MANILA BULLETIN EDITORIAL/OPINION

EDITORIAL: 8 MONTHS AFTER YOLANDA 

The international community responded massively to the devastation caused by super-typhoon Yolanda on November 8, 2013, with governments, business firms, civic organizations, sports and other celebrities, and even schoolchildren raising and sending whatever they could to help the victims of Eastern Visayas. Eight months after Yolanda, one would expect that the rehabilitation work would now be over in many areas , and nearing completion in others. After all, aside from the government’s own funds, the country received over P70 million from Filipino donors as of Decemer 31, 2013, and over $15 million (P669 milion) from foreign donors, for a total of over P740 million.

Now comes a report from the Commission on Audit (COA) that only P3.8 million has been used so far for aid and rehabilitation work in Eastern Visayas. The balance of P736 million is sitting idly in the bank accounts of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). No wonder, protest demonstrations continue in Tacloban City, Ormoc City, and elsewhere in Eastern Visayas. The COA, in a special audit report, said the delay in the delivery of aid to Yolanda victims was mainly due to bureaucratic requirements that many officials were insisting on despite the emergency nature of the situation. Thus, according to one of the protest leaders in Tacloban, there are still about 15,000 survivors living in tent cities, bunk houses, and evacuation centers. Hundreds of workers are still unemployed as their companies remain closed. And countless farmers have not received aid to help tide them over until their next harvests. *READ MORE...

ALSO 2nd Editorial: Probing infrastructure projects  

Opposition leaders have charged that the investigation by the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee of Makati’s allegedly overpriced parking building is a demolition job against Vice President Jejomar Binay who was mayor of Makati when it was built. Asked for comment about the case, President Aquino said only that he believes that the truth will set everyone concerned free. The implication is that the President is all for determining the truth about the charges about the Makati building and about the Vice President. Well, it seems the case has spiraled into new territory. It is no longer just the Makati building which is under question, but also another government structure that happened to be built by the same contractor. But this time, a close ally of the President, Senate President Franklin Drilon, is involved.

Kabataan Rep. Terry Ridon said Drilon’s project, the Iloilo Convention Center, was built with P700 million, of which P200 million came from Drilon’s Priority Development Assistance Fund, P200 million from the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority, and another P200 million from the Department of Public Works and Highways. At the height of the PDAF expose in the Senate last year, Drilon said he had assigned another P100 million to the project. He denied then that the money came from PDAF, that it came from a Malacanang stimulus fund, identified by Budget Secretary Florencio Abad as Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP). This was how the nation came to know about DAP, which was soon also declared unconstitutional – like the PDAF – by the Supreme Court. *READ MORE...

ALSO Opinion by Beth Day Romulo: Why are Americans so depressed? 

PHOTO: BETH DAY ROMUNO --Global View She is an American book author and writer. She was married Filipino military general, patriot, book author, journalist, educator, diplomat and former President of the United Nations General Assembly. -- In a recent edition of the New York Times, columnist Frank Bruni pondered why Americans are feeling so “lost” these days, with scant hope for their future? Americans, according to Bruni, are apprehensive about where they are now and where they are heading. And they have no faith in their leaders. They don’t see any strong political figure to lead them. They are disappointed in President Obama and they simply don’t see him as the leader they need to give them the direction they want.

They are also disenchanted with both the Democratic and the Republican Party – the Democrats because they promised so much but haven’t produced hope for the future that voters wanted. And the Republicans haven’t come up with any better alternatives. Americans, Bruni says, are “hungry for hope” but they don’t see any leader or any political party that offers hope. A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll in August found that 76% of Americans over the age of 18 were not confident that their children’s generation would fare any better than their own generation, which they consider to be dismal. The poll also showed that 71% of Americans today believe that the country is on the wrong track – a negative mindset that has been apparent for the past decade. *READ MORE...

ALSO Opinion by Atty. Rene Espina: : Budget appropriation for 2016 elections? 

