"True friends rise to the occasion."
The end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020 have been marked by so many natural disasters happening one after the other. While we were celebrating the season of joy, strong typhoons lashed out in Eastern Visayas, the Bicol region, even Panay and the Mindoro provinces, And then, just as the New Year began, we had Taal Volcano erupting and throwing tons of ashfall over Batangas and Cavite. And worse may yet to come, as the danger of a major eruption still lurks.
Elsewhere in the world, man-made troubles have been quite unsettling, from Trump’s ordered assassination of an Iranian general to the accidental downing of a Ukranian plane, killing hundreds. The Donald, of course, after making a temporary trade war truce with China, has been impeached, and the evidence is mounting against him even as this is election year in the US of A.
Though the usual horoscopes and feng shui geomancers tell us that the Year of the Metal Rat is an “auspicious” one, the actual happenings preceding its entry come the 25th of this month are not re-assuring.
The damage wrought by the ongoing eruption of Taal will have profoundly damaging effects on the economy, even as our officials assure us that effects will be minimal.
Batangas is one of our most productive provinces and a major supply source of food for the National Capital Region. If the Big One finally comes after the initial phreatic tantrums, the effects will go beyond mere economic loss, and rehabilitation will be a gigantic effort, even as giving temporary relief in evacuation centers for hundreds of thousands of our brethren could strain the resources of both government and the private sector.
In times of trouble, we need to pray as one.
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We would like to extend our thanks to the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Manila, headed by Representative Michael Pei-yung Hsu, for the donation of a hundred thousand US dollars to the province of Sorsogon, which was devastated by the December typhoon in the region. Upon the request of Gov. Chiz Escudero which we transmitted to Representative Hsu, the assistance came quickly.
Quick too was the donation of several thousands of N95 face masks by Clement Yang, CEO of Med-Tecs which is a prime investor in the Bataan area. Med-Tecs manufactures medical disposables, which it exports throughout the world from its factory in the Philippines.
Clement, who is an ardent cheerleader for our country as an investment destination in Taiwan, also donated ordinary face masks through the Department of Trade and Industry, and will make more available as needed.
In times of trouble, true friends rise to the occasion.
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Meanwhile, just as the Philippines registered close to eight-million visitor arrivals last year, Taiwan also saw a record high number of 11.84-million tourists in 2019, an increase of 7 percent over 2018’s arrival record of 11.07 million.
Despite travel restrictions from mainland China, 2.71-million Chinese visited the island, followed by Japan and South Korea. Among Asean countries, there was a 6-percent increase year on year, with visitors from the Philippines reaching some 425,000.
On the other hand, some 300,000 Taiwanese visited the Philippines in 2019, the fifth largest source of tourists into our country after Korea, China, the US (mostly Fil-ams) and Japan.
Why does Taiwan, despite its small size of 36,000 square kilometers (the Philippines has 300,000 sq.km of land scattered over more than 7,000 islands) receive many more tourists than our country? A comparison of strengths and weaknesses as travel destinations will be provided in a future article.
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Finally, the importance of biotechnology is being recognized by our government.
The recently signed GAA for 2020 allocated more than half a billion pesos for the University of the Philippines in Los Baños Bio-technology department headed by Dr. Rose Monsalud.
There is a little back story to this.
In 2015, then Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte went to UPLB for a student’s forum. Before the forum, I arranged for him to tour the biotechnology building in the UPLB campus and along with Monsalud, impressed upon him the significant role biotech could play in our quest for food production and agricultural development.
Fast forward to 2018. We were able to get Senator Ping Lacson to meet Monsalud who gave him a briefing on what her department is doing. The senator then promised to help, and indeed, shifted some P80 million of funds in the House-submitted budget for UP Los Baños. But somehow the allocation got waylaid in the bicameral conference committee.
Monsalud tried again last year, writing us with some trepidation if it was all right for her to seek the senator’s help once again. With the assistance of Lacson and his staff, they finally got the much-needed assistance to modernize the laboratory and equipment of the biotechnology department.
With bated breath, she and her staff prayed that this time, some enterprising legislator would not transfer the funds in the bicameral conference committee, to some other “pet” project.
So when the President finally signed the 2020 General Appropriations Act into law, and the funds that Senator Ping assured them remained intact, Monsalud and the entire UPLB biotechnology institute were close to tears in appreciation.
Finally, the national government recognized their importance, recalling that it was as far back as President Ferdinand Marcos who saw the significance of bio-technology in our everyday lives.