opinion

Private sector importation of vaccines

May 3, 2021

The Duterte administration has taken a lot of hit for its handling (or mishandling) of the COVID 19 pandemic. But to be fair, this pandemic is something which no government anticipated and prepared for. There has been no previous reliable playbook which government could consult. Thus for most governments, it was “learn as you go” and “trial and error” during the early part of the pandemic.       I would not be too harsh in judging this administration. It was doing its best under the circumstances.  However, if I were to fault the administration, it will be in its much delayed decision to allow the private sector to import  vaccines. It is a given that the private sector has consistently been more efficient in the matter of procurement. Had the go-signal been given much earlier, we will probably be  more than 25 percent of targeted vaccination by now.       Last April 13,  I had the good fortune to get my first jab of Atra Zeneca, courtesy of the local government of Muntinlupa City. No, I did not have to jump the line. I was included in the A2 priority (Senior Citizen). I stayed thirty minutes  at the vaccination center for observation and, good for me, I did not show any adverse reaction. Even the next day, my left arm did not feel numb but I did feel sleepy in the afternoon. I am scheduled to get my second dose on June 12.  In the case of a friend who got injected with Sinovac, the only after-effect he reported  was his sudden unexplained craving for Chinese food.       Despite my vaccination, I will never let my guard down. Vaccination only reduces the chance of getting sick by 85 percent or 60 per cent, depending on the vaccine. Even if I don’t get sick, I may still become a carrier. So I will continue to observe all health protocols like wearing of face mask and face shield, regularly wash my hands (while humming the happy birthday song twice) and observe physical distancing. I don’t quite agree with the reported decision of President Biden to dispense with the use of face masks outdoors by those who have already completed their vaccinations.       Here is how seriously we take health protocols at the Kiwanis Club of Muntinlupa Rizal. Before the scheduled Board of Directors meeting of the club  last April 24, Club President Larry Molera  issued the following reminders:      “As our precautionary measures:- 1) Our venue will be held at the LOBBY, an open area w/o aircon. 2. Let us maintain social distancing. 3) Wear face mask and face shield at all times (except when eating). 4) No talking when eating!!” Bank of the Philippine Islands board      During the April annual stockholders meeting of the Bank of the Philippine Islands, the following were elected to the  15-member Board of Directors: Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, Fernando Zobel de Ayala,  Cezar P. Consing,  Romeo L. Bernardo, Ignacio R. Bunye ,  Ramon R. Del Rosario, Jr., Octavio V. Espiritu,  Rebecca G. Fernando, Jose Teodoro K.  Limcaoco, Aurelio P. Montinola III, Mercedita S. Nolledo, Antonio Jose U. Periquet, Cesar  V. Purisima,  Eli M. Remolona, Jr., and Maria Dolores V. Yuvienco. Purisima took the place of Xavier P. Loinaz who earlier resigned for health reasons.       In the immediately following organizational meeting, the following were elected as officers:      Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, Chairman; Fernando Zobel de Ayala, Vice Chairman; Jose Teodoro K. Limcaoco, President/CEO; Dino R. Gasmen, Treasurer; Angela Pilar B. Maramag, Corporate Secretary; Emeliana Elisa F. Navarro, Assistant Corporate Secretary and Marie Christine M. Ty-Doromal, Assistant Corporate Secretary.       The 170-year old bank had a good run in a bad year. Despite its slowest balance sheet growth in years (1.3 percent), BPI had its moments in 2020.  Outgoing President Cezar P. “Bong” Consing enumerated them, as follows:      -Having executed 1.8 billion in online transactions in 2020, BPI has become  the acknowledged leader in digital banking.        -Capital adequacy ratio grew to 17.1 percent.       -BPI’s asset management and mutual funds businesses saw assets under management growing by 16.8  percent and 95.6 percent, respectively.       -Mortgage lending grew by 6.6 percent.       -BPI’s microfinance bank, BPI Direct BanKo, already the second largest (in its class) in the country, grew by 6.5 percent.       -BPI’s investment banking unit, BPI Capital, was the leading debt and equity underwriter in the country.       -BPI was one of only two Philippine companies which was given by Standard and Poor’s,  a BBB+ rating,  equaling  that of the Philippine government.       -The BSP continues to give BPI the highest ratings for its capital position, asset quality, management, and low sensitivity to market risk.        -BPI’s ESG scores consistently place it  either first  or second among Philippine banks.       -BPI is the only large Philippine bank whose shares outperformed the Philippine Stock Exchange index in 2020.       -BPI remains the second largest bank by market capitalization.       -The prestigious finance publication Euromoney named BPI as the Best Philippine Bank in 2020.       Note: You may wish to share this via Facebook, Twitter or Linked-In.

