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EDITORIALS & OPINIONS OF THE WEEK:
(Mini Reads followed by Full news commentary)

FROM THE MANILA BULLETIN

EDITORIAL: OUR MOUNTING NATIONAL DEBT


AUGUST 10 --
Sometime ago we noted that the government’s dole-out program, the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) or Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Progam (4Ps) of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) is being financed partly by foreign loans from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the World Bank (WB). Since 2008, these loans have amounted to $805 million.
It has now turned out that the borrowed funds for CCT are only a small part of what the national government has been borrowing to fund the annual national budget. For the 2016 national budget of P3.002 trillion, the government can cover only P2.7 trillion through tax collections, non-tax revenues, and privatization projects. The balance of P306 billion will have to come from new borrowings.  Of the old loans, P347 billion will be maturing next year, and additional funds must again be borrowed to pay the amortizations on these loans. By year-end, the total national debt will be P6.2 trillion. This total national burden, if divided among the nation’s 101 million Filipinos at the end of the year – including the babies yet unborn – would mean each one of us owes P61,205, according to Kabataan party-list Rep. Terry Ridon. It is a bit of a letdown to learn that we don’t have enough funds of our own for our national budget, that we have to borrow from both local and foreign sources. It somehow detracts from the rosy picture of our economy presented by our high Gross Domestic Product (GDP) increase. READ MORE...

ALSO EDITORIAL: Raising a quorum for important bills


AUGUST 12 --A former party-list congressman lamented the other day that members of both majority and opposition parties in the House of Representatives appear to have “misguided priorities.” They appeared in full force at the political rallies of their prospective presidential candidates, such as the Club Filipino show of support for Liberal Party annointee Secretary Mar Roxas. But they have not been attending sessions of the House, resulting in a lack of quorum for such important legislation as the Security of Tenure bill, the Anti-Dynasty bill, and the Freedom of Information bill.
Partido Manggagawa’s former representative in the House Renato Magtubo should know that the lack of quorum is not a problem alone for those pushing for these three bills. For two weeks since July 27, there was no quorum in the House for hearings on the proposed P3.002-trillion National Budget and the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL). The National Budget and the BBL are the two most important items on the legislative agenda of the House. Opposition solons are out to question many provisions of the budget bill containing billions in lump-sum appropriations which, they fear, will be used by the administration to push their candidates in the fast-approaching elections. As for the BBL, this is the Aquino administration’s legacy bill. It has gone through a gauntlet of severe criticism and opposition, notably after the Mamasapano incident in which 44 Special Action Force commandos were killed at the hands of Moro combatants, including the Moro Islamic Liberation Force (MILF), the principal mover of BBL. While the BBL has been approved by a 75-member ad hoc committee assigned to study it, it has yet to meet House plenary approval. If quorums cannot be gathered for these two key administration measures, we cannot expect much more enthusiasm for the Security of Tenure, Anti-Dynasty, and Freedom of Information bills. The last two, in particular, are seen as going against the basic interests of most of the present members of Congress, many of whom belong to political dynasties. The only thing seen as a bright sign for the Anti-Dynasty bill is President Aquino’s appeal for its approval in his State of the Nation Address. READ MORE...

ALSO Editorial: What’s wrong with ‘autonomous region’?


AUGUST 15 --Chairman Mohager Iqbal, chairman of the peace negotiating panel of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), called on Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, chairman of the 75-member ad hoc committee that held hearings on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), and asked that the House restore the title of the bill to Bangsamoro Basic Law from its revised title “Basic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region.” The request reflects the continuing rigidity of the MILF position. It continues to insist on the original wording of the proposed law. It wants no change in the original language on the right to self-determination of the Bangsamoro people. It wants to restore the term “territory” in the proposed law, not “geographical area” of the region. It wants to restore the original provisions on the rights of the Bangsamoro people to their ancestral domains and natural resources. But these are provisions that many Philippine officials believe should be reworded or refined because, taken all together, they seemed to create a substate with legal rights denied other parts of the country, raising questions over their constitutionality. The changes in the House bill are minor compared to those impending in the Senate. There Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., chairman of the Senate Committee on Local Government, has filed a substitute bill which gives a key role to the other major Moro combat force – the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) – which had been largely ignored in the MILF-sponsored BBL. The Senate draft includes an MNLF representative in the Bangsamoro Transition Authority which shall organize the new region. READ MORE...

