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February 24 2014

February 19 2014

February 17 2014

February 14 2014

Philippine Ocean Park Criticized for Using Dolphin in Marriage Proposal

Romantic or cruel? A controversial marriage proposal in the Ocean Adventure park in Subic

Romantic or cruel? A controversial marriage proposal in the Ocean Adventure park in Subic

A marriage proposal became controversial in the Philippines after it was done by using a dolphin as a signboard. The proposal was made in the facility of Ocean Adventure Subic Bay. The photos of the event went viral which triggered a maelstrom of reaction. Later, the photos were removed from the Facebook page of the theme park.

But Earth Island Institute was able to make screenshots of the controversial proposal and shared them online. The group is urging a boycott of the theme park aside from calling for the release of all captive dolphins.

In response, Ocean Adventure Subic Bay claimed that it used zinc oxide to write the marriage proposal on the back of the dolphin which the company said is a safe material and sun protection applicable for dolphin.

But Marine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines said this is no excuse to ‘vandalize’ an animal:

Vandalizing an animal has no place in conservation.

Zinc oxide is used to prevent sunburn and skin irritation in stranded cetaceans, meaning it is used as a medical aid to prevent further injury to the animal in distress

Angela Colmenares-Sabino questions the right of the theme park to exist as an education and conservation facility:

It doesn't matter what material was used to write on the dolphin's belly. The very fact that they're diminishing the important ecological role of dolphins into this clearly states that Ocean Adventure, claiming to be a facility for education and conservation, is not for education and conservation at all but a commercial cruel facility.

Patricia Sorongon-Yap thinks the couple should not be blamed:

Some got mad at the couple, and some doesn't understand why WE are against this idea for a proposal. For me, it's actually not the couples fault. A lot of people are unaware of the simple fact that dolphins are NOT fish, let alone that dolphins or any other kind of wildlife animal are not supposed to be written on especially for commercial purposes (regardless of the material used).

The management of Ocean Adventure assured the public that it used a safe material when it wrote the marriage proposal on the dolphin.

The management of Ocean Adventure assured the public that it used a safe material when it wrote the marriage proposal on the dolphin.

Aldwin M. Arcena weighs both sides of the issue:

I mean what's the worse that's gonna happen to the dolphin? Although it could count into more negative sides if that paint is somewhat poisonous or something. It's just a marked dolphin, nothing to get so angry about

Michael Paolo Tiglao urges commenters to show more anger at people who kill dolphins:

…why are you ranting about this stupid paint, you should share and post how certain asian countries kill dolphins so just to get their soup or dumpling or sometn', why don't we all do something about that, and just so you know thats a park and they care for their animals, that paint will be cleaned after. the dolphin is still alive and no blood is spilled., just my two cents on how negative people can be. have a good day

February 11 2014

February 11: Activists Say No to “Cyber Martial Law”, Digital Surveillance in Philippines

“Our fight against Cybercrime Law is not yet over. The Supreme Court still has not decided on its constitutionality or unconstitutionality and while we are waiting for a decision, we will continue fighting for our right to privacy and right to freedom of expression.”

Netizens and activist groups in the Philippines put out the statement of  on February 11 as part of the global action against mass surveillance. They added that the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 or Republic Act 10175, whose constitutionality is being questioned in the Supreme Court, can be used as a tool to justify mass surveillance in society:

The Cybercrime Law, once declared to be implemented, will become a tool for the Philippine government’s mass surveillance. As defenders of Internet freedom, we will be one with the world in the global protest.

The law was questioned a month after its signing in 2012 by media groups and citizens alarmed by provisions in the bill that would seriously undermine human rights and media freedom in the country. They questioned the insertion of provisions on libel and the delegation of power to the government to take down websites and restrict access to computer data systems suspected of violating the law. The bill's restrictions on freedom of expression inspired netizens to give the bill the nickname “cyber martial law.

Fortunately, the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order which prevented the government from implementing the law. But the high court is expected to finally deliberate and decide on the petition before the end of February. This has emboldened netizen groups to launch a series of activities aimed at pressuring the court to junk the “draconian” law.

Below are some photos of the February 11 protest in front of the Supreme Court:

But supporters of the controversial law are urging the lifting of the restraining order so that it can be used to combat serious cybercrimes, especially child pornography.

A flurry of news stories about the proliferation of child pornography in the Philippines suddenly appeared in the face of the controversy. It is unclear whether or not this is by coincidence.

Police claimed that they can nab cyber child porn syndicates if the restraining order on the law is lifted. The president’s spokesman and some senators supported this position.

But the anti-cybercrime law is in fact not needed to arrest child pornography site operators — ample existing legislation can do the job. Authorities can invoke the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act, the Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act, and most importantly the Anti-Child Pornography Act to swiftly act against suspected criminals.

Apart from reminding Philippine officials that they can maximize the provisions of the anti-child porn law to combat online sexual content involving children, journalist Raïssa Robles warned against the dangers of the anti-cybercrime law

I cannot stress enough the dangers of the Cybercrime Law. Its atrocious lack of safeguards can easily enable rogue cops and government officials to commit crimes of extortion and blackmail using the digital highway.

Poverty eradication is the best solution to child pornography, according to the Manila Times:

…online child pornography is a byproduct of poverty. It is a problem that needs a total government approach. Our officials should find ways of helping the families that have been caught in the web of child pornography get out and rebuild their lives.

