EDITORIALS & OPINIONS OF THE WEEK:
(Mini Reads followed by Full Commentary below)

FROM INQUIRER

EDITORIAL:  FAKE RICE?


JULY 6 ---THE INITIAL results are disturbing but—it must be emphasized—inconclusive. More tests are required before the Food Development Center (FDC) of the National Food Authority can say categorically that suspect rice being sold in Davao City is synthetic—that is, fake rice. But because the NFA has already fielded more than 20 complaints from different parts of the country about possibly fake rice, and because grains mixed with “plastic” may lead to serious health problems, it is only right that the appropriate authorities investigate the matter with dispatch.
Rice is not only the country’s staple food; it is, preeminently, a political commodity. That is to say, it is quite literally a gut issue, and can make or break political fortunes. To this unchanging reality, the “synthetic rice” controversy adds another complication: Persistent reports assert that the fake rice has been smuggled in from China. The government needs to identify the source of the suspect rice as soon as possible; will Chinese authorities help speed up the process of identification? This and other intriguing questions may be raised at a hearing this week of the Senate committee on food and agriculture. But the fundamental question is simpler: Is fake rice in fact being sold in the country?  READ MORE...

ALSO: Public-private collaboration


JULY 11 ---By Guillermo Luz As we move into the second half of the year, let me step back and review where the Philippines is thus far in terms of competitiveness. The National Competitiveness Council tracks at least 12 international reports on  competitiveness, and the first four have released their findings. First, the good news. The Philippines has improved its rankings modestly in all four. It moved up eight positions in the Heritage Foundation’s Economic Freedom Index to No. 76 (out of 178). It also moved up two positions to No. 76 (out of 143) in the World Economic Forum’s Global Information Technology Report; up eight to No. 74 (out of 141) in the WEF Travel and Tourism Report; and up one to No. 41 (out of 60) in the IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook. From 2011 to 2014, the Philippines has been the most improved country in four important rankings: up 53 spots in the Ease of Doing Business Report; up 49 in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index; up 39 in the Heritage Foundation’s Economic Freedom Index; and up 33 in the WEF Global Competitiveness Index. Now for the reality check. While it has comfortably moved out of the bottom-third of most world rankings, the Philippines is still quite a ways from its target of moving into the top-third by 2016. On a global basis (and also within Asean), it is now around the middle of the pack, usually between the 45th and 55th centile of the world rankings. This reflects the challenge and the deep hole from which it had to climb at the start of this journey. Nonetheless, I am optimistic that continuous improvement will take place, mainly because I see higher levels of collaboration and cooperation across government agencies and between the public and private sectors. Let me just cite some examples. READ MORE...

ALSO: Internal war
[Take heart. Without a remarkable strategy on the AFP’s part, rebel forces have been thinned by time, deprivation, disease, boredom, hunger, disillusion and their own bestial cruelty to each other. Read but don’t depend on “how to” primers; rely mostly on your own guts, arms and common sense. Perhaps, by just being careful, we’ll see them all simply disappear.]


JULY 11 ---By: Reynaldo V. Silvestre
The Armed Forces of the Philippines has been waging a campaign against the communist insurgency since the Communist Party of the Philippines was reestablished on Dec. 26, 1968, and its military wing, the New People’s Army, was formally rechartered in March 1969. After 50 years of counterinsurgency operations, the AFP’s spokesmen have boasted that its officer corps gained valuable lessons to teach regional neighbors in similar situations. This is nonsense. The theory and principles of war can be taught only by victors, not by inept battlefield officers. A subject of crucial importance to military theory is internal war. In “Silent War” (1989), author and publisher Victor Corpus scoffed at the AFP’s counterinsurgency methods such as “hamletization,” search-and-destroy operations, and low-intensity conflict. He said the AFP lacked a “suitable and effective strategy” that fits Philippine conditions to defeat the CPP-NPA.
Corpus defected to the NPA as a Constabulary first lieutenant on Dec. 29, 1970, for a nonexistent idealism and returned to camp on July 14, 1976, as a repentant Benjamin. After the 1986 Edsa revolt, a general amnesty of President Corazon Aquino enabled him to be recommissioned lieutenant colonel in the Army’s reserve force. The correct strategy, Corpus asserts, is to “surround the cities from the countryside,” camouflaged by philosophizing in the traditional mode of “us versus them.” He offers a “how to” primer with great admiration for Mao Zedong—the direct implication being that, having succeeded in China, it is a strategy for the ages. READ MORE...

ALSO Editorial: Hardly heaven


JULY 8 ---The boat was called MB Kim Nirvana-B, but it was hardly heaven that passengers experienced last July 2 when the double-deck vessel capsized shortly after leaving the port of Ormoc on its way to Camotes Island off Cebu. At this writing the number of the dead is 61, out of 206 reported passengers. The 33-ton vessel’s carrying capacity was said to be 194 people, including 16 crew members, but as usual it was overloaded, not only with passengers but also with cargo such as sacks of cement, rice and fertilizer.
“As usual.” By now the emerging list of transgressions by MB Kim Nirvana-B sounds all too familiar that going through it is like ticking off a laundry list. Reports say the boat was not originally a double-decker, as indicated by pictures showing that its second level was covered only with a tent. That already constituted extra weight on the vessel. Worse, according to survivors’ accounts, the heavy cargo of cement, etc. was merely dumped near the back of the boat and wasn’t fastened to the floor, allowing the sacks to shift as the boat encountered rough waters. That could account for why the boat overturned when the captain reportedly made an abrupt turn as a big wave hit it. READ MORE...

