PH Senate Bills on Road Safety filed in 2022

Road safety remains as one of the difficult discussions when it comes to legislation. Over the years, only a few have hurdled the legislative process and made it to become laws. Though implementation and results are due for a separate discussion, it is apparent that laws alone without the commitment to their implementation will never realize a safer environment for all road users.

Nevertheless, in 2022, four bills in the Senate have been filed in the 19th Congress. These comprise amendments to existing laws as well as road safety education. Here are the bills:

Senate Bill No. 724 – Amending the Anti-Drunk and Drugged Driving Act of 2013

This bill aims to amend the Republic Act No. 10586 or the “act penalizing persons driving under the influence of alcohol, dangerous drugs, and similar substances, and for other purposes.” Introduced by Senator Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa, the Senate Bill will amend three sections of the existing law while portions of it not affected will remain in force and effect.

Amendments on Section 10 of the existing law compels the Land Transportation Office (LTO) to deputize traffic enforcers of the Philippine National Police, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), and cities and municipalities to ensure full and effective implementation of the law.

Section 14, meanwhile, has an addendum which effectively involves the Department of Education (DepEd) to integrate road safety and drivers’ education into the K-12 curriculum.

Lastly, Section 15 amendments included the requirement of LTO to regularly conduct random terminal inspection and quick random drug tests for public utility drivers. Operators of public utility vehicles whose drivers are found positive for drug use will be made liable under the guidelines of drug-free workplaces of the Department of Labor and Employment.

Senate Bill No. 786 – Proposed Road Safety Education Act

As a spillover legislation from the 18th Congress being refiled, the Senate Bill No. 786 filed by Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri aims to establish a road safety curriculum, campaign, and training.

There will be compulsory teaching of road safety and drivers’ education in all primary and secondary schools, and educational institutions. The bill provides that Basic Road Safety and Comprehensive Drivers’ Education will be taught in all schools, whether it is public or private. Furthermore, basic road safety will be integrated in the elementary education curriculum while the drivers’ education will be incorporated in the junior and senior high school curricula.

In addition, public road safety information campaign will be undertaken by the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and University of the Philippines National Center for Transportation Studies, in coordination with other government entities and road safety advocates and organizations. The DOTr will also be tasked to develop a road safety manual that must be accessible through their website.

Also, road safety training will be carried out for traffic enforcers to educate them on matters such as traffic violations and apprehension procedures.

Senate Bill No. 954 – Proposed Road Safety and Comprehensive Drivers’ Education Act

The bill filed by Senator Grace Poe aims to institutionalize the mandatory integration of basic road safety and comprehensive drivers’ education in the enhanced basic education curriculum. It will involve the DepEd, Commission on Higher Education, DOTr, LTO, Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board, and the MMDA to formulate and implement the said subjects in basic and higher education.

The funding requirement for this bill, once enacted, will be sourced as a line item under the budget of DepEd under the General Appropriations (national budget). It will also be sourced from the Special Road Safety Fund as created under Republic Act No. 8794.

Senate Bill No. 1514 – Proposed Requirement of Teaching Basic Road Safety and Comprehensive Drivers’ Education

The prevention of increasing incidence and prevalence of deaths and injuries, property damage, and economic losses is the core objective of Senate Bill No. 1514 filed by Senator Ramon Bong Revilla, Jr.

The proposed measure, similar to the previous two bills filed, seeks to include Basic Road Safety and Comprehensive Drivers’ Education to the K-12 program. It cited that most adults have little or no knowledge of basic road safety and traffic rules and regulations.

In terms of funding, the implementation of the bill, once enacted, will be charged from the Road Safety Fund (7.5% of the Motor Vehicle User’s Charge).

Final take

Every year, bills like these are being filed in Congress whether in the upper house (Senate) or the lower house (House of Representatives). These four primarily aim to further reduce incidence of drunk- and drugged-driving as well as integrate road safety in formal education across all levels.

The most recent legislation which hurdled the legislative process and eventually became a law was the Republic Act No. 10913 or the Anti-Distracted Driving Act way back in 2016. Thus, leaders are expected to act on several measures that has been moving back and forth in the Congress and to shepherd these toward becoming laws.

Since then, there are several unique bills filed including that of creating a body that would independently undertake road safety efforts and coordinate with all transport-related instrumentalities. However, considering the limited budget of the government as well as the effort to right-size the bureaucracy, it is likely that road safety, despite its miniscule budget requirement for institutionalization, will remain on the sidelines of national priority.

What I will tell my younger self as I approach 30

It’s the month of the year that will mark my three decades of existence. Time is very long when you are waiting yet looking back seemed like it was just moments before. Maybe it is because I oriented myself to look at the future as a destination where struggles would magically disappear, my wants will all be in my possession, my needs are attained with several extras. I was wrong.

When I was still a kid, I have grown frustrated of what my parents could provide. I won’t deny it. It would be hypocritical to say that I didn’t want to travel the world at a young age, to have the latest mobile phone (like the Nokia 7650 or the Express Music series), to have everything that I wanted. Life is not fair. I also aspired to be in a school that I want, to develop a career that I enjoyed.

However, after all those selfish pain that I felt, I am here. I have a decent job. Over the years, I traveled to five different countries, experienced using the gadgets I only imagined to have, and do whatever I want. Despite of not being able to become a chemical engineer just as I planned, I ended up impacting the lives of people through the work I have done in the government.

We only have one life to spread so thinly and to find its true meaning. So here are some things I want to say to my younger self at 30.

Chase your dream while you can.

I can recall my computer programming professor in high school telling us that we are getting closer to the real jungle of our lives as we approach college. He wasn’t wrong about it. Come to think of it, the very first step you make in college could have a lasting impact, even for a lifetime. In my case, I wanted to pursue a career closely related to chemistry, although some of my professors also recommended I take architecture as they see my potential in it. I was pretty lost back then. I also considered practical options like marine engineering and information technology. I also considered things I enjoyed doing like physical education (though it has completely outgrown me now).

