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Opinion

Dredging up criticism

CTALK - Cito Beltran - The Philippine Star

Senator Manny Pacquiao may have been so busy campaigning that he has not read or heard of how San Miguel Corporation has committed as much as P2 billion for the dredging and rehabilitation of the Pasig River and has been the only visible and active entity or private company actually dredging silt out of the Pasig River. Senator Pacquiao recently voiced his opposition to the PAREX or Pasig River Expressway project of San Miguel Corporation and instead suggested that the Pasig River should be dredged and developed as a tourist destination.

While the good senator is entitled to his opinion, it would serve him well to read up on how San Miguel Corporation has long been doing most of the work in terms of dredging and clearing various parts of the Pasig River and they have been doing so even during the pre-pandemic period. It may be that Pacman was only sharing an idea but given his stature, the senator should be careful because certain groups who want to protect their business interest along the Pasig River by keeping the status quo are currently busy dredging criticism and unfounded muck against San Miguel Corporation and the PAREX project.

Having been in resort development and operations and tourism before the Lord placed me in media, I know enough from tourists to say that most foreign tourists choose to fly or go directly to tourist destinations outside of Metro Manila rather than spend a day or night in Metro Manila. Foreign tourists have limited vacation days and limited budgets and they come to the Philippines for the beach and nature and not to go up and down a river with nothing to offer and nothing to see except the backside of factories, crowded shanties and walled up properties. But now that SMC wants to build a project above the river, there is suddenly an organized group of mourners and wailers professing their love for the Pasig River.

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Congressman Alan Peter Cayetano reportedly suggested that the government should earn more from online sabong. Purely from a profit standpoint, I’m sure that once government accountants conduct a thorough study of the actual incomes generated from E-Sabong, the billions of pesos would be too big to resist, especially for the Department of Finance. People attending the recent Senate hearings were shocked to discover that operators earned billions of pesos from the daily fights while the government only earned a small fraction. Yes, there are billions and billions of pesos that the government can earn because online sabong is not just a local operation or limited to Filipinos, there is a large group of international bettors all over the world and they are not just OFWs.

The Cayetano Alternative suggests that “if you can’t beat them, then join them.” The government will simply take over the business model of current operators, tweak things and make everything transparent, and remove any and all criminal elements that have come into online sabong. Because it’s a government operation, then all the moral and legal aspects have to be followed while addressing defects or complaints about the current system, such as insuring that minors will not be able to participate, insuring only those with the capacity to gamble can participate, designing a system where repetitive losers are blocked like Facebook or META does to some users who violate standards, and insuring that all revenues and collectible taxes for both national and local governments are collected.

I’m sure that if the government were to seriously pursue the Cayetano alternative, the government could actually create a nationwide network of cockpit operators where they have defined territories and where the fights can both be traditional while being available online. This way, no operator will have the power to corrupt governors or mayors to stop local cockfights in order to protect online operators, and there will only be one rule for all cockpits during times of quarantine or lockdowns instead of making online cockpits exempted.

One of our regular readers suggested that the government should regulate all betting stations and not allow online betting. You can watch the fight online but not bet online. Bettors must show proof of income like in casinos. Quite frankly, it would be better for the government to make the profit since it is also the government that will be delivering social services and assistance to the public and in order to do that, the money might as well come from “sinners” instead of being pocketed by “sinners.”

If Congressman Cayetano decides to seriously pursue the alternative, he might also want to consider the creation of a National Cockfighting Authority, officially designating it as a major sector of Philippine agriculture instead of placing this multi-billion industry under the Games and Amusement Board that treats it as nothing more than another form of gambling. In the last year alone, it has been argued and established by people from various sectors of agriculture that cockfighting in the Philippines is an industry unto itself which connects animal feed manufacturers, veterinary products manufacturers, industrial materials suppliers and fabricators, real estate rentals, trucking and logistics firms, electricity providers and solar lights retailers, housing and construction, aviation, as well as employing hundreds of thousands of Filipinos directly and indirectly.

The creation of the National Cockfighting Authority could be used to strengthen the traditions of cockfighting as a sport and a viable livelihood for many Filipinos. Through the NCA, competitions can be held for the promotion of the sport, recognition of the country’s best breeders through nationwide breeders derbies, educational programs on the care and medication of gamefowl as well as establishment of support programs for industry workers who only get to work on Sundays and holidays. Who knows, Congressman Alan “Peter” Cayetano may turn out to be the real-life patron of the sport, like St. Peter has been dubbed as the Patron Saint of Cockfighters!

PASIG RIVER

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