Posted tagged ‘ASEAN’

ONE ASEAN: GET READY!

August 27, 2015

ONE ASEAN: GET READY!

 

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

 

Good evening! Magandang gabi!

The dark clouds of the electoral contests are now getting clearer in the Philippines. With our polls settled and our elected leaders about to begin their mandates, I’d now depart from election-related advocacies and move back to the international-global arenas.

I have written quite enormously about international political economy and subsidiary themes for over two (2) decades. Even my blogging has been consumed with peregrinations on the international arena. So let me go back to this arena, even as I now clarify that I am a strong advocate of One ASEAN.

As I’ve elucidated in my past writings (see 2007-08 articles), I perceive the ASEAN as the larger polity to which my own country will return in the future.

The Philippines, Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore, the whole of island Southeast particularly, were largely creations of Western powers. They used to be part of the Majapahit Empire, the world’s wealthiest region before Western colonization fragmented it.

Being a strong believer in ASEAN unity, I am willing to shed off my hard-line Filipino nationalism and don the cloak of pan-ASEAN patriotism. Majapahit was the original nation to me and to those who resonate with the same worldview, and eager am I to see my country return to the Empire.

The Empire no longer bears that name today. Rather, it goes by the name of ASEAN, short for Association of Southeast Asian Nations. But it bears the same geo-political and geo-economic contours of the Empire before it fragmented.

A benevolent Empire it was, as it used the fiat of trade cooperation to get membership into the polity. That is, to be able to become a part of the Empire, concur trade with its nexus and prinzeps. This was a much different track from the typical military occupation used by other regional and world powers to expand their territorial confines.

If we reflect back on what our state players are doing here today, where they’re concurring agreements and treaties using the most civil means conceivable to get to a higher level of unity, the same means actually revives the consensus methods used by our peoples in antiquity. Today, no matter how diverse our political, economic, and cultural systems are, we are talking to each other here, which is reflective of a ‘dialogues of civilizations’ approach.

From state-to-state and civil society-to-civil society talks, let us move on to direct people-to-people talks in the region. People-to-people interactions precede people-to-people cooperations. I strongly contend that people-to-people cooperation should eventually be the base for state-to-state and civil society-to-civil society cooperation and no less.

State-to-state talks are quite slow in results, even if market players joined state actors to buttress the former stakeholders’ positions. In some areas of talks, such as those involving territories, snags are observed.

People-to-people interactions and cooperation will do much to accelerate state-to-state talks that get snagged for one reason or another. The same cooperation can also accelerate the building of a pan-ASEAN identity which should precede any writing of a general treaty that will unify the region at least economically.

People-to-people interactions have already been taking place in the region for almost 2000 years in fact. Western colonization may have diminished the scales of interactions for a long while, but that era of imperialism is much behind us now.

As states, market players, and civil society players are preparing for larger talks ahead, let us noble peoples of the region go ahead and expand the levels of talks to build greater mutual confidence, appreciation of each other’s cultures, and trust. Along the way, we have fellow Asians and global citizens who will support our efforts as true friends.

In any way we can, let us get to know each other better. Let’s set aside utilitarian gains (e.g. get to know Asean pals who can become network marketing partners) and interact based on a true call of our hearts, of our souls.

That way, we contribute to building our preparedness for the grand future coming. We just can’t be caught flat-footed, not knowing what’s going on in our larger backyard because we allowed state players to monopolize the talks.

Fellow ASEANians, let’s get ready!

[Writ – Philippines, 11 May 2010. E. Argonza is adept at international political economy. He was a graduate student of former ASEAN Deputy Secretary General Wilfrido Villacorta, PhD. He has published various articles on the subject, as well as a book on global trade regime.]

ASEAN’S 160 MILLION MIDDLE CLASS ENSURES BULLISH PROSPERITY

January 21, 2014

ASEAN’S 160 MILLION MIDDLE CLASS ENSURES BULLISH PROSPERITY

 

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

 

Good day to you fellow global citizens!

 

ASEAN’s planned economic integration next year is getting too near for comfort. Excitement from diverse quarters concerning the unification in ASEAN and across the globe is growing, so let me share a note on the subject by focusing on its middle class.

