LP as resurgent party of the people

 

Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan

I am talking of course about the Liberal Party (LP) and the frivolous ambition of its leader, Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, of making it a resurgent political party of the people – “bigger in number and stronger in unity”, he declared.

If this is not wishful thinking, I do not know what is.

I am not saying it could not happen again, like reminiscing the heydays of the impotent Aquino administration when the LP was ruling it over.

But look where they are now and what happened to their numbers. Not even the presence of the gracious Vice President Leni Robredo can make a big deal of a difference despite her being the LP chair.

It is not about the practice of changing political colors and affiliating with the party machine that that made Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte president of the Philippines, but this time it is about the trust and confidence the politicians have in the competence and adequacy of Duterte as a leader that they want to be associated with.

Thus, even if Pangilinan is crowing that the LP is now enlisting membership that are not politicians, but rather those belonging to the academe, the private sector and other civic organizations, with Robredo administering the oath of allegiance to the party, I don’t think this will make a dent in Duterte’s popularity and acceptability.

Pangilinan’s sales pitch, saying, that it is “important for Filipinos to fight for and live a life of freedom as well as dignity and respect for all” simply sounds melodramatic, if not senseless, for the truth is that Duterte’s non-traditional style of leadership and his political will, not to mention his iron rule against illegal drugs, corruption and criminality is earning us back the respect and dignity we deserve as a nation.

But what I find most absurd are the questions Pangilinan asked in his speech at the Friedrich Naumann Foundation’s “Freedom Speech”:

“Today, we ask these questions: Are we free? Does freedom have any value in a society tainted with the blood of thousands of victims of extrajudicial killings and impunity? Is freedom meaningful without security in the home and in the streets?

“How do we reconcile freedom amid the feelings of despair, fear and hopelessness among those overwhelmed by the enormity of our nation’s problems: grinding poverty; widespread hunger; massive unemployment; pervasive graft and corruption; horrible traffic especially in urban centers; neglect and waste of people and their potential?”

As a lawyer Pangilinan should have been more discriminating in his questions.

Why, were these problems non-existent during the term of former Pres. Benigno Aquino, of which Pangilinan was one of the LP’s stalwart?

Were the Filipinos really better off during the salad days of Aquino and his cohorts?

What have Aquino, Pangilinan, and their ilk done after six (6) years in power, and I am not even asking about the scandalous reconstruction and rehabilitation projects in Tacloban City after the aftermath of super-typhoon Yolanda and the equally outrageous Mamasapano massacre?

Horrible traffic? Why, what has the Aquino administration, which Pangilinan was part of, done to deserve exoneration, as seemingly implied by Pangilinan, in his speech? Why can’t Pangilinan just ask former Department of Transportation and Communications Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya about his culpability in Manila’s traffic woes?

Thank goodness for the support Duterte got overwhelmingly from the people or narco-politics would have swallowed us all with politicians, the likes of Pangilinan, continually living the good life, while majority of Filipinos live a miserable life.

My take is that for as long as Duterte has the respect and appreciation of most Filipinos, there could never be a resurgent LP, as Pangilinan envisions.

 

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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?

 

Reopening of pork barrel scam probe and Dutertenomics

 

President Rodrigo Duterte

You might be wondering why I am lumping up the two together when they are different and distinct subjects.

Well, they are not really contradistinctive.

What makes them related or akin to one another is the fact that both deals with preventing corruption as the country is steered towards growth and development.

Thus, while Dutertenomics is getting to be a popular buzzword here and abroad for President Rodrigo Duterte’s 6-year development plan that aims to make the Philippines a high middle-income status before his term ends in 2022, it is a much welcomed boost for the country also that Duterte is keen and in fact throwing his full support behind the reopening of a congressional inquiry into the scandalous P10-billion Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel scam.

Dutertenomics is actually about the 10-point agenda that is listed below and which emphasizes transparency and inclusiveness in every step:

  • Higher infrastructure spending, with 5 percent of gross domestic product targeted
  • Lower income and corporate tax rates to better compete with other Asian nations
  • Less red tape and corruption, including permits and land titles crucial to business
  • More state resources for the countryside, reducing poverty and boosting rural growth
  • Strong law enforcement and peace efforts to enhance the business environment
  • Small business gains with GoNegosyo’s Ramon Lopez as Trade & Industry Secretary
  • Better China relations enhancing Chinese trade, tourism and investment flows
  • Charter change to devolve power to the regions and ease foreign investment limits.

In the same manner, in revisiting the pork barrel scam probe, Duterte simply wants to make sure that all those government officials involved in unscrupulously diverting the government funds for the poor and needy into their own bank accounts are taken to task and prosecuted.

I just hope that in so doing Duterte will not interfere and just allow the Sandiganbayan ( a special appellate collegial court) to run its course in prosecuting the high profile accused namely, ex-senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon Revilla and Jinggoy Estrada. He will be doing the country a great favor if he does.

Oozing with political will with no one to be beholden to and having the interest of the nation and the welfare of the people foremost in his governance, I am sure Duterte will find success in this twin concerns he is driving at.

