AMID reports of Chinese construction in the disputed areas in West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), President Rodrigo Duterte said China had assured him it would honor its word not to build structures on Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal. Speaking to reporters upon his arrival from an official trip to Thailand on Thursday, the President said China won’t do anything that would jeopardize its relations with the Philippines.“I was informed that they are not going to build anything at Panatag. Out of respect for our friendship they will stop it. Hindi nila gagalawin ‘yan sabi ng China. ‘Huwag kayong mag-alaala, magkaibigan tayo’ [They won’t touch it, China said. ‘Don’t worry, we’re friends],” Duterte said during a news conference.

“That was the assurance given by the Chinese government. They are not going to build anything on Panatag because they want our friendship. They [won’t] do anything to place it in jeopardy…China has a word of honor,” he added.

China is reportedly preparing to build monitoring stations on the islands situated in the disputed waters, including Panatag Shoal, a traditional fishing ground off Zambales province.

Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio has said the Philippine government should file a “strong protest” against China’s building activity, which could lead to militarization in the disputed waters.

Carpio urged Duterte to send the Philippine Navy to patrol at Panatag Shoal and invoke the Philippine-US Mutual Defense Treaty if China attacks the Philippine Navy.

‘Why pick a fight?’

But Duterte reiterated that his administration wants to avoid a rift with the Chinese government because it is not ready to wage war.

“This is what I said in China and it was bilateral… I said I come here in peace… I said I just want to trade with you and I want business because my country needs the money. But certainly, during my term, before it ends or in the middle of my administration, there has got to be a time when I will confront you with the arbitral judgment,” Duterte said.

“In the meantime, I set it aside. But I said remember my caveat that I will bring it up…When? When they shall have dug the minerals and the riches of the bowels of the sea. Bakit ako makipag-away ngayon [Why will I pick a fight today]?” he added.

Duterte is referring to the July 2016 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague that favored the Philippines over China. The tribunal ruled that there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights over areas within its so-called nine-dash line, which covers practically the entire South China Sea.

China has refused to recognize the ruling, calling it “a mere piece of paper.”

‘Free to enter’

The President also said that he had allowed the Chinese “innocent passage” in the disputed territories.

“You are free to enter, just inform the Navy, inform the Foreign Affairs secretary,” Duterte told the Chinese.

The Defense department earlier this month bared that Chinese survey ships were seen last year at Benham Rise, an undersea region that forms part of the Philippines’ extended continental shelf east of Luzon, and is not a disputed area.

The President backtracked on his campaign statement that he would go to the disputed islands on a jet ski and wave the Philippine flag to dramatize the country’s claim to the islands.

During the 2016 presidential debates, Duterte said he would ask the Philippine Navy to bring him to the boundary of the Kalayaan (Spratly) Islands so he could “ride a jet ski while bringing the Philippine flag.”

“Why do you have to go there and look for a friction? A friction could cause explosion?… There is always the unchanging rule for that. I’m not bright but I’m a lawyer, the reality is miscalculation,” he said.
Published in News
THE Philippines and Thailand have resolved to revive a 23-year-old tourism cooperation agreement during the official visit of President Rodrigo Duterte to Bangkok.

“Philippines’ tourism program may yet gain an added boost with this concrete commitment for tourism cooperation with Thailand as a result of President Duterte’s fruitful official visit in Bangkok this week,” Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo said in a statement.

Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-Chan and President Duterte stood witnesses as Teo and her counterpart,Thai Ministry of Tourism and Sports chief Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, signed the Implementing Program of Tourism Cooperation 2017-2022 at the Santi Maitri Building of the Government House of Thailand.

The implementing program is rooted in a memorandum of agreement on tourism cooperation signed in Manila between the Philippines and Thailand on March 24, 1993.

Thailand joins China, Cambodia and Turkey as the Philippines’ partners in tourism cooperation agreements forged within just nine months of the Duterte administration.

The agreement stipulates, among others, that the two countries shall actively encourage their respective local travel agents to develop a joint promotional program that would market both the Philippines and Thailand destinations in one tour package.

“There is so much we can learn from Thailand in terms of tourism development strategies,” Teo said.

Manila-based travel and tour operators who accompanied Teo said the shared tourism program could strengthen the awareness of the international and Thai markets about Philippine destinations.

