Well, I normally avoid filling this column with politics. There are more than enough people writing about that, and in the Philippines it is a never-ending source of political backstabbing, corruption and accusation, and only very occasionally some positive comment about a politician or senior government figure. The Vice President is currently the focus of an immense amount of negative attention, most of which looks to be fairly unsubstantiated, but substantiation or not, there are endless cries for blood. Does the presumption of innocence until proven guilty not operate around here? And how on earth can the judiciary keep its legal rulings immune from the effects of such massive public comment?
It’s a pity that the Philippines doesn’t try to concentrate more on the positives, and despite my frequently cynical writings there are some, in fact quite a lot, if we can for a few moments get away from the excitement of political accusations and the gloating over the destruction of individuals and the other manifold problems brought about in part by the concentration of government energy in pursuit of vilification. Time and effort would be far better spent on sorting out some national infrastructural problems and in finding ways to open up the appalling bureaucracy to make things easier for the creative skills that abound here to succeed, rather than just become so disillusioned that Filipino skills just die of exhaustion trying to develop into businesses that will produce exports and create real jobs.
You really have to wonder, “who cares in the Philippines?” So much high-level attention is given to political assassination and in the political forum there are few who are untainted; but they seem to derive such pleasure from the pursuit of opponents when in fact they should be concentrating their energy on finding out why, for example, only 216 of the 250,000 people made homeless by Yolanda nearly a year ago have been rehoused. But I guess this is not so much “fun” as destroying competitors for power and glory.
So we have a political arena which just continues to damage its own credibility for what appears to be personal motives at the expense of concentrating its efforts on real problems like rehousing Yolanda victims, implementing proper law and order, and dealing with the other issues on the long list of national problems. There feels to be something missing in all this and the best word I can think of is “maturity.” In other societies there would be some controlling influence that would just not allow the power of the legislature to spend inordinate amounts of its precious time pursuing personal vendetta-like issues at the expense of the national good. These people are elected to govern, they are not voted into positions of power in order to pursue personal issues or even political wars. They are there to do what is right for those they represent and their collective business should be prioritized for the common good.
All that said, this week has produced a few Philippine positives to me. I normally avoid, in addition to saying anything about Philippines politics, going to the Mall of Asia—too big, too many people, nothing much different there anyway, and a pain driving to and from there and parking the car. However this weekend I was, despite those misgivings, motivated to go there to have a look at Manila FAME. It was a worthwhile visit and I even found a very modern and well-designed car park. The export and money- making potential of so much of the stuff on display was very impressive and I have to admit that the work of the Filipino exhibitors to my mind greatly outshone the non-Filipino exhibits. So there, I’ve done it, a very positive comment!! Had I been wandering around there looking for some local small businesses in which to invest rather than having become entangled in the nightmare which is the Philippine power sector, I would have had several opportunities worth exploring. These people deserve to succeed and the initiative of CITEM (Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions) in getting this particular annual show on the road is to be commended.
Some other positives were in the power sector. The DOE (Department of Energy) reversed its justification for emergency powers for the president to avert an expected energy crisis in 2015. There is not, they now say, an additional 900 MW of generation capacity needed, only a possible requirement for some back-up power which can be readily obtained from the expressed and heartening willingness of some of the oligarch businesses to use their own domestic power generation rather than drawing from the grid to cover any shortfalls. Oddly, though, Congress still appears to be in favor of granting the request for emergency powers—if they are not now seen to be necessary, why grant it?
Clearly, very many good things do exist here in the Philippines and right-minded things do happen, albeit at least in the power sector example, more by accident than design! It is so sad though that the “maturity,” or whatever it is, an “unseen hand” perhaps, does not seem to be present or if it is, does not seem to be effective in directing and sustaining the national intention towards the common good.
Mike can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org