 

Benham Rise issue – Part III

 

I have no choice but to designate this article as Part III since I have already written about Benham Rise twice some years back which you can read at this links:

https://quierosaber.wordpress.com/2011/08/16/philippines-pin-hopes-on-benham-rise/

https://quierosaber.wordpress.com/2012/08/15/thank-god-for-benham-rise-part-ii/

Never had I anticipated writing about it again until I heard the recent alarming and disturbing news that a Chinese survey ship was spotted at the Benham Rise location.

“We are concerned about the presence of a Chinese ship in Benham Rise, which has been recognized by the United Nations as part of the Philippines,” said Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella in a statement on Friday, March 10.

“The Department of National Defense has already notified the Department of Foreign Affairs regarding this matter as we continue to assert our sovereignty over our territory,” he added.

Of course we should, forcefully and explicitly!

The Benham Rise area definitely does not have any stupid Chinese historical claim of any sort like they had been asserting they have at the West Philippine Sea just because it is part of the larger body of water bearing the name South China Sea (SCS).

On the pretext that China was “looking for a place to put submarine”, as Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said was the info he got, the most likely reason would be that they have chosen the area for their oceanographic research because they just want to confirm if indeed the unimaginable wealth and extent in mineral resources and gas deposits found underneath Benham Rise truly exist.

I cannot blame President Rodrigo Duterte for pussyfooting with the Chinese in the West Philippine Sea issue, where even the country’s territorial integrity has been breached with China’s nine- dash line claim.

If the most powerful country and the acclaimed top ‘policeman’ in the world- the US, and the UN, through its agency the UNCLOS, were not able to stop China from expanding and militarizing the SCS, who are we to prevent China’s hegemony of the contested areas?

But what I am just saying here is that we had been hearing Duterte declaring time and again that he will die defending the country and the Filipino people from the enemies that will try to destroy them.

Well this is it!

There has not been and there will never be a greater challenge such as this one in Duterte’s presidency that needs more of his grit, determination and resolve to stand up for his country and people.

Duterte could not afford anymore to be complacent the way he has been pleased and gratified at the financial and technical help China has promised to give for many infrastructure projects for the country.

China may have bamboozled us in the SCS and there was nothing that we can do. In that part of the globe what is China’s is China’s and what is ours is still China’s.

Duterte and those that will follow him should be reminded that at Benham Rise what legally belongs to the Philippines is for the Filipinos and for the generations of Filipinos to come and not to China or any other exploitative country that intends to not only hold us by the balls, but stick it to us as well.

 

Presidential emergency powers needed to speed up infra projects

 

President Rodrigo Duterte with Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua

President Rodrigo Duterte with Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua

There never has been such a propitious time to embark on a challenging and costly infrastructure projects that will benefit the country and its people, most specifically in solving the traffic crisis in the country, than it is today.

We should all realize that the country’s population is getting bigger by the year and we can also say that the economy is getting better, but the downside of all these is that the cities’ main thoroughfares are clogging up with private and public transport vehicles, not to mention the continued existence of the ubiquitous jeepneys, and these pathetic sights all over the country are making the people, from students to employees, more stressful and less productive.

Understandably, there have been government projects geared towards improving the flow and plight of people but, sadly, it always ended up in failures because of incompetence, corruption and the scandalous one of all, politics.

I say it is propitious time now because not only do we have an incorruptible leader who wants to see the country move forward, but we also have China that believes in President Rodrigo Duterte’s hard-nosed style of governance and whom it could trust to put into good use the billions of dollars of loan that the giant country is helping us with for the various infrastructure projects needed.

But for these projects to be expeditiously realized Congress must grant Duterte emergency powers, which the latter actually requested in his SONA last July 2016, to solve the traffic dilemma the country is experiencing today.

No less than Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua expressed support for the granting of emergency powers to Duterte, saying, “There is as very strong sense of urgency. As you know, infrastructure projects cannot be done overnight. They usually take years to finish, and given the fact that the presidential term is only six years, so we must hurry. We have to get it done within the presidential term. We are quite afraid of taking up projects that go beyond the presidential term because that would mean a lot of challenges and uncertainties.”

“I hope President Duterte can get his emergency power as soon as possible. Without the emergency power, I think the big infrastructure projects — the process is going to be very slow, particularly with regard to the rehabilitation or the land issue, so we might be stuck there,” he added.

What the Chinese ambassador actually meant are the facilitation of the right-of-way disputes and other hindrances that may be contentious and detrimental to the proposed projects.

In the process we could not discount questions coming from skeptics asking whether or not the Chinese-funded infrastructure projects in the country is a reward for Duterte not making a big fuss over China’s island building and militarization of the South China Sea (SCS), despite a favorable decision by an international tribunal negating China’s nine-dash-line claim.

Well, you tell me, what else could be done with China, now established in the area?  Who are we to be confrontational with China when the most powerful country in the world could not even prevent China from expanding in the SCS?

Beggars cannot be choosy and if having China for a neighbor is the fastest way to develop the country, then so be it. Better this way than to find ourselves in their cross-hair.

Talking about charting our own destiny!

