THE Parliamentary State Secretary of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy and former German Minister of Justice Brigitte Zypries visited the Philippines last week with a high-ranking business delegation to hold talks with the Philippine Government on German-Philippine economic relations.
In addition to her official schedule, Madame Zypries found time to hold a quick breakfast meeting with women leaders in government and the private sector who were gathered by former Foreign Affairs Secretary and Philippine Ambassador to Germany Delia Domingo Albert.
The women leaders who attended were: Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales; current Philippine Ambassador to Germany Melita Sta. Maria-Thomeczek; PEZA Director Lilia de Lima; ERC Commissioner Josefina Magpale-Asirit, Convergys Philippines Chair Marife Zamora; Business & Professional Women President Jeannie Javelosa; my daughter, Patricia Bunye, Founding President of Diwata-Women in Resource Development Inc. and Deputy Commercial Counsellor Theresa Huschka. They were joined by German Ambassador to the Philippines Thomas Ossowski.
Among others, they discussed initiatives of women’s groups in the Philippines such as:
(1) the GREAT Women Project (Gender Responsive Economic Actions for the Transformation of Women Project), which supports a gender-responsive enabling environment for women's economic empowerment, particularly those in micro-enterprises; and
(2) Diwata’s “Solar Lolas Project” which involves training indigenous women to become solar engineers.
Though brief, the meeting yielded many important insights for the attendees and assurances of future cooperation.
Tackling cross border haze pollution
In recent days, there have been news reports that the haze emanating from forest fires in Indonesia has reached Cebu.
A local atmospheric scientist has been quoted as saying that satellite images confirm that the haze from the Indonesia fires have indeed reached the Philippines, but was too thin to be widely noticeable in most areas except Cebu.
Malaysia and Singapore, on the other hand, due to their proximity to Indonesia, have been “wheezing from the haze”, Bloomberg puts it, for weeks now.
Far from being a mere annoyance, the haze has caused tourist numbers to drop in both countries. At the Royal Selangor factory showroom in Kuala Lumpur, for example, their tour used to attract around 2,000 people a day. Now, they are averaging only 800 a day. Some countries have gone as far as issuing travel advisories against Singapore and Malaysia due to the haze.
Apparently, cooperation within ASEAN extends to the issue of haze as well. In 1997, the ASEAN Environment Ministers endorsed the Regional Haze Action Plan (RHAP) which covers prevention, mitigation and monitoring.
Further, in 2002, the governments of the ten ASEAN nations signed the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution.
It is the first regional arrangement in the world that binds a group of contiguous states to tackle transboundary haze pollution resulting from land and forest fires. It has also been considered as a global role model for the tackling of transboundary issues.
The enforcement of this agreement is now being tested as Indonesia has reportedly spurned offers of assistance from Singapore and Malaysia.
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