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Investing where it counts

Despite its birthing pains and resistance that it met in the beginning, I am glad that the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) is finally taking off and beginning to make plans for the future. As I mentioned in previous columns, I have always believed that it was important for us to be a part of this initiative to help ease us off of relying on World Bank-International Monetary Bank and the European Union and the United States who may be on hand to help us or offer a loan, but who do so with hesitation and who can sometimes treat us like beggars as they may unwittingly do with most Asian countries.

I have always believed in having more choices and AIIB gives us an alternative. This might help level the playing field and remove the monopoly other monetary institutions have. This will also help in terms of interest on loans and on terms and conditions. When there are more choices and more competition, everyone has to step up their game and offer the best packages and the best interest rates and terms.

Currently Asia is at a critical juncture and the role of Asian countries is increasing on the global level due to a growing economy, technological enhancements and innovations, and changes and improvements in governments. Most Asian countries are seeking ways to be less indebted and less dependent on their western counterparts. It’s important for all of us to be able to stand on our own two feet at some point and now is as good a time as ever.

Officially launched in January 2016, the Beijing based AIIB had its second annual meeting and the announcement was made that the bank would focus on investing to tackle the challenges of the infrastructure gap and climate change. I am very happy to hear that because I believe that these are the two most pressing topics facing Asian nations today. Here in the Philippines our infrastructure has been in desperate need of an overhaul and upgrade for years. And we’re all feeling the effects of climate change.

And as AIIB President Jin Liqun made clear a lot of these problems can’t be addressed and fixed by one nation alone but would have to be tackled by several nations working together. The goal of the bank now would be to find ways to deal with the infrastructure gap of Asian nations, help stop and decrease the effects of climate change, find methods to address rapid urbanization, and find ways to better quell environmental degradation with proper resource use.

Personally I think there is no better place for AIIB to start. The institution has said that will do its best to help Asian nations meet the commitments they made under the global climate change Paris Agreement. Liqun has placed great emphasis on helping AIIB’s members transition to a low carbon future and eventually no-coal projects further down the pipeline.

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These are all very worthwhile pursuits, which just solidify my belief of how important it is for the Philippines to be a part of AIIB. We need to be proactive moving forward and I think it’s a good way for us to work with our Asian neighbors towards a better future for everyone.

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I am very glad that President Duterte has signed an executive order limiting the use of firecrackers. While a nice pyrotechnic display may be nice during the New Year I honestly believe that we tend to overdue it here in the Philippines and quickly go overboard. So much so that it becomes dangerous instead of simply the nice light display it was meant to be. I guess to be clear I also believe there is a difference between fireworks and firecrackers. And unfortunately the bulk of Filipinos like to play with firecrackers despite all the safety warnings.

Firecrackers are the loud explosives that sometimes seem to be just a notch below real explosives. The extremely high number of firecracker related injuries and deaths just go to show how out of control the situation has gotten. Granted it has improved quite a lot over the years. I remember about ten years ago New Year’s Eve looked just like a war zone. Firecrackers would start as early as 9:00-10:00 in the evening and continue well on beyond midnight sometimes past 2:00 in the morning. It was dangerous to be on the road and by the time you could finally make your way home it was like going through a war zone with thick black smoke everywhere.

These past years the use does seem to have decreased. This year there was 32% less injuries than the year before, but that’s just step one because the number of the injuries are still high – over 600. Despite Department of Health warnings about the dangers of firecrackers, Filipinos still buy them and many still end up in the hospital with missing fingers and singed body parts.

Hopefully this new EO will discourage unwarranted use of firecrackers even more. Keep them relegated to professionals who know how to use them properly and we will surely keep the injuries and the deaths at a minimum if not get rid of them altogether. President Duterte is currently working with the PNP on the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the new EO and hopefully it will be in full effect soon.

I truly don’t mean to be a downer or a killjoy. I enjoy celebrating special milestones and ringing in the New Year as much as everybody else I just believe in safety above all else. Our family just uses sparklers and blow horns or turotots to make noise to celebrate the new year. It’s so disheartening seeing so many Pinoys in the Emergency Room during the holidays just because they were careless with firecrackers. I don’t feel that banning certain firecrackers will make the holidays any less fun. It will, however, make them safer.

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