PHOTO: Former Senator Atty. Rene Espina Never On A Sunday He is a former Senator of the Republic of
the Philippines. President of Liwayway Publishing Corporation, President of Polo Plantation Properties Inc., and Chairman of Discovery Bay Properties Inc. He was raised in Cebu City, and was admitted to the Bar on January 22, 1955. --Experts on the Philippine government’s budget like Prof. Leonor Briones have made public their views on the current budget proposals pending in Congress. They have time and again said that the budget expenditures have at least about P600 billion in Malacanang lump sum discretionary funds and that the thrust of the allocations are for the coming 2016 elections. This week, the COA (Commission on Audit) (COA) came out with the finding that the Philpost had failed to account for roughly P5 billion out of a total of P10.92 billion in CCT (Conditional Cash Transfer) or PPP Pondo ng Pamilyang Pilipino, it received from the DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) because of glitches in the CCT computerized system of the Land bank which led to errors and duplications of work in uploading payroll records.

The DSWD has long been criticized for receiving massive funding increases in the CCT program in the past four years. For the 2015 budget, the CCT fund was increased to P60 billion in spite of the fact that it has a very limited capacity to deploy such huge amounts to millions of beneficiaries over a thousand municipalities and ensure no anomalies are committed. For this reason the DSWD primarily sends out its monthly dole-outs through the Land bank. In addition it has used the Philpost’s mail stations in the provinces as payout centers. The COA itself said that the shortage bearing on the implementation of the CCT program was a contributing factor in the rise of unliquidated advances in the program’s conduits like the Philpost. The audit reports said that Phipost postmasters have yet to receive the DSWD advice on the date of the distribution to beneficiaries. “The weak or seemingly lack of processing, internal accounting, and reporting controls in the implementation and operations of CCT program, if not addressed, would further result in the unmanageable disbursement of undue dated advances,” the COA said. *READ MORE...

ALSO by Senator Manny Villar: Unshaken confidence   

The slowdown in the Philippines’ Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which gauges the economy’s performance, in the first three months of 2014 did not shake my confidence that the country would be able to sustain strong growth this year. Data from the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) show that, after peaking at 7.7 percent in the first quarter of 2013 (up from 7.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012), GDP growth started declining to 7.6 percent in the second quarter, then to 6.9 percent in the third, and ended the year with 6.5 percent in the fourth quarter. It opened 2014 with a disappointing 5.7 percent growth. Because of the downward trend, and considering what’s happening around us, a lot of people were predicting that the decline would continue. The implications were frightening. Another quarter of downward trend, even lower than the first quarter, would have unnerved investors and possibly reverse the increasing inflow of much-needed foreign direct investments (FDI). To add to the odds against continued growth, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) raised its overnight lending and borrowing rates as a measure to stall price increases. Private banks use the BSP’s policy rates to determine their lending rates: they impose higher interest rates on loans when the BSP raises its policy rates, and reduce them when the BSP’s rates come down.

Against the pessimistic mood, and based on my experience as a businessman and keen observer of the economy, I expressed my confidence in my previous columns that the Philippines would be able to turn around in the second quarter. The government celebrated the 6.4 percent growth in the second quarter, which brought the first-semester GDP growth at 6.0 percent, because it was better than expected, and strengthened the likelihood of achieving the official growth target of 6.5 to 7.5 percent for the whole of 2014. For me, it was a personal triumph because it upheld my confidence. The gloomy statistics before the second quarter did not stop me from growing my business: as the cliché says, I walk the talk. The economy’s performance in the second quarter also confirmed my view that the higher interest rates initiated by the BSP would not have a significant impact on the economy. BSP Governor Amando M. Tetangco Jr. was quoted in news reports on August 29, or a day after the release of the official GDP report, as saying that the economy’s performance showed it had the capacity to absorb the increase in the BSP’s key policy rates. In my view, even a 0.5 percentage-point adjustment on BSP’s policy rates would not have a significant adverse impact because the Philippines (and myself, as a homebuilder) had previously gone through successfully with interest rates at double digits. *RREAD MORE...

