2013 in the horizon

May 31, 2010

BARELY has the smoke of the 2010 elections settled but pundits at the Iloilo City hall can already hear the sound of war trumpets in 2013.
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Transactional politics

August 25, 2009

STORIES on Megaworld’s thinning enthusiasm in pursuing its multibillion peso development projects at the old Iloilo airport in Mandurriao, Iloilo City sound very familiar.  Sources say Megaworld is now on wait-and-see attitude.

Why?

Did its owners encounter a corrupt politician at City Hall?

Did the company get disillusioned with City Hall after its offer to host the new Iloilo City Hall got waylaid in the City Council?   

In the past serious investors left the city in a huff after pseudo public servants demanded hefty amount of money before they can even start their business ventures.

Informal fees in doing business almost always spell the death knell of vital projects in a community.

Development and urbanization experts define informal fees as forms of bribery and corruption of bureaucrats and politicians before investors start their businesses.

The 2007 Philippine Cities Competitiveness Rating Project (which was mounted by the Asian Institute of Management and other private sector partners) enumerated informal fees as one of the main issues in the cost of doing business in cities.

Combined with inefficient bureaucratic processes and requirements and heavy burden of business taxes, bribes and other forms of informal fees drive investors away.

The PCCRP survey also confirms that some city officials actually demand grease money from investors lest their lives will end up miserable.

International financial agencies estimate billions of pesos are lost to graft and corruption in the country, including lost opportunities due to investor flight.

The World Bank estimated that the Philippines lost $48 billion (P1.968 trillion) to corruption from 1977 to 1997.

Iloilo City has more natural and human resources in supporting big time investors. Compared to Cebu, Iloilo is better off in terms of raw materials and manpower.

But sadly, Cebu overtook Iloilo in the race to economic prominence. Next to Metro Manila, Metro Cebu is an investor’s pick even if it geologists classify the island as a very big limestone rock.

In Iloilo City, electricity rates are prohibitive, the water supply almost non-existent and our city hall “squats” inside a mall. A 30-minute downpour is enough to inundate portions of the city, particularly business areas.

Worse, some bureaucrats and politicians squeeze whatever they can get from investors.

The challenge for the new set of leaders who will be elected next year is to banish the practice of transactional politics at the City Hall. Any candidate who professes that he or she is clean and professional governance should not inherit the mantle of Mr. 20 percent.

Megaworld and other potential investors will bring not just taxes and fees to City Hall but also jobs and other opportunities to the community.

Investors come here for the long term, not one shot deals who will disappear in the dark of the night after raking in profit. A burgeoning business community is one of the best legacies any politician or bureaucrat can leave their constituents. Driving investors away is worst sin a public official can commit to his people.

Iloilo City has been the subject of ridicules, the butt of all jokes and recipients of elegiacs because of our backwater status despite its potentials.


Filipinos nostalgic for a past triumph

August 20, 2009

By Seth Mydans/Int’l  Herald Tribune

MANILA — When former President Corazon C. Aquino died this month, Filipinos filled the streets in mourning and in celebration of the golden moment in 1986 when she led them in a peaceful uprising that some called a revolution.

The nation’s dictator, Ferdinand E. Marcos, had fled as masses of people faced down his tanks, and democracy was restored after 20 years of repressive rule. Mrs. Aquino, the opposition leader who became president, ushered in wide-ranging political reforms.

But the weeks since Mrs. Aquino’s death at the age of 76 have been a period of self-examination and self-doubt among many Filipinos, as they consider how little has really changed since then.

“The legacy is the mess we are in,” said F. Sionil Jose, 84, the nation’s most prominent novelist, pointing to continuing poverty, inequality and political disarray as evidence that the nation failed to capitalize on its moment of possibility.

“We have a word for it — sayang — ‘what a waste,’” he said.

In schools, coffeehouses, rice fields, churches and offices around Manila and in the countryside, there seemed to be a shared sense that the people of the Philippines had failed themselves.

“We thought all we needed to do was remove the dictator and do nothing about it,” said Teresita I. Barcelo, president of the Philippine Nurses Association. “We thought the problem was just the dictator. I say the problem is us. We did not change.”

