There is no question that in an interconnected and increasingly competitive world no country can afford to be an island unto itself. Every one — and that includes the most developed countries — reaches out and parades around the world with its best products and practices to gain markets and adherents. That effort take all kinds of ways, fair or foul, and try all kinds of tricks, if we may call them such, official or otherwise, to push and pull strings to put one over the competition.
In some, others say, most instances, especially among the so-called “Big Powers,” they even go out of their way, to railroad and cajole with offers which cannot be refused. That can include destabilization or even annihilation.
Which is why outcries of foul deeds and corrupt practices almost always rent the air (it’s almost a given some pundits advise) as peoples, corporations and nations compete fiercely for markets, jobs and investments on a 24/7 basis. That said, P-Noy’s 23rd overseas trip in his almost three years in Malacañang, this time to the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland can be easily justified.
Not even the cost — P49 million and counting — and the number of members of his contingent should be spared from any further criticism.
There is need for the Chief Executive to be there even as many commentators and activists dub it as “the annual rite of absolution by the rich and famous and the high and mighty” to salve their consciences before they go back to their rapacious and unconscionable ways and practices. He needed to highlight the country’s progress thus far and encourage investors and travelers alike to visit and get engaged. He needed that event to enable the “biggies” of the world to romance the Philippines, as it were.
The question is which country did he describe and promote. And, more importantly, did he succeed? Well, we will soon see whether the hype coming out of P-Noy’s loyalists is justified or not.
As expected, P-Noy trumpeted his administration’s achievements noting that the economic growth for the past two years has been remarkable for which he attributed his daang matuwid (straight path) injunction.
Said the President: “The Philippines, for the longest time, seemed doomed to perform below its potential — this, despite abundant natural resources, a strategic location as gateway between the Pacific and the rest of Asia, and a well-educated and hardworking populace. I think the fact that you invited a Filipino here to speak about an anti-corruption drive speaks of our mutual recognition of the problem and its solution.
As I said during my presidential campaign back in 2010 — and in our language: ”Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap.” Without corruption, there will be no poverty. And while I will be the first to say that the work to uplift the lives of my countrymen is far from over, it is a singular honor to share my experiences on battling corruption, and the fruits of our labor thus far.
“I came into office confronted by a government where corruption was rampant, and a citizenry that had spiraled into apathy after almost a decade of absentee leadership. The system was characterized by transactionalism and an every-man-for-himself attitude, fueled by a drive to remain in power, rather than to render true public service.
Was it any wonder that an estimated 10 million Filipinos — roughly 10 percent of our total population—decided to vote with their feet and look for greener pastures abroad?”
Well, nothing wrong with highlighting the daang matuwid drive. But did P-Noy really believe that his audience readily consented to his representations that the country is on its way to be as transparent and graft free as he would like them to believe? Nah. Not with the unresolved issues involving three high profile projects supported by European governments and funded in large part by European banks. Not with lingering issues involving the Ninoy Aquino International Airport III project and its prime investor, Fraport. Not with the ongoing arbitration proceedings brought about by the Belgian government and two of its largest banks involving the cancelled Laguna de Bay Rehabilitation Project. Not with the continued sniping associated with the President’s Bridge Program involving the British and French governments and their banks.
In short, will any of the investors in his audience dare put their money into the country while a number of critical questions about the investment environment and the bureaucratic practices associated with investing in the country remain mired in doubt.
P-Noy may be squeaky clean himself but what about the boys and girls around him. Not to mention those who have gone out of their way dropping his name like crazy to gain advantage and lap it up.
Which brings us to the question of the administration’s adherence to the Rule of Law. Did P-Noy’s advisers even realize for a moment that the spectacle of Corona’s impeachment and the drawn out quarrel over the former President’s medical condition and her right to travel has somehow blurred a good number of universal rights which the Davos audience is keen to be upheld at all cost and under any circumstances?
Did they ever even read the latest issuance about our budgetary and bureucractic process which have been downgraded no end by the international bodies doing the monitoring? Maybe not. So what Philippines and what prospect did we ever manage to put forward in Davos and into the world?
If the only thing which will come out of government’s and, yes, some environ-mentalist group’s passive outcry over the grounding of the USS Guardian at the world famous Tubbataha Reef — the World Heritage bio-diversity and diving site — is a spate of writings on the dangers to the environment and to peace and security of the largely undetected movements of warships and their contingents in the world’s oceans, then we will at least have something good come out of it. For as things stand, the US Navy and the Obama administration will probably simply do its usual “song and dance” routine — issue an apology and offer a few cents or so as fine — and let the storm pass over, as it were.
We should not let that happen at all. There must be an effort to chronicle the whole incident to let the world know and, yes, the generations yet to come about the transgressions done by “Big Powers” such as the United States which are simply swept under the rug.
I am constrained to make this plea after reading a plaintive note in a paper which noted with not a bit of irony how the world, in particular the ever present and pressuring environmental movement, seems to have forgotten the life and works of Rachel Carson, the writer of that iconic book Silent Spring which is considered by many as the one which launched the contemporary American environmental movement. The book was initially serialized in the New Yorker in June 1962 and published in book form by Houghton Mifflin on Sept. 27, 1962.
Wikipedia’s narrative on the book noted: “When the book was published Carson was already a well-known writer on natural history, but had not previously been a social critic. After its selection by the Book-of-the-Month Club and the New York Times best-seller list it inspired widespread public concerns with pesticides and the pollution of the environment facilitating the ban of the pesticide DDT in 1972 in the United States.