In 2016, visitor arrivals from Thailand grew by 8.8 percent, reaching 47,913. Thailand accounts for 10 percent of tourist arrivals from Asean.

Under the agreement, officials and staff of both participants will visit each country to build their capacity in the areas of tourism development, administration and finance, human resource, marketing and promotions and standards and regulations.

Teo said this development would also encourage tourism educational institutes in both countries to cooperate on exchanging technical materials, sending experts to give lectures and providing information on the opportunities for tourism-related training.
Published in News
China welcomed President Rodrigo Duterte’s friendly remarks on the Chinese presence of research vessels, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying.

“China welcomes and commends relevant remarks by President Duterte. As he said, China and the Philippines have already communicated and had a friendly exchange of views on the relevant issue, clarified the facts and appropriately handled the issue,” she said in a press conference on Tuesday.

Duterte said in a press briefing on Monday that he was informed beforehand of Chinese sending of survey ships to Benham Rise. He also said he instructed the military to assert Philippine ownership in a friendly manner.

Last week, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana disclosed that Chinese survey ships were spotted in Benham Rise for as long as three months last year.

Hua said China respects the Philippines’ rights over the continental shelf in Benham Rise and they are not challenging those rights.

“But the basic principle of international law says that the EEZ (exclusive economic zone) and the continental shelf do not equate with territories,” she said.

The United Nations granted the Philippines’ claim to Benham Rise as an extension of the country’s continental shelf in 2012. The undersea region and biodiversity hotspot located east of Luzon in the Pacific Ocean is not part of China’s nine-dash-line claim. CBB
Published in News
Tuesday, 07 March 2017 10:05

Multiplier effect

DAVAO is “three times bigger than Metro Manila, six times the size of Cebu, one of the largest metropolitan areas not just in Asia but in the world.” Today, it is the unofficial capital of the country. The Davao formula was for the mayor to handle peace and order, use political will to build the city, and the local bureaucracy to attend to the rest. Can this formula be scaled up to the whole of the country?

To a certain degree, yes, in terms of peace and order and infrastructure development. The other side of which is, no, because you have an unwieldy legislature trying to curry favor with PRRD (death penalty for illegal drugs?) or launch diatribes against him (EJK, Matobato, undeclared wealth, Lascañas and every anomalous act is labeled as done by Duterte). The 17th Congress in fact has just enacted two bills into law: the General Appropriations Act, or the national budget, and the postponement of the barangay elections. There are no super majorities because if there were, the legislative agenda of the President would have been on track.

PRRD has convened the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) and the chambers have crafted their own agenda. A common legislative agenda is said to be in the final drafting. Though we can do without more laws considering there are laws that have not been implemented fully and there are unfunded mandates, we need more and more for Congress to exercise its oversight function over the Executive and Judicial branches if it is to help PRRD in his effort to pursue reforms.

In a study done by the Congressional Policy and Budget Reform Department of the House of Representatives, there are “62 laws [that]remained partially funded while 75 laws were not funded at all as of 15 October 2015. Unfunded laws grew by 127.3 percent from 33 in 2007 to 75 in 2015, while partially funded laws grew even higher by 376.9 percent from 13 to 62 in the same period.” These laws amounted to “P367.3 billion. Of this amount, only P242.1 billion was allocated, leaving a funding deficiency of P125.2 billion.” Unbelievably, “the House committee on oversight (13th Congress) which made an inventory of unfunded laws even indicated that two laws enacted by the First Philippine Republic—the Friars Lands Act (1904) and Cadastral Survey Act (1913)—were not implemented because they required a huge funding of P1.5 billion.”

So if Congress can’t act as a direct partner to PRRD on infrastructure development and decides to use their pork for the innocuous projects that do not build a nation, then PRRD and his political will should push the envelope daily until such becomes the bureaucratic discipline. Why? Because doing infrastructure development is the way to respond to some promises of the President: inclusive growth, lowering poverty by the end of his term, providing jobs and bringing sunshine (economic activities) to the poorest provinces.

With political will, PRRD can connect the 7,641 islands by a system of airports, ports, bridges and rails. The bridges can be tourist attractions just like the bridges in Porto, Portugal. Porto is the second largest city after Lisbon and it has a mixed transport system of bus, rails, trams and subways. One can do a tour of the Duoro river and see the different designs of the bridges; some are modern while others are historical in make and design. If PRRD can implement Build.Build.Build and other infrastructure plans every year in the three islands of the country then we would have done much, much more than any administration has.