Instead of pushing for the implementation of a notorious law, the Philippine government should consider asking Congress to draft a new bill that would address growing cyber security threats without violating the human rights of individuals.

February 01 2014

Philippine Typhoon Haiyan Victims Join ‘People Surge’ Protest

'People Surge' protest gathering in a public university in Leyte. Photo from Tudla

‘People Surge’ protest gathering in a public university in Leyte. Photo from Tudla

Also see Haiyan Devastates the Philippines, our special coverage page.

More than 10,000 typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) victims in the Philippines joined a protest dubbed ‘People Surge’ to condemn the slow arrival of relief and rehabilitation efforts in their communities. The ‘People Surge’ is also an alliance of typhoon Haiyan victims mainly from the provinces of Leyte and Samar.

Haiyan, the world’s strongest storm of 2013, battered the Visayas islands of the Philippines last November 8 which killed more than 6,000 people. Thousands more were left homeless after a tsunami-like storm surge devastated several towns in the region.

Participants of the ‘People Surge’ are complaining about the lack of government assistance in restoring the homes and livelihoods of typhoon victims. They are also opposing the ‘No Build Zone’ policy which they claim will lead to the displacement of thousands of residents in coastal areas.

The ‘People Surge’ first assembled in a public university before marching around the city of Tacloban, the ground zero of the Haiyan disaster.

A Catholic nun, convenor of the People Surge, introduces the objectives of the action. Photo from Tudla

A Catholic nun, convenor of the People Surge, introduces the objectives of the action. Photo from Tudla

'People Surge' assembly in Tacloban. Photo from Tudla

‘People Surge’ assembly in Tacloban. Photo from Tudla

Residents hold improvised placards declaring their opposition to the 'No Build Zone' policy. Photo from Tudla

Residents hold improvised placards declaring their opposition to the ‘No Build Zone’ policy. Photo from Tudla

Residents, both young and old, are calling for the scrapping of the 'No Build Zone' policy. Photo from Tudla.

Residents, both young and old, are calling for the scrapping of the ‘No Build Zone’ policy. Photo from Tudla.

A typhoon victim voices out her concern to some aspects of the government's rehabilitation program. Photo from People Surge

A typhoon victim voices out her concern to some aspects of the government's rehabilitation program. Photo from People Surge

A participant of the rally calls for immediate rehabilitation of typhoon-affected villages instead of militarization. Photo from Tudla

A participant of the rally calls for immediate rehabilitation of typhoon-affected villages instead of militarization. Photo from Tudla

Protesters warn against land grabbing in favor of big business. Photo from Facebook of Elle Freem

Protesters warn against land grabbing in favor of big business. Photo from Facebook of Elle Freem

The event used the Twitter hashtag #PeopleSurge. Angel de Guzman† thinks the ‘People Surge’ was one of the biggest rallies in the region in recent years:

Leon Dulce, an environmentalist, explained why residents are against the ‘No Build Zone’ policy:

Compounding the survivors’ woes is the no-build zone policy that government imposed over the devastated coastal areas, which supposedly removed settlements away from the hazards presented by storm surges, but divorced the fisher folk and other coastal communities from shelter and livelihoods in the process.

Amando Doronila, a veteran journalist, warned the government not to undermine the anger of the poor victims:

After enduring for more than two months deprivations in food, shelter and medicines, more than 12,000 residents of Leyte and Samar converged on devastated Tacloban to express their indignation against the agonizing inaction of the national government, whose relief workers were still recovering decomposing corpses from the ruins at the rate of three a day, so the relatives of the dead can give the remains a decent burial. Under Filipino custom, nothing can be more sacrilegious and profane than leaving the dead unburied, especially by a negligent state

Elle Freem, a volunteer worker, observed how the organized campaign unfolded in Tacloban:

The Eastern Visayas region is probably the epitome if resilience, the people are ready to rise up in face of not only the material and psychological hardship of the super storm but also in face of an apathetic government who is profiteering on the aid pouring in. Tens of thousands of people made their way to the university of eastern visayas to voice their perspective on how to rehabilitate their homes and region. The communities here are organized and have a clear plan on how they want to proceed but will the government listen?

Also see Haiyan Devastates the Philippines, our special coverage page.

January 21 2014

Philippine Typhoon Haiyan Victims Complain of Slow Relief and Substandard Shelters

Dead bodies are still being retrieved in Palo, Leyte. Photo from Tudla.

Dead bodies are still being retrieved in Palo, Leyte. Photo from Tudla.

Also see Haiyan Devastates the Philippines, our special coverage page.

More than two months have passed since super typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) hit the central part of the Philippines but many survivors are still complaining about the slow arrival of government relief in their communities. In one village in Palo, Leyte, dead bodies are still being retrieved:

In Brgy. San Joaquin, Palo, Leyte, more than 2 months after typhoon Yolanda, bodies are still being retrieved in a swampy area of the village. According to retrieval operations volunteers in the village, they did not receive support from government like equipment and manpower for the retrieval of dead bodies. Volunteers are having difficulty in retrieving the bodies because of the inaccessibility of the area and lack of equipment.

Haiyan killed more than 6,000 people (the government is not yet finished counting the dead) when it caused a four-storey storm surge in the Eastern Visayas region of the Philippines. It was the world’s strongest and deadliest storm of 2013.

