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

EDITORIAL: VEERING OFF SCRIPT


JULY 27 -A Palace official told the media Sunday that President Rodrigo Duterte’s first State of the Nation Address on Monday would be brief and heart-rending at the same time. It would be so touching, promised the spokesman, that people would fight back tears as they listened.
Many Filipinos had this expectation upon seeing Mr. Duterte alight from the presidential chopper a few minutes before he was due to speak. The address lasted much longer than the 38 minutes that was promised, and was hardly the poignant piece it was built up to be. In fact, seeming to get tired of the prepared speech that he had to read on the screen, President Duterte in no time launched into spontaneous statements, treating his speech as a mere guide.To be sure, what came off was not as succinct, direct and inspiring as, say, his inaugural address on June 30. In fact, Mr. Duterte’s first Sona hewed closer to the ramblings he had displayed in the press conferences he called in the days leading to his inauguration. He reverted to topics he had already taken up. One could not predict where the speech was going or whether it was bound to end soon. That he engaged an award-winning director was irrelevant. Indeed if there were those who cried, they could have done so out of frustration at the address’ structure—or the lack of it. But this is just form. Mr. Duterte’s first Sona cannot be faulted for lacking in substance. He started with comforting words—that vindictiveness was not in his system—an obvious reference to his immediate predecessor who was conspicuously absent from the gallery. But the comfort was temporary as he enumerated the numerous and multi-faceted ills that the country faced, and how he intended to deal with them. READ MORE...

ALSO: By Jojo Robles - Two ex-presidents


JULY 27 -by Jojo Robles
The old soldier hasn’t died yet. In fact, he’s staging a mighty comeback as special Philippine envoy to the People’s Republic of China. Fidel Valdez Ramos, our oldest living ex-president, is also one of the latest appointees of the Duterte administration, having just accepted his assignment as personal representative of the president to bilateral talks with our superpower neighbor. I know of no one in this country who deserves to be called “elder statesman” more than FVR, and not just because of his advanced age. The Chinese, who must know of Ramos’ stature and seniority, should be flattered with his designation. President Rodrigo Duterte is certainly giving the post-arbitral negotiations with China the respect they deserve —especially at a time when Beijing wants to be treated with a lot more respect than usual, having just lost in the case filed by Manila in The Hague. And Ramos is not just a distinguished former president: He also comes from a family of top diplomats who have had excellent ties with the Chinese in the past. Ramos is also a foremost exponent of the policy of bilateralism and of regional cooperation through the Asean. There is, quite simply, no one more suited to the special envoy’s job than he is. Of course, Ramos has retired from the presidency for nearly two decades now, which is why he needed some time to think things over after he was offered the post by Duterte. “What if I croak?” he asked reporters with his usual dry humor when they wanted to know if he was going to take the job. But in the end, I think Ramos simply could not say no to the request of Duterte, who has publicly declared that it was FVR who convinced him to run for president. Because Ramos must somehow feel responsible for Duterte’s victory, he cannot very well deny the new president his services, especially on such a sensitive and important matter as Philippine-Chinese relations moving forward from the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration. But Ramos also asked that Duterte convene the National Security Council, the highest policy-making body of government, which includes all former presidents before he takes on the job. And FVR can certainly use an infusion of the latest information and policy directions before he embarks on his new mission. As a long-time admirer of Ramos, I wish him all the luck. I pray that he uses his gifts of wisdom, experience and perspicacity in order to steer us confidently into the new day of our long-running relationship with the Chinese under Duterte. Mabuhay ka, FVR. Kaya mo yan, sir! READ MORE...The other ex-President....

ALSO: By Alejandro Del Rosario - Duterte’s message


JULY 27 -by Alejandro Del Rosario
His State of the Nation Address took an hour longer than the half hour earlier announced by Malacañang. The President’s message came across as simple, but serious—particularly his all-out war against illegal drugs. But we didn’t hear anything that Palace Communication Secretary Martin Andanar said made him cry after reading the draft of the speech. If at all, Digong ad libbed to crack jokes and asides in Filipino; the diplomats in the gallery must have been puzzled. But it was a good, straightforward speech that did not contain some of the mundane and inane (bordering on the insane) Sona of Digong’s immediate predecessor. “We want the peace of the living but you [drug pushers]can have the peace of the dead,” said Duterte in his grim warning to those who are ruining the lives of the youth and spiking the crime rate. He vowed that the government campaign on illegal drugs won’t let up and will be relentless until the last drug trafficker is gone. More than 200 suspected drug pushers have been killed since the police started cracking down on the drug trade. Because of the similar manner in the way the suspects were killed—shot dead because they fired on arresting policemen—there is a sneaking suspicion the suspects were silenced so they couldn’t implicate some policemen involved in drug trafficking. Duterte himself has named five police generals involved as protectors of drug lords. Another striking part of Duterte’s speech was making clear his administration won’t play the blame game on his predecessors. “What we should do is to extract lessons from the past with an eye to applying them to the present and the future,” said Duterte. Although he did not mention former President Benigno S. Aquino III who skipped the Sona, it was an obvious reference to PNoy who during his term consistently blamed former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo for all the ills plaguing his administration. READ MORE...


