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To lift or not to lift?

Aye, that is the question. The extended enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) for Luzon will end in 10 days, by the end of April. The President and the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on Emerging Infectious Diseases are between a rock and a hard place; between saving lives at the expense of saving the economy and between saving the economy at the expense of saving lives.

The Hammer and the Dance

Strong coronavirus measures today should only last a few weeks, there shouldn’t be a big peak of infections afterwards, and it can all be done for a reasonable cost to society, saving millions of lives along the way. If we don’t take these measures, tens of millions will be infected, many will die, along with anybody else that requires intensive care, because the healthcare system will have collapsed.

State of the national health emergency

Last Saturday, March 8, President Rodrigo Duterte declared a nationwide state of public health emergency pursuant to a Department of Health (DoH) letter of recommendation from Health Secretary Francisco Duque dated Feb. 21 should local transmissions occur. The day before, we learned that the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country had risen to six, two of which were deemed locally transmitted. Yesterday, four more cases were confirmed. We’re now on alert level Code Red sub-level one. It means we’re one step away from the “possible sustained community transmission” of the virus, or Code Red.

Prepare for the worst

As of Sunday, 8:13 p.m., Feb. 23, 2020, the COVID-19 global snapshot was this: 78,830 confirmed cases and 2,469 deaths. Of the total, 76,936 confirmed cases and 2,442 deaths were in China. The rest are scattered in 30 countries worldwide and one cruise ship, the Diamond Princess.

Diamond standard

Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong addressed his nation last week. It’s best practice and worthy of global emulation. Here’s the transcript.

VFA headed for the scrap yard?

Will the VFA be scrapped? What would its far-reaching consequences be to national security and nation-building?

Starting the year on the wrong foot

At the start of 2020, I was asked what the year would be like. I replied, “50-50.” I was just being facetious. It could very well turn out to be worse.

The politics of water

The current tussle between the concessionaires and President Rodrigo R. Duterte (PRRD) stems from two arbitration awards by separate arbitration panels in favor of Maynilad Water (P7.4 Billion) and Manila Water (P3.4 Billion), in July 2017 and November 2018. The claimed amounts allegedly represent their accumulated losses after the Regulatory Office under the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) refused to grant their petitions to raise their tariffs from 2014 to 2018.

Dark clouds and silver linings

In recent days, we’ve seen the passing of high-profile personalities who I’ve known one way or the other. It’s been a sobering year as age hurtles faster at warp speed toward the inevitable. As the saying goes, “We’ll never get out of this world alive.”

A worthy enterprise to save the future

A few days ago, I spotted this interesting piece of news that China has reportedly reassigned over 60,000 soldiers to plant trees in a bid to combat pollution by increasing the country’s forest cover. A large regiment from the People’s Liberation Army, along with some of the nation’s People’s Armed Police, have been withdrawn from their posts on the northern border to work on non-military tasks inland. Most will be dispatched to Hebei province, the area known to be notorious for the smog blanketing Beijing.

Somewhere beyond the sea

Last week the Philippines hosted the President of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind, who came to Manila to address the India-Philippines Business Conclave and the 4th ASEAN-India Business Summit in Manila on Oct. 19. The night before, President Rodrigo Duterte tendered a dinner in his honor in Malacañan. A major player of that conclave and summit was the Philippines-India Business Council (PIBC) chaired by Johnny Chotrani.

Campus safety and security

I spoke last week at a summit for campus safety, security, and disaster resilience. I called for a broad alliance of school stakeholders (administrators, faculty, staff, employees, safety/security officers and students) and partners (military, police, media, local officials, emergency response organizations), to ensure readiness, mitigate risk, rapidly respond to emergencies, and skillfully manage crises.

Learning never ends

Who I am, what I’ve become and how I could yet be, can be traced back to my foundational years. I’m the product of my upbringing at home, formal education and self-education... to this day.

