Thursday, November 29, 2007

Makati Mutiny: Lim, Trillanes Holed Up in Manila Peninsula

At around 11:30 this morning I received a call from a comrade asking about the situation in Makati particularly Paseo de Roxas, Ayala Avenue and Makati Ave due to reports on ANC about the walk-out of Trillanes during his hearing at the Makati RTC then led a march in Makati Central Business District.

Sen. Trillanes, along with Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim and some Magdalo soldiers are currently holed up at Intercontinental Hotel where they reiterate their call for Pres. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to step down.

A picture of Ayala Avenue corner Makati avenue is shown below where the once busy intersection is now a virtual parking lot. Makati Shangri-la stands prominently on the right while The Peninsula Manila is on the left of the picture. The large green area is the so called Ayala Triangle.

(sorry, i don't have both my cameras with me today, just a crappy camera phone I used here)

As of this time, guests of Manila Peninsula were requested to leave. The area is peaceful but tension fills the air.

The groups statements and demands are posted on this website.

This is bad again for the Philippines' already tainted image.

Updates 3:30pm

I can see a total of 3 APCs (armored personnel carriers) at the intersection.

4pm (approximately), gunshots can be heard signalling maybe an assault

5pm, the APC barged into the lobby of Manila Peninsula

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Calling 1-800 Number from the Philippines for Free

Did you ever find yourself frustrated with calling supposedly toll-free number 1-800 or 1-888 from the Philippines to the U.S. and charged the normal cost of an IDD call?

I just tried several systems including Yahoo Messenger with Voice and it works. You just need a decent Internet connection e.g. DSL so as not to get a garbled connection.

IDD calls here in the Philippines using landlines and mobile phones charge around $0.30/minute (SUN) to $0.40 (Smart/Globe/PLDT). Various call cards using VoIP technology charge much lower rates including those advertising P1/minute calls.

Skype charges $0.017/minute while Yahoo messenger charges $0.01/munute calls but require installation of software in your PC plus a reliable Internet connection.

Note: Collect calls from the Philippines to the U.S. is also more expensive than calling from the U.S. to the Philippines directly.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Cash Loans from ChinaTrust and BDO Scams?

O told me she got a text message that goes "Cash loan from Chinatrust and BDO with interest rate of as low as 1.39% per month. We also have carloan financing brand new or second hand unit, car mortgage OR/CR only payoff bank balance with an interest rate of 1%/month. lower interest for brand new. interested...our office (number deleted)"

I just told here those loans with small interests are mostly true and not a scam. Flyers are given daily on Ayala Avenue and Buendia in Makati by people advertising them hoping for possible commissions and offered officially by the two mentioned banks.

What's only disturbing is that some people resort to using unlimited texting to send out the special offers to random numbers-- now that's called SPAM-- and it's irritating !

I commend O for just treating the messages as scams just to be safe since she doesn't need a loan, in fact, she's celebrating her first few days of financial independence after paying off her credit card balance after a few years of trying.

Friday, November 16, 2007

ATM Charges/Fees: BancNet, Megalink, Expressnet, Mastercard, Cirrus, Maestro, Visa, Plus, JCB, Encash, Nationlink

Updated ATM charges per transaction in the Philippines (as of April 2013):

Balance Inquiry Transaction Fee:

On-us/proprietary: Free
Interbank (switched by BancNet: P1
Megalink: P1 (see note below)
ExpressNet: None
Cirrus/Maestro: $1
Plus: $1

Banks who charge P2 balance inquiry fee: PNB, UnionBank, Bank of Commerce, One Network Bank, Equitable Savings Bank, LBC Bank

ATM Cash Withdrawal Transaction Fee

On-us/proprietary: Free
Interbank (BancNet, Megalink, Expressnet): P8 to P12.50

Banks with highest charges: OK Bank (P12.50), UnionBank (P12), UCPB (P11), Bank of Commerce (P11), PNB (P11), UCPB (P11)

