Monthly Archives: October 2006

Green highways, brown mountains

Reflections on blogging, my blog entry for Global Voices Online….

Last August 25, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources launched the Green Philippine Highways project which involved the planting of trees along all major highways and thoroughfares from Laoag City to Zamboanga and Davao cities.

Around 516,000 seedlings of trees indigenous to the country like narra, mahogany, acacia and banaba, as well as ornamental plants were planted. In a show of all-out support to the activity, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo planted a “Saraca” seedling, an indigenous tree species renowned as “the King of Flowering Plants,” at the “Kilometer Zero” site near the Rizal Monument in Luneta.

According to the DENR, it was one of the biggest and most ambitious projects of the department. It gathered two million participants in planting the 2,176- kilometer stretch of the Pan Philippine Highway, 824-kilometer stretch of the West Nautical Highway in the eastern seaboard, and 439-kilometer stretch of the Manila North Road.

Trees fight the greenhouse or global warming effect by sequestering carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas, and turning it into oxygen during its food-making process or photosynthesis. They also help cleanse the air by intercepting airborne particles, reducing heat and absorbing such pollutants as carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide.

The Philippines has the second most polluted air among eight ASEAN countries. About 70 percent of air pollution is caused by vehicular emissions. At present, we have around five million registered motor vehicles, 31 percent of which are in Metro Manila.

Based on studies, around 10 trees are needed to capture the emissions of one car. Thus, with the current number of registered vehicles, the country needs about 50 million trees to counter air pollution in major highways.

The country does not have a shortage of tree-planting activities. What DENR did was to coordinate the efforts of various groups and embark on a centralized tree-planting effort intended to have the most effective greening result.

A total of 1,060 memoranda of agreement have been forged by the DENR with some 3,852 different public and private organizations which pledged to plant trees, as well as adopt the planted seedlings to ensure their survival and proper growth.

The DENR deserves to be commended for the initial success of Green Philippine Highways. At the same time, I encourage DENR to brainstorm on how to improve this noble project.

Recognizing that typhoons can easily destroy small trees, President Arroyo has a concrete proposal to create urban parks and not just plant trees. At this instance I remember Senator Loren Legarda’s pet project: Luntiang Pilipinas.

This program planned to create 1,500 Forest Parks all over the archipelago. Each Forest Park will have a minimum of 100 trees of various species, planted at a maximum of four meter apart in available lots and two meters apart along the roadways.

What happened to Luntiang Pilipinas? Was it abandoned since it was associated with the leader of the Opposition? If Sec. Angie Reyes resigns his post, what would happen to his Green Philippine Highways?

President Arroyo’s proposal allowed us to realize that we need more than just trees along the roads. Green highways may blind us from recognizing that we have denuded mountains. I would rather have bland highway sceneries as long as I am confident that mountains are covered with forest trees.

In short, green highways are not enough. We need green mountains that would prevent flashfloods, landslides and depletion of water sources. If DENR placed high hopes on trees to combat pollution, then it should rethink the issuance of logging and mining permits to big (and foreign) corporations.

Sec. Reyes was quoted by the media that the “country will have lush forests and green urban areas if only every Filipino plants at least one tree a year as his/her contribution to protect the environment.” The good secretary may be correct but he should also not forget to pinpoint the industrial firms and mining companies which destroy millions of trees for their operations.

A project like Green Philippine Highways should not be boasted as THE most impressive project of a national government agency. Planting trees is an effort which should be spearheaded by civic groups, youth organizations, environmentalists and local government units. The DENR should now focus on a realizable and long term plan to reverse water pollution, mining disasters and diminishing forest cover.

But Green Philippine Highways may be more than just trees along the roads. Sec. Reyes succeeded in informing the motorists and voters about his laudable environmental mission. At this instance, I remember Dick Gordon’s Wow Philippines which sent him to the Senate in 2004.

Related entries:

Refugee nation. evacuation country.
Preserve mineral wealth. huwag ubusin ng dayuhan.

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Real tragedies of the year

I love the smell of durian in the morning. I was in Davao City, Agusan del Sur and Surigao del Norte last week. Check out the pictures….

Julie Albior and Flores Biwang, both from Bohol province, were the topnotchers in the high school category of the National Achievement Test (NAT) with identical 100 percent score in mathematics. Last March, 1,560,000 sixth graders and 985,754 fourth year high school students took the NAT.