Hong Kong’s long march

Hong Kong has captivated the world these past 15 weeks, awed by the tenacity of its citizens to live free and stay free. But this has forced the dragon, which we had hoped would evolve peacefully into a responsible global citizen and stabilizing force for good, to carefully weigh its options. Today, we liberally quote two respected thinkers — Alexander Neill and Shyam Saran — who have written of the risks that lie ahead. Mr. Neill is the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue Senior Fellow for Asia-Pacific security, while Mr. Saran is a former Foreign Minister of India.

Heroism beckons

After three years, we need to undo, trash, and reset relations with China. Trust, sincerity, mutuality and reciprocity must define it. There’s a clear observable pattern of imperial abuse and coercion by China reported in media.

Divided by land, connected by sea

I just returned the other day from a trip to India on the invitation of Johnny Chotrani, Chair of the Philippine-India Business Council (PIBC) of which I’m a member. We met with the ASEAN-India Business Council (AIBC), the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce Inc. (FICCI), and the Chamber of Indian Industry (CII). The trip had a dual purpose: it included matters pertaining to the Philippine Council for Foreign Relations (PCFR), which I chair, and where Johnny’s a member. I met with Philippihne Ambassador to India Dondon Bagatsing, our Defense Attaché and officials of India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MFA).


Reliable sources have disclosed that Operation “Awakening the Believers” was rolled out globally in early July. Simultaneous attacks were launched in Syria, Libya, Mozambique, Somalia, Tunisia, Afghanistan, Egypt, and Iraq. Islamic State Southeast Asia (ISEA) will allegedly follow suit with multiple coordinated attacks in the Philippines, Thailand, and Indonesia. The attacks will reportedly come in waves, first from July to September, then another wave till the end of the year. High value targets such as churches, hotels, malls, public transport, and other heavily populated areas are reportedly in their sights.

How much do we know about 21st century warfare?

For today’s column, I abridged an article entitled “A New Generation of Unrestricted Warfare” by David Barno and Nora Bensahel. Lt. General David W. Barno, USA (Ret.) is a Distinguished Practitioner in Residence, and Dr. Nora Bensahel is a Distinguished Scholar in Residence, at the School of International Service at American University. Both also serve as non-resident Senior Fellows at the Atlantic Council.

ISIS on the comeback trail

On June 28, news filtered in from Indanan, Sulu that two suicide bombers had penetrated the headquarters of the Army’s 1st Brigade Combat Team. As of the latest reports, eight people were killed (the two bombers, three soldiers, and three civilians); while 22 were wounded (12 soldiers and 10 civilians). The Islamic State East Asia Province (ISEAP) allegedly claimed responsibility for the attack.

The Chinese Maritime Militia

I’m directing this column to our national and local leaders whose duty is to defend the country, protect the people, and secure our natural resources. There’s a need to adapt mindsets to a deteriorating security situation in the South China Sea -- fueled by China’s spurious claims of “indisputable sovereignty” over this vital body of water -- by thinking, speaking, and acting as one united leadership to confront the external and internal threats to our national security.

Moving in the right direction

I’ve noted three positive directions being taken by President Rodrigo Duterte and his administration that points to legacy and a lighter load for the next administration.

Observations and telltale signs

A week after the e-lections, citizens are questioning its integrity. Just like before, we hear cries of “dagdag-bawas,” be it manual or electronic. But who has the smoking gun? Only telltale signs, so far, that aren’t admissible in court. It’s a given that some won hands down on their own merit and those who fell short of the mark. What we don’t know is the exact count, whether some winners are really losers and if some losers actually won.

Arroyo to endorse Alunan

Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said she is set to endorse former interior secretary Rafael M. Alunan III in Pampanga on Wednesday.

Brexit, Bremain, Bruckyou, Bremorse

While researching on the subject matter to understand the motivations behind it, I came across this piece from the Daily Pnut. Below is the abridged version of this amusing analysis.

Special Forces combat mission teaches 11 brilliant lessons in leadership

Writer Jeff Haden spoke to a number of Special Forces operators about perseverance, developing the right mindset, and how the only limits we really have are self-imposed -- adaptability, attitude, mental toughness -- and that in life there’s no finish line. One of them, Herbert Thompson, a Special Forces (Green Beret) team leader shared a story of a combat mission he undertook replete with leadership lessons.