Sister Dory Reyes, 61, a former Roman Catholic nun and teacher in the farming town of Santa Maria, said: “The poverty is still there. The corruption is still there. Unemployment is still there. I don’t see improvement.”

The Philippines, with a population of 92 million, is one of the most vibrant nations in Asia, with a flamboyantly free press and a creative, assertive body of independent organizations and interest groups.

But it has not managed to tame its Communist and Muslim insurgencies or its restive military, which seems constantly to be plotting coups. The military has regularly been accused of human rights abuses and disappearances.

And the political arena sometimes seems more like a form of mass entertainment than a place of governance.

Since Mrs. Aquino left office in 1992, there have been three presidential elections, two attempts at impeachment, two apparent attempts to stay in power through constitutional change, one popular uprising that ousted an elected president and another that failed.

“We keep coming up with new ways to describe the country,” said Sheila Coronel, director of the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism at Columbia University in New York, who for years was a leading journalist in the Philippines.

“Democracy in decay, a nonfunctioning democracy, a challenged democracy,” Ms. Coronel said, listing some of the epithets. “There was a time when the phrase ‘illiberal democracy’ was fashionable.”

Almost nothing in the Philippines escapes politics, and Mrs. Aquino’s funeral procession on Aug. 5 has been widely seen as a protest against the unpopular incumbent president, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, whose term is scheduled to end next May.

“When Cory’s term ended, she did not seek to extend her stay,” said Consolacion Paje, 53, a housewife, as she stood in the rain with tens of thousands of people to view the funeral cortege, referring to Mrs. Aquino by her common nickname. “That’s what makes her different from Gloria. Cory was honest. She had integrity.”

Mrs. Arroyo is barred from running for a second six-year term as president. But the nation is transfixed by the possibility that she could amend the Constitution and stay in power as prime minister in a parliamentary system, a concern she sought to tamp down last month during her state of the nation address.

Despite constant attacks on her, Mrs. Arroyo is a ferocious politician, and she has already used her majority backing in Congress to turn aside attempts at impeachment.

With so much energy expended on political theater, not much progress has been made in improving the lives of ordinary Filipinos in a nation where 30 percent of the population lives below the poverty line.

“Things get harder and harder every year,” said Ernesto Policarpio, 74, a farmer in Santa Maria, 20 miles northeast of Manila, who sells snacks and supplies from a stall by his rice field for extra income.

He paused to sell a single cigarette to a young man who lighted it with a lighter hanging from a string.

“But here in the province you don’t feel the hard times as much as in the city,” he said. “Here if you have nothing to eat you can always go to the neighbor and ask for food.”

Mr. Policarpio said he had worked abroad for a while, as many Filipinos have, earning $2,000 a month as a security guard in Los Angeles until the economy stumbled and he headed home.

Eight million Filipinos work overseas, or 25 percent of the country’s work force, its leading export. They send home about $17 billion a year, accounting for 13 percent of gross domestic product in 2007, according to the World Bank.

Before the financial crisis, the Philippine economy was growing by an average of more than 5 percent a year, World Bank figures show. But even that was not fast enough to outpace some of the world’s worst corruption or a birthrate that will bring the population to an estimated 101 million by 2015.

Many families here depend on remittances from abroad, and an overseas job can be one of the highest ambitions for the upwardly mobile.

“I’m optimistic,” said Danica Canonigo, 16, a high school student in Santa Maria. “I’m looking forward to another future in another country.”

This umbilical connection to the outside world may come in part from the history of the Philippines, which was an American colony for half a century, until 1946, after spending 400 years as a colony of Spain.

“We are not yet a nation,” said Mr. Jose, the novelist. “This is the whole problem. We have all the trappings of a modern state, but we are not yet a nation.”

The Philippines remains a collection of fiefdoms and oligarchies and political dynasties that include the children of Mr. Marcos and of Mrs. Aquino. She was herself elected as the widow of a prominent politician, Benigno S. Aquino Jr.