 

Association of Southeast Asian Nations or ASEAN comprises a total population approaching 670 million as of end of 2013. Of that total, approximately 160 million belong to the Middle Income classification. Since the middle income families comprise the consumer base of a developing country, it is normally extendable to an entire region such as ASEAN to evaluate whether that region possesses the demand base for a truly prosperous and economically powerful region.

 

Middle Income classification for developing countries or DCs is pegged at U.S. $6,000-$30,000 annual family income. Earning beyond the $30,000 annual income in a DC is considered a fortune, qualifying the family thus for a ‘wealthy family’ status. While this middle income bracket is lower than those in the OECD countries, it is crucial for testing the future waters and catapulting a region to an economic power.

 

The approximate middle income composition of each member country of ASEAN is as follows:

 

Country                      Middle Income Persons (In Millions)

Singapore                                  5

Thailand                                     35

Malaysia                                    20

Philippines                                  20

Indonesia                                   60

Brunei                                       0.7

Vietnam                                     12

Myanmar/Burma                         5

Kampuchea                                1

Laos                                          0.5

TOTAL:                                      159.2 Million      

 

That total of 159.2 million is just rough, conservative estimate, based on my stock knowledge of previous reports about the region from the Asian Development Bank, UNDP, and thinktanks. Let’s round off the figure to 160 million for simplification.

 

The totality can actually easily move to 165 million with updated data on the subject. The 160 million alone suffices ASEAN’s middle class to be numerically at par with the USA’s middle class that stood at 160 million when the last presidential electoral campaign raged there.

 

The big challenges for the ASEAN and its member nations are (1) to increase the per capita or per family income of the middle income persons, and (2) to increase the number of middle income persons and/or families across the coming years, until at least half of the region’s population turns Middle Class. 

 

160 million is indeed large enough already as an aggregation of all the 10-member nations’ prosperous middle income earners. However, that is merely 1 out of every 4 ASEANian persons. Which means there are still vast numbers of families and persons down the income pyramid, hundreds of millions in the D & E classes in particular.

 

The good news is that ASEAN comprises of 1 Dragon Economy (Singapore), 1 Tiger Economy (Malaysia), and 4 Emerging Markets (Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam). Such dynamic economies more than offset the laggards in the region, namely Myanmar, Laos, and Kampuchea. Brunei is a special class that belongs to the wealthy Petro-dollar economies, with almost its entire people sufficiently provided for by the ruling dynasty.

 

Meeting the target of the Millenium Development Goal or MDG for poverty alleviation is indubitably the most urgent thing to accomplish. The neighboring countries can compare notes and share experiences on how to redistribute wealth equitably in vast quantities to the poor, a departure from the ‘trickle down’ approach that breeds more paradoxes of mass poverty amidst prospering economies.  

 

I will not hazard a recommendation such as adoption of Philippine’s Cash Transfer Program in the region. Such a strategy worked well in Brazil which now has over 50% of its families above the middle income threshold, but whether it will indeed work for the ASEAN poor is another thing.

 

Meantime, what is less risky a forecast is that the 160 million middle class will be a sustained base for consumption in the region. Sustained consumption at this juncture equates to Big Opportunity for any market interest group or person to surf the ‘economic sea’ here.

 

Direct Foreign Investments from all over the globe can surely be poured now in even colossal amounts with lesser risk and surefire gains. The ASEAN’s high levels of foreign exchange, banking & finance resources, and big middle class altogether comprise a formidable fortress that can easily hedge against volatilities in the North & West that cause capital flight from short-term capital, which should all the more magnetize investors from elsewhere.

 

[Manila, 20 January 2014]

MANILA: ASIA’S FASHION & SHOPPING CAPITAL, GRADUATES TO DESIGN CAPITAL

November 13, 2013

MANILA: ASIA’S FASHION & SHOPPING CAPITAL, GRADUATES TO DESIGN CAPITAL

 

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

 

Good Day to you fellow global citizens!

In 2011, I published an article titled “FILIPINO FASHION DESIGNERS IN HOLLYWOOD: SHOWCASING MANILA AS ASIA’S FASHION CAPITAL” (See: http://erleargonza.blogspot.com/2011/02/filipino-fashion-designers-in-hollywood.html). In that article, I highlighted the maturity of Filipino fashion design, so much that it had reached a level of continental and global acclaim.

