Back off
SEARCH FOR TRUTH - Ernesto P. Maceda Jr. (The Philippine Star) - April 13, 2019 - 12:00am

Filipinos are waking up to this startling new persona of Rodrigo Roa Duterte (and, by extension, Spokesman Salvador Panelo). Back off, he says to China, in response to their swarming presence at Pag-asa island. 

If there are studies on whether the case filed by Aquino III, Carpio, Del Rosario and Co. at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague gave significant pause to the Chinese expansion of their sphere of greater prosperity, I’d like to read them. But the verdict we won certainly galvanized negative world opinion which wrapped itself around China’s hubris in a reverse “cabbage tactic.” 

As for the effect of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s embrace of the Dragon, no need for proof. The pivot to China, alternately referred to by critics as pacificism/appeasement/ collaboration/surrender, may have garnered whatever beneficialities the Palace claims. But it has also docked us greatly as in the questionable covenants in their loan agreements; the unabated entry of workers; the indubitable presence in the illicit drug trade. This latest disrespect of our sovereign rights is the act of an emboldened rival. Res ipsa loquitur.

The marked shift in Presidential tone has been preceded by statements from our valiant Secretary of Foreign Affairs Teddyboy Locsin who indignantly charges China with taking what is ours in the West Philippine Sea (WPS). China’s riposte to all who take issue with their actions in the WPS (their South China Sea) is to “stop stirring trouble”. 

The President’s wake up to the wake up call has invigorated those who have been waiting for tougher stances. Presidential prerogative in the conduct of international affairs may be conceded but its always nice to see him stand up and fight. 

Its all about the base. The Supreme Court dismissed the challenges to last year’s Mandanas v. Executive Secretary decision on the expanded Internal Revenue Allotments (IRA) of local government units. From a regime that wrongly limited their IRA shares to only BIR revenue for 25 years, the Court corrected this to include even non-BIR revenues as a base. 

Significantly, the Court didn’t alter its reliance on operative fact doctrine to deny the motion for reconsideration that the national government pay out the amounts due since 1992. The new computations shall apply only prospectively. With a three-year budget cycle for IRA, this translates to 2022 earliest for the windfall. This has diminished the elation of  LGUs that borrowed against the prospect of a retroactive award.

Amazing discoveries. As the nation celebrates the magnitude of the sensational archaeological find in Callao, Cagayan and the heights to which it elevates the country on the world map, my thoughts go to Quezon City Mayor Josefina “Joy” Belmonte-Alimurung. Mayor Joy is the holder of Masters Degree in Archaeology from University College London. Irene Marcos-Araneta, we also learned, is an archaeologist. I can only guess how much a discovery like this means to them.

Homo Luzonensis is the name given, bone fragments collected from at least three individuals. Together with the unearthing of a butchered rhinoceros skeleton from an even earlier time period, the event is a watershed for science and our place in the narrative.

The fact of discovery of these ancient relics is a story unto itself. The sheer range of questions it arouses is overwhelming. For example, the conventional understanding is that there were no land bridges connecting the Philippines to the mainland, at least for the past x number of years. So how did they get here?

Cast of characters. We find ourselves resurrecting things learned from ancient memory. Erectus Australopithecus. Sapiens. Somewhere in that chart we will now locate Luzonensis.

Even if ultimately determined to be a variant of the Homo Floresensis previously discovered in Indonesia, it would be an adventure bordering on the hallowed to retrace the journey taken by “uncle”Luzonensis.

What does it all mean? We go back to Mayor Joy. Studying the past helped her gain a better understanding of how to provide for a brighter future. “Countries where people were more aware of their culture and had greater appreciation for their history were more inclined to work together toward the betterment of their country.”

Do no harm? US Olympic champion Connor Dwyer came to visit and found himself surfing the world famous waves of Siargao. Having an Olympian sports personality in town on an informal visit does have its incremental value in promoting Philippine scenic sites. Dwyer ended up, however, contributing to more than just tourism. He lent his celebrity to shine a light on the dark state of the country’s rural health facilities. Dwyer injured himself and was shocked to find that there was hardly adequate treatment available.

Karen Davila opened the Siargao account last year when her son was injured and could not be given even basic first aid. This time, Dwyer received first aid response but had it been worse, the district hospital which was 20 to 30 minutes away only had capabilities of an infirmary. Plus it is unclear if surgeons and anesthesiologists were on duty or if there were any at all. 

Do no-thing. Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat contacted the Provincial government for them to “instruct” their municipalities to make sure they had doctors on hand to attend to visitors. The Provincial Governor accordingly instructed. Good luck. As it is, medical staff of provincial district hospitals have their hands full attending to needs of the common folk.

Boracay until recently had also been problematic. The El Nido capacity has been found wanting as well. Siargao, Boracay, El Nido. These are the jewels of our tourism portfolio. Government should do more than just the threshold regulation of the Department of Tourism for accredited establishments. The hosting of resorts catering to international visitors is a matter for more serious regulation. Specially those with beaches, more so where sporting activities are offered. At the very least, it is government itself that should ascertain that adequate medical facilities are available for all.

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