“I’m for Noynoy,” said Win Rico, 25, who serves coffee at a Starbucks outlet in Santa Maria, referring to Senator Benigno S. Aquino III. Mr. Aquino’s name has become a hot item in next year’s presidential election maneuvers since his mother’s funeral.

“I think Noynoy is a person who will put our country first,” Mr. Rico said, “the same as his father and his mother.”


Life after Cory

August 10, 2009

WE bid goodbye to former President Cory Aquino, the woman who mothered an oppressed nation when she could have chosen to care for her own children alone.

Cory espoused and fought for the Filipinos’ aspirations for democracy and prosperity when she could have opted to become an ordinary widow of a martyr.

The Aquino administration was not heaven on earth as everybody expected it to be after the dictatorship was toppled. Upon assumption to power, Aquino supporters jostled for juicy position while remnants of the old regime feigned loyalty to the new order.

While Mrs. Aquino instituted land reform, her family, which owns vast track of lands in Tarlac, was assailed for dodging the law. Talks with rebels were snail-paced even as disgruntled segments of the military tried to bomb her out of Malacañang.

Cory, however, will always be revered as an icon of democracy, a heroine who rose from ordinariness to courageous leadership despite the odds she faced. She mustered the courage to lead because she listened to her people’s clamor.

It is unfortunate that while Cory was still alive, the very people who benefited from her sacrifices are trying to undo the gains of the EDSA People Power Revolution. Charter change, term extension, political and media killings and blatant corruption have replaced the ideas of good governance, democracy and liberty that emanated from that bloodless revolution.

Once Cory is laid to rest, there is a lingering fear that the young will not recognize her or the greedy will bring us back to the dark period that we sought to banish.

After all the tributes and gratitude we expressed for Cory, bigger challenges await us after her burial, and that is the preservation of our democratic ideals and fulfilling our aspirations for clean governance.

Certainly, Cory would continue to pray for the Philippine wherever she is now. Until her last days, she did raise our country to God’s mercy and graces.

But now that she is gone, we must couple prayers with vigilance, hope with decisive action, particularly in the 2010 elections.

We bid farewell to Cory as we lay her to rest, but we should not bury the memories of an ordinary housewife who rose to lead a hopeful nation.

RONIN

Francis Allan L. Angelo

The Daily Guardian

5 August 2009


‘ILONGGONOMICS’ blog

April 18, 2009

Got a new blog guys, http://westvisayasbiz.wordpress.com, which will focus on economic issues in the region. It’s time we discuss thoroughly the economic climate of Iloilo and the rest of Western Visayas.

 

Some of the items were published in The Daily Guardian and Businessworld.

 

Enjoy! Ciao!


Weathering the storm

March 2, 2009

 

Speech delivered by Rex C. Drilon II, president of the Iloilo Economic Development Foundation (ILEDF) and COO of Ortigas and Company during the induction of the officers of the Filipino Chinese Chamber of Commerce of Iloilo, 28 February 2009, at Amigo Hotel, Iloilo City

 

OUR beloved Mayor Jerry Treñas and members of the City Council led by Vice Mayor Jed Mabilog, Rep. Raul Gonzalez Jr., members, officers and directors of the Filipino Chinese Chamber of Commerce of Iloilo (FCCCI), jubilarians and alumni of Iloilo Central Commercial High School, movers and shakers of the Chinese-Ilonggo community in Iloilo, my colleagues in ILEDF, distinguished guests, friends, kasimanwas, ladies and gentlemen.

 

At the outset, may I congratulate the brave men and women who have agreed to be the leaders of the FCCCI for the current term. May I also express my heartfelt thanks and gratitude for your invitation to join you in your 98th founding anniversary celebration and induction of your officers. It is indeed a great personal honor and privilege to be with you today. Let me go direct to my talk.

 

The world is in crisis, we all know that. Our country has been long in crisis. At least 60% of Filipinos agree with that. Our community is also in crisis, even if sometimes, we Ilonggos deny that. But there is nothing wrong with crisis. I am told the Chinese ideogram for crisis is “Wei Ji” – danger and opportunity. Which means, as a response to crisis, we either get paralyzed because of danger, anxiety, demoralization, despair and fear or we are driven to move and act because of excitement, adventure, opportunities that crises bring.