Coming from poor families, the two bright students failed to enter college last semester. Biwang passed the UP entrance examination and was supposed to take up engineering but she couldn’t afford the tuition rate of the university.

After hearing this news, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo met with the students in Malacañang Palace and instructed the Commission on Higher Education to give them scholarship.

Albior and Biwang represent the millions of poor but intelligent students who are forced to skip schooling because of rising cost of education and decreasing family incomes. They are the poignant examples of state abandonment of the youth and education.

The scholarship grant is a maneuver to conceal the failure of student assistance programs of the government, particularly of CHED. It is also an insult to other out of school youth. Does one have to be a NAT topnotcher in order to receive much needed government subsidy?

Albior, Biwang and the rest of the bright students who were forced to drop out of schools should blame Mrs. Arroyo for the following reasons:

1. Since 2001, the government encouraged the reduction of subsidies for public universities. This forced schools either to accept fewer students or to raise fees;

2. In 2004, CHED implemented a new tuition guideline which allowed private schools to impose higher fees (below the inflation rate) without consulting the students;

3. Mrs. Arroyo fanatically supported course offerings needed by foreigners like call center, supermaid and medical transcription programs which prompted schools to reduce resources for other important course programs;

4. Months before the 2004 elections, the school loan program of the government targetted only the students who were of voting age (SAFE for SR – Student Assistance Fund for Education and Strong Republic);

5. The present scholarship program: Emergency Financial Assistance for Students (E-FAST) prioritizes the students from bailiwicks of government allies.

We also have bad news for Albior and Biwang:

1. The scholarship grant by the government covers only tuition. They have to pay for miscellaneous fees. There will also be no living, transportation and book allowance.

2. If they want to enroll in UP, they have to prepare for higher fees next year. The UP administration wants to increase fees by 300 percent.

The disheartening stories of students forced by poverty to drop out of schools remind us of the futility of government education programs. It also underscores the need to curb corruption in the government and misprioritization of the national budget.

We thought the classroom shortage fiasco last June and the continuing nursing scandal are the best indicators of the crisis in education. We were wrong. Albior, Biwang and the rest of the underprivileged bright students of the land are the real tragedies of the year.

Related entries:

Gusto rin nila mag-aral. Bakit mayayaman ang nasa UP?
Overhaul tuition regulation. Dapat dapat
When education becomes business. Negosyo at tubo.

The plebiscite question

First published in Yehey!

If the Supreme Court recognizes the validity of people’s initiative to amend the Constitution, the Commission on Elections will have to verify the signatures submitted by Sigaw ng Bayan. Then we will have a plebiscite early next year.

But if the Supreme Court rejects the petition of Sigaw ng Bayan, Congress can vote to convene a Constituent Assembly to amend the Constitution. Then the people will be asked to approve or reject the proposed changes through a plebiscite.

With or without the Supreme Court backing, the government has many options in pushing for Charter Change (ChaCha).

If a plebiscite will be held on January 15 as Malacañang announced, the people will be asked to answer the following question:

Do you approve of the amendment of Articles VI and VII of the Constitution, changing the form of government from the present bicameral-presidential to a unicameral parliamentary system of government, in order to achieve greater efficiency, simplicity and economy in government; and providing an Article XVIII as Transitory Provisions for the orderly shift from one system to another?

Sigaw ng Bayan wants us to believe that an overwhelming number of voters (6.3 million to be exact) actually understood and approved this question.

The Constitution stipulates that a people’s initiative can only amend and not revise the Constitution once every five years. The Supreme Court will have to decide whether Sigaw ng Bayan’s petition constitutes an amendment or revision of the Constitution.

Former Senator Vicente Paterno warned us of the transitory provisions in the ChaCha proposal. He said former President Ferdinand Marcos also inserted transitory provisions in the 1973 Constitution to assume greater executive powers. Instead of facilitating the smooth transition from one form of government to another, Marcos used the transitory provisions to prolong his term of office.

In other countries, amendments in the Constitution are adopted to meet the demands of the changing times. In the Philippines, the initiative to amend the Constitution usually coincides with the desire of an incumbent leader to extend his/her power.

The clamor of local officials to amend the Charter today is not without precedent. In 1939, provincial boards and municipal councils passed resolutions endorsing the removal of the Constitutional prohibition against reelection so that President Manuel Quezon can run again in the elections.