This photo was taken in 2013 during our on-the-job training. This is now one of the largest hospitals in Mandurriao district in Iloilo City. We spent at least two months working in this building.

I ended up with civil engineering. Close enough. LOL.

Nevertheless, civil engineering has indirectly driven me into getting to know what I want to do with my life. I graduated and became an engineer without any career plans in mind. I was merely driven towards where others would push me and where opportunities were. That led me into my first job in the government where I was able to earn a decent salary to afford those dream gadgets that I wanted and to eat all the food that I only saw others enjoy. It also led me into traveling opportunities including my first all-expense paid international trip to Japan as a youth ambassador of goodwill.

This is my host family in Japan who took care of me. They made my visit to Japan extra memorable.
Watch a video I created about my trip to Singapore with my mom.

I was able to afford to take my mom on her retirement to Singapore. I also visited places I only recognized in the books I read like the Angkor Wat in Cambodia and the Hua Lamphong Station in Bangkok, Thailand. And finally, before the pandemic broke out, represented the Philippines in the World Road Congress in the Emirates as the lone Filipino delegate.

October 2019 – This was my most daring feat in my career as a civil engineer. I flew on my own and represented the Philippines in the 26th World Road Congress in Abu Dhabi, UAE where I presented my research paper.

Although I am suggesting that you chase your dream, I can definitely tell you that the universe will conspire and lead you to your heart’s desire. Just know what you want to happen in your life. Do what has to be done and your dream will be served at your doorstep. Similar to how I finally joined the National Economic and Development Authority after five job applications in a span of two years, I just did what I had to: build myself up to deserve my position. Like what a colleague told me, I am one persistent applicant. I never stopped until I knew it was over.

Expectations will imprison you, don’t dwell in it.

Growing up, I already felt the deprivations because of our overall economic standing as a family. My dad was sick and my mom had to fill in all the gaps. I am very fortunate to have ended up with several scholarships through the skills I could offer as a campus journalist. This ultimately opened a huge door of opportunities that molded me into who I am now. Even this blog would not come into reality if I failed to learn how to express myself through writing. The key is perseverance and creativity.

This was one of the best days of the USA Publications under our leadership as editors. It bore fruits in the form of national awards.

Deprivations continued as I built my career. Without dealing with too much details, you will not get what you think you deserve. Rather, in a career, especially in the government, you need to factor in what other people think of you and what they think you deserve. After all, they also have their own journey and a path they also want to build. This may or may not include you, even if you have the best credentials or the competencies for the job.

As we grow, from students to young professionals, we will become prisoners of our own expectations, of what we think we deserve, of how we want the world to become as we slowly get integrated to it. Therefore, acceptance is something we need to embrace. There are simply things we cannot change to meet our expectations. What we genuinely have control of is how we deal with our heartaches and frustrations. It is never bad to expect something. But when things do not go as planned, focus on what you can control and make sure you end up in the winning end. The winning end here is indicated by yourself moving forward and not dwelling on those flat tires you experience in your own journey.

This photo is just an imagination, a daydream when I thought of my future. But yes, being impactful to the world is one of things I want to do with my life. This probably capped my journey towards becoming 30.

Follow your heart.

The community I grew up in has always stigmatized the LGBTQIA+. I grew up without allies and had to hide at all costs. I lifted the weight of the fear of judgment to myself and to my family. Traditional people, as I experienced, would see having a gay child as bad luck or a disgrace. I carried extra burdens that any straight person would never understand. The planet is over 40,000 kilometers in circumference yet my whole world felt like it was just barely a square meter. I was in a constant battle of denying my feelings while also working hard to be what the world perceived as normal. I almost destroyed myself in the process.

Coming out was not easy. It is not customary. Coming out is not for everyone to know you are gay. It is your own acceptance of yourself, who you really are. I did it in phases. The first people whom I confirmed my identity was with my friends in college back in 2012. That same year was critical. I had the courage to finally tell my dad of who I really am. He got concerned when I almost lost myself. I expected to be sent away but I can vividly remember that he simply kissed my forehead and act like nothing happened.

Moving forward, my dad was very vital to my coming out story. When he passed away, I felt the need to complete my unfinished business and to come out to the most important people in my life – my family. I took on the courage of coming out and also introducing the love of my life to them. I recognized parts of disgust and disappointment but I bravely faced it. This is where I truly learned the meaning of following your heart.

I realized that in my case, my family was just as concerned as I am with how society would treat me. They simply did not know how to protect me. It is definitely a two-way process. Coming out is not just about yourself, it is also about your family and the people who care about you. You also need to assure them that you can handle it. Yes, it is an extra burden but eventually you will find your allies, in them or the people similar to you.

Right now, my boyfriend and I are both making the world a better place in our respective careers. My heart felt lighter now that my world is not concealed. I do hope that the future of coming out will be easier for everyone and that the world would be kinder. Not everyone can be as strong as me or can be surrounded by supportive people just like I did.

Time will never come back.

As a conclusion and a final word, I want to tell you that the success stories of older people you see should not be seen as an inspiration. Why? As time progresses, only luck will be our refuge. What will happen if luck was never on our side? As much as you can, do not, (I repeat) do not waste your time. Wasted time will turn into a cancer of regret that will haunt you for a lifetime.

Approaching my thirties, I also have a handful of regrets. These regrets will trigger all of the what-ifs which induce more heartache and frustration. Thus, when opportunities come in, think clearly and be decisive. It is hypocritical to say that you have no regrets. My mother once said that we are governed by our choices and that everything that happens in our life comes from our choices. Good or bad, make decisions, make choices. Don’t run from it. You will never know what lies ahead if you simply stop.

As a general strategy, I always act on decision points and let the things ahead progress until I reach another pit stop or face two paths to choose from. I never leave anything hanging, especially those with a deadline. After all, life is full of deadlines, we only fail to see them. Just think of your loved ones and even yourself, we never know for how long we stay in this world. If Colonel Sanders of KFC died in his 40s, would there even be KFC? I am not saying there is something wrong in his success story. He was a success because time permitted him to do so. We do not have the same success story, but we are all constrained with time.

