Read 313 times | Posted on July 24, 2013 @ 5 years ago
BY: JESSE BACON II
THE concept behind the Internal Revenue Allotment or IRA is to plow back substantial portion of the revenue raised by the national government from every locality in the country to help accelerate the economic development of the locality where such revenue was levied.
Those localities with vibrant economies expectedly receive much higher IRA compared to localities with stagnant economies. On the surface, this policy is thus unjust for it’ll make the poor localities only poorer.
How can a locality with less economic activity on account of their lack of natural or mineral resources accelerate its growth when their IRA is low? There are, however, other remedies to localities under such situation based on existing policies.
The problem is that since most of these poor localities that belong to fifth class status based on their actual gross annual revenue they do not attract migrants making their voting population not that big to merit the attention of vote conscious national, congressional and even provincial officials.
The abhorred congressional pork barrel is one of the funds that could have spelled a difference to these financially ailing localities. Unfortunately, even the congressmen are reluctant to pour a substantial amount of their pork barrel on them on account of this poor municipality’s inability to heavily contribute in terms of votes for their electoral bids.
Congressmen normally allocate pittance amount from their pork barrel to small municipalities thus adding to their impoverishment. The pork barrel if not used for reelection purposes by the incumbents could have been the great equalizer in situations like this.
As far as the congressional and provincial officials are concerned, they will only give to those who can in return give them the votes they would need during election time. Congressional or provincial funds are always used irrationally. They are expended not to bring about development in localities where development is absent.
If the pork barrel system can’t be abolished as articulated by House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. himself, then its disbursement should be rationalized. Its current irrational disbursement should be put to an end. It should be used solely for the purpose of helping those localities with less income instead of the rich ones.
Even the identification by the provincial government of the projects to be funded by its own funds should likewise be rationalized if we truly want to heed the call for an inclusive growth.
Achieving inclusive growth should start with the way public funds are allocated and disbursed. There are a lot of public funds that if spent properly and rationally could bring about real growth that is felt by everyone. Such fund is the pork barrel of congressmen and senators and that of the provincial governments.
Projects that do not bring about economic or even social development to a locality such as multi-million pesos pedestrian overpasses should be frowned at. The people in localities where this type of projects are proposed to be constructed should actively campaign against such project.
It is just like having a beautiful house but with the owner hardly able to eat three square meals a day. Or it could be likened to residents of shantytowns having oversized televisions but could hardly have food on the table.
Do the people realize that most of the projects pursued by their congressmen are projects that assure them of kickbacks? Why would a congressman, for examples, insist on constructing waiting sheds, pedestrian overpasses, to name just two, when the need of the locality where these are proposed to be constructed is to have jobs for the jobless?
Things like this should be realized by the people so that they can put pressure on their congressmen or provincial officials to behave and not misbehave especially in the exercise of their prerogative where and what projects to fund with the people’s money.
Abuse by elective public officials is basically attributable to the apathy of the populace. If abusive presidents could be brought down from power through the people’s collective pressure such as what happened in Egypt and Libya, there is no reason why we can’t force our elective officials from misbehaving.
All we need is a collective cry for change for if they won’t they are assured of being shipped out from the elective positions they are occupying now that are just entrusted to them by the people.
What we lack is that ability to think as one when the welfare of the people is at stake. Apathy makes us vulnerable to being divided is what emboldens elective officials to be abusive.
Indeed, the life of the bird, to paraphrase that popular adage about a sage and a young man who wanted to test the former’s brilliance, is truly in our hands.
(Reactions at [email protected] or at [email protected] This can also be read at www.raconteurme.blogspot.com)
The fourth Sona
Read 326 times | Posted on July 23, 2013 @ 5 years ago
BY: JESSE BACON II
Until now, I am still very thankful that we have a President who is not embroiled in any corruption charges and as a bachelor does not have a spouse who could have behaved like Imelda during Marcos’ time or Big Mike during Gloria’s watch.
In fact, I’d dare say here without fear of contradiction that President Aquino’s being a bachelor contributed greatly to his ability of having his nose above the murky waters of corruption where his immediate predecessor drowned herself in.
It was in this spirit that I glued myself on the sofa Monday afternoon to listen to Aquino’s fourth State of the Nation Address, a duty imposed on him by the Constitution so he can make an accounting to his boss of what is happening to the country and where we are going.
He made good in making an accounting of the state of the nation for the last 12 months. But sadly he failed miserably in laying down a clear blueprint or roadmap where he wants to steer the nation to in the next 12 months. This failure left so many of his bosses dismayed.