 

The global financial crisis, we are told, have destroyed so far about $20 trillion of global wealth or about one-third of the world’s economic output. That’s one million billion pesos lost in the air! In America alone, giant companies like AIG, Lehmann Brothers, Wachovia, Washington Mutual, to name a few, have either drowned or are in life support systems. In the last months of the Bush Administration, the US government came up with a $740 billion rescue package. A few weeks into the Obama administration, an additional $830 billion was appropriated to help rescue the American economy. And these huge lifelines are not yet enough to turn the situation around. Whether it is greed, incompetence of the regulators or absence of regulations or all of the above that caused these massive wealth destruction is not the issue. The challenge is: how much more wealth will be destroyed, how many more companies will go under, how many more millions will lose their jobs, when will things bottom out and how do we recover from the worst economic beating we’ve had in the last 100 years. In the old days, we were told that when America sneezes, the world catches cold. Well, sad to say, these days, America has pneumonia and the world is in ICU.

 

And yet, the Philippines does not seem to be greatly affected. Well, not yet. We have worse problems. Economically, we still grew 4% last year while most developed economies and most of our neighbors decelerated or even experienced up to double-digit negative growth in GDP. Our peso is relatively stable, our savings rate is approaching 25%, our GIR is almost $40B, equivalent to more than 6 months of imports, our credit rating is improving. Our OFWs remitted more than $16 billion last year while the BPOs earned about $5 billion. Tourist arrivals broke 3 million. Our natural resources are still aplenty and there is growing social and environmental awareness of our economic elite. On the other hand, our 4% growth has been our average growth rate in the last 50 years and this growth rate is at best mediocre and not enough to reverse the growing number of Filipinos, now at 38%, living below the poverty line. We are an economic time bomb. There is still maldistribution of wealth, democratized/immoderate corruption, an uneven playing field that favors certain families or conglomerates, a paralyzed, abused and divided business sector.

 

On the social front, we are thankful that we still are a spiritual people, freedom loving, non-violent, talented people. We have numerous NGOs that fill in for the shortcomings of government, a vigilant civil society, and a young population where 60% is below 25 years of age. We have a high literacy rate, an English speaking people with globally competitive skills and still a strong family institution. And as a people, we have a high tolerance for pain and abuse. On the other hand, we have many social problems, still. Insurgency remains active because of the gap between the rich and the poor. Our educational system sucks (pardon the language). Many of our children are malnourished, many are jobless and there is a culture of violence, death and jueteng. In certain sectors, environmental desecration is the norm. And so we have a people nearing despair ready to, what they say in Tagalog, “kapit sa patalim.”

 

Our greatest problem, however, is in our political life as a nation. Yes, we still are a democracy, no matter how flawed, with many freedoms like freedom of the press, freedom of religion, free speech, and essentially free markets. We have jewels in the LGUs in the countryside like Marides Fernando of Marikina, Oscar Rodriguez of San Fernando, Pampanga, Jesse Robredo of Naga City and our very own Jerry Trenas. Yes, we have honest and competent workers in the majority of the bureaucracy, although outhustled by a small, incorrigible, corrupt few. Our leaders, at the national and local levels, are thankfully middle-of-the-roaders. Not too many communists nor rightists. But there is a national disconnect between the governors and the governed. There still legitimacy and credibility problems. The quality of public governance is not up to par while our executive, legislative, judicial and military and police institutions had been weakened and divided.

 

In Manila, the greatest concern of the business sector is the Cha-cha train. And the fear is that if this train fails in its mission to extend terms, among others, we might have some misplaced people close to the powers that be thinking of emergency rule and similar moves. It is not far-fetched and this has been written about by columnists and opinion makers that if 2010 elections have to happen, an anointed one, which can be a Trojan horse can win the election and insure the continued enjoyment of the perks of power, if not protection of some from persecution for grievous sins committed in the past.

 

God bless our country.