ALSO Editorial: Cordillera’s appeal for greater autonomy


AUGUST 8 --It is not generally known that the leaders of the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) have been striving to establish a stronger regional identity and get the same attention that the national government has been giving to the Bangsamoro region. Section 15 of Article X – Local Government – of the Philippine Constitution provides: “There shall be created autonomous regions in Muslim Mindanao and in the Cordilleras consisting of provinces, cities, municipalities, and geographical areas sharing common and distinctive historical and cultural heritage, economic and social structures, and other relevant characteristics within the framework of this Constitution and the national sovereignty as well as territorial integrity of the Republic of the Philippines.”  Soon after the Constitution was ratified in 1987, Congress created the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and the CAR. The Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) now being pushed by the Aquino administration after signing a peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) seeks to replace the ARMM with the Bangsamoro. This it seeks to achieve with the BBL which has been at the center of national attention all these many months. The other day, Mayor Mauricio Domogan of Baguio City said the Cordillera deserves the same privileges being accorded to the Bangsamoro. Unfortunately, he said, the national government has been indifferent to the Cordillera’s bid for greater autonomy. President Aquino did not even mention it in his final State of the Nation Address (SONA), the mayor lamented. The mayor said he has asked the President to certify as urgent Cordillera autonomy bills filed by former Rep. Bernardo Vergara and now Rep. Nicanor Aliping – to no avail. READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

Editorial: Our mounting national debt

MANILA, AUGUST 17, 2015 (MANILA BULLETIN) Aug 10, 2015 - Sometime ago we noted that the government’s dole-out program, the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) or Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Progam (4Ps) of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) is being financed partly by foreign loans from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the World Bank (WB).

Since 2008, these loans have amounted to $805 million.

It has now turned out that the borrowed funds for CCT are only a small part of what the national government has been borrowing to fund the annual national budget. For the 2016 national budget of P3.002 trillion, the government can cover only P2.7 trillion through tax collections, non-tax revenues, and privatization projects.

The balance of P306 billion will have to come from new borrowings. 

Of the old loans, P347 billion will be maturing next year, and additional funds must again be borrowed to pay the amortizations on these loans. By year-end, the total national debt will be P6.2 trillion.

This total national burden, if divided among the nation’s 101 million Filipinos at the end of the year – including the babies yet unborn – would mean each one of us owes P61,205, according to Kabataan party-list Rep. Terry Ridon.

It is a bit of a letdown to learn that we don’t have enough funds of our own for our national budget, that we have to borrow from both local and foreign sources. It somehow detracts from the rosy picture of our economy presented by our high Gross Domestic Product (GDP) increase.

READ MORE...

We realize that borrowing is an accepted practice by governments the world over, but economic planners must always maintain a proper balance in their borrowing, budgeting, and spending, lest the country fall into an abyss such as that in which Greece now finds itself.

Greece failed to meet its obligations to international banks and has asked for a new aid program to bail it out of its problem.

Ideally, borrowed funds should be used for productive programs, such as the establishment of industries, so that the country’s income will rise and provide it with resources to pay back its loans. A dole-out program like the CCT does not look like much of a productive program.

In the last few months, there have also been exposés of government funds being lost in scams like the pork barrel – Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) – cases. Pork barrel is supposed to have been eliminated in the 2016 National Budget, but it is charged that it is still there, hidden in the huge lump-sum appropriations without itemization, that the Department of Budget and Management can later release, following its own understanding of what the lump sums are for.

Viewed against such practices as CCT dole-outs and pork barrel scams, the government’s borrowing in the billions of pesos does not inspire much optimism in the government’s economic performance.

It may be a very remote possibility that we will ever fall into the kind of hole in which Greece now finds itself. But it is a possibility, nevertheless, that we should guard against.

We must ensure that today’s borrowing without sufficient returns in terms of development will not deal a serious blow to future generations of Filipinos.


EDITORIAL: Raising a quorum for important bills August 12, 2015 Share0 Tweet3 Share0 Email0 Share5

A former party-list congressman lamented the other day that members of both majority and opposition parties in the House of Representatives appear to have “misguided priorities.” They appeared in full force at the political rallies of their prospective presidential candidates, such as the Club Filipino show of support for Liberal Party annointee Secretary Mar Roxas. But they have not been attending sessions of the House, resulting in a lack of quorum for such important legislation as the Security of Tenure bill, the Anti-Dynasty bill, and the Freedom of Information bill.

Partido Manggagawa’s former representative in the House Renato Magtubo should know that the lack of quorum is not a problem alone for those pushing for these three bills. For two weeks since July 27, there was no quorum in the House for hearings on the proposed P3.002-trillion National Budget and the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

The National Budget and the BBL are the two most important items on the legislative agenda of the House. Opposition solons are out to question many provisions of the budget bill containing billions in lump-sum appropriations which, they fear, will be used by the administration to push their candidates in the fast-approaching elections.

As for the BBL, this is the Aquino administration’s legacy bill. It has gone through a gauntlet of severe criticism and opposition, notably after the Mamasapano incident in which 44 Special Action Force commandos were killed at the hands of Moro combatants, including the Moro Islamic Liberation Force (MILF), the principal mover of BBL. While the BBL has been approved by a 75-member ad hoc committee assigned to study it, it has yet to meet House plenary approval.

If quorums cannot be gathered for these two key administration measures, we cannot expect much more enthusiasm for the Security of Tenure, Anti-Dynasty, and Freedom of Information bills. The last two, in particular, are seen as going against the basic interests of most of the present members of Congress, many of whom belong to political dynasties. The only thing seen as a bright sign for the Anti-Dynasty bill is President Aquino’s appeal for its approval in his State of the Nation Address.

READ MORE...

