Thursday, 24 November 2011

2011: A Wasted Year

Business Mirror
ONCE again the Philippines is locked in political drama while economic issues are placed far on the back burner of government priorities.

The Aquino administration inherited an economy that survived well the first wave of the global meltdown. Given the public support during and after the last elections and a continued high approval rating, it was an opportunity to make some far-reaching proposals and create programs that would have had a very favorable impact both in the short and long term.

In the business community, while always skeptical of government, the Public-Private Partnership Program was greeted with optimism and even enthusiasm. This was to be the center point of the new government. Unfortunately, the PPP seems stillborn at best and aborted at worst.

There is a sharp contrast between what you can see economically at ground level and what the economic experts see while sitting on top of the mountain.

Business activity continues to be good. Go to the malls in Makati, for example, and you will find evidence of business being brisk. Travel to Davao City and see the huge revenues that the Shoemart group is generating for the local economy with their new mall.

Yet the World Bank has again lowered the economic growth forecast for the country. The World Bank at one time expected a near 5-percent growth. Now its projection is down to 4.2 percent.

The Philippines needs 4-percent gross domestic product growth just to stay where it is, to break even so to speak. Five-percent growth is acceptable as it keeps the economy a little ahead of the game. But 4.2 percent basically says that the nation, after some 18 months of the Aquino presidency, is no farther along, no better than when the President took office. This is not good at all.

While the Malacañang press releases harp about all the foreign investment that the President’s foreign trips have generated, the real numbers are dismal. The newspaper headlines say that foreign direct investment jumped 32 percent in the third quarter. The truth is that during January through September, a grand total of $2 billion had been invested in the Philippines. That is the equivalent of giving each man, woman and child in the country P1,000. It’s nothing near what the economy needs.

More could and would come if positive action on the economy was not just one of the priorities but the top priority of the government.

Several foreign chambers of commerce joined Philippine business groups to create a long wish list of things that the government must do both for local and foreign businesses. It is ridiculously long. However, the specifics are critically important. The government has yet to formulate a clear and concise policy on mining. There has been no movement on rationalizing the fiscal incentives for new investment. Nothing has been done to improve the build-operate-transfer law.

The key is that this list shows that in the last 18 months, economic policy decisions and laws dealing with the economy have been placed on hold.

A new and comprehensive framework for both local and foreign investment does not exist on paper, only in the mouths of the political leaders.

The current administration has done a good job of building on the government’s fiscal foundation laid by the last administration. The budget deficit is in good control. The amount of foreign-currency reserves actually makes the Philippines a creditor nation rather than a net borrower. It is very likely that the country will soon receive a credit-rating upgrade. But at what future cost?

Government spending primarily on infrastructure is down 12 percent since last year. That is a huge amount and would have made the difference between current expectations and a 5-percent growth rate.

The difference between the economy growing at 4.2 percent and 5.2 percent is enormous in terms of private wealth creation, taxes and investment for the future.

Because the government has not done an adequate job in 2011, 2012 growth will also be lower than an acceptable 5 percent.

The government has failed in its responsibility in 2011 to maximize economic growth. While it speaks of preparing and planning for any major global economic problems, at this point, it is all words.

It looks like 2012 may be a very difficult year for the global economy. The government may be forced to come in with more handouts, which would not be the case if had spent taxpayers’ money on projects in 2011 to create wealth. It’s like giving fuel subsidies to jeepney drivers, when government should be working instead on policies to ensure cheaper and adequate fuel supply.

And by some miracle if the world can come out of economic stagnation next year, once again the Philippines will be behind all the rest.


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Wednesday, 23 November 2011

5 Clark Development Projects Pushed

Involving Over P20-Billion Investments
Manila Bulletin

MANILA, Philippines — At least five major projects with estimated investments of over P20 billion will take off by 2012 in Clark Special Economic Zone including Megaworld’s P7-billion mix-use project beefing up the Freeport’s run as tourism destination and as the fulcrum of Central Luzon development.

In the pipeline now are at least five major projects that are expected to reinforce the Freeport’s reputation as both an investment and tourism destination, said Clark Development Corp. president Antonio Felipe Remollo.