Manila has been the fashion and shopping capital of Asia for over a decade already. It once enjoyed that status alongside another ASEAN city, Bangkok. Unfortunately, or tragically, a huge flood beset Bangkok fairly recently, which caused the pull out by many global industrial investors based in it. Bangkok’s own fashion designers left on a diaspora, which took Bangkok off the list of very important cities in the global fashion circuits.

Manila henceforth enjoys a celebrity status for being the sole Fashion Capital. In the latter part of the 20th century, that envious status belonged to both Tokyo and Hongkong. But as the Bob Dylan poetic line “the times they are a-changing” hauntingly reminds the big players in all fields, so did Manila move up to overtake both Hongkong and Tokyo in the fashion field.

As the title suggests, Manila is also the Shopping Capital of all Asia. That means from East to West, North to South of the continent, Manila is THE SHOPPING CAPITAL. Shopping malls in Manila have the best mall architectures in the whole continent and count among the world’s best, e.g. Gateway Mall’s winning the World’s 11 Best Mall Architectures couples of years ago, which enhanced the power of Filipino fashion and Manila’s shopping magnetism.

That title of Shopping Capital used to belong to both Hongkong and Tokyo as well. So you could just imagine the slide of both cities to 2nd fiddle as Manila and Bangkok zoomed up meteorically to take that crown, though sadly Bangkok did slide down (God forbids that it will lost the crown that it enjoyed for a short 10 years).

 

Today, there’s another milestone event that is shaping up: Manila’s graduation to a Design Center for the whole of the ASEAN at least. That’s just a minimalist statement coming from the industrialists of ASEAN. Come to think of it, a country or city that had reached Fashion & Shopping Capital continent-wide will likewise get the crown of Design Capital for the whole of Asia.

Filipino consumers might be wondering where are all those Filipino fashion designs being bandied by the tri-media and cyberspace. Well, fellow Filipinos, you only see fashion via the RTWs viewed by your focals every week in the shopping malls, and RTW fashion constitutes only 16% or 1/7th of the totality of work by fashion designers in the Philippines.

84% of all Filipino fashion designs are generated for the couture business. Many fashion designers in fact do sub-contracting for some bigger fashion design firms whose very own end-users are individual couture fashionistas and corporate retail outlets. With all the great fashion designs going around in Manila and Cebu, all that a Filipino needs to do is get ideas from them, design their own clothes, and look for good cutter and ‘sastre’ (tailor or dress maker) in the wet market to finish the product.

By being a Design Capital means that Filipino fashion designers will  train fashion designers from across Asia and the oceans and also welcome those emerging designers from other countries to do sub-contracting for the big players in Manila. Hopefully fashion institutes will catch up for installation and training of the young designers across the world.

In my own honest opinion, the top universities in Manila—University of the Philippines, Ateneo De Manila University, De La Salle University—should launch fashion departments within their own backyards. It is now time to do so. Pitoy Moreno, top fashion designer, already won his National Artist award, so that recognition should translate into the university’s adopting of the fashion as a line of the arts.

Let’s all expect exciting developments to come regarding the fashion world and it’s partner institution the mall retail business. If generating great fashion sustains the enticement of retailers to ever build majestic mall architectures, then shall there’s joy and fun indeed in visiting Manila and the Philippines by enthused tourists both domestically and internationally.

[Manila, 08 November 2013]

PHILIPPINE ECONOMY TOPS ASIAN GROWTH, FIREWALL AMIDST POLITICAL TURMOILS

November 2, 2013

PHILIPPINE ECONOMY TOPS ASIAN GROWTH, FIREWALL AMIDST POLITICAL TURMOILS

 

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

 

For this particular note, I will go back to my reflections on the Philippine economy, while I look forward to expand to ASEAN concerns as ASEAN integration nears by 2015. Philippine economic growth tops ASEAN, which makes it the leading ‘tiger’ of the region today.

 

For a recall, Philippine economic performance showed past 7% growth for the last four (4) quarters already. As of middle of 2013, PH growth was at par with China’s which seems to show some sputtering after past two (2) decades of double digit growth. China’s very own growth pattern may decline even more in the years ahead, thus permitting the PH economy to be on top if it shows a sustained trend over the next couples of years.

