MANILA TIMES EDITORIAL/OPINION

OPINION: MANUFACTURED CRISIS? 

OCT 22 --At the hearing of the House Committee on Energy Committee last Monday, Department of Energy (DOE) Assistant Director Irma Exconde presented the updated Luzon Supply-Demand Outlook and revealed that the supposed shortage in power supply in 2015 is but a thinning of reserves in April instead of the scenario earlier painted by DOE Secretary Jericho Petilla. The hearing was held to discuss the joint resolution granting President Aquino emergency powers to address the supposed looming power shortage in Luzon in 2015.

The granting of emergency powers was being insisted on by Petilla shortly before the State of the Nation Address of the President this year. Based on their own data and computation, the DOE officials at the hearing said that Luzon would only be experiencing a shortfall of 21-31 MW in reserves during the first two weeks of April 2015. The National Grid Corporation of the Philippines representative explained that if this worst-case scenario indeed happens, it would mean one hour of rotating brown outs on peak hours once a week during summer. This scenario is so much different from Petilla’s earlier pronouncements that Luzon could experience a power supply shortfall of up to 1200 MW, which translates to months of outages in 2015.

Petilla has been urging the Congress and Senate to grant the President emergency powers to allow the government to contract back-up power at the cost of about 6 billion pesos and compel private companies with generators to participate in the Interruptible Load Program or ILP. Before last Monday, the DOE was saying that there would be a shortfall of from 180 MW up to 285 MW in the two weeks of April and 37 MW to 100 MW in the last week of May. This shortfall was said to still increase further if the El Nino will be factored in. The reserve was computed by subtracting from the available power capacity the projected electricity use (demand) and the regulating reserve.

During the Monday hearing, the DOE changed its computation. The officials reported that with the installed capacity of 12,769 MW and subtracted the dependable capacity of 11,389 MW but subtracted another factor— the planned outages–to calculate for the existing available capacity. The DOE stated that planned outages are the capacity that will not be online at the projected time because of planned maintenance of the power plants. * READ MORE...

ALSO: Aquino has debased the Senate into a propaganda weapon 

OCT 23 --PHOTO: THE YELLOW RIBBON COMMITTEE Yellow Ribbon Committee at work? You decide: “Blue Ribbon” means independence and expertise; “Yellow Ribbon” is Aquino’s insignia. “Okay. Anyway, I won’t argue with you. Let the public judge.” -- Senator Alan Cayetano after a lengthy question-and-answer episode in the Blue Ribbon Committee hearing Oct 22, when lawyer Martin Subido tried to explain to him that as a lawyer, he has to rely on documents, and not on claims made in a TV reporter’s interview with somebody.

Equalling only President Benigno Aquino’s misdeed, in depth of turpitude, of using and bribing the Senate in 2012 to remove Chief Justice Renato Corona, has been the president’s debasement of the Senate Committee on Accountability of Public Officers and Investigations, or the so-called Blue Ribbon Committee, as a propaganda weapon. Aquino, in fact, has been the only President who has exploited the vast powers of the Blue Ribbon Committee to use its investigations as a powerful propaganda weapon to politically demolish his targets’ reputations. Was there any episode during the administrations of Presidents Fidel Ramos, Joseph Estrada, and Gloria Arroyo when the Blue Ribbon Committee acted as a kangaroo court against a personality, as has been so common during Aquino’s regime? Under Aquino, it was the committee’s investigations that blackened the bishops’ reputations to mute their opposition to Aquino’s reproductive health bill, as well as to add another case against former President Arroyo when the other charges were fizzling out. Past officials of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office were humiliated in a Blue Ribbon Committee hearing as media preparation before charges were made and arrest orders issued against them.

And it was its investigations into the pork-barrel issue that painted the opposition senators as so corrupt that there was hardly a public squeak at their arrest and incarceration. The committee’s investigations now have become its last-resort propaganda to weaken the chances of Vice President Jejomar Binay to capture the presidency in 2016. Binay’s spokesman, Congressman Tobias Tiangco’s reference to that committee as the Yellow Ribbon Committee hits it right on the head. Believe it or not, ours is the only legislative body in the world to have such a “Blue Ribbon Committee,” or any such committee with similar investigative functions. Other countries have politically matured in junking such an investigative committee as intruding into the work of the judiciary, even as it has a powerful pulpit, the legislative body, for lethal character assassination. Our Blue Ribbon Committee was invented in 1949 with the same intention as it has today, to throw dirt at a major political figure. It was Senator Justiniano Montano of the Liberal Party who asked for the formation of a “Blue Ribbon Committee” in the Senate to investigate alleged corruption in government. It turned out the main target of the committee was then President Elpidio Quirino, who, ironically, was Montano’s partymate but who supported his political archenemy in the congressional seat in Cavite from which he retired. Propaganda tool * READ MORE...
  
ALSO: We are losing our jusi and piña heritage to China   

OCT 23 ---There certainly is a trend among many private individuals, fashion designers, and business establishments engaged in clothes and fashion to look for and use native materials. This is particularly felicitous for our hand-woven industry which offers unique, varied and fine handwoven fabrics made in traditional looms following age-old practices of using and preparing material available in our environment.
Some business establishments who have pioneered in the sourcing and marketing of traditional handmade native products are Tesoro’s, established before World War II (and ever modernizing its wares) and the Divisoria/Quiapo outlets of native goods, who besides hand-woven fabrics, sell other hand-woven items like mats, baskets, and other crafts. Other entities have joined in a big way the direction toward native materials like the SM stores which have designated a division called Kultura, bringing in authentic craft-made goods from all over the country to sell in their malls.

