Organization data point at strong potential of forest sector

ROME — Global production of all major wood products grew for the sixth consecutive year in 2015, while trade in wood products decreased slightly, according to new data published by Food and Agriculture Organization last December 16.

The increase was mainly boosted by the continuous economic growth in Asia, a recovering housing market in North America and scaling up of the bioenergy targets.

In 2015, growth in the production volume of wood products ranged from between one to eight percent, according to the FAO data.

At the same time, global trade value in primary wood and paper products shrank slightly from $267 billion in 2014 to $236 billion in 2015 due to lower prices for wood products.

Production of forest products has been healthiest in Asia-Pacific and North America due to a growing housing market.MORE

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Happy feet

HOW do I describe 2016? It was generous, exciting and exhausting. The last may seem a surprising addition but it “came with the territory,” so to speak—and I’m not complaining.

Off the bucket list is Kyoto. The photo of geisha’s walking the streets of the city was on my vision board for years, so was the Jidai Matsuri festival and the autumn season in Japan. I got to tick off three items from my bucket list.

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Five days in the city was too short with a heavy concentration of Unesco World Heritage Sites, but good enough to know that I should revisit the city.

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In Kyoto, stay at the New Gingkaku Inn. It’s affordable and very conveniently located a few steps away from the Kyoto station. The train station is a depot for buses for the city’s tourist attractions.

The few remaining days in Japan allowed me to visit another new place, Karuizawa in Nagano, to chase the autumn leaves (I came too early in the season to catch the red and gold foliage).

In Tokyo, I was able to visit a few more sites I missed on my previous visit.

Perhaps, the best lesson Japan has taught me was to maximize the Japan Rail Pass. It doesn’t come cheap so the more bullet train rides to faraway destinations you can do so. Short, quick visits to places are not just my kind of thing though. Do I compromise?

Taipei may not be on my list but PAL’s seat sale was too hard to resist.

Once under the Japanese rule, the Chinese city still has the vibe of Japan—clean, safe, commuter friendly and inexpensive. The city is vibrant and a foodie’s haunt. Taipei is worth a revisit.MORE

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Jerusalem and Jordan: memories to last a lifetime (conclusion)

JERUSALEM, with its history of war and peace, love and hate, destruction and resurrection, is one of the most intriguing cities in the world. Its enthralling story dates back to the time before Jesus but for a non-historian like me, its significance lies in the fact that Jerusalem was where Jesus preached and performed miracles, was condemned and crucified, died and was buried, and then resurrected and ascended into heaven.

The Jerusalem interlude during our eight-day trip to the Holy Land touched me the most. It was an experience I will long remember. We started out at Mount of Olives where Jesus ascended into heaven 40 days after his resurrection. From our perch in front of the Chapel of Dominus Flevit (the place where Jesus wept for Jerusalem), we could see a stirring view of the ancient and modern Jerusalem veiled by the light of a setting sun. Then there was the nearby Garden of Gethsemane where age-old olive trees with gnarled trunks (said to be the silent witnesses of Jesus’ agony in the garden) still stand.

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There were days during our pilgrimage when we felt melancholic and pensive. This feeling came intensely so as we re-traced the footsteps of Jesus on his way to Calvary from the Ecce Homo where Pontius Pilate washed his hands.

It was at the Flagellation site that we began taking turns carrying the cross, four of us at a time, passing through the different stations of the cross until we reached the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. There was a crowd lining up to go to the altar of the crucifixion.

We couldn’t help but stare intently at the image of the crucified Christ pondering on the happenings on that Black Friday more than 2000 years ago. Then there was the annointing stone where the body of Jesus was prepared for burial which we kissed.

What moved us most was touching, kissing and kneeling before the cold tomb of Jesus inside the dimly-lit chamber of the Holy Sepulcher. It made us teary.MORE

Philippines eyes opening of OFW Bank in Saudi Arabia next year

THE Duterte administration is set to open a bank partly owned by the overseas Filipino workers (OFW) by the third quarter of next year, with an authorized capital of P3 billion, the Department of Finance (DOF) said Tuesday.

While the requirements and procedures to establish the OFW Bank are still being completed, the state-owned Land Bank of the Philippines (LandBank) will set up by September a representative office in Saudi Arabia to cater to the banking needs of some 800,000 Filipino workers based in the Middle Eastern country, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said.

He said the OFW Bank will be established through the LandBank’s acquisition of the Philippine Postal Savings Bank, which will be converted into a LandBank subsidiary that will be owned 30 percent by OFWs.

“The acquisition of the Postal Bank will be completed by the third quarter of 2017, after all required procedures are completed and approvals are secured. The LandBank has sufficient resources to complete this transaction,” said Dominguez, who chairs the LandBank board of directors.

As of September 30 this year, the LandBank ranked as the country’s 4th largest commercial bank with a total capital of P90.9 billion and assets amounting to P1.3 trillion.

A bank dedicated to the needs of OFWs is one of the promises of President Rodrigo Duterte to Filipino migrant workers.MORE