Banks with no charge: Citibank, Citibank Savings, HSBC

Cirrus/Maestro: $3.5
Plus: $3.0
(these rates apply also to ATM transactions abroad)

ENCASH ATM Cash Withdrawal: add P25 or P45 convenience fees on top of normal transaction charge (there is a warning screen for this)

Nationlink ATM Cash Withdrawal: add P20 convenience fees on top of normal transaction charge (there is a warning screen for this)

Note there is a maximum amount per withdrawal for switched transactions of P10,000.00 via BancNet or Megalink. BPI recently lowered this to P5,000.00. For on-us/proprietary transactions, the issuing bank's set amount is applied.

Fund Transfers via ATM Fee

On-us/Proprietary (if available): Free
Interbank (BancNet) : P25 (real time credit)
Interbank (Megalink): P25 (next day credit)

* called IBFT by BancNet, short for Inter Bank Funds Transfer

Bills Payment via ATM Fee

This service is free to all cardholders. It's the biller institution who pays the processor the fees per transaction.

Cash Advance Fees

Using credit cards to withdraw cash on ATMs (funds subject also to interest rates)
VISA, Mastercard: P300 or 3% of amount whichever is higher
American Express (AMEX): 5% of cash advance or P500 whichever is higher
Diner's Club: 5% of cash advance amount or P250 whichever is higher

Note: an access fee of P200.00 shall be charged on top of regular VISA/MASTERCARD/JCB/CUP transaction fees.

Many ATMs in the Philippines eg.g BPI (Bank of the Philippine Islands), Metrobank and PSBank accept VISA/VISA Electron/Plus, Mastercard/Cirrus/Maestro where their logos are displayed

American Express is accepted at BPI ATMs

China Union Pay (CUP) cardholders can inquire balance and withdraw funds from BancNet ATMs plus shop using BancNet Point-of-Sale (POS) which is similar to BPI EPS and ECN. No information yet on the charges.

Japan's JCB cardholders can now also perform credit card cash advance transactions.

Cirrus and Maestro are affiliated with MasterCard; Plus is a VISA affiliate.

Using your Philippine-issued ATM card abroad is only possible for Cirrus, Maestro, and Plus affiliated banks (e.g. BPI International for Cirrus/Maestro). Inquire at your own bank for details.

How to avoid ATM transaction Charges in the Philippines:

1. Transact only at your own bank's ATMs
2. Open an account at Citibank, Citibank Savings or other banks that do not charge ATM withdrawals and account balance inquiries to their cardholders.
3. Open an account at a bank with an ATM near your place.
4. Do not put your money in the bank, invest it some place else :P

Note that transaction charges can be thought of as convenience fees; you pay the charges instead of wasting your time and spending money on fares/gas going to your own bank's ATMs.

ExpressNet Member Banks:

Effective April 1, 2013, BPI is part of BancNet

BancNet Member Banks:

Allied Bank, Allied Savings Bank, Asia United Bank (AUB), Banco San Juan, Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI), Bank of Commerce (BOC), Bangko Mabuhay, BPI Family Savings Bank, CARD Bank (San Pablo City, Laguna), Centennial Savings Bank, China Banking Corporation (Chinabank), Chinabank Savings, Chinatrust Bank, Citibank, N.A., Citibank Savings Bank, Citystate Savings Bank, eCTK, Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP), Dungganon Bank, East West Bank, Equicom Savings Bank, Export and Industry Bank (Exportbank), Green Bank of Caraga (Butuan), Hong Kong Shanghai Bank (HSBC), HSBC Savings, Land Bank of the Philippines (Landbank, LBP), Malayan Bank, Maybank, Metrobank, OK Bank (Iloilo City), Philtrust Bank, Philippine Bank of Communications (PBCOM), Philippine National Bank (PNB), Postal Bank, Producers Bank, Philippine Savings Bank (PSBank), Quezon Capital Rural Bank (QCRB), The Real Bank, Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC), RCBC Savings Bank, Robinsons Savings Bank, Security Bank, Security Bank Savings, Standard Chartered Bank, Sterling Bank of Asia, Tong Yang Savings Bank, Philippine Veterans Bank (PVB), UCPB Savings Bank, World Partners Bank, Wealth Bank (Cebu City), Zambales Bank (Zambank)