The nautical highway of then PGMA must be continued and further developed. Just look at the development it brought to Roxas, Oriental Mindoro. Roxas, the smallest municipality of the province, was a sleepy, fourth-class municipality. Today, it is a place of heightened economic activities because of the nautical highway, connecting its port to the famous destination, Boracay. Today, it is a second-class municipality from being a pass-through from Batangas to the Calapan piers and to Caticlan, Aklan.

The underlying reason for pushing for Build.Build.Build is that of the so-called multiplier effect. We can be competitive at the end of PRRD’s term if we are able to launch and implement the infrastructure plan. The multiplier effect is “an increase in income generated by an increase in spending,” which should be part of our national conversation. Such conversation should not settle for mere infra for infra sake but “wise” infra investment. The qualifier “wise” refers to projects that fill a need of the community they serve and which are economically viable. A key lesson is that “projects that have a lot of private capital behind them would have the biggest impact because more often than not they won’t be a road to nowhere.”

Further, it has been a settled model that “an additional 1 percent of GDP invested in transport and communications on a sustained basis increases the GDP per capita growth rate by 0.6 percent. “Productivity growth— and therefore competitiveness—is higher in countries with an adequate supply of infrastructure services.” So, we can even pursue a smart infrastructure development of a mix of hard and soft infra with ICT merged to it to create a resilient Philippines.

Clark should therefore be made as the main gateway, with Subic and Batangas designated as alternative, complementary ports to Manila. Clark and Subic should serve the northern part of Luzon while the south (CALABARZON) can be served by Sangley airport and port system. NAIA can be dedicated to the 12 million residents of Metro Manila. A tri-airport system in Luzon unclogs the bottlenecks of Metro Manila and spurs development from center to the peripheries.

Our unique geography, between East and West, allows us to be a competitive logistics hub. In a Transport Intelligence Report (TIR) in 2015 estimated “Philippine logistics to triple to P326 billion by 2020 from the present P100 billion.” TIR said that by 2020, based on low 11 percent compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) and high of 18 percent CAGR growth scenarios, the logistics market is forecasted to reach P204 billion (low) to P326 billion (high).

The forward linkage index of the Philippine logistics industry as of 2011 was placed at 1.4, the lowest in Southeast Asia, compared to Indonesia, 2.1; Thailand, 2.73; Cambodia, 2.48; Vietnam, 2.64; Thailand, 2.73 and Malaysia, 4.03. Based on the study, logistics’ multiplier effect is such that “every P1 investment has a multiplier of 2.81 investments in other industries such as services.”

There are 109 local and foreign logistics service providers in the country with aggregate revenue of P60 billion. They are very much concerned over the provision of efficient transport infrastructure, conducive policy environment, and regulations that will foster the logistics sectors’ competitiveness in terms of cost, service quality and reliability.

Based on a 2010 traffic study by the Japan International Cooperation Agency in Metro Manila and its environs, truck trips (per day) is expected to increase from 694,271 in 2010 to 872,329 in 2020 and 1 million by 2030. The share of trucks going to and from Manila is 60 percent. That means, we need to increase our road networks.

The Department of Public Works and Highways’ (DPWH) budget has increased dramatically over the last four years. In 2015, almost half (49 percent) of the government’s outlay infrastructure went to DPWH. The big challenge is improving the paved ratio of local roads that comprise 84.5 percent of the country’s total road network. Provincial and municipal roads have a low paved ratio of 35 percent, while city roads have a paved ratio of 62 percent.

Trains and trams are something we need to seriously pursue. Trains can be transshipment mode for raw and finished products, from Mindanao to the Visayas or Mindanao to Luzon. Trams can be an efficient mass transit in urban centers to the peripheries. But Congress will have to contend with the problematic Philippine National Railways (PNR) mandate, which has been pending in Congress despite the extension of its corporate life.