An ideal Sona should discuss the successes and failures of the past year and lays down clear and doable strategies at how to correct past failures, replicate past successes and where we intend to be and how we can reach there and how we achieve them. The one hour and forty minutes Sona of Aquino Monday afternoon just talked about the successes and just touched in passing the failures and totally evaded any discussion of what to do in the future.
Was this deliberate? I don’t know. But his failure left the people in a quandary how they can positively heed his call for them to rally behind his leadership. While it is true that leadership is about leading the people in their journey, Aquio seems fuzzy about what this journey is all about and where it is headed.
But Aquino’s failure to discern and comprehend the nuances of this journey is not his alone. His predecessors, including his late mother, had consciously or unconsciously evaded doing what a leader like them ought to have done. I said consciously or unconsciously because I don’t want to pass judgment on them for it is between them and their consciences.
In any race or nation that journey is the journey of the mass of the people toward fullness and abundance of life. The minority who are very rich do not need this journey for they are already swimming in abundance with their stomachs and bank accounts bursting in fullness. This is the naked truth about this journey.
But like the Egyptian masters of the Israelite slaves in the biblical times, the minority who are literally swimming in abundance with their stomachs and bank accounts bursting in fullness do not want to let go of the masses so they can undertake their journey toward fullness and abundance of life. This journey is anathema to greed, the biggest single factor that makes the rich richer and the poor poorer.
If the poor are not made poorer logically the rich will not become richer. So for the rich to become richer, they need to make the poor poorer. Sadly this is the reason why the economic growth the country is undeniably experiencing now that Aquino bragged about in his Sona could not trickle down to the masses, why it could not be inclusive.
That economic growth is propelled by greed and thus its fruits will just be confined among the greedy few. This was clearly pointed out by the country director of the World Bank here, Konishi Motoo, when he declared that 78 percent of the experienced economic growth was confined in the hands of 41 families only. If Aquino truly wants to make the gains of economic growth inclusive then he should start transforming greed into selflessness.
In this regard, what he can do is simply plant the seeds of this transformation effort hoping that the presidents who will succeed him will commit themselves to water the seed of transformation for it to flourish and fully grow three generations from now which is the normal gestation period of transformation. But if the succeeding presidents will not take care of the seeds of transformation, which is what Aquino could only do during his term, transformation of self and society will remain just a dream, an elusive dreamA.
Aquino’s failure to lay down a clear road map of the people’s journey under his leadership manifests two things. He does not want to undertake this journey because it means going against the current where greed that is making the poor in this country poorer and the rich richer is the social norm or he does not really understood what is this journey all about.
Charter needs no fixing
Read 396 times | Posted on July 16, 2013 @ 6 years ago
BY: JESSE BACON II
WHY fix if it ain’t broke?
This is the question raised by the overwhelming majority of the populace over the insignificant minority’s desire to mangle the Constitution by having it amended either through constituent assembly, the process where the Philippine Congress – Senate and House of Representatives – convenes itself as a body to propose amendments to the Constitution or constitutional convention where delegates are elected representing the congressional districts for the purpose of proposing amendments to the Constitution.
While the overwhelming majority of the populace does not see any need to amend the Constitution, the insignificant minority sees such need. Who comprises this insignificant minority? They are at the moment primarily composed of congressmen fronting for foreign big business capitalists and the local big business capitalists partnering with these giant foreign business capitalists.
In fact, the faces of these local big business capitalists partnering with foreign giant business capitalists like former Finance Secretary Roberto de Ocampo and the other guys in the Makati Business Club immediately waltzed with the proponents of this economic and political misadventure of the congressmen. Cagayan de Oro City’s Rufus Rodriguez and his party-list congressman brother, whose name I could not remember, are trying to carve a name for themselves by joining in this infamy.
The Rodriguez brothers are not content with the proposal of House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. that the amendments be limited to the economic provisions of the Constitution. They want certain political provisions to be amended too. In all likelihood, these political provisions they wanted amended also include the provision limiting term limits. This is the provision that incumbent elective officials want to go away with.
Understandably, congressmen like Rodriguez and his brother would like to stay as congressmen forever. Who would not want? Just consider the current expose at how congressional pork barrel funds euphemistically called as priority development assistance fund had been misappropriated so that kickbacks are lined up in the congressmen’s pockets. Who would not want an average kickback of 50 percent of the congressmen’s individual P70 million annual pork barrel allocation? That’s a cool P35 million kickback annually tax free at that, my dear readers.
