slashdot: Firefox Users Bad For Advertisers

According to this post on slashdot, which quotes a CNET article, Firefox users are less likely to click on advertisement links. I'd reckon it's because Firefox users are more likely to be tech-savvy than IE users. It's not that all IE users are not tech-savvy, but you're more likely to be such a person if you've at least bothered to try a browser alternative to IE, especially Firefox. More so if you enjoy the enhanced security and other added features (tabbed browsing rocks!).

And if you're tech savvy, you'd most likely be thinking twice before clicking on links, especially those that may be deemed unsafe or unsecure, or at the very least a nuisance.

IMHO, IE is a mediocre application.

Angelo


Firefox Users Bad For Advertisers

By CowboyNeal on smart-clickers

rocketjam writes "According to CNET, German advertising technology company Adtech reports that during the months of October and November, Internet Explorer users were more than four times as likely to click on ads than Firefox users were. During the period 0.5 percent of IE users clicked on ads compared to 0.11 percent of Firefox users. Speculation on reasons for the difference in click rates range from Firefox's integrated pop-up blocking to seeing the average Firefox user as more tech-savvy the average Internet Explorer user."

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Population Management - Are we up to it?

This article, which appeared in the 1 December issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer reports on yet another paper published by professors from the UP School of Economics making a stand on our present economic situation, this time entitled "Population and Poverty: The Real Score". Recall that a few months back, they published " The deepening crisis: the real score on deficits and the public debt" (click here to download a PDF copy), a paper warning on an impending fiscal crisis if Government does not implement concrete--and drastic--measures to curb a possible debt default, which would lead to credit downgrade/s and consequently further make it difficult for the government to finance its deficits (due to higher cost of borrowing). Recall further that I likewise made a blog post commenting on their publication on fiscal crisis. Now they're raising another issue. I hope the Administration would listen to the distinguished UPSE professors, similar to how Malacañang seemed to have listened and reacted when the paper on the looming fiscal crisis was published.

Status report: as of writing, the Executive had facilitated/fast-tracked the endorsement to Congress of eight revenue-generating measures, four of which had been passed, albeit with revisions. The Executive had likewise fast-tracked various "reorganization," "rationalization," "streamlining," "austerity"--or whatever you may call it--programs in order to arrive at a leaner bureaucracy.

If you ask me, I'm still not quite comfortable with Government's passing the buck, or letting us, commonners, carry the burden of providing the solutions, for instance in affording government employees (such as myself) lesser benefits in terms of allowances and other material or non-material perks in the face of the possibility that we would have to carry the brunt of the increased taxes (which may ultimately be passed on to us as consumers), and when big-time officials are known to be spend-thrift with government resources. And recent developments show that corruption still abounds even--or most especially in?--the highest echelons of government and the military. This is also in view of Congressmen still holding on to their PhP 70 million each in pork barrel allocations when they can instead allow for some cuts to at least be able to contribute to the pagtitipid (savings). But I guess that's life. Perhaps I can only count on a move, prospectively in the near future, to the more lucrative and challenging private sector, if I want to provide better for my growing family (and as well rid myself of the various headaches that are constantly hounding me with all these issues I am involved in given my line of work).

Come to think of it, the Administration may have reacted to the paper on fiscal crisis in an opportunistic manner, since it greatly benefited from public perception especially on the perceived need to immediately undergo several drastic measures, which would have faced much opposition without an adequate justification or precedent. But it cannot be denied that circa 2002 to 2003, international publications (FEER, the Economist, Newseek, Time) were already discussing about an impending debt crisis in the country, which is precursor to a fiscal crisis.

Dr. Arsenio Balisacan, my professor in Development Economics at the UPSE (DE 291, which I took first Semester of SY 2004-2005) and, at present, also the director of SEARCA - the SEAMEO Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture, made it a point to emphasize that an uncontrollable population growth rate is one of the main reasons why the Philippines, which used to be one of the fastest-growing, now lags behind its ASEAN neighbors in terms of economic growth and development.

Dr. Balisacan had co-authored a study, "The Population-Poverty Nexus: The Philippines in Comparative East Asian Context," which, is a part a Philippine Center for Population and Development (PCPD)-supported publication "The Ties that Bind: Population and Development in the Philippines." The findings ...

