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Friday, February 16, 2007

2 smart schoolds teachers, Mindanaoan off to Cambodia

A teacher from Iligan City and two others from the cities of Baguio and Lapu-Lapu will fly to Cambodia on February 28 to represent the country in the annual Asian Regional Innovative Teachers' Conference. Evelyn Waperi of Iligan City National High School, Warren Ambat of the Baguio City National High School (NHS), and Donald Dungog of the Science and Technology Education Center (Stec) were named "Most Innovative" Smart Schools teachers during a Microsoft tilt.

The trio won as Most Innovative Teachers during the 3rd Innovative Teachers Leadership Awards (ITLA). Both Ambat and Dungog belong to school partners of Smart Communications Inc. (Smart) under the Smart Schools Program.

They emerged winners in the annual search conducted by Microsoft Philippines' Partners in Learning (PiL) for public high school teachers who have successfully integrated Information and Communications Technology (ICT) into their classroom teaching and learning.

Dungog, an ICT and Math teacher at Stec, was quick to cite the importance of adequate computer facilities and training as well as Internet access and connectivity, which the school enjoys under the Smart Schools Program. Stec served as the pilot school in the Visayas for Smart's flagship education program.

Through the Smart Schools Program, Smart equips deserving public high schools with networked computers and peripherals connected to the Internet, which is given free for one year. Of the 10 finalists for Most Innovative Teachers, four are from Smart Schools Program partners.

Aside from Stec, these are New Ormoc NHS, Loakan NHS and Ramon Avanceña NHS. "Certainly, Smart Schools helped us win this award since we had the means to upload and download resources from the Internet.

Our Smart Teachers Learning Resource Center allows us to do research over the information highway," he said. Ambat, who used to teach at the Loakan NHS, an annex of the Baguio City NHS and a Smart Schools Program partner, agrees that the "access" provided by Smart proved vital in the integration of ICT into classroom learning. "Because of Smart and Microsoft and Potensyal, we qualified for this award," he said.

Only public high school teachers from the top 30 Potensyal Divisions can join ITLA. Potensyal is also a Microsoft program under PiL, which seeks to empower students, teachers and schools to realize their full potential with technology. Launched last year, Potensyal is a yearlong hunt for outstanding Department of Education (Deped) divisions that have successfully integrated ICT in student teaching and learning curriculum.

Ambat, Dungog, and Amperil bested 10 finalists from a total of 32 nominees nationwide. The other finalists were Leah Paton-og of Ipil NHS in Ormoc City; Eleth Thea Eamiguel of New Ormoc City NHS; Jennifer Sumalinog Mirasol of Babag NHS in Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu; Salvador Besares of Ramon Avanceña NHS in Iloilo City; Zosimo Gomez of Maria Cristina HS in Iligan City; Rico Bantiles of Muntinlupa Science HS in Muntinlupa City and Marijo Calderon of San Isidro NHS in Makati City.

They were chosen after presenting their digital portfolio of lessons before a board of judges. An English teacher, Ambat submitted three lessons that revolved around the use of ICT in aiding the learning, appreciation and understanding of literary works. Among these were "Localization & Digitization: An Approach to Appreciating Shakespearean Plays," a lesson which uses the World Wide Web to aid students in understanding a play of William Shakespeare.

Ambat asked students to incorporate Cordillera customs and tradition in a Shakespearean play, using a digital video camera to shoot the images and Windows Movie Maker to edit video footage and add titles and credits. Students added local and cultural touch to the play by changing the setting and minor events but retaining the names of characters and the general plot. In contrast, Dungog submitted five Math-based lessons.

These included "Mathlogics," where fourth year high school students were asked to use the Internet to help them develop their own logic in coming up with an automated computer program using Borland C++. The programs were then shared among out-of-school youths within their community, with the objective of making the group appreciate how they could manipulate the computer to do mathematical computations. (Press release) Read more!

Cambodia charges two Germans with child abuse

PHNOM PENH: Cambodia charged two German men today with sexually abusing girls aged between 13 and 15, the latest prosecutions in a long push to rid the country of its reputation as a haven for foreign paedophiles.

Phnom Penh Judge Ke Sakhan named the men as Henning Karl Opitz, 60, and Thomas Von Engelhardt, 42, and said both were arrested in August on suspicion of abusing four girls in the capital.

After the pair appeared in the witness box to hear the charges, the judge cleared reporters from the court to protect the identity of the victims, some of whom were in tears as they sat outside the court waiting to be called as witnesses.

German diplomats and child rights activists also attended the hearing.

Opitz was also charged with human trafficking in conjunction with two Vietnamese women, the judge said without giving details.

Under Cambodia's "debauchery" law, sexual abuse of minors carries between 10 and 20 years in jail. Read more!

Chinese companies to build power projects in Cambodia

Updated: 2007-02-17 09:26

Chinese companies on Friday signed several agreements with Cambodian government officials on building a hydropower plant and an electricity transmission network for the kingdom.

The plant in Battambang province will cost 190 million US dollars and can generate 465 million kilowatt-hour of electricity per year, said Deputy Prime Minister Sok An while addressing the ceremony.