Millions were left homeless after Haiyan completely devastated large areas in the region. The ground zero of the disaster is Tacloban, the capital of Leyte province. A drone flight by the Thijs Bertels Videoproducties clearly documents the extent of destruction left by Haiyan in the city.

Adding to the burden of refugees is the reported construction of overpriced and substandard temporary shelters by the government. This latest scandal has enraged many people who accused politicians of stealing from the rehabilitation funds.

But Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman assures the public that the government has been continuously providing all forms of assistance to typhoon victims:

Tudla, a multimedia group, reported that some of these overpriced bunkhouses have remained unoccupied:

More than two months after typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) hit the Philippines, until now these temporary shelters or bunkhouses in Bliss, Tacloban City have no occupants.

No occupants for these controversial bunkhouses.  Photo from Tudla

No occupants for these controversial bunkhouses. Photo from Tudla

Eric Aseo writes about how to improve the reconstruction process:

While victims of Yolanda endure the monsoon rains inside flooded tents and leaking houses, it’s urgent that the government and international partners prioritize plugging up these leaks and leaks of all sorts so that effective reconstruction efforts can move forward.

Despite the relief pledge of many countries, funds have not yet reached the Philippines according to Budget Secretary Florencio Abad:

What we heard them say at the height of the Yolanda relief operations versus what you see them now delivering by way of cash, there's a big disparity.

Meanwhile, concerned citizens belonging to Kusog Tacloban have created an online petition asking foreign governments to make a complete accounting of the funds they gave to the Philippine government in order to monitor the utilization of the global aid:

Full transparency from you, the governments providing the aid, will enable us, watchdog groups, and concerned citizens, to hold government and private contractors to account in the difficult and long task of rehabilitation and rebuilding after Super Typhoon Yolanda. So we hope you, the foreign governments, continue to help us—please help us to monitor the rebuilding of our home.

Also see Haiyan Devastates the Philippines, our special coverage page.

January 17 2014

Philippine Petition Against Dog Meat Restaurants

An online petition is circulating to pressure the mayor of Baguio City to close down dog meat restaurants in the city. Baguio is a famous tourist destination located north of the Philippines:

I was recently made aware that there are at least ten dog meat restaurants operating in open violation of the law in Baguio.

I would like to draw your attention to the fact that the dog meat trade is not only illegal, but also extremely inhumane and implicated in the spread of rabies.

Please revoke the business permits of all restaurants that serve dog meat, thereby making your town safer for people as well as animals, not to mention a more palatable tourist destination.

January 05 2014

One Year in Asia

Antoine Lavenant, with his girlfriend spent a year in Asia – China, Laos, Cambodia, Thaïland, Malaysia, Philippines and Sri Lanka. The video is a brief record of their exciting journey.

December 31 2013

Human Trafficking in Southeast Asia

The Asian Forum of Parliamentarians on Population and Development has published a policy briefer that tackled the extent of human trafficking in Southeast Asia.

Many Southeast Asian countries are at the bottom of a lot of the world's supply chains, including for food, garments, and technology. Yet few countries in the region have adequate laws for addressing corporate responsibility for human trafficking, including in their supply chains.

The primer also provides country-specific recommendations on how to best address the human trafficking issue in the region

December 30 2013

PHOTOS: Humans of Southeast Asia

Brandon Stanton’s Humans of New York Facebook page has inspired many photographers around the world to share photos and stories of ordinary people in the streets in their respective countries. Let us review similar initiatives in Southeast Asia.

The Humans of Brunei page was created on May 17, 2013. Below is a photo of Brunei students

Photo from Humans of Brunei Facebook page

Photo from Humans of Brunei Facebook page

Meanwhile, the Humans of Indonesia page was created on August 16, 2013. Below is a photo of Indonesians in the Harau valley waterfalls in the Bukittinggi area:

“It was a very special experience … these pristine waterfalls were turned into some kind of public bathing area. So if I would zoom out you would see kids riding inflatable ducks, souvenirs, people selling noodles & bunch of other activities …” Photo from Humans of Indonesia Facebook page

“Those young coconuts look fresh?” “Oh, please take one if you like” “Thank you so much. Why don’t you just drop them down? Seems heavy to carry like that” “Don’t you see that few kids play under these trees? I am worry these coconuts would hit them.” Photo from Humans of Indonesia Facebook page

“Those young coconuts look fresh?”
“Oh, please take one if you like”
“Thank you so much. Why don’t you just drop them down? Seems heavy to carry like that”
“Don’t you see that few kids play under these trees? I am worry these coconuts would hit them.” Photo from Humans of Indonesia Facebook page

There is also a Humans of Jakarta page. Jakarta is the capital of Indonesia

Photo from Humans of Jakarta Facebook page

Photo from Humans of Jakarta Facebook page

Check the Humans of Bali page. Bali is a popular island in Indonesia.

In Malaysia, Avinash explains the idea of creating the Humans of Malaysia page:

…firstly its because I want those people know that there are people out there who care, for their opinions, for their stories, for their time, for their attention, for their thinking, for their views on life, on every issue, on everything, and that these people make Malaysia home. Second, i like to listen. and ask questions of course. And thirdly, well because I was at a point of my life where i really just needed to talk to someone, i needed someone to not help, but to just listen, no one was there for me then. I always have this thing in my mind, thinking that i might come across someone today who really just need someone who would listen. Thats why I do this

“What scares you the most?”
“Being poor. Having no money. Everything is about money nowadays. Supporting my family, food, transport, bills. Its everywhere.” Photo from Humans of Malaysia Facebook page

There is a separate page for the Humans of Kuala Lumpur. Kuala Lumpur is Malaysia’s capital.