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To falter is not an option

May 3, 2021

JR BORJA GENERAL HOSPITAL — Declared by the city government  as prio, I trooped to this new,  face-lifted city health facility to join a throng of seniors accepted to avail of the first dose of Sinovac.      Sans politics, I expressly thanked Mayor Oca for his deep community  concern, consistent as it were, despite some quarters opposing his own brand of governance in handling the pandemic woes at the local level.       To prove his point, he volunteered to take his first dose of vax earlier to somehow send a strong message to all Cagay-anons that vaccines play a crucial role in containing the spread of Covid 19.      The long queue was worth it.  My first dose of Sinovac done successfully  after hours of going through a series of pre-vaccine background checks along with several hundreds of seniors waiting in makeshift tents amid scorching  heat of the summer sun.       There is no other way but to submit to available  health protocols including the call for a massive vaccination for all as Covid 19 continue to surge,  spreading like wildfires in countries like India, now experiencing an epic national disaster.       To falter is not an option at this time when the pandemic is still raging its fury on mankind.      That said, the   arrivals of more  vaccines has triggered for a call by the city mayor for help from the  medical field —professionals like midwives, nurses and doctors to act as volunteers in the city’s vaccination program.      Those who have the talent and skills, please help. Let our  bayanihan spirit live throughout this fight for survival, the mayor appealed to all and sundry, citing that the vaccination program has to be pursued vigorously with no let-up.       For the record,  the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines in the US has siginificantly reduced unnecessary deaths by 80 percent, a clear indicator of how effective vaccines are in the fight against the pandemic.      To those who are still in a state of  doubting Thomases, let Covid 19 catch you by surprise.       Its either you land in a quarantine facility, or six feet below the ground. The choice is yours.       After all, this virus has no regard  to  people who defy   logic.       And WHO says it’s a long way to go before Covid 19 will say good-bye world.       Meantime, wear  your face masks. Keep the distance.  Avoid crowded places. And get your vax, asap. (ruffy44_ph2000@yahoo.com)