... showed that the Philippines and Thailand were neck and neck in terms of population size and per capita GDP in 1975. Twenty-five years since, Philippine population ballooned to 75 million while the number of Thais was pegged at 62 million. In the same year Thai women have, on the average, only 2 children or a total fertility rate (TFR) of 1.9 while the Philippine TFR stood at 3.6 or an average of 3 to 4 children per woman.
...
The decline in the population growth rate of Thailand is complemented with an increasing per capita GDP, growing to about 8 times the 1975 level. Indonesia 's per capita GDP grew 6.5 times and South Korea 10 times. And the Philippines ? A measly 2.6 times! But it had the highest population growth rate of 2.36 % a year, on the average, among the four.
...
How much would the savings be in terms of the cost of education and health services if the Philippine population growth followed that of Thailand ? According to the study, from 1996 to 2000 some 52 billion pesos from the health sector and 128 billion from the education sector from 1991 to 2000 could have been saved. These savings could have been spent instead on the agricultural sector where most of the country's poor belong. With greater investments in agriculture, slower population growth, and a rise in income, rural poverty could decline by 70 percent and national poverty by 60%.


(A PDF copy of the "layman's version" of the research can be downloaded through this link.)

In our class, the professor often stressed the importance of supporting theory with empirical evidence, and as well the need to distinguish between correlation and causality. Now while there are numerous theories on the relationship between population and economic growth and development, it is evident from empirical findings that Government needs to take a firmer stance in population management if it is serious in reaching its goals for the economy.

Oddly, Dr. Balisacan is not one of the authors of the new paper. I was expecting he would be, given the topic, and given that he claims this to be an advocacy of his. The professor related to us that he had, upon invitation, presented the results of his study to Congress early second semester of this year, when the population issue was still hotly-contested, given Rep. Edcel Lagman's sponsoring/proposing legal measures to provide for more reasonable population management programs/policies. Sadly, the media's pick-up of the issue was quite hyped, as they focused on population- or even birth-control (which, I was informed, was quite far from what was proposed).

With all the ensuing national issues and problems, including the fiscal crisis scare, corruption scandals in the military, and most recently the wave of typhoons still currently devastating our northern and southern Luzon regions, the discussions on population management were thrown to the backburner. But with the emerging arguments being brought forward by some distinguished members of our academic community, perhaps we can again actively discuss the importance of considering the contribution of sound policies and programs in population management to the economic growth and development of our nation, which is, arguably, currently still in bad shape (yes, contrary to media spin by the Administration).

We cannot turn a blind eye to this pressing issue. We cannot just let our population grow at an uncontrollable rate for preference for 'natural' methods of family planning by the dominant institutions. I would argue that it would, indeed, be more attuned to the teachings of our faith to be humane and compassionate to our less fortunate brethren by working for an improved economic situation in terms of growth and development--most especially growth and development deemed to be equitable.

It's a difficult challenge, most especially in coming to a consensus on the matter. But for sure, we have problems, and someone has to address it at some point. As the old Philippine Collegian headline went, "Kung hindi tayo, sino? Kung hindi ngayon, kailan pa?" (If not us, then who? If not now, then when?). I hope the Church, Government and, more importantly, society, will be up to it.

- J. Angelo Racoma

By this time you may have already noticed that UPSE professors seem to be fond of "real scores."

I have yet to secure an e-copy of the publication cited, but once I do, I will post a link here. An excerpt from the Inquirer article (emphases mine) follows below.


UP economists ask Church to soften population stand
Updated 05:18am (Mla time) Dec 01, 2004
Blanche Rivera - brivera@inquirer.com.ph

THE COUNTRY'S top economists have called on the Catholic Church hierarchy to adopt a "more tolerant and humane" stance on the need for a national population policy for the sake of the poor who are suffering because of their large family sizes.

In a paper titled "Population and Poverty: The Real Score," 17 economists from the University of the Philippines School of Economics said the Catholic clergy in the country should allow families to choose their preferred family planning method, consistent with the Second Vatican Council's teaching that the final arbiter of moral decisions is one's informed and responsible conscience.
...
poverty incidence in the country rose significantly with a bigger family size. Poverty incidence for a "family of one" is 9.8 percent compared with 57.3 percent for a family of nine or more.

"Family size is directly related to the vulnerability to poverty or the likelihood of falling into poverty owing to exogenous (external) shocks," the paper said.
...
"It is more difficult to improve governance than adopt a national population policy. Improving governance would take several decades to achieve based on the experience of other countries, so we're saying it is easier to adopt a population policy to help address poverty," [Dr. Ernesto] Pernia said.
...
The economists identified three elements for an effective population policy:

• Reduction of unwanted fertility, which accounts for 16 percent of the population growth. The economists urged the government to use public funds to buy contraceptives as most poor families do not have access to an effective family planning service.

• Raising the quality of education and fostering women's empowerment that would lead couples to want smaller families. A large wanted family size contributes 19 percent to the country's population growth.

• Creating job opportunities for women that would result in later childbearing age and wider birth spacing that would slow the population momentum, which accounts for 65 percent of the population growth.

"These measures are mutually reinforcing and, if backed by appropriate reforms in the economic and other social sectors, would bring about the best results... Even if not much can be done about public investments in infrastructure owing to the fiscal constraints, it would help ease the demand pressure coming from rapid population growth," the paper said.