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Is the Philippines a basket case?

First of all, I would like to congratulate the Philippines ASEAN working committee for the success of the 31st ASEAN Summit. Secondly, I would like to salute our defense team (Armed Forces and the National Police) for protecting the visiting world leaders. Thirdly, I would like to acknowledge the patience of our countrymen who cooperated by staying in their areas to ease the traffic. And last but not the least, I would like to give credit to the President for attracting all these world leaders including the head of the European Council President Donald Tusk and the United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres to visit the Philippines. They were all determined to show up, come hell or high water.

So, who showed up? The ASEAN members: Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen, Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo, Laos’ Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak, Myanmar’s State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc. The Dialogue partners: Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, China’s Premier Li Keqiang, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, South Korea’s President Moon Jae-In, United States’ President Donald Trump, United Nations’ Secretary General Antonio Guterres and European Council President Donald Tusk.

The influx of world leaders in the Philippines clearly did not come by chance nor by fate. There was conviction, boldness and bravery that came as part and parcel of their visit. Part of it was probably curiosity to the man behind the 31st ASEAN Summit – Duterte. Well, he brought in his charm, his spunk and showed them his true mettle. His fearlessness also gave the ASEAN block a kick to start a new mindset in the region.

So, what transpired in the high-level meetings? After reading the headlines I felt sorry for the state of our nation. Are we a basket case? Everyone seemed to be giving alms to the Philippines. Yes, quite big amounts of donations and grants were played up while understating the more pressing issues of the ASEAN summit.

I am not quite sure if it is normal for a host country to seal deals with world leaders during a high-powered ASEAN event. Our government seemed to be determined in this endeavor. It was able to confirm assistance on: military development, Marawi rehabilitation, trade, strategic partnerships, anti-illegal drugs drive, tourism, health, education, infrastructure, among others.

Here is a peek. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang pledged 150 million yuan (over P1.15 billion) in grants to help Marawi and provide livelihood for displaced residents; Agreement on Economic and Technical Cooperation between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the People’s Republic of China; Memorandum of Understanding on Jointly Promoting on Second Basket of Key Infrastructure Projects Cooperation between the Department of Finance of the Republic of the Philippines and the Ministry of Commerce of the Government of the People’s Republic of China; Exchange of Letters on Project of Dangerous Drugs Abuse Treatment and Rehabilitation Centers; Exchange of Letters on Project of Two Bridges Across Pasig River; Memorandum of Understanding for Cooperation on Industrial Parks Development between the Department of Trade and Industry of the Republic of the Philippines and the Ministry of Commerce of the People’s Republic of China; Memorandum of Understanding on Jointly Promoting the Philippine National Railways South Long Hall Project Cooperation between the Department of Transportation of the Republic of the Philippines and the Ministry of Commerce of the People’s Republic of China; Implementation Framework for the Memorandum of Understanding and Development of Project List for Cooperation in Production Capacity and Investment between the National Economic and Development Authority of the Republic of the Philippines and the National Development and Reform Commission of the People’s Republic of China; Memorandum of Understanding between the Department of Environment and Natural Resources of the Republic of the Philippines and the National Development and Reform Commission of the People’s Republic of China Concerning the Provision of Goods for Addressing Climate Change; Memorandum of Understanding on Defense Industry Cooperation between the Department of National Defense of the Republic of the Philippines and the State Administration of Science Technology Industry of the National Defense of the People’s Republic of China; Memorandum of Understanding between the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines and the State Intellectual Property of the People’s Republic of China on Cooperation in the Field of Intellectual Property; Memorandum of Understanding between the National Youth Commission and the All-China Youth Federation on Strengthening Youth Cooperation; Financing Cooperation Agreement on Chico River Pump Irrigation Project and New Centennial Water Source-Kaliwa Dam Project between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines represented by the Department of Finance and the Export-Import Bank of China; The Republic of the Philippines 2017 Renminbi Bond Issuance Underwriting Agreement; and Memorandum of Understanding between the Bases Conversion and Development Authority and China Development Bank. Whoa! And this is only from China. Several treaties and Agreements of Cooperation were also signed with Russia.

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President Donald Trump committed to provide additional $14.3 million in aid for the rehabilitation of Marawi City apart from the $2-million support for drug demand reduction programs in the country. He also agreed to consider signing an FTA with the Philippines.

The Japanese government set loan provisions of ¥104.53 billion (P46 billion) for the first phase of the Metro Manila Subway Project (from Mindanao Avenue, Taguig City to Parañaque City) and the construction of a bypass road amounting to ¥9.399 billion (P4 billion) along the Philippine-Japan Friendship Highway in Plaridel, Bulacan. Japan government also vowed to provide an aid grant of ¥2.5 billion (P1 billion) to fund the procurement of equipment and materials for the reconstruction of Marawi City and will provide around P6.7 billion in assistance to help strengthen the country’s maritime surveillance capability.

Canada will be investing $17.8 million to the sexual health and empowerment project for women in the Philippines. The project will be implemented by Oxfam International and will benefit more than 85,000 Filipinos.

Australia, New Zealand, India and South Korea also offered gifts to our country in form of cooperation agreements.

Are all these to be considered a big leap for the government? Should we rejoice in the fact that we have created such a pathetic image of the country? The irony of it all is that as we continue to solicit grants from different countries to help our country progress and develop along with other ASEAN nations who have already left us behind, our public officials continue the sordid act of corruption. It is very embarrassing to go on this way. I hope that Duterte’s administration will take very serious action in fighting corruption because the root of all the evils in this country lies in the hands of our public officials.

 

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