ALSO: English proficiency as a competitive edge


JULY 11 ---By: Butch Hernandez
The availability of quality human resources is one of the Philippines’ key advantages, according to the Board of Investments. “Our people are highly educated. The literacy rate is 94 percent and 70 percent of the population are fluent in English, making us one of the largest English-speaking countries in the world. Filipinos also have strong customer service orientation and are highly trainable,” says the BOI. Based on various surveys, the Philippines is anywhere from the third to the sixth country in the world with the largest English-speaking population. We can’t claim to be native English speakers as much as we would like to, but our talent pool can speak, read and write in this language even at a rudimentary level. Japan Times columnist Amy Chavez wrote recently of how, during a visit to the Philippines, she was impressed that even people who had never stepped outside the country were fluent in English. Having both English and Filipino as official languages does not mean that everyone understands or speaks English, “but the exposure to the language is so great that those who do speak it can communicate quite fluently,” she added. The old Bilingual Medium of Instruction policy did more to erode than elevate our competency in the English language to globally acceptable standards. Thankfully, we now have the Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education (MTBMLE) language teaching component embedded in the new K-to-12 curriculum. Education  READ MORE...

ALSO: Should we celebrate Independence Day?
[But as Lea Salonga asked, have we been truly independent? “What are we free from exactly and why do we celebrate it?”]


JULY 11 ---By Red Tani...FB PHOTO Last month, Lea Salonga took flak for her criticism of Independence Day. She tweeted: “Our country is not yet debt-free, poverty-free, crime-free, or corruption-free. So what are we free from exactly and why do we celebrate it?” As the United States was celebrating its own Independence Day, I thought it was fitting to answer her question, because the two holidays are so closely linked. For starters, did you know that we used to celebrate Independence Day on July 4? To coincide with its own, the United States granted the Philippines independence on July 4, 1946. In 1962, President Diosdado Macapagal declared June 12 a holiday. But it was only in 1964 that July 4 was demoted to “Philippine Republic Day,” and June 12 was officially proclaimed “Philippine Independence Day.” After declaring martial law, President Ferdinand Marcos wanted to overshadow Republic Day by moving Philippine-American Friendship Day from Nov. 15 to July 4, not even mentioning Republic Day during the proclamation. Marcos did this because after declaring martial law and discarding the 1935 Constitution, he probably didn’t want to remind people of the old republic. In 1987, President Cory Aquino abolished the Philippine-American Friendship holiday, probably due to pressure from nationalist groups who hated having a colonial holiday. On July 4, 1996, President Fidel Ramos proclaimed July 4 a special day nationwide. Today, our official government website has a feature on Republic Day, stating that “as of July 4, 2015, the Philippines has been an independent nation for sixty-nine years.” READ MORE...

ALSO EDITORIAL: Racist rant
[Whether in a local or international setting, when someone as powerful as Trump behaves in the manner of a caveman, it is important that umbrage be taken and a clear statement be quickly made not only in words but also in action. There is just no room for racism in this global village.]


JULY 12 ---CARTOON SOURCE: http://chavahbillin.blogspot.ca/  Donald Trump, whose middle name is controversy, has done it again, and some folks aren’t taking it. The Donald recently announced his intention to run for president of the United States as a candidate of the Republican Party in 2016. But it wasn’t this announcement, bizarre though as it may have been, that caught wide public attention. What did was his startling rant about Mexican immigrants in America: “When Mexico sends its people, they’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” The rant set off a firestorm of outrage, as well it should—the result being a mass pullout by persons and institutions from deals with Trump and events produced by and associated with him, including that old American standby, the Miss USA pageant, and the bigger Miss Universe franchise. Having sown his wind, Trump is now reaping the whirlwind. Quite predictably, Mexico announced that it would not be sending a representative to the Miss Universe competition, an annual celebration of pulchritude and national identity. Chef Jose Andres, Macy’s department store chain, the Spanish television network Univision, the racing car entity Nascar, sporting network ESPN, and golfing associations such as the PGA Tour have severed ties with Trump, doing away with events that bear his name and removing relevant merchandise from sight. The American network giant NBC, Trump’s partner in airing the Miss America and Miss Universe pageants, announced that it was cutting him loose and no longer airing those events. Even Trump’s trademark show, “The Apprentice,” will now go on without him. The Republican Party is reportedly both embarrassed and terrified by his actions. READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA EDITORIALS & OPINIONS  HERE:

Fake rice? Editorial Philippine Daily Inquirer July 6, 2015

MANILA, JULY 13, 2015 (INQUIRER) @inquirerdotnet- THE INITIAL results are disturbing but—it must be emphasized—inconclusive. More tests are required before the Food Development Center (FDC) of the National Food Authority can say categorically that suspect rice being sold in Davao City is synthetic—that is, fake rice.

