Posted tagged ‘Manila’

PROF ERLE ARGONZA INTERVIEWED ANEW BY GMA7 KAPUSO PROGRAM

September 28, 2008

Prof. Erle Frayne Argonza, sociologist & economist, was interviewed anew by the team of the Kapuso program of GMA7. The Kapuso is hosted by Jessica Soho, and operates the 9:30-10 pm block time every Saturdays.

The topic for the September 27 episode, where Prof. Argonza appeared, was about gender and beauty expectations. The title “Kontra-Losyang: Why Is This So?” aptly describes the interview segment for the resource speaker.

Prof. Erle Argonza explained first of all that there is this age-old expectation, in gender relations, that the woman must indeed maintain a beauty demeanor, use beauty kits as part of wellness sustenance, and must delay aging or look young before her husband.

The behavior has both cultural (anthropological) and relational (sociological) factors involved in it. It has become part of human adaptation (anthropological), while it reinforces the power relations between man and woman.

While the old notions of beauty and ‘kontra-losyang’ are still around, Erle Argonza clarified that there is an emerging trend today for men to exude a similar behavior. Young and middle aged men of today are more conscious of their grooming, skin care, hair care and physical wellness than before, and the behavior has to be sustained so as to delay aging and reinforce the marital bond.

As concepts of gender parity become popularized, alongside the increasing paradigm of wellness (health-related), both man and woman must consciously practice skin care, hair care, oral care, physical care, and dress well before their respective partner. Doing otherwise could have a downgrading effect on the self-esteem of any spouse, which could strain marital relations later.

Incidentally, the socialization processes and opportunities for both genders to follow the mutual expectation are well built as early as adolescence when a man or woman begins to practice looking for choices of mate. The older ages, seniors included, are also adapting to the behavior modification patterns, as the new trend picks up pace.

[A & A Consultancy, 28 September, 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila]

OBSTACLES TO PEACE PACT BETWEEN PHILIPPINE STATE AND MUSLIM REBELS

August 14, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

Allahu Akbar!

Here is a news report about the obstacles to peace pact’s signing between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. The analysis came from a US-based group called the US Institute of Peace.

The involvement of US-based groups in GRP talks with insurgents does attract curiosity of sorts. While I have nothing against internationalizing Philippine insurgencies so as to involve 3rd parties in the talks, involving US-based groups is another thing altogether as it fuels our thesis of Americans’ involvement in the launching of rebel groups here at the behest of the Anglo-American oligarchy.

At any rate, do read for yourself the news below. The same group wasn’t actually allowed to co-facilitate the signing of the peace pact in Malaysia.

Peace be with you!

[05 August 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila. Thanks to yahoo.com database news.]

US Institute of Peace says it had warned government about obstacles to peace pact

 

A group calling itself the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) had been tasked by the US State Department to undertake a project to help expedite a peace agreement between the government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) from 2003 to 2007 and which supports the establishment of an ancestral domain for the Bangsamoro people.

 

However, after undertaking its Philippine Facilitation Project (PFP), the USIP has warned of the obstacles to the inking of a peace agreement between the two parties – the need for constitutional amendments, a case at the Supreme Court, Congress’ disapproval of the agreement and the political weakness and unpopularity of President Arroyo.

USIP is an independent, nonpartisan institution established and funded by the US Congress.

Its goals are to help prevent and resolve violent international conflicts, promote post-conflict stability and development, and increase conflict management capacity, tools, and intellectual capital worldwide.

The US’s special interest in the GRP-MILF peace agreement is meant to prevent international terrorist groups from exploiting the conflict in the Philippines after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks on the US.

The late MILF chairman Salamat Hashim also personally wrote US President George Bush in 2003 to help resolve the conflict between the government and the Moro people.

The US support for the peace talks with the MILF came during the same period that the MILF, through Salamat, declared that they had renounced terrorism to attain its political ends.

At that time, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said that while the “United States absolutely supports the territorial integrity of the Philippines,…we also recognize that the people of Mindanao have legitimate aspirations and some grievances.”

The US government was unwilling to commit financial and economic assistance to MILF areas until an agreement had been signed. The State Department asked USIP to inform it of significant developments, advise on appropriate government responses and if negotiations were not leading to a satisfactory settlement, recommend an end to US engagement.

In a special report published in February of this year and written by G. Eugene Martin and Astrid Tuminez, a copy of which was obtained by The STAR, USIP said Mrs. Arroyo expended only minimal political capital to move the peace process forward and that the three branches of government “also lack consensus on the outlines of a deal that may be offered to the Moros.”