Duterte’s war on drugs paving way for bullish economy

 

President Rodrigo Duterte

President Rodrigo Duterte

President Rodrigo Duterte only recently got appraised on his 50th day in office and while his bloody campaign against illegal drugs became the fodder for media nobody can deny, however, that we may be seeing the turn-around of the country for the better.

It looks like trust and confidence in Duterte’s leadership among Filipinos has even grown stronger because he is doing exactly what he promised to do if elected, which was to waged war against illegal drugs, criminality and corruption.

Not only has Duterte consolidated his political power in congress but he seem to be getting also the support of practically all sectors of Philippine society, even some ranking officials of the Catholic church, because they have all seen the seriousness and determination of his resolve to put an end to the ills that have been plaguing the country all these years so it could start moving forward towards economic growth and development.

While the Duterte administration is busy conducting a violent and highly controversial anti-drugs campaign, the president has not lost sight of the fact that peace and stability are important factors for a country’s sustained growth and development, thus, his initiative to be in harmony with the communists and the Muslim rebels in Mindanao.

This gesture of promoting friendship, reconciliation, unity and smoking the peace pipe is very much welcomed by the business community which is now foreseeing a surge in new investments by local and foreign nationals.

Other factors that are giving the business sector a positive outlook for the future is the government’s plan to start immediately prioritizing infrastructure spending and cutting of red tapes.

That Duterte has asked congress for an emergency power to address the horrendous traffic problem in Manila is an added boost to the morale of the businessmen.

In May, Duterte told the country’s main telecom providers to speed up the internet, or he would junk laws that prohibit foreign competition.

Duterte’s economic plan also includes lowering corporate and income taxes.

While the outside world may be critical of the killings following Duterte’s war against illegal drugs, it has in no way affected the economic performance of the country.

Only recently the government announced that the Philippine economy grew at 7 per cent in the second quarter from a year earlier, its highest level in three years. It makes the Philippines the fastest growing among all countries that have reported so far for the second quarter.

It has been reported that the mainstays of the economy – remittances and the outsourcing sector – are flourishing and boosting domestic consumption.

What this means simply is that Duterte is leading this country in the right direction, regardless of how many are killed in his war against drugs or whether he has called the US ambassador gay or he has ruffled the feathers of the UN by calling some members stupid.

That is the long and short of it.

Rail transport and power shortage woes are Philippines daunting problems

MRTIsn’t it very ironic that the Philippines, considered as one of the better economic performers in Southeast Asia, continues to be plague with rail transport and power shortage woes?

Where has government failed? Do we have the right people running the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) and the Department of Energy (DOE)?

We may be doing the right strategy in the manufacturing, agricultural, trade, finance, and real estate sectors, in tourism and in business process outsourcing (BPO) and others, but why is government so irresponsible and remiss in preventing rail transport and power shortage woes?

It is very much appreciated by the citizenry, in general, that government is implementing reforms to reduce cost of doing business in the country and perhaps be more competitive in the export markets, but how could the country maximize its potential, not just in sustaining, but in developing and improving further its growth if government can’t provide adequate, fast, safe and cheap mass transport system for Filipinos going to work?

For that matter, how could offices and business establishments perform efficiently and productively if power problem exists, especially during summer?

How can we be persuasively effective in luring investors to do business in the country if we don’t have what its takes to assist them in running their businesses efficaciously on a long term basis?

Since I am specifically mentioning these two government agencies that are important for bringing success to an undertaking, my point simply is that whoever is in charge should exercise competence and professionalism in the their jobs.

Being reactive to problems in their respective departments is the worst attitude that can be shown. To plan and think ahead, to anticipate and be proactive in dealing with what could bring services and other utilities down resulting to adverse consequences is not only a necessity but must be a priority to consider.

I am sure studies have been made and budgets prepared reflecting the increasing demand of these utilities not only brought about by population growth, but also by the favorable business opportunity because of the much touted economic growth the country is experiencing, but most likely improvement and upgrading are always deferred to some time in the future, until not much can be done about it anymore.

But I think the politicians in this country have other concerns and priorities that they themselves are partly to blame for the inadequacies of the rail transport and power sector for not looking closely into their operational capacity and capability sooner than later.

Look where we are now with the Manila Rail Transit (MRT) and Light Rail Transit (LRT), and even the Philippine National Railways (PNR).

Their hobbled operation that has been causing major accidents and endangering the lives of the riding public because of poor maintenance of the railways and the railcars simply reflects how poorly the rail transport system has been managed. It is bad enough that it is old and dilapidated, with some railcars having been decommissioned, thus reducing the riding space of the countless passengers taking it daily, but its condition could only become worse if no appropriate maintenance is regularly practiced.

And yet management has the gall to ask for fare increase! Where is the logic for a fare increase if nothing changes but will only continue the woes of the riding public instead of alleviating them?

brownoutAnother daunting problem published lately is that an electricity shortfall looms as a serious problem for the Philippines, where growth in generating capacity is not keeping pace with demand. Rolling blackouts may be implemented on the largest island of Luzon this year.

Definitely that is nothing new to those living and doing business in Mindanao.