Oh boy, here it comes. It was very slight, and brief (see christine’s Site), but there it was. Tremors shake Metro Manila, Central Luzon areas. This, after Philippines Hit by 6.5-Magnitude Earthquake, U.S. Agency Says . And this sets the scene: 6.6 quake in Atlantic, north of Brazilian coast — USGS.
24 years after, brains of Ninoy slay a mystery. Goofy idea or lapsus senilis? Narvasa: We should close book on Ninoy Aquino’s murder. See Inquirer Current for my entry on Ninoy’s martyrdom.
On the Mindanao front: ‘No spillover of Mindanao hostilities in Metro Manila’ even as PNP placed on full alert nationwide. Government tries to soft-pedal news that Government-MILF talks canceled. In Hawk Central (Philippine Commentary), there’s an update on concern among retired or ex-officers, on the recent casualties in the fighting.
At this point, I’d like to share with you a copy of a letter Sen. Dick Gordon sent the President, which makes for interesting reading (he sent me a copy this morning). Here’s the letter:
Some interesting excerpts:
1. Despite the recent hostilities in Basilan and Sulu, which have claimed many lives and injured others, the area is by no means a war zone. The situation is under control. The no-guns policy is being enforced effectively by the AFP and the PNP under the leadership of Gen. Romeo Tolentino and Gen. Ruben Rafael . The number of displaced persons is not as large as feared, and they are being assisted by the DSWD, PNRC and other groups. Normal business and social life prevails.
This is not to minimize the seriousness of the terrorist threat and the high toll of lives of recent incidents there. But the fighting has occurred mainly in a few pockets of the two islands where the campaign against terrorist bands, particularly the Abu Sayyaf, is being prosecuted.
The local people, while edgy about the recent fighting and the military presence, are happy about the gun ban. Sulu Governor Abdulsakur Tan told me that he will continue the ban beyond the current situation. He has successfully made all mayors and barangay chairmen report to their posts, where in the past such local officials used to station themselves in Zamboanga City. The mayor of Jolo, Hussin Amin, is fully supporting his initiatives.
The focus of complaint and worry of the local people is not peace and order but the poor provision of basic services (such as schools, water service and roads), the payment of salaries to teachers, and support for economic activities and livelihood.
He goes on to note that,
4. On the economic front, business and commerce go on as usual in both islands. In the campus of the Jolo Agricultural School, we visited a site that used to be a dumping ground for bodies. It is now being used for poultry raising. We found high school and college students bottling sardines, mangosteen and durian. Everywhere we went, we were being offered bananas, lanzones and other fruits. These produce are very cheap in the province. Mangosteen was selling for 5 to 7 pesos per kilo. In Metro Manila, it sells for P100 to P120 per kilo. I believe the President should call on the DTI to help them market these products at better prices. This will do so much to provide livelihood and jobs to the people of Sulu and the entire ARMM area.
Another move that could really help the regional economy is for the government to finish the circumferential road in Isabela City in Basilan and other road projects. General Juancho Saban, the marine brigade commander in Basilan, told me that the completion of the circumferential road will have far-reaching impact on provincial life and commerce because people, goods and relief effort can move more quickly from Isabela to isolated towns. This will pave the way for local prosperity because of the increase in the number of rubber trees and the abundant production of lanzones.
He suggests a change of perspective:
What I am suggesting here, Your Excellency, is that we should consider a change in perspective and approach to the area. The prevailing practice has been to treat Basilan and Sulu as a war zone, whether one is calling for all-out war like the hardliners or for peace talks like the bishops. This has led to a total neglect of the all-important buildup of basic services and infrastructure in the area. But in fact, the situation there is no more severe than in other areas of the country where there are insurgent or rebel activities. Peace and order prevails and the encounters are sporadic and occur mainly in forest areas. Significantly, however, by neglecting to strengthen basic governance in the area, we wind up losing the argument to the extremists and terrorists.
And makes an appeal for political will and to listen to the solutions proposed by those in the affected areas:
For this kind of capacity-building, assistance from the national government is a must. As I reported previously to Your Excellency after a visit to Tawi-tawi, in Bongao town a bridge donated by the US remains to be built even though the materials for it — valued at several hundred million pesos — have been there since seven years ago. This infrastructure will not happen unless there is direct intervention and assistance from the national government.
Simply stated, consistency, accountability and follow-through leadership in ARMM and government agencies must be committed to peace and progress in the region. Using best-practice as our model, we have to set up the infrastructure for accountability and standards to implement all funding initiatives.
