Sunday, February 26, 2012

Philippines: The real score

I have to go back to the Philippines.

This is the country that I am managing, I must see its progress, what it looks, smells, even tastes like. And I can tell you outright... right now, how it is, this first quarter of 2012. This is for those investors and foreign friends of mine, who want to come here and invest or tour, listen to me...

Traffic - traffic is still the same. Undisciplined drivers still traverse through the roads of the metropolis. Jeepneys and buses still swerve without care. Another thing is, Commonwealth Ave., dubbed as the 'killer hi-way' dropped its speed limit to 60 kph. I understand the concern but this goes to show that progress was being slowed down by the government. Just imagine the time and fuel you have saved going from point A to point B by driving faster. One good tip though, just avoid speeding when you see a pedestrian overpass. Chances are there is someone holding a radar gun. They are even proposing a 40 kph speed limit for buses. Damn. These ideas come from people who are sitting their asses in their air conditioned SUV's. In this area, a total fail.

MRT has improved a little. They provide more coaches to those stops with more commuters.Now, you do not have to argue and punch someone while boarding the MRT during rush hour. Another thing In have noticed is, people do not fall in line.

Taxis are good, but still scary. Be careful on those taxis who have fast meters or taking long routes. Old taxis have poor air conditioning and unsanitary, so go for new ones.

Over all, if you are not in a hurry, or don't mind about the heat and humidity, commuting in the Philippines is quite good.

Commerce - Wow, business is booming. I have seen more shops now than ever before. Something is going on, I mean, the Philippines is booming right now. But wait, some shops were closed. Especially the ones that you have been buying on since you were a child growing here. That is normal right? But very few have businesses have stood the test of time.

Government Transactions - Yes, it has improved due to technology and contractualization of workers. Still, some bad seeds remain. These corrupt government officials are the ones who keep your documents pending, and they are asking for some, you know, 'grease money' for its release. I have a friend who is a businessman who is so afraid to put up a sign on his business. Why? Because employees from the BIR and other employees of the Local Government keep coming for some 'alms.' And if you did not give anything, they will not clear you off if you filed for engineering permits, sanitary permits, clearances, or anything that they could think of. Better watch out still if you want to do business here.

Power & Water - Water quality is still not good so buy mineral water if you can. Reserve a good clean water in a large drum. There are times water is not continuously available.

As for power, still not a good sign. Electricity rates are coinciding with the price increase of petroleum products. That is because the Philippines is still using old school turbines powered by coal or diesel. Few powerplants are run by water (hydro electric) or geothermal. So, whenever we see that electric bill, we just brush it aside and pay for it. I just wish power rates will go down so that more investors come pouring in.

People - People in the Philippines are courteous and known for their hospitality. But sad to say, times have changed. Due to media, internet, and bad surroundings, they are not as friendly as they are these days. Just go to the mall, and everyone seems to want you to buy something. That fake smile is totally annoying. There are few people now who are honest and would not tell the truth, that is why I do not buy at malls anymore. And buy mostly my products like clothing, perfume, and other things on small shops, tiangges (flee markets) and some entrepreneurs online. They give reasonable prices on products which is more cheaper and last longer (these products came from abroad as well, just brought here by OFW's).

I can see the sense of happiness and contentment especially for young families. I have to admit, the best way to raise a child is in the Philippines. Good values are taught, and ability to take care of their own well being. Lots of love in here.

Money and Banking - If you have seen the new Philippine money, it is nice due to the bold colors. But be careful on the P 200 and P 500 bill, as they almost have the same color, or maybe I am just getting old.

I can tell you outright that banking in the Philippines is a hassle in one way or another. I have applied for a credit card in my main bank but due to large number of customers coming in, I was not entertained properly. So I applied for another less famous bank, in which I was entertained immediately. But be very careful with the bank you have chosen, there are banks that goes bankrupt here. Like the case of Banco Filipino. Banks here in the Philippines just close without warning. So be mindful if you want to deposit some money here. Another thing is, the interest rates are low, and service charges are high.

If a bank knows that you are a long time depositor or have been transacting with them with huge amounts of money, they can treat you like a king or queen. And sometimes, that goes beyond the head. A recent squabble about parking happened recently around China Bank at Timog Branch. The long time depositor and China Bank officials have been rudely cursing the people around them, too bad that some of them are from the Philippine media and they are on 'hot water' in which they are cursed on air in a morning radio show.

Security - Still bad. Enough said. So please, come here at your own risk. Just recently in the news (this was mentioned today only), one torso was found in a suburb here in Caloocan, Manila. There was no head, arms, and legs. Just the torso.

Media - Not good either. Just go for AM radio. Luckily we have cable tv, and I do love TLC, NGC, and Discovery Channels.

Overall Culprit - The Philippines still has a long way to go. If you want to have a good vacation, or if you have some family you will visit here, that is best.

UPDATE: 10 MAR 2012

Be careful with your money. There are times you have to bring lots of it. Why? Because some shops for credit cards are not existing / not working. Even in reputable shops in the malls. Really bad indeed. Why do you have to bring boatloads of money anyway? You are just inviting danger for yourselves.

Is it really fun in the Philippines nowadays? Maybe, just maybe. The fun could be an illusion. So please be sure  before you come here.

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