ALSO by Melito Salazar Jr: Martyrs for freedom

The daring escape of the Filipino Peacekeepers in the Golan Heights from the surrounding Syrian rebels who had earlier kept hostages the Fijian Peacekeepers has refocused the attention of Filipinos on the ongoing hostilities in the Middle East, specifically in the Syria-Iraq territories. Like the rest of the civilized world, we have been horrified by the atrocities committed by the extremist group, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The persecution of Christians and Yazidis and the virtual genocide of the religious minorities in the two countries by ISIS and more recently the barbaric beheading of journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff in retaliation for the American air support for the refugees are cause for great alarm. Even more disturbing is the influx into ISIS of large numbers of Europeans and foreigners, whose involvement have been exploited by ISIS for propaganda purposes to the extent of having a British jihadist execute both Foley and Scotloff.

For Filipinos, the statement of the MNLF’s past propagandist Haji Acmad Bayam that “some Moro people are trying to join or may already be fighting with the ISIS” is a great concern. These developments have made governments reassess the terrorist threat on their own soil. British Prime Minister David Cameron announced in Parliament new measures to combat this danger – new laws that would facilitate seizure of the passports of suspected British jihadists and providing more authorities to the police. US President Barack Obama will step up air support for both military and relief operations despite the killing of the American journalists. Governments in their fight against terrorism are missing out on a vital element – galvanizing the support of their citizens. The vast majority of people are against terrorists considering that their attacks hit mostly the vulnerable civilians. The majority of the world population living in various forms of democracy would not accept living under a totalitarian regime. They are ready to stand up and speak up for democracy. They are waiting for government to provide them the opportunity. Just as the Catholic Church propagated the faith by declaring all those executed and killed for their beliefs as martyrs and saints, it is time for governments to highlight and honor all those who have died because of terrorists attacks. The memorial in New York for the victims of the 9-11 attack is impressive and inspiring. The annual commemoration of Heroes Day in many countries is an occasion for a renewal of every citizen’s gratitude to those who defended the national sovereignty. The conferment of the Medal of Honor on soldiers is a tribute to their gallantry in service of the nation. All these rekindle in each citizen patriotism and love of country. *READ MORE...

ALSO by Emeterio Barcelon: Mindanao potential   

The great potential of Mindanao is still a potential and will remain a potential unfortunately if we don’t start to think out of the box and do drastic implementation. Electric power is the first and most critical of the resources that have to be provided. It is true that coal and potentially natural gas are on the drawing boards. There are at least 600 megawatts of coal plants that will be on line by 2017 but we need about 2,000 megawatts by then. In the US, the critical ingredient in the industrialization process was the building of the Tennessee Valley and the Hoover dams. This made enormous power available at reasonable prices. But only the government can do dams on that scale. At present Polangui 4 that has the potential of 600 to 1,000 megawatts is waiting to be built. Some private sector entrepreneurs are making plans for this but this is really beyond their reach.

How about the Epira Law that prohibits the government from producing power? The Epira Law can be countermanded by another law to make the exception. In South Cotabato there are some fast and large rivers that could be dammed for another 1,000 megawatts and also for irrigation. These may be dreams but not really too far fetched. We need to think out of the box so we can see a prosperous Mindanao and Philippines. As Senator Paterno used to say: Luzon is on its way slowly and Visayas is wracked with typhoons. It is Mindanao that can trigger a spurt in our economy. We need 7% to 10% growth for four or five years before we can pull out of the doll drums that we are in. If China can do it why can we not do it? A second ingredient in the potential of Mindanao is peace and order.

