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

EDITORIAL: DRUG ADDICTS NEED REHABILITATION


OCTOBER 10 -What shall we do with the hundreds of thousands of drug addicts who have surrendered to the police for fear that they may be killed in the ongoing anti-drugs campaign of the administration? When the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights began its inquiry a month ago, Director General Ronald dela Rosa, chief of the Philippine National Police, reported that some 670,000 drug users and pushers had already yielded to authorities, while over 11,000 had been arrested, and nearly 2,000 killed. The figures have since gone up considerably. The death toll has now exceeded 3,000. President Duterte cited this figure when he said before Filipinos in Hanoi, Vietnam, that he would be “happy to slaughter” three million drug addicts in the Philippines “to save the next generation from perdition.” READ MORE...

ALSO FEATURE: Aussie think-tank - Duterte gave Washington, Beijing ‘one big gift’ -by Dobeil


OCTOBER 11 -President Xi Jinping, President Rodrigo Duterte / Manila Bulletin file photo
Rodrigo Roa Duterte may be the most inscrutable president the Philippines and the world has known, but he may have unwittingly given both the United States and China “a big gift.” In his piece Duterte changes the South China Sea tone, Graeme Dobell – a journalist-fellow with the Canberra-based Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) – said in spite of the maddening ways of the Philippine President, Duterte was able to deliver “benefits to both China and the United States.” “His swing towards China offers Beijing all sorts of goodies, from the possibility of a bilateral deal in the South China Sea (SCS) to a chance to unbalance the US rebalance,” he pointed out, noting that Duterte could have “changed the immediate tone of the SCS argument at an otherwise dangerous moment.” Dobell explained that “the fresh opening [Duterte] offers China creates an important pause in a dangerous chain of events. The volatile president met a volatile moment in the SCS and actually brought the temperature down.” The arbitral decision at The Hague has thrown the SCS issue in a crisis mode. READ MORE...

ALSO: by Dr. B. M. Villegas,Ph.D - Reassuring views from independent observers


OCTOBER 13 -President Rodrigo Roa Duterte (ROBINSON NIŃAL/Presidential Photo) / MB.COM.PH MB File
Despite some understandable criticisms from human rights advocates from the US and Europe, it is reassuring that perceptions about the Philippine economy are still generally positive from outside independent observers. It is especially encouraging that two multilateral lenders—the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF)— have raised their 2016 growth forecasts for the Philippines on the back of solid economic fundamentals, i.e., continuing increase in consumer spending, low rates of inflation and interest, low fiscal deficit and government debt, and increase in manufacturing output. Last September 26, the IMF said that the “outlook for the Philippine economy remains favorable despite external headwinds, prompting the international bank to raise to 6.4 percent from 6 percent previously its growth projection for 2016. The ADB also raised its growth forecast for the Philippines to 6.4 percent from 6 percent previously. According to Richard Bolt, ADB country director for the Philippines, what is particularly encouraging about the Philippines was its very solid ten-point socio-economic agenda aimed at slashing poverty to 17 percent by 2022 from 26 percent at present. READ MORE...

ALSO: by Floro M. Mercene - Quo Vadis Mutual Defense Treaty?


OCTOBER 14 By Floro Mercene -Former Ambassador Alberto A. Encomienda said he did not realize that his 75-page monograph would be such a timely piece that when he showed it to colleagues, he was urged to expand it to its present form, a 240-page book. He said he gave former President Fidel Ramos a copy of his book, “The South China Sea Issues and Related Core Interests of the Philippines.” Then former Interior Secretary Rafael Alunan confided to him that Ramos gave him the book “as a go-to book,” shortly before the foursome of FVR, Alunan, newly appointed Ambassador to China Chito Santa Romana, and Ramos grandson Sam Jones, went to Hong Kong. Ramos was then heading a delegation of private citizens after he was named by President Duterte as special envoy to China, to break the ice with old Chinese friends. He was hoping to rekindle relations with the superpower country, which has been strained by the territorial dispute in the South China Sea. Encomienda said he was surprised to hear that Duterte sometimes quoted parts of his book when speaking before an audience, leading him to suspect that his book found eventually found its way to the Chief Executive. READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

Drug addicts need rehabilitation

MANILA, OCTOBER 17, 2016 (BULLETIN) October 10, 2016 - What shall we do with the hundreds of thousands of drug addicts who have surrendered to the police for fear that they may be killed in the ongoing anti-drugs campaign of the administration? When the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights began its inquiry a month ago, Director General Ronald dela Rosa, chief of the Philippine National Police, reported that some 670,000 drug users and pushers had already yielded to authorities, while over 11,000 had been arrested, and nearly 2,000 killed.