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Acceptance

April 26, 2021

When my brother-in-law Archie was torn from the center of his and our life by a heart attack a few days ago, I was in shock. Not only me. The whole family. He was just 59. Minutes before his death, we kept on joking. The whole family had to accept it his sudden death.      Have you ever wanted something so badly but you felt like you couldn’t do anything about it? How would you describe your state during those times? Archie is in heaven now. Sure. Thank you Lord.      Chances are that you experienced one or more of these emotions: frustration, neediness, helplessness, powerlessness, irritation, desperation, anxiousness, nervousness, anxiety, and possibly depression.      Before you beat yourself up for feeling this way, you should know that your feelings are perfectly normal. Most people experience inner turbulence whenever they feel unable to control an outcome that’s important to them. That’s because we dislike the unknown. We perceive the unknown as a threat to our survival. We tend to associate control with security and even power.      Currently, things are in flux, but our response to uncertainty hasn’t changed. We still have a need to try to control our environment. The possibility of losing a job or a business deal or being rejected by someone we fancy is not going to kill us, but we may feel as if it could.      Accepting what we don’t like may be one of the most difficult aspects of life. To solve challenges, we normally try to take positive action and change what we can, but inevitably there will be people, situations, and events we don’t like and that we aren’t able to change.      Do you find yourself trying to change things you have no control over? If so, you probably find it difficult to be satisfied and content with life. If we can’t change a situation or an outcome our best option is to learn how to accept it and deal with it.      Acceptance is not the same as resignation or passivity. We can continue to push forward despite accepting that there are things beyond our control. Here are a few tips to living with greater acceptance so you can have more joy and peace of mind.      We all have baggage that we carry from our past, and this baggage gets heavier the longer we hold onto it. Many people have a hard time letting go of the past. We carry a mental reminder of our mistakes and losses with us everywhere we go, not realizing how much they steal from our present joy and contentment.      We can’t change the past. What happened in your past happened, so our only hope is to learn how to accept our past and move forward.      At one point or another life will present us with an unexpected turn of events. It may be a difficult loss or a failure of epic proportions that we aren’t prepared to deal with. Sometimes these events are beyond our current ability to cope. So, part of the acceptance process is learning new ways to cope with a crisis.      Keep your emotions in check so you can make a more conscious decision about how to deal with a difficult situation.      Sometimes the “worst” thing that happens to us ends up being the most fundamental part of our personal growth. It is easier to accept something when we explore the opportunities and possibilities that come out of it. What can you learn from your difficulty? How has your difficulty made you a stronger person?      We live in a world that tells us to want more, be more, and do more. This isn’t always a negative message, but it often gets in the way of our life satisfaction. When something doesn’t meet our expectations, we are disappointed and angry. Life can appear purposeless, unfair, and ruthless if our expectations are unrealistic.      So, instead of expecting something to happen, or expecting a person or event to act a certain way, try to focus on accepting and creating. Focus on what you want to create instead of what you expect to happen. Creation is motivating, expectation is demanding.      When we run into failure or setbacks it can feel like we are stuck with nowhere to turn. Life will take unexpected turns and when this happens our trajectory might have to change as well. There is a point where it is in our best interest to move on and let go of what we want. If something doesn’t work the way we planned, don’t get caught up in the outcome.      