24, 2013 (PHILSTAR) POSTSCRIPT By Federico D. Pascual Jr. - Will GIs dare sail closer to Panatag?

KEEPING DISTANCE: We will be searching for the answers to questions playing in our mind as Filipino and American forces conduct a joint military exercise from June 27 to July 2 near Scarborough (Panatag) shoal that China has occupied. Some of the questions:

• Will Chinese naval vessels and fishing boats leave Panatag and its vicinity during the PHL-US exercise? (We assume that Beijing has been informed officially by its American friends about the joint exercise.)

• If the Chinese are not leaving, how far from Panatag will Fil-Am forces stay away? Not less than 20 nautical miles?(We also assume that while Filipinos do not mind confronting the Chinese while Big Brother is around, we doubt if the United States will risk a confrontational situation).

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EMBARRASSING: But why will the US not be willing to creep close enough to see the eyeballs of the Chinese interlopers when Washington knows very well that Panatag has always been Philippine territory?

Before 1991, US air and naval forces used to hold target and maneuver practice in the Panatag area. Their own geodetic surveys show the shoal lies within Philippine territory.

Everybody knows the embarrassing reasons for Washington’s not wanting to cross Beijing at this time — and there is nothing Filipinos can do about China being more important in the US geopolitical scheme of things.

We assume this imbalance was explained by US Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus when he conferred days ago with defense and military officials led by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, AFP chief of staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista and Navy chief Vice Admiral Jose Luis Alano.

Filipinos need not be crestfallen. Some American servicemen will say awhile to do civic action work and humanitarian sharing in areas hit by disasters and calamities – as a compensatory way of dramatizing their being our friends in (another kind of) need.

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CLARK JOBS: Over at Clark Freeport Zone in Pampanga, meanwhile, from the present 71,320-plus workers of 650 locators, Clark Development Corp. president Arthur Tugade wants to break the 100,000-jobs mark by June 2016.

“With the stepped-up development here, that 100,000 goal is achievable,” said CDC vice president for operations Frank Madlangbayan in the last Balitaan forum of the Capampangan in Media Inc. at its “Bale Balita” (House of News) in Clark.

In the 1990s, there was concern about massive loss of jobs and other economic dislocations in the province as the administration of then President Cory Aquino braced for the closing of Clark and other US bases.

The fears about job losses proved to be unfounded. By the time Clark closed in 1991 with nearby Mt. Pinatubo belching lahar, only around 25,000 Filipinos were working on base. As of last April, 71,324 were gainfully employed under CDC management.

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TOP EMPLOYERS: As Clark has only 35,000 hectares (including the aviation complex and the subzone in the Sacoba hills), CDC is freeing up more space for investors by weeding out locators who do not make good on their contractual commitments.

“With our limited space, we are recovering undeveloped assets,” assistant vice president Eva Gabor Tejada told the CAMI Friday forum. “That is why we closely monitor new projects and their performance commitments.”

The top employer sectors are service-oriented (such as call centers), which have absorbed 12,465 (18 percent of total) workers; info tech/communication, 11,862 (17 percent); industrial-garments, 10,840 (15 percent); industrial-electronics, 10, 257 (14 percent); industrial-other manufacturing, 8,027 (11 percent); and tourism/estate projects, 6,984 (10 percent).

The Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (named after Pampanga’s favorite son, but which President Noynoy Aquino has rechristened Clark International Airport after an American) has 392 workers. Aviation-related businesses employ 2,458 (three percent).

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PRIORITY: There is concern about joblessness, because despite the boast of the Aquino administration that the economy has surged by 7.8 percent and that investors have been flocking to the Philippines, unemployment and the incidence of hunger have risen.

Even the P40-billion being distributed in cash in poor areas has failed to make a dent on poverty, having no direct impact on productivity.

On Clark job-generation, Rodem Perez, manager of CDC’s customer services department, reported that the main beneficiaries (70 percent) of hiring are the contiguous cities of Mabalacat and Angeles, and the towns of Porac, Bamban and Capas (the last two in Tarlac).

Residents of Mabalacat, which had contributed land now constituting around 85 percent of Clark, comprise the biggest bloc of workers at 15,551 (22 percent). Angeles, where the main Balibago gate is, comes second with 15,097 (21 percent).

By law, the five contiguous cities and towns also receive a certain percentage of Clark’s gross earnings.

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EQUAL OPPORTUNITY: Perez said that application for jobs can be filed on-line or by simply walking in. There are also jobs fairs where applicants are processed and their qualifications matched with the needs of locators.

Tugade signed days ago an agreement with the association of locators for them to give equal opportunity to persons with disabilities and members of ethnic minorities, who in Pampanga and Zambales are aetas.

But Tugade emphasized that PWDs and aetas be hired not out of pity but because their worth is acknowledged. There are special training for those chosen under this program.

Some of the firms that have hired 155 aetas and 12 PWDs are: Amertron Inc., Aderans Phils. Inc., Ausphil Solutions Corp., CDC-SPRO (Mimosa), Conquest Phils., CPR Palm Resort Corp., Donggwang Clark Corp., Fuji Plastic Industry Phils. Inc., Meisei Electric Phils Corp., Multi-Tek Fasteners Inc., OEM International Trading Inc., Pacific Carpet Manufacturing Corp., and Phoenix Semiconductor Phils. Corp.

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Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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