But because the NFA has already fielded more than 20 complaints from different parts of the country about possibly fake rice, and because grains mixed with “plastic” may lead to serious health problems, it is only right that the appropriate authorities investigate the matter with dispatch.

Rice is not only the country’s staple food; it is, preeminently, a political commodity. That is to say, it is quite literally a gut issue, and can make or break political fortunes.

To this unchanging reality, the “synthetic rice” controversy adds another complication: Persistent reports assert that the fake rice has been smuggled in from China. The government needs to identify the source of the suspect rice as soon as possible; will Chinese authorities help speed up the process of identification?

This and other intriguing questions may be raised at a hearing this week of the Senate committee on food and agriculture. But the fundamental question is simpler: Is fake rice in fact being sold in the country?

READ MORE...

According to the FDC, the sample taken from Davao City was found to be “contaminated with dibutyl phthalate or DBP, a raw material for making flexible plastic products.”

That is disturbing in itself; DBP “is used in the manufacture of various products, including food-containing items like plastic wraps and lunch boxes.” But the sample was too small for the NFA to reach a definite conclusion. More tests are needed, with bigger samples (more than a kilo of rice grains per sample), before any scientifically valid conclusion can be reached.

Now that President Aquino has ordered both the Department of the Interior and Local Government and the Department of Justice to investigate the issue, we expect the Philippine National Police and the National Bureau of Investigation to move speedily: to isolate the sources of the allegedly synthetic rice, to determine the areas where it has been sold, not least to obtain adequately sized samples for immediate laboratory testing.

The possibility now exists that with two law enforcement investigations launched, a Senate hearing in the works, and a hearing in the House of Representatives getting underway, too, we may all get the wrong signal and reach premature conclusions. It is easy enough for political or election-related considerations to drive the food-security aspect out of the picture. Herewith, two reminders:

We should not raise false alarms. Former senator Francis Pangilinan, now presidential assistant for food security and agricultural modernization, has issued a statement saying he had been “informed that, for harmful effects to be felt, one has to be ingesting DBP every day for at least three months.”

This is reassuring, but—in this day and age—we need the source of that information, presumably a scientist, to inform the public himself, or herself. The government can make that person available today and for the next several days to belabor the point.

At the same time, we should not create a false sense of complacency. We realize that a skeptical public may find the very notion of eating raw material for plastic products, even if just once, to be sickening.

It is incumbent on the PNP and the NBI to determine as soon as possible when the suspect rice first landed in the country, and how much of it has actually been sold.

And if the suspect rice is established to be systematically contaminated (plastic extenders have been known to be added to food products to lower costs of production in a loosely regulated or low-standard economy), then the police and the NBI must take the necessary next step:

File the appropriate charges against those who brought the fake rice into the country and send them to a real jail.


Public-private collaboration  BUSINESS MATTERSSHARES: New VIEW COMMENTS By: Guillermo M. Luz @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer
12:25 AM July 11th, 2015

As we move into the second half of the year, let me step back and review where the Philippines is thus far in terms of competitiveness.

The National Competitiveness Council tracks at least 12 international reports on competitiveness, and the first four have released their findings.

First, the good news. The Philippines has improved its rankings modestly in all four. It moved up eight positions in the Heritage Foundation’s Economic Freedom Index to No. 76 (out of 178). It also moved up two positions to No. 76 (out of 143) in the World Economic Forum’s Global Information Technology Report; up eight to No. 74 (out of 141) in the WEF Travel and Tourism Report; and up one to No. 41 (out of 60) in the IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook.

From 2011 to 2014, the Philippines has been the most improved country in four important rankings: up 53 spots in the Ease of Doing Business Report; up 49 in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index; up 39 in the Heritage Foundation’s Economic Freedom Index; and up 33 in the WEF Global Competitiveness Index.

Now for the reality check.

While it has comfortably moved out of the bottom-third of most world rankings, the Philippines is still quite a ways from its target of moving into the top-third by 2016. On a global basis (and also within Asean), it is now around the middle of the pack, usually between the 45th and 55th centile of the world rankings.

This reflects the challenge and the deep hole from which it had to climb at the start of this journey.

Nonetheless, I am optimistic that continuous improvement will take place, mainly because I see higher levels of collaboration and cooperation across government agencies and between the public and private sectors. Let me just cite some examples.

READ MORE...

For years, we struggled in the Ease of Doing Business Report published by the International Finance Corporation and World Bank. This is a measure of the ease or difficulty of going through 10 very basic business-related processes with government—basically licenses and permits at the national and local levels.

Just a few years ago, the Philippines ranked No. 148 in the world—a pretty dismal record considering that only 148 economies were on the list.

Since we started our Gameplan series in 2013, we have been able to get more agencies involved and committed to working together to streamline processes and make these more business-friendly.

Among the most dramatic of improvements is in starting a business (or incorporating).