The figures have since gone up considerably. The death toll has now exceeded 3,000. President Duterte cited this figure when he said before Filipinos in Hanoi, Vietnam, that he would be “happy to slaughter” three million drug addicts in the Philippines “to save the next generation from perdition.”

READ MORE...

The President’s remarks drew world attention at that time because he mentioned Nazi Germany’s Hitler as one who massacred three million Jews in World War II. He has since apologized to the members of the Jewish community in the Philippines, saying he was just citing the three-million figure in relation to the three million drug addicts he believes the Philippines has today.

What should concern us is what we must now do with these addicts. Their addiction is a problem to them; they cannot give it up by themselves. They need rehabilitation help. Drug addiction has such a disruptive effect on the brain and on behavior that only medication-assisted treatment can lead to recovery.

Today there are only about 60 government rehabilitation centers in the Philippines, with monthly fees ranging from P5,000 to P10,000. Privately owned centers charge more – P10,000 to P100,000 a month. Multiply these costs by the number of addicts we now have and the result is in the billions of pesos.

A bill has been filed in the Senate by Sen. Vicente Sotto to accredit new rehabilitation centers and make drug addicts beneficiaries of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. Philhealth President Alex Padilla in turn cited the big problem of funding. If there are 1.7 million drug dependents, he said, P30,000 is needed for each of them.

Last week, a survey was conducted by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) on the people’s opinions on a variety of subjects afer 100 days of the Duterte administration. In the survey, 84 perent said they were “satisfied,” with his campaign on drugs. At the same time, however, 71 percent of the respondents said it was “very important” that drug suspects be caught alive.

This reflects Fulipinos’ concern for life, even that of a drug addict or pusher. If there are indeed 3 million addicts in the country today, leaving them to fend for themselves and perhaps die from their addiction would not be welcomed by most of the Filipino people. A rehabilitation program is a must and the government should try its best to have one, with help from civic, religious, and other community organizations.


Aussie think-tank: Duterte gave Washington, Beijing ‘one big gift’ by Armin A. Amio October 11, 2016 Share17.6K Tweet24 Share32 Email39 Share18.2K


President Xi Jinping, President Rodrigo Duterte / Manila Bulletin file photo

Rodrigo Roa Duterte may be the most inscrutable president the Philippines and the world has known, but he may have unwittingly given both the United States and China “a big gift.”

In his piece Duterte changes the South China Sea tone, Graeme Dobell – a journalist-fellow with the Canberra-based Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) – said in spite of the maddening ways of the Philippine President, Duterte was able to deliver “benefits to both China and the United States.”

“His swing towards China offers Beijing all sorts of goodies, from the possibility of a bilateral deal in the South China Sea (SCS) to a chance to unbalance the US rebalance,” he pointed out, noting that Duterte could have “changed the immediate tone of the SCS argument at an otherwise dangerous moment.”

Dobell explained that “the fresh opening [Duterte] offers China creates an important pause in a dangerous chain of events. The volatile president met a volatile moment in the SCS and actually brought the temperature down.”

The arbitral decision at The Hague has thrown the SCS issue in a crisis mode.

READ MORE...

“Many feared China’s reaction after its humiliation by The Hague Tribunal. Beaten by Manila on nearly every argument, the worry was that China might lash out by beating up the Philippines—perhaps building a new base on Scarborough Shoal, seized by China in 2012 after a standoff with the Philippines Navy,” wrote the Australian journalist.

United States “President Barack Obama reportedly drew a red line around Scarborough, warning President Xi Jinping of serious consequences if China started to build another base. Perhaps Obama’s red line worked. Or perhaps Beijing decided not to test a lame duck president during an extraordinary US election campaign. Or maybe Beijing opted to turn the other cheek to the humiliation and loss of face delivered by the Tribunal. Or Duterte’s arrival is possibly the game-changer Beijing’s after,” Dobell wrote in the ASPI blog The Strategist.


President Rodrigo Duterte (R); US President Barack Obama (Manila Bulletin file photo)

“Obama can accept the fleeting Duterte benefit—that confrontation with China hasn’t (yet) happened—and head for the door. President Hillary can have the task of wrangling with the maverick who could wreck the alliance. If it’s President Donald, he’ll happily say ‘go to hell too’ and declare the alliance a bankrupt business. Such a business-like response from Trump would be apt, because Duterte has a lot of business he wants to do with China,” he wrote.

A former Australian ambassador to the Philippines, Mack Williams, lined up key factors that may influence how Duterte handles the SCS issue and China:

•the Philippines is all too aware that any military confrontation would be catastrophic for them—especially if the US were to use it as a base;

•it wasn’t Duterte who launched the international arbitration case and he’s keen to handle its outcome with extreme caution;

•the Philippines is more concerned about fishing rights and oil and gas potential in the disputed area than it is about international navigation;

•and the Philippines–China relationship is also longstanding and complex, with local Chinese dominant in business—often camouflaged by non-Chinese names. Dobell believes Duterte offers China two tantalizing prospects—the bilateral deal it has always sought in the SCS and a weakening of the US alliance structure.