With the Bangsamoro arrangement, we may be able to harness the normal potential of the people of Mindanao. Seven of the ten poorest provinces of the country are in Mindanao. For how can you do commerce and construction if there is no safety? If we will only stop fighting, we would all prosper and bring prosperity to the whole country. The tourism potential of Mindanao is tremendous but not if visitors feel they are not safe. The agriculture of Mindanao is diversified unlike the mono crop of Central Luzon. Our high-value crops are many and the state agricultural schools have done a good of training our farmers. We lost our cattle farms because of rustling but there are others like the hog industry and our small carabao and cow milk industry waiting to be developed. Our wood industry can be revived together with the rubber and oil palm industry. These have a lot of potential together with the abaca industry that have good export demand. *READ MORE...


READ FULL REPORTS HERE:

8 months after Yolanda


Illustration: Craig Stephens
CARTTON COURTESY OF SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST, ASIA [APPENDED BY PHNO]

MANILA, SEPTEMBER 15, 2014
(MANILA BULLETIN) The international community responded massively to the devastation caused by super-typhoon Yolanda on November 8, 2013, with governments, business firms, civic organizations, sports and other celebrities, and even schoolchildren raising and sending whatever they could to help the victims of Eastern Visayas.

Eight months after Yolanda, one would expect that the rehabilitation work would now be over in many areas , and nearing completion in others.

After all, aside from the government’s own funds, the counry received over P70 million from Filipino donors as of Decemer 31, 2013, and over $15 million (P669 milion) from foreign donors, for a total of over P740 million.

Now comes a report from the Commission on Audit (COA) that only P3.8 million has been used so far for aid and rehabilitation work in Eastern Visayas.

The balance of P736 million is sitting idly in the bank accounts of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). No wonder, protest demonstrations continue in Tacloban City, Ormoc City, and elsewhere in Eastern Visayas.

The COA, in a special audit report, said the delay in the delivery of aid to Yolanda victims was mainly due to bureaucratic requirements that many officials were insisting on despite the emergency nature of the situation.

Thus, according to one of the protest leaders in Tacloban, there are still about 15,000 survivors living in tent cities, bunk houses, and evacuation centers. Hundreds of workers are still unemployed as their companies remain closed.

And countless farmers have not received aid to help tide them over until their next harvests.

* As may perhaps be expected, there are also charges that politics continues to play a part in the Yolanda situation.

Some opposition leaders have been saying that the funds are being held in reserve so they will be released in 2015 and 2016 when they will be better appreciated by voters in the 2016 presidential elections.

Whatever the reason for the slow movement of aid to the victims of Yolanda, the government should make a special effort to see where the problem lies and move swiftly to solve it.

There can be no excuse for keeping P736 million in the bank accounts of DSWD, money donated by good people from all over the world, money that should have been used by this time to rehabiliate the towns and communities devastated by Yolanda.

We hope that by November 8, 2014, the first anniversary of super-typhoon Yolanda, we will have a better progress report from the DSWD, the other agencies of the government engaged in rehabilitation work, and from the Commission on Audit which is closely following the situation.

Editorial: Probing infrastructure projects September 11, 2014


BINAY, DRILON

Opposition leaders have charged that the investigation by the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee of Makati’s allegedly overpriced parking building is a demolition job against Vice President Jejomar Binay who was mayor of Makati when it was built.

Asked for comment about the case, President Aquino said only that he believes that the truth will set everyone concerned free. The implication is that the President is all for determining the truth about the charges about the Makati building and about the Vice President.

Well, it seems the case has spiraled into new territory. It is no longer just the Makati building which is under question, but also another government structure that happened to be built by the same contractor. But this time, a close ally of the President, Senate President Franklin Drilon, is involved.

Kabataan Rep. Terry Ridon said Drilon’s project, the Iloilo Convention Center, was built with P700 million, of which P200 million came from Drilon’s Priority Development Assistance Fund, P200 million from the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority, and another P200 million from the Department of Public Works and Highways.