The good news is that under PRRD, the infra spending has been placed at 7 percent, an increase of 2 percent from BSA3’s 5 percent. The other good news is he is hands-on on infra coupled with the political will to push the projects fast. When we see projects launched and a building spree all over, then we test the government’s effort on corruption. If the infra projects are corruption-free, then we see why a Duterte is better than the rest. The surest way to defeat destabilization efforts is to perform well and accomplish more. Unfortunately, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and the Department of Information and Communication Technology (DICT) are laggards instead of being shining stars. The social welfare clusters are moving. The economic clusters have rolled up their sleeves and the DPWH is getting things done. Agriculture is moving to remove bottlenecks one by one. The uni-dimensional focus must end.

The Duterte administration needs at least P8 trillion to close the infrastructure gap over the next six years. An initial list of 18 big-ticket items worth a total of P427.5 billion has already been approved by the National Economic and Development Authority. Clearly, accelerating infrastructure spending to help pull down the poverty rate to below 15 percent by the time he steps aside in 2022 is vital.

The reality is that the total resources of the Philippine financial system is P16.2 trillion and the Duterte administration would have to invest about Php8 trillion over the next six years on infra to be on a par with Asean. So, the more Congress spends time on this problem area, the better for the whole infra plan to be a reality.

Getting your act together has a multiplier effect, too. It quiets the shrillness in politics. Getting your act together is getting all hands deck, no lone stars. Getting your act together is no public meltdown; the only meltdown should be on tasks not done. From June 2016 to March 2017, or eight months hence, hold the reins tight and get things done. Don’t be derailed by the political noise.

As Socrates said, “the secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”
Published in Commentaries
HOUSE Deputy Minority Leader Harry Roque on Thursday described as “plain and simple cowardice” the Super Majority coalition’s move to pass the death penalty bill through a voice vote or “viva voce.”

“They do not want their votes to be known by their constituents and they do not want their votes recorded in history. It’s plain and simple cowardice,” the Kabayan party-list congressman said in a text message.

“Definitely, it is not a resounding victory. Many of them are bothered by their conscience,” said Roque.

On Wednesday, motions made by anti-death penalty lawmakers for nominal voting were repeatedly denied by Deputy Speaker Raneo Abu of Batangas and House Deputy Majority Leader Juan Bondoc of Pampanga.

Without nominal voting, there was no record of who were the lawmakers for and against the death penalty during the vote for second reading approval on Wednesday.

The House passed a bill that imposes capital punishment only on manufacturers and traders of illegal drugs.

Rep. Teodoro Baguilat of the Liberal Party said the viva voce vote showed that administration lawmakers were afraid of losing their committee chairmanships if they voted against the death penalty.

“It goes both ways. Those who will eventually vote against death penalty are hesitant to show their true colors to a vengeful majority leadership. Likewise, the cowed majority members who are voting for death penalty are ashamed of going against their conscience and belief system so they’d rather hide behind the viva voce mode,” Baguilat said.

House rules however state that nominal voting is required for third reading approval.

Suffrage and electoral reforms panel chairman Sherwin Tugna of Citizens’ Battle Against Corruption party-list said those for or against the bill would be known on March 8 when the bill goes through a vote on third reading.

“This is where each and every member will be accountable and show their vote for the death penalty bill,” Tugna said.

Reacting to the House vote, Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo, a former Camarines Sur congresswoman, asked: Why impose death penalty when it doesn’t stop crime?

“There is no empirical data showing that the death penalty is a deterrent to crime. Death penalty did not reduce crime incidents. Since death penalty does not improve the situation, then why do we still have to implement it?” Robredo said in an interview after the turnover of fishing boats in Maribojoc, Bohol as part of her office’s “Angat Buhay” program.

Limiting the death penalty to drug traffickers and manufacturers doesn’t make the measure acceptable, she said.
Published in News
Monday, 27 February 2017 09:43

Resume drug war

SENATOR Alan Peter Cayetano has called on President Rodrigo Duterte and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to relaunch the war on illegal drugs, warning that drug traders have gone back to the streets since the suspension of the campaign in January.

Speaking before the crowd that attended the pro-Duterte vigil-rally at the Quirino Grandstand in Manila last Saturday night, Cayetano said he had received complaints of drug pushers resuming their business.

Cayatano, a staunch supporter of Duterte, said the resurfacing of drug pushers poses a serious threat because illegal drugs come with murder, rape and other crimes.

