Thursday, October 13, 2011

Who are we?

Who are we?
DEMAND AND SUPPLY By Boo Chanco (The Philippine Star) Updated September 05, 2011 12:00 AM

The 80-year-old Gen Jose Almonte was supposed to talk to the Foundation for Economic Freedom (FEF) about our China engagement strategy during our monthly meeting last week. But the general told us there is a more basic question we have to answer first, Who are we?

It is an important question, he said, because it is at the root of our malaise, our lack of credibility as a people not just to our neighbors and the world, but more importantly to us. We ourselves are not taking ourselves seriously. 

The Filipino has lost credibility with many Filipinos who in turn have expressed their disgust with their feet.

The general seems to be saying that if China is showing some disrespect in the handling of the Spratlys issue, it is only because we have made ourselves less respectable, less credible. We have to first put our internal house in order, the general admonished us, before we can move on as one people towards a common goal… like putting China in its place on the West Philippine Sea issue.

The general explained: “Though we were the first nation in Asia to recover its independence, we have yet to come to terms with ourselves. We have yet to settle the basic issue of nationhood: Who are we?

“We are supposed to be what our forebears fought and died for: a people of honor, dignity, freedom, justice, tolerance, compassion, hard work, discipline, caring – a people at peace with itself and the world. And when our people called for it, we did continue the struggle for dignity and freedom. During the 1986 People Power revolution, the world recognized our country as a leader in the global democratic movement.

“But the core values we won in blood, we did not use to truly define who we are – we did not use to build our nation --- we did not use to build our national identity, our Pilipino identity. We degraded ourselves when we allowed President Estrada to use the Presidency to indulge his personal vices. We diminished ourselves when we let President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo break our nation’s word of honor to our allies in the Iraq war to protect her domestic politics.

“We did violence to the legacy of the 1986 People Power revolution when President Aquino — to make up for government’s incompetence in the Aug. 23, 2010 hostage-taking rescue — boycotted the Oslo Nobel Peace Award at Beijing’s behest.

“We compromised our nation’s moral and spiritual development when some of our religious leaders proved inadequate at resisting worldly temptations.”

The General made his most telling observation and warning when he said: “And we do ourselves a grave disservice whenever, individually, we focus on serving our personal fortunes, without regard for what happens to the nation --- because individual success becomes meaningless in a failing – or a failed State.”

The General went on to bewail our inability to focus on national purposes and achieve national goals… our government unable to enforce all its writs, control corruption in office, eliminate patronage and guarantee even the basic liberties. We must, the General said, work to earn the world’s respect. “We must work to deserve our honor, our dignity, our freedom. We must live our core values. We must end our internal wars. We must transfer to the people the power of the few over the State.”

How do all of these relate to our problem with China over the Spratlys? The General thinks “even China cannot defy world opinion, whose moral authority derives from the global connectivity of humankind’s collective sense of right and wrong. And world opinion will incline to the nation that deserves the respect of the world community.”

George and Gloria

The reference of Gen Almonte to Ate Glue’s withdrawal of our troops from Iraq reminds me of a story I heard some years ago about how we lost our credibility with the Americans. As I recall the story, Ate Glue was supposedly on the phone reassuring then State Secretary Colin Powell that we will keep our forces on the ground. Secretary Powell then went on to call President Bush to convey the message of reassurance.

But shortly thereafter, the news wires reported we were pulling our troops. Powell couldn’t believe it. He checked the report himself and to his dismay, the report was correct. Powell tried to get back to Bush but Bush was already told by White House staff about it and he refused to talk to the state secretary. Powell lost his credibility in the eyes of his boss. So Powell told his aides that he was just astounded how a leader of a nation allied to the US, a woman at that, could tell him one thing and do exactly the opposite in a matter of seconds.

I guess the story was told to Obama when he took office, which explains why he refused to see Ate Glue on several occasions even when he was just within spitting distance in a couple of public events. Sending our troops to Iraq was stupid, as was that war. But breaking the promise once it was made, diminished not just Ate Glue but the Filipino nation in the eyes of our long time ally, the only remaining superpower on Earth. And we must have such chutzpah because after we have proven ourselves unreliable allies, we now expect the Americans to defend us if push comes to shove with China!

By allowing a two-timing (did I hear cheating too?) head of state to represent us in the world stage, what kind of people are we?

As Gen. Almonte puts it, if we can’t keep our word or live according to our ideals for which our heroes died, who are we?


Jesus Lim Arranza, Federation of Philippine Industries (FPI) Chairman and also concurrently the Chair of the FPI Anti-Smuggling committee, noted in his association’s newsletter that the government is losing P127 billion annually in smuggling alone. He noted that based on the International Monetary Fund data, the total exportation to the Philippines from 2002 to 2007 amounted to US$284.70 billion while the Bureau of Customs’ (BOC) records only showed US$195.01 billion or a disparity of US$89.69 billion.

Hence, the average annual disparity is US$14.95 billion or the equivalent of P747.50 billion (at the rate of US$1 to P50). Twelve (12%) percent VAT and an average duty of five (5%) percent will amount to a total revenue loss of P127.075 billion per annum. Looks like the new Customs Commissioner has his target all set.

San Miguel and PAL

I heard that San Miguel and PAL have engaged investment bankers to advise them on the proposed purchase of a significant number of shares in the airline by the energy and infrastructure conglomerate. In fact, I am told the due diligence is almost over.

If the deal happens, Ramon Ang will become CEO of still another major Philippine company. But the scuttlebutt is that Mr Ang will engage a large international airline to help him manage the Philippine flag carrier in a world class manner. That’s probably why the current PAL management is dead set on pushing through its plan to outsource non core functions in the airline. Not only will outsourcing improve PAL’s profitability and increase its sale price to San Miguel, it will hasten completion of the deal and thus liquefy a large part of Lucio Tan’s capital stuck in PAL. I guess San Miguel isn’t about to buy an airline that is over staffed, suffering serious labor unrest and sporting a bleeding bottom line.

San Miguel recently acquired the Malaysian subsidiary of Exxon supposedly to gain more refining capacity needed to enlarge its market share here. There are rumors in the industry that Caltex is thinking of leaving this market because it is too small and too troublesome to be worth it. If that happens, Mr Ang wants Petron to have the means to step up to the plate and take over the market share Caltex will leave behind.

A doctor and a lawyer

Atty Sonny Pulgar sent this one.

A doctor and a lawyer were talking at a party. Their conversation was constantly interrupted by people describing their ailments and asking the doctor for free medical advice. After an hour of this, the exasperated doctor asked the lawyer, “What do you do to stop people from asking you for legal advice when you’re out of the office?”

“I give it to them,” replied the lawyer, “and then I send them a bill.”

The doctor was shocked, but agreed to give it a try.

The next day, still feeling slightly guilty, the doctor prepared the bills. When he went to place them in his mailbox, he found a bill from the lawyer.

Boo Chanco’s e-mail address is He is also on Twitter @boochanco

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