 

Economic performance can only be as good as the economy players themselves. While economic policy environment, which is the terrain of politicians and bureaucrats, plays a very vital role in stimulating economic development, in the last instance it is the performance of economic players that counts most.

 

As a matter of fact, it is on the side of the state—with poor expenditures for infrastructures during the first two years of the Aquino administration—that produced a lackluster economic growth. Bad governance stalks the Philippine state, which ends in an overall Weak State, though governance reforms are in order.

 

Incidentally, across the decades, the Philippine economy built a ‘firewall’ that protects it from political caldrons here and abroad. Along with other Asian economies, the Philippines also built a ‘firewall’ against turmoils in the global economy that are caused by the economic weaknesses of the North (Japan, USA, EU).

 

As economists put it, the Philippine economy just entered a ‘virtual cycle’ of growth, thus ending a long arduous history of ‘boom & bust’ cycle. Much of the growth comes largely from the domestic demand itself, showing the great purchasing power of domestic institutions, households, and individuals when combined. Income from international trade plays only a secondary role in the country, which enables it to outsmart the vagaries of the unstable global economy.

 

In the past decades, so much of ‘organization re-engineering’ and corporate governance were infused into the Philippine business structures and processes. Business culture was also properly addressed by internal stakeholders, chambers of commerce, and management professional societies. The result, of course, is better adaptive capacity thru better competitiveness and higher productivity.

 

The trend in Philippine manufacturing had so far shown a consistent generation of high value-added by its labor force, followed by services. The two sectors have shown dynamism so far, thus making them the big drivers of the domestic economy. Agriculture is very sluggish in this respect, which challenges food producers to make up and move up their labor force’s value-added capacities.

 

Note also the trend of consistently high Net Factor Income from Abroad, which will continue to grow in absolute terms over the next decades. Remittances from overseas Filipinos (workers/professionals) continue to grow, contributing past $20 billions annually to the national income. Furthermore, overseas Filipino investments are growing by the year, in highly diversified concerns, so let’s anticipate the repatriations of profits from such business concerns to surpass remittances from overseas workers in the foreseeable future.

 

So far the credit standing of the Philippine economy has been moving up. Fitch’s, Moody’s, Standard & Poors’, and other institutions have been optimistic about the Philippine economic performance and good governance measures, which made them shore up the credit ratings nearer and nearer to the triple A mark.

 

The Philippine economy is still a Middle Income economy as of this moment. It if grows consistently at 7% per annum for succeeding years, then it can double its size in every 6 years. By 2025, PH economy will be 4 times its present size. At the end of that year, PH economy will have entered a ‘mature’ developed economy, and joins the club of 1st world nations.

 

[Manila, 28 October 2013]

PH AN EMERGING POWER PER UK PRONOUNCEMENT

June 22, 2011

PH AN EMERGING POWER PER UK PRONOUNCEMENT

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Good day to you fellow global citizens!

Just recently, a team from the British diplomatic corps made an unusual pronouncement in Manila: that Philippines is an emerging power. For a world power that once conquered Manila during the world war between the empires of Spain and Britain, the UK remark is truly unusual.

Cordially and tactfully delivered, the remark hopefully could open up more floodgates for greater investments between the UK and PH. UK better bring in more investors—bringing in more FDIs (direct foreign investments) than hot money capital—and show sincerity in relating to its partner in the ASEAN.

Known for profligate engagements in derivatives operations and related speculations, UK has been the center of operations of known predatory financiers led by the Rothschilds and fronted by George Soros, a fact that has been causing chagrin on and ambivalence towards the British by developing countries. UK diplomacy better change that image and change it fast.

On the other hand, it is time for Filipino investors to move into London and Northern Ireland with greater capital intensity. Sure, there are a lot of Filipinos in the UK, with circa 200,000 located there, albeit largely for domestic work. It is time that the population composition of Pinoys in UK better change, with greater numbers of professionals, investors, and aid volunteers (to developing countries) deciding to seek domicile there.

As to the numbers of British citizens located in PH, the number is 10,000. Composed largely of retired seniors, the number is also reinforced by diplomatic professionals, business executives, philanthropic aid workers, artists and students. The composition may need to change soon, as PH is an open society and its multi-cultural environ is a plus factor for British and other Europeans to seek domicile here.