There are congressmen who do not only want the rain of “blessings” in the form of kickback to stop pouring. They also want to continue fronting or lawyering for local or foreign big business capitalists for other “blessings” to not stop pouring. This type of congressmen is the one aching to amend the economic provisions of the Constitution limiting the involvement of their principal masters in certain business undertakings in our country.
There are other economic provisions in the Constitution also that limit or even prohibit real estate ownership by foreign business capitalists in this country. The fronts and lawyers of these foreign big business capitalists masquerading as congressmen want to get rid with these provisions also for they do not favor their masters.
They can’t afford not to please their big foreign business capitalist masters hence their inconceivable treasonous act of selling the country to them whose hands feed their insatiable greed for power, fame and wealth.
In effect, the proposed amendments to the economic provisions of the Constitution will give big foreign business capitalists equal rights with natural born Filipino citizens in regard land ownership, exploitation of our natural and mineral resources, ownership of business enterprises such as media and academic institutions, among others.
If human behavior generally resents any move by biological fathers at equally distributing his wealth and assets to both his legitimate and illegitimate children, why are our leaders, congressmen, economic and financial technocrats in government are pushing for an equal rights in enjoying God’s bounty intended for citizens of this country to non-citizens of this country? Why are they doing their best to negate this normal human behavior by giving equal rights to foreigners to the detriment of the locals? This is indeed incomprehensible.
Be that as it may, as citizens of this country we ought to expose and oppose moves by congressmen and their counterparts in the Executive branch at mangling the Constitution to suit their personal interests and to promote the interest of big foreign capitalist masters. If selling the country to big foreign big business capitalists to the detriment of the Filipino people is not treason, I don’t know what else constitutes treason.
Endless peace talks
Read 426 times | Posted on July 11, 2013 @ 6 years ago
BY: JESSE BACON II
Everyone lauded when a peace agreement was finally inked by the Philippine government with the secessionist Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). Everyone’s hope then was for peace to finally reign in troubled Mindanao only to witness the emergence of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) as the newest armed group seeking independence from the country.
But now that the government is about to enter into a peace agreement with the MILF, and even before the peace documents could be signed by both parties, another armed group is emerging, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), vowing to continue the fight abandoned by their predecessors.
Given this latest development, can the people of Mindanao, Christians and Muslims alike, ever hope for peace to finally reign in their war-torn island? Is there any assurance that once the government and the MILF signs a peace accord, no armed group will ever sprout again sowing fear and cause trouble in Mindanao?
From where I sit, I am not so sure if such an assurance becomes the causal result of a peace agreement with the MILF based on the previous experience with the MINLF. Highly politicized group can easily arm themselves and pick up the fight from where the MNLF and the MILF had left.
This scenario is really not farfetched considering the culture of our Muslim compatriots for guns. Besides, the underlying issues of the armed conflict in Mindanao are so complex that it cannot be addressed through the simple expedience of granting them certain degree of autonomy.
Unless there is a common understanding among our Muslim brothers that their embrace of the Islam religion does not in any way diminish their being Filipinos, any agreement conveniently disregarding this basic truth is doomed. As I view it, a sizable number of our Muslim compatriots in Mindanao seem so sold to the thought that their being Muslims stripped them of their being Filipinos.
But the propagation of this thought in reality was not brought about by their religious belief but by years of neglect by their leaders. Muslim Mindanao, that part of the island heavily populated by Filipinos who embraced the Muslim religion, is undeniably so underdeveloped.
This underdevelopment, however, is not totally the fault of the government in Manila. Manila can never be accused of not pouring resources for the development of Muslim Mindanao. It is just unfortunate that most of the funds poured in the area found its way into the pockets of some Muslim leaders. What happened in Maguindanao is classic example.
The notion that Muslim Mindanao over the years had been abandoned was unfortunately instilled in the minds especially of the young Muslims. They grew up thinking that the government in Manila has been unjust and unfair
to Muslim Mindanao because some of their leaders could not truthfully admit that they misappropriated the funds poured into Muslim Mindanao for its development.
The idea that they are still being unjustly treated the way their religious forebear Ishmael and his mother Hagar were treated by his father Abraham and wife Sarah seems to have been nurtured not as a convenient scapegoat for some of their leaders’ failures. I don’t want to look at this as selective amnesia but they seem not to see the wrongs some of their leaders have done to them that have greatly contributed to the aggravation of their sorry state.
And because of this, becoming an independent state under the leadership of their own Muslim brothers and sisters will never assure them of a better life condition. I am even afraid that seceding may even worsen their condition. Thus it may be to their interest if our Muslim compatriots objectively assess what is happening in Muslim Mindanao now and if secession is truly the answer.