While registration for single proprietorships had been vastly improved through the Philippine Business Registry, incorporating continued to be a tedious process—a minimum of 16 steps and 34 days—that discouraged investors.

Now, thanks to an integrated system put together by the Securities and Exchange Commission, Bureau of Internal Revenue, Social Security System, Pag-Ibig and PhilHealth, the process at SEC now takes one day for about 80 percent of applicants.

By linking up to local government units, we hope to also streamline the process and complete incorporation within six to eight days. Through full (from partial) automation, we hope to take the process completely online next year and reduce the steps and time further.

Other examples are in processes, such as paying contributions to the SSS, PhilHealth and Pag-Ibig and taxes to the BIR; obtaining construction permits from City Hall; getting electricity connections; and going through commercial courts (in Quezon City for now).

All these improvements would not have been possible without collaboration between agencies (including the Supreme Court in the case of court processes and insolvency filing processes) and LGUs.

The private sector also played an important role in recommending and implementing some of the changes.

My second example is in our Cities/Municipalities Competitiveness Index project. We started this three years ago because we wanted to measure LGU competitiveness. We believe cities and municipalities are regional growth engines and building blocks of national competitiveness.

The only problem was that we had no way of measuring that competitiveness.

Today, using a network of national government agencies, LGUs, the private sector, and the academe, we collect data annually on LGUs which allow us to measure competitiveness on three fronts: economic dynamism, infrastructure and governance. It is a massive effort in data collection and validation.

There are two key trends I’d like to highlight. The first is that there are more cities and municipalities participating in the project, reflecting their interest in and appreciation of being measured. From a starting point of zero, we ranked 285 LGUs in 2013. The following year, we basically doubled that figure to 535. This year, we have doubled that figure again to 1,120.

The second trend is that LGUs, particularly municipalities, are now more conscious of maintaining and collecting data. In 2013, most of them could barely collect 50 percent of the data required to make the listing. Today, in spite of higher data requirements, LGUs as a group are able to collect about 80 percent of the data needed. They now appreciate the value of data as part of their diagnostic toolbox for measuring their competitiveness.

The quest for competitiveness is neither easy nor quick. But the collaborative process will make it less difficult and time-consuming. The thing about collaboration is that the more you practice it, the better you get at it. If the practice and experience of the last few years are any indicator, then there is cause to be optimistic. But only if we keep at it.

Guillermo M. Luz (gm.luz@competitive.org.ph) is the private-sector cochair of the National Competitiveness Council.


Internal war SHARES: 41 VIEW COMMENTS By: Reynaldo V. Silvestre @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:23 AM July 11th, 2015


By: Reynaldo V. Silvestre

The Armed Forces of the Philippines has been waging a campaign against the communist insurgency since the Communist Party of the Philippines was reestablished on Dec. 26, 1968, and its military wing, the New People’s Army, was formally rechartered in March 1969.

After 50 years of counterinsurgency operations, the AFP’s spokesmen have boasted that its officer corps gained valuable lessons to teach regional neighbors in similar situations. This is nonsense. The theory and principles of war can be taught only by victors, not by inept battlefield officers.

A subject of crucial importance to military theory is internal war. In “Silent War” (1989), author and publisher Victor Corpus scoffed at the AFP’s counterinsurgency methods such as “hamletization,” search-and-destroy operations, and low-intensity conflict. He said the AFP lacked a “suitable and effective strategy” that fits Philippine conditions to defeat the CPP-NPA.

Corpus defected to the NPA as a Constabulary first lieutenant on Dec. 29, 1970, for a nonexistent idealism and returned to camp on July 14, 1976, as a repentant Benjamin. After the 1986 Edsa revolt, a general amnesty of President Corazon Aquino enabled him to be recommissioned lieutenant colonel in the Army’s reserve force.

The correct strategy, Corpus asserts, is to “surround the cities from the countryside,” camouflaged by philosophizing in the traditional mode of “us versus them.” He offers a “how to” primer with great admiration for Mao Zedong—the direct implication being that, having succeeded in China, it is a strategy for the ages.

READ MORE...

Not honed in Marxist political theory, Corpus conveniently forgets what Mao himself said: Guerrilla tactics cannot be replicated by the ruling government.

In Eastern Europe, where Marxism was initially engaged and where the alliance between workers and peasants first saw expression, the need for a sustained workers’ movement in the cities rather than a full-blown insurrection became a standard insurgent tactic. The method of warfare more suitable to a society mired in uneven development was left to Mao to develop based on concrete conditions in China. Thus, Mao’s contribution was to introduce “protracted war” versus Lenin’s classic prescription of “industrial strikes” in more urbanized Russia.

The foremost deficiency of Corpus’ counterinsurgency strategy is his ignorance of the Marxist concept of “people’s war.” The concept of guerrillas being analogous to fish in water, the idea of “when the enemy tires, we attack and when the enemy weakens, we pursue,” which Mao explained in his military writings—and which Corpus seems to praise—are nothing more than the application to the material world of Hegelian dialectics of contradiction. Thus, the CPP-NPA’s guerrilla tactics cannot be separated from the philosophical framework of Marxism itself.