Martin was the executive director of the PFP while Ramirez served as the project’s senior research associate. Their special report highlighted the USIP activities in the Philippines from 2003 to 2007. The USIP clarified, however, that the views expressed in the report “do not necessarily reflect the views of USIP, which does not advocate specific policy positions.”

USIP tried but failed to be part of the peace negotiations between GRP and MILF as Malaysia, the host of the talks, had not agreed, but the group had produced and disseminated to educators, journalists and politicians a short video on ancestral domain, tracing the history of Moro grievances and articulating how and why an agreement on ancestral domain could effectively address the roots of conflict.

The video was shown during discussions of Moro ancestral domain in Manila universities, at forums in Mindanao and in a briefing with three Philippine senators.

“Efforts to help the parties think creatively of ways to overcome long-standing obstacles on ancestral domain and to initiate dialogue among disparate Moro ethnic groups made USIP a valuable contributor to the peace talks,” the report said.

There are many hindrances, however, and the USIP said resolving conflict in Mindanao is likely to be an extended undertaking even with the best of intentions from all parties.

“As with past agreements, a serious risk exists that the national legislature could scuttle any agreement signed by the government in the implementation phase. The Supreme Court might also declare unconstitutional any deal on ancestral domain that grants Moro significant political authority and control over natural resources,” the report said.

The report also noted that the ability and intent of Mrs. Arroyo, whose term would expire in 2010, to press the peace process to settlement were also uncertain.

If Mrs. Arroyo makes serious compromises with the MILF or forces significant change in the political and economic dominance of Christian migrants over land, resources and political power in Mindanao, the USIP report said “she could rouse a wave of opposition that might endanger her presidency.”

“Nonetheless, if such an agreement were signed and fully implemented, it would unequivocally augment the president’s historical legacy after nearly 10 years at the helm of Philippine politics,” it said.

The USIP report also said the multiple changes in the composition of the GRP negotiating panel had been a challenge and although GRP negotiators were “well-informed, creative and well-intentioned, they are in many ways unable to influence those at the center of political power and public opinion.”

USIP’s PFP ceased in June of 2007 but the group said the peace process in Mindanao was far from concluded.

The USIP implemented its role as facilitator of the peace process through USIP president Richard Solomon, a former ambassador to the Philippines, who assembled a group of other former ambassadors to the Philippines, the chairman of the USIP Board and a retired general.

The term facilitation signified that the US was not assuming a direct, hands-on mediating role in the negotiations. – Aurea Calica/Philstar

QUEZON CITY – MANILA’S BEST PERFORMING

August 8, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

Good afternoon from Manila!

A most gladdening news about my city of residence, the suburban Quezon City, is that it ended up as the best performing city in the latest urban study by the Asian Institute of Management or AIM.

Primarily suburban, residential-government center-education in land use, this city had since grown to integrate mixed land use concepts in its renewal and development efforts. With a technocratic mayor at the helm, Sonny Belmonte, who was former president of the national champion Philippine Airlines, vowed to expand commercial engagements all the more and build more ambitious projects.

Witnessing the bankability of this city, the World Bank didn’t have 2nd thoughts in extending a financing package worth P3 Billion for developing the North Triangle area. The new mixed land use area is now rapidly rising, even as the ‘Sillicon Valley’ techno-park in neighboring University of the Philippines is shaping up and will be launched soon.

The news item about the bright situation of the city is summed up below.

[06 August 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila. Thanks to yahoo.com database news.]

 

MANILA, Philippines – A week after President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s State of the Nation Address (SONA), the local executive of Quezon City on Monday delivered his own version of the annual report to his constituents.

 

Mayor Feliciano Belmonte Jr reported before local city officials that the Quezon City government has aced two important factors needed to become a “well-run city” – these are: good governance and a growing economy.

“I am happy to note that we are getting good grades in both,” Belmonte said in his seventh State of the City Address (SOCA), held at the Quezon City Hall.

Belmonte, who boasted having spoken before German and Singaporean audiences abroad to talk about the city’s urban management strategy, said his government is determined to maintain the distinction of being the most competitive city in Metro Manila, as named by the Asian Institute of Management.

After recording its sixth consecutive annual budget surplus totaling to P283 million last year, Belmonte said their government has the right amount of tools to fuel their development programs for the years to come.

He said that the local government would be spending the next two years in alleviating poverty and unemployment in the city, by focusing on key sectors such as education, business and public works.