Until the general populace of Muslim Mindanao realizes what is best for them, there will always be armed groups that’ll emerge pretending to champion their cause. The armed conflict will just continue with no solution in sight. Peace in Mindanao should be the collective concern of all the people living in Mindanao.
It should not be the concern of the United States who I understand is just salivating over the prospects of exploiting the rich natural resources in Liguasan Marsh. It should not be the concern of Malaysia either but solely by the residents of Mindanao regardless of religious affiliation. The Manila government can only support the realization of the longings and desires of the people in Mindanao.
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The mark of good leaders
Read 386 times | Posted on July 04, 2013 @ 6 years ago
BY: JESSE BACON II
A GROUP of student editors and staff writers of the school organ of one of the universities in Manila asked me during a group discussion with them what the mark of a good leader is.
Since they were students and very much involved into campus journalism work, I walked them through concepts of leadership and how these apply to their work as campus journalists.
But I impressed upon them from the very start of my answer that leadership under whatever paradigm has one common denominator. That common denominator is the uplift of the people’s condition and, in their case, the uplift of the cognitive ability of the studentry to have a deeper grasp of the issues confronting them as students and as citizens of this country.
In the real world, however, the uplift of the people’s condition, I told them, means the transformation of their miserable economic condition to a level where they themselves could say that they are already living full and abundant lives. The task of effecting this transformation falls on the lap of elective officials who, first and foremost, are politicians.
We all know that politicians in this country are viewed by the citizenry with so much contempt. This attitude toward politicians is the result of years of abuse, years of corrupt and bankrupt leadership, and years of neglect by the politicians themselves of their avowed profession to serve the people when they were seeking their mandate.
The irony of it all is the notion harbored by most elective officials that once in office they become masters instead of servants mandated to work for the betterment of the sorry situation of a good number of their constituencies. I don’t know what is in our country’s electoral process that makes every elective politician metamorphose into an ogre when they are in office.
I am as puzzled as you are with this phenomenon. Like you, I have also witnessed several good men who sought the people’s mandate in an election and became bad when in office already. Even the wealthy ones who had themselves elected into public office were totally gobbled up by the germ called corruption.
It is because of corruption that the delivery of public services has been greatly jeopardized. Just think of the millions of pesos that are being allocated as congressional funds to our honorable congressmen. If these funds were really spent to spur development or for the delivery of public services such as education, think of the benefits it would have brought to say Mindanao.
One of our local churches here in Manila built a guest house that I would describe as a notch higher than modest to the tune of P1.3 million only. The guest house has three bedrooms, a spacious sala and kitchen.
Using the above cost as the ballpark figure in determining the cost of one standard classroom, then we can safely peg at P1 million as cost for the construction of one classroom. The P70 million yearly congressional fund of each congressman, granting it is spent solely for the construction of classrooms, would have built 70 classrooms in one year’s time in each congressional district. The perennial problem of lack of classroom would have been addressed in just a year’s time only in Mindanao alone.
Assuming there are 60 congressional districts in Mindanao annually allocated in the national budget with P70 million congressional funds, this will total P4.2 billion. If this is pooled in one fiscal year, the pooled amount could already fund the conversion of the Aliwagwag Falls in Cateel, Davao Oriental into a hydro electric power plant. The rotating brownout in Mindanao would have been addressed already.
These things are not happening because the congressmen, not only in Mindanao but all over the country, would rather hang on to their respective congressional funds to fund their favorite projects.
Why? Because in doing so they are reportedly giving themselves the chance to earn alleged kickback from projects, soft or hard, funded by their congressional fund, which is by the way a euphemism for pork barrel.
And why are these congressmen obsessed in earning supposed kickbacks from projects funded by their pork barrel? They are said to be resorting to this so that they can recoup what they have spent to get themselves elected to office, to have much needed funds to be given out to their constituents as assistance or donations for needs such as kasal, bunyag and lubong, to name just three, and to ensure that they’ll have the needed funds to get themselves re-elected in the next election.
Clearly lost here is the purpose of leadership which is the uplift of the people from their miserable economic condition.
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Read 481 times | Posted on July 03, 2013 @ 6 years ago
BY: JESSE BACON II
If news reports about the shooting incident involving former Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Jose Benjamin “Benjo” Benaldo Thursday evening last week right that happened right inside his hallowed office in the House of Representatives were to be believed, the incident was meant to call attention to the need for electoral reforms in the country.