Furthermore, department stores are now engaging fashion designers to present clothes collections and shows using native materials as the piece de resistance. We are all familiar with piña, made from the Spanish Red pineapple plant, grown, harvested and processed before weaving the fibers into one of the most unique fabrics in the world, the pineapple fiber cloth which is what piña stands for. Piña is used traditionally for ceremonial clothes where its sheerness and amazing durability make it a must item in a wardrobe. But in truth, mixed with cotton and silk, it can very well be used as elegant everyday wear like office ensembles, school and office uniforms and other non-clotheswear uses like ornamental decoration, tablecloths, bags, etc. While it may be the queen of our fabrics, piña is not alone among our many examples of hand-woven fabrics. There is inabel from the Ilocos regions of Northern Luzon and the Highland fabrics from the mountain provinces.

There are too the striking Mindanao fabrics of various kinds from silk to abaca made in ceremonial ways for the same uses but also available for conversion to household decorations. Hablon, the Panay Island fabric that was an established industry, until the 19th century diminished it with imported cloth, is still extant and in demand. However, the reality of the recent past where very little interest and consciousness existed in the general public about our native fabrics (except for piña) has taken its toll. There are now less and less number of weavers, few young persons interested in learning to weave. There is a serious lack of adequate weaving threads that would translate into high-earning products. Cotton thread is now scarce because cotton farming has been neglected mostly because the process of preparing it for weaving is being lost. Moreoever, the cotton thread in the market which is usually imported from China or India or the US is expensive and difficult to source for the ordinary weaver who lives in rural areas and who then turns to synthetic threads. Synthetic thread woven material may have a place in blankets and other mundane uses but for a better return on investment natural fiber is preferred by the more and more mechanically-run world. So, it commands a better price. For being scarcer. * READ MORE...

ALSO Editorial: Pemberton, VFA, EDCA and PH-US relations  

OCT 24 ---CARTOON: THE EXPOSURE OF POPULAR TRAPOS --THE murder of transgender, Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude in Olongapo City and the arrest of the suspected murderer, US Marine Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton, has again provoked different reactions. One of these provides challenges to our leaders while evoking sentiments about America that many Filipinos share. It was sent to us for publication by no less than one of the country’s most respected political figures, former senator Joke Arroyo. * * * PEMBERTON, a question of trust ---BY JOKER P. ARROYO

Since the US does not have faith in the Philippines’ justice system, how can Filipinos be expected to have faith in America’s security commitments? That is the simple issue highlighted by the Pemberton case and similar cases in the past. The Philippines has had half a dozen defense and security arrangements with the US since 1951. The country is divided as to its wisdom and necessity. When problems arise from these security arrangements, the incident that causes it invariably is not security-related. In every case, it would involve US servicemen who violate Philippine criminal laws when they are off-duty. Pemberton is not an isolated case. In the past 60 years, similar cases have arisen. Predictably, the US immediately protects the US servicemen.

If the US cannot even protect Filipino women from US servicemen, how can Filipinos rely on the US to live-up to her commitments embodied in the treaties or agreements they have with us. That should be food for thought for the Senate whose members’ battle-cry is to review the VFA, but with cautionary statement not to abrogate it. EDCA, which is before the Supreme Court, has interlocking references with VFA. Yet the haunting question is trust, whether as allies we can trust each other. * * * The familiar anti-Americans are clamoring that the Philippines unilaterally scrap the Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States. But we agree, as our columnist Francisco S. Tatad, said in his “First Things First” column on Wednesday, that “it would be good to see these calls grounded on the most compelling reasons, not just on a Marine’s sexual adventure that ended in a murder most foul.” * READ MORE...

ALSO: The truth has won, but the struggle continues  

OCT 26 --Contrary to all media speculations that the Third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops would create a “seismic shift” in Church teaching on human sexuality and marriage, 191 Catholic bishops from all over the world recently ended their two-week discussions at the Vatican without agreeing to any such change. This did not come without a fight, nor has the world heard the last word on it. But for now orthodoxy has prevailed. Pope Francis convened the Synod on the first week of October to take a fresh look into the Church’s evangelizing mission concerning the family.

The family is “the vital building –block of society and the ecclesial community.” The Synod has two stages: the Extraordinary General Assembly of Bishops in 2014, which would “define the ‘statusquestionis’ and collect the bishops’ experiences and proposals in proclaiming and living the Gospel of the family in a credible manner;” and the Ordinary General Assembly of Bishops in 2015, which would “seek working guidelines in the pastoral care of the person and the family.”

At the outset, a document entitled Pastoral Challenges to the Family in the Context of Evangelization spelled out the task of the Synod. This was read by the Relator General, Cardinal Peter Erdo, Archbishop of Esztergom, Budapest, before the assembly began its debates. It saw the family as “the last welcoming human reality in a world determined almost exclusively by finance and technology,” and hoped that “a new culture of the family can be the starting point of a renewed human civilization.” The Pope encouraged everyone “to speak clearly;” “no one must say, ‘this can’t be said’,” he said.