“At last, Beijing would be getting the sort of shift it wants—using the power of money to create strategic power,” he wrote. “Sometimes the mad and bad throw up unusual chances.

Dobell has been reporting on Australian and international politics, foreign affairs and defense, and the Asia Pacific since 1975.


Reassuring views from independent observers by Dr. Bernardo M. Villegas October 13, 2016 Share0 Tweet0 Share0 Email0 Share10


President Rodrigo Roa Duterte (ROBINSON NIŃAL/Presidential Photo) / MB.COM.PH MB File

Despite some understandable criticisms from human rights advocates from the US and Europe, it is reassuring that perceptions about the Philippine economy are still generally positive from outside independent observers.

It is especially encouraging that two multilateral lenders—the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF)— have raised their 2016 growth forecasts for the Philippines on the back of solid economic fundamentals, i.e., continuing increase in consumer spending, low rates of inflation and interest, low fiscal deficit and government debt, and increase in manufacturing output.

 Last September 26, the IMF said that the “outlook for the Philippine economy remains favorable despite external headwinds, prompting the international bank to raise to 6.4 percent from 6 percent previously its growth projection for 2016. The ADB also raised its growth forecast for the Philippines to 6.4 percent from 6 percent previously.

According to Richard Bolt, ADB country director for the Philippines, what is particularly encouraging about the Philippines was its very solid ten-point socio-economic agenda aimed at slashing poverty to 17 percent by 2022 from 26 percent at present.

READ MORE...

I have been especially impressed with the September, 2016, Special Report of one of Hong Kong’s leading think tank, CLSA Limited. Let me quote from its Philippine report entitled “Duterte cracks the whip”: “President Duterte has been fortunate in taking over a strong economy with a sound fiscal position. The Duterte administration took office at the end of June with 2Q16 real GDP growth at 7% YoY and substantial fiscal space following deficit containment below 1% of GDP in 2014-2015.

The investment upswing will be going into its sixth year in 1Q/2017 reinforced by Mr. Duterte’s planned infrastructure spending push. We forecast accelerating real GDP growth from our 6.85% estimate for 2016 to 7% in 2017, with this pace sustained in 2018.” In CSLA’s overall assessment of growth prospects in the whole of Asia, the Philippines ranks next only to India that is expected to grow at 8% or more in the next two years.

To the naysayers who are overreacting to the unorthodox ways of Duterte, CSLA has the following very practical advice: “Investors attracted by the strong growth prospects in the Philippines will have to accept the risks arising from Mr. Duterte’s unsavory policies (such as the extra-judicial killing of suspected drug dealers).

DECISIVENESS

Duterte’s decisiveness is a welcome change after tardy progress by his predecessor, Mr. Aquino. However, the test will be to alter the perception that the Philippines lacks the capacity for efficient implementation, without undermining civil institutions. Follow-through on Duterte’s commitment to lift the foreign investment limit will be another key test, especially given increased risk stemming from a twin deficit in 2017.

Mr. Duterte has broader visions of raising living standards for the poor which, if he succeeds, will be an accomplishment that has eluded previous administrations in the Philippines.”

As I have written in several columns in this newspaper, focus of investors doing business in the Philippines should be the continuing increase of dollar remittances from the more than 10 million OFWS.

REMITTANCES

These remittances are now being converted at P48 or more pesos to a dollar, stimulating the consumption-led growth that is also bolstered by the almost identical dollar earnings from the more than one million workers in BPO-IT sector that continues to grow at a hefty 15% annually. These two engines of growth are fueling domestic consumption, the most notable of which is in the 40 million middle-income Filipinos who are the first tourists in their own country.

Another multiplier effect of these revenues is the booming housing sector and the building of office spaces for the BPO workers, both of which are increasingly moving towards second-tier cities outside the National Capital Region. The expansion to the regions is leading to the multiplication of retailing outlets in some of the more remote areas in the countryside.

Add to these consumption-driven sectors the highly probable investment boom in infrastructures as the Duterte administration shows greater decisiveness in increasing its budget for public works to 5% and even 7% of GDP and, more importantly, actually spending the budgeted amount, which was not the case in the last administration.

There are already very clear signs that the much-awaited Public Private -Partnership (PPP) projects are finally taking off in larger numbers. As many as 17 of these projects are due for implementation in 2017.

