Monthly Archives: October 2007

No Slowdown in Remittance Despite Weak Dollar

By Momar Visaya/

NEW YORK — Despite the weakening dollar and the continued appreciation of the peso, there is no recorded slowdown in terms of remittances to the Philippines, according to Finance Secretary Margarito Teves.

“Fortunately, there has been no slowdown yet. That’s rather a pleasant surprise because I would have expected those who are earning dollars to be affected. So far, with the volume of remittances and based on Central Bank projections, remittances will probably reach close to $15 billion this year,”

Teves told the Asian Journal in an interview after the ASEAN Finance Ministers Investment Seminar at the Citi Headquarters in downtown Manhattan Tuesday, Oct. 23.

The lack of slowdown does not mean that the government will be complacent, according to Teves.

“We have to find a way of continuing their support for us by two ways, which we need to manifest as soon as possible,” he shared.

For those who are not inclined to engage in business, Teves suggests that they look at peso-denominated bonds and for those who are inclined, he proposes that the government should help them get into microfinance or microenterprises as well as small-to-medium enterprises.

“They’re also benefiting from gradual increase in property prices so that’s somehow going to compensate for I guess what they are suffering, those who are earning dollars. That’s the thing that probably also motivated them,” Teves added.

Engine of growth

Teves joined other ASEAN finance ministers at the meeting with investors, dubbed “Borderless ASEAN – Stronger, Soaring Together”. After the conference, they held a press briefing to discuss, among others, trade and investment opportunities in the region.

“Much attention has been paid to two fast-growing Asian economies – China and India. Asean’s performance and economic conditions are equally encouraging. We have placed programs to further integrate our economies and encourage our levels of sustainable growth,” Teves, who read the finance ministers’ statement, said.

The group hopes to continue raising investors’ awareness about Asean and its standing as a major engine of growth in Asia and that Southeast Asian member countries have taken various measures to speed up mechanism restructuring and economic reforms in the last ten years after the 1997 Asian financial crisis.

“Asean economies have posted a 5.5% growth for the past four years, and this year, they are looking at a growth of at least 6%,” the statement said.

Ranking 4th

A recent U.N. report listed the Philippines as the fourth highest recipient of remittance from migrant workers, after India, Mexico and China.

Asked for a reaction, Teves replied, “I am not surprised at all because we have a large number of overseas Filipinos and it’s really in a way unfortunate on the one hand that a lot of Filipinos need to go to other countries for lack of employment of meaningful employment opportunities at home.”
An estimated 10% of the country’s population, or about eight million Filipinos form the Filipino diaspora.

“As a policy, that’s not really what we wanted but we need to continue improving the growth of our economy especially at the higher sustainable level so we can stem the outflow of overseas Filipinos. So, it becomes a matter of choice for them to go out rather than need. So far, because of the large increase in the population, we need to generate more employment opportunities,” Teves explained.


Apart from the weak dollar and high oil prices, Asean finance ministers are closely monitoring how the subprime crisis would eventually affect the U.S. economy.

“We are all waiting to see its impact on the U.S. economy and we’re watching very closely,” said Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Singapore’s Minister for Education and Second Minister for Finance.

“If there is going to be a significant impact, then it will have an effect to the rest of the world,” he added.

Weak dollar

The impact of the weak dollar on Thailand’s economy has been quite a challenge, according to Thai Finance Minister Chalongphob Sussangkarn. “There’s too much U.S. dollar going around the world,” he added.

“The depreciation of the dollar has been helpful to the Philippine economy but there are concerns at the export sector and among overseas Filipinos,” Teves explained.

He added the weak dollar is not the only reason why the country’s economy is doing good but a combination of reasons, among them the peso’s appreciation, lower inflation rates and lower interest rates, all contribute to show that the country’s macro-economic fundamentals are in place.

Teves added that the ideal situation would be a gradual adjustment of the peso so that the affected sectors like exporters and overseas Filipino workers can adjust.

“The peso will continue to appreciate as long as our macro-economic fundamentals are also improved,” Teves said.