At the height of the PDAF expose in the Senate last year, Drilon said he had assigned another P100 million to the project. He denied then that the money came from PDAF, that it came from a Malacanang stimulus fund, identified by Budget Secretary Florencio Abad as Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP). This was how the nation came to know about DAP, which was soon also declared unconstitutional – like the PDAF – by the Supreme Court.

* By way of comparison, Congressman Ridon charged that the cost per square meter of the Iloilo Convention Center – P109,375 – is four times the cost per square meter of the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City – P26,400. Through House Resolution 1466, Ridon called for a House investigation in aid of legislation on possible cases of corruption and overpricing in government infrastructure projects

The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee has been investigating the Makati issue, amid charges that it is aimed at cutting down Vice President Binay’s big lead in the ongoing surveys on prospective presidential candidates. Here is an opportunity for the administration and its allies in Congress to disprove this opposition claim, by also investigating the Drilon pet project in Iloilo.

OPINION

Why are Americans so depressed? Global View by Beth Day Romulo September 10, 2014 Share this:


BETH DAY ROMULO: She is an American book author and writer. She was married Filipino military general, patriot, book author, journalist, educator, diplomat and former President of the United Nations General Assembly

In a recent edition of the New York Times, columnist Frank Bruni pondered why Americans are feeling so “lost” these days, with scant hope for their future? Americans, according to Bruni, are apprehensive about where they are now and where they are heading. And they have no faith in their leaders. They don’t see any strong political figure to lead them.

They are disappointed in President Obama and they simply don’t see him as the leader they need to give them the direction they want. They are also disenchanted with both the Democratic and the Republican Party – the Democrats because they promised so much but haven’t produced hope for the future that voters wanted. And the Republicans haven’t come up with any better alternatives.

Americans, Bruni says, are “hungry for hope” but they don’t see any leader or any political party that offers hope. A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll in August found that 76% of Americans over the age of 18 were not confident that their children’s generation would fare any better than their own generation, which they consider to be dismal.

The poll also showed that 71% of Americans today believe that the country is on the wrong track – a negative mindset that has been apparent for the past decade.

* More than reporting on some temporary period of “gloom and doom,” these polls reveal that Americans are angry with their Federal government and they feel alienated from it, apparently convinced that their own wishes and needs are not taken into consideration.

Last June a Gallup poll revealed that Americans’ faith in their three branches of government has also dropped to near record lows. Only 30% of the population has confidence in the Supreme Court. Only 29% has confidence in the presidency and a mere 7% trust Congress.

Americans’ disgust with Congress was also evident in another poll conducted by ABC News and the Washington Post. In the past, Americans have traditionally supported their own representatives whom they voted into office.

But now a staggering 51% said they disapproved of the job that their own representative in Congress was doing.

If they vote the way they are currently feeling this November, there will be a lot of new faces in Congress after the midterm elections.

Budget appropriation for 2016 elections? by Former Senator Atty. Rene Espina September 6, 2014 Share this:


Former Senator Atty. Rene Espina Never On A Sunday He is a former Senator of the Republic of the Philippines. President of Liwayway Publishing Corporation, President of Polo Plantation Properties Inc., and Chairman of Discovery Bay Properties Inc. He was raised in Cebu City, and was admitted to the Bar on January 22, 1955.

Experts on the Philippine government’s budget like Prof. Leonor Briones have made public their views on the current budget proposals pending in Congress. They have time and again said that the budget expenditures have at least about P600 billion in Malacanang lump sum discretionary funds and that the thrust of the allocations are for the coming 2016 elections.

This week, the COA (Commission on Audit) (COA) came out with the finding that the Philpost had failed to account for roughly P5 billion out of a total of P10.92 billion in CCT (Conditional Cash Transfer) or PPP Pondo ng Pamilyang Pilipino, it received from the DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) because of glitches in the CCT computerized system of the Land bank which led to errors and duplications of work in uploading payroll records.

