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Faces and Phases of Lopburi

March 14, 2015

Lopburi is one of Thailand’s oldest cities and has once served as a hub for key kingdoms in region, including the Angkor and Ayutthaya regimes. Located in the central plains of Thailand, it is also known for the impressive Pa Sak Cholasit Dam and the sea of yellow and green from the large sunflower fields.

Pa Sak Cholasit Dam
Pa Sak Cholasit Dam

Wat Tham Promsawat
Wat Tham Promsawat

Sea of yellow and green
Sea of yellow and green

With AIT's RRDP Class of 2014
With AIT’s RRDP Class of 2014

With AIT's RRDP Class of 2014
With AIT’s RRDP Class of 2014

More photos here.

Moving towards an Ocean-based Blue Economy

January 14, 2015

An Analysis on National Policies and Programs for Sustainable Fisheries in the Philippines

As a country made up of more than 7,000 islands, the crucial role of the oceans and coasts to the lives of more than 93 million Filipinos cannot be overemphasized. An overwhelming majority of the country’s total population directly rely on the vital resources and ecosystem services provided by the surrounding bodies of water.

Aside from being an everyday source of food and livelihood, the Philippine seas remain to be a major contributor to the country’s national economy. Latest estimates from the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) indicated that the country’s 36,289-km coastline employs around 11.8 million Filipinos or one-third of the national labor force (NEDA, 2011a).

The country’s Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS) reported that the fisheries sector contributed 1.8 percent to the 2012 national gross domestic product. Furthermore, an estimated 2.32 million metric ton of fisheries products, valued at PHP 145.42 billion (around USD 3.24 billion), were produced in 2012. In the same year, PHP 42.37 billion-worth of fisheries commodities (around USD 944 million) were exported (BAS, 2013).

The Philippines is also located in the so-called Coral Triangle, the global center for marine biodiversity. Considered as one of the most biodiverse waters in the world, the Philippine seas host a wide array of coastal and marine resources including coral reefs, seagrass beds, mangrove forests, and various fish and marine species.

Due to rapid coastal development and the increasing demand for marine resources brought by the exponential population growth, unsustainable fisheries practices became rampant in recent years. Aside from this, the country’s vulnerability to natural disasters and the looming threat of climate change have put the Philippines — especially poor coastal communities — under serious threat.

Realizing the need to address these emerging threats, the Philippine government has adopted several policies and programs promoting sustainable fisheries in the country. This policy analysis primarily focused on the relevant provisions of the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2011–2016 and Executive Order (EO) 533.

Formulated by NEDA, the PDP 2011–2016 outlines the government’s national development targets, as well as its priority policies and programs, set to be achieved by 2016. For this analysis, two chapters were extensively reviewed, specifically Chapter 4: Competitive and Sustainable Agriculture and Fisheries Sector and Chapter 10: Conservation, Protection, and Rehabilitation of the Environment and Natural Resources. Chapter 4 primary aims to improve food security, increase rural incomes, and build up the sector’s capacity to respond to climate change. On the other hand, Chapter 10 focuses on the sustainable management of the country’s natural resources.

In 2006, EO 533 was also adopted to promote integrated coastal management (ICM) as a national sustainable ocean and coastal development strategy. EO 533 targets to strengthen the capacity of local governments to sustainably manage its coastal and marine resources, with the help of relevant national agencies, nongovernment organizations, the academe and private sector. Ultimately, EO 533 aims to fully implement a comprehensive national ICM program led by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

This analysis seeks to review existing national policies and programs on promoting sustainable fisheries in the Philippines. Indicators were identified to cover the three major sustainable development dimensions, including the environmental, economic, and social aspects.

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Shaping the Future We Want

January 14, 2015

Lessons from the MDGs and How It Can Shape the Post-2015 Development Agenda

The year 2015 marks a crucial milestone in the world’s continuous pursuit for sustainable development. With key targets set to be achieved this year by major international policy instruments, most notably the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), it is an opportune time to assess countries’ progress in achieving these goals. This also provides a chance for policymakers and experts to initiate dialogue and lay a solid foundation in outlining post-2015 targets.

The adoption of the MDGs almost a decade and a half ago galvanized strong commitments by governments to improve the quality of life of its citizens. The unprecedented support received by the MDGs reflected countries’ recognition that extreme poverty is unacceptable and that there is an imperative need to immediately address it. Alongside eliminating extreme poverty and hunger, the MDGs advocated for universal education, gender equality, improved health care, and environmental protection, among others. This set of specific and time-bound goals have guided almost all development initiatives in the last few years.