“Kaya ngayong gabi ako’y nakikisauap sa ating pangulo at PNP i-re-launch ninyo ang ating anti-drug drive (So tonight I’m appealing to our President and the PNP to re-launch our anti-drug drive),” Cayetano said before the cheering Duterte supporters.

Saturday’s pro-Duterte rally drew an estimated 215,000 at its peak at 9 p.m., the PNP said. The rally ended before noon on Sunday, still with a large crowd of 3,000 to 4,000 according to the police.

In contrast, the rally at the EDSA People Power Monument commemorating the 31st anniversary of the 1986 popular revolt that toppled the Marcos regime, drew an estimated 1,200 at 8 p.m. on Saturday, the government-run Philippine News Agency reported.

‘People’s war’

Cayetano said the drug campaign would no longer be called Duterte’s war on drugs, but “the people’s war on drugs.”

“Because we are part of the campaign against drugs and not only drugs but also corruption,” the senator said.

Duterte last month ordered the suspension of the anti-drug campaign nationwide following the kidnap-slay case of Korean businessman Jee Ick Joo, who was killed last October inside the PNP national headquarters at Camp Crame in Quezon City.

Members of the PNP Anti-Kidnapping Group, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and other individuals were among those charged.

The President ordered the PNP and the NBI to stop all anti-drug operations and directed the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) to take the lead while national police undergoes internal cleansing.

Cayetano also defended the President against those who have been criticizing his administration over the spate of alleged extrajudicial killings of suspected drug pushers and criminals, insisting that such killings were more rampant in the previous administration.

The senator claimed that during the time of former President Benigno Aquino 3rd, summary killings ranged from 10,000 to 14,000 yearly or an average of 1,000 per month.

To hide the alarming situation, Aquino issued an executive order prepared by then Justice secretary Leila de Lima, stating that killings that do not involve labor leaders, priests, nuns and activists won’t be considered extrajudicial.

“And when the Duterte administration came in, all killings were considered [extrajudicial killings]and Duterte is the one to blame,” Cayetano added.

PDEA vows ‘relentless’ campaign

PDEA on Sunday said its campaign against illegal drugs would be “relentless” and “sustained.”

Derrick Arnold Carreon, PDEA public information office director, however, told The Manila Times the campaign won’t be bloody.

Carreon said PDEA’s campaign would also lead to killing suspected drug personalities if they attempt to put up a fight against the agency’s operatives.

He said PDEA is “guided by the president’s marching order…‘that the drug problem must be stopped by all means that the law allows. The fight will be relentless and it will be sustained.’ Thus, we follow the legal bounds governing the ‘use of force continuum and lawful self-defense.’”
Published in News
Wednesday, 22 February 2017 09:43

NEDA rolls out new Phl Development Plan

MANILA, Philippines - The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) has come up with a new medium-term economic blueprint for the country, targeting an upper-middle class economy status with a per capita income of $5,000 by 2022.

The Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2017-2022 is the first six-year plan to be anchored on a national long-term vision – the Ambisyon Natin 2040. It also takes off from the Duterte administration’s 10-point socioeconomic agenda.

The new PDP contains seven main parts, which include an overview of the economy, development challenges that lie ahead, and development strategies.

As identified in the 2017-2022 PDP, the Philippine economy is expected to grow seven to eight percent in the medium term to a more inclusive pace.

Poverty rate is targeted to decline from the present rate of 21.6 percent to 14 percent in 2022, while poverty incidence in rural areas is expected to decrease from 30 percent in 2015 to 20 percent in 2022.

Under the new economic blueprint, the government targets to reduce unemployment rate from the current 5.5 percent to between three to five percent by 2022.

Included among the targets are various socioeconomic goals such as attaining higher trust in government and society, having more resilient individuals and communities, and a greater drive for innovation among businesses.

“We want the Philippines to be an upper-middle income country by 2022. With the right policies and with mutual trust between government and the citizenry, this is very possible,” said Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia, who is also director general of NEDA.

The new development plan in supported by three main pillars: Malasakit which aims to regain people’s trust in public institutions. Strategies under this pillar include promoting awareness of anti-corruption measures, improving the productivity of the public sector, implementing regulatory reforms, increasing access to legal aid, pursuing corrections reform, and promoting culture-sensitive governance and development.

The second pillar is Pagbabago, which aims to reduce inequality by increasing income opportunities.