Belmonte delivered his almost hour-long “QC-style SONA” during an event that saw the coming together of local city government officials from regular councilors and village captains to well-known local leaders like QC vice mayor Herbert Bautista and celebrity couple Harlene Bautista and Romnick Sarmenta.

‘Ten-fold’ education

Belmonte, in his speech, emphasized the local government’s commitment to strengthen further the education system, especially after the city’s schools division ranked number one in Metro Manila in the National Achievement Tests for Elementary.

In the last six years since 2001, the Quezon City mayor said 87 more public elementary and high school buildings have been erected, providing almost 1,500 new classrooms. Currently, nearly 500,000 children are enrolled in the city public schools in the primary and secondary levels.

“Education is our biggest human resource investment channel. This is where we can maximize the use of our resources and spread the gains,” Belmonte said.

Part of encouraging the city’s young students to brush up on their studies is the “ten-fold” upgrade of the financial assistance awarded to class valedictorians and salutatorians – the previous P24,000 in stipend and tuition coverage every school year has shot up to P100,000.

The city’s focus on education had even gone on to extend to the disabled youth, with more than 200 of them getting allowances and supplies.

As part of the school program, some 9,000 public teachers would undergo a comprehensive training under the “Training for Outstanding Performance in Education.”

Belmonte added that around 13,000 Grade 1 pupils would also benefit from the city’s feeding program while thousands of job hunters would get training in call center operations, as well as computer and cell phone repair.

The health sector has also benefited in the government’s intensified efforts toward development, according to Belmonte, wherein the PhilHealth coverage has extended to more than 47,000 beneficiaries already.

As well, an ordinance is being eyed to develop a comprehensive and sustainable sanitation and septage management program to address the waste problem in the city. Belmonte also mused the government’s saving of around P7 million by reducing biogas emission.

Public works

Meanwhile, leading the local government’s infrastructure projects is the linking of major thoroughfare sprawled all over the city, including the connection of the Commonwealth Avenue and Quirino Highway; the Katipunan Ave and Commonwealth Ave; and Mindanao and Visayas avenues.

But the public works effort of the government does not only center in the widening and connecting of roads and highways, but also trickles down to the very walkways that people trek.

Belmonte encouraged peoples to walk more for them to cope with the soaring prices of oil.

“At this period of escalating gasoline prices, encouraging more people to walk is also good for our health and our pocket,” Belmonte said.

Business beyond this term

He said that the business sector in the city has grown in the last six years, with number of registered businesses jumping from 30,000 last 2001 to over 53,000 last year.

He added he expected the numbers to grow further especially since the securing of business permits has been made faster and easier.

He cited as an example the government’s practice – to drive in entrepreneurs – of allowing aspiring businessmen to begin the construction of their establishments while their papers are still being processed.

Although triggering uproar from affected residents, the local government, through a P3-billion project with the World Bank, is currently in the early stages of transforming a major area in the city – the North and East Triangles – into a leading business district that would rival that of Makati’s.

“We have set the pace for transformation in Quezon City, and are laying the foundations to help make sure that these gains will last beyond this term,” Belmonte said. – Mark Merueñas, GMANews.TV

MANILA’S HUNGER PANGS

July 30, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

In a previous article about obesity, I already touched on the hunger issue. It is particularly interesting to study nutrition issues in Manila today, nutrition patterns render the Philippines among the ‘transitional populations’ that characterize emerging markets.

Needless to say, in a transitional population as defined in demographic theory, both problems of hunger and overweight co-exist, with obesity rising at faster paces than hunger. Depending on current circumstance, hunger could fluctuate from low to high. The difference between the two problems is that while hunger fluctuates or varies in occurrence, obesity steadily rises.

When I did an intensive study on fair trade & food security in 2005 for a national center entrusted with addressing fair trade & food matters, I did stumble upon the reports of the Social Weather Stations or SWS about hunger. I also got updated about under-nutrition problems reported by experts of the Food and Nutrition Research Institute or FNRI, which indicated very serious nutrition gaps among children and women, and those for fisherfolks too.

What surprises me till now is that food producers themselves, fisherfolks most especially, suffer from under-nutrition problems. Food producers are abundant with food resources, and so expectedly they should show the least signs of under-nutrition. But this isn’t the case, and in a very informative manner, our nutrition experts led by Dr. Cecilio Florencio have used satisfactory factor analysis to unlock the causes and correlates of the problem.

From the late 1990s till 2004, the hunger incidence fluctuated from 8% to 12%, going up and down as data indicated. However, from 2005 through mid-2008, the pattern shifted to the 12% to 16% range, which surely makes the problem alarming.