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Kid Jeopardy Champ is a FilAm

By Malou Aguilar/
CONCORD, CA — A proud lola, Mrs. Cely Rayco Millena called last week to share the good news about her granddaughter Rachel Lee A. Millena. At 10 years old, Rachel bested other whiz kids in the game show Kids Jeopardy aired last October 9.

A sixth grader at St. Francis Catholic School in Concord, Rachel was selected among 10,000 registered kids from age 10-12 years old. The numbers went down to 3,000, then to 200 and finally to 15 contestants.

Her road to becoming a Kids Jeopardy winner started when she saw the Kids Week registration ad. Rachel asked her parents for permission to register and take the online test last March, wherein each participant had to answer each of the 30 questions in 10 seconds. In July, Rachel was informed that she was one of the 200 finalists selected for an audition.

Among 15 contestants, Rachel became the biggest winner of the week. In her face-off with the two contestants during the final round, she had won $16,000 already. Faced with the final Jeopardy question, “Name the only US president who never lived in Washington, DC,” Rachel bet $12,000. She answered ‘George Washington’ and walked away with $28,000.

Just another girl

Bubbly, precocious and friendly were the impressions that this reporter had after her phone and e-mail interview with Asian Journal.

“Rachel is just like any 10-year-old girl,” said her father, Engr. Millena. He is a principal train control engineer at BART Systems Engineering. “She loves her American Girl doll, and is an avid reader.”

Aside from reading, Rachel loves history, plays the piano and is a member of the Walnut Creek Girls Golf Club. She also acts in her school drama class. As a sister, she loves playing with her sibling, Rebecca Lee, who is 8. Although there are times that they disagree with each other, being an older sister, Rachel has learned to be more understanding. “Rachel loves being a big sister and enjoys sharing the spotlight with her sister,” her father explained.

There is no doubt that her youth is just one part of her. Her answers showed how smart and intelligent she is. Engr. Millena said that Rachel likes to take on challenges and gives it her best shot.

“She, of course, enjoys meeting and overcoming those challenges but more importantly, she learns from her mistakes when she falls short,” her father said proudly.

Everybody’s game

During the interview on the show, Rachel said, “It’s everybody’s game.” For someone who won over thousands of kids to get to the final round, she was admittedly still nervous being on TV and competing with other kids.

“You never know what questions will come up,” Rachel shared. “…And there were a lot of smart kids there,” she added.

She never thought that she would emerge as the Final Jeopardy winner. “I was hoping to just have fun, learn something new and make friends,” Rachel said.

The Millenas made trips to Los Angeles for the past three months for the audition. When they received the call late July from the contestant coordinator, they were informed that Rachel was of the 15 kids selected. She prepared for the competition in Los Angeles by reviewing geography, history, US presidents and literature.

Still a Filipino

Although Rachel and her sister were born in the US, their parents instill in them their Filipino roots. Rachel’s proud grandparents, arrived here in 1979 as special immigrants granted to her lolo, Rolando Millena. He worked for 21 years at the Ship Repair Facility at the Subic Bay Naval Shipyard in Olongapo City as Chief Metallurgist. Rachel’s father was only 13 years old when he arrived in the US with his four other siblings.

Engr. Millena believes that it is very important to instill faith and humility in their daughters’ lives. He and his wife, Lea, a full-time mother and housewife, agree that without their own parents’ diligent efforts and dedication to provide them with the proper moral values and faith in God, there will not a be a moral compass to guide them. They also immerse their children in the traditions and culture of Filipinos. Being Bicolanos, they also participate in the Penafrancia Fiesta held in San Leandro every year.

“Of course, the ‘mano po’ blessing we greet our elders is one of the little things we have taught our girls,” said Engr. Millena.

Rachel and her sister visited the Philippines for the first time in July last year. Engr. Millena believed that it was an eye-opening experience for both.

“It’s one thing to be able to tell the girls stories from our own experiences when we lived there,” he said . “It is so much more when they actually see, feel, smell and live it there.”

Both girls enjoyed the experience so much. Aside from the sights, beautiful beaches, fresh fruits and wildlife, Rachel also had to chance to see her best friend, Gianna, who recently moved back to the Philippines.