Corpus’ view on insurgency and counterinsurgency begins and ends in a historical vacuum. This lack of historicity that shapes strategy and tactics versus insurgents, renders his proposed measures pointless and abstract. Nothing disarms insurgents more effectively than democratized prosperity.

There is a vain attempt to be original by using clichés like “gradual constriction”—a battlefield tactic known since ancient times—and phrases such as the “Venus Fly-Trap” technique, although this is a ploy (baiting the enemy into a controlled killing zone) surely even cavemen must have known.

But a “how to” manual should pass the test of practical application, and its entire usefulness must be a positive answer to the question “Does it work?” Removing such strained similes as those likening the civilian population to a river and the insurgents to rocks in it, and understanding Corpus’ meaning to be removing/avoiding the civilian populace and/or befriending/seducing civilians to our side, the guarded answer is: “It ought to.”

But success and failure are in the details. The important point is to avoid the great danger of coining and thinking in slogans. A slogan oversimplifies, and the resultant conclusions are usually inadequate and even false. This book may serve the useful purpose of being a primer, like teaching the alphabet, but the whole course of teaching officers and men should quickly proceed to the inculcation of the habit of thinking in terms of historical models and abstracting from them the principles of victory.

Assuming this can be done, we ought to have an officer corps that can think in strategic and tactical terms. Naturally, we expect mental filtering and common sense as well.

A basic problem is that Hannibals and Caesars rarely apply at the Philippine Military Academy. It usually gets the children and relatives of military and police officers, careerists and opportunists, and even sublimated sadists and masochists whose true nature, unfortunately, emerges only when invested with the power of the gun amid impoverished villagers and small businessmen (the bigger ones get kidnapped).

But despite such material, aided by the PMA’s relevant transmutation processes, we have an officer corps undistinguished by greatness but competent enough to go forth into battle and regularly return to an honorable retirement. Have we ever had a George Patton? A Tiberius Caesar? Even an Emilio Aguinaldo? Not in our memory.

The problem at hand is whether books such as “Silent War” can upgrade the officer corps’ battlefield capability. Certainly, there had been similar tracts from more illustrious authors, and the officer corps remains what it is today.

Nevertheless, we have to keep trying. There is no camino real, but the inculcation of sound strategic and tactical thinking can be reasonably achieved using the conditioned reflex as a working substitute for natural talent. And this is exactly what military training systems have sought to achieve. We cannot but insist on a kartilla of fundamentals:

Officers and men must be thoroughly indoctrinated in patriotism and fighting responsibility; professional soldiers must be taught to think in strategic and tactical terms, learning the great infantry campaigns of the past; soldiers must view every situation as a new one; adequate arms and materiel must be provided; intelligence funds must be used, not stolen; soldiers must be extremely kind and helpful to civilians; the garrison concept of ancient Rome, and its road-building strategy, must be remembered; Rome’s patience in its strategy of massing forces steadily, in a pincer movement, inexorably pushing its enemies into dead ends and premature mass attacks must likewise be remembered; foot patrols must be discouraged and more air reconnaissance and village intelligence relied on; and unnecessary convoys/travels between enemy borders and garrison must be stopped, movements must be done only in masses, using the “phalanx” as a concept—or an insurgent war will be fought for another 50 bloody years.

Take heart. Without a remarkable strategy on the AFP’s part, rebel forces have been thinned by time, deprivation, disease, boredom, hunger, disillusion and their own bestial cruelty to each other. Read but don’t depend on “how to” primers; rely mostly on your own guts, arms and common sense. Perhaps, by just being careful, we’ll see them all simply disappear.

Reynaldo V. Silvestre is a retired Army colonel and belongs to the University of the Philippines Diliman’s Vanguard (Class 1968). He is a multiawarded writer, bemedaled officer and former director for doctrine development of the Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Bonifacio.


Editorial: Hardly heaven @inquirerdotnet

The boat was called MB Kim Nirvana-B, but it was hardly heaven that passengers experienced last July 2 when the double-deck vessel capsized shortly after leaving the port of Ormoc on its way to Camotes Island off Cebu.

At this writing the number of the dead is 61, out of 206 reported passengers. The 33-ton vessel’s carrying capacity was said to be 194 people, including 16 crew members, but as usual it was overloaded, not only with passengers but also with cargo such as sacks of cement, rice and fertilizer.

“As usual.” By now the emerging list of transgressions by MB Kim Nirvana-B sounds all too familiar that going through it is like ticking off a laundry list. Reports say the boat was not originally a double-decker, as indicated by pictures showing that its second level was covered only with a tent. That already constituted extra weight on the vessel.

Worse, according to survivors’ accounts, the heavy cargo of cement, etc. was merely dumped near the back of the boat and wasn’t fastened to the floor, allowing the sacks to shift as the boat encountered rough waters. That could account for why the boat overturned when the captain reportedly made an abrupt turn as a big wave hit it.

READ MORE...

