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Tag: Thinking Beyond Politics
“Reaping what you sow,” a quote attributed to the Christian apostle Paul, is about action and consequences. It strikes at the core of the message of Secretary Roy Cimatu of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) when he addressed top government officials and leaders of industry who came together in a forum organized by The Stratbase Group to share in the global crusade to sustain the environment and help save the future of mankind.
We all live in a world that generally seems to be on the cusp of the next big thing. From bigger screens to smaller cameras, faster ways of transportation and communication, innovation has truly shaped our society, behavior and interactions.
Over the years there has been an outpouring of indignation over the world’s use and reliance on plastic. When we look at the visuals in the news and on social media -- the floating “island” of plastic, marine life choking on plastic, etc. -- the impact is undeniable.
Globally, the transformative impact for businesses to embrace and drive sustainable development is on the rise. With the age of social media, increasing levels of public awareness exert more pressure on companies to pursue a larger social and environmental purposes, other than just augmenting profits.
Prior to his 5th working visit to Beijing, President Rodrigo Duterte announced that he would push for the immediate adoption of the Code of Conduct (CoC) for the Parties in the South China Sea dispute. He promised that he would press for the early drafting of the agreement to reduce tension and minimize the risk of incidents and miscalculation in the face of concerns about the delay in its drafting, apparently because of China’s delaying tactics.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations, better known as ASEAN, has long been a paradox as much as it is a special and unique case in the parlance of international regional cooperation. One of the more mature transnational organizations in the world, its presence and longevity make it the poster child of stability that newer international organizations aspire to emulate. The ASEAN has successfully made it through several crises, transitions of power, and shifts in the balance of world affairs since its inception in 1967.
Financial inclusion has become a global challenge. In a recent International Monetary Fund (IMF) report, about 1.7 billion adults around the world remain unbanked which simply means that they are still without an account in a financial institution. China has the greatest number of these unbanked individuals, followed by India and then Pakistan.
Due to the difficult challenges in water, climate, energy, and waste management that humanity is facing today, the traditional concept of corporate social responsibility (CSR) has evolved to embrace new concepts such as “Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) standards,” “People, Planet, Profit,” “Impact Investing,” and “Corporate Sustainability.” These terms continue to spread in private, public, and societal spheres to exert more pressure on companies to pursue a larger social and environmental purpose.
The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), in its website (http://bagong.pagasa.dost.gov.ph/information/climate-change-in-the-philippines), does not seem alarmed about climate change, although it recognizes its presence.
In the recent Technology and Innovation Summit entitled, “Innovative Philippines: Transforming Barriers to Productivity, Transparency and Inclusive Growth,” organized by the Stratbase Group, thought leaders from government, and the information and communications technology (ICT) sector came together to discuss the challenges faced by the industry, as well as the policy directions and strategies to cope with and succeed in the changing landscape of the digital economy.
A few weeks after his fifth visit to China, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte claimed that Chinese President Xi Jingping offered him a controlling stake in a proposed joint energy exploration in the West Philippine Sea if the Philippines would set aside the 2016 United Nation Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) award that invalidated China’s historic claim in the South China Sea. According to President Duterte, his Chinese counter-part advised him to “Set aside the arbitral ruling -- set aside your claim then allow everybody connected with the Chinese companies, they want to explore. If there is something, we will be gracious enough to give you 60%, only 40% will be theirs (Chinese companies).”
A wide-ranging value chain analysis on the Philippine economy leads us to try new strategies, which can eventually jumpstart “real” development. The fact remains that our country is the fifth most mineralized country in the world; the issue of effective resource management in order to unleash the potentials of this “underground” wealth is a good strategic approach as this can finance development and activate key industries in the process.
Cleaning up Manila Bay has been a decades-long task for government. Although the launch of the rehabilitation plan seven months ago was nothing new given annual coastal clean-up activities, there needed to be a renewed genuine commitment and tangible results addressing the plastic waste problem. Looking past the hype, it could not have come at a more opportune time as the Philippines has been labeled as the third top source of ocean plastic waste.