Is there a silver lining to the gloom and doom?

Filipinos are being destabilized by all kinds of risks -- political, safety and security, economic and external. It’s not that we’re new to it but we’ve never been through all that’s happening at the same time in rising intensity, real or imagined. What am I referring to? Hang on to your seats as I run through my list.

We’re stuck in a time and mind warp

As a direct witness to history spanning 48 years since my graduation from college, I can say that we haven’t learned from history’s valuable lessons.

Defense buildup

As far back as 1991, I was vocal about investing in our defense should the government decide to let go of the US bases on account of a provision in the 1987 Constitution mandating “no foreign troops on Philippine soil.” Up to that point the US was our defense shield, and if we were to give it up then we would have to be responsible for the country’s defense.


WHEN government and society come together to address a national problem, the “whole-of-nation” principle is at work. It epitomizes national unity, solidarity, and teamwork. This is what Rotary Club of Manila’s (RCM) “One Rotary, One Philippines, One for Marawi” attempts to do — harnessing private sector companies and civic groups to partner with government agencies to address humanitarian assistance needs of people impacted by armed conflict and natural disasters.

Kwentas klaras

Am I for Federalism? My answer is a qualified yes if it meets certain preconditions. No partisan color here, just a citizen’s assessment of what is best for the country given our present circumstances from over half a century of observation and experience.

One more bucket list item accomplished

Ten years ago, my family took our first ever cruise to celebrate three milestones: my 38th wedding anniversary, 60th birthday and my youngest daughter’s 28th birthday. We chose Alaska via Vancouver (first time for all of us) and, on our return spent a week in Whistler, a skier’s destination, before returning home. Not sure now if we flew PAL or Cathay Pacific, but our cruise line was Royal Caribbean.

Marawi one year ago and after

Tomorrow, May 23, is the first anniversary of the Marawi siege. The battle began when Islamic State loyalists, the Maute group, supported by terrorists...

Economic ‘invasion’ — boon and bane?

In its May 4 report, Bloomberg news revealed that in Metro Manila’s main financial district and its fringes, signs of new inhabitants are everywhere. “Around...

Transforming our political culture and mind-set

The political season is upon us. This May we will hold our barangay and SK elections. Next May, the mid-term elections will be for...

What do we do?

For those who know the drill, disaster response consists of a series of deliberately taken steps -- awareness, mitigation, preparation, response, management, relief-rehabilitation, and...

Security concerns

Last week, I was drawn to various conferences that swirled around unending security issues. I’ll share some of the more important ones and try...


Just exactly do we mean when we talk about dynasties? Far from what we read in myths and legends, and see in the movies,...

The unfinished revolution

So here we are, 32 years later after those four fateful days in February 1986 that began as a revolt and then morphed into...

TRAIN ride or wreck?

On Dec. 19, 2017, President Duterte signed the Tax Reformation for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) bill into law, branded as the first tax reform...

Our EEZ is 360 degrees

Scarborough Shoal (also known as Bajo de Masinloc, Panatag, Panacot), Benham Rise (now Philippine Rise) and the Celebes Sea have been making the news...

The exceptional Mayo Lopez

“Epiphany” has taken on a new meaning for me. Previously, it was about the 3 Kings or 3 wise men who went to see...

Year of the Earth Dog

Happy New Year! It only seemed like yesterday when we were greeting 2017. Where did time go? Why does it feel like we’re on...

Understanding independent foreign policy

Last week, I was invited by the AFP’s Office of Strategic Studies and Strategy Management, the National Defense College of the Philippines and the...

Cost and Benefits of hosting ASEAN 50

Every Filipino, as a citizen of Southeast Asia, is foreseen to benefit from ASEAN 2017, from each of the following six thematic priorities under...

How is ASEAN Integration coming along?

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was founded on Aug. 8, 1967 by Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. Since then, its...