Instead of doing the same thing and expecting different results, accept things aren’t working the way you planned and do something different.      You may not be able change what you’re going through right now, but this doesn’t mean you can’t live a full and meaningful life. You can adapt and adjust to your present circumstances.      Stop avoiding difficult issues and only focusing on what you can’t change. Focus on what you can do about the situation, and if you can’t change something it’s time to accept this reality.      Ask yourself, “What do I need to accept so that I can be happier and more fulfilled?”      Adopting a spiritual outlook provides a psychological cushion to cope with our perceived lack of control. It comforts us with the notion that there is a divine order behind everything that occurs in life and that there’s a reason why things happen the way that they do. It’s reassuring to know that there’s a benevolent force that’s got our back and supports our personal evolution.      Nothing good has ever come from worrying. It induces anxiety and is a major energy drainer. Whenever you worry, you operate from the frequency of fear, which will immobilize you. If we’re not careful, we can go down a tailspin of “what if?” loops and scary visions of all the possible things that could go wrong.      The only way we can get out of this rabbit hole is by letting go of our fears and worries and replacing them with optimism, faith in the future, and probably learning better coping skills with a licensed therapist.      Anxiety caused by the excessive need to control circumstances will wear down your mental energy and focus. You can regain power by surrendering your control over a situation. You’ll realize that although you have no way of controlling the events or people involved in a certain situation, you do have control over how you feel and how you react.      Based on what you know, you can create a plan and proactively follow through with it. You’ll feel more empowered knowing that you’ve done the best you could and you’re open to all possible outcomes.      Letting go of control is, essentially, an act of faith whether spiritual or otherwise. Faith can get us through foggy times of uncertainty and help us navigate through the dark valleys where we can’t see where we’re heading. Faith will illuminate our path and lead us down to our destiny if we allow it to.      My neutral attitude toward the country, the Philippines I lived in gradually made me see a more balanced view of it and eventually, appreciate the positive aspects. I noticed, for example, that the town Davao City had beautiful parks and ponds, and that some people living there were interesting and kind. Developing understanding and acceptance opened the doors for a change.      As I became more open-minded and happier within the years, I started noticing and acting on new opportunities. For example, I came across information about how to start my own working life and thus acted on it.      This non-resisting attitude made me dissolve some of the limits of my mind and thus I became more intuitive. This intuition eventually led me to the country where I felt most at home - Philippines. If I had never learned this lesson of non-resistance, I would probably still be stuck somewhere somehow, cursing my situation to this day.      Wherever you are and whatever you experience, try to be at peace with it. If it’s hard to think positively about your situation, at least don’t focus on the negatives, and instead focus on something you’d like to experience.      It may help to make a list of things you’re grateful for and the positive aspects of whatever you resist. Focus on those aspects completely, and soon your mind will become more positive and more accepting of your present circumstances.      This shift in focus will eventually open the door to circumstances that are more empowering and positive. Even my eyes are full of tears remembering my brother-of-law who was a real brother for me during my life as an expat in the Philippines during the last 22 years. +++      Email: doringklaus@gmail.com or follow me in Facebook, Linkedin or Twitter or visit www.germanexpatinthephilippines.blogspot.com or www.klausdoringsclassicalmusic.blogspot.com.