For two straight quarters, the Philippine economy has not grown as projected by its economic managers. The 5.5% gross domestic product growth in the second quarter of the year is considered the lowest in the past 17 quarters. This should be a wake-up call for lawmakers and economic managers; we are in “challenging times,” as economic planning secretary Ernesto Pernia put it.
Agriculture has long been the backbone of civilizations, nations, and communes. Empires are built on the foundations of food security and access to livestock, poultry, and grains. Modern society would interpret this as the common foundation of developing nations whose industries rose from the shadows of farmers cultivating crops and livestock by developing the necessary value chains that fuel communities. From the Indus Valley to the Mekong Delta, the world would not have progressed the way it did if it weren’t for agriculture.
According to the latest situational report released by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), several provinces and municipalities, particularly in regions IV-A, IV-B, VI, VIII and XII, are now under a state of calamity due to the continuous surge of dengue cases.
All eyes and ears were on President Rodrigo R. Duterte as he delivered his fourth State of the Nation Address (SONA) last Monday, July 22. The speech was noteworthy as it came halfway into his term.
It was after the first five minutes of watching the State of the Nation Address (SONA) of the President that I got confused — wondering whether I was watching a live telecast or, perhaps, due to some technical glitches, I was transported to the SONAs of previous years. But, the image of Congressman Allan Peter Cayetano in the seat of the Speaker of the House gave it away. I knew that I was watching this year’s SONA. After all, the power struggle among representatives as to who would be the Speaker of the House was a public spectacle for a couple of weeks, making it hard to miss Cayetano in the Speaker’s seat.
Over the past few days, a lot has been said regarding the 3rd anniversary of the Hague ruling favoring the Philippines in its stance against China on the West Philippine Sea dispute. Three years ago, it was a highly celebrated victory headed by former Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario and then Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio. The ruling was considered by many as a marquee case that reinforced the salience of international law as a diplomatic equalizer between state actors; primarily pitting a small island state against an international power and eventually winning versus a seemingly “formidable” adversary. Nonetheless, it was the poster child for the efficacy of non-lethal avenues in settling conflicts between nation-states.
The warm waters of the South China Sea are rich, which make them highly contested fishing grounds. China is the largest littoral state around this body of water, and it has a huge population to feed. It has built several supporting harbors and infrastructure in the last few years in the area, enabling it to deploy the largest fishing fleet in the South China Sea. The Chinese Maritime Militia (CMM) leads and protects China’s huge armada of fishing vessels.
Time is of the essence for the rollout of infrastructure projects as President Rodrigo R. Duterte hits the halfway mark into his six-year term that ends in 2022. As soon as he assumed office in 2016, the government introduced the “Build, Build, Build” program, which aims to reduce the infrastructure gap in the country.
The last two months have been replete with small victories related to the Philippines’ waste problem. After languishing in our ports for years, shipping containers of garbage -- plastics, household kitchen waste, shredded electronic wastes, and contaminated trash -- were recently shipped back to their places of origin. Whether it was low business costs, ineffective checks, or regulatory oversight that led these piles of garbage to our shores, using another country as a dumping ground is an utterly deplorable practice.
Our situation in the South China Sea evokes an image of a child who gets his pants pulled down on the playground at lunchtime. This is normally followed by physical harm such as repeated hitting, kicking, pushing, and the like. And, to make the physical intimidation more credible, the bullies usually outnumber the victim, and more often than not, have a visible physical advantage.
In diplomacy and foreign relations, appeasement refers to a state’s effort to mollify or pacify, but not necessarily align with, a revisionist power. An appeasing state could extend diplomatic concessions to a revisionist power without necessarily aligning or subordinating its foreign policy with the latter’s. Appeasement can either complement a bandwagoning policy because a weak power is vulnerable to external pressure and has little capacity to confront the threatening power. Alternatively, it can supplement a state’s balancing strategies, in the same way that “talking tough” and leveling coercive threats can accompany or preclude taking concrete measures to improve one’s power relative to the threatening state.
When I think of Filipinos who suffer from poverty, hunger, and inequality, the more I value my democratic duty to vote and have my will as a Filipino be counted thru the ballot. Free elections are the living spirit of all democracies. Clean and honest elections bestow the people’s trust to legitimately govern and serve the interest of the people.
