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FROM THE MANILA STANDARD

EDITORIAL: IN AQUINO's FOOTSTEPS


NOVEMBER 16 -ONE of the worst aspects of the previous administration was the lack of accountability, due largely to the refusal of President Benigno Aquino III to punish erring officials who were his friends or allies. This manifest itself early in the administration, during the Luneta hostage crisis, which set a pattern that would be carried out through Mr. Aquino’s six years in office, during which he spared those responsible for the “Yolanda” relief fiasco, the Mamasapano massacre, the breakdown in public transportation services, and the disastrous decline in the country’s agricultural output. Now there are disturbing signs that President Rodrigo Duterte, who campaigned on a vow to change all that, is following in Mr. Aquino’s footsteps. When Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa was shot dead in his cell at the Baybay City provincial jail by a police raiding team that said that he opened fire on them while they were serving a search warrant at 4 a.m., Mr. Duterte immediately took their side, ignoring the suspicious, telltale signs of a rubout—and the commonsense question: Why would a person already in jail a) have a gun; and b) choose to shoot at a raiding team of 20 fully armed police officers? READ MORE...

ALSO: By Tony Lopez - Trump good for PH


NOVEMEBR 15 -TONY LOPEZ Is Donald Trump good for the Philippines? Yes, for two reasons. One, it has enabled President Duterte to backtrack on his hostility towards America and to gravitate back to the sphere of influence of Uncle Sam. At the end of the day, as the cliché goes, the United States is still the best friend, protector and ally an emerging country like the Philippines can embrace in this troubled, uncertain, and rapidly disintegrating world. Starting this year, the US is no longer the largest economy on earth, according to the World Bank ($20.85 trillion China, $18.56 trillion US); the International Monetary Fund ($19.52 billion China, $17.94 trillion US); and the Central Intelligence Agency ($19.51 trillion China, $17.97 trillion US). But it remains the most powerful nation on earth. READ MORE...

ALSO: EDITORIAL - Martial Law not an option


NOVEMBER 17 -At a dinner with reporters, President Rodrigo Duterte said martial law remains an option for him so he could act on the problem of illegal drugs, terrorism and rebellion in the country. He is not a fan of martial law, he said, but declaring it could be a measure he could take to respond to widespread violence. Just a few days ago, Palace officials also floated the idea of suspending the writ of habeas corpus in the context of the same war on illegal drugs —something that was immediately rejected by many sectors, including the President’s allies in Congress. The strong reaction prompted Malacañang to take back its words and say it was just a thought. The Constitution does not make any such declaration easy: Given the checks-and-balances system in government, the Legislature and the Judiciary themselves have options on what to do if the Executive branch does resort to martial law. READ MORE...

ALSO: By Renee Karunungan - Secretary Cusi is stuck in the past


NOVEMBER 17 -Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi appears stuck in the past, with his insistence on using fossil fuels which literally comes from the dinosaur era, and in backing up the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant revival, which was a project of the Marcos presidency. Cusi has also opposed the Philippines’ ratification of the Paris Agreement. In a letter addressed to the Department of Foreign Affairs and signed by Department Secretary Alfonso Cusi, the DoE says it is “constrained to maintain its reservation to submit its concurrence for the ratification by the President of the said agreement.” Together with 195 countries, the Philippines signed the Paris Agreement last December 2015. One hundred seven countries have so far ratified the Paris Agreement which officially entered into force last November 4, only three days before the 22nd Conference of Parties began in Marrakech, Morocco. READ MORE...


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In Aquino’s footsteps

MANILA, NOVEMBER 21, 2016 (MANILA STANDARD) posted November 16, 2016 at 12:01 am - ONE of the worst aspects of the previous administration was the lack of accountability, due largely to the refusal of President Benigno Aquino III to punish erring officials who were his friends or allies. This manifest itself early in the administration, during the Luneta hostage crisis, which set a pattern that would be carried out through Mr. Aquino’s six years in office, during which he spared those responsible for the “Yolanda” relief fiasco, the Mamasapano massacre, the breakdown in public transportation services, and the disastrous decline in the country’s agricultural output.

Now there are disturbing signs that President Rodrigo Duterte, who campaigned on a vow to change all that, is following in Mr. Aquino’s footsteps.

When Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa was shot dead in his cell at the Baybay City provincial jail by a police raiding team that said that he opened fire on them while they were serving a search warrant at 4 a.m., Mr. Duterte immediately took their side, ignoring the suspicious, telltale signs of a rubout—and the commonsense question:

Why would a person already in jail a) have a gun; and b) choose to shoot at a raiding team of 20 fully armed police officers?