“Abang (brotherly term for a guy) Hafiz washes and arranges the fish and vegetables at one of the agricultural grocery stores in KL. It is late at night and people are still coming in.” Photo from Facebook page Humans of Kuala Lumpur

The Humans of Thailand page has not been updated regularly but the Humans of Bangkok page seems active. Bangkok is the capital of Thailand. Zon explains the project:

The page is a small urban project that I've just started about the people and their everyday lives in Bangkok, which has become a much more hybrid-society than ever. Revealing lives of the city inhabitants would make us better aware that everyone is interconnected.

“My daily challenge is riding. I have to manage to ride through the gaps between big cars. And actually it's extremely dangerous. I've been a taxi rider for a year but honestly I don't know how long I could continue with this job, or either know what I want to do next with my life.” Photo from Humans of Bangkok Facebook page

Bangkok police. Photo from Humans of Bangkok Facebook page

Bangkok police. Photo from Humans of Bangkok Facebook page

As the political crisis deepens in Thailand, Bangkok residents are calling for a ‘peaceful Sunday’

“Political conflict in Thailand now. We hope for #peacefulsunday and that no violence will take place tomorrow.” Photo from Humans of Bangkok Facebook page

Check also the Humans of Chiang Mai page. Chiang Mai is located north of Thailand.

Photo from Humans of Chiang Mai Facebook page

“No texts, no calls, nothing. Cause I'm still thinking abt my Painting!” Photo from Humans of Chiang Mai Facebook page

In Vietnam, we’d like to feature the Humans of Saigon and Humans of Hanoi:

Photo from Humans of Saigon Facebook page

Photo from Humans of Saigon Facebook page

Photo from Humans of Hanoi Facebook page

Photo from Humans of Hanoi Facebook page

In Laos, there is a Humans of Vientiane page. Vientiane is the country’s capital.

“Local law enforcement in Luang Namtha enjoying a game of petangue.” Photo from Humans of Vientiane Facebook page

Below is a photo of Stacy from Singapore relaxing at Clarke Quay. Photo from the Humans of Singapore page:

“I've been sitting here because it's quite breezy. And you can watch the boats passing by too. They've been doing a tour of the entire river all the way till Marina Bay Sands, where they tell you about the history of these places and Singapore. It's quite interesting, you hear all sorts of things which you didn't know and it's always a bit of a surprise.” Photo from Humans of Singapore Facebook page

Visit Humans of the Philippines and Humans of Manila. Manila is the capital of the Philippines.

Children of Tondo in Manila. Tondo is a working class district. Photo from Humans of Manila Facebook page

Children of Tondo in Manila. Tondo is a working class district. Photo from Humans of Manila Facebook page

The People of Yangon page created by Chris James White was also inspired by the Humans of New York idea. Yangon is major city in Myanmar.

People of Yangon Facebook page

People of Yangon Facebook page

December 28 2013

Rebuilding Schools in the afterwath of Typhoon Haiyuan in Bantaya, Philippines

Young Pioneer Disaster Response (YPDR) is a small NGO whose goal is to rebuild schools and help residents of the small island of Bantayan in the area of Santa Fe recover in the aftermath of typhoon Haiyuan. A volunteer tells his experience with YPDR on his blog. There is more information here if one wants to know more/support their effort. 

December 26 2013

Haze and Haiyan: Southeast Asia’s Deadly Disasters of 2013

A Malay couple wears a face mask while celebrating their wedding day during haze in Muar, in Malaysia’s southern state of Johor bordering Singapore. Photo by Lens Hitam, Copyright @Demotix (6/22/2013)

A Malay couple wears a face mask while celebrating their wedding day during haze in Muar, in Malaysia’s southern state of Johor bordering Singapore. Photo by Lens Hitam, Copyright @Demotix (6/22/2013)

2013 will be remembered as a year of disasters in Southeast Asia. Oil spills, dengue outbreaks, earthquakes, coral reef destruction, bus crashes, hail storms, and massive floods devastated many towns in the region. But the two biggest disasters of the year are the transboundary haze pollution which covered the skies of Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia; and supertyphoon Haiyan (Yolanda) which hit the central part of the Philippines.

Forest fires in Sumatra, Indonesia caused a thick blanket of smog to descend on Singapore and many parts of Malaysia last June. While it is true that forest fire is a recurring problem in the region, this year’s transboundary haze was worse than in previous years. It was bigger, blacker, thicker, and harder to clear. It caused air pollution indexes to soar to record levels in both Singapore and Malaysia.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono apologized to Singapore and Malaysia for Indonesia’s failure to prevent the burning of forests in Sumatra which caused the haze in the region.

Naturally, the haze gravely affected the lives of many Singaporeans and Malaysians. In Singapore, the wearing of face masks as protection against the haze has become the new normal in the prosperous city state. N5 face masks have become ridiculously expensive and many people have had to wait in line for several hours just to buy them. Workers have been advised to go home, travel has been restricted, and the young and old have remained indoors. Dozens of schools in south Malaysia also suspended operations.

Numerous apps and online portals were developed to help citizens monitor the haze situation, as well as to track the location of reliable haze masks, clinics, and shelters.

