The slowdown in the interweb is really frustrating, particularly if you’ve developed a routine for sifting through the news and blogs in the morning. It takes forever and a day for anything to load, and what appeared quickly yesterday may not load properly today. The year is off to a very bad, tiring, and frustrating start for anyone in an www-dependent line of work. In his column, Peter Wallace paints a grim picture of how the call center industry has been hammered by the effects of the submarine cable through Taiwan being cut; apparently other nations used their clout to find alternatives but the Philippines is just praying for a miracle. He advocates investment in alternative cables or a new cable for the country, but warns the diversion of calls to other centers in other countries probably means local expansion will be put on hold, and traffic won’t return:
…Every call center in the country was down – some 150,000 employees on over 120 call centers were affected. Three days later, capacity was still down 40 percent. Complaints from irate principals started pouring in. Head office management wasn’t too happy either. I’m putting it mildly.
There’s already a lot of resistance in America to transferring American jobs overseas. Here’s perfect ammunition for those who want those Americans in call centers in America (where they used to be). While the call center bosses think it’s not smart to have all eggs in one basket (sorry for this hackneyed cliché, but it does express my sentiments aptly), the Philippine basket was dropped. It was not the fault of the Philippine government (now there’s a refreshing change) nor of anyone in the Philippines. Still, a bunch of eggs was definitely broken.
The culprit was a natural disaster – an earthquake in Taiwan so violent that it broke the underwater communications cable between the Philippines and the US.
If the Philippine government rushed to do something about the situation, it certainly didn’t tell anyone. Call centers, and the entire business process outsourcing industry were left twisting in the wind. That’s a good analogy: Death to the industry may be exaggerated, but you can be sure head offices will be rethinking their expansion plans.
The inability of the Philippines to respond swiftly or have alternatives in place forced companies to re-direct their calls to other countries – Malaysia, India, South Africa, wherever call center companies have alternate sites. The sad thing is that that re-direction is likely to be permanent.
…One of the problems he can address is that the Philippines has misplaced priorities. Places like Singapore (where the government owns Singtel) or NTT in Japan have clout. And they used it to get priority allocation of cable bandwidth when this crisis hit. As did several others – taking what the Philippines should reasonably have had.
So, now the Philippines must think contingency planning and buy a significant stake in a couple (in case one goes down) of the main cables. Or do what Kenya and South Africa are doing, lay their own cable. Given the importance ITES now plays, the Philippine government should seriously consider doing the same. The US150 MM or so to do it is small potatos compared to the huge potential of this sector. After all far more is spent on a road between factories and a port. The number of jobs, and well-paying jobs at that, created by one telecoms cable far exceeds whatever commerce, and jobs a single road can provide. An undersea cable can generate infinitely more revenues than any highway ever could.
What it also highlighted was need for a better communication system between all the major players: government, industry support services and, the call centers and BPOs themselves. They need a well-established “quick call” system so that when the unexpected happens everyone can be fully informed.
A colleague informs me that the other day, the Hong Kong Telecom Authority assumed emergency powers, and that Indonesia has decreed that aid workers have priority when it comes to Internet usage, and opened up its expensive commsat network just to keep things going. So if things are bad here, they’re as bad elsewhere.
Now, while the news was being steadily leaked during the holidays (to slowly gage public reaction, perhaps, or simply to get the news out while no one really cared -the “boil the frog slowly so he doesn’t notice” framework for communications strategy), today’s papers finally rev up the possibility that we’re in for a February surprise: a people’s initiative that would transform the electoral landscape.
The proposal? Let’s call it Plan A (2007 edition): Another People’s Initiative, with attention paid to dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s. A unicameral, presidential system, this time (unless the unicameral, parliamentary system proposed in 2006 suddenly returns from the dead).
In recent days the Commission on Elections has caused publication of new implementing rules and regulations for a people’s initiative. The rules bear in mind the recent decision of the Supreme Court on the last, ill-fated, so-called “people’s initative”. Objectively speaking, the new rules serve to flesh out the law and give teeth to the Constitution’s provisions on initiative. From what I’ve read, they sound like the rules lawyers told me should have been followed, had the administration or opposition pursued a real initiative last year.
Politically, of course, it’s a can of worms. First, there is now the option to reconsider the signatures the Legion claims it gathered last year. Which may be a long shot, but more astounding things have happened. Second, there’s the shift in emphasis away from the House leadership, specifically, the Speaker, to the President’s very own master of electoral logistics, the Secretary of the Interior.
Speaking of the Secretary of the Interior, his own bravado-filled statement provides us a smooth transition to:
Plan B (2007 edition): An administration Senate Slate with a fighting chance, and retention of a majority in the House (but perhaps dominated by Kampi and no longer by Lakas). According to RG Cruz, the administration slate tentatively includes:
Presidential chief of staff Mike Defensor, Congressmen Robert Ace Barbers, Juan Miguel Zubiri, Majority Leader Prospero Nograles, Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya, prospero pichay, ace durano, angelo reyes, mike enriquez and korina sanchez and Finance Secretary Margarito Teves. However othe reliable administration sources said 6 slots are reserved for some opposition politicians who are lobbying to be part of the slate, as well as members of the Senate’s Wednesday group, Senators Joker Arroyo, Ralph Recto, Francis Pangilinan, and Senate President Manuel Villar.
The President only has to elect 5 senators to derail any possibility of an impeachment prospering in the Senate. And, as one Lakas-CMD veteran told me shortly before the holidays, the raiding of their party by the president’s pet party, Kampi, is well underway -and they seem at a loss over what to do about it.
There are two election-related blog entries of note: Mongster’s Nest suggests the point of unity for the opposition shouldn’t be a crude dislike of the President, but instead, a positive coming-together against hunger, which would emphasize the trickle-down assumptions of the administration. I agree. Philippine Politics 04 says the opposition’s goals with regards to the House have to be more ambitious. The question though, is if a people’s initiative is attempted, to what extent can and should it be fought? It would be easier to fight it if a plebiscite were held in February, as it could be round 1 in a 2 round fight; if a plebiscite were held simultaneously with the May elections, it adds yet another thing to guard in an election which promises to be fraud-filled at least on the senatorial level.
The only thing going against a plebiscite and election lumped together, is that expectations would be raised for senatorial candidates, which might be messy if dashed (in the first place, what do you do with them, never mind the opposition, what about administration candidates?) So it would still be logical to have a plebiscite in February leading up to the cancellation of the senate portion of the May elections.
Plan C (2007 edition) a constitutional convention, sometime, somehow, somewhere, as expressed by the Vice-President.
As the Inquirer editorial points out, as with Daniel Smith, so has it been with everything: a calibrated, preemptive response suffices for all crises and conditions. Ellen Tordesillas explains how this works vis-a-vis the United States.
Blurry Brain takes a look back at his argument for social cleansing (of which I partially approve).
I’m glad to hear Ronnel Lim intends to go back to blogging.