More open to unsolicited proposals and the Swiss challenge, the Duterte administration is also encouraging the more enlightened and proactive governors and mayors to take advantage of provisions of the Local Government Code of 1991 to undertake their own PPP initiatives.

If these LGU units partner with private companies in joint ventures in which the private party has majority ownership, they can implement these projects without getting any clearance from the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), a bureaucratic step that has slowed down actual spending in the past.

As one of the examples I have cited in this column, Batangas province has in the works a railway connecting Calamba, Laguna, to Batangas City; the conversion of the Fernando Base in Lipa City into a secondary airport to Manila; expansion of the Batangas City seaport to decongest the Manila port; and more modern highways to improve access to the numerous tourist spots of the province.

The example of Batangas can encourage other LGU heads to promote their own PPPs in partnership with both local investors (such as Metro Pacific, ICST, San Miguel Corporation, the Ayala Corporation, Megawide, etc.) as well as foreign investors coming from Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and China who are less sensitive to the so-called human rights issues than the Americans and the Europeans.

The bullish mood of our Northeast Asian neighbors will be further enhanced if Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Senate President Koko Pimentel can focus on amending the restrictive provisions of the Philippine Constitution that have discouraged Foreign Direct Investments in the past.

They should follow the example of the Vietnamese government that recently liberalized even more its laws concerning FDIs. Vietnam is attracting there times the level of FDIs of the Philippines.

Like every other decent human being, I would like to persuade President Duterte to change his uncouth language and penchant for off-the-cuff remarks with significant policy implications which he has not completely thought through.

I would also want to see the force of law being used to prosecute policemen or vigilantes who have been involved in illegal killings, whether or not related to the campaign against the drug epidemic.

If these changes do not happen overnight, however, I would enjoin those who want to promote the common good of Filipinos to do whatever they can to still take advantage of the numerous opportunities still available in the country to generate much needed jobs for millions of unemployed and underemployed, taking the President’s undesirable behavior as an unavoidable business risk.

For comments, my email address is bernardo.villegas@uap.asia .


Dr. Bernardo M. Villegas, Ph.D., serves as the Senior Vice President of the University of Asia and the Pacific. Dr. Villegas serves as an Educational Consultant for Parents for Education Foundation Inc. (PAREF), a columnist in the Manila Bulletin. He serves as the Dean of the School of Economics of the University of Asia & the Pacific. He serves as Consultant of Bank of Philippine Islands, and Transnational Diversified Inc. Dr. Villegas serves as the Dean of the School Economics of the University of Asia & the Pacific. BLOOMBERG


Quo Vadis Mutual Defense Treaty? by Floro M. Mercene October 13, 2016 Share2 Tweet0 Share0 Email0 Share9 (Conclusion)


Floro M. Mercene Merry-Go-Round He was a reporter for the Evening News and the Philippine News Service for ten years. He did a stint as a copy editor of the Agence France Presse news agency for two years. He quit journalism to join government service, first as press officer of the Philippine Tourist and Travel Association and the Board of Travel and Tourist Industry. He was later appointed director for public relations and information of the Department of Tourism.

Former Ambassador Alberto A. Encomienda said he did not realize that his 75-page monograph would be such a timely piece that when he showed it to colleagues, he was urged to expand it to its present form, a 240-page book.

He said he gave former President Fidel Ramos a copy of his book, “The South China Sea Issues and Related Core Interests of the Philippines.”

Then former Interior Secretary Rafael Alunan confided to him that Ramos gave him the book “as a go-to book,” shortly before the foursome of FVR, Alunan, newly appointed Ambassador to China Chito Santa Romana, and Ramos grandson Sam Jones, went to Hong Kong. Ramos was then heading a delegation of private citizens after he was named by President Duterte as special envoy to China, to break the ice with old Chinese friends. He was hoping to rekindle relations with the superpower country, which has been strained by the territorial dispute in the South China Sea.

Encomienda said he was surprised to hear that Duterte sometimes quoted parts of his book when speaking before an audience, leading him to suspect that his book found eventually found its way to the Chief Executive.

READ MORE...

He said that America’s hold on the Philippines remains strong as ever, without President Duterte being aware of it, because he said there would be no more military exercises with the Americans starting in 2017.

“But that couldn’t be because next year alone, we have 262 exercises and activities, that’s practically every week, so I’m beginning to wonder about our Armed Forces’ sense of patriotism.

“When the Americans were here prior to their eviction, they were using Scarborough Shoal and Crow Valley Range for target practice, while Subic was for the landing of the US Marines, but today with EDCA, they are all over the place.”

Encomienda said that if the US Navy is allowed to survey our maritime domain through those joint exercises, that means they have mapped every square inch of our seabed all over the country.

“That means the whole country had been militarized by the Americans.”


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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