READ MORE...

PACQUIAO & DE LA ROSA

Then on Monday, Mr. Duterte came to the defense of his national police chief, Ronald dela Rosa, who is being investigated by the Ombudsman for accepting an all-expense paid trip to Las Vegas for himself and his family from Senator Manny Pacquiao to watch his championship bout with Jesse Vargas.

When Pacquiao paid a courtesy call on the President, Mr. Duterte said the boxer-turned-senator was correct in defending Dela Rosa.

“You can afford the trip anyway. It is commensurate to your wealth. There is no criminal liability,” Duterte, a former city prosecutor, said.

The Ombudsman recently said Dela Rosa’s all-expense paid trip to Las Vegas may be a violation of Presidential Decree 46, which makes it punishable for public officials and employees to receive gifts on any occasion; and Republic Act No. 6713, or the “Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.”

The PNP chief admitted in an interview in Las Vegas that Pacquiao, who was then fighting for the World Boxing Organization welterweight title, invited him to watch his boxing match along with members of his family.

Dela Rosa maintained that there was nothing wrong with having the senator pay for his and his family’s trip because no public funds were used.

Sounding defiant, he told the Ombudsman to go ahead and investigate him. “Will I be jailed just because of an invitation?” he asked in Filipino.

PACQIAO DEFENDS FOOTING THE BILL

Pacquiao has also defended footing the bill for Dela Rosa and his family.

“You know how it is with those of us from the South,” he said in Filipino. “It’s better to give something for free than engage in shenanigans.”

President Duterte, a lawyer and former prosecutor, should know better.

THE LAW

PD 46 and Republic Act 6713 make it very clear that public officials and employees must not accept directly or indirectly gifts, gratuity, favors, entertainment or loans or anything of monetary value in the course of their official duties.

How do you parse that to make Dela Rosa’s junket legal or even ethically acceptable?

Moreover, Senator Pacquiao should be reminded that the law applies to all; there are no separate rules for “Bisaya” or people from the South. There is only one law.

Given the current political climate, we expect the President will try to brazen his way through this one.

But it is dismaying to see him follow in the footsteps of his predecessor, whose knee-jerk reaction was always to defend his friends, no matter what wrongs they committed.

It is difficult to reconcile this behavior with what Mr. Duterte once said: “My loyalty to my friend ends where my loyalty to my country begins.”


Trump good for PH posted November 16, 2016 at 12:01 am by Tony Lopez


TONY LOPEZ

Is Donald Trump good for the Philippines?

Yes, for two reasons. One, it has enabled President Duterte to backtrack on his hostility towards America and to gravitate back to the sphere of influence of Uncle Sam.

At the end of the day, as the cliché goes, the United States is still the best friend, protector and ally an emerging country like the Philippines can embrace in this troubled, uncertain, and rapidly disintegrating world.

Starting this year, the US is no longer the largest economy on earth, according to the World Bank ($20.85 trillion China, $18.56 trillion US); the International Monetary Fund ($19.52 billion China, $17.94 trillion US); and the Central Intelligence Agency ($19.51 trillion China, $17.97 trillion US). But it remains the most powerful nation on earth.

READ MORE...

America has the biggest defense budget, the best military technology, the best and widest military alliance, the most number of guns and aircraft carriers, the best information technology and internet (its Silicon Valley makes mega-billionaires out of dropouts and billions out of garages), the highest share of the rich of total pre-tax income, the best film industry (which is a propaganda tool), and the best in access to advanced education. It is the biggest promoter of democracy and freedom and the most admired country in the world (according to Americans themselves and according to Filipinos). It is truly the home of the brave and the land of the free.

Wrote a New York Times columnist in 2014: “Sure, technically Norwegians may be wealthier per capita, and the Japanese may live longer, but the world watches the N.B.A., melts at Katy Perry, uses iPhones to post on Facebook, trembles at our aircraft carriers, and blames the C.I.A. for everything. We’re No. 1!”

TRUMP PRESIDENCY

Two, the 45th US President will revitalize the economy and trigger a Trump boom, at least in the short run. Such an economic expansion would spike demand for Philippines goods and services, create jobs for Filipino expats in America, and at least diminish the insularity of Americans afraid of losing their jobs to overseas competitors.

One reason for this expected boom is that Trump will force the repatriation back to America of some $2.5 trillion to $5 trillion of profits stashed by US corporations abroad. He will offer these companies vastly lowered tax rates to discourage, if not stop, profit refugees like FMC Technologies $1.949 trillion, Apple $200 billion, Microsoft $108 billion, Citigroup $45 billion, Oracle $38 billion, Amgen $32.6 billion, Qualcomm $28.8 billion, and Gilead Sciences $28.5 billion.

