Duterte’s baffling statement

 

President Rodrigo Duterte and President Xi Jinping

Two years into his presidency and I can say with candor that I remain an avid supporter of Rodrigo Duterte.

I always seem to understand what he is trying to say, given his colorful language, the emotion,   and the tonality he puts on it

But Duterte’s recent statement, however, saying, “The assurances of [President] Xi Jinping were very encouraging… ‘We will not allow you to be taken out from your office, and we will not allow the Philippines to go to the dogs,’” is somewhat baffling to me.

In short what Duterte is trying to tell the Filipinos in particular, and the whole world in general, is that China’s leader, who finds himself elevated to the status of president for life, following the removal of the country’s presidential term limits, does not want Duterte ousted as the country’s leader.

This is definitely an instance where I can’t seem to fathom Duterte’s trend of thought.

Now, why would China say that and who are the people alluded to that would try to destabilize and oust Duterte? And why would the Philippines be going to the dogs?

Certainly, Duterte continues to have high trust and support rating from the Filipino people in his governance of the country and I don’t see any reason, therefore, why he is entertaining the thought of being ousted.

Or could it be that the close relationship now between China and the Philippines, especially with the absolute presence and militarization by China of the South China Sea (SCS), have made the two allies unite against one common enemy which is the U.S.?

There is no doubt that China’s military aggression in the SCS does not sit well with the Americans and the latter frowns upon the fact that the Philippines is not raising a hell of a lot more about China’s incursion in the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Duterte had blamed the US instead for the current maritime tensions, saying they failed to stop China’s building and arming artificial islands in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

That is very true and there is nothing much the Philippines can do.

China has established their dominance in the region and nobody, but nobody, could make them move out from that strategic place.

Perhaps this is the only reason why Duterte is being assured of his continuance in office because of his seeming fealty to the Chinese leader. Perhaps an assurance also that after him another Duterte could take over with China’s help.

Sara Duterte?

Just asking.

 

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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.

 

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!

China’s interest in Philippine Rise – Part II

 

I decided to make this a sequel to the first part of this article, which can be read at this link: https://quierosaber.wordpress.com/2018/02/20/chinas-interest-in-philippine-rise/, for the simple reason that President Rodrigo Duterte’s latest statement, saying, that he would ‘go to war’ to defend Philippine Rise, is very much in the purview of the subject.

Although it has been clarified by Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque that Duterte’s warning of war has China excluded, for obvious reasons, still it is very reassuring to know that at least Duterte recognizes the significance and importance of this area for the generation of Filipinos to come.

What makes it equally reassuring is that China recognizes that the Philippines have sovereign rights over the area.

What was undoable at the South China Sea (SCS) or the West Philippine Sea, the country is now implementing it at the Philippine Rise, and for the same obvious reason stated above that like us, other claimant nations did not also have stronger counter claim against China’s historical rights over the area, notwithstanding the existence of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Not even the greatest power on earth, the US, could stop China’s hegemony in the area. Thus, China was able to flex its muscle with impunity, to the extent that their man made militarized islands are now near our vicinity.

Could one blame Duterte, therefore, if he is seen now tugging the coattails of China rather than making the giant nation his and the country’s enemy?

But not at Philippine Rise, and this is why Duterte has now a battalion of Marines ordered to watch over the territory for any incursions without his knowledge.

So, can anybody say now that Duterte’s inevitable and close friendship with China is a big folly or is it somehow paying off?

The fact that China now is looking into joint exploration with the Philippines in disputed areas in the South China Sea – which Duterte sees as a recognition of “co-ownership” – is better than not being able to benefit anything at all from what is underneath this early on. For the truth is that even if the Chinese were not there, we could never exploit the area on our own because we do not have the means and the capability to do it, such that we still have to tie up with foreign entities to be able to extract whatever resources are there beneath the sea.

That is the reality of the situation now in the SCS and whether we like it or not, it is a pact we have to make and take advantage of if it is what it takes to make the lives of Filipinos better.

So the question now is: How about Philippine Rise?

Well, it will really depend on how the Chinese behave in the long haul. While we see them very active at the SCS, it does not mean that they are not, likewise, salivating at the prospect of being able to exploit the gas, oil, and mineral resources of the Philippine Rise.

It is safe to say, therefore, that the better option is to have ‘a wait and see attitude’ on how the Chinese operates at the SCS. If the Chinese remains the same in having the devious notion in business, as in: ‘what is ours, is ours, and what is yours, is ours’, then let us save the Philippine Rise from their clutches.

Let it be a learning process for the generations to come.

Duterte’s socioeconomic agenda and trust rating

 

President Rodrigo Duterte

Every time a Social Weather Station (SWS) and Pulse Asia survey on the satisfaction and trust ratings of Pres. Rodrigo Duterte comes out people always wonder why the president has been able to maintain a high mark of approval despite the brouhaha raised by some group of people and organizations, both local and international, about his controversial war on drugs, extrajudicial killings, etc.