 

Locally, and this is probably the more interesting for those of you who are not bothered by the global and national crises, we have serious problems. In the last 9 years, Iloilo has been ably, competently and well-managed by our Mayor, Jerry Trenas. After decades of bondage under an obsolete patronage politics called Timawaism personified by the late Senator Ganzon and former Mayor Malabor where the masses are encouraged to be overly dependent on doleouts and on government, Iloilo finally got a leader who had vision, competence, with character and a strong sense of country and community. Under his leadership, he converted a deficit if not bankrupt financial situation of the city into a surplus in less than 5 years. He has been sensitive to the needs of business and made sure that the city becomes competitive vis-à-vis the other rival cities. He was with us in the forefront of the battle for more stable, consistent, reliable and cheaper cost of electricity despite opposition from very influential sectors of Ilonggo society. I don’t live here but I come to the city every month since my return from the US in 1994 and I have seen the development of the city. It is now cleaner, greener, more orderly. The banishment of the tricycles was politically deadly for Jerry but he had the political will to enforce a better traffic situation by banning tricycles from the main streets. I can go on and on but believe you me, Iloilo is on the way to being a premiere city by 2015 and that is Jerry’s vision and his legacy. The problem is he will graduate in 2010. There will be a vacuum in good, effective, skillful and people-centered governance when Jerry steps down next year. You, in the business and civil society sectors have to find as good, if not a better replacement for Jerry.

 

You might ask now, what else can Iloilo do, aside from finding a good replacement for Mayor Jerry, to sustain the momentum towards achieving the vision for Iloilo to be a premiere city by 2015. Allow me to share with you what I told the Daily Guardian last month. It is a series of choices – for status quo or “business as usual” OR for CHANGE that we can make happen:

 

The traditional political incumbents: To continue with old, ineffective and corrupt ways or to start putting “Iloilo Above Self”;

 

The non-traditional incumbents: To be coopted by the system or to be more aggressive and take leadership position in governance reforms and to model “Iloilo Above Self”;

 

The bystanders: To continue criticizing without doing anything or, for the qualified and responsible citizens, to throw their hats into the ring and do something. Or for those who just can’t be in politics (like I who does not have any plans to ever enter politics) – to lead citizen actions to push for reforms

 

The business sector: To continue “funding” the wrong people or to put its foot where its mouth is and start supporting leaders who have shown competence, character and a strong sense of country. To continue evading taxes or to start paying the correct taxes. To continue going around labor laws or to start paying just and adequate compensation and better terms of employment.

 

The professional sector: To continue with mediocrity or to start having a passion for excellence in the exercise of their professions. And yes, to also start paying the right taxes.

 

The academe: To limit its activities to the confines of the campuses or to become activists and contribute its collective intellectual resources to develop solutions to the social, political and economic challenges in Iloilo.

 

The Youth: To continue the indifference, the apathy and the pettiness or to become a primary agent of change in Iloilo.

 

 

The labor sector: To continue with its disruptive agenda or to become a more productive partner of development

 

The Church: To continue using the church resources and facilities, including the pulpits and church grounds to espouse extremist, archaic and obsolete positions affecting the economic, social and political life of Iloilo or to instead contribute its spiritual and physical resources to ensure the effective living of the values as taught by Christ in all aspects of life in Iloilo. Each hour spent in the streets leading demonstrations is one hour less available for the sacraments.

 

The Media: To keep harping on the negative and, for some, to use media for “fund raising” or to look at the glass as half full and to rid itself of corrupt and extremist elements.

 

In short, we, the Ilonggos or the citizens of Iloilo, including members and officers of FCCCI will decide whether Iloilo goes to the dogs or in the path to glory in spite of the looming crisis. In the end, it is really good governance and responsible citizenship that will tip the balance. The future of Iloilo in 2009 and beyond does not depend on DOJ Sec. Raul Gonzalez or his son, Cong. Raul Jr. or Inday Pacita or Mayor Jerry Treñas or Governor Niel Tupas. Not even on Frank Drilon or Miriam Defensor-Santiago. It depends on each and everyone of us. We either believe that Iloilo is worth fighting for or not. It is not the politicians’ call. It is the citizens’ call. FCCCI, it is indeed, your call.