As expected, media reports focused on the impact of the haze in Singapore and other urban areas of Malaysia. Unfortunately, there was scant reporting on the situation of Indonesian citizens who have tremendously suffered from the impact of both the haze and forest fires. Riau, located west of Indonesia, is considered the ‘ground zero’ of the haze disaster.

Aside from writing about their haze experience, many netizens also highlighted the need to address the root of the haze problem. In particular, they wanted palm plantation companies to be made accountable for the burning of forests. They also pressed for greater protection of the environment.

Children preparing a big Christmas lantern in the typhoon-hit city of Tacloban in Leyte. Photo from Facebook of Max Baluyut Santiago

Children preparing a big Christmas lantern in typhoon-hit city of Tacloban in Leyte, Philippines. Photo from Facebook of Max Baluyut Santiago

After the haze subsided in the region, a series of disasters struck the Philippines. A strong earthquake destroyed many buildings in the Philippine provinces of Bohol and Cebu on October. A few weeks later, a super typhoon wrought destruction in the nearby provinces of Samar and Leyte.

Haiyan was the world’s strongest storm of the year. It was also the fourth strongest to make landfall in world history. Situated in the typhoon belt of the Asia-Pacific region, the Philippines gets battered by more than a dozen storms every year. But Haiyan was different. It proved to be a real super typhoon when it caused a tsunami-like storm surge that instantly killed thousands. As of this writing, more than 6,000 have died but the fatalities could be higher as relief workers continue to clean the debris in many villages.

The areas hit by Haiyan are among the poorest provinces in the Philippines. In fact, Eastern Visayas is the third poorest region in the country.

Many survivors have complained that aid was not properly and quickly delivered to communities. Many dead bodies were still seen lying in the streets, refugees had been begging for food, and rescue efforts have not yet reached the other remote islands of typhoon-ravaged provinces a week after the disaster.

After the partial restoration of telecommunication signals in some areas, some survivors and relief workers were able to connect online and they were able to narrate their ordeal during the storm; and also about how they coped for several days without power, food, and shelter. These were heartbreaking and powerful stories of loss and survival.

After the disaster, environmental activists pressed for more effective climate change treaties to prevent large-scale destruction in small island nations like the Philippines.

Meanwhile, Filipinos have been inspired by the global outpouring of aid and sympathy for the typhoon victims.

As 2013 draws to a close, it’s important to remember the painful lessons from Southeast Asia’s experience with the haze and Haiyan. The haze will return once more in 2014 if no regional effort is made to prevent forest fires in Sumatra. In the case of the Philippines, rehabilitation in the typhoon-hit provinces must be aggressively pursued or else the humanitarian crisis will further prolong the suffering of the typhoon victims.

December 24 2013

7 Rallies that Rocked Southeast Asia in 2013

1. ‘Million People March’ Against Corruption in the Philippines. Filipinos were outraged after a whistleblower exposed how legislators have been systematically stealing from their pork barrel allocations. Netizens called for a massive gathering in Luneta, the biggest park in the country’s capital to push for the abolition of pork barrel. Days before the August 26 rally, the president and congress vowed to abolish pork but it didn’t stop citizens from joining the event. It turned out to be the biggest rally during the administration of President Benigno Aquino III.

2. Thailand protest against the ‘Amnesty Bill.’ Various sectors, including those supportive of the government, rejected the controversial ‘Amnesty Bill’ which was approved by the parliament on November 1. Opposition to the bill emerged after it was reported that the amended version of the measure would benefit corrupt politicians and human rights violators. In particular, the opposition party said the bill will ‘whitewash’ the crimes of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra who fled the country after being found guilty of plunder by a local court. The Senate eventually voted down the measure.

3. Anti-Government protest in Thailand. The shelving of the unpopular ‘Amnesty Bill’ didn’t end the protests in Thailand. More rallies were organized by the opposition but this time they started to demand the ouster of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra whom they accused of being a proxy of her elder brother. Rallies have intensified in the past few weeks and protesters were able to occupy several government buildings. Yingluck announced that the parliament will be dissolved to make way for an election on February. But the opposition said they will boycott the polls and instead they wanted to set-up a People’s Council. Thailand’s political crisis is expected to deepen in the next few weeks. This video shows the size of a rally in Bangkok last November.

4. Cambodia’s post-election protest. Tens of thousands participated in several assemblies, marches, and camp-ins organized by the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party since September to protest the alleged manipulation of electoral results by the ruling Cambodian People’s Party. The ruling party won by slim majority after it took 68 seats compared to the opposition’s 55 seats. It was the ruling party’s worst electoral performance since 1998 which has been in power in the past three decades. This video shows a protest scene at Phnom Penh's Freedom Park last September:

5. Malaysia ‘Black 505’ post-election protest. On May 8, 2013, hundreds of thousands gathered in Kuala Lumpur, the country’s capital, to protest the outcome of the election which gave the administration coalition a slim majority. ‘Black 505’ refers to the May 5 General Election which was tainted by allegations that the ruling coalition committed massive electoral fraud to remain in power. The ruling party, which has been in power since the 1950s, lost in the popular voting but it still retained majority of the parliament seats. The series of protests, which spread to other provinces, was also referred to as the ‘Malay Tsunami’. This video shows the protesting crowd assembled in a stadium:

6. Rallies in Singapore’s Hong Lim Park. Thousands gathered in Singapore’s Hong Lim Freedom Park on May 1, 2013 to protest the government’s White Paper on population. The May Day protest was the second time that a big crowd gathered in the park to speak out against the population program which many Singaporeans criticized since it would mean the hiring of more foreign workers. Then on June 8, 2013, an assembly organized by the ‘Free My Internet’ movement became the ‘largest blogger-led protest’ in Singapore which aimed to oppose the government’s new licensing scheme for news websites. The video below shows some of the Singapore blogs which replaced their homepages with a black image in solidarity with the protest:

7. Indonesia General Strike for Pay Hike. Workers in Indonesia have launched a two-day general strike on October 31-November 1 aimed at pressuring the government to raise the minimum wage. Tens of thousands joined the factory shutdowns, union visits, and rallies across the country although the turnout was smaller compared to last year's general strike.