The power transmission network will be constructed at the cost 113 million US dollars to connect Phnom Penh, Kampong Chhnang, Pursat and Battambang, he said.

The Cambodian government adopts BOT pattern (build, operate and transfer) for both projects, he said.

They are expected to benefit the kingdom in the fields of energy production, flood prevention, employment expansion, and tax enhancement, he added.

China Yunnan Corporation for International Techno-Economic Cooperation and Yunnan Southeast-Asia Economy and Technology Investment Industrial Co Ltd undertake the construction and development of both projects.

Representatives from the two companies, the Cambodian Ministry of Mines and Energy, and the Electricity Authority of Cambodia signed the agreements in the presence of Sok An, Chinese Ambassador Zhang Jinfeng and other senior Cambodian government officials.

Currently, Cambodia does not have the infrastructure to generate enough electricity to meet the growing demand, which has been rising 15 percent to 20 percent per year, according to the Ministry of Mines and Energy. Read more!

Ambitious Vietnam woos investors

Published: Friday, 16 February, 2007, 10:43 AM Doha Time
By Grant McCool

HANOI: Vietnam is thinking big. After a transformational year for the economy in 2006, investors have barely paused for breath in early 2007 to cash in on one of the world’s most-exciting emerging markets. From Haiphong and Hanoi in the north to Ho Chi Minh City in the south, the government and foreign investors have ambitious plans to help develop the Southeast Asian country’s poor infrastructure and fledgling financial services.

The new money is welcomed by the communist-run government and the markets, but there are also concerns that a rapid flow of indirect investment has overheated the immature stock market and could lead to capital or currency controls.“The government is considering various options but the last thing they want to see is discouraging investment,” said Il Huong Lee, representative of the International Monetary Fund in Hanoi.

“The market is still small and they don’t want it to be swamped with short-term investors.”Vietnam’s six year-old Ho Chi Minh City Securities Trading Center rose 144% in 2006 and is up 43% this year, partly driven by foreign funds chasing profits in an economy growing at a rate of more than 8%. The VN Index lists 107 companies for a total market capitalisation of $15.6bn.

The investment rush has sparked speculation authorities might impose controls to limit the cash flowing into the economy, possibly after the Lunar New Year holiday that falls next week. Strong flows can fuel inflation and put pressure on the local currency to rise, but some representatives of firms who encourage foreign investment say they do not expect any controls to be drastic.

Others doubted Hanoi would copy Thailand, whose military appointed government imposed penalties in December on foreign investors withdrawing assets within a year. The Thai experience prompted a 15% sell off on the Bangkok stock exchange in one day.

Fast economic growth, an 84mn population where half are under 35 years old, low labour costs and political stability are all part of the mantra recited by economists and foreign investors as reasons for taking business to Vietnam. Its attraction is no longer a secret, especially since Hanoi signed a new trade deal with former enemy the US, won entry to the World Trade Organisation and hosted the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit last year.

Commitments of foreign direct investment (FDI) reached a record of more than $10bn in 2006, the government says, but overall the trend of actual disbursements has been slow. In 2004, FDI was $1.6bn and rose to $2.02bn in 2005, according to the UN Conference on Trade and Development.

Businesses also say there are risks in a still-basic economy with annual per capita income of just $720, a financial system lacking transparency and legislation that is opaque to many outsiders. “The work so far must not be seen as an end in itself, but the first steps on a long road leading to Vietnam’s emergence as a true Asian Tiger,” said Nicholas Greenfield, director of the Hanoi office of the European Chamber of Commerce. – Reuters Read more!

US legal group urges full probe into corruption allegations against judges of Khmer Rouge tribunal


A New-York based legal group has urged a full probe into corruption allegations against judges of the long-awaited Khmer Rouge tribunal, prompting a quick dismissal Thursday by the tribunal's office.

The Open Society Justice Initiative, or OSJI, cited allegations "that Cambodian court personnel, including judges, must kick back a significant percentage of their wages to Cambodian government officials in exchange for their positions on the court."

In a statement received Thursday, the OSJI called for the allegations to be investigated "thoroughly, fairly and quickly." It did not cite the source of the accusations.

Helen Jarvis, a spokeswoman of the tribunal, which is scheduled to begin hearings later this year, called the allegations "unsubstantiated."

Jarvis, an Australian who helped the Cambodian government set up the U.N.-backed tribunal, said she didn't know where the accusations stemmed from. She said a routine financial audit of the tribunal was underway but it has "absolutely nothing to do with any allegations."

The corruption accusations could, however, deal another blow to the already troubled tribunal.
"If these allegations of corruption are confirmed, it would strip the (tribunal) of its integrity and undermine its ability to provide accountability for mass crimes," James A. Goldston, OSJI executive director, was quoted saying in the statement.

The tribunal was created by a 2003 agreement between Cambodia and the United Nations after years of difficult negotiations to bring those behind the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime to justice, the AP report.

The radical policies of the now-defunct communist group, which held power from 1975-79, led to the deaths of some 1.7 million people from execution, overwork, disease and malnutrition.

After long delays, the tribunal is set to convene later this year. But trials could face further delay because of continued disagreement between Cambodian and foreign judges on draft rules for governing the proceedings. Read more!