 

And, yes. Help stop the Cha-cha train. Help oppose emergency rule, if it is declared. And don’t allow the Trojan Horse to enter Malacañang.

 

Madamo guid nga salamat. Mabuhay ang Inang Bayan. Mabuhay ang Iloilo. Mabuhay ang FCCCI. God bless our country, the Philippines!

 


Hypocrisy

October 12, 2008

GOVERNMENT officials should learn to be consistent with their words and actions lest they will be labeled hypocrites.

And the governors who signed a position paper against the construction of the coal-fired power plant in LaPaz, Iloilo are in danger of being labeled as such.

Of the five governors who signed the position (which I suppose is a last-ditch effort of anti-coal forces that have been discredited by the Iloilo community), Salvacion Perez of Antique sticks out like a sore thumb.

This lady governor, who was transformed overnight into an environmentalist and advocate of renewable energy sources after learning that a hydropower venture will enter their province, actually benefits from coal.

Yes, Perez is shouting to high heavens, “No to coal!” But right in her backyard, coal mining is a burgeoning business.

In fact, DM Consunji, Inc., which operates coal-mining activities in Semirara Island, Antique, is the number one taxpayer of Antique. This means that Antiqueños get to build new roads, hospitals and schools thanks to revenues from the Semirara coal mine.

Coal from Antique is burned in other power plants in the country which produce cheap and stable electricity. It is also being exported to other countries. Businesses in these areas are burgeoning and people get employed.

Antique, on the other hand, is still a backwater province thanks but no thanks to the bickering of their political leaders including Perez herself.

Perez is concerned that Panay and the rest of Region 6 will be polluted if the coal plant operates more or less two years from now. But she is not concerned with the safety of other communities running on power produced by Semirara coal.

Iloilo City has been regaining investors’ confidence after the groundbreaking of the coal-fired power plant project. The latest in the list of interested investors is Ayala Corp. which plans to build a business processes outsourcing facility in the city.

Perez and the rest of the governors want to stymie Iloilo City’s development by stopping the project. But she does not lift a finger against coal mining in her own province because she stands to lose a lot of money.

Maybe she wants the city to draw electricity from her hydropower plant which might dry out during summertime.

Worse, the position paper of Perez and the other governors (except Iloilo’s Niel Tupas Sr.) undermines the capability of the majority of Ilonggos to protect the environment while striving for progress.

Maybe Perez thinks we are dumb because we approved the coal plant project without scrutinizing its perceived effects on the environment and human health. But in the words of Iloilo City Rep. Raul Gonzalez Jr., these governors should not underestimate Ilonggos because this issue was thoroughly debated and studied by local and national officials.

Perez should first stop coal mining operations in her province before she opposes coal-fired power plants in Iloilo. If she fails to do so, I’ll be tempted to call her a hypocrite.

Lucky for Negros Occidental because they have geothermal power sources but some Negrenses are opposing its expansion for fear of destroying Mt. Kanlaon. Just the same, Panay needs its own inland baseload power plant.

Iloilo, which has no indigenous energy sources and can actually benefit from the geothermal expansion project, did not comment for or against the expansion project. Ilonggo leaders kept their peace out of courtesy to other local government units. They should afford the same to Ilonggos because we don’t invade their respective jurisdictions.

But do these governors really know the needs of Iloilo City? Do they know that we need ample and cheap electricity to keep our businesses running and employ more Ilonggos? Are they aware that the progress of Iloilo will mean development cascading to their own jurisdictions?

When Cebu expanded its coal-fired power plant, not one among the local officials of Region 7 raised hell. They know that the project is safe and will usher in development. Cardinal Ricardo Vidal was wise enough not to raise much fuzz on the project knowing that the clergy has no business dabbling in secular matters.

This position letter against the coal-fired power plant might be another case of crab-mentality.

If other provinces want to languish in darkness, please spare Iloilo City because we already see the light at the end of the tunnel.


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