Saturday, 5 March 2011

World Bank still upbeat on country’s BPO trade

By Michelle Remo
Philippine Daily Inquirer

THE PHILIPPINES will continue to reap bounties from its burgeoning business process outsourcing industry, which has grown by leaps and bounds over the past few years, according to the World Bank.

In its latest quarterly report on the Philippines, the World Bank pointed out that growing income of the BPO sector had more than made up for the decline in tourism revenue.

“The rapidly rising BPO sector is building on the natural comparative advantage of the Philippines,” the World Bank said in a chapter of the report, titled “Exports of Services: Lessons from the BPO and Tourism Sectors.”

“Exports of services have been growing rapidly in the Philippines as fast as the growth of the BPO sector more than offset declining tourism receipts,” the report stated.

The World Bank also said factors like low cost, availability of human capital, tax incentives, and active promotion of the country’s capability to provide BPO services would allow the industry to post sharper growth in the years ahead.

Also, US-based companies that chose to outsource their services to the Philippines spent 80 percent less on operations compared to firms that had not, the World Bank added.

On human resources, hundreds of thousands of Filipino graduates join the country’s labor force every year. Most have skills that fit the requirements of the BPO sector. In 2008 alone, the report said, 444,810 graduates joined the labor pool and could be tapped by the BPO industry.

On tax incentives, a BPO firm in the country may enjoy an income tax holiday for up to eight years. Thereafter, it may be levied a minimal 5-percent gross income tax in lieu of all other taxes.

Last year, the Philippines outstripped India as the world’s “call center capital” in terms of manpower and growth in BPO receipts.

Industry data showed that at the start of 2010, revenue generated by the BPO sector in the Philippines stood at $5.5 billion compared with India’s $5.3 billion.

Also, there were over 500,000 Filipinos working in the BPO sector compared with around 330,00 Indians.

Indra submits study for Clark airport project

Business Mirror

MADRID-BASED Indra group has submitted to Pangilinan-led Metro Pacific Corp. (MPIC) initial results of the feasibility for the construction of an ambitious multimillion dollar airport project in Clark, Pampanga.

“They submitted an initial result a month ago. Actually, they are impressive. It’s more complex than we thought,” MPIC chairman Manuel Pangilinan said in an interview.

Indra is due to submit another report to MPIC within the month, added Pangilinan.

“The study being done by Indra is still ongoing. They indicated to us they should have their initial conclusion this March. By this month we should have an idea, including [project cost],” said the official.

MPIC, being the local infrastructure arm of First Pacific Co. Ltd., has no expertise in airport development. Pangilinan stressed the importance of tapping consultants that would advise his company on the technical and financial aspects of the project. There is also a need to talk with several advisors knowledgeable in airport engineering and design, he added.  

“The consultants will say how much. It depends on a lot of factors. It’s not yet clear if entire domestic and international operations will be moved to Clark or just the international.  We are not into airports so we don’t know how much,” said Pangilinan, who added that the MPIC would certainly not acquire an airline given the volatile fuel prices.

MPIC wants to be part of the development of Diosdado Macapagal International Airport’s  (DMIA) Terminal 2 and a construction of a high-speed railway system to transport passengers coming from the metropolis all the way to Clark in Pampanga.

The study being drawn by Indra also covers the railway component of the airport project.

Pangilinan met with Clark International Airport Corp. (CIAC) president and chief executive officer Victor Jose I. Luciano in January  to convey his interest to do business there.

The DMIA is being groomed to become the next international gateway of the country.

The CIAC official said there are no studies available yet that will determine the scope of the railway system project. But once established, its speed is estimated at 300 kilometers per hour which should transport passengers in about 34 minutes from the metropolis all the way directly to the DMIA.

“Pangilinan is sending his team here soon. He has a big interest in this project and he really wants to be part of it. He wants it accelerated,” Luciano had said.

MPIC and diversifying conglomerate San Miguel Corp. (SMC) earlier announced that they are going to partner with a Filipino-Korean consortium led by Philco Aero, which earlier made an unsolicited proposal to construct a $177-million new terminal at the DMIA.

