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WEDNESDAY May 1, 2019

˜ The Manila Times

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E d i to r i a l Xi’s high bar of expectations for BRI sparks caution, optimism


HE high bar of expectations for an era of economic growth and international exchange set by Chinese President Xi Jinping at the 2nd Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing last week may be regarded with some caution and perhaps, even some skepticism. Nevertheless it is a clear signal that China is aware of INTERNATIONALCONCERNSANDINTENDSTOBUILDINlUENCETHROUGH fair and willing cooperation rather than dominance. We draw this conclusion from the list of objectives and standards Xi presented in his opening address, some of which expressed surprising changes in Chinese policy. His most noteworthy assertions included: More free trade agreements – In spite of being the driving force behind the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), China will pursue “more high standard free trade agreements,� Xi said. The RCEP and its Singapore-led counterPART THE4RANS 0ACIkC0ARTNERSHIP400 HAVEBOTHRUNINTO roadblocks — the latter most notably with the withdrawal of the United States from the trade pact — and there is prevailing sentiment that bilateral agreements are preferable and more effective. Reducing limitations on foreign business ownership – China has always had fairly stringent limitations on foreign ownership of businesses, but will be loosening its rules to allow foreigners to hold controlling stakes, or even hold full ownership of businesses in China. Xi said the number of sectors in which bigger foreign ownership is allowed would be raised, and that China would be opening more free trade zones in the country. Increased imports – China is rapidly shifting from a mostly export-led economy to one that is driven by consumption. Xi said that China would be lowering its tariff rates to encourage more imports, although he understandably did not provide details, as these are currently tied up in trade negotiations between China and the US. More stable exchange rate – One of the biggest uncertainties of rival economies has been China’s currency policy. Monetary authorities have in the past showed a willingness to make abrupt changes to devalue the renminbi, rattling world markets. Xi reassured his audience that China “will continue to improve the exchange rate formation mechanism� to keep the exchange rate “generally stable.� No more forced technology transfer – It has been a common FEATUREOFMANYJOINTVENTUREAGREEMENTSBETWEENFOREIGNkRMS AND#HINESEPARTNERSTHATASIGNIkCANTAMOUNTOFINTELLECTUAL property (IP) be handed over to the latter. This was at one time CONSIDEREDAFAIREXCHANGETHEFOREIGNkRMSGAINEDACCESSTO China’s huge domestic market and its manufacturing capabilities, while China gained technical know-how to build its own industries. In recent years, however, there has been a tremendous BACKLASHAGAINSTTHEHANDLINGOF)0BY#HINESEkRMS8ISCOMments seemed to be intended as reassurance that the Chinese government is sensitive to global sentiment and does not wish to drive away potential investors. )F#HINACANMAKESIGNIkCANTPROGRESSINTHESEAREAS MUCHOF the suspicion of the country’s economic and geopolitical motives will be eliminated, which, of course, is the best possible outcome for everyone. Obviously, China does intend to reap as MANYBENEkTSASITCANFROMTHE"ELTAND2OAD)NITIATIVE BUT the message from President Xi that it does not intend to do so at the expense of other countries is welcome. Intentions, however, do not produce results. We are hopeful the eventual results will be positive, but how China puts Xi’s policy directions into action will be something we and the rest of the world will be watching quite closely in the months and years to come. ~

WEDNESDAY May 1, 2019

The Manila Times


DANTE A. ANG, Chairman Emeritus RENE Q. BAS, Publisher Emeritus NERILYN A. TENORIO, Publisher-Editor ARNOLD E. BELLEZA, Executive Editor LEENA C. CHUA, News Editor LYNETTE O. LUNA, National Editor TESSA MAURICIO-ARRIOLA, Lifestyle Editor PERRY GIL S. MALLARI, Sports Editor DINO RAY V. DIRECTO 3RD, Motoring Editor CONRAD M. CARIĂ‘O, Special Sections Editor LEA MANTO-BELTRAN, Supplements Editor ALVIN I. DACANAY, Assistant Business Editor MARIO F. FETALINO, Assistant Business Editor REMIA B. EUGENIO, Deskman (Regions) MARISHELLE R. MEDINA, Deskman JOMAR CANLAS, Chief of Reporters RENE H. DILAN, Chief Photographer DANTE F. M. ANG 2ND, President and CEO BLANCA C. MERCADO, #HIEF/PERATING/FkCER RODA A. ZABAT, Advertising Director VICENTE P. CRUZ, JR., Circulation Director DENISE O. CALNEA, Marketing Communications and Services Director Telephone All Departments: 524-5665 to 66; Subscription: 524-5664 Local 222 Advertising: 524-5664 Local 121 Telefax: 310-5895 or e-mail XXXNBOJMBUJNFTOFUtFNBJMOFXTEFTL!NBOJMBUJNFTOFU Letters to the Editor THE MANILA TIMES is published daily at 2/F Sitio Grande, 409 A. Soriano Avenue, Intramuros, Manila 1002 The owners, managers, publishers and editors do not necessarily share the opinions expressed and the statements made by individual authors of columns, commentaries and other articles published in The Manila Times.

