Duterte’s decision to close Boracay

Perhaps one can say that this piece is already water under the bridge since President Rodrigo Duterte has already approved the recommendation of the three government agencies, namely, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Tourism (DOT), and Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to close the resort island of Boracay for six months.

The description by no less than the president of the famed place as “cesspool” indeed decidedly put a halt to the influx of tourist to the place.

“You go into the water, it’s smelly. Smells of what? Sh*t,” he had said.

Pretty strong and unfavorable words for the local government and stakeholders, but they all had it coming.

I am not writing this to discuss the inadequacies and ineptness of those governing and running their private entities while thinking only of the windfall of earnings they can make at the expense of the tourist who simply wants to experience fun in the Philippines, and the much talked about Boracay in particular, for this issue has received quite a beating already.

But it is perhaps proper and timely to mention here that the shortcomings, the myopic vision, and the vested interests of their own concerns took a toll on the environment, which is an important facet of tourism.

What I want to talk about, therefore, which certainly is not water under the bridge, is in the context of the urgency and necessity of the Boracay closure.

We must admit that the problems that caused embarrassment to Boracay, famous for its powdery white sand and shallow azure water, did not happen overnight, or to put it straightforward, during Duterte’s presidency.

It has been reported that Boracay’s degradation has been blamed on the failure of the local government to enforce ordinances on marine conservation, garbage and sanitation, and zoning and construction, among others.

Also, that at least 300 hotels, resorts and inns have been ignoring an ordinance that requires them to build their own sewage and wastewater treatment facilities. They have instead been dumping waste into canals meant only for rainwater and surface overflow.

Another upsetting revelation is that four of the nine wetlands on the island, meanwhile, are occupied by a shopping mall, a hotel and around 100 illegal settlers.

Talking about impunity by both the governing body and the governed!

While past administrations acted like the three proverbial monkeys exemplifying the proverbial principle of “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil”, Duterte used his leadership and political will to make a difference in Boracay.

After all, it is the long range plan of sustaining the grandeur of Boracay for the country’s tourism industry that matters most.

 

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Dried fish packaging

 

While this article may legitimately apply to consumer advocates, I am addressing this, however, directly to the consuming public for their immediate awareness and vigilance when buying dried fish or any dried sea product for that matter in a transparent plastic packaging.

It used to be that the salted, sun-dried fish, especially the much sought after “danggit” variety (rabbitfish), which is a known delicacy for breakfast, can be bought loose at certain quantities and costs in transparent plastic packaging material.

The problem however is in the aesthetics as the goods inside simply piles up at the bottom of the container, especially when lifted, and does not appear as presentable and inviting as when the items inside are orderly arranged.

The marketing people perhaps thought that the best way of having the items in place, in lieu of a vacuum packaging machine, is to staple it to the plastic container so that even if it is displayed hanging from the hook or taken out for a closer look it remains immovable.

They may have considered it a brilliant solution to their marketing problem, but in the process their seemingly clever and artful act is posing a serious threat to the health and safety of the consuming public.

I am talking of course about the staple wires that one might miss removing once one decides preparing the dried fish for breakfast. You can bet that you will have a handful of these tiny wires once you start unpacking the whole thing.

I am also writing this just in case you get this kind of “danggit” packaging coming from Manila.

 

Cambridge Analytica a non-factor in electing Duterte president

Long before Cambridge Analytica, a British political data firm, got embroiled in controversy of scandalous proportion when it was alleged to have secretly and inappropriately made a Facebook data breach and harvested personal contents from some 87 million users, including, it said, over a million in the Philippines, to influence the country’s 2016 presidential election result, the way it is said to have catapulted America’s Donald Trump to the presidency, the majority of the Filipino people by then had already decided that, for a change, they will no longer be voting for a traditional politician.

It was no surprise therefore that when then Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte finally declared his candidacy for president, the Filipinos went crazy rooting for him. Their prayers were answered. They now had an out-of-the-box candidate, a no-nonsense one at that, whose track record in governance is something most politicians should be envious about, but whose heart really beats for the Filipino people and whose dream is to make the whole country a livable place, in the same manner Duterte made Davao City a comfortable place for the Davaoeños.

Senator Antonio Trillanes and President Rodrigo Duterte

The reason why I am saying that Cambridge Analytica has nothing to do at all with Duterte being elected president stems from the fact that opposition senator and known Duterte basher, Antonio Trillanes, has been reported to be filing a resolution calling for a Senate probe into the role of Cambridge Analytica in the 2016 presidential elections, the same way the British firm is being accused now of capturing Facebook users’ data to corrupt the minds of the Americans into making the controversy-laden Donald Trump their president during the 2016 US presidential election.