Thousands of workers left production in a Sanyo factory. Photo from Facebook page of Tia Claudia E. Mboeik

Thousands of workers left production in a Sanyo factory. Photo from Facebook page of Tia Claudia E. Mboeik

December 23 2013

10 Global Haiyan Relief Efforts That Touched Filipino Hearts

Also see Haiyan Devastates the Philippines, our special coverage page.

After supertyphoon Haiyan battered the central part of the Philippines last month leaving thousands dead and homeless, the global community quickly responded by sending aid, volunteers, and solidarity messages. Media groups provided extensive coverage of the disaster, UN agencies facilitated the entry of emergency supplies, and global aid organizations were immediately on the field assisting typhoon survivors. Foreign governments also deployed humanitarian teams which helped in the transporting of relief goods and other supplies.

There were many small and big initiatives that contributed to the global relief effort and all of them were greatly appreciated by Filipinos. These acts of kindness uplifted the spirits of many, especially typhoon victims. Below are some of these humanitarian actions which inspired Filipinos:

1. Two girls selling lemonade drinks in Los Angeles, California for the benefit of typhoon victims. The photo was taken two days after typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines

2. A six-year old Japanese pre-schooler donated his piggybank savings to typhoon survivors. Shoichi Kondoh was accompanied by his mother when he donated 5,000 Yen to the Philippine embassy in Tokyo.

Photo by R. Gavino. Philippine Embassy in Tokyo

Photo by R. Gavino. Philippine Embassy in Tokyo

3. The Empire State Building in New York lights up the colors of the Philippine flag

4. Toronto’s CN Tower lighting solidarity for the Philippines

5. Fast and Furious actor Paul Walker died in a car crash after attending a charity drive. He also sent a video message expressing sympathy for typhoon victims.

6. Pop star Justin Bieber came unannounced in the Philippines to cheer typhoon victims. He sang for the kids and played basketball in Tacloban, the ‘ground zero’ of the typhoon disaster.

7. ‘NBA Cares’ for the Philippines. Basketball is the most popular sports in the country. Filipino-American coach Eric Spoelstra of the Miami Heat sent his condolences to Filipinos:

On behalf of the Miami HEAT organization, we would like to extend our condolences to the victims of Super Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. We value the many fans that we have over there, and we will keep them in our thoughts and prayers.

Kobe Bryant, who visited Manila several times, also tweeted his support for the Philippines

8. Football teams showing support for the Philippines.

Doug Baldwin of Seattle Seahawks holding Philippine flag albeit the wrong way. It’s upside down (and it means the Philippines is at war) but Filipinos still appreciated the gesture.

9. Pope Francis offering prayers for the Philippines. The Philippines is the biggest Catholic-dominated nation in Asia.

10. American singer Alicia Keys surprised typhoon victims in Manila. Keys visited an evacuation camp in Manila where survivors from Tacloban are temporarily sheltered.

Also see Haiyan Devastates the Philippines, our special coverage page.

December 16 2013

Typhoon Haiyan: A Story of Resilience in a Short Doc

Typhoon Haiyan, a short film by Janssen Powers, documents the aftermath of the super storm that in early November killed more than 6,000 people in the Philippine province of Leyte.

“Naturally, I intended to capture a story of destruction,” Powers wrote in the description of his work. “What I found however, was a story of resilience.”

In the documentary, images of the disaster alternate with interviews to the survivors, who talk about the tragedy and their look towards the future.

For more stories on Super Typhoon Haiyan see here.

December 07 2013

Review of University Websites in Southeast Asia

Le Minh Khai reviewed the websites of the leading universities in Singapore, Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and was disappointed with the design and content of these online platforms.

December 06 2013

Relief Volunteers Share Stories from Typhoon-Hit Philippines

A street full of debris in Tacloban. Photo from Tudla

A street full of debris in Tacloban. Photo from Tudla

Almost a month has passed since super typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) hit the central part of the Philippines. Many towns were completely devastated by the storm surge which killed more than 5,000 thousand and left millions homeless.

Typhoon survivors initially complained about the slow arrival of food, water, medicine and other urgent aid. Remote towns couldn’t be reached because of bad roads and other logistical problems. Responding to criticism, the national government assured the public that it is doing everything to extend assistance to all disaster victims.

The widespread destruction caused by Haiyan inspired a global relief and rehabilitation effort. In the Philippines, thousands volunteered in relief and repacking centers. Many also travelled to the typhoon-hit villages where they documented the extent of damage left by Haiyan while providing much needed assistance to refugees.

These volunteers were able to share photos, videos and stories of what they witnessed in Samar and Leyte. Their documentation validated earlier reports about the deadly impact of Haiyan and the slow response of government offices.