Then and now, ChaCha has never been a genuine attempt to implement political and economic reforms. It has always been a tool of incumbent politicians to promote their selfish interests.

In 1986, Senator Blas Ople proposed the inclusion of people’s initiative as another mode of changing the Constitution. It reserves the right of the people to directly change provisions in the Constitution if they are dissatisfied with the Legislature. In short, people’s initiative is a “way of giving concrete reality to People Power.”

Since then, the people’s initiative has been used to propose reforms that would benefit the politicians, and not the people. It’s time to disabuse this noble provision in the Constitution.

Related entries:

Shall we dance the ChaCha?
ChaCha dance during the monsoon season.

Super republika

Wish: I hope there would be a blog where bloggers would be asked to post the first article they wrote in their respective blogs. The first blog article can reveal the priorities, personality, writing style and hints on the philosophical leaning of the blogger. I am interested to know how bloggers introduced themselves in the blogosphere: did they write about family, politics, art, love or just a chronicle of their activities during that day?

Una ko itong sinulat para sa http://tinig.com/ …..

May isang hukom sa Malabon ang naniniwalang may mga dwendeng gumagala sa mundong ito. Dahil dito, pinatalsik siya ng Korte Suprema. Hindi man daw baliw ang hukom, kailangang pangalagaan ang integridad ng Korte.

Ilang buwan bago ang pag-amin ng hukom na nakikisalamuha siya sa mga dwende, nangako si Pangulong Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo na dadalhin niya ang Pilipinas sa Enchanted Kingdom bago ang taong 2020. Hindi kaya ito ang naging hudyat ng hukom sa Malabon upang ipagbunyi ang pagdating ng mga dwende? Naging mensahero lang kaya siya ng Pangulo?

Mukhang sinimulan na ang byahe patungong Enchanted Kingdom nang inanunsiyo ng Pangulo na magbubuo tayo ng limang super region. Sa katunayan, pinatayo’t pinakilala pa sa publiko noong nakaraang State of the Nation Address ang lahat ng tapat na kawal ng kaharian.

Sinasanay na rin ang mga makabagong manggagawa. Ipinagmalaki ni Gng. Arroyo na ang mga umuwing domestic helper mula sa Lebanon ay gagawing supermaids. Sa panahon nga naman ng globalisasyon, kailangang laging angat tayo sa mga kalabang lahi na mayroon ding inaalok na murang paggawa. Bukod sa pagiging masipag, matiisin at kagalingan sa pagsasalita ng carabao english, ang mga yaya natin ay dapat ding maging supermaid.

Mayroon namang nilalakong kumpetisyon ang Department of Education sa mga eskuwelahan. Hinihikayat ang mga estudyante na gumawa ng mga sanaysay o komiks hinggil sa mga Super Pinoy/ Super Pinay. Nais himukin ng DepEd ang mga bata na gamitin ang kanilang imahinasyon upang ilarawan kung ano ang mga katangian ng huwarang mamamayan sa Enchanted Kingdom.

Naghahanda rin ang media sa nalalapit na transpormasyon ng bansa mula sa pagiging Perlas ng Silangan tungo sa Lupain ng Mahika. Dominante ngayon ang mga palabas ukol sa mga superhero, salamangka, kakaibang nilalang at mga mandirigma ng ibang dimensiyon. Kung dati’y mga matatanda lamang ang nagkukuwento sa atin tungkol sa mga kapre, sirena’t maligno, ngayo’y napapanood na ang mga ito sa primetime TV.

Maaaring tama si Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano na may lihim na bank account ang First Family sa Germany. Pero maaaring mabilis na inutos ni Gng. Arroyo sa mga dwende na ilipat ang mga itinatagong ginto sa Hogwartz.

Tuluyan ng lumubog ang programang Strong Republic ng pamahalaan. Pinalitan ito ng Super Republika na magiging transisyon bago ang Enchanted Kingdom status sa taong 2020. Susi ang Charter Change upang mabilis maisakatuparan ang pamamayani ni Reyna Arroyo. Mali kung gayon ang Pagbabago – Sigaw ng Bayan. Ang tunay na adhikain ay: Pagbabago para sa Enchanted Kingdom – Sigaw ng mga Dwende.