So, these are the things I will tell my younger self. Enjoy life while it lasts and work on things you can control. Expectations will imprison you so do not dwell in it for too long. Chase your dream while you can. Follow your heart even if it means hurting it in the process. And always remember, time will never come back. You did it self. You will go far.

Should I Get a Credit Card Part 2: The Disadvantages

This article is a continuation of Should I Get a Credit Card Part 1: The Advantages.

Credit cards have become a convenience, especially to those with relatively stable income sources. These pieces of plastic as mentioned in the previous article offers several advantages that would make the owner financially efficient compared to conservative cash payers. However, these things do not just offer good things as it also provides several problems which you as the holder should be aware of.

There are a lot of points to consider in having a credit card that you can only find in the boring terms and conditions that we more often forget to read or take for granted. Applying for a credit card also ends up in allowing banks to access all of your financial information and you become profiled in terms of your credit standing. There are also things that are too good to be true and we simply fall for them without actually realizing we are losing more than what we thought we are getting. These include the annual fees and reward programs. At the same time, credit card customer service are often not as helpful as you expect.

“Free” Annual Fees

You should never think that everything is for free. Or probably, you haven’t heard of the saying that goes, “There is no such thing as a free lunch.” This is exactly what credit cards are. Upon application, everything will be seemingly too good to be true. Banks would tell you several things like “free annual fee for life” or “first year of annual fee on us”. First, let us define what annual fees are. These are regularly billed fees every year as payment for the credit service that your bank provides.

These “free” offers usually tend to attract new cardholders or new entrants in that particular bank. But these same free offerings come with a finer print that we sometimes fail to read. Statements like “free annual fee” are on bigger font sizes followed by an asterisk (*) which details the condition far below the advertisement with a smaller font size saying, for example, “with a minimum of PHP20,000 spend within the first 60 days of card approval”. At this rate, you will be pressured to spend that much even if you don’t need to.

Now, some banks also offer free annual fees for their entry-level, non-premium credit cards. These usually do not have any rewards program and would plainly just be advantageous for transactors (those who always zero-out or pay off all of their monthly bills). The trick here for banks to earn a profit are for those who actually could not pay their monthly bills in full but would have the capacity to pay at least the minimum monthly dues. With that being mentioned, interest comes in as the primary source of income for banks with this card offering.

Rewards Programs (or really?)

Another way that people get attracted to credit cards are rewards. As mentioned in the previous articles, the rewards program often provide credits for loyalty programs such as the SMAC or the GoRewards, miles in airlines, and other similar schemes. If we bundle it with the previously mentioned annual fees, you will definitely get my point – those rewards aren’t truly free and you pay for those.

The rewards programs would usually give you cashback or rewards points for every specific spend, say 1 point or PHP1.00 for every PHP200 spend. If you do the math, let’s say you pay PHP3,000 for the annual fee of a credit card with a lifestyle rewards program. For you to actually breakeven with the rewards you are getting (at PHP1.00 for every PHP200 spend), you will need to spend at least PHP600,000. If you do not spend that much, you are not on the winning side of the rewards program. Unless you are rich enough to spend more than that, you are just being tricked into using credit cards and even paying off all of your monthly dues did not save you money in the sense.

However, this is just the tip of the iceberg of the rewards program scheme. We also fail to consider that merchants or simply, the stores we visit that accept credit cards usually pay banks administrative and processing fees for your payment. In effect, products tend to be costlier. Ever wonder why some stores offer discounts when you pay in cash or charge your credit card the full amount without installments? It is because they would no longer or at least pay less of those fees that banks charge.

Some stores arbitrarily offset these bank charges to all customers paying in cash or credit cards – just one price for all to avoid any complications. Thus, you can fairly say that when you pay in cash, you actually lose more money than with a credit card, especially if your card has a rewards program. Nonetheless, remember that rewards programs only favor big time spenders.

Customer Service

Let us be honest, a credit card is a business model. At the end of the day, banks would offer you all good things, to good to be true, at a hidden price. Otherwise, what good would they get from offering credit cards in the first place?

Customer service is a bit tricky with banks for credit cards. We get charged here and there. We get all the problems with the bank’s lack of diligence in securing our private data despite all of the assurance they provide in the fine print. Scams are rampant and we often carry the burden of the risks that banks do not necessarily assume. Although it is not my personal experience, I have heard stories of terrible customer service putting the banks into the advantage and crippling less financially literate credit cardholders. Simply put, that if you do not know your rights or read the fine print of a card’s terms and conditions, that is on you.

On a personal experience, I have been a victim of some unresolved technical glitches of the Cebu Pacific credit card offered by the Union Bank of the Philippines. It took over a year to get my rewards points credited to my account although in the fine print it mentioned that it will be automatically credited. I contacted the customer support of Union Bank which was not very helpful and did not yield results. Fed up with their unfulfilled promises, I resorted to filing a complaint with the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas. I was glad it was sorted out in a week. However, as I observed, the new rewards points I have been earning for several months are again not credited. So, yes, Union Bank is definitely off my list for good credit cards.

So I definitely guarantee that credit cards are only good while they keep their promises. When things go badly, their customer service representatives are programmed or oriented to always put the bank’s interests first before yours, especially if you are not a high tier cardholder. In addition, high tier cardholders are considered low risk for disputes considering that they would rarely mind the perks they earn, a complimentary access to an airport lounge is more than enough for them.

Credit Score

You may wonder how banks would set your credit limit. It can be based on your credit score. The credit score is a measure of your capacity to be able to pay for the money you owe. A lot of sources say that it can be based on the number of bank accounts you have, the flow of money that goes in and out, repayment history, and many more.

Thus, you are being profiled on your financial capacity. It is part of the credit card application process and you can simply not do away with this.