After all the excitement, Rachel is busy with school and her extra curricular activities. She looks forward to her future — either as a novelist, concert pianist, photojournalist, or reporter. As for her $28,000 prize, most of it will be saved for her college fund and to buy a new laptop computer — a pink one. (

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GMA Defends Erap Clemency

By Carmie Carpio/

MANILA — Pres. Gloria Arroyo defended before a huge crowd of businessmen her granting of executive clemency to former president Joseph Estrada, who was recently convicted of plunder by the Sandiganbayan last Sept. 12.

The President was keynote speaker at the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s 33rd Philippine Business Conference and Expo at the Manila Hotel on Friday, Oct. 26.

Halfway through her speech the President said she knew her decision “will be debated, welcomed, criticized and given all sorts of meanings and motives.” , spearheaded by the

“In the end, we had to make a decision that was bound to please and displease, impress and confound, unite and divide,” she added.

President Arroyo cited national unity and advancement, along with the rule of law, justice and accountability, as the factors she considered in making her executive decision. She officially issued executive clemency to her deposed predecessor last Thursday, Oct. 25.

“The issues surrounding former President Estrada’s trial and detention constituted the single most significant cause of political noise and controversy in the national firmament,” she added.

She called this uneasy period as that of constitutional healing, hoping that the Estrada pardon would lead to national stability and advancement.

The President also cited similar circumstances such as former US President Nixon, who was pardoned before conviction, and the former Presidents of Korea who were granted a special pardon by President Kim Dae-jung after being detained for two years.

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OFWs Should Form Investment Fund—RP Solon

By Joseph Pimentel/

CHICAGO, Illinois—Rep. Hermilando I. Mandanas (LP-2nd Batangas) appealed to Overseas Filipino Workers to channel part of their remittance into a single investment fund as he addressed the FilAm community in Chicago’s suburb of Rosemont, Illinois over the weekend.

Billed as “OFW Fund,” Mandanas, House Appropriation Committee Chair, challenged OFWs to unite and form an investment fund that could lend money to the Philippine government for its projects.

“If the OFWs can remit $15-B a year, a portion of that money can be channeled to an investment fund, which can be transformed into a lending agency,” Mandanas said.

He addressed Chicago FilAms who attended the Bayanihan Sa Amerika: Conference of Filipino Community Centers in the United States held at Sheraton Gateaway Hotel Suites Chicago’s O’Hare last Saturday, Oct. 27. It was hosted by the Philippine Consulate led by Consul General Blesila C. Cabrera.

Mandanas said OFWs can help out if they support the establishment of an investment house based on “patriotic desires.” He likened it to the War Bonds. The “OFW Bond” can be sold to wage war against poverty, corruption, Abu Sayyaf and the NPA but good governance will be needed for this war to succeed.

“The Philippine Congress has just passed P3-Trillion budget or US$25-B.” Mandanas said. “Out of this amount, the Philippines is paying P54-B for the interest to lending agencies; about one third of the national budget.”

If we can have the OFWs patriotic fund of $14-B annually in place, we will not need these lending agencies anymore and we will be respected.”

Out of the budget, there is a “low amount of money earmarked for education. Education is the No. 1 priority in Asian countries like Hongkong, Singapore, Malaysia and Taiwan,” according to Mandanas. He added that the Philippines pays a hefty “social cost” for the misplaced priority allocation.

Corruption and Erap’s Pardon

At the same time, Mandanas appealed to the Philippine government to give teeth to its anti-corruption drive and be transparent in its dealing with the public if it wants to earn the trust of the people.

“Pardoning former President Joseph Estrada too soon is a signal that the government is soft in its anti-corruption drive. There is no time for boredom. We are always active,” the 63-year-old former Batangas governor quipped. “It also sends a signal that committing corruption is an easy thing to do because it goes unpunished.”

He said the Philippine government’s biggest task is its ability to fight graft and corruption. He admitted that when he was elected governor in 1995, he got many monetary offers to allow jueteng (illegal gambling) in Batangas. The offers fetched as much as P1.5-M a month and certain percentages from government contracts.

He also cited the pork barrel in Congress. He added that there are only very few congressmen require 10- 20% commission from their pork barrel allocations. Sometimes, there are even congressmen who would nominate the purchase of supplies like books and chairs and get commissions. They even take away the medicine from the mouth of the sick unless they get commissions.