Mukhang mali ang naging taktika ng Oposisyon. Dapat sumangguni ito sa mga albularyo. Dapat bumili ito ng maraming anting-anting. Dapat dinagdag ding batayan ng impeachment complaint laban kay Gng. Arroyo ang pagkakaroon ng baliw na pag-iisip. Kung naging mahigpit tayo sa hukom na nakakakita ng dwende, hindi ba’t dapat lang na paalisin din natin sa kapangyarihan ang isang peke’t nahihibang na lider na nangangakong dadalhin tayo sa Enchanted Kingdom, lilikha ng super region at magsasanay ng supermaid?

Dagdag: Nakita na rin ng madla ang opsiyal na simbolo ng ating kaharian: ang super Philippine flag na sinira ng malakas na hagin at ng mga umatakeng kalabaw sa Nueva Vizcaya. Maghanda na mga kapatid! Nalalapit na ang pagsilang ng bagong mundo. Saksi tayo sa mga senyales: sumasayaw ang mga poste, bumabagsak ang mga billboard, lumilipad ang mga bubong, bumabaha sa mga bulubundukin at tumataob ang mga truck noong dumaan ang bagyong Milenyo. Nagbabala na rin si Reyna Hindi Kailanman Nandaya Arroyo na hindi niya tatantanan ang mga mandaraya, paparusahan daw niya ang mga nandaya sa nursing scandal. Si Haring Pidal naman ay gustong ipakulong ang mga manunulat na ayaw maniwala na iisa lamang ang babae sa kanyang buhay.

Dagdag sa dagdag: Kailangang makipagmabutihan si Reyna Arroyo sa Anak ng Diyos na naninirahan sa Bagong Herusalem sa Davao. Kailangan ding makausap ang Sugo ng Diyos sa isla ng Dinagat.

Related entries:

Super nation. Dating Strong Republic.
Sona overdose. Super regions.
Batang Jollibee Kid. Mag-ingat sa advertisment.
Ang dating tinamaang daan. Mga bagong diyos.

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Anti-terrorism bill in Congress, my blog entry for Global Voices Online. Visit also Yehey!

The unbearable lightness of bombing

Greet me: This week marks my second year as a blogger. Please take time to read my very first blog post….

Traumatic disasters are needed to jolt politicians from slumber. If not for the landslides in Aurora and Quezon, there would be no log ban in the country. Ships were banned from navigating on marine reserves because of the oil spill in Guimaras. The Biofuels Act was passed by the Senate to avert a looming crisis in the oil industry.

This particularity of Philippine politics, or the seemingly eternal lack of initiative on the part of our leaders, is not lost on some quarters that are aggressively pushing for the immediate enactment of an anti-terrorism law after a series of bombings rocked Mindanao last week.

Before the bombing spree, there was no real clamor for the passage of an anti-terror bill. Only Malacanang and a handful of its allies were actively lobbying for this piece of legislation. Politicians were too engrossed with charter change and later on with relief programs in the wake of typhoon Milenyo that they found little time to discuss the vagaries contained in the anti-terror bill.

But the ‘terrorist attacks’ united the politicians to press for a stronger law that would deter terrorism. The menace of fundamentalist threat was exaggerated. Mindanao was put on the highest alert. Police warned Metro Manila residents to be extra-cautious. Suddenly, we have become a paradise for ‘suitcase’ terrorists. And the Senate is pressured to save more lives in the face of ‘clear and present danger’ by approving the anti-terror bill.

Terrorists (in the Western sense) exist in the country. There are fanatical individuals and groups who will sow fear and hatred in the land. But a review of Philippine history would reveal that ‘terrorist attacks’ can also be the handiwork of State agents who are eager to distract the attention of the public and to justify draconian security measures. Wasn’t the (fake) assassination attempt on Minister Juan Ponce Enrile one of the arguments used when Martial law was imposed? Didn’t Pres. Estrada invoke the LRT bombing to remind the public that there were important tasks to be accomplished rather than join the ‘Oust Estrada’ rallies?

Were the bombings in Mindanao the deed of genuine terrorists or were they orchestrated by State agents to force Congress to enact an anti-terror law?

Terrorists may be avenging the arrest of the wife of the alleged Bali bomber. Government support for the US invasion of Iraq may be a continuing reason of dissent. Terrorist cells may be planning a bigger attack.