Another risk you can expect is that when you decide to close a credit card account, it will negatively impact your credit score and end up earning lower credit limits in your new applications, or worse, not qualifying at all. Thus, you have to be mindful when you apply for a credit card. One tip is to also ensure that you settled any debt before closing your credit card account i.e. paying your debt off and have a zero balance before notifying your bank that you wish to close the credit account.

Final Thoughts

So credit cards offer a handful of advantages and disadvantages. It lies to your judgment whether or not these are helpful. As society is leading towards digital transformation and banks get more creative in getting new credit card customers, financial literacy and inclusivity should be at the center of its success.

Financially, credit cards offer unprecedented efficiency in transactions versus what cash traditionally offered. It also offers banks a very lucrative business model to keep it afloat. After all, banks earn mostly from our debt. However, financial institution regulators should ensure these are not profiteered to fully realize a financially enabled, literate, and inclusive world.

Anti-Lock Braking System: Should it be required?

The anti-lock braking system was among the many important safety accessories for powered two-wheelers (especially motorcycles) that became a major discussion in the recently concluded Dialogue on Powered Two-Wheeler (PTW) Safety conducted by the Global Regional Road Safety Observatories as a pre-meeting event of the Asia-Pacific Road Safety Observatory Annual Meeting held at the Asian Development Bank in Mandaluyong City, Metro Manila.

I shared about the local actions projects on PTW safety in Indonesia done by fellow members of the Youth Coalition.

I was very fortunate to be able to attend this activity on October 11-13, 2022 as one of the speakers in the opening session and the dialogue on supporting action for PTW safety. I represented the Global Youth Coalition for Road Safety, the membership and youth mobilization arm of the Youth for Road Safety (YOURS) with the support of the Global Road Safety Partnership.

PTWs, through the lens of a typical motorcycle user in a low-middle income country (LMIC), is more of a means to get along with daily life’s challenges. As emphasized by several speakers, PTWs can become a work vehicle, a leisure vehicle, a cargo vehicle, and to extreme uses, even a family vehicle. Facts were also presented that these motor vehicles tend to account to the most number of fatalities in road crashes.

With that, the Towards Zero Foundation (TZF) took the lead in promoting the application of anti-lock braking system (ABS) as a means to reduce the severity of road crashes involving motorcycles. Their campaign aimed “to increase the fitment rate of motorcycle ABS in [Southeast Asia] by raising awareness of the benefits of a motorcycle ABS and increasing consumer demand”. Likewise, they also “advocate for [commitment in the ASEAN region] to mandate motorcycle ABS [aligned with United Nations Regulation No. 78 and Global Technical Regulation No. 3] on all PTWs capable of travel speeds of 50 kilometers per hour or greater.”

A demo was done by the Malaysian Institute for Road Safety Research (MIROS) during the first day of the dialogue at ADB Headquarters in Manila, Philippines.

The Southeast Asia holds among the highest number of road crash deaths involving motorcyclists. Globally, it also accounts to about 29 percent of all road traffic deaths. The TZF also noted that ASEAN has a larger share of motorcyclist deaths accounting to 62 percent of all road crash fatalities with Indonesia and Thailand having rider fatalities has high as 74 percent.

In the TZF status report of motorcycle ABS in ASEAN, it showed that countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam have the highest motorcycle ownership. With the COVID-19 pandemic shifting preference to more personalized modes of travel like the motorcycle, it is also expected that countries like the Philippines have a steady increase in motorcycle use.

The ABS is a motorcycle accessory which prevents its wheels from locking during braking. This accessory uses speed sensors on both wheels to determine speed as well as sensors to determine when a wheel is about to lock. As it reacts to the braking motorcycle, it maintains its stability to ensure a safe stop while having a reduced stopping distance. With motorcycles involved in most fatal road crash cases, the ABS is seen to reduced fatality and sever injury.

During the discussion in the dialogue, cost was one of the factors which divided the participants’ views. With the lack of context, it can be viewed that LMICs have less priority over safety given that this technology, although already available since 1988, was highly unfamiliar and not mandated. At present, the ABS would cost ranging between 40 to 70 USD (~ PHP2,500-4,000) plus installation. In the market, it is also not a built-in feature at the moment as no law required it to be installed in new motorcycle units. With the costs considered, the ABS can increase the cost of a motorcycle in the Philippines by at least 10 percent.

The challenge in implementing this in the country is the level of appreciation of safety as an added investment. Most users of motorcycles in the Philippines, for example, are those who have difficulty in accessing public transport or those who simply could not afford a car. Thus, economic standing is critical toward the acceptance of this added cost to motorcyclists. In the same report of the TZF where at least five Filipinos were respondents, it showed that majority (72% of all respondents) are willing to pay for the added cost of ABS provided that it cost USD100 or less (< PHP 5,900).

The installation or equipment of ABS in motorcycles is said to reduce related crashes and fatalities by 33 percent in the ASEAN region accounting of at least 8,000 lives saved per year. Having these considered, leaders especially in the transport sector should lay out the discussion of mandatory use of ABS and a transition to its full use in the coming years.

Why is the Peso getting weaker? (For the common tao)

The Philippine peso (PHP) exchange rate with the United States dollar (USD) has weakened at historical levels recently. The first week of September 2022 saw the lowest, least competitive rate of nearly PHP57.00 to a USD, something that will be etched on the history books.

Immediate effects of this may not be felt by any typical Filipino who does their grocery shopping or casual dining at a fast food chain. Anyway, the current prices are already leaping due to the externally-induced inflation. Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) may also be unfazed by the exchange rate because on a non-technical point-of-view, higher exchange rates mean more money in PHP for their families. However, the weaker peso will worsen inflation and cause local prices of commodities, especially imported items to become more expensive. If you have been a fan of eating spam, then you might want to set aside that desire as these may be costing more.

The last record low exchange rates was in 2004 when the USD was worth PHP56.45.

The simplest reason behind this is that the USD which is the default global currency is becoming stronger which generally lowers the values of all other currencies. The US Federal Reserve (which functions similarly with our own Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas), strategized to battle out the inflation that is going on in the United States. They did this by increasing the interest rates which attracts American investments that guarantee a higher rate of return. In addition, they want Americans to keep their money instead of spending it as it caused inflation.