Was the boat seaworthy, in the first place? Who approved the alteration to its original design? Nelson Ramirez, an engineer with the United Filipino Seafarers, said officials of the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) should be held to account for the approval and accreditation of the boat’s papers. “By merely looking at the picture of MB Kim Nirvana, you don’t have to be a maritime expert to say that this motorized banca is seaworthy or not. You can immediately see that the stability of this double-decker vessel is questionable. How it passed the safety standards is the most controversial question of the day.”

Marina isn’t alone in the apparent negligence. All boats and ships are required to undergo inspection by the Philippine Coast Guard before leaving port. The PCG is authorized to stop a vessel from departing if it sees indications of overloading of passengers and/or cargo, or if the boat is in violation of safety procedures and requirements such as inadequate provision of life vests. Too, the PCG presumably has first dibs on Pagasa-issued weather bulletins to give it ample room to stop vessels from braving stormy waters.

In MB Kim Nirvana-B’s case, the Coast Guard was quick to disclaim liability by saying that no gale warning had been issued before the boat was allowed to sail.

That could very well be—but what about the reported overcrowding and overloading?

Shouldn’t that have been obvious at first glance?

The boat wasn’t a ship by any means; it would have taken PCG personnel mere minutes to determine whether the vessel was beyond its carrying capacity.

And did anyone check how the cargo was stowed? In other words: Was there a thorough inspection before the boat was given the green light to sail?

Now the PCG is apparently casting around for blame. “We are determined to pursue the angle of human error,” said its spokesman, Commander Arman Balilo. The boat captain may well be guilty of negligence and “human error,” but fixating on him, or the boat’s owner, at this point is missing the bigger picture.

Owner Joge Bong Zarco and captain Warren Oliviero, along with 17 other people, have been charged with murder for the incident.

Why murder? “They were not careful, showing there was an intent to kill. They were reckless on purpose,” local police official Asher Dolina was quoted as telling Agence France-Presse.

But if this were murder—and it can be established that government agencies from Marina to the Coast Guard were at least as complicit for their acts of negligence and oversight in regulating the operations of MB Kim Nirvana-B—what does that make them but clear accessories to the heinous crime?

If this is the way these government agencies will try to shift blame away from themselves, then perhaps the charges should be pursued to their logical and comprehensive conclusion—which means they, too, should not be spared from the net.

The chronic criminal neglect and slovenliness that have characterized the ways of government in the maritime industry have claimed a fresh batch of lives, to join the tens of thousands that perished on our seas through the years, with many of them still crying out for justice and recompense. We are a nation of islands. When does it become safe to sail our seas?


English proficiency as a competitive edge SHARES: 38 VIEW COMMENTS By: Butch Hernandez @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:22 AM July 11th, 2015


By: Butch Hernandez

The availability of quality human resources is one of the Philippines’ key advantages, according to the Board of Investments. “Our people are highly educated. The literacy rate is 94 percent and 70 percent of the population are fluent in English, making us one of the largest English-speaking countries in the world. Filipinos also have strong customer service orientation and are highly trainable,” says the BOI.

Based on various surveys, the Philippines is anywhere from the third to the sixth country in the world with the largest English-speaking population. We can’t claim to be native English speakers as much as we would like to, but our talent pool can speak, read and write in this language even at a rudimentary level.

Japan Times columnist Amy Chavez wrote recently of how, during a visit to the Philippines, she was impressed that even people who had never stepped outside the country were fluent in English. Having both English and Filipino as official languages does not mean that everyone understands or speaks English, “but the exposure to the language is so great that those who do speak it can communicate quite fluently,” she added.

The old Bilingual Medium of Instruction policy did more to erode than elevate our competency in the English language to globally acceptable standards. Thankfully, we now have the Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education (MTBMLE) language teaching component embedded in the new K-to-12 curriculum.

READ MORE...

Education Undersecretary Dina Ocampo-Cristobal explains that this evidence-based language acquisition policy enables early-grade learners to express themselves in class in a language that they already know (i.e., the mother tongue).

Helping young learners master their mother tongue significantly heightens their competency to acquire the globally dominant English language.

The Department of Education itself recognizes that English proficiency is a competitive edge that previous generations of Filipinos used to enjoy.

Sadly, there is no denying that many of today’s high school or even college graduates have difficulty in expressing their thoughts clearly and logically in English, in Filipino, or sometimes even in their mother tongue.

However, it is almost certain that graduates of the new K-to-12 curriculum with MTBMLE will be better prepared for the challenges of the 21st-century workplace.

But what about today’s graduates and job-seekers?

In his article titled “Countries with the Best Business English,” Kenneth Rapoza, a contributing writer of Forbes magazine, cites a Mckinsey & Company study showing that only 13 percent of graduates from emerging countries are suitable for employment in global companies, and that the No. 1 reason is lack of English skills.

Statistics from the IT & Business Process Association of the Philippines (Ibpap) show a hiring hit rate of 8-10 percent, closely resembling the Mckinsey & Company study, mostly for the same reason (i.e., lack of proficiency in Business English).

Furthermore, the Department of Science and Technology’s competency mapping of 20,000 new college graduates vis-à-vis 3,000 new hires using Ibpap’s industry-grade Global Competency Assessment Tool conclusively shows that the widest competency gap between what the IT-business process management industry needs and what our graduates have is in English proficiency (29 percent).
The basic skills of the top 25 percent of students are only 9 percent higher than the average demand of the IT-BPM sector.