'High Goals' by Victor Ndula

Breaking the vicious cycle of poverty
Perhaps, MDGs’ most successful contribution to the global development agenda is putting considerable focus in combatting global poverty and other major social ills. As Indian development economist Gita Sen pointed out (as cited by Manning et al., 2013), “the MDGs successfully focused the global policy spotlight on some key development issues in the past decade.” Outlined in eight major targets, the MDGs provided simple and quantifiable indicators by which progress of countries can easily be measured and monitored.

However, critics argue that the goals set in the MDGs are overly simplistic and undermine the multidimensional aspects of sustainable development. Manning et al. (2013) described this causal oversimplification of the root causes of poverty as being “broken down into silos in a way that detracts from the holistic nature of the challenges that poor people face.”

There is also a general consensus that the MDGs fail to recognize equally important drivers of development, including efficient governance and accountability, protection of human rights, addressing income inequality and regional disparity, and securing long and lasting peace among nations.

China’s remarkable progress in reducing poverty in the last few decades would be a good case study. As thoroughly explained by Wang (2004), China’s sustained agricultural and rural economic growth in the 1980s — and not directly due to MDG-related policies — greatly contributed in reducing poverty in the country. Without China, the first MDG of reducing worldwide poverty by half would not be successfully achieved (Chen and Ravallion, 2008). Wang claimed (as cited by Manning et al., 2013) that, “the MDGs needed China more than China needed the MDGs.”

Conversely, although an estimated 500 million people has risen out of poverty, the widening rich-poor gap in China still remains to be a major challenge. This reflects the limitation of the quantitative targets set by the MDGs.

Perks and perils of providing aid
The implementation of the MDGs also paved the way for the increased flow of foreign aid to developing countries, most notably in Africa and Asia-Pacific. Highlighted in the eighth MDG, developed countries and international finance institutions were encouraged to scale up investments to assist developing countries in achieving the MDGs.

Although several low-income countries have benefitted — to some extent — from strengthened investments, an increasing number of studies show that this too have perpetuated a culture of dependence towards foreign aid. Manning et al. (2013) pointed out that this top-down approach to development remains to be one of the weaknesses of the MDGs.

While the MDGs may have been conceptually robust in setting specific development benchmarks, it was not fully embraced by Third World countries primarily because they did not have the capacity and appropriate resources to support sustained implementation. Instead of increasing aid, more emphasis should be given in strengthening the institutional capacities of governments and in making markets work for sustained local economic growth.

Going glo(c)al
Weighing in on how the post-2015 sustainable development agenda should take form, experts have now called for a more inclusive set of feasible global targets that are also sensitive to country-specific conditions and priorities.

These global targets should consider communities-in-need as main actors and not just mere receivers in the whole development process. These goals should also be firmly integrated in local development plans and policies to promote a stronger sense of community ownership. Policymakers and planners should capitalize on existing local knowledge and practices, as well as scale up and replicate best practices at the local level.

The post-2015 sustainable development agenda should shy away from directly “spoon-feeding” a one-size-fits-all formula for development, but instead build countries’ capacities and provide an enabling environment for development. In essence, this new set of commitments should put more emphasis on how to help people help themselves.

Chen, S. and Ravallion, M. (2008). The Developing World Is Poorer than We Thought, but No Less Successful in the Fight against Poverty. Policy Research Working Paper No. 4703. Washington, D.C.: World Bank. Accessed 8 October 2014, from

Guardian Interactive team, Harris, C., and Provost, C. (2013). Millennium Development Goals: Big Ideas, Broken Promises? The Guardian. Accessed 8 October 2014, from

Manning, R., Harland Scott, C., and Haddad, L. (2013). Whose Goals Count? Lessons for Setting the Next Development Goals. IDS Bulletin 44 (5-6), 1–9. Accessed 5 October 2014, from

Wang, S. (2004). Poverty Targeting in the People’s Republic of China. ADB Institute Discussion Paper No. 4. Tokyo: Asian Development Bank Institute. Accessed 8 October 2014, from


December 31, 2014

Looking back at the year that was with some of my favorite photos and tweets in 2014.

Among this year’s highlights include my high school batch’s reunion last April marking the 10th year since we finished high school. Last May, I also had my wisdom tooth removed, which is still worth mentioning since I still can remember how painful the operation was.