The DSWD has long been criticized for receiving massive funding increases in the CCT program in the past four years. For the 2015 budget, the CCT fund was increased to P60 billion in spite of the fact that it has a very limited capacity to deploy such huge amounts to millions of beneficiaries over a thousand municipalities and ensure no anomalies are committed. For this reason the DSWD primarily sends out its monthly dole-outs through the Land bank. In addition it has used the Philpost’s mail stations in the provinces as payout centers.

The COA itself said that the shortage bearing on the implementation of the CCT program was a contributing factor in the rise of unliquidated advances in the program’s conduits like the Philpost. The audit reports said that Phipost postmasters have yet to receive the DSWD advice on the date of the distribution to beneficiaries.

“The weak or seemingly lack of processing, internal accounting, and reporting controls in the implementation and operations of CCT program, if not addressed, would further result in the unmanageable disbursement of undue dated advances,” the COA said.

* The Philpost provided COA with the liquidation report on July involving P2.282 billion. The COA noted that the “reports were stated in lump-sum amounts without the details or breakdown which could be matched with individuals certification of liquidation by the DSWD.”

The above report of disbursement is from a national government perspective. How about from the grassroots level? I have received reports from CCT recipients and non-recipients at the barangay level that in quite a number of areas, if you do not belong to the political party or faction of the barangay captain or mayor, you will not receive CCT funds, because your name will not be on the list even if you are qualified because you are poor and because you are sending your children to school.

The said this grassroots reality is true all over Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao. What are the members of Congress doing in order to solve this anomalous situation? There is still time to do it by inserting the proper amendments to the national budget.

In the proposed P2.602-trillion budget, there are a lot of lump-sum appropriations which can be used to persuade voters in the 2016 elections to vote for the party or coalition which controls the disbursement of funds.

The “hocus pocus” (PCOS) machines are still with the Comelec to be used to expedite the counting of votes, or as has been discovered, to program the results of the elections to favor the majority party as what happened in the past?

I doubt whether the 2016 elections will conform to the Daan Matuwid standard.

Unshaken confidence by Senator Manny Villar September 9, 2014 Share this:


Senator Manny Villar

The slowdown in the Philippines’ Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which gauges the economy’s performance, in the first three months of 2014 did not shake my confidence that the country would be able to sustain strong growth this year.

Data from the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) show that, after peaking at 7.7 percent in the first quarter of 2013 (up from 7.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012), GDP growth started declining to 7.6 percent in the second quarter, then to 6.9 percent in the third, and ended the year with 6.5 percent in the fourth quarter. It opened 2014 with a disappointing 5.7 percent growth.

Because of the downward trend, and considering what’s happening around us, a lot of people were predicting that the decline would continue.

The implications were frightening. Another quarter of downward trend, even lower than the first quarter, would have unnerved investors and possibly reverse the increasing inflow of much-needed foreign direct investments (FDI).

To add to the odds against continued growth, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) raised its overnight lending and borrowing rates as a measure to stall price increases. Private banks use the BSP’s policy rates to determine their lending rates: they impose higher interest rates on loans when the BSP raises its policy rates, and reduce them when the BSP’s rates come down.

Against the pessimistic mood, and based on my experience as a businessman and keen observer of the economy, I expressed my confidence in my previous columns that the Philippines would be able to turn around in the second quarter.

The government celebrated the 6.4 percent growth in the second quarter, which brought the first-semester GDP growth at 6.0 percent, because it was better than expected, and strengthened the likelihood of achieving the official growth target of 6.5 to 7.5 percent for the whole of 2014.

For me, it was a personal triumph because it upheld my confidence. The gloomy statistics before the second quarter did not stop me from growing my business: as the cliché says, I walk the talk.

The economy’s performance in the second quarter also confirmed my view that the higher interest rates initiated by the BSP would not have a significant impact on the economy. BSP Governor Amando M. Tetangco Jr. was quoted in news reports on August 29, or a day after the release of the official GDP report, as saying that the economy’s performance showed it had the capacity to absorb the increase in the BSP’s key policy rates.