To address this issue, Ibpap has its advanced English proficiency training or AdEPT, a blended learning approach wherein Business English concepts learned in the classroom are reinforced through constant practice using an online tool.

Master trainers Zoe Diaz de Rivera and Gino Caliwagan have been busily conducting AdEPT classes for the faculty of a number of public and private universities for the past three years, and they hope to implement AdEPT as widely as possible.

The fact remains, however, that employers still turn away many of our youth because their English skills are below par, despite the Philippines being a country where the English language is deeply entrenched in local culture.

A white paper from the Human Capital Institute and GlobalEnglish titled “Bridging the Talent Crisis created by a New Global Reality” gives us an idea why. It says: “The problem is larger than linguistic skills in English. Being able to conjugate a verb doesn’t translate to the ability to be successful at one’s job.

“Today’s global teams require proficiency in Business English, which embraces the additional skill sets of presentations, meetings, negotiations and conference calls. It also involves topics related to business functions, such as marketing and finance, as well as topics related to business sectors, such as banking and pharmaceuticals.

“The size of the skill gap is huge. When 70 percent of your global workforce speaks English as a second language, communication across global teams can be tricky and frustrating—even counterproductive. Every global company today is composed of an untold number of very smartemployees with cutting-edge knowledge who simply are unable to contribute meaningfully to their global teams.

“Evidence continues to mount that poor English proficiency is fueling—at best—misunderstandings and misalignment across global operations. At worst, so many mistakes are made and delays caused, that productivity plummets destructively.” Butch Hernandez (butchhernandez@gmail.com) is the executive director of the Eggie Apostol Foundation and education lead for talent development at Ibpap.


Should we celebrate Independence Day? SHARES: 186 VIEW COMMENTS By: Red Tani @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer
12:19 AM July 11th, 2015


By: Red Tani

Last month, Lea Salonga took flak for her criticism of Independence Day. She tweeted: “Our country is not yet debt-free, poverty-free, crime-free, or corruption-free. So what are we free from exactly and why do we celebrate it?”

As the United States was celebrating its own Independence Day, I thought it was fitting to answer her question, because the two holidays are so closely linked.
For starters, did you know that we used to celebrate Independence Day on July 4?

To coincide with its own, the United States granted the Philippines independence on July 4, 1946. In 1962, President Diosdado Macapagal declared June 12 a holiday. But it was only in 1964 that July 4 was demoted to “Philippine Republic Day,” and June 12 was officially proclaimed “Philippine Independence Day.”

After declaring martial law, President Ferdinand Marcos wanted to overshadow Republic Day by moving Philippine-American Friendship Day from Nov. 15 to July 4, not even mentioning Republic Day during the proclamation. Marcos did this because after declaring martial law and discarding the 1935 Constitution, he probably didn’t want to remind people of the old republic.

In 1987, President Cory Aquino abolished the Philippine-American Friendship holiday, probably due to pressure from nationalist groups who hated having a colonial holiday. On July 4, 1996, President Fidel Ramos proclaimed July 4 a special day nationwide.

Today, our official government website has a feature on Republic Day, stating that “as of July 4, 2015, the Philippines has been an independent nation for sixty-nine years.”

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But as Lea Salonga asked, have we been truly independent? “What are we free from exactly and why do we celebrate it?”

* * *

I recently spoke at the Asian Humanism Conference held in Singapore, and most of the delegates—even those from Singapore—were envious of our country.

By Lea’s measures—debt, poverty, crime, corruption—Singapore certainly has more to celebrate. Its economy is better: In terms of GDP per capita, Singapore is third and we’re 119th according to the International Monetary Fund.

Its public transportation is better: To supplement its already impressive subway system, it ordered an additional 91 trains last year. We’re barely managing our eight. Its government is less corrupt: Singapore is ranked seventh while we’re 85th in the 2014 Corruption Perception Index.

So why would the Singaporean delegates be envious?

Because there is something we have more than Singapore and the rest of our Southeast Asian neighbors: religious freedom.

The Pew Research Center uses the Government Restrictions Index (GRI) to measure how much governments restrict their citizens’ religious beliefs and practices. Of the 18 countries with a “very high” level of religious restriction, five are from Southeast Asia—Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Burma (Myanmar), and Singapore. Only the Philippines and Cambodia were ranked “low.”

In Brunei, citizens are banned from celebrating Christmas for fear of Muslims being led astray. According to that country’s Ministry of Religious Affairs, Christmas and other “propagations of religions other than Islam” are prohibited in public.

In Indonesia, the Setara Institute has recorded 220 cases of violence against minorities, mostly Christians and Shia Muslims in 2013 alone. In 2012, Alexander Aan was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison for expressing his atheism online. Although the government guarantees religious freedom, it recognizes only six religions (nonbelief is unrecognized) and blasphemy is illegal.