It must be confusing and frustrating to Sen. Antonio Trillanes and his ilk in the senate and in our society, in general, why even as they hurl a fuselage of personal accusations against the president and his family, still it does not make a remarkable dent on his popularity and approval ratings.

But for the people who were inspired by Duterte’s candidacy and continue to support his presidency there has been a noticeable change in the kind of leadership the country needed which could have never happened had the Roxases, the Binays and the Poes won.

Duterte’s war on drugs, criminality and corruption are in itself big changes toward better future for country and people which can only be fought and sustained by somebody with political will to carry it out.

Events have shown that Duterte is no rubber stamp or a stooge of anybody, either here or abroad, and to the consternation of many that wants to meddle in his governance.

Duterte’s declaration of independent foreign policy had silently earned the ire of some friendly nations at first but is being accepted now as he saw the realities of the times where China has become the major regional power in Asia and the importance of improving relations with non-traditional including Russia, Japan and India.

This is a paradigm shift in our geopolitical relations that perhaps only Duterte could have thought of and it is earning him the respect of the whole world.

Duterte should be credited for where we are now as a nation, especially in having discovered earlier, rather than later, that narco-politics have engulf the country already. He is doing everything possible that this country will not go to the dogs.

What should make everybody hopeful, however, is that Duterte, while relentless in his war against drugs, corruption and criminality, is also making sure that his 10-point socioeconomic agenda listed below will continue to be followed through. This program in his presidency being implemented now is what is helping Duterte also earn his high satisfaction and trust ratings.

  1. Continuing and maintaining current macroeconomic policies, including fiscal, monetary and trade policies;
  2. Instituting progressive tax reform and more effective tax collection while indexing taxes to inflation;
  3. Increasing competitiveness and the ease of doing business, drawing upon successful models used to attract business to local cities such as Davao, as well as pursuing the relaxation of the Constitutional restrictions on foreign ownership, except with regards to land ownership, in order to attract foreign direct investments;
  4. Accelerating annual infrastructure spending to account for 5 percent of the gross domestic product, with public-private partnerships playing a key role;
  5. Promoting rural and value chain development toward increasing agricultural and rural enterprise productivity and rural tourism;
  6. Ensuring security of land tenure to encourage investments and address bottlenecks in land management and titling agencies;
  7. Investing in human capital development, including health and education systems, as well as matching skills and training to meet the demands of businesses and the private sector;
  8. Promoting science, technology and the creative arts to enhance innovation and creative capacity toward self-sustaining and inclusive development;
  9. Improving social protection programs, including the government’s conditional cash transfer program, in order to protect the poor against instability and economic shocks; and
  10. Strengthening the implementation of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law to enable especially poor couples to make informed choices on financial and family planning.

 

Latest DOT slogan brouhaha

 

Blind tourists O’Driscoll (l) and Uchimura.

I never thought I would be writing and putting my two cents in again on the latest Department of Tourism (DOT) slogan brouhaha.

The last time I did this was on Jan. 9, 2012 which you can read at this link: https://quierosaber.wordpress.com/tag/polish-tourism-logo/

This time around, five years after, we still haven’t learned our lesson and it is still the same banana, that of plagiarizing other county’s tourism ads and claiming it our own idea.

I am talking of course about supposedly the country’s new tourism campaign video, “Sights”, which used the tagline “Experience the Philippines”.

It featured the true life story of a blind Japanese retiree, M. Uchimura, enjoying the “sights’ and sounds of what is best in the country.

Truly an amazing, if not a brilliant idea, as a tourism come-on, for someone to experience the warmth and hospitable nature of Filipinos, even towards people with disability.

Unfortunately, as soon as DOT’s new tourism video was launched, netizens immediately noticed the similarity between this and last year’s Meet South Africa campaign commercial.

In the Meet South Africa tourism campaign video it also featured a blind British traveller named James O’Driscoll who was experiencing the “sights” and sounds in South Africa.

While the people from the advertising firm McCann Worldgroup admitted about the similarity with the ads of South Africa, they claim, however, that the biggest difference lies in the fact that what they conceptualized for the country is a true story in that the Japanese retiree is an actual retiree residing in the Philippines. What makes it even worse is that they just speculated that perhaps the British blind was simply a tourist.

But I don’t think that is the main thrust of the campaign ads – the ultimate residential preferences of the subjects.

There is no doubt in everybody’s mind that both ads are promoting their respective country’s tourist attractions and publicizing the amiability and warmth of its people and what better way to show it than make tourists, in any manner, shape and form, feel deeply and genuinely special and much welcomed in the country.

The good thing is that South Africa developed first the idea of a blind tourist with a walking stick being treated like a normal person and enjoying it tremendously.

The bad thing is that despite DOT’s P650-million budget for its ad campaign this year, it still had to put up with the McCann advertising people’s idea of the blind man ad knowing full well that it is a copycat.

 

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?