Transparency crisis: A decade-long serious election problem


E are very much aware of the existing water crisis that we are experiencing now in Metro Manila because we are feeling its direct impact in our respective homes and offices. We feel so much discomfort when there’s no shower when we wish to take a bath in the heat of the night or early in the morning before going TOOUROFkCES0ATIENTSINTHEHOSpitals suffer doubly, production in manufacturing plants are delayed, and so many other inconveniences too numerous to name. But has anyone of us felt the impact of a transparency crisis in our automated election system (AES) since the ARMM elections in 2008 and in the last three national and local elections in 2010, 2013 and 2016? Only a few people had a full grasp of this crisis and they are the watchdogs like AES Watch, Namfrel, etc. To the majority of Filipinos, AES is something vague,

signing, the electronic transmission of election returns in a particular LET’S precinct to the municipal board of FACE IT! canvassers is only permitted and known to the concerned board of election inspectors and the municipal board of canvassers; therefore, the transaction is secure like ghosts that only psychics can and auditable. The same goes for see! When you attempt to discuss the transmission of digitally signed AES with friends, they cannot certificates of canvass from the comprehend source code review, municipal to provincial, then to QUEUEING SERVERS  CERTIkCATION OR the national board of canvassing. In short, most of us are blind even digital signatures as these are too technical for them. A few will about the truth behind the irtry to understand what digital sign- regularities in our existing AES. ing is, only if you explain it in a lay- This is what we call in AES Watch a man’s term. For example, when you transparency crisis. I discussed the take a Grab car, you would know details of these irregularities in my the plate number, make of car, series of articles: “Time to change color, fare, route, expected time of the automated election law,� eight arrival at your destination, and the parts; and “2019 elections: ‘Laway’ of driver’s name; on the other hand, Venezuelans or ‘talino’ of Filipinos,� the Grab driver would know who 17 parts. My last article mentioned you are. There’s full security and early transmission of election reauditability. Similarly, with digital turns before the May 9, 2016 elec-


tions: “x x x the body concluded that the early transmissions of the vote counting machines (VCMs) based on the audit logs investigated, actually happened through the triANGULATIONOFTHEkNDINGSDONEBY the TEC’s chairman, engineer Peter Banzon of the Department of Science and Technology, former Rep. Glenn Chong, Dr. Pablo Manalastas and former Smartmatic operations OFkCER*EFF$Yu2ECENTLY The Manila Times article “‘Irregularities marred absentee voting� reported: “The group said it received reports on glitches on precinct count optical scanner (PCOS) machines and complaints about erroneous receipts at the onset of the absentee voting in Hong Kong on April 14.� It’s like a digital disaster had happened DURINGTHEkNALTESTINGANDSEALING of PCOS machines on May 3, 2010, a week before the 2010 elections; all counting machines were count-


Fact-free factotums


HY is Thailand a major rice producer? Its number one asset is size. It has a total of 9.2 million hectares of irrigated land for rice production. These are paddies with year-round irrigation, farmed by farmers who get institutional support from the financial system, R&D support from the elite universities and stategranted research and development funds, and support from across a broad spectrum of Thai society. Thailand may be polarized politically but one thing never wanes — support for its farm producers, specifically its rice farmers. No wonder that the agri-based Charoen Pokphand is the second largest company in Thailand with yearly revenues of more than $50 billion. Its owners are the richest in Thailand with a net worth of more than $30 billion. Ok, Thailand is increasing the paddy areas, with the recent addition of roughly 500,000 ha. to its 9.2 million hactares. Why is Vietnam a major rice producer? The number one asset is size. A total of 7.9 million ha. is devoted to year-round rice production, up from 7.2 million ha. about a decade ago. Like Thailand, the paddy size in Vietnam is increasing, not decreasing. The Mekong River and its sprawling tributaries give the farmers there the luxury of growing three crops a year. Rice production in Vietnam is so treasured that rice is called “the gift from heaven Why is Bangladesh a major rice producer, ranked anywhere between the third to fourth largest rice producer in the world? The key is size. It has 12 million ha. dedicated to year-round rice