The reality is that it was the intense hunger of Filipinos for a fearless and selfless down-to-earth Filipino leader with political will that made Duterte an overwhelming choice for the presidency.

The majority of poor voters who gave Duterte a margin of 6 million votes over his closest rival are proof enough that Cambridge Analytica was a non-factor, for they were not relishing in having a Facebook account.

Thus, I find Trillanes’ move for a Senate probe a mere grandstanding and purely nothing but a witch-hunt.

For not finding anymore culpability to spew barbs at Duterte, the way the latter continues to get support, trust and high approval ratings in his performance as president, Trillanes somehow thought he has found a bomb to be used against Duterte in the Cambridge Analytica controversy.

Soon Trillanes will come to realize that the bomb is a dud after all!

Duterte warns judiciary on rampant TROs

President Rodrigo Duterte

“For Christ’s sake, do not play with TROs.”

Sounds like a reasonable plea addressed to the judiciary branch of government and coming from no less than President Rodrigo Duterte himself, it is even more compelling as he knows whereof he speaks.

There could not have been a more opportune time than today for Duterte to call upon the Supreme Court to implement internal control mechanism in the judiciary such that wanton issuance of temporary restraining orders (TROs) are prevented especially when it has to do with government projects.

Duterte’s ambitious program of ‘Build, Build, Build’ epitomizes what “Dutertenomics” is all about.

Accordingly, it is a program and a strategy that will usher in the golden age of infrastructure in the Philippines by embarking on a nationwide network of high impact projects that will try to connect places and people, create jobs and bring down the cost of doing business through logistical support and other foundations.

It is short of saying that what Duterte has envisioned during his tenure as president is to see the   nationwide infrastructure network connecting the archipelago into one cohesive and dynamic whole Philippines.

Duterte’s mission and vision for the country is both timely and laudable as it complements the connectivity or linking of nations as initiated by China’s One Belt One Road and the ASEAN Master Plan on Connectivity.

The Belt and Road Initiative of China’s President Xi Jinping is a grand plan to connect Asia with Europe and Africa in a monumental trade and infrastructure network. It is aimed at promoting prosperity for countries across the world.

China calls it a “modern Silk Road”, referring to what has also been called Silk Route, which was an ancient network of trade routes that were for centuries central to cultural interaction through regions of the Asian continent connecting the East and West and stretching from the Korean peninsula and Japan to the Mediterranean Sea.

Apart from free trade, the plan would provide opportunities for peace and inclusiveness. China says the scheme is open to all countries and aims to be a win-win for all.

With President Xi pledging US $124 billion for his new Silk Road plan, not to mention the financial aid the Duterte’s government has been receiving from China, there are indeed enough funds to envision and start projects that will help the country move forward.

Do we still have to question why Duterte is appealing that his administration’s projects should not be at the mercy of uncontrolled and corrupt TROs?

 

Sec. Gina Lopez and the mining industry

 

DENR Secretary Gina Lopez

We all know that President Rodrigo Duterte appointed Ms. Gina Lopez as Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on the strength of her intensely passionate and unwavering advocacy for green or eco-friendly environment.

No one can ever question her resolve in protecting the environment and in so doing making it clean and friendly to the people. We have seen her zeal and devotion when she served as chairperson of Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission and her involvement in Bantay Kalikasan (Nature Watch) which was launched as a response to the worsening state of the environment, especially in Metro Manila.

While many appreciate the idealism of Lopez for the environment, the same morals or philosophy, if you may, when applied to the mining companies in the country should have been tempered with greater understanding and rationality.

I am saying this because Lopez is now at the receiving end of the wrath expressed by some mining officials whose company was targeted for closure and/or suspension of operation for the reason that it has been causing havoc to the environment.

That Lopez has been the subject of displeasure and indignation by the mining companies, which is even affecting her confirmation as DENR secretary, is only fair and par for the course because its mining operation should have been vetted first on the context on whether or not they are International Standards Organization (ISO) compliant.

This should have been the due process extended to the mining companies instead of shutting them down unceremoniously.

There is no doubt Lopez knows about the ISO certification because she herself stated the following upon assuming the position from former DENR Secretary Ramon Paje: “ISO 14001 is one way of saying responsible mining.”

The ISO 14001 standard is the most important within the ISO 14000 series. ISO 14001 specifies the requirements of an environmental management system (EMS) for small to large organizations. An EMS is a systemic approach to handling environmental issues within an organization.