Earlier this year, my mom and I traveled to Taipei to celebrate her 50th birthday. A few weeks after, I finally had the chance to visit friends in Yangon, after a quick stop in Kuala Lumpur. Also this year, I moved to Bangkok to pursue further studies. It was nice going back to school but I never thought grad school would be as demanding.

Sadly last September, Lolo passed away. The night sky definitely shines brighter with his presence up there.

After a hectic first term in grad school, I also visited Vientiane to take a breather before flying back to Manila for the Christmas break.

With these, may our 2015 be filled with new adventures, good health, and 365 days full of love and happiness. Here’s to a fruitful year ahead!



Word to live by in 2014: Relevance.

Tomorrow’s forecast: Cloudy with a chance of a cold Valentine’s.

Do you know what’s more painful than heartbreak? An impacted wisdom tooth. #torture

Sometimes, an unexpected pat in the back is all the push you’ll need to carry on.

No clue what it says but sharing it anyway since it’s not often that you have someone profile your work in Norwegian.

Good morning, Taipei! Let the #funtaiwan adventure begin. #tlcasia

Some of life’s best memories are stored not in photos, but in familiar laughter, warm hugs, or the smell of freshly brewed coffee.

First day high! #gradschool

Sometimes, courage is really just cowardice in disguise. Sometimes, the bravest thing is to let go someone you hold dear to your heart. Maraming salamat at paalam, Lolo.

You know you’re getting old when you find Halloween parties lame but you end going anyway still yearning for that same old youthful zest. Then, you end up being that old creepy guy with a beer bottle in hand standing near the bartender swearing “I’m too old for this shit.”

Sometimes, we have to remind ourselves that no one has it all figured out. We spend too much time thinking about the what-ifs and planning out our lives that we forget to be present in the present.

Sunset over the Mekong. #thailaoborder

Faces and Phases of Vientiane

December 10, 2014

Vientiane is arguably one of the most charming cities in Southeast Asia. Its refreshingly laid back atmosphere — as well as the picturesque Mekong sunset and skyscraper-free cityline — is perfect for those wanting to unwind and relax.

Laos has always been in my must-visit countries for years and I’m just glad I’ve finally ticked it off my bucket list after a hectic term in grad school. From Bangkok, I took the overnight sleeper train going to Thanaleng, which only costs around THB 750 (PHP 1,000). The train left around 8 PM and when I woke up the next morning (which, by the way, was the best sleep I’ve had in weeks) the train was just about to reach Nong Khai, the last stop before crossing the Lao border. In Vientiane, I was hosted by one of the coolest Couchsurfers I’ve ever met, inspire-and-perspire lifestyle coach Chris Bachmann. I was also able to catch up with former colleagues and other friends based in the city.

When in the city, make sure to check out Pha That Luang, one of the best Buddhist temples in the region, and Patuxai, which offers a great panoramic view of the city. Never leave Vientiane without grabbing a bottle of Beerlao by the mighty Mekong or trying the sweet treats from the small Parisian cafés and bakeries.

001Pha That Luang


003Wat Sisaket

004Sunset over the mighty Mekong

005Fredskopset alumni dinner, three years after our fellowship assignments

More pictures here.

Faces and Phases of Yangon

July 7, 2014

Myanmar’s former capital, Yangon remains to be the country’s largest city and main economic hub. The city’s skyline is filled with towering apartment buildings, golden stupas, and Chinese temples. The downtown area is home to a number of British colonial period buildings, one with the highest number in Southeast Asia.

Yangon is still as charming as it was when I left the city in 2011. So much has changed in the last three years, owing it to the fact that the once reclusive nation has started opening up. But truth be told, I kinda miss the old Yangon when a visit to the Shwedagon means seeing people with heads bowed praying and not because they’re busy using the free WiFi, when afterwork dinners happen in teashops and not in fancy malls, or when a taxi ride from Hledan to downtown would only take 10 minutes and not an entire hour.

I’m afraid that by my next visit, Yangon will become just somebody (city) that I used to know.

Shwedagon PagodaShwedagon Pagoda


Swetawmyat ZediSwetawmyat Zedi

Kabaraye PagodaKabaraye Pagoda

Downtown YangonDowntown Yangon

More photos here.

Faces and Phases of Kuala Lumpur

July 5, 2014

Tucked between the lush forests of the Klang Valley is the city of Kuala Lumpur, the capital city of Malaysia and one of Southeast Asia’s fastest growing cities. Of course, a trip to Kuala Lumpur wouldn’t be complete without a photo with the iconic Petronas Towers.

Petronas Twin Towers

KL night skies + haze

KL night skies + haze

More photos here.


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