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The best of times, the worst of times

April 26, 2021

Quoting Charles Dickens (A Tale of Two Cities), Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) Chairman Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala (JAZA) described what 2020 was like for the country and for BPI during the bank’s annual stockholders meeting held last Thursday.       “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. It was a spring of hope. And it was a winter of despair.”      JAZA narrated a chronology of the worst events that happened last year – the Taal Volcano eruptions,   Covid 19  and the imposition of the strictest lockdown measures,  the series of earthquakes in Mindanao and the two super typhoons just before the year ended.       As a result, mobility plummeted. GDP declined by 9.5 per cent. Unemployment surged to 17 per cent before settling at 8.7 percent. Inflation rose to 2.6 percent. Weak fiscal response negated aggressive monetary policy. A negative real interest rate regime set in.  Import demand slowed.  The historical double digit loan growth contracted to 2.8 percent. NPL rose to 3.7 percent, necessitating a five-fold increase in loan loss provisions. BSP cap on interest on  credit card loans caused banks to reduce credit to riskier customers.  The provisions pulled down net income 25 percent. ROE dropped to half that of 2019. Market capitalization went down  21.1 percent, the worst in years.       But the  best things also happened in BPI in 2020.  BPI revenues increased by 10.5 percent, an all-time high on the back of higher net interest income and  trading income. Outgoing BPI President Cesar P. “Bong” Consing further elaborated. “Ironically,  the very challenging year presented BPI the opportunity to assert its position as a banking industry leader and a trusted Filipino institution. The banks continuity plan immediately kicked in ensuring that critical banking products and services, including the availability of cash and payment transfers, are readily available.”       At the height of the pandemic,  at least half of the critical branches and units were up and running, with BPI giving utmost consideration to the safety and well-being of its staff and its customers.        The bank’s many years of investments in technology, particularly digitalization, paid off. At the height of the lockdown, digital transactions went as high as 95 per cent then settled to 92 percent as the lockdown eased. Thousands of customers enrolled in BPI’s channels every single week. Today, 52 percent of all customers are digitally-enabled, with more than half of them classified as active users.      Having executed 1.8 billion in online transactions in 2020, BPI is now the acknowledged leader in digital banking.  BPI’s finance app is Number 5 in App Store, Number 6 in Google Play. In Instapay, BPI ranked No. 2 in receiving transactions and No. 3  in sending transactions. BPI worked with dozens of open banking partners (like Lazada, GCash, PayMaya) to become a key focal point of financial intermediation. According to the media intelligence firm Essencia, BPI is the most mentioned Philippine bank in social media.      Despite its slowest balance sheet growth in years (1.3 percent), BPI had its moments in 2020. BPI issued 70.7 billion in bonds, including 21.5 billion in CARE Bonds. Capital adequacy ratio grew to 17.1 percent. BPI’s asset management and mutual funds businesses saw   assets under management growing by 16.8  percent and 95.6 percent, respectively. Mortgage lending grew by 6.6 percent. BPI’s microfinance bank, BPI Direct BanKo, already the second largest (in its class) in the country, grew by 6.5 percent. BPI’s investment banking unit, BPI Capital, was the leading debt and equity underwriter in the country. Its underwriting fees grew 66 percent on the back of 30 mega transactions.       Consing described BPI as one of only two Philippine companies which was given by Standard and Poor’s,  a BBB+ rating,  equalling  that of the Philippine government. The BSP continues to give BPI the highest ratings for its capital position, asset quality, management, and low sensitivity to market risk.  BPI’s ESG scores consistently place it  either first  or second among Philippine banks. Moreover, BPI is the only large Philippine bank whose shares outperformed the Philippine Stock Exchange index in 2020. BPI remains the second largest bank by market capitalization. The prestigious finance publication Euromoney named BPI as the Best Philippine Bank in 2020.       Consing briefed the shareholders of moves to  future proof the bank, namely: 1. The merger of BPI and BPI Family Savings Bank – a move that will provide the new entity scale that will be beneficial to both customers  and employees. 2. Establishing BPI as the undisputed leader in digital banking.  3. Increasing the share of SME and consumer loans in BPI’s loan books.  4. Closing the gap on funding leadership. 5. Using branches as sales points, rather than service points, and  6. Promoting sustainable banking.       JAZA thanked Consing for his 8 years of stewardship of the bank including the last year,  which proved to be the most challenging in the bank’s 170 year history. Consing assumed in 2013 which coincidentally made him BPI’s 13th president.  JAZA  welcomed Jose Teodoro “TG” Limcaoco, who is no stranger to BPI, as its 14th president and also paid tribute to Xavier P. Loinaz, BPI’s 11th president. Loinaz resigned last year from the bank’s board due to health reasons.       Note: You may wish to share the foregoing via Facebook, Twitter or Linked-In.

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The need for speed: Faster vaccine roll-out critical to stronger recovery