Michael Beltran described the scene outside Tacloban airport. Tacloban is capital of Leyte and the ‘ground zero’ of the typhoon disaster:

The first image of our week in Leyte was an airport with people shivering and hungry on the one side, being ignored by the military and US Navy, and boxes and boxes of goods on the other. Apart from any physical structure that’s barely standing, what struck me the most was the grass and trees. Absent of any pigmentation, still upright, dry, no mud, just dead plants as far as the eye could see; trees with branches and leaves, frozen in the opposite direction of the wind brought by the supertyphoon. The image becomes permanently embedded in your mind right before you become acutely aware of the smell.

Activist Renato Reyes hit the slow recovery of dead bodies in the city:

After the pictures of the body bags in the public market in Tacloban, I stopped taking shots. I had to comprehend the fact that 2 weeks after Typhoon Haiyan, bodies were still being recovered, people were still living near decaying corpses, and there's an effort by the national gov't to downplay the casualty count and cover up official incompetence in dealing with the calamity.

Tent and candle towns are rising in Samar and Leyte, wrote environmentalist Leon Dulce:

We personally witnessed tent and candle towns rising above the debris amidst persisting rainfall. Fisher folks lost all their boats and other implements to the storm surges, while farmers can only stare at the hectares upon hectares of uprooted coconut trees and flooded rice fields.

Many survivors waited for several days before aid was provided to them. Photo from Antonio Tinio

Many survivors waited for several days before aid was provided to them. Photo from Antonio Tinio

A curfew was imposed in many typhoon-hit villages to maintain peace and order, specifically to prevent widespread looting. Photo from Antonio Tinio

A curfew was imposed in many typhoon-hit villages to maintain peace and order, specifically to prevent widespread looting. Photo from Antonio Tinio

Electricity will be restored in two to three months. Meanwhile, electric cables are still useful for those who need to dry their clothes. Photo from Antonio Tinio

Electricity will be restored in two to three months. Meanwhile, electric cables are still useful for those who need to dry their clothes. Photo from Antonio Tinio

Thousands of typhoon survivors are leaving Samar and Leyte. Many are migrating to Manila and other urban centers like Davao. Professor Mae Fe Templa explained how migration also reflected the loss of trust in the government:

The migration of survivors indicate the rising problem of people having lost trust in government.

The movement of Yolanda survivors from Leyte to anywhere in the country indicates two things: One is government inaction as people lose trust in government. Two, is the people’s initiative to transform their own lives and redefine ways of living under extreme conditions of poverty and climate change

Grounded ship along Anibong road in Tacloban City. Photo from Tudla

Grounded ship along Anibong road in Tacloban City. Photo from Tudla

Many farmers also lost their livelihood in Marabut, Samar.

Many farmers also lost their livelihood in Marabut, Samar. Photo from Tudla

A damaged house in Hernani, Eastern Samar. Photo from April Val Montes

A damaged house in Hernani, Eastern Samar. Photo from April Val Montes

A typewriter was one of the salvaged things in Balangkaya, Eastern Samar. Photo from April Val Montes

A typewriter was one of the salvaged things in Balangkaya, Eastern Samar. Photo from April Val Montes

A mass grave marker in Palo, Leyte. Photo from Pher Pasion

A mass grave marker in Palo, Leyte. Photo from Pher Pasion

November 23 2013

After Haiyan Disaster, Philippines Calls for Relief and Justice for Climate Change Victims

North Cebu was also hit by typhoon Haiyan. Photo by Act Regionseven, Facebook

North Cebu was also hit by typhoon Haiyan. Photo by Act Regionseven, Facebook

The massive destruction wrought by super typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) in central Philippines has intensified the call for greater global action to address the harsh impact of climate change in the world especially in vulnerable small island nations.

Yeb Sano, the Philippine government’s lead negotiator at the Warsaw climate talks, became the voice of many poor nations which have been demanding the ratification of more effective pollution controls. Aside from delivering a well-applauded speech at the UN conference, Yeb also created an online petition asking netizens to stand in solidarity will all victims of climate change. As of this writing, the petition already has more than 700 thousand signatures:

Stand in solidarity with the people of the Philippines and all victims of climate change worldwide. Together our voices can push the governments meeting at the UN climate summit happening now to ratchet up pollution controls and help poorer communities with funding.

The question that will determine our survival is: can humanity rise to the occasion? I still believe we can.

Haiyan wiped out entire villages in Samar and Leyte provinces and displaced more than eight million people in the Visayas islands. It caused a storm surge killing thousands in an instant.

Many Filipinos are already urging the government to take decisive actions in relation to the country’s preparation for bigger natural disasters caused by climate change. Tony La Vina of Ateneo University believes that adaptation is not enough:

Yolanda’s message is that we can never adapt adequately to climate change. But still, we do not want to have many of our islands decimated regularly and for our people to continually start from scratch losing homes and livelihoods.

Adaptation clearly is not enough and we have to make sure that the human causes for climate change – greenhouse gas emissions coming from the use fossil fuels and land use activities – are mitigated. And while mitigation must be global, we in the Philippines must do our share if we are to have the moral high ground in asking rich countries to reduce their emissions and to help us adapt and in times of disaster.