But Pangilinan said the technical advisor that MPIC will tap will be solely for his group PIC and not for the joint-venture firm.

“We would recommend to them.  I assume they also don’t have any knowledge in airport also. It is best to have somebody that has run an airport before,” said Pangilinan.

The project, estimated to cost around $150 million, will be able to accommodate up to 10 million passengers a year when completed.

But lately, MPIC and SMC, according to Pangilinan, have not discussed the matter. But this is not stopping the telco executive from pursuing his intent to help develop an international-airport system.

Business groups in Pampanga and Central Luzon have welcomed the move by MPIC and SMC.

The airport project will complement the Nlex-Slex (North Luzon Expressway-South Luzon Expressway) connector road project that will be spearheaded by Metro Pacific Tollways Corp., MPIC’s subsidiary.

IMF: PHL’s forex reserves rise by 25%, to hit $78.4B

Business Mirror

MOST analysts knew foreign capital flows to the Philippines this year were to be substantially higher than last, but have never really thought how large this was likely to be till on Wednesday when the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said the gross international reserves or GIR will likely hit $78.4 billion.

That much foreign-exchange reserves, useful as buffer for maturing foreign debt and as ready cash for critical imports as oil, capital equipment or even dairy products, represent a 25-percent jump over last year’s total haul of only $62.9 billion.

The continued expansion supports analysts’ forecasts that foreign capital from weakened developed economies will gravitate toward emerging markets in the region, the Philippines among them.

The IMF forecast is more aggressive than that earlier revealed by Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Gov. Amando M. Tetangco Jr. who said the foreign-exchange reserves were to end the year at $68 billion to $70 billion.

The IMF forecast indicates sustained growth in foreign-exchange reserves by some $1.3 billion a month over a 12-month stretch, which is not very encouraging because in January this year, the reserves grew by only $500 million to $63.6 billion.

Worth noting, however, is that the forecast of fatter dollar reserves for the Philippines this year anticipates frequent forays by the BSP in the forex market by buying as much of the foreign liquidity coming in, boosting the value of the local currency, the peso, in the process.

In buying dollars, the BSP effectively supports the peso and strengthens its value. This sits well with economists at the British-owned lender HSBC, for instance, who said the exchange rate could be as strong as P35.50 per US dollar by year’s end.

“[IMF] directors underscored the need for an appropriate mix of policy tools to manage capital inflows, while facilitating productive use of these inflows.

“They supported the central bank’s policy of allowing the exchange rate to adjust to market pressures and limiting intervention to smoothing operations.

“With the exchange rate broadly in line with fundamentals and reserves comfortable, greater exchange-rate flexibility could be considered in response to additional inflows.

“Directors took note of the authorities’ intention to further liberalize foreign-exchange regulations and avoid capital controls,” the IMF said on Wednesday when it released the country’s PIN or public information notice.

The PIN results from a fiscal and monetary sector review by a visiting team of IMF economists in December last year.

An aggressive expansion in foreign exchange reserves betray a fairly high level of confidence on the part of the BSP that inflation, which could result from uncontrolled growth in peso liquidity resulting from the purchase of dollars, could remain within the target range of 3 percent to 5 percent this year the purchase of dollars notwithstanding.

One can argue on this basis that the much-anticipated adjustment in the policy rates of the BSP may not happen as early as at the next meeting of the Monetary Board early in May as Standard Chartered Bank said but later in the year, probably around the third or fourth quarter.

However, the IMF also said the following: “[IMF] directors noted that monetary policy had succeeded in keeping inflation low while fostering the recovery, and welcomed the gradual unwinding of liquidity support. Given a potential buildup of price pressures in the near term, they encouraged the authorities to stand ready to tighten the monetary stance to head off inflation risks.”

It only takes P10 to feed a hungry child

Manila Bulletin

MANILA, Philippines — How much does it cost to save the life of a malnourished child?

It takes only P10 per day, virtually a drop in the bucket for those who have money to spare, to feed a hungry child. This is equivalent to P300 a month, P1,200 in six months to put a smile on the face of a hungry child feeding him once a day, five days a week for 120 days.

Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales is making this sales pitch as he wants the millions of Catholic faithful to remember malnourished children at the onset of the observance of the 40-day Lenten Season this Ash Wednesday, March 9.

The Church encourages the faithful to fast during the days of Lent, prescribing obligatory fasting and abstinence starting Ash Wednesday.

In his pastoral letter, the Good Cardinal, particularly, urged the faithful to give whatever they save from fasting to the Church’s feeding program called Hapag-Asa to be launched this coming Wednesday, the first day of Lent, in different dioceses throughout the country.

“Lent is a season of hope and with ashes on our foreheads and hope in our hearts, we go forth to love and serve. We enjoin you, my dear brother and sisters, to donate whatever you save from fasting to Hapag-Asa’s Fast . . . Feed 2011. Help us feed a hungry child,” he said.

Those who wish to help may get a Fast Feed envelope being distributed in different parishes.

For this year, Cardinal Rosales said the program hopes to contribute to the target of Hapag-Asa to feed 130,000 children, more than 36,000 of whom are from Pondo ng Pinoy member dioceses, which are now feeding 18,076 children as of Nov, 30, 2010.

Fast…Feed 2011, a program being promoted by Hapag-Asa, a Church and sector-led initiative to help combat hunger and malnutrition among Filipino children in poor communities.

It is a response to the church’s call to defeat and eradicate hunger and malnutrition.

Friday, 4 March 2011

DepEd: More education programs, fewer telenovelas

Manila Bulletin

MANILA, Philippines — Education Secretary Armin Luistro Thursday challenged television networks to show more educational programs and reduce the number of telenovelas.

Programs that focus on education “will greatly help to increase the literacy rate among Filipinos,” Luistro said.

Telenovelas, or soap operas, have long dominated TV programming, he said.

“Now, we see more telenovas but I appeal to them to at least designate enough air time to focus on literacy programs to address illiteracy problems among our people,” he said

Pointing out that media have a key role in promoting education, Luistro said that short education programs on TV would not only help address the problem of illiteracy but also facilitate the exercise of critical thinking, particularly among the youth.

“We understand the need of TV stations to maintain rating, but I think education programs that would last at least 30 minutes would be a great leap in improving the quality of education among our young students,” he said.

Luistro said DepEd plans to hold talks with the Kapisanan ng mga Broadkaster sa Pilipinas (KBP) and owners of TV networks to discuss the airing of more educational programs.“They can do so much to help us in our campaign to provide quality education for all by not just airing news and entertainment shows but also in airing programs that are geared towards improving the quality of education in the country,” he stressed.

Aside from the proliferation of telenovelas, DepEd earlier raised their concern about the vulgarity, sex and violence that are still prevalent in some TV shows and other forms of media.

Last year, the DepEd created the Media Literacy Task Force (MLTF) which was given the green light to develop a National Media Literacy Education (NMLE) curriculum that would help children understand and handle media.

“The NMLE is being integrated in the basic education curriculum under Social Studies for the elementary level and under English/Communication Arts and Values in the secondary level,” Luistro said.

DepEd cited studies (Cartoon Network New Generations Philippines (2009), the 2008 AC Nielsen kids study and the 2002 PCTVF Media Violence Study) showing the prevalence of TV viewing among children and youth. It was also reflected in the 2009 study that 26 percent of Filipino children go online everyday, 50% of which use the Internet for their homework.

The people behind the RH Bill (1)

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Serious shortages

Business Mirror

With gasoline and other crude-oil products rising, it is inevitable that the “experts” would rise to the occasion with their solutions. Of course, the primary suspects to blame for increased consumer prices are the evil, greedy oil companies.

What the political oil experts do not seem to understand is that the oil companies—in fact, all companies— must price their finished goods based in large measure on the cost of their raw material. The other important factor about consumer pricing is that the oil industry has one of the lowest net-profit margins globally of almost any industrial sector. Oil companies, the refiners and distributors, operate on low margins and high volume.