ALSO: National railway


JULY 29 -The government, finally, is coming up with a national railway system to spur countryside development and decongest traffic in urban centers. The Philippines really requires a total railway system to speed up the flow of goods and services and achieve inclusive growth. Philippine planners can take lessons from the experience of the United States after America built its first transcontinental railroad in the 1860s. The US railroad network revolutionized the economy, produced jobs and created allied industries and many economic opportunities. President Rodrigo Duterte, in his first State of the Nation Address Monday, said his government would pursue train systems in Metro Manila and major key points in the country, including the Mindanao Rail Project. He revealed plans to build the Davao Transit System, Cebu Transit System, the North and South Luzon Railways and Panay Railways Project through a partnership with the private sector.The Transportation Department in 2011 proposed to build a rail project that would span the whole Mindanao with a total length of 2,000 kilometers. Obviously, the proposal did not take off, like other similar infrastructure projects that never went past the planning stage during the term of former President Benigno Aquino III. READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

EDITORIAL: Veering off script

MANILA, AUGUST 1, 2016 (MANILA STANDARD) posted July 26, 2016 at 12:01 am - A Palace official told the media Sunday that President Rodrigo Duterte’s first State of the Nation Address on Monday would be brief and heart-rending at the same time. It would be so touching, promised the spokesman, that people would fight back tears as they listened.

Many Filipinos had this expectation upon seeing Mr. Duterte alight from the presidential chopper a few minutes before he was due to speak. The address lasted much longer than the 38 minutes that was promised, and was hardly the poignant piece it was built up to be. In fact, seeming to get tired of the prepared speech that he had to read on the screen, President Duterte in no time launched into spontaneous statements, treating his speech as a mere guide.

To be sure, what came off was not as succinct, direct and inspiring as, say, his inaugural address on June 30. In fact, Mr. Duterte’s first Sona hewed closer to the ramblings he had displayed in the press conferences he called in the days leading to his inauguration. He reverted to topics he had already taken up. One could not predict where the speech was going or whether it was bound to end soon. That he engaged an award-winning director was irrelevant. Indeed if there were those who cried, they could have done so out of frustration at the address’ structure—or the lack of it.

But this is just form.

Mr. Duterte’s first Sona cannot be faulted for lacking in substance. He started with comforting words—that vindictiveness was not in his system—an obvious reference to his immediate predecessor who was conspicuously absent from the gallery. But the comfort was temporary as he enumerated the numerous and multi-faceted ills that the country faced, and how he intended to deal with them.

READ MORE...

There were significant announcements made: sustaining the fight against drugs, lowering income taxes, declaring a unilateral ceasefire with the National Democratic Front, ensuring that the reproductive health law would be implemented in its entirety, improving the state of agriculture in the country, and pushing for the shift to a federal form of government.

Aside from these, the President also touched, among others, on the environment, the dispute with China, peace in Mindanao, infrastructure, traffic and other transport woes, and media killings.

These do not tell us that the President does not know how to focus. It instead affirms that the issues the country contends with are at the same time overwhelming and simultaneous. Change is hard to come by under this setting, but it will be occasioned, nonetheless.

The President, as shown in his Sona, is not an eloquent speaker. This is easily forgotten in the face of his decisiveness and his confidence that the fight against these ills will be sustained and relentless. We would rather observe how solutions are delivered, rather than indulge in feel-good tears.


Two ex-presidents posted July 27, 2016 at 12:01 am by Jojo Robles


by Jojo Robles

The old soldier hasn’t died yet. In fact, he’s staging a mighty comeback as special Philippine envoy to the People’s Republic of China.

Fidel Valdez Ramos, our oldest living ex-president, is also one of the latest appointees of the Duterte administration, having just accepted his assignment as personal representative of the president to bilateral talks with our superpower neighbor. I know of no one in this country who deserves to be called “elder statesman” more than FVR, and not just because of his advanced age.