Reports had it that immediately after Benaldo was brought out of his office for treatment in the nearest hospital, a note said to be in his own hand writing was found on his table. The note was placed underneath an envelope containing cash in P1,000 bills and it reportedly reads, “for electoral reforms.”
Police probers say that based on their investigation but sans Benaldo’s own testimony, the incident was self-induced. But what struck me about this incident is the existence of that alleged note somehow linking his attempt to take his life as some kind of a sacrifice for electoral reforms. In other words, Benaldo, who lost in his re-election bid, is badly hurt at the process by which he was stripped of his lofty position as a member of the national legislature.
Why he was badly hurt by his electoral loss is his to tell. And I will not dare make any speculations here so as not to add agony to the pain being suffered by his family because of that incident that almost took his life. Indeed, the family deserves the privacy they have been asking for from media the moment it was reported that he attempted to take his life inside his office.
But I’d like to focus our discussion on his call for electoral reforms for such call truly deserves attention by everyone. The matter is of interest to all citizens of this country.
Since elections were restored with the ouster in 1986 of Ferdinand Marcos who ruled this country for 14 years with an iron fist, the electoral process has retrogressed to levels where it no longer serves as the vehicle through which the people express their will. Even the nomination of candidates has become a mockery, if not a joke, thus making the elections a choice not between evil and good but between two evils, in almost all contested areas in the country.
Whereas before vote buying was only confined in certain localities such as Butuan in Agusan del Norte, since 1986 more and more localities were added to the roster of places where vote buying during elections has become the rule rather than the exception. In fact, in the last mid-term elections, vote buying, I understand, became part and parcel of the whole process. The results of the mid-term elections last May, I gathered, was decided by how much money a candidate could shell out which is bigger than what his opponent could afford.
I have no doubt about this even if everyone denies officially that massive vote buying attended last May’s electoral process. Personally, I knew that indeed electoral contest was settled by how much the candidates could afford to buy votes and how effective their mechanism in ensuring that their money for vote buying was really spent for that illegal purpose. This is something that everyone admits off the record, of course.
Candidates nowadays are not even scrutinized for their advocacies and what they stand for anymore. They are scrutinized on how deep their pockets are or how large their campaign war chests are.
Gone are the idealisms that went with past elections. Money has become the biggest single factor that determines a candidate’s winning ability. And this is very sad.
With money as the single biggest factor that decides our electoral contests, winning in such contests are now solely reserved for the moneyed and those whose candidacies are financed by moneyed individuals or entities. Benaldo’s loss must have been triggered by this fact about our elections nowadays.
He for sure must have spent so much. Unfortunately, the people must have thought that as a re-electionist, he should have spent more since he is in power already thus had access to certain funds, public or private, that made him more moneyed than his opponents, they must have thought. This thinking is the surefire formula that made corruption a regular fare in government. But the people don’t realize this. They continue to push their elective officials to become corrupt with this thinking.
With this myriad of problems in our electoral process that everyone tries to ignore or even deny, Benaldo was right in calling attention to the need to have our electoral process reformed. Even if the call came from someone who lost in the last elections, his call should be given due course for in truth and in fact our electoral process indeed needs to be reformed. That process should be restored back to its sacred status of being the vehicle where the voice of the people, which is the voice of God, is freely expressed.
Hero or villain?
Read 391 times | Posted on June 29, 2013 @ 6 years ago
BY : JESSE BACON II
Even during the height of the Cold War in the 60’s, the American government never pleaded to friendly or not so friendly governments for the voluntary extradition of one of its citizens hailed by many all over the world as a hero but considered by that government as a criminal and fugitive from their laws.
Former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor, a euphemism for agent, Edward Snowden, hogged the international limelight with his expose’ how their agency electronically monitors American and non-American citizens alike in and outside of their country for suspicion they might be engaged in activities inimical to the interest of that nation, a euphemism for terrorism.
Snowden’s expose’ opened the doors to the secrets of the NSA for everyone in and outside of America to see. The American government, expectedly, cried that what their own security contractor did violated the country’s national security laws, a convenient cry by authoritarian regimes all over the world ones they are exposed for grave rights violations. Now American officials are given a dose of their own medicine when they played the role of super cop denouncing dictators not so friendly to their country.
The people’s hero and whistleblower, Snowden, revealed that the NSA with the permission of the concerned entities has been accessing accounts of individuals they suspected of being engaged in activities detrimental to the security of the United States (US). Accessed by NSA are sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Apple, Google, among others, Snowden had claimed.