Even the assignment of positions of public school teachers has also become a source of graft.

Mandanas said fighting foreign debt and over pricing of medicine, books and substandard training is a challenge to the government.

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Parolee Suspect in Rape of Murder of FilAm

By Joseph Pimentel/

LOS ANGELES – A 24-year-old parolee from Gardena has been charged with raping and murdering a 76-year-old Filipina grandmother.

Thedward Candler allegedly beat and raped Filipina Severa Madrona last September 18.

He is charged with murder with the special circumstance of killing during a rape and sodomy. He was to be arraigned last October 31 in Torrance Superior Court. However, his arraignment was postponed until November 13 so a Public Defender could have time to review the case.

Madrona was taking her routine morning walk in an area in El Camino Village near Torrance last Sept. 18 when the murder took place. Police found Madrona’s body in the backyard of a home at 152nd Street and Eriel Avenue. She died on the spot.

She had been sexually assaulted and beaten; she died of a blunt force head wound, said Deputy District Attorney Michael Gargiulo to CBS-News.

Candler was released from prison just five weeks before Madrona’s death. He had been paroled Aug. 12 after serving a six-year prison sentence for assault with a deadly weapon. He also had a prior conviction for attempted robbery in 2001.

Los Angeles Sheriff Homicide investigators arrested Candler after a DNA sample linked him to the crime scene.

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Hundreds of Filipino Americans Evacuated to Qualcomm Center

By Rene Villaroman/

SAN DIEGO — Close to a thousand FilAms have taken refuge at the Qualcomm Center football stadium to escape from several fires that had ravaged several communities in San Diego County since Sunday, October 21st.

Volunteer coordinator of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations Joanne Fields informed Asian Journal that most of the FilAm evacuees, except for a handful awaiting orders to go back to their home, have left on Tuesday.

“I’ve met close to a thousand Filipino families here early this week, and they stayed here for three days at least,” Fields said.

Among of the FilAm evacuees were from North San Diego County and from communities heavily affected by the firestorm, like Rancho Bernardo, Ramona, Escondido, and Poway.

On Thursday afternoon, when a team from the Philippine Consulate General’s Office in Los Angeles got there, all of them have already gone back home or have opted to stay with close relatives and friends. Vice Consul Jim Tito San Agustin led the contingent from the Philippine Consulate General’s Office.

“We’re sort of glad that we did not find any Filipinos there,” San Agustin told a small group of civic leaders at the Villa Manila Restaurant in National City. “The family ties of Filipinos are still strong. We all have close family ties, and, I believe that (displaced) FilAm families stayed with their relatives and close friends,” San Agustin theorized.

“Evacuation procedures were very organized at Qualcomm Center,” San Agustin told the civic leaders.

He also said that his team talked with the staff of Federal Emergency Management Authority (FEMA) and were told that no Filipino was reported in distress. FEMA wasn’t able to ascertain whether some Filipino-owned homes were burned down. NAFFAA’s Fields corroborated this information, saying that government agencies’ records did not specify ethnicities and nationalities.

“We are highly organized here in San Diego,” said Rita Buencamino Andrews, Chair of the Council of Philippine American Organizations (COPAO) of San Diego.

COPAO is a 35-year-old umbrella organization that presides over 59 organizations in the San Diego area.

“I would like to volunteer COPAO to organize a fundraiser,” she informed San Agustin. “Although there was no loss of life, there will be income and job loss as a result of the disaster,” she added.

The leaders agreed to take immediate action to raise money on November 3rd.

Bing de la Vega, head of Philippine Disaster Relief Organization (PEDRO), said that his organization would be glad to pitch in.

“We’ve aided victims of the Katrina disaster who did not qualify for FEMA aid,” de la Vega said. “Let’s just make sure that the money is given to those people who really need it,” he added.

Realtor Carmelita “CL” Larrabster-Vinson suggested creating a separate fund. “We need to set up a fund so that when something like this happens again, we will have the money.”

The leaders united in deciding which agency to give the money to: The American Red Cross.

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