The Chinese, who must know of Ramos’ stature and seniority, should be flattered with his designation. President Rodrigo Duterte is certainly giving the post-arbitral negotiations with China the respect they deserve —especially at a time when Beijing wants to be treated with a lot more respect than usual, having just lost in the case filed by Manila in The Hague.

And Ramos is not just a distinguished former president: He also comes from a family of top diplomats who have had excellent ties with the Chinese in the past.

Ramos is also a foremost exponent of the policy of bilateralism and of regional cooperation through the Asean. There is, quite simply, no one more suited to the special envoy’s job than he is.

Of course, Ramos has retired from the presidency for nearly two decades now, which is why he needed some time to think things over after he was offered the post by Duterte. “What if I croak?” he asked reporters with his usual dry humor when they wanted to know if he was going to take the job.

But in the end, I think Ramos simply could not say no to the request of Duterte, who has publicly declared that it was FVR who convinced him to run for president. Because Ramos must somehow feel responsible for Duterte’s victory, he cannot very well deny the new president his services, especially on such a sensitive and important matter as Philippine-Chinese relations moving forward from the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration.

But Ramos also asked that Duterte convene the National Security Council, the highest policy-making body of government, which includes all former presidents before he takes on the job. And FVR can certainly use an infusion of the latest information and policy directions before he embarks on his new mission.

As a long-time admirer of Ramos, I wish him all the luck. I pray that he uses his gifts of wisdom, experience and perspicacity in order to steer us confidently into the new day of our long-running relationship with the Chinese under Duterte.

Mabuhay ka, FVR. Kaya mo yan, sir!

READ MORE...

* * *

Last Monday, President Rodrigo Duterte said he had no time to waste on blaming his predecessor. But Noynoy Aquino stayed away from the Batasang Pambansa, just to be on the safe side.

I’ve always maintained that Aquino was a fake tough guy, anyway. The tough-talking, kanto boy-sounding Noynoy, after all, was just a figment of his speechwriters’ imagination; the guy lived a rich kid’s sheltered life until his mother died, an event that propelled him almost immediately afterwards to the presidency—a job that put even more distance between him and the people and the daily realities that they face.

And so I wasn’t surprised that Aquino, when the very first opportunity presented itself to him to face people who did not belong to his household now that he is no longer the all-powerful president, refused to leave 25 Times Street. Aquino said he wanted to watch Duterte’s first State of the Nation Address at home on television, so he would not be distracted.

But Aquino was lying again, just like he lied so many times during the six years that he was president. The truth is, he was scared.

He was scared of being blamed for the wrong things he did and didn’t do while he was still in office by someone like Duterte, who by now has a fairly accurate idea of what went down in the last six years. And he was deathly afraid of being anywhere near his own predecessor, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, just recently freed by the Supreme Court after six years of judicial persecution on Noynoy’s orders.

He was scared to see all the congressmen and senators whom he bribed and bullied in order to have his way with them. He was probably ashamed to see what they did right after he left the presidency, which is to leave his party en masse, after they had professed their loyalty to him for six long years.

Perhaps he was even scared of facing the media, who would still point their microphones at him but who would be treating him with markedly less respect, now that he’s just another ex-president. Or perhaps he is frightened of being with so many important people and having none of his sisters (who have played the tag-team role of his mother’s replacement) around.

And so, Aquino was the only living ex-president who didn’t go to Duterte’s Sona. And you know what else?

I think nobody really cared.


Duterte’s message posted July 27, 2016 at 12:01 am by Alejandro Del Rosario


by Alejandro Del Rosario

His State of the Nation Address took an hour longer than the half hour earlier announced by Malacañang. The President’s message came across as simple, but serious—particularly his all-out war against illegal drugs.

But we didn’t hear anything that Palace Communication Secretary Martin Andanar said made him cry after reading the draft of the speech. If at all, Digong ad libbed to crack jokes and asides in Filipino; the diplomats in the gallery must have been puzzled.

But it was a good, straightforward speech that did not contain some of the mundane and inane (bordering on the insane) Sona of Digong’s immediate predecessor.

“We want the peace of the living but you [drug pushers]can have the peace of the dead,” said Duterte in his grim warning to those who are ruining the lives of the youth and spiking the crime rate. He vowed that the government campaign on illegal drugs won’t let up and will be relentless until the last drug trafficker is gone.