The first project involves another world-class tourism blueprint – MegaWorld Corporation’s mixed-use project to be located in a 400-hectare area between the Clark Freeport Zone and the Clark Special Economic Zone.

This involves the construction of a mixed-use complex that features office, commercial, retail, and leisure, residential, health, and wellness components at a development cost of at least P7 billion.

At least 200 hectares was allotted for the CDC’s second project – the proposed Clark STAR, which stands for Sports, Training, Amusement & Recreation. Located at the sprawling Clark Highlands, Clark STAR is the perfect site for transport terminal, wakeboarding complex, soccer stadium, hotels and villas, athletes’ dormitories, nature and theme park, swimming center, boulevard and promenade, and athletes’ training ground.

The third project, meanwhile, is the Clark Highlands, formerly known as the Next Frontier located at the Sacobia Valley. It covers 10,684 hectares of land adjacent to the Clark Freeport will be developed into ICT parks, residential, light-industrial, agro-industrial, and tourism and leisure projects.

In April of next year, Korean firm Donggwang Clark Corporation is expected to complete its $200-million tourism-related project, which includes the Clark Sun Valley Golf Course located at main zone of the Freeport.

With the groundbreaking of this fourth Clark project, Donggwang is poised to be the new leader in tourism complex and golf course construction in the Philippines, Remollo said.

According to Remollo, the Korean firm will create a 304-hectare tourism complex with residence villas, water theme park, and various amenities. Complementing this is a 10-storey office and residential building – the biggest of its kind inside Clark.

While Tower 3 of Donggwang’s ODE County Officetel is already complete, February 2012 will see the completion of two of its other structures – Towers 1 and 2, said Remollo.

And lastly, expected to be completed by April 2013 is the proposed CDC Corporate Building, which will consolidate the various departments and offices in one modern, environment-friendly structure.

At present, departments and offices of the CDC’s Corporate Headquarters are located separately in nine different buildings and structures.

In the various conceptual studies currently under evaluation, the new corporate headquarters will also have provisions for commercial spaces for lease in the first two floors, with the rest of the building allotted for CDC administrative and executive offices.

Also, facilities for Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) such as fitness gym, multi-purpose function hall, clinic, and a chapel will also be included in the building’s various amenities. (BCM)

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Chasing GDP: Leadership scorecard

Business Mirror

A SURVEY conducted by 60 Minutes and Vanity Fair on September 29 and October 2, 2011, showed that former President Ronald Reagan was the kind of president most Americans wanted to see at the White House amid the current economic difficulties in the United States.

According to the poll, 36 percent of the respondents said they wanted Reagan, who died in 2004, to lead the US out of the economic crisis, beating the late President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who was picked by 29 percent of the respondents.

The survey reports did not provide the reasons behind the respondents’ choice, but I believe they still remembered the performance of the US economy during Reagan’s two-term presidency compared with the present situation.

The US economy grew by 3.0 percent in terms of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2010, a turnaround from the contraction by 0.337 percent in 2008 and 3.486 percent in 2009, when the US suffered its latest recession.

When Reagan was first elected on November 4, 1980 (at 69, the oldest man ever to be elected US president and broke his own record with his reelection on November 6, 1984, at age 73), the US was also in recession.

The 16-month recession in 1981 and 1982 was the longest on record for the US since World War II until the 18-month contraction in 2007-2009.

On the other hand, the 7.2-percent GDP growth rate in 1984 (under Reagan) was the highest since 1959.

From 1981 through 1988 (Reagan’s second term), annual GDP growth averaged 3.4 percent. In comparison, the GDP grew by an average of just 1.82 percent from 2000 through 2009.

By 1989, Reagan’s last year in office, the GDP was at $5.48 trillion, almost twice the size before he was first elected president.

The Reagan years also saw inflation slowing down from more than 13 percent in 1980 down to 4 percent in 1988. Reagan implemented sweeping economic initiatives, which became known as “Reaganomics,” advocating reduced tax rates to stimulate economic growth, controlling the money supply to reduce inflation and deregulating the economy to boost investments, among other things.