What we face in the South, finally, is a battle for hearts and minds. The conflict cannot be won by force alone. All groups trying to help there — the military, the private sector, civil society and international aid organizations — share this conviction about the situation. Local people have to believe that there really is a peace dividend, and that in getting from here to there, we will be with them all the way.
On the economic front: this is a potentially highly significant story: Fewer OFWs leave, but flow of funds steady:
The remittances of overseas Filipinos have flowed at a rate of more than a billion dollars a month for 13
months in a series thus far, totaling $7.03 billion in the first half.
What is not apparent, however, is that the deployment of sea-based Pinoy workers fell by 11.1 percent to just 123,950 while land-based workers fell 3.2 percent to 422,262 during the period.
The declining pace of deployment has caught the eye of relevant government agency heads who noted the annual remittances account for 11 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product and at least half the country’s foreign exchange reserves at the moment.
The sustained flow of worker remittances helped fuel consumer spending that in turn pushed the GDP higher to 6.9 percent in the second quarter.
According to the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, deployment in the period contracted by 5.1 percent to only 546.212, making more imperative the pursuit of the training and skills development programs undertaken earlier by both government and private employment agencies.
The Philippines archipelago of more than 7,200 islands is among the world’s most mineral-rich countries, with gold, silver, bauxite, nickel and coal mines. But it remains one of Asia’s poorest nations, with a fragile democracy, slow growth, weak institutions, and a widening wealth gap. Its mineral reserves are estimated to be worth £420bn, yet only 1.4% of the estimated 22m acres (9m ha) of mining land is covered by permits. To exploit the resources the government formed a mining act in 1995. It claimed the industry would bring an extra million jobs over the next six years, although only 125,000 people are now employed in mining. The development has come at a price for the country’s 84 million people. The worst mining disaster was on Marinduque island, involving a leak of 4m tonnes of toxic waste at Marcopper’s mine. The estimated damages of £40m have yet to be fully recouped
Deal-making update: 2 new air accords rushed. Also, Arroyo orders sale of energy assets rushed and GMA wants nuke power harnessed (see Jove Francisco for more details on government’s efforts to gauge public opinion on this one). Oversight’s called for on potentially juicy deals.
Happy, happy, joy, joy in the stock market: RP stocks index end up nearly 10% as global equities rebound. However, US stocks waver as uncertainty remains. As usual, noteworthy observations on the part of Ricky Carandang.
On a point of filial pride, Aquino Awards honors work of former president, priest. My mom was among the awardees, for her half-century of work in volunteer training, consumer advocacy, and NGO work.
Overseas, Thailand approves a flawed charter and Thailand’s Constitutional Merry-Go-Round. Also, how the American presidency clamps down on dissent in Sic ’em With the Rally Squad. See also, How Physics Can Explain Why Some Countries Are Rich And Others Are Poor.
In the blogosphere, Mon Casiple has a blog! See his entry on GMA searches for way out of her political crisis:
The 2007 elections, particularly the senatorial one, basically confirmed the whole series of surveys on GMA that signified her political isolation from the majority of the electorate. Her senatorial slate got a drubbing, along with a very controversial last-place win for her candidate Senator Miguel Zubiri. The GMA kiss of death, some say. It resulted to her being considered a political lameduck for the rest of her term.
Well, except for two things that will diminish as her term ends. Her silent endorsement is eagerly but silently being solicited by presidentiables who need the money and resources a sitting president can give. The other thing is the behemoth GMA-led coalition that, so far, does not have a viable presidentiable in its stable…
GMA’s current political crisis stems from her alienation from the people — not from her bitter rivalry with the political opposition. The opposition only becomes effectively The Opposition if and when the people clearly side with it. Unfortunately for GMA, the situation beginning in the run-up to the 2004 elections generally went against her. Her December 31, 2002 Rizal Day statement that she will not run in the 2004 presidential elections did not help at all. Her perceived involvement in the Garcillano scandal started the current skid on a slope with no acceptable end in sight.
There are, I think, only two good options open for her: One, to gracefully exit in 2010, patch things up, and try to make good during her remaining days in office; and two, to negotiate with (a) winnable presidentiable(s) on political protection in the post-GMA period.
A third option, to remain in power beyond 2010 — as some in her Cabinet proposes — is a political minefield. Marcos did it in 1972 with the declaration of martial law — bringing forth the Marcos dictatorship and ruining the country. However, he had a certain level of popular support, the full control of the military, and the tacit tolerance of the Catholic church and Western powers at that time. GMA had none of these today.