That money, if repatriated, hopefully should open up factories or businesses, create jobs, and put more purchasing power in the hands of American consumers. Since there are about four million Filipino-Americans, the same money should benefit them eventually.

Meanwhile, Albay Rep. Joey Salceda has sent a paper in which he frets about the Trump presidency.

“Trump presents essentially a risk of protectionism with its consequences mainly on first US economic growth and 2nd on the flow of trade and services, migration and remittances,” writes the congressman, one of the best if not the best and most inclusive-minded analyst in the Philippines today.

Based on Joey’s analytics, the biggest threats to the Philippines are:

(1) in economic aspects, these consist of impacts on robust BPO business with US at 5.7 percent of Philippine GDP (mainly trade), 2.8 percent remittance from US/GDP (mainly economic slowdown and deportation), and 4.5 percent export/GDP (trade/economic slowdown). These combine to 13 percent of the Philippine economy exposed to the US which makes it the second highest to Singapore. Moreover, exports to the US are mostly electronics and they have low GVA of 20 percent compared to BPOs and (constructively) remittances;

(2) social costs of the deportation of 360,000 TNT or tago-nang-tago, although there are 3.4 million Filipinos in the US, 88 percent are legal and Trump is not against legal migrants.

The perceived kindred spirit of Duterte and Trump should prove useful in negotiating for Philippine economic interest—(1) No tax on outsourcing and no pressure on BPO principals, and (2) Pathway to citizenship for 360,000 undocumented Filipinos in the US or a more gradual process, say over 4 years.

1. Exports. Contrary to widespread perception, the Philippine GDP is only 4.5 percent (export/GDP) exposed to the US market, it is second least exposed compared to its neighbors with Indonesia being least exposed at 2.5 percent. Moreover, the Philippines has only a $1.5 billion trade surplus over the US aided by GSP preferences. Since exports to the US are mostly electronics and they have low GVA of 20 percent compared to BPOs and (constructively) remittances which are relatively small for the other Asean-5. This compares to Japan’s exports to the US accounts for 2.6 percent of Japan GDP in 2015.

2. BPOs. The US BPOs account for 5.7 percent Philippine GDP. US account for 77 percent of the $22 billion BPO sector (both as market and investor) which generated 1.1 million jobs in 2015. Trump wants to bring jobs back to home, as attempted before by President Obama possibly through a tax on outsourcing or simply through persuasive influence over BPO companies or the industries they cater to.

But this will be significantly countered by the Philippine competitive advantages:

a) neutral accent English;

b) competitive-trainable;

c) socio-cultural predisposition to western lifestyles;

d) hourly wage. A call center agent in the Philippines makes US$2.00. A call center agent in the US gets US$10.50.

3. Overseas Filipino remittances.

In 2015, remittances from the US amounted to $8.4 billion which increased by $1 billion over 2014’s $7.4 billion. This is equivalent to 2.84 percent of Philippine GDP. Based on BSP report, 32.8 percent of total OFW remittances in first eight months of 2016 originated from the US. While the figure includes remittance from other countries but coursed US-based correspondent banks and couriers which sadly cannot be disaggregated as to their ultimate source, it corresponds with the CFO estimate that 35 percent of Filipinos overseas are in the US.

This sector accounting to 2.8 percent of Philippine GDP may be affected by a slowdown in the US economy. During the 2008 financial crisis, remittances from the US fell by $502 million from $7.83 billion to $7.32 billion whereas in the Asian financial crisis, it prompted a spike from $4.11 billion to $6.4 billion!


Not an option posted November 17, 2016 at 12:01 am



At a dinner with reporters, President Rodrigo Duterte said martial law remains an option for him so he could act on the problem of illegal drugs, terrorism and rebellion in the country.

He is not a fan of martial law, he said, but declaring it could be a measure he could take to respond to widespread violence.

Just a few days ago, Palace officials also floated the idea of suspending the writ of habeas corpus in the context of the same war on illegal drugs —something that was immediately rejected by many sectors, including the President’s allies in Congress. The strong reaction prompted Malacañang to take back its words and say it was just a thought.

The Constitution does not make any such declaration easy: Given the checks-and-balances system in government, the Legislature and the Judiciary themselves have options on what to do if the Executive branch does resort to martial law.

READ MORE...

The President must realize that talking about martial law is an admission that he is failing to curb the menace. Proud man that he is, is Mr. Duterte ready to concede defeat this early?