Pernia said under this pillar, the government would be placing emphasis on creating more opportunities in the value chain of the agriculture sector.

“Opportunities in agriculture will be expanded. We will increase our presence in the global market, and we will streamline bureaucratic processes for both local and foreign businesses,” said NEDA deputy director general Rosemarie Edillon.

Also under this pillar, the government will pursue strategies such as achieving quality and accessible basic education for all, enhancing disaster risk reduction and management mechanisms and adopting universal social protection.

The third pillar, Patuloy na Pag-unlad concentrates on sustaining economic growth by maximixing the demographic dividend and advancing science, technology and innovation.

“Strategies under this pillar will ensure maintaining macroeconomic and financial stability, and observing fiscal prudence while the tax system is being reformed into a much simpler, fair and equitable one,” said NEDA, “A strategic trade policy will also be implemented alongside measures to promote competition and establish a level playing field.”
Published in News
Tuesday, 21 February 2017 09:42

Legacy Islands on Water

IN Asia alone, there are 17 reclamation projects of note, such as: the coastlines of Mumbai, India; the coastlines of Mainland China, Hong Kong, North Korea and South Korea; the inland lowlands of the Yangtze Valley, China, including Shanghai and Wuhan; the coastline of Karachi, Pakistan; part of Hamad International Airport; the entire island of The Pearl-Qatar situated in West Bay (Doha) Qatar; Hailou Bay, Hainan Province, China as well as the west side of Haitian Island and Haikou City are all being extended; Cotai Strip in Macau; Nagoya Centrist Airport, Japan; Incheon International Airport, South Korea; Beirut Central District, Lebanon; and Europe, Africa and the Americas have their share of reclamation projects, too.

The Philippines has 7,641 islands and this number could still grow through land reclamation. What reclamation? The so-called enemy of environmentalists, right? But hold it and let’s see what kind of reclamation this is, considering we have lessons learned from the reclamation of Manila Bay in the past.

The Philippine Reclamation Authority (then known as the Philippine Estate Authority per EO 380 as of 2004) is set to build what is known as Legacy Islands on Water. Conscious of the issues attached to reclamation, the PRA has adopted three strategies: 1) purposive reclamation; 2) protective reclamation and 3) capacity development.

Purposive reclamation refers to Legacy Island on Water, or LIoW, that is “liveable, resilient, safe, sustainable, green, generative, pro-people, future-proofed and innovative, and a smart community.” On LIoWs and related developments, “the integration or combination of economic zones, smart community infrastructure, mangroves, flora and fauna eco-systems, renewable energy facilities, coastal protection structures, green landscapes and blue water, socialized housing units, water collection systems, waste management methodologies, public access networks, and mixed-used development are critical.”

Protective reclamation refers to an integrated coastal defense development based on the model funded by the Kingdom of the Netherlands for the “Coastal Protection Strategy for the City of Tacloban and Municipality of Palo, Leyte.” The PRA will seek assistance from donor and multi-lateral agencies, foreign governments and partner organizations to finance and conduct other studies for storm surge and coastal flooding-prone areas identified in the study. Preliminary inspection and assessment of the cities of Butuan, Bislig and Surigao have been conducted.

Organizationally, PRA Learning Ecology has been established. Capacity development programs, at the professional and personal levels, have been identified. If PRA has a green army, reclamation won’t be a zero-sum game.

Imagine a Philippines with additional destinations, self-contained agricultural estates, dairy farms, logistic hubs, tree farm islands; renewal energy model islands that can harness energy for use in the island and as inputs to grid in the main islands, etc. The possibilities are limitless. What if the areas that are part of our territory where there were land bridges before are reclaimed? Think about the possibilities but yes, as in other forms of development, there are issues on reclamation. There are advantages and disadvantages of land reclamation and knowing these is a sure way of avoiding and working around the issues.

Land reclamation means “more land has been made available for development. More buildings and infrastructure can be built, and also for other reasons.” The ability to connect the islands by ports, bridges, rails and airstrips are made easier. It may not be a concrete jungle but eco-tourism zones and industrial estates or model smart cities can be the blueprints. They can be the gems of federalism because the legacy islands will become the magnets of growth.