He also initiated one of America’s first public-private partnerships (so PPP is not an original idea from the Philippines) as a major part of his job-creation program (16 million new jobs were created during the Reagan presidency).

I decided to cite the recent survey by the two US poll entities and briefly recalled the performance of the US economy during Reagan as a fitting conclusion to this series of articles on the GDP and its relevance on the two major issues (investments and the poverty problem) that have, for many years, challenged Filipinos and the Philippine economy.

Actually, I believe the GDP is also related to a third issue: corruption. In my previous column I cited the simple equation between the GDP and poverty. Low GDP growth creates more poor people; conversely, high GDP growth reduces poverty.

Viewed from another perspective, if the drive against corruption results in underspending and, therefore, low GDP growth, then poverty will increase, which I believe creates a favorable environment for corruption. The less resources a person (including a government employee) has, the easier it is for him to succumb to the offer of bribe or to the opportunity to make a quick buck.

Thus, it exacerbates the corruption problem and negates the very objective of the drive against corruption. And, if high GDP growth is the ultimate solution to poverty, it is also the most effective and permanent solution to corruption.

Based on what I have discussed for the past three weeks, as well as the reference to President Reagan, the GDP is the scorecard of a country’s Chief Executive.

I like to think that Reagan became popular to many Americans for what he did to the US economy, because they benefited from the jobs he generated, the investments he attracted, and the stable inflation that he made possible.

The GDP numbers are like the grades that students receive, based on their performance in school. At the end of a president’s term, the GDP shows whether, like a student, he passes or fails, or whether he graduates with honors or flunks the course.

The big difference is that a student’s grades affect only him or his family, while the GDP scorecard affects not just a leader and his political career, but his country and millions of his countrymen.

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China: Outside noisy, inside empty

Business Mirror

IN 1295, Marco Polo returned to Venice after 24 years of travels and told of his adventures in China. That was the beginning of the West’s knowledge of China, the Middle Kingdom.

The only problem is that Marco Polo probably never went to China and all that he said about the Chinese were fabrications and lies. He claimed he was the governor of Yang-Chou (now Yangzhou) for three years under the Mongol Emperor Kublai Khan. Yet, in The Travels of Marco Polo, a 13th-century travelogue written down by Rustichello da Pisa from stories told by Marco Polo, the traveler never mentioned the Great Wall, the fact that the Chinese drank tea (not brought to Europe until 400 years later), Chinese calligraphy, or ceramic movable type and mechanized printing.

It seems like tea and the Great Wall might have stood out as something to remember to tell the folks back home.

The stories that Polo told were probably secondhand tales gained from talking to merchants and traders who traveled the Silk Road through Central Asia. Ultimately, Polo’s tales were probably nothing more than an example of the Chinese proverb, outside noisy; inside empty.

However, the bits and pieces of his story were fascinating to the European readers although they never received anything near an accurate picture of China. It’s now 2011 but the world still does not have a true picture of China, just short glimpses that are false.

China is a dictatorship similar to North Korea, Venezuela and Cuba. By definition, a dictatorship is a form of government that has the power to govern without consent of those being governed. A dictatorship serves one purpose and lives for one goal: to remain in power as long as possible. Threats of violence, strict enforcement of loyalty to the leadership, and economic control are the normal methods.

With its more than 1 billion population, China uses economic control as its primary method.

But China is not an efficient dictatorship as it is a dictatorship by committee. Hu Jintao is the general secretary of the Communist Party of China and president. However, the farther China moves from the individual dictatorship of Mao Zedong, the leader becomes more of the public face of the Politburo Standing Committee rather than the “boss.”

The global economic meltdown that started in 2007 threatens Chinese leadership in a way not seen before. The so-called democratic uprisings over the years have been appeased by increasing national and personal wealth, even more so since 2007. But the bubble is drastically bursting.

The central government knows that it cannot stop a rebellion of literally hundreds of millions of people and that rebellion is its greatest fear. And nothing can get the people to the streets faster than an economic downturn. Witness Greece, Italy, and to a lesser extent, the US.