The sad thing is that experts are never there when something productive could be done, say, when oil was trading at $20 per barrel in 2000, but only when the price threatens to go to $200. Far-thinking problem-solving for solutions is not one of the prominent character traits of the political class. For example:

I will use this silly story once again. I do not own a piggery, but I have provided a lifetime supply of pork meat for my family at a price I can afford. How? By making sure I have the funds necessary to purchase that lifetime supply by doing things like writing this column. (You didn’t think I did this for free, did you?)

The Philippines will never have a domestic source of crude oil. But the country does have the capability to get all the money it needs to buy all the oil it needs and even be able to subsidize those purchases. How? Through developing our mineral resources.

In January 2004 the price of copper was about $1 per pound. Now copper is trading at about $4.50 per pound. And the Philippines has an abundance of untapped copper resources. And take careful note of this: global demand for copper over the next 25 years will be so large that we will need to mine as much copper between now and 2035 as the total amount of copper mined throughout history. And when copper prices double and there are shortages, the oil “experts” will switch to copper and blame somebody else rather than themselves.

Long-range problems must be solved with long-range plans. Everything else is merely putting a bandage on a bullet wound. And the government is infamous for short-term, politically expedient thinking. If the Philippines had begun developing its mineral resources 10 years ago, those projects would be in full production now, generating billions of pesos annually for both the public and private sector. Instead, even countries like Mongolia will overtake the Philippines in mineral-resources contribution to economic growth.

But enough of my ranting about mineral development. I started looking at other commodities that are destined to be in short supply in the coming years, wondering about the effects on the Philippines and if we could take advantage of these shortages.

The price for cocoa in 2000 was about $1,000 per metric ton. Now the price is $3,444 per ton. If you are a chocolate lover, be prepared to pay increasing prices for your favorite treat, if it is available at all. Supply and pricing problems are so acute, that global chocolate manufacturers are trying to take cocoa butter out of their products, creating a synthetic chocolate. And the problem is not going away. Cocoa beans are produced within 10 degrees of the equator, most coming from the politically unstable areas of West Africa.

Producing cocoa beans is not economically profitable for farmers in Africa. In fact, much of this labor-intensive business is done by children and farmers make less than a dollar a day. But that is Africa.

In 1980 the Philippines supplied 20 percent of the world’s cocoa beans. Then the pod borer, an insect that infests the cacoa pods, arrived. Most of the trees were cut down and, of course, the government did virtually nothing. But Catholic Relief Services has provided training and trees to hundreds of farmers in Mindanao over the last few years to revive the industry.

To deal with the next global shortage, I am afraid I have to go back to mining. Antimining fanatics apparently long for a simpler life, without all the modern conveniences made of steel, copper and gold. And also food.

The world is facing a major shortage of phosphorus. Without phosphorus there is no fertilizer, and without fertilizer there is no food. From 2007 to 2008, phosphate-rock prices went up 700 percent, and the demand might continue to rise 2.3 percent a year. As to be expected, China is hoarding all the phosphorus it has. Major producers are the US, China and North Africa. Not a major producer, both Cebu and Bohol are found significant areas suitable for phosphate-rock production. Of course, the Philippines is forced to import about 60 percent of our fertilizer needs. It would be nice to dig some of our own fertilizer (by way of phosphate rock) out of our own ground before the global supply becomes too high and in short supply.

I discovered some other commodities that are facing future severe shortages. Unfortunately, the Philippines cannot supply. Let me leave you with this very sobering and disturbing thought.

If you like a particular kind of hard liquor, you may soon be out of luck. The Mexican cactus tequila has been in trouble for the last couple of years, and high demand and diseased crops have seriously threatened its supply in the past. But now, we might actually be looking at a possible eradication of tequila as a worldwide commodity. Thanks to the US pushing the nonsense of biofuels, Mexican farmers destroyed their agave cactus crops to plant crops to fuel American cars. The blue agave cactus grows only at high altitude and preferably in red volcanic soil. You may want to acquire a taste for Filipino lambanog to replace your tequila.

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Tuesday, 1 March 2011

State to fund PPP projects’ right-of-way

By Katrina Mennen A. Valdez
Manila Times

THE Aquino administration has assured potential participants of the public-private partnership (PPP) initiative that the government is willing to augment its budget for land development, easement and other right of way requirements to facilitate priority projects.