And some bishops responded by saying the most unorthodox things about homosexuals and marriage. Most notable among them was German Cardinal Walter Kasper, president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and author of a book on Mercy, which, according to Pope Francis, has helped him a lot. Kasper has proposed that the Church revisit her teaching, which denies holy communion to Catholics living in an “invalid” marital union. In interviews with America magazine and the Catholic News Service in the US, La Nacion in Argentina, Salt and Light TV in Canada, and British journalist Edward Pentin, Kasper pressed on this proposal. Despite his unorthodox views, he was reported to claim the support of the Pope. His position drew sharp reactions from other bishops, including members of the Curia (the equivalent of the President’s Cabinet). * READ MORE...

ALSO Editorial: Metro traffic woes can be eased

OCT 27 ---President Benigno Aquino 3rd’s words last week abut the traffic problem in Metro Manila can not but invite comments that the country’s chief executive does not know what he is talking about or does not know much about the traffic woes suffered by everyone.

During the closing ceremony of the 40th Philippine Business Conference and Expo at the Manila Hotel on Friday, President Aquino also highlighted the problem of congestion at the ports and that it is a “paramount concern” of his administration. He sounded as if port congestion was the major cause of Metro Manila’s traffic problems, which it is not. At this point, less than two years before his term ends, it is certain that the one of the failures he will be remembered for is allowing the traffic mess in the National Capital Region to go from bad to terrible.

Chairman Francis Tolentino of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) earlier this month admitted that the traffic situation in the metropolis has become unmanageable and will worsen next year. Unless, he said, the agency is given additional funds to enable it to hire more personnel to be assigned to tackle the traffic mess. Tolentino said that without more money, the MMDA will have to rely on “volunteers” to manage traffic on Edsa, Katipunan, Roxas Boulevard and other major thoroughfares. He lamented the 15 percent reduction on MMDA’s budget for 2015. Tolentino said Metro Manila also needs an additional 137 kilometers of new roads as proposed by the Japanese-initiated transportation roadmap called the JICA/NEDA Transport Dream Plan. This will need a counterpart from the national government but most of the expense, if the plan gets carried out, will be coming from Japan as low-interest official development assistance (ODA).

The MMDA chairman also spoke of the necessity for some residential subdivisions to open some of their roads to vehicular traffic at certain hours. That will surely drive down the property prices in those subdivisions. But if there is one person that both President Aquino and Tolentino should listen to when it comes to solving Metro Manila’s traffic mess, it is the world-renowned architect and urban planner Felino A. Palafox, Jr. (who writes a Manila Times column). “In Metro Manila, our traffic rules and regulations are weakly imposed, resulting in undisciplined drivers and traffic gridlocks,” Palafox said in a column published early this year. “The Philippines lacks a comprehensive, integrated and interdisciplinary approach in road management. For example, in road widening projects, urban planners and landscape architects are not consulted, resulting in the cutting down of 100-year-old trees when they can be made into traffic islands between pedestrians and moving vehicles,” he added. * READ MORE...


READ FULL REPORTS HERE:

Manufactured crisis?

MANILA, OCTOBER 27, 2014 (MANILA TIMES) POSTED October 22, 2014 6:44 pm Giovanni Tapang, Ph.D.


by GIOVANNI TAPANG, Ph.D.

At the hearing of the House Committee on Energy Committee last Monday, Department of Energy (DOE) Assistant Director Irma Exconde presented the updated Luzon Supply-Demand Outlook and revealed that the supposed shortage in power supply in 2015 is but a thinning of reserves in April instead of the scenario earlier painted by DOE Secretary Jericho Petilla.

The hearing was held to discuss the joint resolution granting President Aquino emergency powers to address the supposed looming power shortage in Luzon in 2015. The granting of emergency powers was being insisted on by Petilla shortly before the State of the Nation Address of the President this year.

Based on their own data and computation, the DOE officials at the hearing said that Luzon would only be experiencing a shortfall of 21-31 MW in reserves during the first two weeks of April 2015. The National Grid Corporation of the Philippines representative explained that if this worst-case scenario indeed happens, it would mean one hour of rotating brown outs on peak hours once a week during summer.

This scenario is so much different from Petilla’s earlier pronouncements that Luzon could experience a power supply shortfall of up to 1200 MW, which translates to months of outages in 2015.

Petilla has been urging the Congress and Senate to grant the President emergency powers to allow the government to contract back-up power at the cost of about 6 billion pesos and compel private companies with generators to participate in the Interruptible Load Program or ILP.

Before last Monday, the DOE was saying that there would be a shortfall of from 180 MW up to 285 MW in the two weeks of April and 37 MW to 100 MW in the last week of May. This shortfall was said to still increase further if the El Nino will be factored in. The reserve was computed by subtracting from the available power capacity the projected electricity use (demand) and the regulating reserve.

During the Monday hearing, the DOE changed its computation. The officials reported that with the installed capacity of 12,769 MW and subtracted the dependable capacity of 11,389 MW but subtracted another factor— the planned outages–to calculate for the existing available capacity. The DOE stated that planned outages are the capacity that will not be online at the projected time because of planned maintenance of the power plants.

* What is questionable in this computation is the introduced factor, as pointed out by POWER convenor and former Representative Teddy Casino, the addition of forced outage as an additional factor on available capacity is based on the assumption that the reduction of power supply that happened this year will happen again at the same time next year.

The difference in the figures reported by Petilla in the news programs and the latest presentation of the DOE in the hearing is that the energy department has changed its computation and figures and seem to add more factors in its assumptions arbitrarily, whichever will look worse.

These forced (and planned) outages were belied by statements from the private power producers themselves. When asked how much capacity they could provide, the Philippine Independent Power Producers Association representative stated that they have more than 11,000 MW capacity available to supply the power needs next year and would strive for a 100% availability of their dependable capacity.