China’s economy is in the beginning stages of a meltdown.

In 2009, the first full year of the Chinese stimulus plan, they dumped $1.1 trillion into a then $4.3-trillion economy. Talk about pump priming. The Chinese created growth—along with a property bubble, a stock-market bubble, and an inflation bubble.

Car sales have decreased nearly 5 percent since last year, and property values are beginning to plummet in key markets, with prices down 30 percent this October in Shanghai alone.

In the spring of 2010, the Chinese state electrical grid reported 64.5 million apartments showed no electricity usage for the previous six months. Those units represent housing for 200 million people. The Beijing government funded the building of another 30 million to 50 million more apartment units. That is a real-estate bubble.

The National Bureau of Statistics in Beijing said growth was 9 percent in the third quarter 2011. Yet electricity usage was up only 3 percent. A manufacturing-based economy does not work that way.

Larry Lang is chair professor of finance at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and well-known Chinese television personality. He believes the economy actually shrank by 10 percent so far in 2011. He says every province in China is Greece because of massive debt that is not included in official reports.

To control inflation, which Lang believes is running at 16 percent, the government is tightening on spending, causing the bubbles to burst. That tightening is having an effect. The Shanghai Composite Index is down 20 percent from its 2011 high. It was up 80 percent in 2009.

Finally, survey after survey shows that the rich and super-rich Chinese are making plans to leave, buying houses abroad and many already moving their families.

When China falls, the global debt circle will be complete. No wonder the Philippines is the investment “Dark Horse” of Asia.

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Monday, 21 November 2011

And now our national hangover

By Cito Beltran
The Philippine Star

While it was generally popular to “bring Gloria Arroyo to justice”, some of the people in the parade seemed to overlook the repercussions of last week’s event.

After a week of high drama concerning the political “dodge ball” fight between the Aquino administration and the family of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, a number of important and concerned citizens are worried about the “hangover” and the repercussions of what just happened.

Yesterday Senior Columnist Mr. Federico Pascual correctly expressed a view shared by several observers that former President Arroyo has become the perfect whipping “girl” and poster child of evil for the Aquino administration.

Pascual is not alone in pointing out that without Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, PNoy and company would have nothing to distract the public from our increasing unemployment, excessive under employment, legalized union busting in the form of “contractualization”, and the nationwide crime wave, not to mention the administration’s perceived under achievement.

Beat up and burn a witch at the stake and even the worst Prayle can look like Prince Charming. There is however always a price to pay. Call it cosmic karma or backlash if you wish but now, a number of businessmen and politicians have reason to be afraid.

If the Aquino administration forcefully and successfully “charged and arrested” Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, openly defied a lawful order of the Supreme Court and ignored parliamentary courtesy, then it follows that the Aquino administration can do unto us what they have done to Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Beyond legal maneuverings and press releases, last week’s event may be inspirational to believers of a benevolent and wise leader. But in the hands of malevolent Kings or desperate people around him, last week’s series of event has struck fear and misgivings in the heart of businessmen, even for me as a Journalist.

What safeguards and restraints are left to protect people if the very instruments designed to insure check and balance between the three branches of government can simply be disregarded or rendered useless through double-talk?

It would be a good thing if the relentless almost obsessive pursuit of justice, were focused on real criminals or real crooks by truly dedicated lawyers and civil servants. But in the real world, we have seen and heard enough about how during Martial Law, minions, partners and petty followers of Ferdinand Marcos, used Martial Law to settle grudges and punish people particularly in politics, business and media.

I can tell our readers how my father Louie Beltran, was charged for libel by Cory Aquino because of the persistent whispers of two cabinet members whom my father continuously exposed and criticized for abuse of power, womanizing and one being a communist coddler. In the end, Cory’s benevolence succumbed to the poison and deceit of her advisers.

What guarantees are left those made with saliva, that our rights and legal remedies will be protected? If they hate you enough or want your money desperately enough, last week’s events gives all of us serious reasons to be worried. If the businessmen were concerned, if I as a Journalist am concerned, you can only imagine what foreign investors are thinking about the Philippines and our justice system.