In my view, even a 0.5 percentage-point adjustment on BSP’s policy rates would not have a significant adverse impact because the Philippines (and myself, as a homebuilder) had previously gone through successfully with interest rates at double digits.

* It is notable that for the second quarter of 2014, all the major sectors of the economy contributed to growth: the industry sector grew by 7.8 percent, followed by the services sector, which grew by 6.0 percent. Despite the series of calamities, including typhoons and floods, the agriculture sector posted a strong turnaround from a decline of 0.2 percent in the second quarter of 2013 to a growth of 3.6 percent in April-June, 2014.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan also noted that the Philippines remained one of the best-performing economies in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

The 6.4-percent growth posted in the second quarter was matched only by Malaysia. Indonesia grew by 5.1 percent, Singapore by 2.4 percent, and Thailand by 0.3 percent.

Admittedly, the rebound was just one quarter, but it tells us that there’s a strong chance that we will be able to hit an average GDP growth higher than 6 percent for the rest of the year, which I consider a decent performance.

In my view, the Philippine economy has started regaining the momentum to climb back to the high-growth track. (Next week, back to the series on the changing scenery in the retail business)

Martyrs for freedom by Melito Salazar Jr. September 7, 2014


Melito Salazar Jr. Business Best He is the current Vice-President of the Manila Bulletin’s Advertising department. He was Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines Foundation, Chairman of Inter-Asia Development Bank, Vice-Chairman of the (Philippine Veterans Bank) PVB Card Inc.

The daring escape of the Filipino Peacekeepers in the Golan Heights from the surrounding Syrian rebels who had earlier kept hostages the Fijian Peacekeepers has refocused the attention of Filipinos on the ongoing hostilities in the Middle East, specifically in the Syria-Iraq territories. Like the rest of the civilized world, we have been horrified by the atrocities committed by the extremist group, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The persecution of Christians and Yazidis and the virtual genocide of the religious minorities in the two countries by ISIS and more recently the barbaric beheading of journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff in retaliation for the American air support for the refugees are cause for great alarm.

Even more disturbing is the influx into ISIS of large numbers of Europeans and foreigners, whose involvement have been exploited by ISIS for propaganda purposes to the extent of having a British jihadist execute both Foley and Scotloff. For Filipinos, the statement of the MNLF’s past propagandist Haji Acmad Bayam that “some Moro people are trying to join or may already be fighting with the ISIS” is a great concern. These developments have made governments reassess the terrorist threat on their own soil. British Prime Minister David Cameron announced in Parliament new measures to combat this danger – new laws that would facilitate seizure of the passports of suspected British jihadists and providing more authorities to the police. US President Barack Obama will step up air support for both military and relief operations despite the killing of the American journalists.

Governments in their fight against terrorism are missing out on a vital element – galvanizing the support of their citizens. The vast majority of people are against terrorists considering that their attacks hit mostly the vulnerable civilians. The majority of the world population living in various forms of democracy would not accept living under a totalitarian regime. They are ready to stand up and speak up for democracy. They are waiting for government to provide them the opportunity.

Just as the Catholic Church propagated the faith by declaring all those executed and killed for their beliefs as martyrs and saints, it is time for governments to highlight and honor all those who have died because of terrorists attacks. The memorial in New York for the victims of the 9-11 attack is impressive and inspiring. The annual commemoration of Heroes Day in many countries is an occasion for a renewal of every citizen’s gratitude to those who defended the national sovereignty. The conferment of the Medal of Honor on soldiers is a tribute to their gallantry in service of the nation. All these rekindle in each citizen patriotism and love of country.

* It is proper that governments should pass legislation honoring all those who have died because of terrorist attacks with national recognition akin to those given to national heroes, national artists, and national treasures. A special day commemorating their supreme sacrifice for our democratic way of life should be proclaimed. Monuments to them should be erected in every city and town. Textbooks in all levels of education should carry the stories of how they died emphasizing that they may have been living ordinary lives but in doing so they were celebrating the blessings of democracy, cut short by the brutalities of terrorists. Let every terrorist know that every head they cut, every life snuffed out by their terrorist bombings add to a nation’s wealth of inspiring individuals. Every act of terrorism then leads to a nation’s affirmation of its commitment to the ideals of democracy.