On the other hand, foreign military aid is tied to the passage of the anti-terror bill. The government is also dependent on US military support to defeat rebel groups. Is this the reason why top military officials have expressed disappointment that the Senate has not been too enthusiastic to support an anti-terror law?

Why the rush to enact this law? Why the extraordinary number of bomb attacks?

Milenyo may be the culprit. It is understandable that the anti-terror bill would be on the last agenda of Senate before it goes into one month recess so that there would be less time for interpellation. But Milenyo delayed the schedule of Congress and consequently the approval of the anti-terror bill became less probable.

Only a national catastrophe could create an atmosphere conducive for the quick passage of an anti-terror measure. And then the bombs exploded. Indeed, these were terrorist attacks. But who were the real masterminds of these ghastly activities?

An anti-terror law is not a guarantee that it can prevent the spread of terrorism. Efficient police work and timely Intelligence report can thwart terrorist activities. Immediately before the bombing in Mindanao, foreign embassies already warned their citizens on an impending terrorist attack in the country. Why did our Intelligence units fail to act on this report?

Terrorism should be defeated. We need protection from terrorist acts. But we should be careful in rushing the approval of a law which may have dangerous repercussions on our civil liberties. Senator Nene Pimentel believes “that no other bill has the potential for abuse by the unscrupulous leaders of the country” than the anti-terror bill. We should heed this warning.

Related entries:

Vortex of evil. Oil depot delikado.
Terror in the city. London terror plot.

The Other Radicals

After the egg-pelting incident in UP, many students, faculty members and alumni wrote scathing remarks on the ‘rude behavior’ of natdem activists. But this was not really surprising. After all, UP has always been a bastion of liberal (read: reactionary) thinking.

UP may be popularly known as hotbed of activism (or ‘breeding ground of destabilizers’) but a review of its history can clarify this myth. Recall Dodong Nemenzo’s valid assertion that for every Joma Sison and Nur Misuari, UP produces a hundred Ferdinand Marcos and other trapos. Most of the Cabinet members of every government are UP graduates. Even Erap once admonished his critics that if ever he steps down, UP must be shut down since majority of his advisers were from UP.

Radical activism may be part of UP subculture but it was/is never a mainstream ethos in the campus. UP is a very interesting amalgamation of various contradictions. For example, a study (during my undergraduate days) revealed that the most religious students in the campus came from the College of Science.

In short, Esperon can never run out of supporters and closet ideological allies in the premier state university.

What really surprised me was Esperon’s confession that he was once a First Quarter Stormer. Allegedly, he was once a radical before he embraced a career in the conservative military institution. Esperon may have implied that he has since then outgrown his foolish idealism. Students may be brimming with revolutionary zeal today but they will later on adopt a more pragmatic view of life.

Esperon was not the first (and certainly will not be the last) individual to use this kind of reasoning. Bobi Tiglao was an activist before he became an apologist of the status quo. He claimed that since 1986, his former comrades have been making wrong and outdated political analysis. Mike Defensor was a fiery student activist before showing his true colors. He claimed that activists during the late 80s were polite – which means they did not heckle and throw eggs.

Esperon, Tiglao, Defensor and other born again trapos were radicals once in their lives but soon abandoned radicalness in favor of conformism. They ditched the revolution in order to become respectful, moneyed and influential citizens of mainstream society.

In a slightly different category, Conrad de Quiros is a proud activist yet he ridiculed the natdem radicals for being “incapable of laughing at themselves.”

Esperon, Tiglao, Defensor and to a certain extent, de Quiros, justified their attack on the ‘dogmatic’ radicals by insisting rationality is on their side or by professing to adapt in the changing times.

These exceptional ‘radicals’ tried to set the standards of what constitutes a decent, relevant, humane, peaceful and respectful activism. They disdain the continuing radicalness of natdems which serves as potent reminder to their betrayal of the Cause.

So here we have two sets of radicals: the radical radicals represented by the ‘stalinist’ natdems; and the fashionable ex-radicals (also exemplified by Alex Magno and Randy David who used to write ‘indignant manifestos’).

The radical radicals persist in a political advocacy which cannot be tolerated by the official ideology but the fashionable ex-radicals are cogs that make the regime more palatable in the eyes of the people. In short, the former hard core militants turned peace loving Leftists, military generals, diplomats and politicos are one and the same – they are all loved by the Establishment.