Lopez further added that the assessment will determine if mining operations are “… good to the people or are they killing the rivers, streams? Are they creating suffering to our farmers and fishermen? We have to evaluate it, but my stand on the common good is non-negotiable.”

The “non-negotiable” stand of Lopez can be likened to the shit hitting the fan!

This hardline policy/posturing of Lopez just won’t work especially if the mining industries earn billions of pesos for the country, creates job for the people in the community and contribute to the infrastructure needs of the community.

Personal or subjective opinion should never play a rule in this kind of controversial problems especially if it has to do with the economy, jobs, lives of employed workers, and yes, the environment. The benefits gained should not be held hostage just because the whim and caprice of a popular DENR Secretary is not accommodated.

To compromise is the way to go so it will not create a negative impact on all factors considered for a win-win situation could only be attained if a review of the ISO standards is done regularly by DENR so that anomalies can be corrected to help minimize the potential present and long term damage to the environment from mining activities.

 

Ballpoint in pens now made in China

 

ballpoint-penChina has been dumping its multifarious manufactured goods, from the mundane to the complex items, all over the world that you would think there is nothing that the world’s industrial and economic giant cannot produce. Right?

Wrong!

Apparently, the world’s largest manufacturer of ballpoint pens never succeeded in producing its own ballpoint, a vital component in a pen, until now. And to think that China manufactures 80% of the world’s ballpoint pens!

So, where, then, was China’s ballpoint pen makers getting the delicate tips for the variety of pens it was making and exporting to the countries of the world?

Admittedly, the delicate balls used were imported from Switzerland.

But, not anymore according to state-owned steel firm Taiyuan Iron & Steel which has announced its Eureka moment!

So why did a country renowned for ingeniously replicating technology struggle to create an everyday item for so long?

According to the firm, it did not have machines with the precision needed to cut a tiny ball-bearing accurately.

Also, it explained that despite being the world’s largest steel producer, China was unable to produce the high quality steel to case the ink-dispensing ball, resulting in the steel being imported from Germany or Japan.

The problem of the imperfect balls was brought to fore when Chinese Premier Li Keqiang complained on national TV that the country’s pens were “rough” in comparison with their Japanese, German and Swiss counterparts.

His comments led the Hong Kong Economic Journal to declare: “The day China can produce a 100% homemade ball pen will be the day it truly qualifies as a first-class industrial power.”

Well, it sure has been, but more so now and China is hoping to phase out pen tip imports completely within the next two years.

Duterte pressures BSP and AMLC

 

President Rodrigo Duterte

President Rodrigo Duterte

What President Rodrigo Duterte is doing in censuring and pressuring the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) and the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) to cooperate with government is nothing again but an exercise of fearless political will very much lacking in past leaders of the country.

Acting as sole protectors of what is all secret in depository agencies, the officials of AMLC have been playing hard-nosed, as their role demands perhaps, even when the interest of the nation, and more so of the truth, is at stake.

This cavalier attitude did not and do not sit well with Duterte. The latter feels that those in charge have been obstructing instead of assisting him in his fight against money laundering, especially in the light of the scourge brought about by illegal drug business which prompting him to describe the officials as “hard to deal with”.

But while it may be true that the AMLC is mandated to protect and preserve the integrity and confidentiality of bank accounts, it is also, however, decreed to ensure that the country shall not be used as a money laundering site for the proceeds of any unlawful activity.

That is how categorical and essential the mandate is.

Thus, it is only reasonable for Duterte to get upset and express his displeasure over the monetary official’s disdainful attitude.

The AMLC is composed of the Governor of the (BSP) as Chairman and the Commissioner of the Insurance Commission (IC) and the Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) as members. It acts unanimously in the discharge of its functions.

Duterte emphasized it was imperative that “we cooperate in this government as a Republic to protect and preserve our people.”

“Do not make it hard for us otherwise I will make it hard for you. Simply I said, you failed miserably,” the president remarked in his scathing assessment.

I could not agree more with Duterte, especially when he cited his own experience when Sen. Antonio Trillanes accused him of having P200 million in bank deposits which he allegedly failed to declare in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth, but which AMLC did not do anything about it, much less deny it.

No doubt AMLC was the source of Trillanes’ allegations, yet the same agency is not cooperating where and when it matters most.

Duterte’s scorching remarks to BSP and AMLC should prod them to get their acts together and not be humiliated over their zealous but scandalous participation in case fraudulent activities involving their people are found out to exist.