Nationlink Subscribers  (A member of BancNet):

Cantilan Bank, Kaunlaran Bank, Rural Bank of Manaoag, Coop Bank of Benguet, Coop Bank of Nueva Vizcaya, Optimum Development Bank, Rural Bank of Malasiqui, Community Rural Bank of Dapitan, Metro Ormoc Community Cooperative (OCCCI), Perpetual Help Credit Cooperative

Megalink Member Banks:

Banco de Oro (BDO), Pacific Ace Bank, MASS-SPEC, National Confederation of Cooperatives (NATCCO), One Network Bank, Queen City Development Bank, Union Bank of the Philippines (Unionbank), United Coconut Planters Bank (UCPB), Pacific Ace Savings Bank

ENCASH Member Banks(A member of Megalink):

Rural Bank of FloridaBlanca, GM Bank, Bangko Kabayan, Rural Bank of Tiaong, Progressive Rural Bank, Rural Bank of Puerto Galera, First Valley Bank, Rural Bank of Calasiao, Balai Isabel, GM Bank, Jose Panganiban Rural Bank, Rural Bank of Nabua, G7 Bank

You may visit your bank's website for ATM locator service to know where to find ATMs in the Philippines. For example, in Boracay, there are ATMs by Metrobank, Allied Bank and BPI.

Updated: April 2013

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Prudential Life Text Scam is at it again!

Today, O received a text message from 09176167851 that says" FRM: PRUDENTIALIFE INC, Rada Branch- Makati. In line with our '29th Yr Anniversary',w're glad to inform you that you are entitled to receive Privileges from our company.You need to claim this ASAP.For more info please call at 8921731/4741191 look for Ms. Mary Anne Banico Many thanks. 'DISREGARD IF CLAIMED'"

Just to warn you, again, of this dubious offer from Prudential Life in Makati, they'll just ask you if you have a credit card and offer you insurance. I blogged about Prudential life Scam before so be forewarned. You'll just waste your time commuting to Makati and braving the horrendous traffic to be tricked by people who don't care as long they can sell something.

Ralated Post:

Prudential Life: Insurance Selling without Conscience

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Batasan Bombing: Security Lapses

Last night, flash report on TV broke the news about a bomb explosion at the south wing of House of Representatives, barely a month after the Glorietta 2 blast occurred. Three people were killed including Basilan representative Wahab Akbar.

Speaker Jose de Venecia appeared on TV condemning the blast as an act of terrorists or anarchists. (I think it's a targeted assassination plot on a certain personality, but don't quote me on that)

I will offer my two cents worth on news like this particularly on the current (in)security practices by people whose job is to protect the lawmakers/congressmen (who, for the record are making much less laws per year yet spending is increasing).

First, noticeable is the absence of canine units particularly bomb sniffing dogs.

Second, the non-inspection of people entering the premises. I noticed once too often guards, like those deployed in mall entrances, don't really know what they're looking for with their magic sticks wagged at the openings of bags of people.

Third, the apparent lack of surveillance camera to monitor and record what's happening inside the Batasan complex and the House of Congress.

Fourth, why the hell were motorcycles and vehicles permitted to park near the exits? Acceptable cushion area for parking and people exiting should be made to prevent bombs on motorcycles and cars from inflicting too much damage.

Security in the whole Philippines should be upgraded to cope with threats but I can only see physical inspection of bags plus the absurd idea of banning taking pictures as if pictures pose a security threat.