Let’s go back to the contention of emerging power. This contention was culled from the observation of PH as an emerging market, which together with other emerging markets will equalize the OECD powers by 2025 as per World Bank forecast. Emerging markets have large populations and significant middle income consumers (earning $6,000-$30,000 per annum).

PH has around 19 Millions out of its 94 Millions of warm bodies as comprising that global middle class. Small for now and seemingly stagnant, the 19 Millions can be made to grow, and the number is significant vis a vis the total population. All over the ASEAN, a total of past 100 Millions of people are in that category today.

The USA has 160 Millions in the global middle income category. It is no wonder that the World Bank made the forecast, knowing the sustained growth that the emerging markets have been showing. As the USA stagnates along the way, ASEAN will surpass it in terms of doubling its middle income to past the 200 Millions warm bodies before 2025 yet.

With Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam showing the way to what emerging markets are in the ASEAN, it is no wonder that traditional world powers are in a hurry to re-chart the directions of their foreign policies, aimed at creating long-term modus vivendi with the emerging markets.

PH political clout will most likely increase along the way as its economic clout also strengthens. The domestic stakeholders better take note of the new perceptions of OECD powers such as UK on PH, and widen that latitudes for rapid growth and wealth redistribution to accelerate the creation of a middle class past the 50 Million mark soon.

This time around, PH shouldn’t miss out on the emerging global opportunities and perceptions of multi-polarity. Stakeholders should put up or shut up in meeting the gargantuan challenges at hand.

[Philippines, 02 June 2011]
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ASEAN ADOPTS RP’S NAUTICAL HIGHWAY

June 11, 2011

A nautical highway was designed and implemented with appreciable results in the Philippines. Today, the different islands are more interconnected. This article on ASEAN’s adoption of the PH project is hereby republished.

ASEAN ADOPTS RP’S NAUTICAL HIGHWAY

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Good day to you all! Magandang araw sa inyong lahat!

Let me return to the ASEAN, after delivering my kudos to Latin Americans and Brazilians over the presidential victory of the socialist Madam Rousseff there. How I wish that the ASEANians can emulate the audacious social policies of Brazil under the stewardship of the outgoing leader Lula and incoming Rousseff.

For the good news, the information has already been disseminated that the entire ASEAN is adopting the ‘nautical highway’ program of the Philippines. Accordingly, the planning stage for a regional nautical highway is now under way, with the program most likely implemented way before the 2015 economic integration here.

A brilliant idea, the nautical highway concept was actually hatched by Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the previous president of the Philippines. A technocrat-politician, Arroyo surely found a remedy to the sluggish and inefficient transit of people and cargo across the seas in the archipelago.

To recall, Arroyo was an economist and academic before she joined government. As president of the country, she achieved the feat of solving the fiscal problems and doubling national income within a 9-year span. The Philippines finally graduated to middle-income country status during Macapagal’s incumbency.

Infrastructures also expanded by many folds during Arroyo’s incumbency. Roads, wharves, airports, levees, dams, and diverse public works benefited immensely from the boom years of her aegis. Within the context of the transport infrastructure programs did Arroyo conceptualize the RORO (roll on-roll off) nautical highway.

Executed with very high success levels, the nautical highway proceeded to deliver the expected result of accelerating the transit of people and goods across the seas. The RORO also brought down the cost of ship transportation, hence engendering a more mobile poor folks who could nil afford long distance travels.

As already elucidated in a previous article, it would be excellent if the nautical highway would be interlinked with a forthcoming regional railway. More excellent if the nautical highway, roads, railways, and airports would be interlinked in such an exquisite design of transport hubs.

ASEAN-wide planning takes a longer time than national planning, as there would be a preference for consultative process in the planning exercise. Let’s just hope that the planning phase won’t take longer than 1 & ½ years at the most, with the final output passing through a last grassroots or community hearing for discussions and feedbacks.

That means that as early as 2012, the regional RORO will be implemented. Infrastructure, technology, and logistical support will need to be installed and/or allotted by the 1st quarter of 2012 to ensure fast implementation of the program.