Department of Finance (DOF) Secretary Cesar Purisima told reporters that investors qualifying for any of the government’s projects need not worry about the horizontal development and easement requirements, as the budget for these were included in this year’s General Appropriations Act.
“We have an allotment for that on the budget, and we are willing to adjust certain budget parameters to speed up the priority projects,” Purisima said.

“We can either use the national government or a GOCC [government-owned or -controlled corporations],” he added.

The government plans to tap National Development Co. (NDC) to provide financing for the PPP program, in accordance with the state-owned firm’s original role as the government’s investment arm.

“NDC has other programs that generate revenues. We can likewise tap that for land development and easement requirements to help out investors in so far as PPP projects are concerned,” Purisima said.
The government has reserved about P15 billion of its P1.645-trillion budget this year for PPP-related projects.

“We’re also looking at reclamation areas. This is only at my level. We still have to make a presentation to President [Benigno Aquino 3rd].

But really, that’s another area of opportunity for fund raising, PPP development,” the finance chief said.

Next week, the government would inaugurate the PPP Center and would showcase its new website featuring the first five projects that will be offered for bidding.

Purisima said the first bidding would likely take place in April. “If we’re lucky, maybe late March there will be some already,” he said.

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Malaysia targets 555,000 Filipino tourists in 2011

Manila Bulletin

CEBU CITY, Cebu — Tourism stakeholders in Malaysia are aggressively urging Cebuanos to take advantage of affordable airfare rates to visit their country.

“We see Cebu as an important market for Malaysia being a hub for Southern Philippines and we are optimistic that with low airfare rates and travel packages, we can get a significant number of tourists from Cebu,” said Zakaria Mohd Nani head of the Tourism Board Malaysia and Deputy Director for International Marketing Division (South East Asia).

The Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board recently opened its one-month customer assistance stall facility at the Ayala Center Cebu, in partnership with budget airline Cebu Pacific (CEB). The move is intended to increase Filipino tourists going to Malaysia this year.

Nani said this year, Malaysia is targeting about 555,000 Filipinos to visit the country’s neighbor in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region.

Over the years, Filipino tourist arrivals to Malaysia have increased, he told reporters during the launch of said facility. In 2010 alone, a total of 486,790 Filipinos visited Malaysia, which is about a nine percent improvement compared to figures recorded in 2009.

The Cebu consumer promotion facility dubbed “Suroy-Suroy sa Malaysia Bai” hopes to encourage more Cebuanos to visit this exciting and leading tourist destination in the ASEAN. Special tour packages with airfares, hotel accommodations, and tours are made available.

The travel display is being organized by Ayala Center Cebu and Selrahco Management under its “Travel and Beyond” program.

Masrina Mohd Bakri, Director for Tourism Malaysia and Cultural Attache with the Embassy of Malaysia in the Philippines, said that aside from culture, food, and sites, Cebuanos can also capitalize on their “home stay” program allowing tourists to merge with the Malaysian culture in farms and coastal villages, among other sites.

ANA starts operations at Naia 3

Business Mirror

FOR the first time since the government took possession of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport terminal 3 (Naia 3) seven years ago, a foreign airline finally began operations here on Sunday, promising what could be the start of the terminal’s full rehabilitation and commercial use for both domestic and international operations. 

All Nippon Airways (ANA), the second-largest airline company in Japan, landed on Sunday at Naia 3 from Narita and flew out yesterday with 108 passengers, of which 14 are in business class and the rest seated in economy. The airline utilized the 214-seater B767. It will operate between Manila and Narita seven times a week.

“This is an historic occasion in line with President Aquino’s promise to lure more tourists to come to the Philippines,” said Manila International Airport Authority general manager Jose Honrado.

For his part, Japan embassy consul general Motohiko Kato invited the Filipinos to visit Japan in April for the Cherry Blossom Festival, one of Japan’s major tourist attractions.

“The start of Ana’s operations at Naia 3 is a symbol of further development and the close relations between the two countries,” Kato said.