April 21, 2021

A global economic recovery is in sight but a faster and more effective vaccination roll-out across the world is critical, while respecting necessary health and social distancing measures, according to the OECD’s latest Interim Economic Outlook.      Activity in many sectors has picked up and adapted to pandemic restrictions over recent months. Vaccine deployment, although uneven, is finally gaining momentum and government fiscal stimulus – particularly in the US – is likely to provide a major boost to economic activity.      But the pandemic is widening gaps in economic performance between countries and between sectors, increasing social inequalities, particularly affecting vulnerable groups, and risking long-term damage to job prospects and living standards for many people.      The Interim Economic Outlook calls for ramping up vaccination, for swifter, more targeted fiscal stimulus to foster output and confidence, and to maintain income support for people and businesses hard hit by the pandemic while preparing the ground for a sustainable recovery.      “Speed is of the essence,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría. “There is no room for complacency. Vaccines must be deployed faster and globally. This will require better international co-operation and co-ordination than we have seen up to now. It is only by doing so that we can focus our attention on building forward better and laying the foundations for a prosperous and lasting recovery for all.”      The OECD sees global GDP growth at 5.6% this year, an upward revision of more than 1 percentage point since its projection in December 2020, and 4% in 2022. World output is expected to reach pre-pandemic levels by mid-2021 but the pace and duration of the recovery will depend on the race between vaccines and emerging variants of the virus.       The outlook for global growth would be better than currently projected – and approach pre-pandemic projections for activity – if the production and distribution of vaccines accelerates, is better coordinated around the world and gets ahead of virus mutations.       This would allow containment measures to be relaxed more rapidly. But if vaccination programs are not fast enough to cut infection rates or if new variants become more widespread and require changes to current vaccines, consumer spending and business confidence would be hit.      In the OECD’s central scenario, US growth is projected to be 6.5% in 2021, an upward revision of more than 3 percentage points since December, partly reflecting the large-scale fiscal stimulus now planned with a sustained pace of vaccination. This also helps to lift output around the world. In the euro area, where the level of fiscal stimulus is lower and vaccine rollout slower, the Interim Economic Outlook sees GDP rising 3.9%, a 0.3 percentage point upward revision.      Prospects are brighter in the Asian-Pacific region where several countries have effectively contained the virus and where industrial activity has regained dynamism. In China, GDP growth is projected to be 7.8% this year; in Japan 2.7%; in Korea 3.3%; and in Australia 4.5%.      The recovery is likely to be more moderate in the emerging market economies of Latin America and Africa amid a resurgence of the virus, slow vaccine deployment and limited scope for additional policy support.       Presenting the Interim Economic Outlook was, OECD Chief Economist Laurence Boone said that the vaccination programs and stimulus measures should work hand in hand.      “Widespread vaccination of the adult population is the best economic policy available today to get our economies and employment growing again,” she said. “If we are at war with the virus then we need to put vaccine production on a war footing, provide the necessary resources and speed up deployment across the world.”      “If we don’t get enough people vaccinated quickly enough to allow restrictions to be lifted, the recovery will be slower and we will undermine the benefits of fiscal stimulus,” she added.      The improved prospects of a global recovery have led to financial market expectations of higher inflation although the Interim Economic Outlook says underlying price pressures generally remain mild in advanced economies. In emerging market economies, inflation could rise further. Public debt levels have risen sharply almost everywhere, but debt-servicing costs in most OECD economies continue to benefit from very low interest rates protecting fiscal sustainability.      The report says the vital support provided by governments to preserve jobs and businesses should remain in place while economies are still fragile and hampered by containment measures.       Particular attention needs to be paid to supporting young people and the less skilled to avoid a repeat of the long-term damage caused to the job prospects of these vulnerable groups after the financial crisis of 2008.

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The way to heaven

April 19, 2021

Driving in big cities is not a joke for beginners. It's an ordeal, especially driving during heavy traffic hours. One must know where to go and which way to take. Otherwise, one'll end up bumping somewhere somehow... .      But, driving a car in a small village, where roads are simple, is for neophytes an enjoyable one. No traffic, or less traffic, no traffic lights, no complicated ways... .      In the same way, railroads can make train drivers ill at ease when they are also in big cities. I remember Munich in my home country Germany, where railways appear like spider's cobwebs. They go in several directions. No wonder, accidents on the roads happened many times.      In life we, too, have roads which lead us to several directions. To go to heaven, man's eternal destiny, one can either choose the shortest road, or one can make detours. Not so many perhaps fall by the way and end up in eternal damnation.      There are some of us, Christians, who take the shourt-cut road to heaven. This is the road of suffering, of the actual practice of Christian virtues, of serving God and our neighbour. Others take the circuitos road of easy life, thinking that at the end they still have time to amend themselves and lead a good life. This is risky, since no one can guarantee that an opportunity will be given at the eleventh hour. Unfortunately, there are still others, who prefer to take that opposite road, which leads to eternal damnation. So they live, so they die! In John Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress", we read, "Then I saw that there was a way to hell, even from the gates of heaven!"      Homo sapiens, quo vadis? +++      Email: doringklaus@gmail.com or follow me on Facebook, Linkedin or Twitter or visit www.germanexpatinthephilippines.blogspot.com or www.klausdoringsclassicalmusic.blogspot.com.

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