As early as 2005, I already raised the alarm bell for hunger, recommended policy measures and the launching of a Hunger Fund as executor of the hunger mission. Unfortunately, state officials were not in the mood to listen to such problems then, and it seems that the FNRI’s own alarm bells to the Office of the President and to the Legislative fell on deft ears. Only when economist Dr. Mahar Mangahas and the SWS experts began raising the alarm bells over media did government respond.

To my own dismay, government response has been re-active. Nary can one find a new, fresh solution to the problem. It’s the same old fogey ‘give-the-poor-porridge’ solution, the same solution that one offers to folks during wars and calamities when people have to line up for scarce food preparations. Porridge & food stumps remain, till these days, as the intervention tool of state.

How to solve hunger in the long run, which our very own nutrition experts are adept at but which continue to fall on deft ears among top state officials and our own people who refuse to change lifestyles, isn’t anywhere in the Presidents’ nor Congress’ list of strategic solutions to the problem.

Let our state officials be reminded of the last years of the monarchy in Old France. When asked for a solution to hunger, Marie Antonette replied “offer the poor cake.” Whether the cake or porridge solution leads to food security is no longer an issue in fact. One need not be reminded that the French monarchy then, too immersed in its own vanity as to be so out of touch with reality, was decapitated.

[Writ 28 July 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila]   

PACQUIAO BEATS DIAZ, RP BOXING SUPREMACY ASSURED

June 29, 2008

PACQUIAO BEATS DIAZ, RP BOXING SUPREMACY ASSURED

Erle Frayne  Argonza

Good afternoon!

Elation and euphoria are back in the Philippines and across the borders today as Manny Paquiao beat David Diaz in the lightweight division of world boxing. Flat on his face in the ring’s floor, Diaz looked like a whacked baby in comatose, ready to face the surgeon for some serious eye and facial injuries sustained during nine (9) rounds of unrelenting offensive from the unbeatable Manny.

From the first through the ninth rounds, Manny Paquiao exhibited superior punching and maneuvering ability and was the clear upper hand points-wise for all of those rounds. His superiority in both speed and power, added to his outstanding maneuvering skill, made him throw every kind of punch on the pathetic Diaz, candidate of America, with ease.

On the 5th round of the game, my compassion as a yogi-mystic began to surface while watching with eyes glued 105% on the TV screen. My compassion was, of course, addressed towards Diaz, whose face already sustained bleeding as early as the 2nd round, and I wished that Manny would knock him out on the 6th round as a matter of compassion. It would be cruel for any professional boxer to go on throwing deadly punches on an enemy who is almost down, and should, in my mind, work out to knock out the opponent early enough so as to minimize heavy injuries that could lead to death at the worse.

That knock out came finally on the 9th round, which made me felt a feeling of relief, and so I exclaimed my jubilation for my compatriot’s victory and compassion. Of course, I thanked God that Diaz is still intact, and was able to stand on his feet at least, thus assuring no further need for surgical operations or whatever. It was just a fight, may this fighter practice more. But like the rest of my kabayans, Manny has warmed our hearts so much again, and on this day he’s the one hero who had united the nation for at least some couples of hours.

Manny is now assured of his Hall of Fame status, with his gaining of a 4th title victory, notwithstanding the awarding to him of the most prestigious World Boxing Council or WBC belt at the 135-lb category. He is also impeccably Asia’s best, as it was the first time that an Asian won four (4) world titles in his career, thus ensuring Asia it’s place in the globe as a continent worth watching for.

Finally, and this is what has given us great pride, Manny’s latest victory has ensured Philippine supremacy in boxing from here on till maybe at least ten (10) years to come. Manny was not just representing himself, but rather he’s the chief icon among couples of others in the middle down to lower weight categories. The coterie of top-gun boxers have made Manila the team to beat, and had swept off Mexico and Thailand as the previous holders of this sports tiara.

For all boxers as a whole, Manny Paquiao’s latest victory had added prestige to the lower boxing weight divisions, and the spotlight of boxing had all the more been focused on these divisions away from the middle-to-heavy weights. He joins the coterie of titans such as De La Joya who earlier gave so much prestige to the lower-to-middle divisions.

 Mabuhay si Manny Paquiao! Mabuhay ang mga Filipino boxers! Mabuhay ang Inang Bayan!

[Writ 29 June 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila]

OIL PRICE HIKES AND MILITARY COUPS: PHILIPPINE CASE

June 25, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

Kapayapaan! Paz! Pax! Peace!