Since his expose’ his whereabouts was a big puzzle to American officials. That country’s sophisticated intelligence and spying networks was no match to Snowden ability to elude efforts by his government to have him arrested to face trial in the US. The latest reports said he left Hongkong last Sunday on his way to Russia.
Speculations have it that from Russia he is proceeding either to Cuba or Ecuador, the two countries that have so far shown willingness to give him asylum even if it means straining their relationship with America even more. Cuba and Ecuador have not been in the best of terms with America. But as of this writing, no one really knows the exact whereabouts of Snowden. He must have mastered the espionage training he received from the NSA hence his elusiveness from his pursuers.
America since becoming the most powerful nation on earth prides in its supposed adherence to the democratic tenets that they proudly claim are enshrined in its Constitution. With Snowden’s expose’ the revered status of America as a democratic and free nation has been shattered to pieces. America is now pictured as no different from dictatorial regimes prying on their citizens for
they may be plotting to bring their downfall.
But what is worse with America as exposed by Snowden is that it is prying not only on its citizens but all the citizens of the world. Yes, they are monitoring through the NSA, if Snowden’s expose’ is to be believed, every human being on earth who they suspect to be working for America’s destruction.
Why is America resorting to this tactic that it is strongly denouncing if practiced by other dictatorial regimes? Does this mean that America is now a dictatorial regime also?
The one thing that the citizens of the world should understand is that all regimes – democratic, communist, socialist or military dictatorships – will always pry on its citizens. But the more powerful the country is, the more it becomes paranoid about its own security and safety. It is in this regard that the armed apparatus of any state becomes an indispensable component in governance.
Have you noticed how America worships their military? Remember during the recently concluded NBA Finals series how they bestowed honor to an American soldier and those who he represents before the start of the sixth game in Miami? Did you remember also the ball that reelected US President Barack Obama had to attend during his second inaugural which was the Joint Chiefs Ball? The attitude of America when it comes to its security could be likened to the attitude of the multi-millionaires in this country. They have become slaves to their own safety thus spend a lot of money to have themselves and their families secured.
This is the downside when one country or an individual becomes very wealthy and prosperous while others who comprise the bulk of the populace are consigned to penury and hopelessness. The mighty and the powerful becomes dependent on their ability to overcome their paranoia that someone out there is lurking waiting for the most opportune time to pounce on them by buying their own security.
But this is weakness in reality.
This is what Snowden succeeded in telling the people about America that its leadership, especially its military, resented so much for being a slap on their faces.
Read 391 times | Posted on June 27, 2013 @ 6 years ago
BY : JESSE BACON II
Mindanao is undeniably endowed with rich natural resources on the surface and mineral resources in its bosom but ironically several provinces in the country’s second biggest island are ranked as one of the poorest in the entire nation.
The situation in Mindanao is a good case study on why poverty is rampant in an island teeming with natural, mineral and even aquatic resources. In fact, large portions of Mindanao’s forest cover had been left bald by both legal and illegal loggers. But the people living near the old logging concessions and those forests stripped of its tree cover by illegal loggers remained poor then and now.
Surigao, Davao, Agusan and Bukidnon provinces used to have thick forest cover with their respective economies booming at that point. But the logging industry was unfortunately concentrated in the hands of a few holders of logging concessions. In the old Agusan province alone and even up to its division into two provinces, the logging business there was basically in the hands of just three families.
The same set-up was replicated in the other provinces until there were no more trees to be felled. When the then Davao province was divided into three provinces, a large portion of Davao Oriental’s forest cover was spared. But over the years, illegal loggers clandestinely kept on felling trees until its discovery when super typhoon Pablo struck December of last year. The logs of illegally cut trees cascaded with the flood waters from the mountains down to low lying areas.
The combined fury of flood and floating illegally cut logs literally transformed the towns of Baganga and Cateel into ghost towns. Lives were lost and damage to properties and farm crops was inestimable. Until now, the two towns are still reeling from the damage and destruction the flood that brought down the illegally cut logs had caused.
The poverty of the people in these previously forest-rich provinces is the result not of anything else but the concentration of wealth in the hands of few logging concessionaires who became the political lords in the provinces where they had their concessions even up to this time. With wealth and political power in the hands of a few families, expectedly the majority of the populace remained mired in abject poverty.
Ironically, the situation when logging had its heyday in Mindanao is now being resurrected by the mining industry that is now exploiting Mindanao’s rich mineral resources.