As one businessman put it: the TRO that Justice Secretary Leila De Lima disobeyed and disregarded, is the very same instrument that is used to stop toll hikes, new taxes, suspicious transactions of government agencies, proclamations or executive orders as well as local government orders. That TRO is just like the TRO’s that courts issue to protect lives and properties and intervene in life and death medical issues.

TROs are there for everyone’s protection. TROs protect the interests of the State when needed and TROs are there to protect citizens from the State if necessary. Last week, an official of the state, named Leila De Lima showed us that such a protection only applies to the interest of the state.

Which why I wonder how people at the Supreme Court arrived at the opinion that what Secretary de Lima did was an act of “Indirect Contempt” only? That may be so if we were to limit the argument to the Arroyo case. But it is not. The big picture and the contemptible act was that the instrument of the Supreme Court or the judiciary for that matter was disobeyed and rendered “inutile”.

In a way, that sets a precedent of sorts where a government official or an elected member of the legislature can cite the De Lima “case” as valid or historical grounds to disobey or disregard a TRO or any court order for that matter.

In the extreme, the BIR can impose taxes on their own and who’s to stop them, certainly not a TRO? Tollways can now raise their toll rates; Meralco and the Telecoms can now boost their charges and who’s to stop them, definitely no longer a TRO.

Given the contempt that the Aquino administration has for members of the Supreme Court, it is clear that the Supreme Court now finds itself in a corner, their TRO ending up as “Filed” and failed, and now facing the even more difficult test on what to do in this situation. They have no real army or police to enforce their will or their orders.

Now is the time when our courage will be tried and our institutions tested. Will the Supreme Court punish Secretary De Lima as they should and do they have courage enough to discover if our institutions are strong and true enough to over come political bravado and animosity. We will learn in a matter of days.

Please allow me to make it clear: I have nothing personal, professional or political against Secretary Leila de Lima. She has worked hard to get where she is, and achieve what she wants, I will however, not stand idly by if her pursuit endangers my rights and the rights of others, and as well as endanger our institutions.

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Why tourists are not coming

Phl one of most liberalized in terms of air access 

MANILA, Philippines - A tourism group has debunked the recurring claim by open skies advocates that the Philippines needs to further open up its skies to attract more tourists as it revealed information that the country is one of the most liberalized in terms of air access by foreign carriers.

“Open skies advocates have been harping on the need for full open skies to attract more tourists but in reality we have already a very liberalized air policy as shown by the Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report 2011 of the World Economic Forum,” Robert Lim Joseph, founder of TourismWatch Philippines, said.

Joseph said based on the report, the Philippines is ranked 29 out of 139 countries in terms of “Openness of bilateral Air Service Agreements.”

He said although the Philippines is number 29 in terms of openness, tourists are still not coming in droves compared to its Southeast Asian neighbors like Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.

Besides being exceedingly open to foreign carriers, the Philippines ranks number 30 out of 139 countries in terms of “Available seat kilometers, international.”

“This all proves that the poor performance of our tourism sector is not about accessibility to Philippine air market and availability of airline seats but other factors,” he said.

For ticket taxes and airport charges, the Philippines ranked 20 in the world out of 139 countries “so we cannot understand the rantings of the lobbyists to cancel our taxes on foreign carriers when this is not the issue.”

Joseph cited the reasons why tourists hesitate to visit the Philippines based on the findings of the report.

He said the Philippines ranks 112 in terms of quality of air transport infrastructure; 99 in terms of effectiveness of marketing and branding; 132 in terms of hotel rooms; 123 in terms of transparency of government policymaking; 105 in terms of reliability of police services; 109 in terms of safety and security; 114 in terms of quality of roads (specially to tourist destinations), and 70 in terms of government prioritization of the travel and tourism industry.

Joseph said these are the factors that the government should look into and address to boost tourism.