Related entries:

Seeing red. Komunista.
UP Student Council history. Mahaba ito.

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The perfect storm, my blog entry for Global Voices Online.

Philippine idols

Note: Let me confess my bias in writing this article. I am a (very) proud graduate of the UP College of Education. Most of my blockmates are still in the Philippines hoping, working, striving and struggling to give the best education to our children….

More than one hundred countries celebrated World Teachers’ Day last October 5. According to the UNESCO, this represented “a significant token of the awareness, understanding and appreciation displayed for the vital contribution that teachers make to education and development.”

In many countries, Teachers’ Day is a holiday. For example, Albania honors its educators every March 7, China September 28, Iran May 2, Brazil October 15, Mexico May 15, Peru July 6 and Singapore September 1.

Filipino teachers deserve to be commended for their crucial role in shaping the intellectual and moral fabric of the nation. They are tireless and honorable crusaders of enlightenment and good citizenship. In particular, public school teachers represent the most energetic, creative and passionate workers in our society. They make decent education possible despite the overcrowded

classrooms, inadequate learning materials and premodern school facilities. Typhoon Milenyo may have destroyed hundreds of school buildings but the education of our children can continue since Filipino teachers can adapt even in the most difficult situations.

Our teachers have been called modern day heroes but this seems to be a lip service rather than a genuine showing of deference. Teachers are among the most overworked yet underpaid employees in the country. Aside from heavy teaching load, teachers are required to perform electoral tasks. Politicians also intervene in the hiring, promotion and firing of teachers.

We acknowledge the service of our teachers by blaming them for the poor performance of students in Science, Math and English. We accuse them of abetting electoral fraud. We sensationalize isolated cases of psychotic teachers abusing students.

The Department of Education is correct in pursuing programs that would enhance the skills of teachers. But it should also strive to motivate old teachers and encourage bright graduates to enter the teaching profession. The government can immediately inspire them if it prioritizes the urgent passage of bills that would improve teachers’ welfare.

Congress can look into the proposal of Rep. Roseller Barinaga which seeks to grant hardship allowance equal to 25 percent of monthly salary to teachers exposed to danger due to distant locations, natural calamities or armed conflict. It also allows teachers one-year study leave after three years of service to pursue graduate studies.

Rep. Juan Miguel Zubiri also has a proposed measure to enact a Magna Carta for Private School Teachers. The bill seeks to give private school teachers the following: a) security of tenure, b) the right against discrimination, c) academic freedom, d) the right to self-organization, and e) benefits related to health and study leaves.

Meanwhile, Rep. Edwin Uy has a bill that seeks to grant teachers additional benefits and privileges in the form of more liberal study leaves, educational grants to the children of teachers and more comprehensive special hardship allowances.

All of these splendid bills are still pending in Congress. The Lower House should be ashamed since it is aggressive in pushing for Charter Change yet (equally) important legislative measures that would directly benefit the people are placed in the back burner.

There was no official celebration of World Teachers’ Day in the Philippines last October 5. On the other hand, dogs were given free rabies shots, vitamins and veterinary consultations in key urban areas during the World Animal Day last week. Teachers may feel slighted that dogs were given special attention by the media and public officials. But why should they complain? After all, they are only teachers. They are not dogs.

Related entries:

Interview with the Pinoy Vampires. Congress
Education then and now. Ganito tayo noon.

Odd man out

There are various surveys on global competitiveness. I already blogged about the World Competitiveness Yearbook. The Philippines also did not fare well in the Global Competitiveness Report and World Bank’s Doing Business report.

The reliability of these surveys may be doubted but they can be helpful in assessing our performance in different economic indicators. More importantly, they can illustrate how foreign investors and policymakers perceive the conditions in the country.

While these reports can guide the national leadership in the key reforms to be implemented, the bias of institutions which sponsored the surveys can be raised. For example, the World Bank is vocal against weak government accountability and inefficient services when it comes to combating corruption. But IBON recently noted that the World Bank failed to point out that its economic prescription (liberalization and privatization of industries) may also be a factor in the endemic corruption.

Just the same, let me share the highlights of the Global Competitiveness Report (GCR) as presented by the Makati Business Club.