Singapore’s restrictions are certainly more subtle, but they’re definitely there. The organizers of the humanist conference I attended had to clear so many hurdles for the simple reason that religion was going to be discussed. Initially, speakers from outside Singapore were required to get work permits. The organizers had to make the event members-only to remove that requirement.

But upon arrival, speakers still had to fill out a government form agreeing not to say anything that criticized religion. Throughout the planning, preparation, and execution of the event, the organizers apologized for what was quite clearly government censorship.

Yet all this is an inconvenience compared to what Amos Yee has been through. In March, Yee, a 16-year-old blogger, was arrested for criticizing Lee Kuan Yew and Jesus on YouTube.

On June 23, Yee was sent to the Institute of Mental Health for “reformative training” because prosecutors argued that simply putting him in jail would have no rehabilitative effect. On July 6, he received a backdated (June 2) four-week jail sentence, which means he’s finally free, albeit with a criminal record at 16 years old.

Yee is free, thanks in no small part to those who criticized the Singaporean government for not respecting his basic freedoms—particularly freedom of religion and freedom of speech—freedoms we in the Philippines often take for granted.

Together with the freedom of the press, freedom to assemble, and freedom to petition, these five freedoms make up the First Amendment to the US Constitution, after which our own Constitution is patterned. Compared to Catholicism, I believe this colonial legacy is far more valuable.

The Philippines may be poor, but we can take comfort in whatever religion or belief system we so choose. Our government may be corrupt, but we can curse and criticize our leaders without fearing harm or imprisonment.

We may not be as developed as Singapore or Malaysia, but we have more freedom to fight for better conditions than either of those countries. That battle is far from over. But the fact that we can fight is a freedom worth celebrating.

Red Tani is the founder and president of the Filipino Freethinkers.


Racist rant SHARES: 1 VIEW COMMENTS @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 01:27 AM July 12th, 2015


CARTOON SOURCE: http://chavahbillin.blogspot.ca/ 

Donald Trump, whose middle name is controversy, has done it again, and some folks aren’t taking it.

The Donald recently announced his intention to run for president of the United States as a candidate of the Republican Party in 2016. But it wasn’t this announcement, bizarre though as it may have been, that caught wide public attention.

What did was his startling rant about Mexican immigrants in America: “When Mexico sends its people, they’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

The rant set off a firestorm of outrage, as well it should—the result being a mass pullout by persons and institutions from deals with Trump and events produced by and associated with him, including that old American standby, the Miss USA pageant, and the bigger Miss Universe franchise. Having sown his wind, Trump is now reaping the whirlwind.

Quite predictably, Mexico announced that it would not be sending a representative to the Miss Universe competition, an annual celebration of pulchritude and national identity. Chef Jose Andres, Macy’s department store chain, the Spanish television network Univision, the racing car entity Nascar, sporting network ESPN, and golfing associations such as the PGA Tour have severed ties with Trump, doing away with events that bear his name and removing relevant merchandise from sight.

The American network giant NBC, Trump’s partner in airing the Miss America and Miss Universe pageants, announced that it was cutting him loose and no longer airing those events. Even Trump’s trademark show, “The Apprentice,” will now go on without him. The Republican Party is reportedly both embarrassed and terrified by his actions.

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But Trump is hardly remorseful despite all the protests. Given the opportunity to take back his remarks—“unjust and hurtful,” according to Miss Universe 2014 Paulina Vega of Colombia—he refused, even adding that he had not been misquoted in any way. “If there was something stated incorrectly, it would have been brought up immediately and with great enthusiasm. The issues I have addressed, and continue to address, are vital steps to make America great again!” the mogul wrote in a statement.

“Additionally, I would be the best jobs president that God ever created. Let’s get to work!”

He even found a small cable network to air the Miss USA pageant.

But thanks to his offensive speech, the pageant will not have Filipino-American celebrity Cheryl Burke as cohost. Burke, who gained fame in the popular “Dancing With the Stars,” where she notched 18 seasons, posted a statement on Facebook explaining why she was pulling out of hosting duties: “In light of the recent statements made by Donald Trump and the subsequent decision by NBC to cut ties with Mr. Trump, I cannot in good conscience move forward with participating in this year’s Miss USA pageant as its cohost.”

The pageant has lost as well one of its judges: Miss Universe 2012 Olivia Culpo, who, as Miss Rhode Island, was the first American contestant to win the title since 1997. “I believe … that no person should be marginalized due to shape, color, or belief,” Culpo said, adding:

“I still feel a strong sense of loyalty to the people within the [Miss Universe] organization. …[I]t kills me to think that their livelihood could be affected because of what Trump said. … Unfortunately, though, I had to pull away from the pageant because I could not be involved with a clear conscience. … I also felt that I had to stand up for what I believe in. I applaud the actions that many have taken around the country and hope this unfortunate situation serves as a catalyst for future change.”

Kudos. These women and others like them—in the Philippines as well, in connection with other racist offenses—are walking their talk and challenging others to do the same.

Whether in a local or international setting, when someone as powerful as Trump behaves in the manner of a caveman, it is important that umbrage be taken and a clear statement be quickly made not only in words but also in action. There is just no room for racism in this global village.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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