With the program implemented, hopefully the poor folks in the coastal areas won’t have to travel to islands of other countries by risky motored banca or canoes. The RORO ships would bring down risks, travel costs, and make travels very comfortable for poor folks and monied middle class alike.

This analyst highly appreciates the latest ASEAN collaborative efforts for building a regional nautical highway. May the planning, implementation, and monitoring/evaluation of the future program come forth with stunning success.

[Philippines, 16 November 2010]
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ASEAN LAND BRIDGES & RAILWAY SYSTEM

June 10, 2011

Interconnecting ASEAN member countries via landbridge cum railway project has become an urgent need. It is viable. This article is hereby republished to stress that point.

ASEAN LAND BRIDGES & RAILWAY SYSTEM

Erle Frayne Argonza y Delago

Magandang umaga sa lahat! Good morning to everyone!

This analyst will continue on the ASEAN theme and will focus on road networks & railways for this piece. The region is now preparing the foundations for its conversion into an economic union by 2015, so it would be a productive engagement for citizens of the region to put forward their ideas about how to let the region grow and prosper, such as the idea about land bridges articulated here.

Each member country of ASEAN is now developing infrastructures at different paces, thus rendering each country with gaps in terms of road networks and railways. Such I gap, I believe, can be narrowed if the entire region will conceptualize, design, and begin laying down today the foundations of a region-wide road network.

The grand project can be dubbed as ‘land bridges program’ for the goal it can aspire to attain: that of linking all of the member countries into interfacing and interloping highways. There will be defining expressways in each of the countries that will then be integrated, expanded, and closed gap where certain spaces lack them, thus creating a seamless expressway serving as ‘land bridges’ across the entire region.

Running parallel or inter-linked with the road network would be a gargantuan railway system—of maglev technology—that will be part of the land bridging efforts. Transport hubs can be constructed in certain areas where the road facilities and railway can interface. Each member country can choose to link up its railways (running on electricity and diesel) with the regional maglev to comprise a yet another complex network with awesome potency for stimulating growth.

Such a grand project, which when interlinked further with the Mekong integrated project, will serve as multiplier effect in stimulating growth and development for all of the member countries without exception. The flow of peoples, goods and services, and investments across borders will thus increase by many folds, propelling further the generation of wealth for the union.

With the ASEAN central bank and ASEAN development bank running by 2015 and onwards, it becomes facile to fund the gargantuan land bridges project. The implementers will include private construction & development companies in the region as well as banks that can fund the project’s phases from the side of the private builder-constructors.

The project will enhance the synergy of trucking, train, and shipping down the ground and waters. Such effectively done, there will then be a reduction of moving people and goods by airplanes that can then have greater space for mobility.

The land bridges project can spur more ambitious civil engineering, so that civil works can move on to build tunnels beyond 2 kilometers below the ground. The same engineering efforts can then build tunnels across islands and help to ease out the burdens on ships as the link between island components of the road network.

The same project can also facilitate the inter-connection of the ASEAN to a new ‘silk route’ now rising across the Asian continent. The entry points will be India and China, which the union can cooperate with in building linking infrastructures. With such a possibility turned into reality, one can travel by road and trains from Luzon in the Philippines onwards to the Europe, permitting enjoyment of wonderful landscapes across many lands.

Movements of peoples, goods and services to and from the giant neighbors will also move up by many folds with the land bridge project linked up with the ‘silk route’. Ships and planes can be unburdened a bit by such a twist of development, and can then accommodate more goods & services for other continents and regions.

Regional institutions can be erected to design, manage, and regulate the conduct of construction as well as future traffic along the expressways and the railways flows. There should be transparency and efficiency in the bidding of contracts, so that early enough the governance components of the future political union can already be erected.

It is very likely that the project will be highly welcomed by the peoples of the region. The business sector, notably the constructors & developers, could hardly wait to dip their hands into it as soon as the call for participation by the ASEAN will be in place. It will surely leapfrog the region’s catching up with the developed world and with China, rendering it a potential global economic power in the foreseeable future.

[Philippines, 11 November 2010]
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Come Visit E. Argonza’s blogs & website anytime!
Social Blogs:
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Wisdom/Spiritual Blogs:
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BRIGHTWORLD: http://erlefraynebrightworld.wordpress.com

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ARTBLOG: http://erleargonza.wordpress.com
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