Still of particular interest in the Labor Day discussions is the issue on the contractualization of labor. More popularly known as “endo” or the 5-5-5 arrangement, this practice started in the mid-70s as a response to alarming unemployment. For the uninitiated, the term “endo” was coined from “end of contract.” On the other hand, 5-5-5 stands for three cycles of five-month contracts, a cunning ploy that makes workers in every contract a month shy from being regularized into the company, given the mandate of the law to make workers who have stayed for six months permanent. Right off the bat, you can understand why this is such a controversial issue.
President Duterte finally signed the 2019 General Appropriations Act, after almost four months of operating on a reenacted budget, two months since lawmakers supposedly ratified the bill, and eight years since the budget was last reenacted. This concluded a tumultuous year punctuated by standoffs and squabbles, as lawmakers wrestled over taxpayers’ money.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) has made headlines in the past month. The withdrawal of the Philippines from the Rome Statute took effect on March 17. This prevents the court from potentially investigating drug-related killings committed after this date, and would find it more challenging to continue its current preliminary examination activities.
There is so much attention and discussion on the “Build, Build, Build” program of the Duterte administration. On one side, you have his drumbeaters extolling this administration’s infrastructure spending, presenting numbers that show that the country never had it this good. On the other hand, critics are zeroing in on how this program has given China an inroad into our socio-economic affairs through the loans to fund these projects, not to mention the extended welcome to the labor market our government has given to their citizens.
In December 2018, Philippine Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana declared that he wanted a review of the 1951 Philippine-US Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT). He stated that it is high time for the two allies to examine the treaty’s provision in light of the growing tension in the South China Sea. According to him, the DND wanted Washington’s definitive stance on whether or not Manila could depend on its ally to come to its assistance in case of a confrontation with outside powers in the nine land features that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) occupies in the South China Sea. In a yearend news briefing, Secretary Lorenzana admitted that his call for a review has been triggered by China’s challenging the Philippine occupation of these islets and rocks by aggressively building fortified military facilities on the reclaimed islands it created in the South China Sea. He said that the review of the MDT is needed to make the alliance stronger as the US remains the Philippines’ only formal treaty ally.
President Duterte may have flip-flopped on his stance on several issues, but he has been consistent in his accommodation of Chinese investments and loans. And understandably so. Chinese money has filled the gap vacated by Westerners and has covered the funding requirements of developing nations. Critics, however, argue that China may use its economic foothold to gain political influence in its host country.
The Universal Health Care (UHC) Act, also known as Republic Act 11223, was signed by President Rodrigo Duterte on February 20. Under this landmark legislation, all citizens, including overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), will be automatically enrolled into the National Health Insurance Program (NHIP), either as direct or indirect contributors, who will be eligible and have access to preventive, promotive, curative, rehabilitative and palliative care for medical, dental, mental and emergency health services.
The Philippine poultry industry again faces a challenge after the much-dreaded avian influenza outbreak, or “bird flu,” a few years back: the lifting of the price-based special safeguard duty imposition (SSG) on imported chicken meat and products, which led to a sharp increase in importation to the detriment of the local poultry sector.
The campaign season officially kicked off last week, marking the start of a three-month period that will no doubt be filled with theatrics and mudslinging. After all, the outcome of the midterm election is, in some ways, a litmus test for the popular support for this administration. Other than re-electionists, at least three hopefuls closely associated with President Duterte are vying for a seat in the senate. And in the latest Pulse Asia Senatorial Preferences survey, the former Special Assistant to the President finally broke into the coveted twelve spots, overtaking even more seasoned politicians.
On January 24, another criminal complaint related to the anti-dengue vaccine was filed with the Department of Justice (DoJ). The mother of a 39-year-old physician, Dr. Kendrick Gotoc, who was inoculated by the vaccine three times prior to his death on April 22, 2018, filed cases of obstruction of justice, reckless imprudence resulting in homicide, torture, and violation of the Consumer Act against Health Secretary Francisco Duque, former DoH chief Janette Garin, and 37 others.