Such old-school mindset!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Text2Sawa Unlimited Texting Scam

I have always been receiving offers about this unlimited texting to all networks in my email address subscribed to various yahoogroups. I contacted the sender once about his offer but offered no explanation on how the system works so i just surmised he's just a guy looking for a quick buck

With Smart, Globe and Sun Cellular offering unlimited texting (SMS) within their networks, it's just highly probable that a technically inclined pinoys with entrepreneural spirit will come up with a bridge or SMS bypass to connect all three unlimited texting services using at least 1 SIM card of the telco.

One of them is Text2Sawa, and true to my hunch, the law, however slow, finally caught up with them. The news was even shown on national tv of the entrapment operation. Sadly, only a dealer or distributor was apprehended and not the actual operator and source of the text cards.

Globe, Smart and Sun warned the public that the unlimited texting feature is for personal use only and not for purposes like SMS bypass.

The police informed the public that they'll charge the suspect with violation of RA8484: Access Device Law, the same law used by banks and credit card companies againts credit card and ATM card fraud.

Let's see if other scammers will take the place of Text2Sawa after a few days

Friday, November 09, 2007

Dulce and Rene Saguisag Accident

Yesterday morning when I first opened my daily dose of news, I immediately read the current headline about the death of Dulce Saguisag, wife of Atty and former senator Rene Saguisag when a speeding dumptruck rammed their van in Makati City. Dulce Saguisag, a former secretary of DSWD died on impact while Atty. Rene Saguisag remained in critical condition.

As expected, pictures, videos and old clips of the former senator was shown on TV. Doctors interviewed even said he's responding to simple commands and has a high chance of recovery from brain damage being an intellectual.

I used to admire the former senator when he was a human rights lawyer and fought the the despotic president Marcos. He became a senator after the People Power revolution.

My faith and admiration for him were shattered when he became the lawyer who defended the now convicted, later pardoned, former president Erap-- which is a mockery of justice. He's now planning to fight the writ of execution of the forfeiture of Erap's assets and money in bank due to Erap's conviction. He's also the lawyer of those soldiers who mutinied and took over Makati particularly Oakwood (now Ascott) led by the now firebrand senator Trillanes.

I know this is a difficult time for your family, Atty. Saguisag, but I hope in your slumber, you realize that you're doing a disservice to the Filipino people. You've used your superior intelligence to defend a convicted plunderer, worked on Erap's despicable pardon even if the former president (your president, not mine) didn't admit his guilt and still harbor contempt of the courts.

Regarding the dumptruck driver, it may have been an accident due to his undisciplined ways, but he asked for your forgiveness. I wonder, when you already regained conciousness, will you also grant the driver who killed your wife, injured yourself and your companions, absolute pardon and clemency?

In spite of this, I wish you well, Atty. Saguisag. May you come out of your hospital bed much wiser but please devote your talent and energy in the service of the needy, not of the rich who openly defy authority and flagrant contempt of the courts of justice, but the human rights victims you used to defend.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Philippines Renewable Energy Bill

Renewable energy, defined as energy sourced from inexhaustible or easily replenishable energy sources like sunlight, wind, ocean tides, and geothermal heat or others like biomass and biofuels.

In the Philippines, more than half of the power plants run using bunker fuel and coal making the power sector highly vulnerable to the surging prices of oil in the world market.

Recent legislation called for the ethanol addition to gasoline where ethanol used can be produced locally using sugarcane, but the move diverts food sources into power needs much like corn production in other countries diverted to ethanol.

The Philippines is currently the world's second largest producer of geothermal energy, next only to the United States. That's mainly due to the presence of many volcanoes, of which 22 are active, inside the Pacific ring of fire. The geothermal plant in Tiwi, Albay is one prime example. Other volcanoes in the Philippines are the beautiful Mayon Volcano, Mt. Pinatubo, Taal Volcanoplus the many volcanoes in Camiguin.