A few families from the island and from outside provinces in partnership with foreign investors are now engaged in mining operations in Mindanao. These mining companies with mixed local and foreign investors are now claiming huge areas totaling thousands of hectares of land as their mining concessions.
But I personally doubt if mining undertaken by these companies will bring about inclusive economic boom to both investors and the populace where they are operating. If we were to consider the experience the City of Toledo in Cebu had with Atlas Consolidated Mining Corp. we’ll see from that experience that it’ll not bring any inclusive economic boom.
Atlas mines during its heyday were considered Asia’s biggest copper mines. But when it ceased operation it left a mining concession site that has no economic value since even farming could not be undertaken in the old mining site anymore. And it did not leave an economically well-off populace but a poverty-stricken one because the business was concentrated in the hands of practically just one family.
Sadly, the mining industry in Mindanao now is showing a very similar pattern to the logging industry in the 60’s and 70’s. It is concentrated in the hands of a few families. And it is certain that its operation will leave its mining site valueless once stripped of its mineral resources but with the people literally left holding the proverbial empty bag.
Even the law governing mining in the country does not ensure that such industry will not be monopolized by a few families and that when it ceases operation its mining site will still be productive for other purposes especially agriculture. In fact, at the rate mining operations are being carried out in some places such as Surigao, glaringly it is as destructive to the environment as logging was in the past. Imagine the mountains in Surigao being leveled down with the raw soil being directly loaded to ocean going vessels to be processed in the country of destination.
Worst of all is the move by the local mining industry chamber to oppose moves in the Supreme Court to retain the protective provisions of the mining law such as the one limiting the participation of foreign companies in the exploitation of our mineral resources. The chamber wants the industry opened with nary a limit to foreign investors.
Mindanao folks should be wary with all these developments if they don’t want a repeat of what happened to the logging industry in the past.
Filipinos first and foremost
Read 391 times | Posted on June 25, 2013 @ 6 years ago
BY : JESSE BACON II
Mohammedanism is a religious belief lived out by a good number of our southern Philippines compatriots as their way of life. But being a Muslim does not strip them of their being Filipinos, first and foremost.
Sadly, however, peace negotiators representing the Government of the Philippines (GPH) seem not to embrace this basic fact when they sat down with our Muslim brothers in the negotiating table to forge a peace settlement to the age-long armed secessionist movement in some parts of Mindanao. These negotiators seem to be of the view that when one embraces Mohammedanism and thus become a Muslim, one is no longer a Filipino.
Why did I say that? I am constrained to say that here because peace negotiators representing the government are more than willing to technically allow these Muslim brothers and sisters of ours represented by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to carve out an independent state for them that is separate and distinct from the Philippines.
This willingness to give in to the demands of the MILF is premised, albeit erroneously, on a position that for having embraced the teachings of Mohammed they have somehow lost their Filipino citizenship.
If this erroneous standpoint on the part of the government negotiators is allowed to prosper, what will prevent the group of “anointed son of God” Apollo Quiboloy and his group of followers from asking similar concession from the government on account of their religious belief? We are not denying here the presence of an armed conflict between the government and the secessionist MILF. This is a fact. But the solution to the problem is not to de-Filipinize our Muslim compatriots.
In negotiating for a peace settlement to this armed conflict, the premise should be our being Filipinos above anything else. As brother and sister Filipinos, we can’t allow anything to come in the way of our relationship as brothers and sisters with the same blood running in our veins. Like any brother or sister having differences, we ought to resolve our differences on account of our blood relationship never on account of our religious differences which is just incidental.
But here lies the problem because government negotiators tend to give more emphasis on their being Muslims than their being Filipinos belonging to one race, one nation and one country. These Muslim compatriots of ours are protesting not because as Muslims they have been treated as second class citizens in our country. They are protesting because over the years the poverty incidence in Muslim-dominated localities has worsened.
Objectively speaking, however, their poor condition, which is a fact, is not due to the national government’s failure to improve their lot. There is definitely no truth to this. Poverty is rampant in Muslim-dominated localities in Mindanao and even in other localities because the political leadership in these localities has not done anything concrete to up the economic lot of their respective constituencies.
Classic example to this is Maguindanao. The province was not deprived of its share to government funds. It just so happened that the previous leadership of the province seem to be of the belief that such funds they are generating locally and from the national government were for their own use and benefit.
While the residents of the province remained poor, the family controlling the politics of the province was building mansions in the province and elsewhere. This fact was uncovered after the Ampatuan family was held responsible for the murder of 58 people, 30 of which were media practitioners, in 2009. That family ruled Maguindanao for several years and during their reign nothing substantial ever happened to the life of their constituency.