The disadvantages are aplenty as documented from various experiences: “Much greenery has been removed in order for the land needed. Land reclamation can be damaging to corals and marine life. Corals are usually moved to another place when land is to be reclaimed. The corals might not be able to survive in that certain habitat, and thus die out. In some countries, where the project is large-scale, they do not even bother to re-plant the corals elsewhere, instead just reclaim the land on their habitat, causing them to die out immediately. Marine life, such as fishes, might not have enough food after the underwater plantations are destroyed due to reclamation of land. This applies to the food chain. The waters might also be polluted from the soil used to reclaim land, causing the fishes to die and blocking out sunlight, depriving the underwater plants of growth. Marine habitats are also destroyed, as mentioned earlier; therefore, the marine creatures would be forced to move to another new habitat.” Can we mitigate the disadvantages? Manila Bay was reclaimed in the 1970s-1980s. The second phase took place in the 1990s. We learned from such plans and with new technology can do better reclamation today.

As in mining, the rigid environmental impact assessments (EIAs) should be able to assess environmental issues with regard to land reclamation projects. If the project is an environmentally critical project or is in an environmentally critical area, EIA is mandatory. EIAs normally consider issues such as impacts on species and habitats, other human uses (e.g. fisheries, navigation, recreation, cable and pipeline laying), international and national marine protected areas, water quality and coastal processes (sediment transport, erosion, sedimentation, hydrodynamics). The results of an EIA may affect the design/shape of the land reclamation, the public consultations and the permit conditions.

Of essence in planning for LIoW is a citizens’ monitoring feedback mechanism that encourages the participation of citizens in governance. Social acceptability of high impact projects is critical and getting the communities involved in the process will determine success or failure of a project.

Building a nation is not easy. It has never been been easy. But taking the first step and building a common platform to move makes the bottlenecks bearable. It will be hard, but let’s find the common ground.
Published in Commentaries
Saturday, 18 February 2017 10:20

Talking about CHANGE

The specter of the new millennium insidiously hovering above us does not inspire much confidence. Every political nook and cranny are abuzz with talks about change in governance style, social and economic reforms and bureaucratic over-haul as de rigueur of the hour. Yet, we falter. We dilly-dally. We escape into the nitty-gritty of inconsequential pursuits, dabbling on the frivolous, on anything to occupy our pettiness, but the gravest of concerns for the country. Notwithstanding how we try to cocoon ourselves though and persist on a stubborn preference for the dull and ordinary, the factuality of the inevitable is right here in front of us. No escape. We must face what we have to face--else, we perish.

Democratic deficits in all levels and corners are like giant worms consuming the country. Lack of transparency and accountability, prevalence of patronage politics, plunder by the oligarchy, trickle-down technocratic decision making, inadequate people participation, and worse, a political system that favors the moneyed and the influential few.

Almost every day, we witness a restive people joining protest rallies peppering the streets with big questions like why only small fries fry while those perceived to be corrupt are still scot-free. The grapevines are hot with talks about martial law making a comeback, with the dubious Marcos legacy close on its tail and the ‘Yellow’ forces funding and fanning dissent and unrest through its established loyal channels and followers.

A storm is brewing, not the kind triggered by a low pressure area with a tail end on cold front but a burn out citizenry impatient with results: the incarceration of “big fish” politicians, total dismantling of the drug menace, emancipation from abject poverty and deliverance from police ineptitude and corruptibility. But that’s about it, we just talk and talk about all these meaningless talks. And it’s about to blow up in our face.

Should we just live and let live? Should we persist in our apathy and indifference and live up to our name as the ‘sick man’ of Asia? Or are we just waiting to reach rock bottom and convince ourselves there would be no other way to go but up? If we are going nuts and bonkers of these social maladies besetting our country, we know we can’t go beyond our shores to look for the culprit.

Change or whatever it is we hold sacred to redeem us starts with us. George Bernard Shaw once said, “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”

Change is indeed a much-prostituted word. Most if not all administrations have used such slogan. NOW, what is to be done? First, everybody must understand that there is a problem with the current system and form of government. And this reality calls for a major overhaul in politics and bureaucracy. Second, that there is poverty, and this has to be addressed before any meaningful reforms can be effected in our institutions.

Change is coming? I doubt if all we do is talk about it.

Filipinos deserve a First World Philippines.
Published in Commentaries
Last of 2 Parts

IT will be so tragic if President Duterte gets Congress to reinstate the death penalty. The surge of heinous crimes in the country is not because of the lifting of capital punishment in 2006, but because of the incompetence of immediate past President Benigno Aquino 3rd, whose forces continue to plot against his government.