The Freedom of Information bill has even less chance of approval. This is one measure that most public officials, in whatever branch of government they may be in, are not inclined to agree with. For it opens to public scrutiny so many of their internal operations and documents that they would rather not disclose – such as amounts earned or lost in government transactions.

There is very little time left in Congress before it adjourns on October 9. Then most of its members will be filing certificates of candidacy for reelection or for new government positions and the 2016 election campaign begins. With so little time left, all possible efforts will be exerted by the administration to push for the National Budget and for the BBL.

As for the Anti-Dynasty and the Freedom of Information bills, let us hope that the members of Congress will make a special effort for these controversial measures. It should be a source of pride for them to be members of the Congress which finally approved these historic bills in the face of so much opposition for so many years.


Editorial: What’s wrong with ‘autonomous region’? August 15, 2015 Share0 Tweet0 Share0 Email0 Share19

Chairman Mohager Iqbal, chairman of the peace negotiating panel of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), called on Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, chairman of the 75-member ad hoc committee that held hearings on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), and asked that the House restore the title of the bill to Bangsamoro Basic Law from its revised title “Basic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region.”

The request reflects the continuing rigidity of the MILF position. It continues to insist on the original wording of the proposed law. It wants no change in the original language on the right to self-determination of the Bangsamoro people. It wants to restore the term “territory” in the proposed law, not “geographical area” of the region. It wants to restore the original provisions on the rights of the Bangsamoro people to their ancestral domains and natural resources.

But these are provisions that many Philippine officials believe should be reworded or refined because, taken all together, they seemed to create a substate with legal rights denied other parts of the country, raising questions over their constitutionality.

The changes in the House bill are minor compared to those impending in the Senate. There Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., chairman of the Senate Committee on Local Government, has filed a substitute bill which gives a key role to the other major Moro combat force – the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) – which had been largely ignored in the MILF-sponsored BBL. The Senate draft includes an MNLF representative in the Bangsamoro Transition Authority which shall organize the new region.

READ MORE...

The MILF as well as the Aquino administration which entered into the original Bangsamoro agreement (which, incidentally, has been raised to the Supreme Court as unconstitutional by the Philippine Constitution Association) should be ready to accept that the original BBL cannot possibly pass Congress “as is.”

Even now, there is a problem in getting a quorum in the House and Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales says there is an apparent attempt by some lawmakers to avert its enactment. Some congressmen are probably concerned that their reelection chances may suffer if they are identified with a bill with which most of their constituents do not agree.

Still the hope and the expectation is there, that the BBL will be approved by Congress because of President Aquino’s all-out support. But the MILF would be wise to quit demanding the reinstatement of certain provisions deemed unconstitutional and otherwise unacceptable. If it insists on even removing the term “autonomous region” in the bill’s title, the members of Congress might think it is not for autonomy at all, but perhaps for something more.


Editorial: Cordillera’s appeal for greater autonomy August 8, 2015 Share2 Tweet0 Share0 Email0 Share39

It is not generally known that the leaders of the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) have been striving to establish a stronger regional identity and get the same attention that the national government has been giving to the Bangsamoro region.

Section 15 of Article X – Local Government – of the Philippine Constitution provides: “There shall be created autonomous regions in Muslim Mindanao and in the Cordilleras consisting of provinces, cities, municipalities, and geographical areas sharing common and distinctive historical and cultural heritage, economic and social structures, and other relevant characteristics within the framework of this Constitution and the national sovereignty as well as territorial integrity of the Republic of the Philippines.”

Soon after the Constitution was ratified in 1987, Congress created the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and the CAR. The Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) now being pushed by the Aquino administration after signing a peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) seeks to replace the ARMM with the Bangsamoro. This it seeks to achieve with the BBL which has been at the center of national attention all these many months.

The other day, Mayor Mauricio Domogan of Baguio City said the Cordillera deserves the same privileges being accorded to the Bangsamoro.

Unfortunately, he said, the national government has been indifferent to the Cordillera’s bid for greater autonomy. President Aquino did not even mention it in his final State of the Nation Address (SONA), the mayor lamented. The mayor said he has asked the President to certify as urgent Cordillera autonomy bills filed by former Rep. Bernardo Vergara and now Rep. Nicanor Aliping – to no avail.

READ MORE...

With the national government’s current drive to get the BBL approved in Congress, it does not seem likely that the Aquino administration, now in its last few months in office, will heed the Cordillera leaders’ appeal.

The administration probably thinks that pushing the Cordillera issue might dilute its present concentration on the Bangsamoro. The people of the Cordillera may have to wait for the next administration to achieve their goal of greater autonomy.

We can only commiserate with the Cordillera people and their leaders who have carried on their campaign for greater autonomy without the conflicts and the violence that have long plagued Mindanao.

There is this wider move for a federal form of government for the Philippines, in which all the regions of the country – not just the Bangsamoro and the Cordillera – would become autonomous regions united under a national federation, somewhat like the United States with its 50 states or the Malaysia with its 13 states.

That will be farther into the future as it will require amendment of the Constitution but the groundwork must start even now.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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