If poverty is so rampant in Muslim-dominated localities because of their leaders’ inability to improve the lot of their Muslim compatriots, is secession the solution to their problem? If they are granted autonomy like a sovereign state, will the people in these localities be assured of a better life in the future if the problem is the political leadership’s failure to lead their constituency in their journey from poverty and want to prosperity and abundance?
The government negotiators appear to be of the belief that yes prosperity and abundance can be had by technically granting our Muslim compatriots independence. But we don’t have to look far. Did the life of our Muslim brothers and sisters greatly improve with the setting up of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao or ARMM? Why commit the same mistake that we have committed when we negotiated for peace with the Moro National Liberation Front? Don’t you think it is pure folly if we do so?
Capitalist unwritten mantra
Read 439 times | Posted on June 21, 2013 @ 6 years ago
BY : JESSE BACON II
Leaders in the Philippines and in many countries abroad have finally taken stock of natural calamities particularly flooding plaguing their respective localities but inexplicably not one of them is looking at the problem as caused by greed spawned by the present capitalist order where even nature is not viewed as vital part in supporting human life thus its wanton abuse which is fueled by such greed.
The capitalist unwritten mantra is obviously to abuse and destroy everything on earth in the name of profit thus its predator behavior preying both on humans and the natural resources of this world. Since no one is viewing the present-day calamities that are wreaking havoc here in our country and elsewhere abroad, the proposed solutions are likewise very capitalist in their nature.
This capitalist mindset is the plague that is slowly but surely destroying the fabric where human life is woven with the rest of the natural environment. The current natural calamities of inestimable magnitude reflect the destruction of that fabric. Sadly, however, humans are trying their best to ignore or even deny the fact that all the sufferings and miseries now faced by humanity is the causal result of the destruction of this perfectly woven fabric that bound human and natural life together.
Nowadays, humans no longer look at the environment as a vital part of the equation primarily ensuring life itself. Of course, it is because of human’s insatiable greed that brought about the destruction of the environment resulting in unprecedented flooding, to mention just one natural calamity, not only in our country but other parts of the world as well.
What pisses me off is that people in the position of leadership just think of ambulatory yet very expensive solutions to address the problem of flooding, for example. But these proposed solutions simply mitigate the ill-effects of this particular natural calamity but never solve it. One newspaper report even said that some leaders in the United States and in Europe are already advising their respective citizens to accept the fact that they now have to live with the realities of flooding.
Flooding is a man-made catastrophe. It is primarily caused by the wanton destruction of the world’s forest cover and aggravated by poor urban planning where urban centers are practically converted into concrete jungles. No matter how the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority and the Department of Public Works and Highways, for example, de-clog, de-silt urban rivers and esteros in the metropolis and its immediate environs or replace present culverts with much bigger ones, flooding will continue to haunt Metro Manila.
Aside from the problem of voluminous trash thrown into these rivers and esteros by people who are definitely out of their minds, the constricting open spaces that can absorb rain water because of what we can call the concretization of the metropolis is another big reason contributing greatly to flooding in urban centers. Of course, the heartless throwing of trash into these waterways is another classic example at how much humans have been alienated from nature and their fellow humans.
Just think of the suffering, destruction and damage such mindless act of clogging waterways with tons of trash that resultantly prevent the free flow of water in these waterways if it does not point to the “what the hell do I care” attitude. That attitude is the by-product of the individualistic nature of the capitalist order. In the said order, the most important is the self and one’s personal interests.
If the capitalists only have hearts, would they have cut the trees serving as cover of our mountains in wild abandon? But because they are alienated from nature that is there to support life and from the rest of their fellow humans, they were able to do the unthinkable which is to bald the mountains of its forest cover.
With bald mountains, rain water easily cascades from the mountains down to the lower grounds as big floods causing damage and destruction to farms and properties and deaths as well. Also look at how we extract the mineral resources in the bosom of the earth to satisfy the greed of capitalists? The manner by which mining is carried out here clearly ensures more natural calamities in the near future. Consider also the volume of mineral resources being extracted in the name of profit. They are doing it as if the bosom of the earth will never run out of extractable minerals.
But almost everyone turn a blind eye on all these abuses against nature and humans because we have been shaped to believe that if the abuse and destruction of life and nature are being carried out in the name of profit, it is moral, legal and ethical. When will we ever realize our folly? I hope the much-awaited awakening will come soon while human life is not yet totally annihilated by nature’s fury in retaliation to our own abuse against her.
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