Private companies have also disclosed that on top of this capacity, they offered their additional committed capacities that would come online next year and their willingness to participate in the ILP to avert the power shortage if there ever will be one next year. The potential savings from energy efficiency and conservation efforts are still not even factored in the supply.

The presentations in the hearing led those attending to the conclusion that there will be no actual shortage in supply next year but at worst, the summer would bring only thin reserves. These could be prevented if the DOE exerts due diligence to ensure that the planned and forced outage would not occur.

The committee also stated that there is no rush to grant emergency powers to the President, no need to contract additional capacities through purchase or rental and that the remaining option that needs to be discussed are the terms and conditions in the ILP.

The DOE secretary, instead of doing his mandate of ensuring affordable, reliable and adequate supply of electricity has been painting doomsday scenarios to bully consumers and lawmakers into granting the President emergency powers.

Petilla and the President must give an explanation for issuing confusing statements and threatening the public with a power shortage based on data and computation that they could not even defend.

The yearly power shortages can be prevented if the government would be able to put electric power plants online in a predictable manner.

Under the EPIRA, except through the emergency power clause, the government is helpless in this case.

To avoid this chronic problem, the solution is not to manufacture crises but to dispose of the EPIRA law altogether.

Aquino has debased the Senate into a propaganda weapon October 23, 2014 10:28 pm by RIGOBERTO D. TIGLAO THE MANILA TIMES


RIGOBERTO D. TIGLAO

Equalling only President Benigno Aquino’s misdeed, in depth of turpitude, of using and bribing the Senate in 2012 to remove Chief Justice Renato Corona, has been the president’s debasement of the Senate Committee on Accountability of Public Officers and Investigations, or the so-called Blue Ribbon Committee, as a propaganda weapon.

Aquino, in fact, has been the only President who has exploited the vast powers of the Blue Ribbon Committee to use its investigations as a powerful propaganda weapon to politically demolish his targets’ reputations.

Was there any episode during the administrations of Presidents Fidel Ramos, Joseph Estrada, and Gloria Arroyo when the Blue Ribbon Committee acted as a kangaroo court against a personality, as has been so common during Aquino’s regime?
Under Aquino, it was the committee’s investigations that blackened the bishops’ reputations to mute their opposition to Aquino’s reproductive health bill, as well as to add another case against former President Arroyo when the other charges were fizzling out.

Past officials of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office were humiliated in a Blue Ribbon Committee hearing as media preparation before charges were made and arrest orders issued against them. And it was its investigations into the pork-barrel issue that painted the opposition senators as so corrupt that there was hardly a public squeak at their arrest and incarceration.

THE YELLOW RIBBON COMMITTEE: Yellow Ribbon Committee at work? You decide: “Blue Ribbon” means independence and expertise; “Yellow Ribbon” is Aquino’s insignia. “Okay. Anyway, I won’t argue with you. Let the public judge.” – Senator Alan Cayetano after a lengthy question-and-answer episode in the Blue Ribbon Committee hearing Oct 22, when lawyer Martin Subido tried to explain to him that as a lawyer, he has to rely on documents, and not on claims made in a TV reporter’s interview with somebody.

The committee’s investigations now have become its last-resort propaganda to weaken the chances of Vice President Jejomar Binay to capture the presidency in 2016.

Binay’s spokesman, Congressman Tobias Tiangco’s reference to that committee as the Yellow Ribbon Committee hits it right on the head.

Believe it or not, ours is the only legislative body in the world to have such a “Blue Ribbon Committee,” or any such committee with similar investigative functions. Other countries have politically matured in junking such an investigative committee as intruding into the work of the judiciary, even as it has a powerful pulpit, the legislative body, for lethal character assassination.

Our Blue Ribbon Committee was invented in 1949 with the same intention as it has today, to throw dirt at a major political figure.

It was Senator Justiniano Montano of the Liberal Party who asked for the formation of a “Blue Ribbon Committee” in the Senate to investigate alleged corruption in government. It turned out the main target of the committee was then President Elpidio Quirino, who, ironically, was Montano’s partymate but who supported his political archenemy in the congressional seat in Cavite from which he retired.

Propaganda tool

* Then and now, it was an effective propaganda tool. Montano’s Blue Ribbon Committee investigations produced what we would call now as the urban legend of Quirino’s golden arinola (chamber pot). That canard outraged Filipinos that he would be defeated by a landslide by his defense secretary, Ramon Magsaysay – with the help of the Central Intelligence Agency, most historians have revealed.

Quirino was helpless in telling the media, showing to them even, that his chamber pot was not made of gold, but of brass. It’s the same trick used by the present Blue Ribbon Committee, which has been trying to portray a “350-hectare Binay Hacienda,” when the Vice President has only six hectares leased to the owner of that estate.

Montano was as media savvy as his counterparts in the present. The “Blue Ribbon” term he used as a moniker for that committee had meant the highest level of excellence or quality in those times, as in the best cattle being awarded a “Blue Ribbon.”

The term evolved as a term for ad hoc panels and commissions tasked to study an important issue, consisting of individuals known for their integrity and expertise in the field being studied. It also meant the panel had a high degree of independence from political parties and government authority. Thus, the US Congress’ “Warren Commission” on the Kennedy assassination, the “9-11 Commission,” and the Iraq Study Group had been referred to in the US media as “blue ribbon panels.”