Out of 117 economies, the Philippines ranked 73rd. Indonesia placed 69th, Thailand 33rd and Malaysia 25th. We can boast that Vietnam still ranked lower than us – 74th.

The GCR’s nine pillars of competitiveness are institutions, infrastructure, macroeconomy, health and primary education, higher education and training, market efficiency, technological readiness, business sophistication and innovation.

Institutions. We are at the bottom on wastefulness of government spending, business costs of terrorism, reliability of police services, favoritism in decisions of government officials, diversion of public funds and public trust of politicians.

Infrastructure. We scored low on railroad infrastructure development, overall infrastructure quality and telephone lines. Next year we may rank lower due to the massive infrastructure destruction wrought by typhoon Milenyo.

Health and Primary Education. We are at the top on gross primary enrollment and HIV/AIDS prevalence probably because basic education is free and compulsory and the underreporting of HIV/AIDS cases. We should quickly address the high tuberculosis and Malaria prevalence.

Higher Education and Training. Quality of math and science education is dismal. We have outstanding Management schools. There is a dearth of specialized research and training.

Market efficiency. As expected, foreign ownership restriction is frowned upon by analysts. They also complain the difficulty in hiring and firing workers. Labor/employer relations also scored low. Brain drain is considered as a weakness. Women employment in the private sector is exemplary.

When asked if the form of government can influence our ranking in global competitiveness surveys, Mr. Guillermo Luz stated several times that it is not really an important factor.

Related entries:

We are no different from Myanmar. Mayabang kasi tayo.
The Hong Kong Trap. WTO ministerial meeting.

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Dengue outbreak in some provinces is my blog entry for Global Voices Online

The day after Milenyo

Thousands of residents are complaining over the failure of government and power companies to restore electricity last weekend. Probably they have forgotten how life was really worse in the early 90s when blackouts gripped the nation everyday for more than 16 hours. But this is not a reason to justify the disappointing slow process of restoring normalcy in the metropolis and south Luzon. Millions of our people still don’t have electricity, water and phone days after typhoon Milenyo hit the country. Man has already landed on the moon but it seems we are stuck in the Jurassic age.

The shocking destruction wrought by Milenyo exposed the weakness of our physical infrastructure system. Metro Manila can tolerate floods, traffic and air pollution. But swinging electric posts, flying roofs, crashing billboards and overturning trucks are not part of our daily hardships. They are disaster spectacles we only love to watch in the safe distance from our television sets.

Milenyo provides a poignant reminder that our Enchanted Kingdom (formerly known as Strong Republic) rests on shaky grounds. Before creating super regions, shouldn’t it be a paramount concern that communities are (always) prepared to deal with disasters? An effective government ensures that the requirements of a dynamic economy: efficient transportation system, communication, power distribution and water supply are provided, especially in cases of emergency. In fact, a strong typhoon is not an excuse to justify the unsatisfactory relief and rescue program of government agencies and utility companies since the Philippines is ravaged by more than 20 typhoons every year. To paraphrase Sen. Miriam Santiago, we eat strong typhoons for breakfast. So why do we still have a weak infrastructure system?

Milenyo offers an opportunity to make the Charter Change debate more relevant to the people. If many of our countrymen are alienated by the ‘change the system’ mantra, then perhaps we should reframe the discussion by raising issues that really matter in our lives. For example, can charter change prevent massive loss of lives and properties every time a natural disaster hits the country? Can it strengthen our roads, railways, electric posts and roofs? Can it stop flooding, landslides and mudslides (in the urban areas)?

Scientists have a bad news. Global warming will continue to wreak havoc in the future. This means strong typhoons and long periods of drought. More people will be forced to flee their homes because of environmental disasters.

Perhaps the key to save more lives is not the type of government or constitution we have. What we need is a responsive bureaucracy, responsible private sector and united barangays. We have to underscore the role to be performed by communities in providing quick health and relief assistance and the prevention of looting during natural calamities.

Milenyo confirmed our status as a Third World nation. It also highlighted the sorry state of our vital infrastructures. Some may argue that we may be complaining too much. Even the mighty United States could not prevent hurricane Katrina from destroying New Orleans. But if this will always be our reasoning, then we will never be a great nation again.

Related entries:

Disaster preparedness. Kulang na kulang.
Refugee nation. Na naman.
Water runs dry. Magugulat si Rizal.

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First online press conference, my blog entry for global voices online.