Senate Bill 42, introduced by former police chief Senator Panfilo Lacson, reveals its gross ignorance: “The alarming surge of heinous crimes in recent years has shown that reclusion perpetua (which replaced execution in a 2006 law) is not a deterrent to grave offenders.”

But what “recent years”’ is Lacson talking about? This logically are the past six years, from 2010 to 2015, when the Philippine National Police was under Aquino’s bosom buddy, Alan Purisima. And it was during these years that there was a near total breakdown of peace and order, with Duterte himself repeatedly saying that we practically had a narco state during these years.

Crime statistics prove this point, and debunk the very wrong claim that the lifting of the death penalty in 2006, the index crime rate even went down from 47.5 that year to 42 in 2007 and 41 in 2008. This completely debunks Senator Lacson’s thesis that the absence of capital punishment encouraged criminals to murder and rape more.

There was a surge in reports of index crimes in 2009, but this was mainly due to a change in the Philippine National Police’s reporting system which expanded what police precincts should report as crimes in their jurisdiction. The PNP also clamped down on many precinct commanders’ penchant to under-report crime incidences to make it appear that they were excellent law enforcers in their territory.

Rocketed up

As a result, the number of index crimes reported rocketed up from just 36,057 in 2008 to 301,703 in 2009 and 204,979 in 2010, probably as police precinct commanders thought it was safer to err on the side of more crimes, not less.

The reporting system, however, seemed to have normalized in the first years of the Aquino regime, registering 218, 160, and 135 index crimes per 100,000 people in 2010, 2011 and 2012, respectively.

However, the index crime rates surged in 2013 and 2014, to 466 and 493, respectively. Those huge numbers practically indicate a crime wave: from just 129,161 index crimes in 2012,the number more than doubled to 458,000 in 2013 and 492,000 in 2014.

Death penalty has got nothing to do with it. PHILIPPINE STATISTICS AUTHORITY

This can only be explained by the breakdown of peace and order in the country, as the PNP under Purisima and Aquino lost control of the police, which likely were demoralized by the incompetence of the two. Aquino and his sidekick, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, who was officially in charge of the PNP, were also unconcerned about the surge in crime.

The illegal-drug problem had also proliferated, reflected in the data that homicides — committed often by drugged addicts — more than doubled, from 3,000 in 2012 to 6,500 in 2013, while incidences of physical injury zoomed from just 35,000 in 2012 to 223,000 in 2013.

The data is indisputable. The surge in heinous crimes was not because of the lifting of the death penalty in 2006, but because we had such an inutile President, incapable of addressing the country’s perennial crime problem.

This of course is not something unique to the Philippines. A comprehensive study in 2013 (“Relationship between police efficiency and crime rate: a worldwide approach,” European Journal of Law and Economics) evaluated the relationship between crime rates in a number of countries from 1998 to 2006.

Police efficiency

Its firm conclusion: It is police efficiency rather than such factors as population density, GDP per capita, or unemployment rate, that mainly determines crime rates in particular territories.

The well-known case here is of course New York City in the 1990s where Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s get-tough approach to crime, as well as other major policy changes (including such simple moves as immediately erasing graffiti on walls and trains), very dramatically brought down the metropolis’ crime rate, with violent crime declining more than 56 percent.

Before Congress pushes to restore the death penalty, which would be a step backward in our march towards becoming a civilized society and would put us in the club of such countries as North Korea, Yemen, and Iraq, it should let Duterte do his work first in addressing the crime problem.

Capital punishment is also so against the poor who can’t afford lawyers: After the four rich brats sentenced to death for the rape of Maggie de la Riva in 1967 (three were executed, one died in prison from drug overdose), I am not aware of any rich Filipino meted the death penalty, and actually killed.

There just isn’t any proof that capital punishment deters crime. Why rush in restoring it? It will be so sad if the Senate passes a law not based on facts, but motivated by emotion or the calculation that this would appeal to voters. We’re aghast, and sick and tired of extra-judicial killings. Now you want judicial killings?

After all, we all agree that Duterte is so totally different from his wimpy and lazy predecessor, and he can lick crime in our unlucky country.
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