Every victim does not become a statistic or a “collateral damage.” Each one is a Martyr for Freedom and Democracy.

Business Bits. We are grateful for the Filipino Peacemakers and the Gilas Philippine team for giving the Filipino people reasons to be proud.

Mindanao potential by Emeterio Barcelon September 4, 2014


Emeterio Barcelon Voice from the South He holds numerous post graduate degrees in Business Administration from prestigious US universities. He was a professor at the Asian Institute of Management and Senior Fellow of Development Academy of the Philippines.

The great potential of Mindanao is still a potential and will remain a potential unfortunately if we don’t start to think out of the box and do drastic implementation. Electric power is the first and most critical of the resources that have to be provided. It is true that coal and potentially natural gas are on the drawing boards. There are at least 600 megawatts of coal plants that will be on line by 2017 but we need about 2,000 megawatts by then.

In the US, the critical ingredient in the industrialization process was the building of the Tennessee Valley and the Hoover dams. This made enormous power available at reasonable prices. But only the government can do dams on that scale. At present Polangui 4 that has the potential of 600 to 1,000 megawatts is waiting to be built. Some private sector entrepreneurs are making plans for this but this is really beyond their reach.

How about the Epira Law that prohibits the government from producing power? The Epira Law can be countermanded by another law to make the exception. In South Cotabato there are some fast and large rivers that could be dammed for another 1,000 megawatts and also for irrigation. These may be dreams but not really too far fetched.

We need to think out of the box so we can see a prosperous Mindanao and Philippines. As Senator Paterno used to say: Luzon is on its way slowly and Visayas is wracked with typhoons. It is Mindanao that can trigger a spurt in our economy. We need 7% to 10% growth for four or five years before we can pull out of the doll drums that we are in. If China can do it why can we not do it?

A second ingredient in the potential of Mindanao is peace and order. With the Bangsamoro arrangement, we may be able to harness the normal potential of the people of Mindanao. Seven of the ten poorest provinces of the country are in Mindanao. For how can you do commerce and construction if there is no safety? If we will only stop fighting, we would all prosper and bring prosperity to the whole country. The tourism potential of Mindanao is tremendous but not if visitors feel they are not safe.

The agriculture of Mindanao is diversified unlike the mono crop of Central Luzon. Our high-value crops are many and the state agricultural schools have done a good of training our farmers. We lost our cattle farms because of rustling but there are others like the hog industry and our small carabao and cow milk industry waiting to be developed. Our wood industry can be revived together with the rubber and oil palm industry. These have a lot of potential together with the abaca industry that have good export demand.

* Another potential is mining which has hardly been touched. Of the three mineral faults that run down Mindanao, only the eastern mines of Surigao and Davao have had respectable development. It has produced gold, copper, and nickel in sizeable quantities. But the central and eastern mine potentials have hardly been touched. Diwalwal has produced two to three kilos of gold every day for the past 30 years. And there are other Diwalwals in the area untouched. The copper potential in South Cotabato promises to be the world’s biggest producer. Just as there are small gold mines in Misamis Oriental, there also are gold mines in Bukidnon and Zamboanga Del Norte but nobody has touched them.

Too bad many of the decisions on Mindanao are made in Manila by people unfamiliar with the potentials of Mindanao and are even afraid to venture there.

Lastly Mindanao has a migrant population that is used to hard work and willing to try new things. You don’t see men sitting around during work hours massaging their fighting cocks as you see in other places. The people are open to ideas and willing to work. We need a bit more of organization but sooner or later this people will see to it that Mindanao does not remain a potential but transformed into a prosperous reality.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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