ha.. The rainy season paddy size climbs up to roughly 3.5 million ha. but that is the maximum. The reduced paddy size is one of the many, many deep-seated problems that vex rice farming. The “support systemâ€? is the worst. In production, an increase from the an environment where the bank10-million ha. about two decades ing system can lend $140 milAGO4HEEFkCIENCYOFTHERICEFARMS lion plus to a bankrupt Korean STILLLAGSBEHINDTHEEFkCIENCIESOF shipbuilder with zero collateral, the other rice-producing Southeast then opts to pay P6 billion in Asian countries but farm methods kNESOVERTHEPASTTWOYEARSJUST have been vastly improving. to brazenly violate the mandate With size comes the inevi- of the Agri-Agra Law on lending to table — efficiency. small farmers and agrarian reform The emphasis on size — and BENEkCIARIES  ONE WOULD READILY paddy size is almost always have an idea of how hostile the rice complemented by efficiency — farming environment is. was made on purpose. Credit is the lifeblood of agRecently, a so-called “founda- ricultural production. And here, tionâ€? ran newspaper ads sup- small farmers are denied token porting the conversion of agri- production loans. cultural lands into something Irrigation is spotty despite else on the flaky, grift-ridden the presence of major dams assumption that “the answer is built. An Earth Day review of not hectare size, but efficiency.â€? the dams would show degraded The ad also claimed this: “The watershed areas, a despoiled better approach to food security is environment that makes these to improve productivity with bet- irrigation dams — constructed ter inputs, farming methods and through jumbo loans that strain support services.â€? The usual drivel. the national debt — useless durAre these people behind the ads ing the dry months and Ondoyfor real? To put it more kindly, have scale killers during the rainy they taken the time to study rice season. How can the paddies farming realities in the country thrive without enough water? before writing the ad? If not, here There is hardly research and is the basic scatter plot of rice farm- development funds for agriing realities in sad PH. culture, despite the call of the In the entire Asean region, the AFMA — a call made decades environment most hazardous, ago — that R&D is the most most hostile to rice farming is COST EFkCIENTAGRICULTURALINVESTthe one in the Philippines. Reck- ment. The last one-time, big-time less land conversion, which can R&D investment came from Bill be done with impunity by com- Gates, an $18-million grant to mercial interests in cahoots with the Los BaĂąos-based IRRI. From local politicians and Depart- the government, almost zero. ment of Agrarian Reform (DAR) On farm mechanization, the personnel based at the LGUs, Philippines is the Asean laghas reduced the irrigated, A-1 gard, 40 years behind Thailand. rice lands to less than 3 million What about the institutions of


government that are supposed to protect those that need help most, like the small rice farmers? The new overseer of the country’s monetary policy is Benjamin Diokno, whose former role in the Duterte cabinet was lecturing those seeking more support for agriculture on the hopelessness of agriculture. His policy bias will be damning to small farmers seeking inclusion in the credit mainstream. His last act as budget secretary was to announce the unlimited importation of sugar, a distressed sub-sector of agriculture. The chair of the Senate agriculture committee is Cynthia Villar, the other half of the largest land banking group in the country and a real estate grandee. A pliant Congress passed the law that lifted the quantitative restrictions on rice with only the Makabayan bloc and one party-list member, Butil Party, voting "No." The four district representatives of Nueva Ecija, the country’s rice granary, voted "yes," a yes vote that was both out of this world and unfathomable. What about the civic institutions? Exhibit A was the “foundation� that ran the ad. Its solution to the current multiple and deep-seated woes of the rice sector is this — more land conversion. As a grizzled farmer with a basic knowledge of farming realities, I can only ask these questions. From what universe did these fact-free factotums come from? From what tortured context did they frame, then write, the ad? (Workers who celebrate their day today, are the brothers of farmers. The current institutional assault is directed more at the farmers than the workers. I will just write a piece on our brother-workers next time.)

Profile for The Manila Times


The Manila Times is one of the leading national broadsheets in the Philippines. It is also one of the oldest, having been founded in 1898.


The Manila Times is one of the leading national broadsheets in the Philippines. It is also one of the oldest, having been founded in 1898.