I’m sure with that significance attached to “Blue Ribbon,” you’d agree with me that it is utter stupidity for us to call the Senate Committee on Accountability Public Officers and Investigations, a “Blue Ribbon” Committee.

Its members are nothing but “Blue Ribbon” individuals. They are extremely politically partisan and subservient to Aquino. By background or/and by their performance so far, they are the most incompetent to undertake investigations.

Let’s call a spade a spade, for chrissakes. It’s the Yellow Ribbon Committee. Has this committee ever investigated a yellow ribbon-wearing government official?

Cayetano’s statement above in the Oct 22 hearings of the committee shows its obvious motive is to change public opinion over the front-runner in the 2016 elections. It’s the propaganda hit squad of the Yellow Ribbon cult.

Next week: Why a “Blue Ribbon Committee” is another only-in-the-Philippines thing.

Correction on the SWS report

A source corrected my column on the Social Weather Stations on Oct 22. He claimed that an SWS poll of 1,500 respondents cost P3 million, not P2.5 million as I wrote. For 1,200 respondents the price tag is P2.5 million. I was surprised at his claim, though, that the SWS allows a questionnaire of 200 questions.

Doesn’t that make both the pollster and the respondent so tired that replies would be so unreliable?

We are losing our jusi and piña heritage to China October 23, 2014 8:02 pm by MA. ISABEL ONGPIN


Ma. Isabel Ongpin

There certainly is a trend among many private individuals, fashion designers, and business establishments engaged in clothes and fashion to look for and use native materials.

This is particularly felicitous for our hand-woven industry which offers unique, varied and fine handwoven fabrics made in traditional looms following age-old practices of using and preparing material available in our environment.

Some business establishments who have pioneered in the sourcing and marketing of traditional handmade native products are Tesoro’s, established before World War II (and ever modernizing its wares) and the Divisoria/Quiapo outlets of native goods, who besides hand-woven fabrics, sell other hand-woven items like mats, baskets, and other crafts. Other entities have joined in a big way the direction toward native materials like the SM stores which have designated a division called Kultura, bringing in authentic craft-made goods from all over the country to sell in their malls.

Furthermore, department stores are now engaging fashion designers to present clothes collections and shows using native materials as the piece de resistance.

We are all familiar with piña, made from the Spanish Red pineapple plant, grown, harvested and processed before weaving the fibers into one of the most unique fabrics in the world, the pineapple fiber cloth which is what piña stands for. Piña is used traditionally for ceremonial clothes where its sheerness and amazing durability make it a must item in a wardrobe.

But in truth, mixed with cotton and silk, it can very well be used as elegant everyday wear like office ensembles, school and office uniforms and other non-clotheswear uses like ornamental decoration, tablecloths, bags, etc.

While it may be the queen of our fabrics, piña is not alone among our many examples of hand-woven fabrics. There is inabel from the Ilocos regions of Northern Luzon and the Highland fabrics from the mountain provinces. There are too the striking Mindanao fabrics of various kinds from silk to abaca made in ceremonial ways for the same uses but also available for conversion to household decorations. Hablon, the Panay Island fabric that was an established industry, until the 19th century diminished it with imported cloth, is still extant and in demand.

However, the reality of the recent past where very little interest and consciousness existed in the general public about our native fabrics (except for piña) has taken its toll. There are now less and less number of weavers, few young persons interested in learning to weave. There is a serious lack of adequate weaving threads that would translate into high-earning products.

Cotton thread is now scarce because cotton farming has been neglected mostly because the process of preparing it for weaving is being lost. Moreoever, the cotton thread in the market which is usually imported from China or India or the US is expensive and difficult to source for the ordinary weaver who lives in rural areas and who then turns to synthetic threads. Synthetic thread woven material may have a place in blankets and other mundane uses but for a better return on investment natural fiber is preferred by the more and more mechanically-run world. So, it commands a better price. For being scarcer.

* Also, we have lost one important material of yesteryear, ramie, the fine linen fiber that used to be a plantation crop in Mindanao and was turned into fine clothes, table linen and other items, specially attractive when embroidered. China has grown ramie in a big way and undercut the price so badly, it was no longer economical for Philippine plantations to grow it. China has also imitated jusi which is silk-based so much so it is now just imported and not sourced from here due to price constraints.

Meanwhile, the Chinese are trying to manufacture piña using machines. So far, they have not quite succeeded but if they do, piña may go the way jusi.

These are some of the problems facing the hand-weaving industry here which are not insoluble if government could step in with a bit of assistance for promoting cotton farming, re-introducing ramie and reviving jusi. We do have silk farms after all.

The private sector has already made the first move and the public is riding along in this direction. One manufacturer working with Japanese technology has produced abaca denim which makes for really durable wear. Our government agencies involved in fiber research and natural dyes could be more user-friendly with their innovations and researches to share the technology with the private sector and let them be creative on how to produce a finished product.

With the current climate of interest in hand-woven material for a variety of uses, there is a market that can surely be developed from local to export with the right incentives and assistance. Our Asean neighbors have started on this journey, let us join them in bringing to the world at large what is uniquely ours and profit from it.

This message comes from HABI: The Philippine Textile Council of whom I disclose I am the Chair. See what we mean by dropping by Likhang HABI, our annual market fair this weekend (Friday to Sunday, 10am to 10pm) at the Glorietta Activity Center. It is the fourth market fair of HABI which started with 20 booths on its first market fair and is now presenting over 50 booths of varied hand-woven, natural material, uniquely designed for most needs and tastes.

Pemberton, VFA, EDCA and PH-US relations October 23, 2014 10:34 pm


THE EXPOSURE OF POPULAR TRAPOS

THE murder of transgender, Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude in Olongapo City and the arrest of the suspected murderer, US Marine Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton, has again provoked different reactions.

One of these provides challenges to our leaders while evoking sentiments about America that many Filipinos share. It was sent to us for publication by no less than one of the country’s most respected political figures, former senator Joke Arroyo.

* * *
PEMBERTON, a question of trust
BY JOKER P. ARROYO

Since the US does not have faith in the Philippines’ justice system, how can Filipinos be expected to have faith in America’s security commitments?

That is the simple issue highlighted by the Pemberton case and similar cases in the past. The Philippines has had half a dozen defense and security arrangements with the US since 1951. The country is divided as to its wisdom and necessity.

When problems arise from these security arrangements, the incident that causes it invariably is not security-related. In every case, it would involve US servicemen who violate Philippine criminal laws when they are off-duty. Pemberton is not an isolated case. In the past 60 years, similar cases have arisen.

Predictably, the US immediately protects the US servicemen. If the US cannot even protect Filipino women from US servicemen, how can Filipinos rely on the US to live-up to her commitments embodied in the treaties or agreements they have with us.

That should be food for thought for the Senate whose members’ battle-cry is to review the VFA, but with cautionary statement not to abrogate it. EDCA, which is before the Supreme Court, has interlocking references with VFA. Yet the haunting question is trust, whether as allies we can trust each other.

* * *
The familiar anti-Americans are clamoring that the Philippines unilaterally scrap the Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States. But we agree, as our columnist Francisco S. Tatad, said in his “First Things First” column on Wednesday, that “it would be good to see these calls grounded on the most compelling reasons, not just on a Marine’s sexual adventure that ended in a murder most foul.”

* Mr. Tatad also wrote, and we completely agree with him, that “[Senator] Miriam Santiago and her [Senate] colleagues completely missed the boat when they failed to say anything after President B. S. Aquino 3rd decided to enter into an Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement with the US, without Senate advise or consent. Even among those who believe the EDCA is a timely response to the new security environment in the Asia Pacific, conviction runs high that it should not merely take the form of an Executive Agreement, which could be denounced and terminated by an unsympathetic President as soon as Aquino leaves office.

It should instead take the form of a treaty concurred in by the Senate, if only to comply with the Constitution, and express the full backing of the entire Republic, including the electorate.

“Now, even among those who believe the text of the VFA should now be updated, serious doubt exists that those who want the treaty scrapped know exactly what they want. The original purpose of the VFA was to provide a legal regime under which US military troops could continue to visit the Philippines under the Military Defense Treaty, which authorizes such visits, after the US military bases were shut down in 1991. If the VFA has proved inadequate or incompetent to carry out its declared objective, then the parties have an urgent duty to replace it with something else more effective.

“But to scrap it, as some otherwise responsible politicians would suggest, is to cut off one’s nose to spite one’s face, as the saying goes. That would be to give way to a political tantrum or an emotional outburst, not to a rational imperative.

This would be to misunderstand gravely some of the most fundamental facts about the Philippines. The country’s security and defense alliance with the US is one of the more obvious foundations upon which this supposedly democratic and republican state rests, and from which it seeks to discharge its duties to its own people, and to the peoples of the region and the world. It may not be permanently carved in stone, but any attempt to question or alter it should be based on solid and unimpeachable grounds, and openly and vigorously aired, argued and debated, not just among those who lost the Cold War and failed to install a communist government.

It cannot be presented merely as a necessary side-effect of a despicable murder that happened on a young Marine’s wicked night out.”

The truth has won, but the struggle continues by FRANCISCO TATAD
October 26, 2014 11:15 pm


FRANCISCO S. TATAD

Contrary to all media speculations that the Third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops would create a “seismic shift” in Church teaching on human sexuality and marriage, 191 Catholic bishops from all over the world recently ended their two-week discussions at the Vatican without agreeing to any such change. This did not come without a fight, nor has the world heard the last word on it. But for now orthodoxy has prevailed.

Pope Francis convened the Synod on the first week of October to take a fresh look into the Church’s evangelizing mission concerning the family. The family is “the vital building –block of society and the ecclesial community.” The Synod has two stages: the Extraordinary General Assembly of Bishops in 2014, which would “define the ‘statusquestionis’ and collect the bishops’ experiences and proposals in proclaiming and living the Gospel of the family in a credible manner;” and the Ordinary General Assembly of Bishops in 2015, which would “seek working guidelines in the pastoral care of the person and the family.”

At the outset, a document entitled Pastoral Challenges to the Family in the Context of Evangelization spelled out the task of the Synod. This was read by the Relator General, Cardinal Peter Erdo, Archbishop of Esztergom, Budapest, before the assembly began its debates. It saw the family as “the last welcoming human reality in a world determined almost exclusively by finance and technology,” and hoped that “a new culture of the family can be the starting point of a renewed human civilization.”

The Pope encouraged everyone “to speak clearly;” “no one must say, ‘this can’t be said’,” he said. And some bishops responded by saying the most unorthodox things about homosexuals and marriage. Most notable among them was German Cardinal Walter Kasper, president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and author of a book on Mercy, which, according to Pope Francis, has helped him a lot.

Kasper has proposed that the Church revisit her teaching, which denies holy communion to Catholics living in an “invalid” marital union. In interviews with America magazine and the Catholic News Service in the US, La Nacion in Argentina, Salt and Light TV in Canada, and British journalist Edward Pentin, Kasper pressed on this proposal. Despite his unorthodox views, he was reported to claim the support of the Pope. His position drew sharp reactions from other bishops, including members of the Curia (the equivalent of the President’s Cabinet).

* Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, who came to be known as the “standard-bearer of orthodoxy” at the Synod, was reported to have called Kasper’s views “scandalous and shameful.” And Nigerian Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama engaged Kasper frontally. “We get international organizations, countries and groups which would like to entice us to deviate from our cultural practices, traditions and even our religious beliefs. And this is because of their belief that their views should be our view, their opinions and their concept of life should be ours too,” the Archbishop said.

Kasper responded by saying, “The Africans should not tell us too much what we have to do. Africa is totally different from the West. Also Asia and Muslims countries, they’re very different, especially about gays. You can’t speak about this with Africans and people of Muslim countries. It’s not possible. It’s a taboo.”

When opinion within the Synod ratcheted sharply against him, Kasper tried to deny ever having made his statement about Africa. Whereupon British journalist Pentin played a tape recording of his interview, prompting the cardinal to issue an apology. The truth, however, is that Kasper had long advocated changes in Church teaching on marriage.

In 1993, as a bishop in Germany, he issued a pastoral letter advocating communion for the divorced and the civilly remarried. However, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI), as prefect of the Congregation of Doctrine of the Faith, rejected the pastoral letter in no uncertain terms.

This did not affect the theologian’s rise within the Church though. In 1999, Saint Pope John Paul II named Kasper secretary of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity; then cardinal and prefect of the same dicastery one year later. Upon the death of St. John Paul II, he lost his position by law together with all the other members of the Curia; but Pope (now Emeritus) Benedict XVI reconfirmed him in the same position later.

The real shock at the Synod came when the interim report (the relatio post disceptationem) appeared, with the following paragraphs:

“45. Divorced people who have not remarried should be invited to find in the Eucharist the nourishment they need to sustain them in their present state of life. The local community and pastors ought to accompany these people with solicitude, particularly when children are involved or when in serious financial difficulty.”

“50. Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community. Are we capable of providing for these people, guaranteeing […] them […] a place of fellowship in our communities? Oftentimes, they want to encounter a Church which offers them a welcoming home. Are our communities capable of this, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?…

“52. Without denying the moral problems associated with homosexual unions, there are instances where mutual assistance to the point of sacrifice is a valuable support in the life of these persons. Furthermore the Church pays special attention to […] children who live with same-sex couples and stresses that the needs and rights of the little ones must always be given priority.”

The inclusion of these paragraphs was a great surprise to a good number of bishops. Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Muller, prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, said the document was “undignified and shameful.” Cardinal-Archbishop Wilfred Napier of Durban, South Africa said, “The message is out, but it is not a true message.” Cardinal Robert Sarah, president of the Pontifical Council for Cor Unum, said, “The Church has never judged homosexual persons, but homosexual behavior and homosexual unions are grave deviations of sexuality.” Australian Cardinal George Pell, prefect of the economic secretariat, said, “We are not giving in to the secular agenda; we’re not collapsing in a heap.”

Journalists

But it took some sharp questioning by journalists in a news conference to reveal that the language on homosexuals emanated solely from the secretariat rather than from any of the 191 bishops. The press conference was presided over by Cardinal-Archbishop Peter Erdo, the relator general, who spoke in Italian; Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati Andrello, the archbishop of Santiago, Chile, who spoke in Spanish; Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, archbishop of Manila, who spoke in English; and Archbishop Bruno Forte, of Chieti-Vasto, central Italy, the Synod’s special secretary, who also spoke in Italian. Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., Director of the Vatican Press Office, assisted.

The first explosive question on the homosexuality issue came from American Catholic Michael Voris of Church Militant TV who asked: “Are the Synod fathers proposing that there is something innate in the ‘gifts and qualities’ flowing from the sexual orientation of homosexuality? Is the Synod proposing that there is something innate in the sexual orientation that transcends and uplifts the Catholic Church, the Christian community and if so, what would those particular gifts be?”

Forte, the Synod special secretary, answered, but it did not seem to convince the journalists: “I guess what I want to express is that we must respect the dignity of every person and the fact that to be homosexual does not mean that this dignity must not be recognized and promoted. I think this is the most important point, and also the attitude of the Church to welcome persons who have homosexual orientation is based on the dignity of the person they are.”

No one asked who originally introduced the language on homosexuals into the document. But one hour, six minutes and 15 seconds into the press conference, as one Vatican insider records it, the panel of four archbishops was asked: “Does paragraph 52 (as quoted above) signify a shift in the Church’s attitude toward homosexuals and their acceptance in society?”

Father Lombardi gestured to Cardinal Erdo to answer the question. But the relator general declined. And smiling, he instead gestured toward Forte with an audible aside in Italian, “Quello che ha redatto il brano deve sapere cosa significa”—“He who drafted the passage ought to know what it means.” Ultimately, Forte went back to his point on “the dignity of the human person,” but failed to explain why the secretariat inserted such language. Whatever his answer, the cat was already out of the bag, and could no longer be recalled: it was not majority of the Synod fathers who wanted to change the Church teaching on homosexuals but some flaming liberals within the Church.

The Synod rejected the language on homosexuals by a resounding majority vote, and in the final report replaced it with the language of the Catechism, which is that the Church regards homosexuals with respect and sensitivity, but finds no basis whatsoever in comparing same-sex unions and marriage between man and woman. Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, and one of the “papabile” during the last conclave, said the Church welcomes homosexuals without approving them. “Like Christ with the adulteress, his response is to welcome her and then he tells her not to sin again.”

Still, despite the rejection of the proposal on homosexuals, Kasper claimed in a subsequent interview with the German newspaper Die Welt that majority are in favor of his ideas. What the “gifted” theologian seems to forget is that his proposal lost not only because the numbers were against it but above all because the proposal contradicts the truth of the Faith. What he advocates is wrong not because the Church says it is wrong; rather the Church is against it because it is wrong.

The Catholic faithful have one year until October next year to manifest renewed support for Catholic doctrine as the Church teaches it, or to shift support in favor of the new orthodoxy being proposed by Kasper and his kind. As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has so clearly put it, certain things are either always right or always wrong, and this is what every majority must always respect. As a predominantly Catholic Christian nation, the Philippines can only pray that while the next Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod may not be able to turn stones into bread, to borrow the Pope’s mellifluous language, it will not turn bread into stone.

Metro traffic woes can be eased October 26, 2014 11:17 pm

President Benigno Aquino 3rd’s words last week abut the traffic problem in Metro Manila can not but invite comments that the country’s chief executive does not know what he is talking about or does not know much about the traffic woes suffered by everyone.

During the closing ceremony of the 40th Philippine Business Conference and Expo at the Manila Hotel on Friday, President Aquino also highlighted the problem of congestion at the ports and that it is a “paramount concern” of his administration. He sounded as if port congestion was the major cause of Metro Manila’s traffic problems, which it is not.

At this point, less than two years before his term ends, it is certain that the one of the failures he will be remembered for is allowing the traffic mess in the National Capital Region to go from bad to terrible.

Chairman Francis Tolentino of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) earlier this month admitted that the traffic situation in the metropolis has become unmanageable and will worsen next year. Unless, he said, the agency is given additional funds to enable it to hire more personnel to be assigned to tackle the traffic mess.

Tolentino said that without more money, the MMDA will have to rely on “volunteers” to manage traffic on Edsa, Katipunan, Roxas Boulevard and other major thoroughfares. He lamented the 15 percent reduction on MMDA’s budget for 2015.

Tolentino said Metro Manila also needs an additional 137 kilometers of new roads as proposed by the Japanese-initiated transportation roadmap called the JICA/NEDA Transport Dream Plan. This will need a counterpart from the national government but most of the expense, if the plan gets carried out, will be coming from Japan as low-interest official development assistance (ODA).

The MMDA chairman also spoke of the necessity for some residential subdivisions to open some of their roads to vehicular traffic at certain hours. That will surely drive down the property prices in those subdivisions.

But if there is one person that both President Aquino and Tolentino should listen to when it comes to solving Metro Manila’s traffic mess, it is the world-renowned architect and urban planner Felino A. Palafox, Jr. (who writes a Manila Times column).

“In Metro Manila, our traffic rules and regulations are weakly imposed, resulting in undisciplined drivers and traffic gridlocks,” Palafox said in a column published early this year.

“The Philippines lacks a comprehensive, integrated and interdisciplinary approach in road management. For example, in road widening projects, urban planners and landscape architects are not consulted, resulting in the cutting down of 100-year-old trees when they can be made into traffic islands between pedestrians and moving vehicles,” he added.

* Among the solutions that Palafox proposes are putting to good use the Pasig river ferry system, building more bicycle and pedestrian walkways, regulating car use, and investing in bus rapid transit systems.

“In other parts of the world, like in Bogota, Columbia, where traffic used to be a big problem, they restricted car use by restricting parking, and built a 24-kilometer long bike and pedestrian lane that connected low-income neighborhoods to the richest part of the city,” Palafox said.

Bogota is also among the first cities in the world to establish and operate a bus rapid transit system called the Tranmilenio, which saves commuters two hours per day in commuting time. A bus rapid transit system operates along a dedicated lane in a city road, and has stations where fares are paid before commuters board the buses.

Tolentino, who is a biking enthusiast, is also pushing for more bike use in Metro Manila.

“In Copenhagen, the bike capital of the world, 37 percent commute to work using bikes, Palafox says.

When it comes to restricting car use, Palafox said the MMDA can follow the lead of some leading cities. “In Singapore, London, Stockholm, and Milan, a congestion pricing system is implemented to regulate and manage congestion in their cities. In all the examples, one thing is apparent: priority is given to the pedestrian,” he added.

Palafox believes the Pasig river can be used to ferry a very large volume of commuters. The urban planning expert said that the Pasig is 27 kilometers long and can serve as a transport corridor to complement the EDSA and C-5 north-south land transport corridors.

Although President Aquino is right in pushing for the construction of an elevated expressway and connector roads in Metro Manila to be undertaken by the private sector, there are numerous solutions that do not cost billions of pesos, as espoused by Palafox, to at least ease Metro Manila’s traffic mess.

And of course the light rail systems we already have must be made as safe, efficient, comfortable and capacious. More coaches should be added so that the entire 500,000-plus daily riders of the MRT and the LRT can be accommodated without the passengers losing their human dignity.

And Tolentino could be right that MMDA needs the excised 15 percent of its budget restored because Metro Manila streets need more traffic law enforcers. But he should make absolutely sure that the MMDA traffic men never behave like the kotong cops of some of the towns and cities of Metro Manila.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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