Oil price hike or OPH can be a precipitating factor behind military coups d etat. Since OPH is among the world’s focal issues today, we may as well reflect on a country case to examine how the OPH precipitated the launching of military coups: the Philippine case.

Before everything else, I hope the difference between military coup and mutiny is clear to the readers. A military coup is an offensive action aimed at a seizure of state power (coup d’etat). A mutiny is a defensive action, sometimes not sufficiently planned but a reaction against perceived injustices, often localized, and isn’t necessarily aimed at a seizure of state power.

In Manila’s experience, there never was a case of a mutiny that was precipitated by the OPH issue. But couples of military coups were launched that began with the OPH issue, and moved on to well organized assaults by an equally well equipped and fairly quantitatively endowed ‘warm bodies’ of an insurgent force within the national army that is backed up by its fraternal cadres within the national police.

The coup events took place in the 1980s yet, and were waged by the RAM-YOU-SFP coalition of army + police officers and enlisted men. RAM stands for Reform the Armed Forces Union, a reformist group of middle officers; YOU, Young Officers Union, a group of militant, radical nationalist junior officers; and, SFP, Soldiers of the Filipino People, a group of officers and personnel professing loyalty to the deposed dictator Ferdinand Marcos. The same coalition signed a peace pact with the Ramos regime in the 1990s, its top leader Col. Honasan had been elected senator of the republic, and is among the insurgent groups that signed a negotiated settlement with the Philippine state.

OPH-precipitated coups have been confined to the 1980s events since then, the recent attempts at seizures of power being anchored on a different set of issues. However, it should be noted that the strategic issues raised by the military insurgents then till now have always been the 3 Cs: corruption, criminality, and communism. With the decline of the Cold War and the decriminalization of membership in communist parties (repeal of Republic Act 1700 or Anti-Subversion Law), communism has become a less palatable factor in the coup formulas.

The event often ran this way (simplified timeline):

·         An OPH is officially announced, automatically raising the prices of gasoline, kerosene, diesel, lubricants, and an assorted list of fossil fuel-based downstream commodities. This will then lead to a spiraling of OPHs within days to weeks.

·         Perceiving the erosive impact of OPH on the purchasing power of laborers, the Left forces would then wage coordinated trade union protest to bring down oil prices. Middle forces and transport groups join the actions, and major cities become paralyzed. The popular actions would culminate in boycotts and calls for ‘general strike’ orchestrated particularly by the Maoists (e.g BAYAN, KMU).

·         The ‘general strike’ option is perceived as a take-over by the Communists of the state. As a pre-emptive strike to save the Philippine state from totalitarian downslide, the military insurgents launch a coup that ought to be as wide-scale in scope as possible. Certain establishments (e.g. state media) are seized, select military camps are bombed and captured, aerial assaults provide air cover, until some event will put a stop to the actions. (e.g. in the 1989 coup, the US Air Force provided ‘persuasion flights’ support to Corazon Aquino to scare away the Tora-Tora planes of the insurgents).

Sadly for the insurgents, and fortunately for the middle classes who would never again support any authoritarian regime in the Philippines, no coup attempt ever succeeded at all. However, this is not to present a fixed idea that no military coup will ever succeed in the future, this is another matter altogether.

Since the coup option has never faded in the minds of the army officers here, analysts and forecasters have to re-open the possibility of the OPH becoming again a precipitating factor in launching one general assault soon. The same thing holds for other countries as well, such as those 40+ countries that saw urban riots took place as protest reactions to ‘grains price hikes’ or GPH. A confluence of OPH-GPH would serve as a very powerful precipitating impetus for waging a coup assault for that matter.

The tall order than is to nip the bud by presenting well-blended policy mixtures and institutional adjustments to the consumers. Incidentally, this is easier said than done. Since the magnitude of OPH is indubitably global, and the causal global factors are so complex, the forced option is to use populist welfare tools such as massive subsidies to food, tax cuts, taking off oil value-added tax or VAT, trimming down import duties, and so on.

Whether such actions will not redound to hyper-inflation and fiscal catastrophe in the short run is something worth observing. In which case, spiraling hyper-inflation can be the precipitating factor, with OPH serving as one factor precipitating it (hyper-inflation). Let us see how the various states, both developed and emerging markets, will respond to the OPH and downward economic spiral of the moment.  Meantime, our jittered state officials will have sleepless nights forthcoming as army insurgents on the loose are busy organizing for their next ‘golpe de estado’ adventure.   

[Writ 24 June 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila]