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Strategic Analysis and Research by the

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CENTER FOR STRATEGY, ENTERPRISE & INTELLIGENCE

T H E

This would be a great vindication of [Pakistan Nobel laureate physicist Adbus] Salam's work and the Standard Model as a whole ~ Khurshid Hasanain, physics head at Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, on the confirmed discovery of Higgs boson, the so-called 'God particle'

Report Volume 2 - Number 27 • July 9-15, 2012

BUSINESS

The way [Salam] has been treated is such a tragedy. He went from … a national celebrity to someone who could not set foot in Pakistan. If he came, he would be insulted and could be hurt or even killed ~ Physicist Pervez Hoodbhoy recounting his late colleague’s fall from grace for belonging to Islam’s persecuted Ahmadi sect

3 The Challenge of Competitiveness and Poverty

Growth and credit ratings are up, but the real challenges are improving competitiveness, attracting investement, and beating poverty and hunger. Even the government admits there is much yet to be done

NATION

13 The Unprecedented Power of President Aquino

In two years, President Benigno Aquino III has dominated Congress, tangled with the Judiciary, and captivated media and public. Now he must use that power to advance sweeping reform

19 The Long Battle Against Corruption

The Aquino administration has launched its 2011-16 anti-corruption plan, with collaboration with civil society and international bodies and experts • Some good news: The Ombudsman cites a positive survey on bribery

22 When Will Lasting Peace Come?

After two years of talks and government concessions, the peace negotiations with communist and separatist rebels are at an impasse

WORLD

25 A Delicate Balancing Act

In the high-seas confrontation with China, President Aquino plays the U.S. card, and the Americans have responded with force and gusto. But don't cheer yet • Meanwhile, at the OFW corner: Will the fiscal crunch affect the government's ability to promote and protect the welfare of 5 million temporarily assigned and irregular Filipinos?

TECHNOLOGY

HEALTH/LIFESTYLE

POINT & CLICK

33 Revving Up the ICT Jobs Engine

Policies to give the $7-billion-a-year business process outsourcing and other high-tech services industries a big boost • E-government roadblock: Lack of online access limits public services via the Internet

You can access online research via the Internet by clicking phrases in blue

39 The Interminable Reproductive Health Debate

Population growth is slowing in the Philippines, but we still have population momentum to worry about • Death in the womb: RH advocates say it will reduce the number of abortions • Critical mass reached? Experts say population growth is slowing, but population momentum will keep the numbers up

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NATION WORLD TECHNOLOGY

HEALTH/LIFESTYLE

Center for Strategy, Enterprise & Intelligence provides expertise in strategy and management, enterprise development, intelligence, Internet and media. For subscriptions, research, and advisory services, please e-mail report@censeisolutions.com or call/fax +63-2-5311182. Links to online material on public websites are current as of the week prior to the publication date, but might be removed without warning. Publishers of linked content should e-mail us or contact us by fax if they do not wish their websites to be linked to our material in the future.


President Aquino’s inaugural speech, June 30, 2010 YouTube

Two Years on the ‘Tuwid na Daan’ There is no way to fully assess the performance of any leader and his or her administration in one book, let alone one article. Indeed, the written word, even in the millions, can only distill in tales, tallies and testimonies the real measures of any government and nation’s progress: tangible changes in the lives of its citizenry. That is why The CenSEI Report has devoted an entire issue of five sections with the usual 100-plus online links to in-depth studies, news, video and data, to assemble perhaps the most comprehensive assessment of the Aquino administration’s first two years found in a single publication. While the electronic medium offers far greater carrying capacity than print and broadcast, there is no point in flooding readers with material on fleeting and fluffy matters. Rather, the Center for Strategy, Enterprise & Intelligence made sure to focus on the most significant issues and developments since President Benigno Aquino III took his oath of office on June 30, 2010, with the greatest likely impact on the remainder of his term and beyond. The World section focuses on the country’s balancing act between China and America, standing up to the former and shoulder to shoulder with the latter in chronic confrontations in the South China Sea. In Nation, another high-stakes test of wills is spotlighted — the Chief Executive’s tensions with the Chief Justice — but only as culmination and demonstration of Aquino’s amassing of unprecedented presidential clout over 24 months. Two other conflict articles follow, covering the quest for peace with communist and separatist rebels, and the battle against corruption. Business analyzes the economy, of course, going under the headlines on the Asia-pacing 6.4% first-quarter growth and looking into what really counts in the country’s development: boosting competitiveness and eradicating poverty. Technology assesses the state and future of the crucial business process outsourcing sector, probably the biggest jobgenerator for tech-savvy young Filipinos. The Health/Lifestyle section should have expounded on the ambitious plan to provide health insurance to all Filipinos by 2016, no doubt the Aquino program with the greatest potential impact on health. But that’s still stuck in Congress and was just covered in our last issue. So instead, the section recapitulates the Reproductive Health Bill debate, clearly the biggest bone of contention between Church and State in the past two years and one that could literally decide the lives of future Filipinos. Many readers may have notice the yellow background that replaced the usual grey behind The CenSEI Report logo on the Contents page. If that suggests to some that this journal has joined the ranks of the so-called “yellow media,” read on and see that this week’s logo design tweak has not diminished our unrelenting strategic, enterprising, intelligent and constructively critical approach to any subject. That is our own unbending straight and narrow path.


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Two Years of ‘Aquinomics’ The economy’s growth and credit ratings are up, but watch out for investment, prices, poverty and jobs

enuine, meaningful change.” That was how Malacañang Palace assessed the first two years of President Benigno Aquino III’s term. The Palace statement added: “No longer is the Filipino mired in paralysis and despair; he has seen the seemingly difficult tasks achieved.” The message builds on its first-year statement: “In one year, apathy has been replaced by a renewed sense of partnership between government and the people.”. There are undoubted gains, as may be expected with an economy bequeathed fiscal reforms, massive infrastructure and 7.6% growth by the previous administration. After a disappointing 2011 due to government underspending and global slowdown, the Philippine economy appears off to a rousing start this year. Its 6.4% growth for the first quarter exceeded many economists’ expectations, and made the Philippines the second fastest-growing major economy in East Asia, after China. After dropping sharply in late 2010, business confidence as measured by the Bangko Sentral’s

By Verbo Bonilla

STRATEGY POINTS

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With fiscal reforms and higher growth levels in place since 2006, the economy is showing increasing strength under President Aquino

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Beyond GDP growth and credit ratings, what economic development needs are reforms to boost competitiveness and investment

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The rise in self-rated hunger, poverty and unemployment despite P50 billion in CCT underscores the need for jobs, not stipends

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Next Quarter

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40 30 20 0 -10 -20

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2002

2003

2004

2005

Current Quarter

2006

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Two years of ‘Aquinomics’

quarterly survey, has been on the upswing through last year until mid-2012, though it is down for the coming quarter. Foreign direct investments (FDI) showed a huge 72.4% increase in January-March over a year ago. The local stock index is trading above its highest ever. And the country’s credit rating has been seeing upgrades by several agencies since the start of Aquino’s term, the latest being last month’s rerating by Standard & Poors to BB+, the best since 2003.

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optimism, Ford Philippines, the country’s sole motor vehicle exporter, announced its decision to close its assembly plant due to “ lack of a broad supply base” for car components, as there is in Thailand. With its closure, there were fears voiced by remaining players in the automotive assembly industry that others might follow Ford’s example if meaningful reforms are not undertaken. The country’s overall competitiveness also remains low compared to its peers, as assessed by the Swiss-based Institute for

Exactly how much of these positive developments have been due to genuine, meaningful reforms instituted by the present administration? More importantly, how much of the reported gains so far would prove long-lasting? And what major initiatives should the President and the Cabinet prioritize to boost long-term growth and development? Competitiveness is key. Not all news has been positive, of course. Just late last month, in the midst of the surge in investor

Management Development in its latest World Competitiveness Rankings. The 2012 grades released in May, had the Philippines drop two notches from its previous perch. And foreign direct investments into the Philippines still lag behind its neighbors. Perhaps the most disappointing statistic is the one project bid out among 22 under the public-private partnership (PPP) program touted by President Aquino in his first State of the Nation Address nearly two years ago.

THE PHILIPPINES BOUNCES BACK

Business Confidence and Year-on-Year Quarterly Growth 55.4 33.0

31.8

2009

2010

2011

44.6 44.5 40.5

2012

Charts by Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas

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5 In her So what exactly WHERE’S THE MONEY? Foreign Direct Investment, January-March 2012 Philippine has been Daily achieved? Philippines Inquirer According to 5% column the Philippine Thailand last week, Development 39% former Plan (PDP) Vietnam economic 2011-2016, the 14% planning administration’s secretary overarching Solita goal is inclusive Monsod growth: broadIndonesia Malaysia raises based, 30% 12% similar cross-sectoral concerns development about benefiting the investment, majority of Country FDI Year on FDI (in billion % of Total citing the the population Year Growth US$ - Q1 2012 World especially the Philippines 72% 0.85 5% Investment poor. Broad Vietnam 0.8% 2.5 13% Report 2012 economic Indonesia 30% 5.6 30% recently strategies under Malaysia 15% 2.3 12% published the PDP include Thailand 106% 7.3 39% by the U.N. “boosting Total 18.55 100% Conference industry Chart from "PHL Inbound FDI Increased by $850M in Q1 2012: on Trade So What?", June 13, 2012 blog entry on antipinoy.com competitiveness and to generate Development. The University of the Philippines more employment,” “improving access to professor summed up the UNCTAD assessment financing,” and “massive investment in physical of the country, based on low rankings in infrastructure.” FDI attractiveness and contribution despite investment potential better than most countries: The Social Contract with the Filipino People, “The Philippines is among the least attractive which lists Aquino’s campaign promises, of countries to inflows of FDI, and the FDI provides additional economic targets for it attracts contributes the least (relative to the administration: impartial government other countries) to our development.” Hence, policies, rural development, anti-poverty the country is deemed to be doing “below programs that are not dole-outs, private sector expectations” (see PERFORMANCE AND competitiveness, and local opportunities for POTENTIAL table). OFWs. In assessing the administration’s economic performance, this article will discuss It is consistent and persistent concerns like achievements in business competitiveness, these about the Philippines’ competitiveness job generation, infrastructure investment, and and sustainability that puts a damper on many poverty alleviation. glowing reports and makes premature any chest-thumping by the government. And the Aquino administration does acknowledge that a lot remains to be done.

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Industry needs policy and infrastructure support. On competitiveness there appears little done in the past two years by way of

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genuine, meaningful reforms for industrial development. Many long-standing policies, flawed or otherwise, remain in effect. In mining, for instance, new policy guidelines to address conflicting stakeholders’ concerns have for the longest time been forthcoming but never yet issued. For the business-process-outsourcing industry, sometimes billed the economy’s lone bright spot, President Aquino recently announced ₧500 million for training its workers — continuation of a policy started by his predecessor. Of bigger and possibly detrimental consequence to the industry may be Aquino’s abolition of the Cabinet-level Commission on Information and Communication Technology,

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while the bill creating a Department of ICT has yet to be enacted. The administration still has no industrialization roadmap to speak of, although efforts are already being taken towards its development. Industrialization has been key to the success of many neighboring countries in Asia. In “Taking the Right Road to Inclusive Growth,” a comprehensive Asian Development Bank study about Philippine development, author Norui Usui said that “without dynamic industrial development, the country will continue to suffer from the long-standing problems of high unemployment, slow poverty reduction, and low investment.”

PERFORMANCE AND POTENTIAL

Matrix of Foreign Direct Investment Attraction and FDI Potential Indices, 2011 Above expectations

2nd quartile 3rd quartile 4th quartile

FDI Attraction Index

1st quartile

HIGH

Chad, Liberia, Madagascar, Niger

In line with expectations

Bulgaria, Ghana, Ireland, Israel, Nigeria, Norway, Panama, Turkmenistan, Uruguay

Australia, Belarus, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, China, Colombia, Hong Kong (China), Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Peru, Poland, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Viet Nam

Armenia, Cambodia, Guinea, Costa Rica, Georgia, Nicaragua, Saint Vincent and the Honduras, Kyrgyzstan, Grenadines, Solomon Islands Libya, Maldives, Malta, Namibia, Seychelles, Sudan, United Republic of Tanzania

Brunei Darussalam, Croatia, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Estonia, Iraq, Portugal, Qatar, Serbia, Tunisia, Uzbekistan

Austria, Canada, Czech Repubic, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Meico, Netherlands, Romania, Spain, Thailand, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United States

Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Djibouti, Dominica, Fiji, Grenada, Guyana, Mali, Sao Tome and Principe, Vanuata

Barbados, Botswana, Cameroon, Lao People's Democratic Republic, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Mauritius, Moldova, Myanmar, Uganda, Zimbabwe

Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bolivia, Denmark, Gabon, Guatemala, Iceland, Jamaica, Latvia, Morocco, Oman, Pakista, Syrian Arab Republic, Trinidad, and Tobago

Argentina, Finland, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Italy, JApan, Korea (Republic of), South Africa, Sweden

Afganistan, Benin, Bhutan, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Comoros, Cote d' Ivoire, Eritrea, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Kiribati, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritania, Nepal, Rwanda, Samoa, Sierra Leone, Suriname, Swaziland, Togo, Tonga

Angola, Bangladesh, Bosnia and Herzegovina, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Kenya, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Senegal, Tajikistan, Yemen

Bahrain, Ecuador, Greece, Kuwait, Lithuana, New Zealand, Philippines, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sri Lanka

Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of)

4rt quartile

3rd quartile

2nd quartile

LO W

Albania, Bahamas, Congo, Congo (Democratic Republic of), Equatorial Guinea, Jordan, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Mongolia, Mozambique, Zambia

Below expectations

1st quartile HIGH

FDI Potential Index

Table from UNCTAD World Investment Report 2012, page 32

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7 The ADB senior economist added that boosting the industry sector could lift more people out of poverty because it, unlike the service sector, is capital-intensive and provides jobs even to individuals with low educational attainment. Other specific policy recommendations to help craft the Philippine industrialization roadmap are contained in the

report. Also worth government attention are prescriptions for building competitiveness and attracting investment in the UNCTAD World Investment Report 2011 (see How to Attract Investment table). On jobs, the latest official unemployment figures show slight gains. The National Statistics Office

THE UNCTAD FORMULA Actions

Selected measures on the part of...

LCD governments

Strengthen public-private infrstructure development efforts

• Pursuing a liberalization of infrastucrture sectors and stable regulatory frameworks to ensure competitive outcomes and protect the national interest • Legal and regulatory framework for PPPs, with pipeline of projects and regional coordination

Boost aid for productive capacity

• Increased public investment in technical and vocational training •Reform of immigration and work permitting procedures

Enable firms of all •Proactive targeting of SME FDI and "impact sizes to capture investors" LDC oppotunities •Proactively promoting of the primary sector with opportunities for fast technological catching-up, e.g. telecom services, renewable energy

Foster local business and ease access to finance

Start the next wave of regulatory and institutional reform

• Credit guarantee schemes for micro, small and medium-sized firms, and strengthened development banks •Regulatory reform to enable SME access to bank lending and strengthen infrastucture •Simplication of procedures for formal business development

• New reform to put increasing emphasis on aspects of regulations that shape FDI impact and strengthen State institutions, including taxation and competition •Building on mutually reonforcing interests: avoid command and control regulatory bias, establish systematic consultation mechanisms with investors on draft laws •Build client-oriented investment institutions •Strengthened efforts to combat corruption under top to bottom zero-tolerance policy

Development partners

• LDC infrastucture development fund focused on infrastucture PPPs: risk coverage, direct participation and lending on soft terms • Technical assistance for regulation and implementation of infrastucture PPPs • Aid-for-prodcutive capacity funds, including support for technical and vocational training and entrepreneurship

• Risk coverage institutions at the national level to service SME FDI •Home-country measures to help firms tap into business opportunities in LDCs: IPAEPA coordination mechanisms, "impact investments" regulatory framework • Technical support for the development of financial infrastucture and regulatory and institutional environment • Support for increased lending and credit guarantee schemes for SMEs

•Strengthened technical assistance on key regulatory issues, including taxation and competition •Systematic institution twinning •Adoption of home-country measures to support LDCs: tax engineer avoidance, oversight of business practices by TNCs

Table from UNCTAD World Investment Report 2011, page 78

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(NSO) reported 6.9% unemployment as of April, down by tiny 0.3 percentage point from a year ago. But the private Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey of May 24-27 estimated the jobless at 26.6%, down from the usual surge in first-quarter unemployment soon after graduation, but up from 22.9%, the more comparable figure in June 2011. And job queues

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may get longer in the current quarter, when rains limit construction work, idling tens of thousands of building workers. The fact is, despite Aquino’s avowed goal of inclusive, job-generating growth, the government still has no comprehensive job generation program up to now. In all

LOOKING FOR WORK

SWS and NSO Unemployment Data SWS and NSO Unemployment RAte*, Philippines, SEp 1993-May 2012

SWS Adult Unemployment Rate*

Chart and data from Social Weather Stations

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9 probability, this problem is linked to the earlier discussed absence of any clear industrialization plan. Regardless, this is time and again raised against him since the start of his administration. With regard to public works, the administration has made PPP the centerpiece of its infrastructure development program. But none of the big-ticket infrastructure projects announced by government in 2010 has been awarded. Only the mediumsized Daang-Hari road project was contracted in late December, and it has yet to commence construction. State infrastructure projects have also suffered from slow implementation. Last year, government underspending largely contributed to the sharp decline in economic growth to 3.7%. This year it remains a concern. Economist and former budget secretary Benjamin Diokno writes in his Malaya newspaper column that the Aquino administration, “missed its first quarter 2012 spending goal by some ₧46 billion.” Despite accelerated budget disbursements in the first half of 2012, only 27% of the ₧287-billion “total public infrastructure and capital outlays program in 2012” been disbursed as of June. With the rainy season slowing down most construction work, it is doubtful whether the infrastructure agencies will be able to make much

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of a dent in the remaining ₧209.7 billion, or 73% of the 2012 program, between now and the end of the year. This will have an impact not only on growth and jobs, but also on competitiveness and investment, given that inadequate infrastructure is a perennial business complaint. Can CCT solve poverty? To uplift the poor, the Aquino administration expanded the Arroyo-era conditional cash transfer program, dubbed Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino, as its centerpiece poverty alleviation strategy. From an allocation of P10 billion in 2010, its budget has been increased, to P21.2 billion in 2011 and P39.5 billion this year. The proposed 2013 government budget would raise the CCT outlay to an unprecedented ₧45 billion, easily exceeding some departments’ entire budgets. This supposedly would increase the number of beneficiaries to 3.7 million households from the current 3 million. Critics say that reliance on CCT is a complete turnaround from Aquino’s campaign promise of eschewing dole-outs. Its impact on poverty remains uncertain, especially in the long-term,

POOR AND Self-Rated Poverty: Families Who Are "Mahirap" Philippines, Apr 1983 to May 2012

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and recipients still prefer jobs to stipends. Even immediate, short-term results gleaned from hunger and poverty figures are mixed. Average self-rated poverty according to SWS polls has risen from 48% in 2010, to 49% in 2011, to 53% in the first half of 2012, despite the increasing CCT allocation during the period. This is accompanied by average severe hunger of 3.3% in 2010, to 3.7% in 2011 and 5.3% in JanuaryMay 2012. More recent self-rated poverty and hunger polls for the second quarter of the year show slight improvements: 51% in self-rated poverty and 4.8% in severe hunger. But these are still higher than year-ago levels, when the CCT budgets were much smaller. With results such as these, the increase in the stipend program’s budget has stirred suspicions, in light of next year’s national elections, that politics might play a role in the continuation of assistance.

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quest for credit ratings led to underspending, which slashed 2011 growth and delayed infrastructure — two major investor concerns which led to lower IMD competitiveness rankings. Fortunately, the government has since ramped up spending, even if many public works and PPP projects remain stuck in neutral. Second, poverty alleviation has largely been left to the Department of Social Welfare’s CCT program, with little stress on microfinance, vocational training, emergency employment, and other livelihood programs pushed in the past administration. With the CCT-centered strategy, self-rated hunger, poverty and unemployment have hit record levels this year, even if they have since come down. That unimpressive outcome, despite the disbursement of nearly ₧50 billion in monthly stipends, tends to cast doubt on the overall strategy.

Reform remains slow. Summing up two years of “Aquinomics,” three broad realities emerge. First, President Aquino’s

HUNGRY

Lastly, despite repeated pronouncements that its good governance program would make the Philippines a more preferred business destination, Degree of Hunger in Households, the IMD and Philippines, July 1993 to May 2012 UNCTAD rankings show that reforms to boost competitiveness and investment attraction still have far to go. And unless those policy moves make solid advances, gestures such as the $1-billion loan to the International Charts from Social Weather Stations, May 2012

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Two years of ‘Aquinomics’

EASE OF DOING BUSINESS 2012

Where the Philippines Ranks in Key Indicators

Starting a Business (158) 183 Getting Electricity (54) Dealig with Construction Permits (102) Registering Property (117)

Resolving Insolvency (163)

Enforcing Contracts (112)

Getting Credit (126)

Trading Across Borders Paying (51)

Protecting Investors (133) Paying Taxes (136) Graphic from World Bank-IFC Doing Business 2012 Report, page 8

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Monetary Fund to help “stabilize the world economy” will do little to lift the Philippines in the eyes of global investors.

even worse: 158th, behind Malaysia (50th), Thailand (78th), Vietnam (98th), and Indonesia (129th).

Rather, it is imperative to deliver real improvements in business efficiency. On this front, one more crucial barometer is the World Bank-International Finance Corporation annual Doing Business report. In the 2012 rankings and indicators for the Philippines, the country slipped two notches to No. 136 overall among 183 countries and territories. In the crucial Starting a Business process, the country rated

For a leader and an administration that trumpets good governance as the key to economic growth and liberation from poverty, cutting red tape and corruption in business processes has to be a crucial measure of government success. So far, in this key category, President Aquino has yet to get a passing grade. government success. And so far, in this key category, President Aquino has yet to get a passing grade.

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NEWS ON THE NET Business

Bad loan ratios of thrift, coop banks improve

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas reported the ratios of bad loans of thrift and cooperative banks in relation to their total loans improved as of September 2011 versus the same period in 2010, but that of rural banks worsened. Thrift banks’ nonperforming loan (NPL) ratio declined to 6.23% as of third quarter of 2011, from 8.21% in 2010. The NPL ratio measures the proportion of loans that have remained unpaid for at least 30 days after due date to the total loan portfolio. Soured loans of thrift banks amounted to ₧22.697 billion as of end-September against a total loan portfolio of ₧364.467 billion. In 2010, NPLs reached ₧28.177 billion against total loans of ₧343.058 billion. The NPL ratio of cooperative banks improved year-on-year in September 2011 as well, declining to 7.44% from 8.35%, the BSP said. Soured loans totaled ₧925 million during the period against a total loan portfolio of ₧12.425 billion. In 2010, bad loans amounted to ₧886 million out of a total of ₧10.612 billion. Across the three main geographical regions, BSP said cooperative banks in Mindanao reported the best NPL ratio at 5.26%, compared with cooperative banks in Luzon and Visayas, which posted NPL ratios of 7.93% and 8.98%, respectively. The BSP noted these banks could cover 79.03% of their NPLs, improving

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from previous year’s 67.72%. NPL ratio of rural banks worsened to 10.25% as of the third quarter of last year from 9.63% in the same period in 2010. Soured loans amounted to ₧11.202 billion out of a total loan portfolio of ₧109.234 billion. In the same period in 2010, bad loans reached ₧9.417 billion while total loans amounted to ₧97.794 billion.

DPWH wants to spend P27-B on Mindanao’s roads next year The national government has earmarked some ₧27 billion for paving national roads in Mindanao next year, Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson said in a statement. The said amount is ₧7 billion more than what was allocated for this purpose this year. “In the total regional allocation of the total budget for 2012, Mindanao got the highest increase. I believe the situation will be the same for 2013,” Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said, when asked to confirm if the ₧27 billion is included in the proposed ₧2.006-trillion national budget for next year. Noting that 69% of Mindanao’s national roads remain unpaved, Singson said, “it is very clear that Mindanao should get bigger share of the budget.” In the same statement, Luwalhati R. Antonino, chairman of the Mindanao Development Authority, said that "Mindanao still lags behind in terms of its transport networks, which affects efficiency of flow of goods in the island-region." "Despite the positive performance of Mindanao economy, a lot still needs to be done in our road networks, especially because these are essential in promoting our role as the country’s food basket," she added. Singson agreed, saying

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"We believe that the national road network is one of the most important aspects of economic development." He also stressed the need to address implementation hurdles, such as peace and order, as well as road right-of-way problems.

PH on the brink of a credit boom, must be wary of dangers – Fitch Ratings Fitch Ratings said the Philippines might be at an early stage of a credit boom, citing the enormous liquidity enjoyed by the banking sector, which has given it capability to maintain over the medium term the robust pace of lending growth seen recently. In its latest report on the Philippines, Fitch said the substantial resources of banks in the country would be favorable given the significant financing requirement of the public sector to support costly infrastructure projects. “In the near term, this [robust pace of credit growth registered since 2011] could prove highly favorable… Over the longer term, however, it is likely to test the BSP’s macroeconomic management abilities after so many years of sustained onshore deleveraging,” Fitch said. Fitch explained that following the 1997 Asian financial crisis to 2010, credit growth in the Philippines may be described as anemic to moderate. Given this, there is risk the BSP may not be fully on guard amid threat of a credit boom over the medium term, according to Fitch. Credit extended by private firms in the country fell from 67% of gross domestic product in 1997 to only 28.9% in 2007, Fitch noted. But the figure sharply bounced to 70% by the end of 2011, it added. Economists define a credit boom as characterized by a lending spree that could lead to asset price bubbles and overheating of the economy.

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A President Wielding Unprecedented Power In reform’s name, Benigno Aquino III dominated Congress, disputed with the Judiciary, and captivated media and public By Atty. John Carlo Gil M. Sadian and Mary Grace V. Pulido

The Corona impeachment put on full display the immense clout of the President

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GMA News

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ven his supporters probably never imagined it. Two years after he took his oath of office at Quirino Grandstand at midday June, 30, 2010, President Benigno Aquino III wields more clout than any Filipino leader since Ferdinand Marcos, and perhaps even more than the despised dictator, who never enjoyed the heights of Aquino’s popularity. And he is set to exercise even more power. In the past 24 months, President Aquino has expelled or pressured out of office hundreds of his predecessor’s appointees, including the constitutionally independent Ombudsman and Commission on Audit chairman. The resignation of the Commission on Elections chairman also allowed Aquino to name his election lawyer as Comelec head. The House of Representatives approved two national budgets with little revision, giving up its most prized power over the purse, and signed two impeachment complaints against officials targeted by the Palace. Congress also passed the law postponing till 2013 the regional elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and empowering the President to appoint ARMM officials, including the Governor. Unlike Marcos, however, he enjoys huge support from the public and the free media, including leading newspapers and the top broadcast network. That has helped keep Aquino’s satisfaction, approval and trust ratings above 60% despite some slippage in the past two years. Claiming the need to advance his reform agenda, the President has also openly challenged judicial rulings, intervened in the trials of the Oakwood mutineers and the Morong 43 suspected rebels, and lambasted the Chief Justice for allegedly favoring his predecessor Gloria Arroyo. And with Renato Corona’s removal, even the judiciary, the branch of government tasked to check and balance

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Associate Justice Renato Corona takes his oath as Chief Justice despite President-elect Benigno Aquino 3rd’s threat that he could face impeachment for accepting the appointment ABS-CBN Video Malacañang and Congress, may fall under the Chief Executive’s sway. The power of the Palace. That presidential clout was in full display in the impeachment of Chief Justice Corona. As they did in removing Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez in February last year, more than 200 members of the House of Representatives signed the Articles of Impeachment last December, supposedly under threat of pork barrel drought, as revealed by administration congressman Toby Tiangco. Mostly under Aquino appointees, the tax and land registration bureaus, the Anti-Money Laundering Council, and even the independent Office of the Ombudsman and Commission on Audit provided material used both in the media attacks and the Senate trial against the Chief Justice. Leading mainstream media also ran stories against not just Corona, but his family. Finally, the senators themselves delivered a crushing 20-3 conviction vote, despite the public support Corona reportedly commanded from the Integrated Bar of the Philippines; countless judges and court employees in the judiciary; and top prelates of the Iglesia Ni Cristo and the Philippine Catholic Church.

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15 Even before the May 2010 elections, then-presidential aspirant Aquino already gave hints about what his administration’s priorities would be. Weeks before the elections, news of the upcoming mandatory retirement of then Chief Justice Reynato Puno made headlines because the date of his birthday happened to be just seven days after the polls—well within the two-month ban on midnight appointments When then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo expressed her intent to appoint Puno’s successor, Aquino remarked—somewhat presumptively, given that he was still a presidential candidate -- that he would not recognize the Chief Justice that Arroyo would appoint. Soon after the Supreme Court affirmed the president’s power to appoint a chief justice within the so-called midnight ban, Arroyo named Renato Corona to head the High Court. Refusing to recognize Corona’s appointment, president-elect Aquino would take his oath before another Supreme Court justice. The animosity between Aquino and Corona would spread to the institutions they represented.

previous administration” only. The fact that the mandate of the commission did not include past administrations gave the majority of the Court an impression that the commission will be used “as a vehicle for vindictiveness and selective retribution” and that EO 1 was only an “adventure in partisan hostility.” Instead of heeding the Court’s suggestion that “Perhaps a revision of the executive issuance so as to include the earlier past administrations would allow it to pass the test of reasonableness and not be an affront to the Constitution,” what Aquino did was to question the correctness

President Aquino questions Supreme Court decisions during the National Criminal Justice Summit attended by no less than Chief Justice Renato Corona and top officials of the Judiciary Malacañang video

Chief Executive vs. Chief Justice. A month after assuming office, President Aquino issued his first Executive Order. EO 1 created a Truth Commission that was tasked to conduct a thorough factfinding investigation of reported cases of graft and corruption involving high-level public officials during the previous administration. Opposition congressmen questioned the validity of EO 1 before the Supreme Court. Voting 10-5, the Court struck down EO 1 for violating the equal protection clause of the Constitution as it was clear from the very text of the EO that the mandate of the Truth Commission was to investigate “reported cases of graft and corruption during the

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of the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Constitution, the most pointed example of which came during his speech at the National Criminal Justice Summit in December 2011. Aquino’s second major issuance, EO 2, also received a major blow from the Supreme Court. This executive order was aimed at “recalling, withdrawing, and revoking appointments issued by the previous administration in violation of the constitutional ban on midnight appointments.” Separate petitions were filed by Arroyo-appointees asking the Supreme Court to nullify EO 2.

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Pending the Court’s ruling, Muslim affairs chief Bai Omera Dianalan-Lucman filed an Urgent Motion to Issue a Status Quo Order to prevent Malacañang from removing her from office. Granting the motion, the Court ordered both Malacañang and the petitioners “to observe the status quo prevailing before the issuance of Executive Order No. 2.” As of date, the case is yet to be resolved by the Court. While even Aquino family friend Senator Joker Arroyo found Palace lawyers amiss, the President found more reason to criticize the High Court.

Reform by impeachment. Seeing how presidential orders were being thwarted by the judiciary, the Aquino administration tried to flex its muscle through the sparingly-used power of impeachment. Its allies in the House of Representatives filed six Articles of Impeachment against then Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, one of Arroyo’s permanent appointees said to be favoring her. The impeachment complaint alleged Gutierrez’s “failure to act promptly” on five specific cases listed in the Articles of Impeachment.

Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez announces her resignation before her impeachment trial at the Senate could even start PhilStar video

Considering that the Constitution prohibits two impeachment proceedings against one official within one year, the Supreme Court issued a status quo ante order until it could decide the case filed by Gutierrez questioning the validity of a second complaint against her accepted by the House. The Supreme Court eventually ruled in Gutierrez vs. House Committee on Justice that the second complaint did not violate the Constitution since it was still part of a single impeachment proceeding.

A third ruling much criticized by the administration was the November 15, 2011, restraining order on Justice Secretary Leila de Lima’s watch-list order preventing former president Arroyo and her husband Jose Miguel Arroyo from leaving the country. Secretary de Lima defied the High Court order and directed the Bureau of Immigration, which is under her authority, to stop the former First Couple

The decision written by Justice Conchita Carpio Morales allowed the House to pursue its case against the Ombudsman, which eventually led to her impeachment by an overwhelming majority of 212 members of the House of Representatives. Even before her Senate trial started, Gutierrez resigned. According to her, “the interest of my family, my office and more importantly the nation must come before any personal consideration.”

from boarding a flight to Singapore. De Lima would later testify in Corona’s impeachment trial that he and other judges favored Arroyo.

After this resignation, the Palace already announced that they saw more charges to be filed against officials from the Arroyo

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17 administration once a new Ombudsman was appointed. Indeed, President Aquino wasted no time and immediately appointed newly retired Justice Carpio Morales, who administered his oath of office, to replace Gutierrez. The House Committee on Justice also had its eyes set on a more prominent personality to impeach. Acting on a complaint filed by elderly “comfort women” alleging that Supreme Court Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo plagiarized the Court’s ponencia in Vinuya vs. Executive Secretary, the Committee on Justice started deliberating on the prospect of impeaching a member of the Supreme Court.

within a short span of less than two years, the most significant and historical is that of Chief Justice Renato Corona. While that of Gutierrez culminated in her resignation and that of Del Castillo fizzled out, that of Corona resulted in an actual conviction—the first time not only under the 1987 Constitution, but in the country’s history. It was no secret that the filing of the impeachment complaint against Corona was rushed. Originally numbering eight, the House prosecutors were only able to present evidence for Articles II, III, and VII. The Second Article of Impeachment alleged that Corona “failed to disclose to the public his statement of assets, liabilities, and net worth” in violation of section 17, Article XI of the Constitution as well as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (R.A. 3019).

Chief Justice Renato Corona takes the witness stand on the 40th day of his impeachment trial GMA News Video

Del Castillo’s impeachment, however, would later be overtaken by events as the impeachment complaint against the Chief Justice himself gained ground. Nonetheless, as Corona’s trial was already in the Senate, the House Justice Committee would still vote 38-10 in favor of impeaching the associate justice. And then there came Corona’s conviction. Fortunately for Del Castillo, the House leadership will not likely elevate the case to the plenary or to the Senate as intimated by House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte for “lack of time.” The impeachment of Corona. Of the three impeachment proceedings initiated

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The Third Article, on the other hand, alleged that Corona betrayed public trust in (1) the reversal of a labor case in favor of Philippine Airlines; (2) discussing the Vizconde Massacre case with a litigant, and; (3) the appointment of Cristina Corona in John Hay Management Corp. Lastly, the Seventh Article alleged that Corona granted a temporary restraining order (TRO) against a Department of Justice Watch List Order (WLO) to provide Arroyo the “opportunity to escape prosecution.” It likewise alleged that Corona distorted the Court’s decision regarding the effectivity of the TRO based on Justice Lourdes Sereno’s opinion. Of the three remaining Articles, only Article II had a chance for conviction, but it was not until the day of verdict that it became clear whether the prosecution was able to convince the Senate of Corona’s guilt considering that they tried to mislead the Senate into believing that Corona owned 45 real properties, 82 dollar accounts, and 31 peso accounts, when in fact it turns out that Corona only has five real properties, four

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dollar accounts and three peso accounts. After 41 days of trial, the Senate nonetheless voted 20-3 finding Corona guilty for the Second Article. The verdict was mainly based on the magistrate’s own admission that he deliberately did not include in his SALN $2.4 million in four dollar accounts due to his own interpretation of the “absolute” protection under the Foreign Currency Deposits Act (FCDA), as well as tens of millions of pesos in “commingled funds” which included family and corporate funds held in trust.

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Carpio, for one, is associated with the Liberal Party and Transportation Secretary Mar Roxas. Associate Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno, on the other hand, was Aquino’s hand-picked first appointee to the Supreme Court. She was the sole voice in the Court who argued for billions of pesos in payment for the President’s Cojuangco family for the government’s acquisition of Hacienda Luisita after the High Tribunal ordered its distribution to farmers.

The challenge of immense power. Whether President Aquino’s amassing of Search for a new chief justice. As the immense clout in his first two years will Judicial and Bar Council starts its deliberation result in accomplishment or abuse will largely to choose at least three depend on how he uses nominees from the 22-manthat power. People have been long list of nominees for willing to trust him with it in the So far, the the post vacated by Corona, belief that he will use it for President apparently the Aquino reform, not repression, and with remains hugely administration will integrity, not ill will. It was the not ask its allies among the same attitude most Filipinos took popular, just nominees to avoid the Chief when then President Marcos as his mother Justice’s perceived sin of declared martial law and used lawCorazon and her accepting an appointment making decree powers for sweeping successor Fidel from his patron. changes in government.

Ramos were two

Of particular mention are years after they So far, the President remains Justice Secretary Leila De hugely popular, just as his mother assumed office Lima, Senator Franklin Corazon and her successor Fidel Drilon, and Internal Ramos were two years after they Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares. assumed office. However, if Aquino’s ratings While Drilon and Henares would eventually follow the same path as his mother’s and decline their nomination, De Lima would accept Ramos’, then he could see a big drop over the hers despite her row with the Supreme Court coming year, as analyzed by The CenSEI Report when she openly disobeyed the TRO issued last month. That may lead to a less trusting view against her in relation to Arroyo’s attempt of the President’s power; so would the coming to leave the country for medical attention. election campaign, which will likely intensify Opposition congressman Edcel Lagman media attacks on the administration. remarked: “What were perceived as the negative factors which rooted out Corona must be the An even bigger issue is whether the President same factors which must weed out potential is making headway in his winning slogan of errant nominees.” eradicating corruption and poverty: Kung Aside from these three, some of the nominees are in one way or another connected to the president. Senior Associate Justice Antonio

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walang corrupt, walang mahirap (If there are no corrupt officials, there will be no poor people). There have been no mega-scandals like the fertilizer scam and the NBN-ZTE broadband

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19 deal, at least none that Congress and the mainstream media have given much attention to. But critics have deplored Palace inaction on alleged anomalies by close associates of the President as well as the loss of several thousand containers in transit. Early in his martial-law regime, many if not most Filipinos accepted and even lauded the firm hand Marcos imposed on the nation. Crime declined, government services improved, and the republic pursued a more independent foreign

policy, forging diplomatic relations with China ahead of the U.S. But high-level corruption by Marcos associates and repressive measures by the state eventually stirred anti-government sentiments. As a democratically elected leader, President Aquino is not a hated dictator ruling by decree, but a popular reformer enjoying huge political and public support. Only by using that unprecedented mandate for real reform can he turn this two-year climb to power into a six-year legacy of meaningful change.

‘Kung Walang Corrupt, Walang Mahirap’: National Policy or Empty Promise? Two years on, Filipinos are wondering if the anti-corruption drive has taken hold as a nationwide policy By Mary Grace V. Pulido

LOW-RANKING COUNTRIES IN TRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL'S 2011 CORRUPTION PERCEPTION INDEX RANK

COUNTRY

SCORE

129

Honduras

2.6

Syria

2.6

129

Philippines

134

Cameroon

134

Guyana

129 134 134 134 134

Eritrea

Lebanon

Maldives

Nicaragua

2.6 2.5 2.5 2.5 2.5 2.5 2.5

Source: Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index 2011 Result

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wo years ago, in his first State of the Nation Address, President Benigno S. Aquino III vowed to hold accountable those who are corrupt in government. Yet in 2011, the Philippines ranked 129th out of 183 countries in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, an improvement though from the 2010 rank of 134th. The Philippines had a score of 2.6 from a scale of 0-10, where zero means a perception of being highly corrupt and ten means a perception of being clean. Executive Order No. 43 created the Cabinet Cluster System, which divided the Aquino

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cabinet into five clusters with each cluster serving as “a venue and mechanism for coordination, harmonization, complementation, and synergy among the Departments and other Government instrumentalities with the main purpose of attaining national development goals and objectives.” This issuance of the President strengthens his commitment to perform the government’s obligation in its Social Contract with the people. The first cluster on Good Governance and Anti-Corruption chaired by the President himself has the mandate of promoting transparency, accountability, participatory governance, and strengthening of public institutions. As the year 2012 opened, President Aquino approved the Philippine Good Governance and Anti-corruption Plan for 2012 to 2016 which laid down measures to curtail corruption by means of greater transparency and accountability in government transactions. Business Mirror reported that the measures in the plan include the simplification and integration of various government databases and systems. Different agencies and local government agencies are required to disclose their respective budget information beginning 2012. The plan also aims to expand the operations of the government’s electronic bidding system under the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System. Also part of the plan is to continue with what was started by his predecessor as regards the Revenue Integrity Protection Service (RIPS), which is the anti-corruption arm of the Department of Finance. Created by virtue of Executive Order 259 on December 17, 2003, RIPS has the mandate to investigate allegations of corruption in the Department of Finance and its attached agencies such as the Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Bureau of Customs, the Bureau of Local Government Finance, Bureau of Treasury, Central Board of Assessment Appeals, the Insurance

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Commission, the National Tax Research Center, the Fiscal Incentives Review Board, and the Privatization and Management Office. After the investigation, necessary charges will be filed by the RIPS against allegedly erring officials and employees with the proper government agencies such as the Office of the Ombudsman.

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RIPS PERFORMANCE AT A GLANCETITLE

Statistics of the RIPS show that as of June this year, there have been only 21 officials dismissed from the service, 61 preventively suspended and 153 charged.

PREVENTIVELY SUSPENDED 61

CASES FILED 112 DISMISSED FROM SERVICE 21

PERSONALITIES CHARGED 153

The Aquino administration has also began practicing open government Source: RIPS website partnerships with nongovernment stakeholders, which measure is also included in the Good Governance and AntiCorruption plan for 2012-2016. For its part, the Philippine Open Government Partnership will interact with other Open Government Partnership countries and conduct public consultations on open government partnership implementation and other related open government issues. The US and the Philippines are steering committee members of the Open Government Partnership. Early this year Aquino engaged the expertise of US-based Professor Robert Klitgaard as his anti-corruption consultant. Currently a professor at the Claremont Graduate University in California, the Harvard-trained Klitgaard has served as consultant to various banking institutions, financial intermediaries, nongovernment organizations and even the World Economic Forum. His latest job is to be President Aquino’s adviser in the current

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The New Ombudsman Replacing Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, who resigned before her impeachment trial was to commence, is former Supreme Court Associate Justice Conchita Carpio Morales, before whom President Aquino took his oath of office. In the middle of this year, she proudly shared a positive result of a survey the Office of the Ombudsman commissioned, wherein she said, “Only 10% of those who accessed government services paid grease money to an agency official to facilitate transactions.” Just recently, the Office of the Ombudsman entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the World Bank which would further encourage good governance, curb graft and corruption, and boost the accountability of public officials wherein both agencies will reciprocally provide each other spontaneously or upon request relevant information against fraud and corruption.

administration’s strategies to strengthen anticorruption initiatives. Critics of the present administration have observed that, “Aquino’s much-vaunted anticorruption program barely scratches the surface of the problem and gives no hint on how he will grapple with its systemic roots.” The Center for People Empowerment in Governance or CenPEG wrote in March that, “Failing to address or worse abetting the fundamental roots that sustain corruption makes his administration’s anti-corruption drive superficial if not a complete sham.” However, during their meeting in June this year, U.S. President Barack Obama recognized and commended the efforts of the Aquino administration to promote good governance, improve government transparency, and fight corruption while trying to achieve economic growth. Before the end of the Corona impeachment trial, President Aquino admitted that the

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government’s anti-corruption drive affected the accomplishment of infrastructure projects although he maintained that investors still come to the country. However, after the trial ended, there was a change in the Philippines’ growth forecast. The Manila Times reported that Moody’s Analytics has raised its 2012 economic growth forecast for the Philippines from 4% to 4.7%, citing the Aquino administration’s commitment to good governance as a factor that will draw investors to do business in the Philippines. According to Moody’s, these anti-corruption initiatives, coupled with increases in infrastructure development, could boost investments for the rest of the year. Alongside the successful impeachment of Chief Justice Corona, the other famous episode in Aquino’s anti-corruption campaign is the arrest and detention of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, not for corruptionrelated plunder charges that would be dismissed by the Ombudsman, but rather for alleged rigging of the 2007 elections.

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The Quest for Lasting Peace Under Aquino’s Watch: At an Impasse With two sets of rebels, one seemingly intractable struggle, one possibly hopeful process By Atty. John Carlo Gil M. Sadian

A

rguably the most important political challenge to President Aquino might be the seemingly endless peace process with the two major rebel groups in the country. Two years into the Aquino administration, the prospect for peace still appears to be as elusive as ever, with the government, communist rebels, and Muslim secessionists all refusing to give in to each other’s demands. The impasse in peace negotiations with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) can be traced to 2002, when the Arroyo administration persuaded the governments of the United States and the European Union to include the rebel group in their respective lists of terrorist organizations. With this apparent attempt to pressure the rebel group to accept a Final Peace Accord, along with the discovery of confidential information that a high-ranking Arroyo official had recommended the assassination of CPP founder Jose Ma. Sison, the CPP leadership opted out of negotiations. The impasse would last until Arroyo stepped down from office. Almost a year after Aquino assumed the presidency, the government was able to sign

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the Oslo Joint Statement on February 2011. It provided that “the draft Comprehensive Agreement on End of Hostilities and Disposition of Forces may be completed and signed by the Panels in June 2012.” This 18-month timetable was met with some skepticism, with some sectors stressing that an agreement can only be achieved “if the Aquino administration musters its political will to forge agreements that will resolve the roots of the armed conflict, including addressing the problem of landlessness, industrialization, foreign domination and control of the economy.” Indeed, it is already July 2012, and the draft agreement ending the hostilities is nowhere to be found, even if there is a glimmer of hope with a June agreement to keep talking. The skepticism over the prospects for peace with communists is matched by the skepticism over prospects for peace with the Muslim secessionists in the south. In August 2008, the Arroyo administration was on the verge of signing the Memorandum of Agreement on the Muslim Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD), which was to give life to a Bangsamoro Juridical Entity that would have replaced the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). The

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highly anticipated agreement was, however, thumbed down by the Supreme Court, after it decided that the agreement had constitutional defects. Sporadic fighting between government troops and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) soon ensued, and the question on the MILF’s sincerity in implementing ceasefire agreements soon surfaced. President Aquino took over and continued the peaceful approach of his predecessor. The new president even met with MILF chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim in Tokyo. Amidst the continuing breaches by MILF rogue forces of the ceasefire agreement, government negotiators still sat patiently with the rebel leaders in an effort to salvage the good faith built on the botched MOA-AD.

Just last Friday, July 6, the MILF started a three-day Bangsamoro General Just last April, the Assembly at Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat. According to peace panels of the MILF leadership, the the government event was attended by an and the MILF estimated one million announced a people including Christian and indigenous groups, who 'breakthrough' were “given a chance to in the peace express what they want to unify process, with the the efforts of the Bangsamoro crafting of their people to strengthen the 'Decision Points on objectives to attain a just and peaceful settlement of the Principles' Bangsamoro issue.”

Just last April, the peace panels of the government and the rebel group announced a “breakthrough” in the peace process with the crafting of a so-called “Decision Points on Principles.” This involves the introduction of “a new autonomous political entity” that would ultimately replace the ARMM. This came just a few weeks after lead negotiators from both sides expressed pessimism about concluding negotiations in the near future. It should be remembered that last March, chief government negotiator Marvic Leonen warned both GPH and MILF panels that the peace process was on the verge of reaching a “stalemate” because of both parties’ disagreement on what constitutes “genuine autonomy,” as it had been made apparent by MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal that what they

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want is a Muslim sub-state distinct from the already autonomous ARMM. Thus, the sudden turn of events after the 27th Round of Exploratory Talks in Malaysia is indeed a welcome development in the ailing peace process.

The government welcomed the assembly as a positive step towards the ultimate goal of achieving peace in Mindanao. Presidential adviser on the peace process Teresita Deles said the assembly was proof of the “real seriousness and aspirations for peace” of the MILF. MILF Vice Chairman Ghazali Jaafar, on the other hand, told the attendees that the “only way” to resolve the Mindanao conflict is to give the Bangsamoro people the right to self-determination. “Let the Bangsamoros determine and decide their own affairs and let them rule and govern themselves,” Jaafar said. It has been the standing belief of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) that the peace talks with the CPP and the MILF—and all armed conflicts in the country—will end within the term of President Aquino.

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Nation

Aquino approves ₧2.006-trillion 2013 budget The 2013 national budget, which reflects a 0.4% increase – ₧190 billion – over this year’s ₧1.816 trillion, was been approved by President Aquino at the start of this month. Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said that next year’s budget was approved with a few modifications with regard to allocations to certain agencies. The 2013 budget will be submitted to Congress one day before the President delivers his State of the Nation Address, in the hopes of getting Congress’ approval before the end of the year. House appropriations committee chair Representative Joseph Emilio Abaya said that as part of the present administration’s policy on good governance, a reenacted budget is not an option, so Congress will aim to passing the 2013 budget before the year ends. On the other hand, Senator Franklin Drilon said that the 2013 General Appropriations Act must be effective by January 1, 2013, so that infrastructure projects can be awarded before the start of the 2013 campaign period, i.e., Feb. 12 for national and party-list candidates and March 26 for local candidates. The 2013 midterm elections will be held on May 13.

Phl-Spain friendship: Queen Sofia in Manila Queen Sofia of Spain arrived in Manila on Monday for a week-long visit to inspect several development projects around the Philippines funded by the Spanish government through the Agencia Española de Cooperacion Internacional para el Desarollo (AECID). On her second day in the country, she met with President Benigno Aquino III in a celebration at the Malacanang Palace. On Thursday she visited the province of Albay and

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the city of Zamboanga to check on several projects that her country helped finance. Spain and the Philippines share a rich history and culture. Spain colonized the Philippines in 1521, and introduced Catholicism in the country. It ceded the Philippines to the United States in 1898.

DPWH probing contractors who asphalted over manholes The Department of Public Works and Highways-National Capital Region is set to investigate the agency’s contractors responsible for asphalting over manholes, which caused partial inundation in some parts of Metro Manila on July 3. The Metro Manila Development Authority has discovered that 661 manholes and drainage inlets were missing in major streets, which could cause heavy flooding.

appoint the next chief justice, and that the most senior justice of the court shall sit as JBC chairman in case of a vacancy. According to the ruling of the high court, the JBC must not be deprived of its representation because the most senior justice who is not an applicant for the chief justice post can preside over the JBC proceedings. Petitioner Famela Dulay filed the said petition for the issuance of a temporary restraining order to enjoin the JBC from accepting applications for nomination for the position of chief justice, arguing that the President can appoint associate justices and judges of lower courts but not the Chief Justice. The JBC is the constitutionally mandated body that screens nominees and submits a shortlist of names for appointment to the judges and justices of the judiciary and the Office of the Ombudsman.

Another Aquino eyes Senate seat

The MMDA and DPWH are working in close coordination to investigate and penalize the responsible contractors. As a low-pressure area poured heavy rainfall all over Metro Manila that day, a flash flood covered V. Luna Street in Quezon City, which rendered it unpassable and caused damage to some vehicles.

A cousin of President Aquino, Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV, announced that he is set to seek a Senate seat in the 2013 midterm elections after obtaining the go-signal of the President himself. However, he has not yet decided whether or not to join the Liberal Party and said that the party will also decide whether to include him in the party’s senatorial slate.

SC: Aquino can appoint next CJ, most senior justice to sit as JBC chair

President Aquino’s 35-year-old cousin is the son of the late Benigno Aquino Jr.’s youngest brother Paul. “Bam” Aquino was previously appointed by former President Gloria MacapagalArroyo to serve as chairman of the National Youth Commission of the Philippines. Currently, he provides advice and technical support to microbusiness entrepreneurs. Representative Teddy Casiño opposed the said plan of the younger Aquino to run for the Senate as he fears the establishment of an Aquino dynasty.

The Supreme Court denied a petition that sought to stop the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) from convening while there is a vacancy in the position of chief justice. The high court ruled that President Aquino has the authority to

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Aquino’s Great Balancing Act An escalating territorial dispute In with China and a strengthening alliance with the U.S. are shaping Philippine foreign policy

STRATEGY POINTS Territorial disputes and enhanced military cooperation with the United States are putting a strain on Philippine relations with China China’s “heavy-handed behavior in the South China Sea” contributed to the shift in the government’s defense policy

a bold move likely to aggravate already tense relations with China following a standoff at Scarborough Shoal, President Benigno Aquino III said he might ask the United States to deploy spy planes in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) to help monitor the disputed waters, reports the Philippine Daily Inquirer. In an interview with Reuters that was cited in the report, Aquino said, “We might be requesting overflights on that,” referring to the use of U.S. P3C Orion spy planes.

President Aquino later clarified his statement in an ABS-CBN news report, claiming that the interviewers “introduced the supposed request for overflights.” Still, the possibility of increased U.S. involvement in the Spratly islands dispute is a growing concern, especially for rival China. After all, the U.S. remains a staunch ally of the Philippines, and has, on several occasions, vowed to stand by the Philippines in the event of an external attack, as codified in the Mutual Defense Treaty between the two countries. Since the leadership of President Aquino, the long-standing South China Sea territorial dispute has climaxed in a standoff between the Philippines and China at Scarborough Shoal. As seen in an ABS-CBN News infographic, tensions began in April when the Philippine Navy sent the BRP Gregorio del Pilar—a decommissioned Coast Guard cutter it had acquired from the U.S.—to investigate the sighting of eight Chinese fishing boats encroaching on what Philippines is claiming as part of its territory. Shortly after, two Chinese surveillance vessels blocked the warship from approaching the fishing boats. Both countries lodged multiple diplomatic protests, and ordinary citizens responded to the frictions by means of demonstrations. In the

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Philippines, hundreds of protesters waved flags and placards at the Chinese embassy in Manila, while a group of Hong Kong activists protested outside the Philippine consulate office there. The relationship of the two countries has been fragile since then.

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In May, the president finally appointed veteran diplomat Sonia Brady as Philippine ambassador to Beijing “amid growing clamor for a skilled diplomat to handle the frayed ties caused by a territorial dispute.” According to deputy spokesperson Abigail Valte, Aquino wanted “someone who is already familiar with the politics and culture of the country.”

Relations with China off to a rocky start. In the early days of the Aquino administration, relations with China got off to a rocky start when the Philippine g overnment was criticized for the mishandling of the August 2010 Manila hostage incident, which ended in the bloody death of eight Chinese tourists. President Aquino expressed regret over the handling of the crisis, but said, in a GMA News report, that the incident “will not define this administration.” Attempts to get on China’s good side came at the expense of another’s—Taiwan. In February 2011, the government deported 14 alleged Taiwanese criminals back to China. As Palace spokesperson Edwin Lacierda explained in an Inquirer report, “The evidence is in China, the crime was committed in China, so it was in our best national interest to deport them to China." An enraged Taiwan accused the Philippines of bowing to China and labeled the deportation “inhumane.”In response, the Taiwanese government toughened screening procedures for Filipinos who wanted to work there, warning them that they may even be banned. Moreover, the apparent lack of China expertise was shown in Aquino’s appointment last year of Filipino-Chinese businessman and Aquino family friend Domingo Lee as ambassador to China. Lee, however, failed to get the approval of the Commission on Appointments (CA) due to his limited knowledge on issues relating to China, as reported by the Inquirer.

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This interactive infographic from ABS CBN News cites the major events surrounding the Scarborough Shoal dispute ABS CBN

Test in diplomacy. Yet the real test of diplomatic astuteness will be in the balancing act that the Philippines must now play if it wants to remain friends with China while strengthening the alliance with the U.S. and pursuing Filipino interests, particularly with regard to its territorial claims. China and the Philippines, along with Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Brunei, are embroiled in long-standing territorial disputes over the Spratly Islands.

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27 “Both the Philippines and China are exerting efforts to resolve the situation peacefully through diplomatic means,” Aquino says in his speech during the 37th anniversary of Philippine-China diplomatic relations. He adds, “However, I must emphasize that I have taken an oath to defend the Constitution and the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic.”

In a paper published in the March 2012 issue of The Korean Journal of Defense Analysis, De La Salle University professor Renato Cruz de Castro explains the shift in Philippine defense policy from internal security to territorial defense. He says, “China’s heavy-handed behavior in the South China Sea, as well as its uncompromising diplomatic posturing further convinced the Aquino administration of the

Is the government doing enough to protect overseas Filipino workers? The protection and promotion of the welfare of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) is one of the three pillars of the Philippine government’s foreign policy, which also includes the preservation and enhancement of national security, and the promotion and attainment of economic security. According to estimates of the Commission on Filipinos Overseas, there are over 4.3 million Filipinos based overseas temporarily.

death-penalty cases, and is providing legal assistance to those involved in drug-smuggling cases. (One recalls the execution of three Filipino drug mules in China in March 2011, as reported by the Inquirer. Despite all efforts by the government to plea for the commutation of their sentences, Sally Ordinario-Villanueva, Ramon Credo, and Elizabeth Batain were put to death by lethal

STOCK ESTIMATES OF OVERSEAS FILIPINOS AS OF DEC. 2010 World Total

Percentage

Permanent

Temporary

Irregular

Total

47%

45%

8%

100%

4,423,680

4,324,388

704,916

9,452,984

Table from “Global Mapping of Overseas Filipino Emigrants,” Commission of Filipinos Overseas

Aquino administration’s achievements in protection of OFWs. At the Manila Overseas Press Club Diplomatic Night in Makati on February 2012, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Albert F. Del Rosario discussed the Aquino administration’s achievements in welfare promotion and protection, and cited his many trips to countries such as Yemen, Libya, Syria, Bahrain, Japan, and Iraq to personally oversea the repatriation of Filipino nationals. Says Del Rosario, the DFA in 2011 repatriated almost 11,000 Filipinos from Libya, Yemen, Egypt, Syria, Japan, and New Zealand in response to natural disasters or civil strife, and continues repatriation efforts in areas with escalating conflict such as South Sudan, Syria, Nigeria, and Iraq. He also reported that the DFA continues to negotiate for the commutation of sentences of Filipinos with pending

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injection. The three had been scheduled for execution in February, but were granted a temporary reprieve after Vice President Jejomar Binay’s February 18 “mercy mission” to Beijing.) Apart from this, the Philippines also made strides in combating human trafficking, as reflected in the U.S. State Department’s elevation of the country’s status from Tier 2 Watch List to simply Tier 2 in their 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report. The Philippines remains in Tier 2 in the recently released 2012 report. ‘Aquino worse than Arroyo,’ some OFWs say. A coalition of overseas Filipino workers groups, however, thinks the government’s efforts are sorely lacking. Migrante International, a global network of Filipino migrant workers, rates Aquino’s OFW policy poorly in their report, “SUMA: Summing-up of the State of Migrants under Aquino (2010 - June 2012),”

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Aquino’s great balancing act

inevitability of facing China militarily in the near future.” By bolstering military capability through U.S. partnership, Aquino has made attempts to match the aggressiveness of China, who insists on dealing with the issue bilaterally. The Philippines, on the other hand, wishes to resolve the matter multilaterally and

with the participation of fellow members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), as mentioned by Asia expert Carlyle A. Thayer in his analysis of U.S.-China relations in light of the Scarborough Shoal standoff. Over the longer term, Thayer believes the Philippines must stick to Aquino’s present commitment to modernize the country’s armed forces for territorial defense.

going so far as to say, “Aquino is no different and, in fact, worse than Arroyo.” (Migrante, which has 90 member-organizations in over 22 countries, was formed in 1996, following the controversial hanging of Filipino domestic worker Flor Contemplacion in Singapore.)

government,” and added that “OFWs are also sneaking into countries where there are an existing deployment ban such as Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan." Adds Monterona, the government should “intensify its drive against illegal recruitment activities and send them behind bars.”

According to the report, despite declarations of commitment to domestic job generation and support for reintegration programs for returning OFWs, the government’s actions indicate otherwise.

Closure of 10 embassies panned. The government is being criticized for its plans to shut down a number of embassies as part of austerity measures. According to Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez, the move is expected to provide the government with annual savings of ₧500 million, reports InterAksyon.

Migrante says the 2012 budget is 18% lower than the ₧3.8 million allotted in 2011 for OFW welfare and services to be delivered by the DFA, the Department of Labor and Employment, the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency, the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking under the Department of Justice, the Commission on Filipinos Overseas, and the Office of the President. And yet, there was an increase in the budget for “marketing and job placement” purposes, which Migrante alleges is a signal that the government is still encouraging labor export. The report also mentions that, as of October 2011, an additional 1.35 million Filipinos were forced to find work overseas because of a lack of employment and livelihood opportunities, social services, and decent wages in the country – 5.3% more than the 1.28 million deployed between January and October the previous year. A June 2012 Philippine Star report also quotes John Monterona, Migrante regional coordinator in the Middle East, as saying that “Filipinos continue to be deployed to strife-torn Syria despite a ban imposed by the

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Foreign posts in Koror in Palau, Barcelona in Spain, Caracas in Venezuela, Dublin in Ireland, Stockholm in Sweden, and Frankfurt in Germany, will have been closed by July, while those in Havana in Cuba, Bucharest in Hungary, Saipan, and Helsinki in Finland will be shut down by the end of October, according to the news report. Filipinos in Sweden and Spain have voiced their opposition to the closures, and even the president of Palau, Johnson Toribiong, has urged President Aquino to reconsider. According to a Department of Foreign Affairs press release, “The shutdown of these Philippine missions was primarily due to the need to maximize resources and to augment Embassies and Consulates where there are more Filipinos, especially in the Middle East. Other considerations include potentials for trade, investment and tourism in line with President Benigno S. Aquino III’s goal of poverty alleviation and job creation and his directive for a lean and efficient bureaucracy.”

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InterAksyon provides geographic information on the body of water where the controversial Spratlys Island Chain is found. The infographic also identifies the other claimants and highlights relevant documents InterAksyon Thayer concludes: “As the South China Sea becomes more congested the likelihood of an armed incident involving China and the Philippines will increase and possibly trigger US intervention. The U.S. and its allies also must keep up diplomatic pressure on China to refrain from force and intimidation.” An article from The Wall Street Journal tackles the changing Philippines-China-U.S. relations and the approach that the Aquino government is taking. “Although open to working with China, he was eager to rebuild relations with the U.S. to put the country's foreign relations on a more even keel after [former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s] years of courting China,” says the article. Such actions of the previous administration find its roots in its eight realities of Philippine foreign policy, the first being that the U.S., China, Japan, and their relationships with each other are the determining influences in the security situation and economic evolution of East Asia. Strengthening U.S.-Philippines alliance. Escalating tensions involving the Philippines’ claim over the disputed islands has prompted the Aquino leadership to seek help from its long-time ally. In his trip to Washington, he sought to reaffirm the two countries’ defense

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alliance, and to which President Barack Obama “pledged Washington’s support to the upgrade of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the building of a "minimum credible defense posture" for Manila,” an ABS-CBN report says. A Reuters report, meanwhile, reveals the U.S. will nearly triple its military funding for the Philippines this year. The U.S. defense paper released early this year, “Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense,” makes it clear that the U.S. will “of necessity rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region.” The new defense strategy is widely seen as America’s response to the rising economic and military power that is China. In his testimony before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade, Assistant Secretary Kurt Campbell of the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs spells it out: “Our efforts to strengthen the U.S.-Philippine alliance are part of a broader strategy by the Obama Administration to increase American strategic engagement and focus in the AsiaPacific region.” Travels of both President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton across Asia, Campbell

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30

AQUINO-OBAMA 2012 BILATERAL MEETING

President Aquino meets with U.S. President Barack Obama in June 2012. The heads of state discussed economic and security issues, among others, and vowed to strengthen and deepen Filipino-American relationship YouTube says, “underscore that the United States is an enduring Pacific power, and our national interests are inextricably linked to the AsiaPacific.” In her remarks after their meeting with Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Clinton reiterates, “While we do not take sides on the competing sovereignty claims to land features in the South China Sea, as a Pacific power we have a national interest in freedom of navigation, the maintenance of peace and stability, respect for international law, and the unimpeded, lawful commerce across our sea lanes.” In August 2011, the Philippines and U.S. focused on the development of a framework for increased bilateral and multilateral security and maritime domain awareness. Professor De Castro enumerates some of these measures in his article in the Asia Pacific Bulletin of the East-West Center: a U.S. rotational presence in the Philippines to assist the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in developing its own capability for territorial defense; to increase bilateral maritime security activities; development of joint-use maritime security support facilities; improved bilateral information sharing; coordinated and integrated maritime security initiatives between U.S. Pacific Command and the AFP.

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Increased U.S. involvement could antagonize China. The senior professor of international studies cautions that increased U.S. military presence in the country could not only “trigger a political backlash from Filipino nationalist and left-wing organizations,” but also corrode Sino-Philippine relations. For instance, some Chinese academics are wary of joint military exercises between the Philippines and the U.S. Shi Yinhong, professor of U.S. studies at Beijing-based Renmin University of China, says the two countries view China as the “imaginary target” judging by the training courses used, in a report from China Daily. “The number of participants and the training content suggest the U.S. intends to deter China in the short term from imposing any possible military threat to the Philippines,” Shi explains, “As for the long-term significance, the regular drill certainly strengthens the strategic military alliance between Washington and Manila to contain Beijing in the South China Sea.” “Generally speaking, the U.S. is closer to those countries that have territorial disputes with China than to China itself,” Shi says in an interview with Global Times, pointing out, at

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the same time, that the U.S. does not wish “to be bogged down into a military conflict with China that hampers broader U.S. national interests.” A 2010 paper of De Castro warns, “Any major or dramatic change in Sino–US relations couldquickly transform the Philippines from an opportunistic and reactive balancer to a pawn or a spoil, or a perpetual weak/buffer state – an unfortunate victim of 21st century big power realpolitik.”

and Filipino interests compromised for the sake of the broader U.S. strategy in Asia. In the end, no amount of material and technical assistance from the U.S. will prepare the Philippines to confront an assertive China, says de Castro. Further,“[t]he development of Filipino defense capabilities for early warning, surveillance, communication, command and control are designed for “joint operations capabilities” in maritime defense and interdiction operations in line with US capabilities throughout the region.” Thus, he says, the capabilities of the Philippines “merely complement the deterrence provided by U.S. forward deployment and its other bilateral alliances in the region.”

Balancing act may topple over without sophisticated diplomacy. So far, the Philippines has done its part in answering to China’s aggression by making bolder pronouncements in staking its Lastly, the U.S. military presence in the Philippines has been territorial claims administration increasing since 2001, says the IBON Foundation and bolstering needs a more IBON Foundation its military careful crafting capabilities. of its statements Time and again, President Aquino has shown on sensitive foreign policy matters to avoid his determination to protect Filipino interest, confusion and, more importantly, to save the which is something to be admired. Nevertheless, country from a premature tussle with China. without the practice of sophisticated diplomacy, In short, the Philippines must not succumb the president’s delicate balancing act could to China’s aggression, but neither should the topple over—leaving ties with China in tatters government court it.

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NEWS ON THE NET World

in Romania,” particularly with moves to reduce the power of the Constitutional Court, an independent institution. Romania, together with Bulgaria, joined the European Union in 2007.

U.S. designates Afghanistan a major ally, creates defense ties

Vote to impeach president adds to turmoil in Romania In a worsening political crisis, the Romanian Parliament voted to impeach President Traian Basescu amid rising international criticism of the government’s apparent attempts to usurp power and subvert the country’s democracy. Prime Minister Victor Ponta and his left-leaning Social Liberal-Union assert that Basescu had violated the constitution and that he acted as a dictator, although powers of a Romanian president are limited compared to that of the prime minister. Critics believe the impeachment is one of the measures Ponta has taken in recent months to consolidate his own rule. The governing coalition has fired speakers of both chambers of Parliamentandreplaced the Ombudsman, who has the power to challenge emergency legislation before the Constitutional Court. Ponta has limited the power of the court and is moving forward with the impeachment. Although the Constitutional Court ruled that Basescu did not violate the Constitution, this decision was nonbinding. The European Commission issued a statement saying it was “concerned about current developments

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The United States named Afghanistan a major non-NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) ally, which would pave a way for the two countries to maintain defense and economic partnerships even as American troops withdraw from Afghanistan. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the designation on her surprise visit to Kabul. With the country’s ally status, Afghanistan is eligible to receive military training and capacity building, as well assistance that includes expediting the sales and leasing of military equipment long after NATO troops leave. The designation is part of an Enduring Strategic Partnership Agreement signed in May by President Barack Obama and his Afghan counterpart, Hamid Karzai. Other nations granted major nonNATO ally status include: Japan, Pakistan, Egypt, Israel, and Australia. But unlike NATO allies, who are bound by a mutual defense pact, there is no mutual defense guarantee for non-NATO allies. Clinton stressed, however, that the U.S. does not intend to abandon Afghanistan after the withdrawal of troops. Last year, President Obama announced a plan for withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan, which would entail the pullout of all the

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33,000 additional U.S. forces he ordered to Afghanistan in 2009.

Libya election: High turnout in historic vote After decades under the rule of Col. Muammar Gaddafi, Libyans are voting their first free election for more than 60 years. Voters are electing a temporary assembly that will be tasked to pick a cabinet and a prime minister. Amid violence and deep regional divisions, overall turnout has been described as high. Elections officials acknowledged that the election was not perfect, but insisted that it was crucial for the elections to push through. In eastern Libya, many are concerned that the oil-rich area will be underrepresented as it was during Gaddafi’s rule. Under the system devised by the outgoing National Transitional Council, which led the campaign against Gaddafi, of the 200 seats, 60 seats will go to eastern Libya, 100 seats to the west, and 40 to the south. Some 2.9 people are eligible to vote for the 3,700 candidates standing for the new General National Congress. Gaddafi and his son Mo'tassim were captured and killed in October 2011. Libyans emerged from 42 years of one-man rule after eight months of bitter civil war won with NATO’s backing.

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Fine-tuning the Aquino Administration’s Approach to ICT Development Can an ICT department rationalize the promotion of information and communications technologies for both public service and economic development? By Pia Rufino

STRATEGY POINTS The Philippines has low adoption of e-government, results from the recent surveys show Aquino administration still needs convincing that a Department of ICT is not an “unnecessary bureaucracy” The Philippines has high mobile usage and penetration, strong and competitive IT-BPO sector and the large, technologysavvy population, but it still has to address points of structural weakness, including low broadband penetration and insufficient skills and training in ICT The government needs to advance in its adoption of information and communication technologies, and to realize that the promotion of such might require a separate governing body

T

he United Nations E-Government Survey 2012, which ranks member states according to the willingness and capacity of the national administrations to use information and communication technologies (ICT) to deliver public services, shows the Philippines backsliding to 88thplace from 78th in 2010. (See upper right table on opposite page) Singapore gets the 10th position in the recent world e-government rankings and the first spot in Southeast Asia, followed by Malaysia (40th) and Brunei (54th).Vietnam (83rd), which has a lower per capita income than the Philippines, comes in fourth, overtaking the Philippines in e-government development in the sub-region. Further, the “2012 Global Information Technology Report” of the World Economic Forum, which offers a global overview of the current state of ICT readiness in the world, shows that the Philippine government is still lagging behind others in Internet absorption and usage for delivery of public services. The report, which surveyed 142 economies in 2010 to 2011, ranks the Philippines 106th — last among Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member countries — in terms of the impact of ICT

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Fine-tuning the Aquino administration’s approach to ICT development 34

in enabling access for all citizens to basic services such as health, education, and financial services. Moreover, the country ranked 103rd, also behind other ASEAN countries, regarding the application of ICT in improving government efficiency. Strategic allocation of e-Gov’t Fund. To boost e-Governance in the Country, Senator Edgardo Angara urged the administration of President Benigno Aquino III in June to allocate the eGovernment fund (EGF) into strategic areas, suggesting that “targeting a few priority areas will bring up the quality of our public service with much more impact rather than scattering the resources all over the place.” EGF is a special account in the yearly budget for government technology projects currently administered by the Information and Communications Technology Office (ICTO) of the Department of Science and Technology Information (DOST) and the Department of Budget and Management. During a recent meeting of the Congressional Oversight Committee on E-commerce, Angara, author of the Data Privacy Act, Cybercrime Prevention Act, and the Department of Information and Communications (DICT) Technology Act, questioned the country’s low adoption of e-government despite P8 billion in allocations from the EGF for around 70 government ICT projects between 2003 and 2012. For this year alone, ₧1 billion was set aside in the national budget for the fund, he said.

E-GOVERNMENT RANKINGS IN SOUTHEAST ASIA, 2010-2012

Country

2012

2010

2012

2010

Singapore

0.8474

0.7476

10

11

Brunei Darussalam

0.6250

0.4796

54

Malaysia

0.6101

40

32 68

0.5217

0.4454

83

90

Thailand

0.5093

0.4653

92

76

Philippines

0.5130

Indonesia

0.4949

Lao People’s Dem. Rep.

0.2935

0.4637

88

0.4026

78

0.2637

97

153

109 151

Cambodia

0.2902

0.2878

155

140

Timor-Leste

0.2365

0.2273

170

162

Myanmar

0.2703

Sub Regional Average

World Average

0.2818

0.4793

0.4250

0.4882

0.4406

160

141

Source: United Nations E-Government Survey 2012, p. 27

IMPACT OF ICT IN IMPROVING GOVERNMENT EFFICIENCY To what extent has the use of information and communication technologies by the government improved the efficiency of the government services in your country? [1=no effect; 7=has generated considerable improvements]

Aquino’s biggest ICT project. During the National ICT Summit last month, a few days after Angara questioned the low e-government adoption in the country, the administration launched its biggest e-government project, the ₧470-million Integrated Government Philippine Project (iGovPhil), which aims to implement

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0.6703

Viet Nam

“With almost a decade’s worth of the EGF, the government should have been able to catch up with the ICT revolution by now,” he said, citing the low rankings of Philippines in the World Economic Forum’s 2012 global IT report.

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World E-government Development Ranking

E-government Development Index

cenSEI Report

RANK

COUNTRY/ ECONOMY

VALUE

1

Sinapore

6.1

10

Malaysia

5.5

67

Vietnam

4.2

69

Indonesia

4.2

71

Thailand

4.2

80

Cambodia

4.1

103

Philippines

3.7 *MEAN 4.2

Source: TCR compilation of data from “2012 Global Information Technology Report,” p.386

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35 interactive, interconnected and interoperable government applications and online services in order to improve public service delivery. The iGovPhil project has three main components-the establishment of a shared services platform from where agencies can deploy their online services; the creation of a common payment gateway for government; and the building of a national records management system, as reported on Interaksyon, the online news portal of TV5. According to Denis Villorente, officer in charge of the National Computer Center and one of the proponents of the project, iGovPhil will address common ICT-related problems in government, such as the lack of infrastructure and manpower, the high cost of technology, the lack of integration among government agencies and the lack of connectivity in rural communities, based on the Interaksyon report. Meanwhile, of the ₧1.816-trillion National Budget for 2012, ₧2.9 billion is allocated for major ICT

governance projects, including ₧978 million for the Government Integrated Financial Management Information System, which was created to provide a more transparent and effective way of monitoring the disbursement and appropriation of public funds. To reduce customs fraud and smuggling and increase revenue collection, the Bureau of Customs gets ₧500 million to fund the OnLine X-ray Imaging System and the Petroleum Inventory System.The Supreme Court’s Enterprise Information Systems Program gets P156 million so all the courts will have the same information on court adjudications, resolutions and transactions. DICT: unnecessary bureaucracy? Without a ICT department, the government is missing out in instituting a systematic discipline in managing large-scale computerization projects or in the overall management of its ICT portfolio across the bureaucracy, says Helen Macasaet, vice-chairman of Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) ICT Committee, in her January

Low internet penetration hampers gov’t online services delivery While President Aquino is committed to using online and social media to connect with Filipinos, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma admits that low Internet penetration in the Philippines is still a major challenge to widespread adoption by government and the general public, according to GMA News online, which quoted Coloma’s speech during the 5th Internet and Mobile Marketing Association Summit in 2011. Nonetheless, the government sees the new media as a strong tool for governance with Filipinos’ heavy adoption of social media, Coloma said, citing statistics from Singapore Management University that showed that 24.1 million Filipinos were Facebook users and 4.01 million were Twitter users as of mid-2011. Tapping into the social media to connect to citizens, Palace launched its official website, www.gov.ph, where laws and Supreme Court decisions and Presidential issuances are uploaded, among others. The Palace also launched its official Twitter account to enable the citizens to interact with the government. To date, the government twitter has over 77,450 followers. The palace likewise has a Facebook page, Youtube channel, and accounts on the blog hosting platform Tumblr and social news website Digg.

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Still, a majority of the Philippines population cannot access government websites, given that internet penetration remains low, at 29.2%. Data as of December 31, 2011 from Internet World Stats put the number of local Internet users at 29.7 million, placing the Philippines 7th among Asia’s top Internet countries. Akamai, a US-based software developer company, in its State of the Internet report for the fourth quarter of 2011, which was released in April, said the Philippines lags behind a selection of Asian countries in terms of Internet speeds in Asia, with an average speed of 1.1 Mbps (only India had a slower average Internet connection speed, at 0.9 Mbps). This falls below Akamai’s definition of broadband connection speeds, which is above 2 Mbps, Interaksyon reported in May. “In the country, only a privileged few — specifically 7.1 percent — enjoy Internet surfing speeds that can truly be considered broadband. Similarly, households with “high broadband connectivity” — or those with speeds exceeding 5 Mbps–only comprise less than 150,000 users of the entire Philippine Internet population,” based on the Akamai study as cited by Interaksyon.

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column in Business World. MAP is an organization composed of high-ranking executivesfrom the largest local and multinational companies, top management educators and government officials in the country. “The DICT can be expected to turn around, halt or terminate those ICT projects that do not deliver results for the Filipino people. It can improve on those ICT solutions that work and give value to our tax money. It is accountable in ensuring that ICT projects are delivered on time and on budget as it works with its various value stream owners in the government. It can scale specialized ICT acquisition best practices. It can hasten the speed whenever interventions are required in ICT project executions,” she further said. The measure to create a DICT is at least a dozen years in the making. During her first State of the Nation Address in 2001, then-President Gloria Arroyo asked the Congress to enact laws to create a department of telecommunications and information technology.

It seems like it will finally happen. In February 28, the Senate approved on third and final reading a bill seeking to establish the DICT, a primary administrative entity that will focus on the growth and development of the ICT sector in the country. Under the Senate Bill No. 50, also known as the Department of Information and Communications Technology Act of 2010, all communicationsrelated agencies under the Department of Transportation and Communications as well as the National Computer Center, Telecommunications Office and the ICTO under the DOST, will be transferred to the DICT. The bill has been passed in both houses of Congress, and will undergo bicameral review before it is sent to Aquino for signing, Angara said in an official statement. The Philippines lags behind ASEAN nations such as Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam in terms of having Ministries or Departments of ICT and in league with Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia, which do not have a separate agency focused on ICT development, based on the press release.

TOP 10 ONLINE POPULATION IN ASIA

In terms of the impact that broadband has oneconomies, the World Bank says in its 2010 study titled “Building broadband: Strategies and policies for the developing world,” that every 10% increase in broadband penetration in low- and middle-income countries boosts Gross Domestic Product by an average of 1.3%. To expand connectivity in the country, the Information and Communications Technology Office (ICTO) under the Department of Science and Technology launched the TV White Space (TVWS) initiative last month, which aims to tap unused frequencies between TV channels to deliver broadband to underserved communities, according to a report on the Interaksyon website in June. The government said TVWS signals can be used for its environmental sensor networks, telemedicine, educational content delivery and Government Information Systems, according to the report.

China India Japan Indonesia Korea, South

ICTO executive director Louis Casambre said: “For the first time ever, I think we finally have a solution to address the issue that a significant percentage of our population cannot reap the benefits of Internet connectivity because of the unavailability of infrastructure.”

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Vietnam Philippines Pakistan Thailand Malaysia 0

50 100 150 200 250 300 350 400 450 500 550 600

Source: Internet World Stats, Usage and Population Statistics

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Fine-tuning the Aquino administration’s approach to ICT development

However, the Palace still needs to be convinced of the importance of the DICT, Taguig Representative Sigfrido Tinga, the proponent of the bill to create DICT in the House of Representatives, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in June. He further said that DICT is “not a priority for the executive (department)” and that the Palace “still looks at the DICT as an unnecessary bureaucracy.”

The CICT appointed a new commissioner and just unveiled the Philippine Digital Strategy (PDS) 2011-2016, “Transformation 2.0: Digitally Empowered Nation,” days before its demotion. DOST Secretary Mario Montejo adopted the ICT master plan created by the CICT, GMA News online reported shortly after the commission’s demotion.

Tinga revealed that the bicameral conference that would consolidate the House and Senate versions of the legislation was postponed indefinitely at the Palace’s request until all issues such as “budgetary” and manpower concerns are addressed.

The Philippine Digital Strategy has the following strategic thrusts: transparent government and efficient services, Internet opportunities for all people, digital literacy for all, and ICT industry and business innovation for national development.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma reiterated last year that the Aquino administration is not keen on the formation of a new department because of the additional costs involved, based on a 2010 report from GMA News. Even during the presidential campaigns, Aquino rejected the proposed creation of DICT, saying that an office to manage ICT would be more of a “support mechanism,” as opposed to other line agencies. Aquino abolished CICT. During National ICT Month in June 2011, President Aquino dissolved the Commission on ICT (CICT), the government’s primary policy-making and implementing arm in the promotion and development of ICT systems and made it a mere ICT office under the DOST, through the Executive Order(EO) no. 47. The CICT was created by Arroyo in 2004 under EO 269. Angara called the downgrade of the CICT an “ironic move that sends the wrong signal to the (IT-Business Process Outsourcing) industry about how much -- or little -- we prioritize ICT,” he said, describing IT-BPO as a “sunshine industry” with huge potential for investment and job generation. “It deserves no less than a cabinet portfolio,” based on an Inquirer report.

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Likewise, the PDS highlights the strengths of the country in terms of ICT development. Specific areas of significant growth in the country includeshigh ownership and usage of mobile phones at over 100% penetration rate, the strong and competitive IT and BPO sector, the e-Government Fund to fund inter-agency ICT, and a large English-speaking, technologysavvy population. Nevertheless, there are also various areas of weakness: low broadband penetration and limited service provision throughout the country, insufficient ICT training and skills, drop in e-government rankings, along with a lack of coordinated cross-department e-government services, a lack of high-level ICT leaders in government, and a lack of standards regarding interoperability and ICT resource sharing. “Our country has to resolve a number of weak spots to make full use of its strengths in exploiting opportunities that are arising on the horizon. It requires a determined leadership, coordinated effort and work across government departments, industry, academe, civil society and the people,” the report suggests.

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NEWS ON THE NET Technology

the left or right. Imagining moving his legs made the robot walk forward,” according to the New Scientist article (registration required) that broke the news, as quoted by web magazine Gizmodo.

A volunteer in Israel uses his mind to control a robot in France in this landmark experiment by researchers from the Virtual Embodiment and Robotic Reembodiment (VERE) group New Scientist

Scientists control robot with thoughts. Hello, Avatar? You’ve probably heard of mindcontrolled prosthetics from the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, but a group of scientists have taken the braincomputer link to the next level by using the brain signals of a volunteer located in Israel to control a robot in France. Researchers from the Virtual Embodiment and Robotic Reembodiment (VERE) group used fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) scans of the volunteer’s brain activity and transmitted the data via the Internet to remotely control the small robot at the Béziers Technology Institute in France. “The set-up allowed [the participant] to control the robot in near real time with his thoughts, while a camera on the robot's head allowed him to see from the robot's perspective. When he thought of moving his left or right hand, the robot moved 30 degrees to

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The researchers plan to use bigger, more life-like robots in future trials. According to them, the technology has many beneficial implications for people suffering from paralysis, reports Endgadget.

Study: To get noticed, place ads on left side, above fold According to a study that uses eyetracking technology called Real CPM to study banner ads, advertisements placed on the left side above the fold receive the most attention. Also, adding pictures of faces increases the chances of the ad being noticed.

According to online eye-tracking service provider EyeTrackShop, the ads that get noticed the most are those placed on the left, above the fold. Photos of faces also grab viewers’ attention Mashable EyeTrackShop, an online eye-tracking service, recruited test subjects from global online panels and websites and

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used the webcams in the subjects’ computers to determine where they looked, how much time they spent looking at an ad, and how long before they noticed the ad. EyeTrackShop’s clients include such big names as Google, Clorox, Procter & Gamble, and Snapfish by Hewlett Packard.

Popular smartphones and what users hate most about them FixYa, a kind of online tech support community, has released “The FixYa Smartphone Report,” a compendium of the most common problems that users of the most popular smartphones complain about. The report also provides fixes to the problems mentioned. The phones reviewed were the Samsung Galaxy SIII, the iPhone 4s, the Nokia Lumia 900, the HTC Titan II, the Galaxy Nexus, and the Blackberry Curve. Samsung Galaxy SIII and Galaxy Nexus users’ biggest issue was microphone malfunction, majority of iPhone users reported problems with battery life, Lumia and Titan users had screen-related concerns, while most Blackberry Curve users complained about random reboots. According to ABI Research, Apple and Samsung cornered 50% of the global smartphone market (based on shipments) and more than 90% of the market’s profits in the first quarter of 2012.

• July 9-15, 2012

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HEALTH/LIFESTYLE

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Looking for a National Policy on Population and Development If and when it is enacted, the Reproductive Health bill will give women and couples access to needed information on maternal health care and family planning

By Jerome C. Balinton

The divisive bill (HB No. 4244) on “Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health, and Population, and Development,” or the RH bill for short, has been a subject of much public discussion in various forums, from news networks to social networks.

Access to information on sexuality and reproductive health services will help women, especially the marginalized, to make informed decisions to protect both their health and the health of their newborns

The RH bill was among 13 priority measures presented by President Benigno Aquino III in August 2011 for inclusion in his administration’s legislative agenda. Despite strong opposition and criticism from the influential Catholic Church and other conservative groups, Aquino remains firm on his stand to pass the RH bill. He believes that legislation is needed to prevent tragedies such as the case of a 16-year old mother, who just delivered her second child, whom he met at the Baseco medical facility in Manila last year, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported.

Amid an increasing trend in the incidence of premarital sex and a low percentage of protected first-sex encounters, sex education for teenagers and young mothers would help curb teenage pregnancies and promote maternal and child health

Challenges hampering full human and economic development -- maternal mortality, population management, and poverty alleviation -- are challenges that the Philippine government cannot address effectively without coherent national policies on these matters.

STRATEGY POINTS

A national policy on population and development plus government-funded information and resource programs are necessary complements to sound economic policy and poverty-reduction efforts

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Considering the main thrust of the bill, which is to “enable couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children and to have the information and means to carry out their decisions,” and

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Looking for a national policy on population and development

considering that just about all the logical and emotional arguments and counter-arguments have been presented, The CenSEI Report hopes to offer statistics to provide a context in which the RH bill can be considered. The succeeding data aim to establish that teen pregnancy and maternal mortality are growing problems, and that, even without considering causation, a fast-growing population and poverty are nonetheless intertwined. Premarital sex and teen pregnancies. Statistics might be faceless numbers, but they can still provide a picture of the situation faced by Filipinos, especially the marginalized. In fact, statistics can give guidance to both legislators and humanitarian organizations in their attempts to respond to social and economic challenges. The 2008 Philippine Population and Reproductive Health Analysis, published in 2009 by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), shows that young people aged 1524 account for 18.2%, nearly one-fifth of the national population (with population of the country reported in 2008 is 88.55 million). Out of this, there was an increasing proportion

40

of youth who have engaged in premarital sex, from 18% in 1994 to 23% in 2002. According to the analysis, only 21% of first-sex encounters are protected, with withdrawal and condoms the most commonly used methods. Teenage pregnancies, the analysis added, account for 17% of induced abortions. Data used in the UNFPA’s analysis were gathered by the joint effort of the University of the Philippines Population Institute and the Demographic Research and Development Foundation. In an interview with Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), Jacqueline Kitong, reproductive health adviser in the Philippines for United Nations Population Fund, said that the lack of services and information about adolescent reproductive health are fuelling the rise of teen pregnancies and hurting child survival rates. On the other hand, the Millennium Development Goal 2012 Report linked early childbearing to lower education attainment and poverty. Teen pregnancy and child mortality. Kitong said teenage pregnancy is becoming a great problem in the Philippines. Young

Pobability of dying by age 5 per 1000 live births

MORTALITY IN CHILDREN UNDER 5, BY WHO REGION AND INCOME GROUP 1990 – 2009 200 180 160 140 120 100 80 60 40 20 0

1990 2009 Global,1990 Global, 2009

AFR

AMR

SEAR

EUR

EMR

WPR

Low income

Lower middle income

Upper middle income

High income

Source: World Health Statistics 2011, World Health Organization, p. 13

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41 mothers are unable to give quality care to their babies, so these babies are at higher risk to become sick and/or malnourished. Meanwhile, the MDG 2012 Report shows that very early childbearing brings with it heightened health risk for mothers and their infants. According to the World Health Organization’s World Health Statistics 2011, 40% of all deaths under the age of 5 are in the neo-natal period. The report noted, however, that while the total number of deaths of children below 5 years old fell from 12.4 million in 1990 to 8.1 million in 2009 -- from 89 per 1000 live births to 60 per 1000 live births -99% of all under-5 deaths occur in developing countries. About three-quarters of all child deaths happen in WHO regions Africa and Southeast Asia, where childhood mortality continues to be very high. Three-quarters of all child deaths are mainly due to preventable causes: neonatal conditions, pneumonia, diarrhea, malaria, and measles. The importance of sexuality education. The United Nations Population Fund discusses measures for facing the challenges

of teen pregnancy and its effects in the State of the World Population 2011. No access to comprehensive sexuality education and sexual and reproductive health services leaves young people, especially young girls, vulnerable to daunting reproductive and sexual health problems. Sexuality education is seen to help promote health and help prevent sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies among young people, according to UNFPA Technical Division deputy director Mona Kaidbey. “It is a fact that most young people do not have access to appropriate information about sexuality and do not know how to protect themselves from sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, or unintended pregnancy,” Kaidbey said. She also emphasized in the State of the World Population 2011 that policymaker and community leaders often avoid promoting sexuality education because they do not want to provoke controversy. One provision in the RH bill that troubles schoolteachers, the parents, and the public in

Sex education for women can decrease number of abortions Economics professor, TV commentator, and newspaper columnist Winnie Monsod argued in her show “Bawal ang Pasaway kay Mareng Winnie” aired April 11 on GMA NewsTV that sex education for women is one urgent solution to the growing number of abortions in the country. To conclude the argument raised by Monsod, the biggest problem of mostly poor women and children who died in abortion-related causes was having no access to information about family planning, whether natural or artificial. According to her, those who oppose the RH bill oppose sex education and access to information of planning because this would exacerbate sexual promiscuity. She counters that if women are given the information and the means to how many children they want, if vital information on reproductive health is made available to them, then the number of abortions will decrease.

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Source: “Bawal ang Pasaway kay Mareng Winnie” GMA News TV

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general is the inclusion of sexuality education in the school curriculum. In a nod to that concern, the Aquino administration’s revised provisions would set the appropriate age for teaching sex education to children at 11 years old, or when the child is in Grade 6 or in high school, per a Manila Times report.

government’s performance in improving the health of its citizens. According to Ona, poor delivery of health services for the poor was one of the main causes of death. He noted that maternal mortality is preventable if the women have access to sufficient reproductive health care services.

Kaidbey noted that while sex education is being programmed in the school curricula, it is also important to develop programs for young people who are not in school, including young married women, migrants, or youth living in the conflict areas, or those in remote regions.

According to WHO’s Trends in Maternal Mortality 1990-2010 report, the number of women dying in pregnancy and childbirth globally has fallen from 543,000 in 1990 to 287,000 in 2010, a 47% drop. Nonetheless, the situation remains alarming because women, especially those in developing countries, still face a high risk of dying if they are not given education on sex and reproductive health, and information on and access to natural or artificial family planning methods.

Maternal mortality in the Philippines. In a June Philippine Daily Inquirer report, Health Secretary Enrique Ona said that mortality rate for Filipino mothers has increased to 221 per 100,000 live births in 2011 from 162 per 100,000 live births in 2009. Under MDG 5, the Philippines must lower the maternal mortality rate to 52 per 100,000 live births by 2015. Ona described the latest statistics as “alarming,” noting the maternal health is an important indicator of the

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Causes of maternal mortality. The WHO describes maternal death as the “death of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy, irrespective of the duration and site of the pregnancy, from any cause related to or aggravated

MOST COMMON CAUSES OF MATERNAL MORTALITY IN DEVELOPING REGIONS, 1997 - 2007 Causes of maternal deaths in developing regions (1997-2007) 40 35

35

30 25 20

18

15 10

8

5 0

1

Embolism

Sepsis

18

11

9

Abortion/Miscarriage Direct causes

Indirect causes

Hypertension

Hemorrhage

Source: “Where Do We Stand?” chart, United Nations Development Programme

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by the pregnancy or its management but not from accidental or incidental causes.” According to the UNDP, the most common causes of maternal mortality in developing regions are hemorrhage, indirect causes, hypertension, direct causes, abortion or miscarriage, sepsis, and embolism.

Rapid population growth and high fertility rates, especially among the poor, exacerbate poverty

of public debate, especially now that the RH bill is on the priority-legislation track. The Catholic Church maintains its position that the main cause of poverty in the Philippines is corruption; proponents of the RH bill maintain that the main cause of poverty is the country’s rapid population growth.

In a 2004 discussion paper, “Population and Poverty: The Real Score,” published by professors of the University of the Philippines’ School of Economics, the authors argue that poverty

Meanwhile, in the Philippines, 732 died of complications related to pregnancy occurring in the course of labor, delivery and puerperium (the time immediately after the delivery of a baby), 565 died of hypertension complicating pregnancy, childbirth and puerperium, 261 of postpartum hemorrhage and 163 pregnancies led to abortive outcome, based on the 2006 DOH figures on maternal mortality. The complicated link between poverty and population. Poverty and population are intergeneration development challenges. Its extreme impact vis-à-vis is the highlight

is a complex phenomenon, and many factors are responsible for it. Rapid population growth alone cannot explain poverty and that bad governance, high wealth and income inequality and weak economic growth are the main causes of poverty. But the economists stressed that rapid population growth and high fertility rates, especially among the poor, exacerbate poverty. It was also raised by the UP economists that an “overwhelming” majority of Filipinos have affirmed the importance of the ability to plan

MAIN CAUSES OF MATERNAL MORTALITY IN THE PHILIPPINES, 2006 Number, Rate/1000 Livebirths & Percent Distribution Philippines, 2006 Cause

Number

Rate

Percent*

1,721

1.0

100.0

1. Complication related to pregnancy occuring in the course of labor, delivery and puerperium

732

0.4

42.5

2. Hypertension complicating pregnancy, childbirth and puerperium

565

0.3

32.8

3. Pregnancy with abortive outcome

261

0.2

15.2

4. Hemorrhage in early pregnancy

163

0.1

9.5

5. Hemorrhage in early pregnancy

0

0

-

Total

*Percent share to total number of maternal deaths Source: Department of Health, 2006

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‘Population momentum’ to overcome declining growth rates On this note, the United Nations’ Population Fund’s Situation of the Philippine Population and Reproductive Health Analysis 2008 indicates that although the population growth rate in the Philippines declined from 2.36% in 1990-2000 to 2.04% in 2000-2007, population momentum will still add substantially to the population in the coming decades. The paper defines population momentum as the “tendency for population growth to continue after replacement level fertility (2.1 births per woman) has been achieved due to high proportion of the population in the childbearing ages, which in turn is due to past high fertility.” In 1998, Herrin and Costelo, writing in the Journal of Philippine Development, said the population momentum would be the biggest source of the country’s future population growth, accounting for 65.1% of the expected increase in the population between 1995 and 2020 (the other sources of growth being unwanted fertility (16.1%) and wanted fertility (18.9%). The UNFPA analysis also raised the expectation of experts the effects of population momentum will persist for another 60 years beyond 2040 (the estimated time replacement level fertility will be attained) before the population ceases to grow. (By then the population of the country would be 240 million, according to the aforementioned 2004 study of the UP School of Economics’ professors.)

one’s family or control one’s fertility, as they believe that rapid population growth impedes the country’s development. It was also raised in the paper that empirical studies show that poverty incidence is higher among big families. In a more recent (Feb. 2011) UP School of Economics discussion paper on “Population, Poverty, Politics and the Reproductive Health Bill,” professors Pernia et al. cite experiences from across Asia in saying that population policy cum governmentfunded family planning are critical complements to sound economic policy and poverty reduction. The economists noted that family size is closely associated with poverty incidence. Poor families are heavily burdened when they end up with more children than they originally desired. According to the paper, latest official data show that poverty incidence is less than 4.3% for a family

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The

with one child; but it rises as the number of children grows, to 52.3% for a family with nine or more children. The policy brief of the Senate of the Philippines on RH bill states smaller families and wider birth intervals allow families to invest more in each child’s education, health, nutrition, and eventually reduce poverty and hunger at the household level. RH bill and political will. Is the political power of Pres. Aquino powerful enough to compel members of the Senate and the House of Representatives to pass the RH bill now that the May 2013 elections are coming?

cenSEI Report

Given its designation as a legislative priority of this administration, what is keeping Congress from passing the RH bill? In a nutshell, while its enactment as national policy and law might also be seen

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Looking for a national policy on population and development

as a big step forward in promoting familysize management for couples and improving maternal health care for women, the passage of an RH bill could be a risky step in legislators’ political careers. Several reasons are holding back lawmakers in passing the RH bill. These are mainly due to the massive efforts of the Catholic Church. For instance, it has waved a massive campaign against the RH bill and its proponents. The said campaign includes the mobilization of parish priests to inveigh against the bill in their sermons, as well as threats to work for the ouster of members of Congress voting for the bill.

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It is inevitable to think that members of both Houses are scared of losing what is called the “Catholic vote,” even though some people say such a bloc does not actually exist. In the end, elected lawmakers should fulfill their mandate to address the nation’s critical challenges through relevant legislation. If the members of Congress have the earnest intention to serve the Filipino nation, they should pass the RH bill, in keeping with the wish of the president, or, at the very least, engage in an honest discussion of what needs to be done to handle population growth that the country has not managed very well to date.

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NEWS ON THE NET Health/Lifestyle

Diabetes drug found to be brain booster The popular diabetes drug metformin may spur growth of new brain cells, which could also benefit people with Alzheimer's disease, a new Canadian study on mice suggests. The study reported by Cell Press publication Cell Stem Cell this month, also finds that those neural effects of the drug also make mice smarter. The discovery is an important step toward therapies that aim to repair the brain not by introducing new stem cells but rather by spurring those that are already present into action, said study researcher Freda Miller, a stem cell biologist and molecular geneticist at the Hospital for Sick Children Research Institute in Toronto. She adds that metformin may improve Alzheimer's symptoms by enhancing brain repair. The researchers hope to test whether the drug might also help in repairing injured brains, said Miller.

Parents are less likely to catch a cold, study shows Parents are 52% less likely to develop the common cold compared with nonparents, a US research from Carnegie Mellon University in the United States found. In the studypublished in behavioral medicine journal Psychosomatic Medicine, researchers examined 785 healthy adults between the ages of 18 and 55 and exposed them through nose drops to a virus that causes the common cold. The researchers found that when exposed to the virus, parents were 52% less likely to develop the common cold

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compared to those without children. Specifically, having one or two children was tied to a 48% reduced risk of getting sick, while having three or more children made parents 61% less likely to catch a cold.

in the Philippines are not yet recommending a travel advisory to Cambodia, GMA News online reported. Health Secretary Enrique Ona said the Bureau of Quarantine will be more alert in watching for symptoms of the disease among incoming travelers. Meanwhile, Malacañang said Philippine health officials are closely monitoring developments about the illness.

Hitting children increases their risk of mental illness Mystery disease kills children in Cambodia Fifty-six children have already died of an undiagnosed disease since April in Cambodia, according to World Health Organization (WHO). The symptoms observed are high fever, followed by respiratory and neurological symptoms with rapid deterioration of respiratory functions. Majority of the identified cases were children under 3 years old, from southern and central parts of the country, and who received treatment at children’s hospital in Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital and its largest city. Many of the children also died within 24 hours of admission.WHO is working with the Health Ministry of Cambodia and other partners to investigate the outbreak and identify the cause of the illness. Amid fears about the unknown disease, Health authorities

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Adults who were hit or spanked during childhood are more likely to be diagnosed with mental illness, a US study revealed. Findings from the study “Physical Punishment and Mental Disorders: Results From a Nationally Representative US Sample” by the American Academy of Pediatrics, show that harsh physical punishment increases the risk of mental disorders — even if the punishment is not at the level of actual abuse. Based on the study that analyzed more than 20,000 people, those who experienced physical punishment were more likely to experience nearly every type of mental illness examined. Their risk of mood disorders, including depression and mania, was 1.5 times greater than people who hadn’t been slapped or grabbed. The risk of depression alone was 1.4 times greater, which was the same rate for anxiety. People who’d been physically punished were 1.6 times more likely to abuse alcohol, and 1.5 times more likely to abuse drugs.

• July 9-15, 2012

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TCR Volume 2 Issue No 27  

July 9 - 15, 2012

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