The book documented detrimental effects of pesticides on the environment, particularly on birds. Carson accused the chemical industry of spreading disinformation, and public officials of accepting industry claims uncritically. Most recently, it was named one of the 25 greatest science books of all time by the editors of Discover Magazine.”
The book’s blurb “How a courageous woman took on the chemical industry and raised important questions about humankind’s impact on nature” had such an impact on the world at that time that no less than then Alaska Sen. Ernest Gruening, a leading Democrat, was so taken by its revelations that he was reported as having said “Every once in a while in the history of mankind, a book has appeared which has substantially altered the course of history.” Unfortunately, 50 years after its publication not a twit from the ever present and pressuring environmental movement was even reported. What a downer.
To think that after being derided for years by the powerful chemical industry and its cohorts, in and out of government, the American public and the punditry has come around to realizing the book’s powerful influence on the course of the country’s affairs. Many may not agree with the most recent observation comparing the book with Thomas Paine’s Common Sense which is almost universally credited with having galvanized public sentiment in the days of the American Revolution and Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin which roused antipathy to slavery, but such will not detract from the fact that indeed Silent Spring sticks out more than ever as the prime “stimulant” of the environmental movement as it is known today.
The book exposed the hazards of the widely used DDT and “eloquently questioned humanity’s faith in technological progress.”
Although Carson, a renowned nature author and a former marine biologist with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, who was considered “happiest writing about the strength and resilience of natural systems… and the interconnectedness of nature and all living things..” was therefore uniquely equipped to write about the dangers of DDT — the most powerful and widely used insecticide at that time — the chemical industry and even many high government officials derided the book as “misguided and inflammatory.”
A book review noted how Carson meticulously described DDT’s impact on the food chain and how it can accumulate in the fatty tissues of animals, including human beings, and caused cancer and genetic damage.
Indeed, Carson was so passionate and factual about the dangers associated with the pesticide giving the critics’ more ammunition to degrade it as more “literature than science.” But as is now clear 50 years after it was a truly haunting scientifically based narrative which deserves to be read and re-read all over again, especially by those whose environmentalism remains skin deep.
Wrote Carson: “A single application on a crop, she wrote, killed insects for weeks and months, and not only the targeted insects but countless more, and remained toxic in the environment even after it was diluted by rainwater...DDT and other pesticides had irrevocably harmed birds and animals and had contaminated the entire world food supply.”
So devastating was the book’s contents that its most famous chapter, “A Fable for Tomorrow,” which depicted a nameless American town where all life — from fish to birds to apple blossoms to human children — had been “silenced” by the insidious effects of DDT was used by the early environmental organizers as a bible of sorts. We hope the same passionate commitment would soon emerge out of the grounding of USS Guardian.
Lost in the swirl of headline grabbing stories renting the air immediately after the New Year: from the gory and abominable (Kawit Massacre, Atimonan and political killings) to the indefensible (Palace stance on FoI and the USS Guardian’s “illegal entry” into the World Heritage site Tubbataha Reef) to the personal tiffs and resignations (Senate brawl and Cabinet “lay offs for personal reasons”), is the sad state of our health delivery system.
The abrupt resignation of PhilHealth president Ed Banzon, again, for “personal reasons” is a clear indication that the system is not about to be elevated from its sorry state. Even the “Gangnam” and the song and dance routine of Health Secretary Ike Ona and his boys cannot hide the fact that the system is creaking and if we don’t watch out may break down in most parts in no time at all. Which is why we cannot understand why one of the most critical and enduring components of the system, the Botika ng Bayan (BnB) project, has all but been abandoned by the new head honchos at the Department of Health (DoH).
The BnB was launched in 2004 by PITC Pharma Inc. (PPI) in coordination with the DoH and the Bureau of Food and Drugs low cost but quality medicines. It is, for all intents and purposes, the first ever successful public-private partnership (PPP) for the health sector which is mass based and grassroots oriented.
Through the program, qualified privately-operated drug retail outlets nationwide with assistance in terms of bulk procurement and similar incentives comprise the sales and distribution network for low priced, high quality medicines. Some outlets are even run quite successfully by local government units and other government agencies where appropriate. This is empowerment at work and yet Secretary Ona and his boys are about to give up on it in favor of the jazzy, high class and, of course, high cost tertiary medical care oriented operations.
The BnB seal is the mark of guaranteed quality and affordable prices and unlike big drug store chains, small drug stores or botikas are more effective retailers of cheap medicines since their presence extends all the way to the barangays.
Quite apart from providing quality medicines at affordable prices, the Botika ng Bayan program is also an entrepreneurship initiative creating jobs and income opportunities for many of our countrymen. Since the program was launched in 2004, the number of BnBs now total 2256 outlets, 995 of which are in the Metro Manila area.
Properly supported, the BnBs can be the answer to the perennial problem of most low income or marginalized families needing medical care but who have to contend with the ever increasing prices of quality medicines.
The BnB experiment has caught the eye of the Center for Health Market Innovations (CHMI), a global health care institution, which promotes programs, policies and practices that make quality health care delivered by private organizations affordable and accessible to the world’s poor.
Operated through a global network of partners since 2010, CHMI is managed by the Results for Development Institute and is funded by, among others, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foaundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation. There is hope that in time the BnB can be enrolled as part of the global CHMI network. For that to happen, the administration should exert every effort to expand and modernize, as it were, the BnB operations instead of letting it wither in the vine as seems to be the case if we are to believe reports that Health Secretary Ike Ona is less inclined than his predecessors to make this experiment a roaring success. A pity.
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