Inflation in the US

Many experts believe that the US is currently experiencing a demand-pull inflation. It means that there are so much money in circulation with so little goods and services available to spend it on. In economics, there is what we call the law of supply and demand. And one of the principles is that when there is low supply and a high demand, the price increases. As the price increases, inflation is accelerated.

Inflation itself has also taken its toll in the international market given that rapid globalization has made all economies interconnected. Therefore, whatever the US suffers, or any large economy for that matter, would generally affect others.

Among the many technical reasons why inflation has gone up at uncontrollable rates is because the stimulus that the US provided in the later part of the pandemic allowed Americans to purchase more things with their increased disposable income. However, due to revenge-spending, local supply of goods have diminished in higher rates with the increased demand. International tensions in Europe brought about by the Russian invasion of Ukraine also disrupted the global supply chain and made things costlier to produce.

With that, the US is in a tricky situation given that any decision they make that affects their economic standing would domino to all the countries of the world.

Increase in Fed interest rates

To combat this, the US Federal Reserve increased interest rates with the hope of reducing demand for goods. How does this work? Giving higher rates of return from the interests, it makes American investment more attractive.

Interests also mean higher borrowing cost which will therefore also ease spending. Eventually, the demand for goods and services would lower to normal and manageable levels. With the economic principle shared earlier, it will mean that with the lower demand and ample supply, prices of goods will eventually decrease into normal levels. Inflation is eased, at least everybody hopes.

What lies ahead

With everyone considering the USD as the safeguard for the value of money, investors would stock up on dollars. As mentioned, American investment is also getting more attractive with the higher interest rates. In the investing side, it is advantageous, it earns you money; but on the borrowing side, it makes you lose more money. Investors, big ones, would usually be driven towards investing in the dollar-denominated investments. Financial experts would suggest that this condition builds a stronger dollar than other local currencies.

A report of CNN Business notes that half of the world’s trade are invoiced or charged in USD. This will turn up bills for imports much higher with the stronger dollar.

To illustrate, the iPhone 14 which launched earlier this week now cost PHP56,990 for its baseline model compared with the iPhone 13 which cost about PHP49,990 which at that time, there was a PHP49 to USD on average exchange rate. Although the phone comes with new features, its dollar price range did not increase. But when it hits the shelves in the Philippines, it cost more than it was before.

Will it affect me?

OFWs may rejoice at first with the exchange rates getting more pesos for each dollar or whatever currency for that matter. However, it is only the tip of the iceberg. Goods which generally require materials from abroad would entail more acquisition costs and the Filipinos will need to deal with the price increases. Despite more pesos for now, it projects “more pesos for the same quantity of goods”.

The Philippines already suffers a lot of shortage in basic goods, especially in food items like rice and sugar. As the government plans to import, you know where this is heading with the PHP to USD exchange rate in mind. The country also suffers inflation now and even if the US is battling it out their way, their remedy may mean a heavy blow for other economies like ours.

The best way survive the condition we are in is to spend conservatively at our individual levels. This means spending on the more important things, the “needs”. Set aside the “wants” for now and maximize our limited resource like time to allow us to find secondary or backup sources of income. In that way, the food on our tables might cost more but we have some extra pesos to brave the weakening peso.

Should I Get a Credit Card Part 1: The Advantages

If you have just started working and earning a fixed income from an employer, it is certain that at one point you have been invited by a representative from a financial institution to apply for a credit card. However, you may observe that a lot of advertisements on social media are about these pieces of plastic. It seems that banks are aggressive to get more customers.

In a report in 2017, the World Bank estimated about two percent of Filipinos own credit cards which is much lower than the 22 percent average among its East Asia and Pacific peers. In 2019, just before the pandemic changed everything, 53 percent of Filipinos paid their utility bills in cash.

The COVID-19 pandemic served as an opportunity for more cashless transactions. These, however, did not necessarily mean credit cards were behind it. Electronic wallets like GCash, Maya, and ShopeePay which had less stringent account application process became more popular. The main difference between the two is that electronic wallets use debit form transactions wherein there are already funds in the account. Meanwhile, credit cards use credit form transactions as the name suggests. A fixed credit limit which financial institutions compute based on your average monthly income serves as the threshold of your allowable expenses. Then, you will be billed on a monthly basis on a specified billing cycle.

Now, what are the advantages of using a credit card? There are several reasons why the more financially literate people have been using them. These include a range of flexiblity, access and perks.

Avoid losses in cash transactions

Merchants or stores where you purchase items are actually charged a specified amount for each transaction done using a credit or debit card (usually two percent). When you visit a gadget store, for example, you will observe they have at least two different rates for those who pay in cash and those who pay in card. This scheme is actually to the advantage of both parties because the merchant avoids fees from the banks with these transactions while you as the buyer also gets an instant “discount” for the cash transaction. This only happens when the store offers two prices; but if the store does not offer two prices, you are losing money when you pay in cash.

The other way merchants avoid paying fees from the banks is to increase their markup when they sell their products. This is to defray any anticipated additional charges in these types of transactions from their side. To put it on an easier concept, whether you pay in cash or card, you pay the same amount. The loss here is because using a credit card for instance has some perks or rewards (depending on the rewards program of your card issuer) while paying in cash gets you nothing for paying extra. In part, you can see that credit cards have potentially caused things to be more expensive and the only way to outsmart this situation is to use the cards.

Get flexibility in finances

In my circle, there is a mixed opinion about installments. “Utang” is something not everyone is proud to talk about. But come to think of the bigger picture, development in our country is facilitated through loans from multinational financial institutions. These incur debt but provide the country some flexibility to use its own resources for other priorities. How will this concept be more applicable to you?

Let’s say you have PHP200,000 in your bank account and you always needed to buy a high-end, high spec computer. You decided to purchase a MacBook Pro 14″ which cost PHP120,000. Basically, you can buy it in cash and it will leave you PHP80,000. Still a good deal right? But it makes your financial health vulnerable. The following month, a typhoon damaged your house and you needed PHP100,000 for immediate house repairs. Assuming you will get all of the money from your bank account, you still lack PHP20,000. Even if you have PHP20,000 monthly income, it will seem difficult to manage.

This is where installment comes in. With the same reference figures, let us say you bought the MacBook for PHP120,000 in a 24-month installment at zero percent interest. That will mean PHP5,000 per month charge. This means you only spend PHP5,000 on the first month leaving PHP195,000 in your bank account and you also have enough money left for the damage in your house the following month. This leaves you PHP95,000 in your bank account. With the monthly income you have at PHP20,000, the Macbook is still within budget and will not leave you in debt after the second month.

Credit card transaction also has several perks such as cashbacks that saves you extra depending on your bank issuer’s promotions. More discussion on this below.

Earn cashbacks and other perks

Each credit card has its own rewards system which is seen to entice customers. From extravagant new cardholder cashbacks to free Airpods, banks are obsessed in getting new customers. This is one reason why banks charge those fees to merchants (the stores where we buy things) because ultimately, they have to find ways to fund these promotions.

Now it may be counterintuitive given that these financial institutions are making a lot of money and enslaving merchants and even ourselves. But that is just the way it is. Our choices have been decided. Thus, this is also the main reason to get a credit card to ensure we make the most of our hard-earned money.

For a newbie, there are a lot of perks awaiting that usually requires a minimum spend for a specific period of time. Thus, when considering to apply for a credit card, it is best to apply within the timeframe of a promotion giving huge cashback rewards upon attaining a minimum spend and at the same time, you are planning to buy an expensive essential item like an appliance or a gadget.

To illustrate, you need to buy an inverter-type air conditioning unit worth PHP20,000. You also want to get a credit card to take advantage of its rewards program and sign-in perks. Let us say Bank X is offering a PHP5,000 cashback to new cardholders for a minimum spend of PHP20,000 within the month of card approval and receipt. Thus, this situation with Bank X is an opportunity for you to get the most of your money. Not only do you get your much needed item, you also get PHP5,000 cashback. It potentially gave you a 25 percent “discount” on your AC or an instant PHP5,000, whatever your mentality dictates.

Final say

While several reasons to have a credit card have been laid out, it still boils down to your own personal preference. Whether you pay in cash or via a card, there is always an advantage and a disadvantage. The most important factor is to ensure that you have a healthy financial standing indicated by having a steady budget, remaining debt-free, and keeping a ready emergency fund.

There are two types of credit cardholders in general, the transactor and the debtor. The transactor maintains good fiscal management by making sure that all monthly dues are paid in full which in turn does not get burdened by interests if any. The debtor, on the other hand, is something we should avoid becoming as this means that the credit card is taking more advantage of us than the other way around. These cardholders are burdened by unhealthy financial decisions which end up burdening them with interests for not paying the monthly dues in full. The only middle ground of debt with a credit card is having zero interest.

So, use your credit card wisely. It is not as disadvantageous as you think. It is a matter of learning life skills in financial management either theoretically or by experience. When you master the art of credit cards, you will be steps ahead from those who pay in cash.

How to outsmart the fuel price hike

Who could not recall the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic? We experienced the heaviest lockdowns in our lifetime (I hope) and everything went to a standstill. I could recall enduring the heat of the sun walking home with two bags of groceries. Despite it being very impractical to walk, there was simply no means of transport in my case. I did not have a bicycle and even so, it would be more of a hassle with the two bags I was carrying.

At this period, major fuel consumers such as the aviation industry and the land transport and logistics industry were also at a standstill. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) highlighted that the community-wide quarantine restrictions during the early stage of the pandemic led to significant economic disruptions. This in turn slowed down production and mobility worldwide which gave a substantial drop in the global oil demand.

Two years after, we have a polar opposite of the situation. Oil prices rose to horrific levels past pre-pandemic figures. In a report of Philstar Global,  gasoline prices have increased by more or less PHP7.95 per liter: diesel at PHP10.20 per liter and kerosene at PHP9.10 per liter. Among the factors identified to affect the oil prices include:

  1. Supply chain disruption due to the conditions brought by the special military operation of Russia in Ukraine
  2. Declining reserves of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries Plus (OPEC+)
  3. Lack of crude and refined products inventories

While the government employed several measures to mitigate the rise in oil prices, it is still expected that such fuel price hikes would have general effects on the entirety of the Philippine economy, especially in food production, logistics and transportation.

Here are some ways we could survive the effects of the oil price hike as well as lend a helping hand to the sectors that would experience its ill effects significantly:

  1. Use a bicycle for short-distance travel. It has been ages since people wished for bike lanes. Iloilo City is gifted with these. In my previous rapid study, it found that the development of bike lanes had direct effects in increasing the cyclist population in the city. Using a bicycle not only saves costs on transport but it also provides health benefits physically and mentally. This option has been advocated by several groups and even the country’s National Economic and Development Authority has promoted this means of transport to mitigate the effects of fuel price hikes. This would also reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Photo by Enzo Santos on Pexels.com
  1. Park your cars and use public transport. The heaviest effect in fuel price hikes is felt by transport groups. The reduced number of commuters due to alternative work arrangements as well as online learning has significantly affected jeepney drivers’ pockets. With the rise of fuel prices and the status quo on fare prices prescribed by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board, it is best to artificially increase commuter activity to also increase the drivers’ incomes. It is a win-win situation for car owners to save up on their fuel expenses while jeepney drivers’ would also be able to cope with the situation.
Oops, dont’t text and drive. Photo by SplitShire on Pexels.com
  1. Explore carpooling. If you want the comfort of an airconditioned car or if you want to maintain that lifestyle back when fuel prices were still within your budget, then carpooling can be the last option. The COVID-19 virus is still present but with compliance with minimum public health standards like wearing facemasks, it may be a good option to split the fuel bill with a few friends or colleagues. If you are hosting the car, also expect to chip in some amount. And if you are the passenger, cooperate and contribute to the fuel. This option will generally also reduce cars on the road making it free-flowing and safer for those on bikes.

Several lessons and solutions were discovered by humanity during the hardest times. The COVID-19 pandemic made several things we never thought of becoming possible, possible. Transaction in banks and government entities embraced digital technology. Despite being disconnected physically, we became more connected beyond what we could reach pre-pandemic. More people learned to use gadgets in solving their day-to-day inconveniences. Let us embrace and find the silver lining of the global fuel price increase and discover ways how this problem could become a solution to preserve our economy, our planet and our humanity.

To Infinitea and beyond

Milk tea. These are two words which bring joy to anybody. For Filipinos, it has become a staple for various activities across different venues. According to Driftstories.com, milk tea shops in the Philippines started its roots in 2008 in San Juan City in Metro Manila. In Iloilo, I’m very sure you also remember pioneering brands such as Dakasi and Moonleaf which also opened its doors a few years later.

Basically a concoction of milk and freshly brewed tea, this drink could find its way into our study groups, all-nighters and overtime work. I could not simply count the number of times I ordered milk tea so I could get fueled to pull off a good working day. The silky smooth drink with sweet and chewy tapioca pearls almost end up as a meal replacement to get that sugar rush to beat office deadlines.

The milk tea business is simply booming these days. One after the other, stores mushroom all over Iloilo City be it a franchise or a home-grown brand. Just this January, another brand that already gained steady patronage in other cities in the Philippines opened its doors for the Ilonggos. I am referring to Infinitea which tags itself as one of the country’s top milk tea shop chain. In 2014, it was awarded as the Best Tea Shop Chain in the Philippines during the Golden Globe Annual Awards for Business Excellence.

Over 100 Drinks to choose from!

Infinitea serves a wide variety of tasty and refreshing authentic pearl milk tea drinks. These are guaranteed made from 100 percent freshly brewed loose-leaf teas of high quality. They also serve variety of coffees, Frappes, Fruit Teas and more.

My favorite drink in Infinitea.

Since its opening in January 2022, I have not yet repeated any of my drink orders in Infinitea. There is simply a lot to choose from. They have eight main lines of beverages:

  1. Milk Tea – 29 drinks
  2. Original Tea – 5 drinks
  3. Fruit Tea – 14 drinks
  4. Frappe – 20 drinks
  5. Iced Series – 9 drinks
  6. Lemonade – 8 drinks
  7. Soda Pops – 7 drinks
  8. Coffee Selection – 10 hot/iced coffee drinks and 5 coffee-based frappe

Among these, my favorites (so far) include the Strawberry Oreo Frappe, Green Apple Soda Pop and Okinawa Milk Tea.

Applicable to some drink items, you can choose your sweetness level at 0, 25, 50, 75 or 100 percent sugar level. For the sinkers, Infinitea also has a handful which you can mix and match for your drink such as pearls, nata de coco, assorted jelly, basil seed, chocolate or caramel topping, coffee jelly, brown sugar jelly, egg pudding, whipped cream and salted cream.

Meals and Snacks

If you think the drinks are not enough, Infinitea is also developing several menu items to meet your dining demands. They offer full meals such as chicken adobo flakes, tapa flakes, crispy chicken or crispy pork chop with rice. For some casual snacking, to complement their delicious drinks, you can have nachos, chicken pops, hamburger, lumpiang shanghai, siomai, onion rings, or seasoned fries.

To fully meet your all-day meal demands, they also recently launched their All-Day Breakfast line which embraces the typical Pinoy breakfast paying tribute to its title as No. 1 Tea Shop in the Philippines. Paired with pickled veggies, rice and egg, you can choose from Spam, pork tocino, beef tapa, longganisa, daing na bangus, spicy Spanish sardines or hotdog.

Among my favorites that you must try out include the nachos, chicken pops and onion rings. I am yet to try out their latest all-day breakfast line.

Ambiance and Staff

The store is open from 8:00 AM to 9:00 PM under normal conditions (taking into account the LGU-prescribed curfews and proclamations). The store is airconditioned and is very comfortable for short visits such as dining or casually meeting someone for a quick catch up. Peak hours are usually at around 4:00 PM to 6:00 PM. If you have a car that needs some washing, there is a carwash just beside it. So you can practically drop off your car and have a sip of Infinitea’s great drinks.

The store is simple but the lighting and the minimalist Nordic vibe make it an Instagram-worthy place when the proper angles are done. Don’t be afraid to ask any of their staff if you’re alone and you need that great photo. They’d be happy to take a photo of you. As a token of appreciation, tag them in your next IG story at @infiniteailo2.

Final Word and Promotion

As part of their loyalty program, Infinitea offers a loyalty card which can get you a free sinker on your fifth order, a free drink on your 10th, another free sinker your 15th and another free drink on your 20th. This promotion, however, is limited to large size drinks. You can ask for a card from the cashier when you order your 1st large size drink. (Subject to change without prior notice. Information was acquired as of this writing)

Infinitea Iloilo is one milk tea shop you should not miss and is definitely worth a visit. It provides a wide variety of drinks and a great selection of meals and snacks to choose from. If I were to rate it, I can give it a 4 out of 5 with the only recommendation to also invest in delivery so more Ilonggos could try them out. I am very sure there will be a lot of repeat orders.

There’s the rest, and there’s Apple

The coffee shop is a great working space for completing impromptu urgent tasks. After spending a few hundred pesos for a 20-ounce coffee, you find a great spot and then open your laptop to get that job done. Then suddenly, you realize that there is no power outlet and you are on 20 percent battery, giving you a quick window of merely 30 minutes to work.

You realize that you need a photo from your mobile phone to wrap up the report you are trying to complete. You scrambled upon your backpack only to realize that you have no cable with you. With the urgency, you lost the common sense to send it through the internet via the cloud. But who understands the cloud? As Filipinos, we are mostly acquainted with the usual flash drives and cables to move files between our mobile phone and computer.

You lost it. The deadline, the confidence, everything.

Photo by ATC Comm Photo on Pexels.com

As a number one doubter of Apple products due to their unattractive pricetags and Western origin, I also jumped from one brand to another including Samsung and Huawei. However, when I finally gave in and entered the so-called “Apple Ecosystem,” I doubt ever leaving Apple products in my digital needs. Here are some reasons why:

Everybody seems to get along

Are you familiar with AirDrop? It’s been with Apple for the longest time. AirDrop is a proprietary ad hoc service in Apple. It was introduced in Mac OS X Lion and iOS 7, which could transfer files among supported Apple computers and iOS devices such as the iPhone and iPad using close-range wireless communication.

The technology uses Transport Layer Security (TLS) encryption over a direct Apple-created peer-to-peer Wi-Fi connection for the transmission of documents. For simplicity, the Wi-Fi radios of the source and target devices communicate directly without using an Internet connection or Wi-Fi Access Point.

Compared with the usual third-party transfers which could enable exchange between Android and iOS devices, AirDrop file transfers have unprecedented speeds and do not harm your device from heating up when large or voluminous files are transferred.

Powerful built-in applications

Apple hosts a handful of proprietary software which are free to use for any of its devices. Something very common and very useful for content creators is iMovie. It is a video editor available in iOS, iPadOS and Mac OS and is readily available upon unboxing your Apple device. It has a very convenient and straightforward user interface. Upon completing your video editing, it also renders the videos at shorter periods versus PCs with lower specifications. To illustrate, the entry-level MacBook Air can already do justice in video editing producing high-quality renders while saving your precious time; compared with PCs whose entry levels would heat while rendering and consume longer periods.

Unlike PC laptops with Windows, MacBooks and even iPads have a built-in word processor, spreadsheet and presentation applications. Apple has Pages which turns out to be the counterpart for Microsoft Word, Numbers for Microsoft Excel and Keynote for Microsoft PowerPoint.

And apparently, Apple does not stop there, most of its apps are available on various devices and could be synchronized through the cloud. It just requires some understanding of how the cloud works and which data needs to be in sync. Personally, I sync my calendar, contacts, notes and reminders. This ensures that the most important things are within reach through any Apple device I have. Pro tip: Don’t sync photos as this might consume so much of the memory. Instead, use AirDrop when you need the photo on another Apple device.

Sophisticated minimalist designs

Let’s be totally honest about it. Apple products pay so much attention to detail. The name itself has been linked as a luxury. While some consider its devices a bit too over-the-top, it remains to be a signature accessory and to some extent a status symbol. Come to think of it, though, Apple does not impose a high price tag unless you want the latest model. In fact, as of this writing, iPhone 11 is still actively being manufactured and is on the market at lower prices.

Design is a funny word. Some people think design means how it looks. But of course, if you dig deeper, it’s really how it works.

STEVE JOBS

Apple devices are known to be with the highest material grade compared with its competitors. For example, some flagship models of Android brands boast aluminum chassis. This means they could be produced much cheaper than Apple, which uses surgical grade stainless steel for its flagship Pro models.

Come to think of it, we do get what we pay for even in terms of aesthetics and the actual build of the phone when we patronize Apple products. With the positioning of speakers, the cameras, you see its Apple vibe. What I am a bit excited about is their upcoming Macbooks which are rumored to showcase various colors just like the iMacs released last year.

Efficient and enabling hardware

I remember back in the day when computer build enthusiasts would criticize people who would buy Apple computers for gaming. I mean it is indeed embarrassing. But now that Apple has begun producing its silicon chips, not only has their computers become much cheaper, they are many folds faster than older third-party chips they once used.

After a successful deployment of the M1 chip in their Macbooks and iPads, M1 Pro and M1 Max are putting the impossible possible in the latest MacBook Pro line with unprecedented speeds.

The main secret of Apple as to why they are successful in what they do is simply because they build and develop products across their own built and designed ecosystem. Unlike Android which runs across many brands of devices and has to mix and match with the hardware, Apple simply puts its focus on their products whether software or hardware. Android, while it provides the ultimate flexibility, is put on a double-edged sword as it tries to fit on every device of a multitude of brands, ending up in unsustainable promises of quality and longevity.

So the next time you choose to buy your hard-earned gadget, consider how much you are getting for a certain price point. While Apple and others have many pros and cons, it entirely lies in your preference, budget, and perception of value for money.

Fast and convenient YouTube download

Scrambling for ways to download YouTube videos has been a regular hobby especially for those who want to consume videos offline or simply downloading material. For a content creator like me, I sometimes prefer skipping steps in downloading my YouTube videos by simply opening a specific application and going for it.

Nothing has been more convenient than 4K Video Downloader where I can simply download things fast in three steps. Here’s how I do it:

Step 1: Open the video

Open your web browser in your laptop and go to YouTube.com. On the search bar, type the title or keywords of the video you wish to view and download.

There are a bunch of ways you can get the link of the video. The most familiar but sometimes ineffective is directly getting the URL on the address bar of your browser. For a slowly but surely acquisition of the video link, take a look at the lower right corner of the video. Just below it is a “share” button. Click it and a link will conveniently appear for you to copy.

Step 3: Paste and go!

This step is the best and most convenient there is. In your 4K Video Downloader, just click “paste link”. It does all the work for you. It is found on the top left corner of the app so you will not miss it.

Pasting and having a go is now made in one click with 4K Video Downloader. That’s the “Paste Link” button’s magic.

After successfully locating the video, it will lead you to another window where you can customize your download. You can immediately choose any resolution of the video or even rip out just the audio from the video. What is better is you can anticipate the file size as it is already presented.

Could the app be any more convenient?

Just a fair warning

With 4K Video Downloader, you can simply download anything on YouTube. Even some websites also work with the downloader so the possibilities are endless. Just be sure to do good and not infringe any copyright.