Tourism Secretary Alberto Lim said barring unforeseen events such as the unfolding drama in the Middle East, where the price of oil would be a significant factor in the airline’s profitability, he said he hopes that other air carriers would transfer to Naia 3 to raise the current tourism figure from 3.5 million a year to 6 million five years down the road.

“I don’t want to overestimate because it took us 40 years to reach 3 million tourists,” Lim said, adding that last year, tourism arrivals rose by 17 percent. He added that the Philippines expects more Japanese tourists to visit the country since Japan is still the third-largest source of tourists after the US and South Korea. “One of 10 arriving tourists in the Philippines is Japanese,” Lim said.

Honrado, on the other hand, said starting March this year, a team would start conducting tests on Naia 3’s other facilities to study their viabilities. He said there is an ongoing assessment on 18 issues such as the aero-bridges, baggage handling system, flight information display system, master clock, passenger check-in system, computer system, common use terminal equipment, baggage reconciliation system, airfield lighting system, ramp control system, security cameras and the public address system, and a host of other devices.

 There are fears that after more than a decade since the equipment and machineries were tested, moisture and rust may have taken their toll. The assessment could recommend the upgrade or replacement of defective systems.

Honrado revealed that Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines are the two other air carriers interested in relocating to Naia 3.

He said both companies are waiting for the Miaa to give the go-signal before they start constructing their own passenger lounges, check-in counters, computer system and others.

Takenaka, the Japanese construction company that built Naia 3, is still in charge of the passenger terminal’s rehabilitation at a cost of about P2 billion Honrado said.

Surprisingly, a Philippine Air Terminal Construction Company (Piatco) representative, Janet Cordero, was present during the event, including a representative from Fraport AG. She said she is glad that finally Naia 3 would be in full use, although she refused to discuss the legal settlement issue.

Antonio Bautista, senior assistant general manager, said that in March this year, a team would conduct structural study on the soundness of Naia 1 at a cost of P10 million.

“There is imperative need to transfer some of the international air carriers to Naia 3 so that the Miaa could start rehabilitating the 29-year-old Naia terminal 1, or maybe condemn it if the building is found unsound,” Bautista added.

“When Naia 1 is partly decongested, it would give us room to upgrade and rehabilitate one-half of the terminal while operations will continue on the remaining half,” he said, adding that construction work would take three years.

Meanwhile, ANA said the Philippines remains one of its biggest traffic hub in Southeast Asia and its Tokyo Narita-Manila service will not only link the two big cities, but also connect demand for onward travel to North America by transfer at Narita.

ANA’s current Southeast Asia network includes routes from Narita to Bangkok, Singapore and Ho Chi Minh City, as well as Haneda to Bangkok and Singapore.

Together with the Narita-Jakarta service, which was launched on January 7, the inauguration of the Narita-Manila service will enable ANA to operate a total of nine daily flights serving seven routes to five SEA destinations, widening choice for passengers traveling between Japan and SEA.

Hideaki Izumi, Manila general manager said aside from Manila, ANA expects to operate in other airports in the Philippines, such as Cebu or Davao provided that passenger traffic is sufficient.

The government took possession of Naia 3 in 2004 after the justice department concluded that the build-operate-transfer project was riddled with corruption.

The Middle East revolts are not Edsa

Business Mirror

The comments from local pundits and the administration linking the Edsa revolution to events in the Middle East are simply a false comparison.

As I have mentioned before, perhaps the first and most notable modern revolution occurred in 1215, when the English barons rose against King John in open rebellion forcing the king to agree to what we now call the Magna Carta. While this document is the foundation of the rule of law, limiting the monarch’s arbitrary power to within the confines of written law, the primary reason for the barons’ revolt was the high taxes levied by King John to support his unpopular and unsuccessful wars.

We speak of the American Revolution against England as a quest for establishing a democracy. However, that is not accurate. The high taxes imposed by King George III led the American colonies to demand either a voice in the British government or separation and self-governance. Democracy, participation and control of the government by the citizens, is only a way to help ensure that that government cannot become too financially burdensome on the public.