We don’t believe that this administration has failed in its initial steps—no, far from it. Just look at the number of dead suspected drug pushers and users, the impunity with which the killings are committed, and the overall feeling of foreboding even among those who have nothing to hide but who fret they may be just at the wrong place at the wrong time.

And if the “continuing lawlessness” in Mindanao is such a concern, for what, then, are the peace initiatives for especially now that Moro National Liberation Front chairman Nur Misuari has been included in the process, warrants of arrest notwithstanding?

On one hand it is reassuring to dismiss Mr. Duterte’s statements as coming from somebody who does not really mean what he says, or who at least needs to put a lot more thought into what comes out of his mouth.

On the other hand—and this is the more somber realization—we have a leader who toys with extreme ideas and speaks his mind about them even before he considers the implications of what he says or what their consequences might be. A president who thinks less than he should before opening his mouth—this is perhaps the scariest prospect of all.

When will this President realize that loose talk should not be an option for somebody in his position, especially during these precarious times?


Secretary Cusi is stuck in the past posted November 17, 2016 at 12:01 am by Renee Juliene Karunungan



Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi appears stuck in the past, with his insistence on using fossil fuels which literally comes from the dinosaur era, and in backing up the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant revival, which was a project of the Marcos presidency.

Cusi has also opposed the Philippines’ ratification of the Paris Agreement.

In a letter addressed to the Department of Foreign Affairs and signed by Department Secretary Alfonso Cusi, the DoE says it is “constrained to maintain its reservation to submit its concurrence for the ratification by the President of the said agreement.”

Together with 195 countries, the Philippines signed the Paris Agreement last December 2015. One hundred seven countries have so far ratified the Paris Agreement which officially entered into force last November 4, only three days before the 22nd Conference of Parties began in Marrakech, Morocco.

READ MORE...

The Philippines, however, has yet to ratify the agreement.

A certificate of concurrence is needed from all concerned government agencies before the President can sign the treaty. Out of all the government agencies that needs to submit a certificate of concurrence, only the Department of Energy has so far opposed the ratification. However, the President, after having apprehensions, already said he would ratify the Paris Agreement after his cabinet meeting last November 7. The President said that cabinet members, “except for one or two,” voted unanimously to sign the climate treaty.

In the same letter, Cusi also said that “The Philippine economy is still developing and its needs and effects of development are different with that of developed countries.” In the same breath, Cusi has said that “DoE shall voluntarily support all climate change efforts by the country.” This is the man, who, months earlier, said that his plans for the DoE is to “use whatever energy resources are available and affordable for power generation.”


CUSI

It seems Mr. Cusi still does not get it. His concept and definition of “development” is one that is founded on dirty energy—the same path that developed countries took to get to where they are today, the same path that led us to the climate crisis. While most countries are now slowly shifting to renewable energy, Cusi wants to keep investing in fossil fuels and nuclear energy, forms that have been proven dangerous to the environment and to the people.

Ironically, Cusi is concerned about the Paris Agreement “stifling” the country’s development. He ignores how much the Philippines economy is stifled by the impact of climate change impact.

The National Economic and Development Authority with their Ambisyon Natin 2040, the 25-year long term vision for the Philippines, said that climate change is one of its priorities, especially because it affects the Philippines’ economic growth. The effects of climate change cost the country 1 percent of its GDP.

However, Cusi only chooses to see one side of the issue: the need for the Philippines to adapt and be resilient but not to do its own work in reducing carbon emissions. Cusi says that the “DOE shall look primarily into adaptation and resiliency programs” and that the “DOE shall voluntarily support all climate change efforts by the country” but “without sacrificing its mandate to ensure quality, reliable, affordable, and secure energy for the Filipinos.”

How can a country who has always been in the list of top 10 most vulnerable countries in the past 20 years continue investing in something that eventually contributes to its destruction? The Philippines has been calling for other countries to stop polluting, but wants to continue to pollute. How many more excuses do we have to hear?

A dirty form of development is not sustainable. The developed countries of today have done the same in the past and as a result, we are already seeing and reaping its effects. The world has already warmed at 1 degree Celsius and even only at 0.8 degrees of warming, extreme events such as typhoon “Yolanda” (Haiyan) has happened. Already, at current climate commitments, worst-case scenarios point to 4 degrees of global warming above pre-industrial levels. Imagine if all developing countries of today decide to continue polluting in the name of development?

Does Mr. Cusi think that climate change will choose which country to hit based on how much carbon they have emitted? Climate change will not wait for anyone.

Cusi must start moving on from the past and work instead towards clean and sustainable development.

Renee Juliene Karunungan is outreach manager for Climate Tracker. She is currently in Marrakech, Morocco for the climate change talks.


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