Aquino’s double kill of Arroyo sends chills down public’s spine

By: Amando Doronila
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Immediately after setting foot on Philippine soil on Saturday from the Asean summit forum in Indonesia, President Aquino plunged into a blistering action to deliver the coup de grace on his arrested adversary, former President and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

On his arrival statement at Villamor Air Base, the impatient President didn’t allow the grass to grow under the feet.
Immediately following the filing of criminal charges against Arroyo for alleged electoral sabotage, Mr. Aquino said the arrest “is just the start of the process” of prosecuting the former President.

Arroyo became the second Philippine leader to be jailed after Joseph Estrada who was arrested on charges of plunder in April 2001. This warning is ominous.

In an effort to rally public support for the swift incarceration of Arroyo—after a day in which the process of filing charges and serving of the arrest warrant on her was completed from dawn to dusk, a speed unprecedented in the annals of the Philippine judicial system—Mr. Aquino promised to accord her due process.

“She will have an equal opportunity to defend herself in court because that is the right of every Filipino,” he said. “That is the process that a vendor or driver, teacher or garbage collector, cop or clerk, from the highest position down to the ordinary person, should all go through, taking no sides, simply focused on the search for truth and making the guilty accountable.”

The President expressed confidence that the Filipino people were behind his effort to prosecute those behind alleged election fraud in the past.

“And it is very good to know that even from the start, even while I was outside the country, you are all behind me, especially on this issue,” he said. “I know that I am not alone. As I think about your welfare, you continue to give me strength.”

He added that the prosecution was the result of the “reform I have laid out to combat corruption.”

The core principle of this program is this, he said, “the guilty should be made accountable because if not, it would be like we have kept the door open to anyone who would want to abuse our people.”

Public lynching

The impromptu speech served notice that the President, in kick-starting the prosecution, has opened a new round of public lynching of Arroyo, aimed at winning public opinion behind his actions intended to send her to jail indefinitely by Christmas.

Following her arrest, Arroyo is languishing at St. Luke’s Medical Center in Taguig City, being treated for a bone disease, and awaiting to stand trial in the Pasay City Regional Trial Court.

In a day, Friday’s breathtaking developments unfolded, including:

(1) The government slammed the door shut on an attempt by Arroyo to fly out to Hong Kong last Tuesday to seek medical treatment abroad in defiance of the Supreme Court, which issued a TRO (temporary restraining order) which sought to stop the justice department from implementing its directive that banned the departure of Arroyo who was put on its watch-list order (WLO).

(2) In blocking the departure, the justice department, by disobeying the execution of the TRO, put the administration on a head-on confrontation with the high court.

(3) While the high court rejected the government’s petition for reconsideration of its TRO, the administration undercut the high tribunal by rushing the criminal complaint against Arroyo within a day, to enable it  to file the case with the Pasay  City RTC on Friday and consequently gave it an excuse to stop her departure. The complaint handed the administration the key to arrest Arroyo and hold her indefinitely on the grounds that electoral sabotage is a crime that is nonbailable—with the effect that she would be under custody as a government captive indefinitely.

De Lima’s rule

While the justice department refused to implement the high court’s TRO, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima arbitrarily called the shots by interpreting the court’s order as a super-high court without a constitutional mandate, with its own version of the rule of law and due process.

De Lima said the warrant for Arroyo’s arrest had rendered “moot” the issues arising from the high court’s TRO. She claimed that with the warrant of arrest, Arroyo “is compelled to stay in the country and face the charges of electoral sabotage, bringing us closer to uncovering the truth behind the controversies surrounding the 2007 elections.”

De Lima gave assurance the government would uphold “every right that Arroyo is entitled under the Constitution.” This remains to be seen.

The arbitrary and summary manner in which the government rushed and abridged legal procedures did not inspire confidence in the government’s assurances of a fair trial.

True, the issuance of the arrest order averted a damaging showdown between the administration and the high court.
While the issue raged over the immediate compliance of the TRO, the government was on a mode to disobey the court and the airport was barricaded with the immigration and airport authorities acting like human Sherman tanks that would have made it extremely impossible to crash through in Arroyo’s state of health. Authorities were taking orders from the justice department that was fanning the flames of disobedience.

The police and the state’s forces of coercion were arrayed to follow the standing policy determined to prevent Arroyo from leaving at all cost so she could face trial.