Environment crusader Macky Lovina reminds the United States government that more than sending humanitarian assistance to the Philippines, it must prioritize the reduction of its carbon emissions:

Now we love the US? I have nothing against Americans, after all I've lived there practically half my life, and I'm grateful to all the men and women who have gone out of they're way to bring relief to disaster struck areas, but let's not forget one thing… The reason Typhoon Yolanda is here, and it will be here again and again, is largely because of US govn't policy that encourages and aggressively promotes the fossil fuel, mining and conventional agriculture industries. So when I see American politicians making sentimental speeches about the long friendship between the US and the Philippines, I know it's not real. After all if they really had the Philippines well being in mind then they would do their best to slow down Climate Change. In fact they're doing the opposite, knowing full well that islands like the Philippines will be the hardest hit.

On Twitter, Jason appeals to other countries:

This useful map of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs shows the devastated areas and relief efforts in the Visayas

This useful map of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs shows the devastated areas and relief efforts in the Visayas

Meawhile, Enteng Bautista links the slow response of the government in mobilizing relief and rescue operations to the private control of the transport and heavy industry sectors:

In times of national disaster or emergency the government should have the power to mobilize and direct the assets and resources to help the people such as ships, planes, power barges, mobile communication and medical facilities. But why it could not and just hoping for the ‘soft heart’ of select few? Precisely because it is privately owned and controlled by the select few and powerful.

Tacloban City, the ground zero of the typhoon disaster. Photo by Gerg Cahiles

Tacloban City, the ground zero of the typhoon disaster. Photo by Gerg Cahiles

This video shows houses being swept away in Hernani, Samar during the storm:

Donations are still needed by typhoon victims two weeks after the storm hit the country. Aid distribution is getting faster but there are still many areas which are lacking in basic services. Waray Bayaay: Relief and Donation Drive for Leyte asks for bike donations to facilitate faster distribution of relief and sending of information in remote areas:

…we would like to equip the Leytenos with bikes as public transport is still unavailable to most. They need it to get relief goods from city centers or command posts (most who live in the most interior parts of the city or far barrios are not able to get because of inaccessibility); they need bikes to get to work or get food; they need it to deliver news (there is no network signal outside of Tacloban), whether to report illness or danger or relatives looking for them. Imagine walking 18 kilometers just to get to Tacloban City!

Chronicles of a Nursing Mom warns against sending of formula milk in evacuation centers:

I am truly saddened because the Yolanda situation has proven that we are already living in a formula feeding culture. Earlier today, a fellow breastfeeding mom messaged me that there are evacuees now in Villamor Airbase and they will be helping out. Her friend called out for formula donations because there were moms with babies.

Interestingly, popular messaging app Line is collecting money for Haiyan relief via a new sticker pack.

November 20 2013

COP19: Fasting For The Climate

Filipino lead negotiator Yeb Saño. Photo from Flickr user 350.org under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Filipino lead negotiator Yeb Saño. Photo from Flickr user 350.org under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Yeb Saño, leader of the Philippines delegation at the United Nations Summit on Climate Change in Poland (COP19), has decided to stop eating until he sees real solutions from negotiators at the summit. He wants the process to bring “climate justice to the poorest countries,” and links Typhoon Haiyan, which has left more than 4,000 people dead and 4 million displaced, to climate change.

Saño started using the hashtag #FastingForTheClimate to expand his cause on the web:

Other climate negotiators, like Pablo Solón from Bolivia, used Twitter to support Saño:

Saño has also been quoting Mahatma Gandhi, relating his teachings to his personal fasting:

But the fast for the climate has gone beyond Twitter and reached the blogosphere. 

David Tong, a lawyer for international human rights from New Zealand and a fellow for the Adopt a Negotiator Project, blogged about his concerns regarding the way his government is reacting towards climate change issues. He also mentioned Saño in his text:

I’m ashamed of my government because they laughed when Russel Norman of the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand linked Typhoon Haiyan to climate change.  They laughed.  They mocked him.  They yelled “shame”.  Let me say that again: when Yeb Saño was quoted in the New Zealand Parliament, people laughed. The worst typhoon ever recorded hit last weekend.  It killed over 10,000 people. 478,000 people have been displaced. Real, human, people, with families and children and lives and loves.  Philippine lead negotiator Yeb Saño is one such real person, and he pledged to fast until a deal was done for all our futures. And my elected leaders laughed.  No one here in Warsaw is laughing.  In fact, 30 or more people are joining Yeb in his fast.

Carlie Labaria, a development specialist from the Philippines, is also blogging for Adopt a Negotiator Project. One of her last posts describes the current situation in her home town, comparing it with her disappointment about the current resolutions from the climate talks happening in Poland:

I think about my Mom and Dad and little sister, my hometown, the people of Visayas especially Tacloban and Panay. How much more suffering do the leaders of the world need to behold before they finally realize that addressing Loss and Damage is about survival, dignity, and justice?

During the summit, hundreds of politicians discuss ways – and ideally reach agreements – on how their countries can act to prevent climate change from causing more extreme weather events. But every country has its own interests, so reaching an agreement is a slow process that takes more time than is always expected.

There are two days left before climate talks are over in Poland, and Saño is still fasting. He also started an online campaign to pressure governments to take real action at the summit.

Saño wants “a new mechanism under the UN Convention on Climate Change that allows poorer nations to reduce losses related to climate change”. At the UN process, developed countries are assumed to be largely responsible for the effects of climate change due to the large amounts of carbon that they emit year after year.

The results of these talks will be key for the success of ongoing negotiations in the next summit, which will take place in Lima, Peru, in 2014.

 

Reposted bycheg00 cheg00
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