There are studies that pinpointed several viable locations to harness energy from the wind and the wind farm in Bangui town in Ilocos is one such living testament to it.

On solar power, there's a company manufaturing solar cells in Laguna but mainly for export. Small upland communities are already using solar power sourced through donations by foreign government and NGOs. Other visible use of solar energy includes the solar-powered Capones lighthouse in Zambales and Corregidor Lighthouse.

Hydropower is also much used in the country, one example is the Kalayaan hydroelectric power plant in Kalayaan, Laguna whose turbines are powered by Caliraya lake. The first hydroelectric power plant in the Philippines can be found in Villa Escudero in Tiaong, Quezon. Mini-hydro plants are suitable for highland communities with access to the water supply. Dams that produce electric power are Magat Dam in Isabela/Ifugao, Pantabangan Dam in Nueva Ecija, and San Roque Dam in Pangasinan.

Biomass fuel can also be harnessed from rice husks, coconut shells et al while garbage dumps can also generate methane gas to produce power. A similar setup can be seen in "green" piggeries where pig waste can be used to generate methane-powered plants.

With all these energy alternatives, the Philippines, given the right motivation and the passing of the still pending Renewable Energy Act, can ween away from dependence of bunker fuel. But that is if those "honorable" lawmakers can get their act together to pass such urgent legislation.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Glorietta "Bombing": Citizen Journalism or Irresponsible Blogging?

Last October 19, 2007, I received a call around at 1:30pm asking me where I was and to confirm if there was indeed a bombing of Glorietta 2. At that moment, I noticed my officemates were trying to browse the already slow website. I tried to browse but information presented was vague so I switched to's express edition and the initial report was an LPG tank explosion.

Within minutes I received pictures of the "blast site" in my email showing gory pictures and lurid details even showing bloodied faces of victims killed that can be identified. Thought of posting the pictures but the better part of me told me to exercise restraint. I didn't blog about this "bombing" incident in the first place due to many reasons: I don't have a first hand account of the incident, I don't use pictures taken by other people unless I have explicit permission, and I don't want to generate blog traffic out of the incident. Besides, the excruciatingly slow investigation on the cause of the incident was still uncertain with the police flip-flopping on the initial results wether it was LPG, C4 explosive due to alleged presence of RDX, or other powerful bombs pointing an accusing finger at the Abu Sayyaf (The Abu Sayyaf the following day denied they have anything to do with the "bombing."), Jemaah Islamiyah and the Raja Solaiman Movement (RSM).

However, many blogs started to post stories and pictures of it declaring aloud the "terrorists" behind the dastardly act. Media sensationalism again went full blast. The firebrand senator Trillanes cried it was a conspiracy that the government planted the bomb (kind of a projection actually since the "good" senator was the one seen on national television planting bombs in Oakwood (now Ascott) during their mutiny; wonder why many "educated" Filipinos voted for him). Politicians offered rewards on information to help arrest perpetuators of the "crime." The United States, United Kingdom, and Canada issued travel advisories.

Now, as to why I wrote this post, I noticed bloggers will post many things at the fastest time possible-- even without verifying the facts. The news of the "bombing" reached international media attention thus scared away potential tourists that this country badly is in need of.

Recently, as confirmed by foreign investigators, the incident was the the result of an accident and not a bomb. The news, sadly, was not corrected by some bloggers who've already cashed in on the incident. Many people reading blogs may have taken note of the "terrorist bombing" angle but were not updated on the accident angle thereby making the belief that terrorism again struck this already terrified nation.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Eye-Fi Wireless Memory Card (SD)

Got wind of this cool memory card, called Eye-Fi, that automatically transmits your picture to your home wireless network eliminating the need to take out the card out of you camera to transfer the images. All you need to do is turn on the camera when near your home wifi network.

Just be careful in setting up your wireless network at home to prevent electronic eavesdropping.

Technical specifications of the wireless card.