Mr. Aquino laid down the rule, saying, “We need her here for her arraignment if this will be needed. If she won’t return, how can she be made answerable?”


On Friday, De Lima said Mr. Aquino wanted Arroyo to be treated with “utmost respect.”

The hypocrisy of this statement stood out in bold relief against the deployment of awesome state resources to deliver results on a government’s obsessive policy of accountability and transparency.

The rush to judgment in the preparation of the electoral sabotage complaint is not a shining demonstration of the government’s devotion to due process. It’s full of short-cuts.

Prior to the filing of the case, the target of the all-out offensive to bring Arroyo to court had been subject to an intense trial by publicity.

The immediate consequence of the showdown between the President and the Supreme Court is that it diminished the credibility of the high tribunal as an independent institution.

The disobedience to the TRO reduced the court into a toothless arbiter of justice.

The test of will between the court and Mr. Aquino highlights the President’s no-holds-barred approach in conflicts with other constitutional institutions.

It threw into bold relief a presidential tendency to follow a winner-take-all course of action.
The winner determines all rules of justice and combat.

Mafiosi’s final solution

This is why the new round of public campaign to get the people behind the decision to arrest Arroyo and hold her indefinitely is sending chills down the spine of the public.

It follows the pattern of ruthless retribution in the gangster underworld when dealing with mobsters who betray their illegal operations to lawmen.

In the Mafia, the squealers are first battered to death with baseball bat at dinner—and given the finishing touches. They are shot by the Mafiosi to make sure they are dead.

The issues and context of the Mafia final solution are different from those surrounding the campaign to bring the targets of the government’s daang matuwid  crusade.

The President and his minions  are not Mafiosi, but it’s the “final solution” method that leaves many Filipinos full of fears.

I am uncertain about how Arroyo would survive this new round of trial by publicity—in captivity.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

P50-M Jolo Port rehabilitation up

To promote Sulu’s economic growth
Manila Bulletin

JOLO, Philippines – The Department of Transportation and Communications (DoTC) has allotted some P50 million to jump start the improvement and rehabilitation of the inter-island port here to serve as gateway for economic development in the province of Sulu.

Representative Habib Tupay Loong (1st District, Sulu) said the DoTC granted the amount to the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) to initially start the face-lifting and improvement of the Jolo Port.

In a letter to PPA General Manager Juan Sta. Ana, DoTC Undersecretary Rafael Antonio Santos disclosed that the amount of P50 million has been included in the proposed infrastructure budget of the department for the rehabilitation and upgrading of the port.

Adding that in order to ascertain the required funding for future programming to complete the expansion of the Jolo port, “we would appreciate receiving the overall investment requirement, pursuant to the feasibility study which you office is currently preparing.”

At present, Loong said, a feasibility study is being conducted by the PPA to determine the cost of the improvement of the port, and how long it will take for PPA to implement the project.

He also said that officers of the Science and Vision consulting firm had recently met with Sulu Governor Abdusakur M. Tan before they started the conduct of a study to improve the port here.

Engineer Jameson Lee, a principal engineer of the project, said that the initial phase of the port rehabilitation would be to have a feasibility study to maximize the potential of the facility – based on the socio-economic profile of the province.

“The Science and Vision consulting firm will be conducting the study, the same firm that we commissioned to do the study for the Davao and Zamboanga Port,” Lee added.

“The study has a budget of P4.3 million, and will have a timeframe of six months, and will include tourism, international standards, local economic development, port management, and other concerns,” Engineer Malou Mamatad, head consultant of the consulting firm, said.

As this developed, local traders and residents here lauded Loong and Tan for their joint effort that made possible the improvement and repair of the Jolo Port.

The two top officials here are now known as “partners in the development, and united in the vision of making Sulu reach its full economic potential.”

“To have an updated port facility, especially in this part of the country, is of great importance, a vital component of sustainable economic growth,” Tan and Loong jointly said.

According to Loong, the PPA officials and consultants were impressed by the socio-economic profile of the province, which is expected to bring economic and political change in the area.