The French Revolution at the end of the 18th century was to take economic power from the aristocrats. The Russian revolution in 1917 also wrested power from the Tsarist autocracy in favor of more widespread economic benefits. In 1949 the Chinese Revolution (actually a civil war between opposing power structures) was about filling a leadership void created by the Japanese occupation during World War II and a hyperinflated, corrupt economy.

However, the important factor to consider in all of these “revolutions,” including that in the Philippines, is to look at who the participants were, not the leaders and certainly not the ideology of the leaders. When you see who the players are, then you can more accurately predict the outcome and the future of the revolutions.

It serves well to compare the two revolutions of America in 1776 and of France in 1789.

While the comparisons are not exact—as America did not replace the King of England as the revolution did in France—both involved battles between the Crown and the revolutionaries. Like America, the new Republic in France had its own “Founding Fathers.” Both created a government system that led to active political participation by the majority of citizens which had previously not existed. And both France and the American colonies were facing very difficult economic conditions that led to their revolutions.

However, the aftermath of the revolutions is completely different and gives us insight on why Edsa and Egypt (and the other Middle Eastern countries) are as different as night and day.

After the aristocracy in France was overthrown, began the Reign of Terror. Beginning in 1793, as many as 40,000 were executed without trial as two opposing groups, the Jacobins and the Girondins, vied for power.

The transition in the new United States was relatively smooth and peaceful. Understand that there was no unanimous support for the revolution. Twenty percent of the people were “Loyalists” to the Crown; only 40-plus percent wanted independence. Yet, after independence was achieved, the Loyalists were not hunted down and massacred as in France. Most of the Loyalists packed their belongings and simply left the rebel colonies for more stable parts of the British Empire and got on with their lives. By contrast, 20 times as many Frenchmen were killed during and after that revolution as in American from 1775 and 1783.

The Russian revolution brought the rise of Stalin in 1922 and, over the course of 30 years, 10 million or more were killed. In the repercussions of Mao taking over China in 1949, 200,000 people loyal to the government of Chiang Kai-shek were massacred.

We have recently witnessed hundreds, if not thousands, killed in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and in other nations around the Middle East region. However, it is what happens in the wake of these revolutions that is critically important.

Allow me to say again, to compare Edsa with Egypt is a disgrace to the Philippines, as well as showing complete ignorance of history, even Philippine history. Let me tell you why I say that.

The American and French revolutions occurred years, not decades, apart. Why massive bloodshed in France and virtually none in the US?

The primary difference between the two was not the causes but the participants. For the most part, by 18th-century standards, the people who made the American Revolution were exceptionally well-off and highly
educated. By contrast, the French revolutionaries were called the sans-culottes (or without culottes, the knee breeches worn by upper-class men). These were the backstreet, poor working class of Paris. The Russian revolution was fueled by the lumpenproletariat (rag proletariat) or as Karl Marx referred to them, the “refuse of all classes,” including “swindlers, confidence tricksters, brothel-keepers, rag-and-bone merchants, beggars and other flotsam of society.” Mao rose to power on the backs of the Chinese illiterate peasants.

Cory Aquino took her oath at Club Filipino not in a shanty beside the railroad tracks. And when the Marcos regime was finished, millions of both Marcos and Aquino loyalists, all ordinary citizens, went back to work as Filipinos. That is why the likelihood of major and extended violence is so much greater in the Arab world today than it ever was in the Philippines in 1986.

The streets of Cairo, Tripoli, Aden, Tunis and Amman are filled with people who have more in common with the sans culottes of 18th- century Paris than the people on Epifanio de los Santos Avenue in 1986. Of course, all social and economic classes participated in 1986. But Edsa, like the American Revolution, was fueled and advanced by the middle and upper classes.

Edsa, nearly without bloodshed, transformed the Philippines into a more (if still imperfect) representative democracy. The Middle East will not travel the same path. Egypt is now a direct military dictatorship. Libya will evolve into fractionalized tribal warlord regions. Tunisia and Algeria will see governments in continuous chaos and turmoil.

Unfortunately for the citizens of the Middle East, they are not reliving Edsa.


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