More than 200 suspected drug pushers have been killed since the police started cracking down on the drug trade. Because of the similar manner in the way the suspects were killed—shot dead because they fired on arresting policemen—there is a sneaking suspicion the suspects were silenced so they couldn’t implicate some policemen involved in drug trafficking. Duterte himself has named five police generals involved as protectors of drug lords.

Another striking part of Duterte’s speech was making clear his administration won’t play the blame game on his predecessors.

“What we should do is to extract lessons from the past with an eye to applying them to the present and the future,” said Duterte. Although he did not mention former President Benigno S. Aquino III who skipped the Sona, it was an obvious reference to PNoy who during his term consistently blamed former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo for all the ills plaguing his administration.

READ MORE...

Arroyo, whose case was dismissed by the Supreme Court last week for lack of evidence, was in the Batasan audience together with former Presidents Joseph Estrada and Fidel V. Ramos, who has been named as special envoy to China. Duterte’s Sona did not dwell too much on the Philippines winning its case against China before The Hague permanent court of arbitration which rejected China’s sweeping claim over the South China Sea.

He did not want to appear to gloat since he’s sending FVR to talk to the Chinese and work out a settlement that does not make China lose face in the international community. This is the right approach. Hopefully, Beijing appreciates this gesture and softens its hard- line stance on the South China Sea territorial dispute.

In his quest for nationwide peace, Duterte also announced a unilateral ceasefire effective immediately with the communist New People’s Army and to push through with the Bangsamoro Basic Law after it has been rid of its constitutional defects.

This is a step in the right direction even as the President clarified that the BBL might have to give way or later be subsumed by his proposed federal form of government.

Duterte announced a raise in personal and corporate income taxes but there are those who wished he had instead increased the Social Security pension to P2,000. This was vetoed by Aquino just before he stepped down from office.

There were strange occurrences in this year’s Sona.

For once, leftist militants did march on the Batasan venue not to protest but show support for Duterte because of his government program to address poverty and implement agrarian reform. With this pro-poor policy, Duterte also appointed some personalities identified with the cause of leftist groups.

Duterte also toned down the yearly fashion parade on the red carpet by legislators’ wives and sometimes by the female legislators themselves. His business attire only requirement and simple food fare after the Sona consisted of mongo soup and sweet native delicacies—no more lavish feasts at the expense of taxpayers.

Duterte struck the right chord to gain the support of the masses. He will, however, have to spell out specifically how he will implement his vision for reform. So many previous presidents have made such pronouncements for change but failed in its implementation during their six-year term.

The people, nevertheless, are counting on Duterte to be the first president to fulfill this promise. This is the nature of the Filipino—to be sanguine and still hope for change despite having been disappointed so many times before.


National railway posted July 29, 2016 at 12:01 am



The government, finally, is coming up with a national railway system to spur countryside development and decongest traffic in urban centers. The Philippines really requires a total railway system to speed up the flow of goods and services and achieve inclusive growth.

Philippine planners can take lessons from the experience of the United States after America built its first transcontinental railroad in the 1860s. The US railroad network revolutionized the economy, produced jobs and created allied industries and many economic opportunities.

President Rodrigo Duterte, in his first State of the Nation Address Monday, said his government would pursue train systems in Metro Manila and major key points in the country, including the Mindanao Rail Project. He revealed plans to build the Davao Transit System, Cebu Transit System, the North and South Luzon Railways and Panay Railways Project through a partnership with the private sector.

The Transportation Department in 2011 proposed to build a rail project that would span the whole Mindanao with a total length of 2,000 kilometers. Obviously, the proposal did not take off, like other similar infrastructure projects that never went past the planning stage during the term of former President Benigno Aquino III.

READ MORE...

The railway system is one of the most efficient modes of transporting crops and other farm produce from the agricultural fields to major gateways like seaports and airports. It can significantly reduce freight cost when the goods are shipped by bulk and avoid road perils, especially during the rainy season. It is also a good alternative for the commuting public and offers a more predictable travel time when properly managed.

The rail system, moreover, is expected to decongest traffic. The plan of port operator International Container Terminal Services Inc. and a unit of Manila Electric Co. to invest P10 billion over two years to revive a container rail service from Manila to Calamba, Laguna is one example. The companies offered to operate a freight train service along the existing tracks of Philippine National Railways, or a minimum of eight round trips per day, with an average daily container transfer of 600 twenty-equivalent units from the ICTSI-owned Laguna Gateway Inland Container Terminal and vice versa.

The Duterte administration should pursue all these railway networks in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. The Philippines needs a total railway network to link every production center in all corners of the country to strategic markets.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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