• Must the public pay such a price for the APEC summit?

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    Burlington, Iowa: The November 18-19, 2015, APEC Economic Leaders Meeting in Manila being the biggest international gathering President B. S. Aquino 3rd will preside over before he leaves office on June 30, 2016, Malacañang is understandably pulling out all the stops to ensure its unqualified success. Aquino cannot afford to risk the safety and comfort of any of the 20 presidents, prime ministers and chief executives who will be attending the summit, so he is trying to transform Metro Manila, at least superficially and for a few days, into what it is not.

    But he has a funny way of doing it. He wants to please the guests at the public’s expense.

    In the past, when Imelda Romualdez Marcos built the Philippine International Conference Center and related facilities as a venue for important international conferences, she also built and whitewashed walls along the route from the Manila international airport to the heart of the city, and plastered them with state art in order to give the scenery a badly needed aesthetic lift.

    She could not wish away the age-old urban blight which the Marcos administration had inherited from the past, so she tried to dress it up a little bit. Her critics were flabbergasted. They likened it to the cardboard villages which Prince Potemkin reputedly built for Catherine II on her visit to the Ukraine and the Crimea in 1787, which had come to be known as the Potemkin villages.

    After Imelda Marcos, Metro Manila administrator Bayani Fernando put up his own version of the village as part of his urban renewal project. This gave the shanties on river banks and creeks in Marikina and elsewhere a more cheerful and welcoming look. It obviously raised the morale of those living in the shanties and looking at them from outside.

    Fernando is now out of office, but some other people may have taken over his project. This, however, doesn’t seem to figure in the preparations for the APEC summit. Potemkin has taken a different course–the wretched slums four decades ago have given way to sparkling casinos where high-rollers from Hong Kong, China, Malaysia and Indonesia throw away their millions.

    For this month’s event, President B. S. Aquino 3rd’s primary concern is the monstrous city traffic. He wants to vaporize the beast as though it never existed. The last time he spoke publicly about traffic congestion, he called it the “sign of progress,” which the public should be thankful for and not complain about. Now he wants to get rid of it. But it has become such a monster that not even Houdini or David Copperfield could make it vanish even for a moment.

    Aquino also apparently worries about possible collisions in the sky, so he wants the air traffic reduced. He wants to cut down the flight arrivals and departures during the summit, the exact opposite of what the Department of Tourism has been trying to do for so long and so hard to increase the volume of international tourists. From Salt Lake last week to Burlington this week, I have met quite a few who said they had long planned to visit Manila during the season, but were quite shocked to learn that Philippine Airlines, the national flag carrier, had cancelled 96 international flights and 115 domestic flights because of the APEC summit. Some of them had already bought their roundtrip tickets.

    How now are they to know whether, as the DOT says, it’s really “more fun in the Philippines?”

    From Nov. 17 to 20, all government offices and schools will be closed, and government services shut down, except for the most indispensable public services, and those related to security and safety, health and emergency preparedness, and APEC-related activities. No trucks will be allowed on the road, and therefore no cargoes will be transported from the piers, certain thoroughfares will be closed to private motorists, no-fly zones will be instituted all over Metro Manila at certain periods during the summit. Needless to say, the US 7th Fleet will be patrolling nearby waters, or an aircraft carrier will standing by in Subic, courtesy of the US president.

    Nov 18 to 19 will be special non-working days, even for daily wage earners who do not get paid if they do not work. This would be the first negative economic achievement of the summit. Should a sizeable number go to bed without food, just because they were laid off their daily work by the great economic summit?

    In other words, everyone in the nation’s capital will be on holiday but forced to stay at home, while twenty-one world economic leaders–US President Obama, China’s President Xi Jinping, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Mexican President Enrique Pina Nieto, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, Peruvian President Ollanta Humala, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, South Korean President Park Geun-hye, Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang, Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Long, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Vincent Slew, and our own B. S. Aquino 3rd–talk of “building inclusive economies, and building a better world.”

    Everything is being hyped to make it appear that the government is out to put its best foot forward. But these moves related to traffic and air travel have nothing to do with the legendary Filipino hospitality; they merely reveal the government’s lack of capability to host anything this big without interrupting or interfering with the regular rhythm of social life. All because of incompetence and lack of preparedness. Since last December, APEC meetings at various levels have been held in Makati, Clark Freeport in Angeles, Boracay, Cebu and Iloilo without any noticeable hitches. And they have already covered considerable ground.

    These include three senior officials meetings, one finance ministers meeting, one trade ministers meeting, one small and medium enterprises ministerial meeting, one senior disaster management officials forum, one high-level policy dialogue on food security and the blue economy, etc. But the 21 leaders summit has turned out to be much bigger than those in charge had earlier imagined.

    This is not helped by the fact that, for completely unexplained reasons, the Secretary of Industry Gregorio Domingo, who was supposed to be the principal action man for the summit, unexpectedly resigned irrevocably in mid-September, a month before the event. He was mercifully prevailed upon to delay his departure until after the summit, but his resignation has shaken the morale of the people in charge of the conference.

    It is the second time the Philippines is hosting the APEC Summit in nearly 20 years. But I do not recall the Ramos government having to go through any of the present issues when it hosted the first APEC summit in Subic, Zambales in 1996. As Senate Majority Leader at the time, I recall sitting with Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien and US Secretary of State Warren Christopher at dinner at the Manila Hotel, and they both expressed extreme satisfaction with the arrangements for the summit. The event did not at all interrupt or interfere with the normal life of Filipinos.

    Why should it happen now, when our ability to do things was supposed to have improved (considerably, we are told) under Aquino’s “daang matuwid”?

    I do not suppose I am alone in asking this.

    Whitewashed walls decked with people’s art have failed to hide the country’s grinding poverty in the past. How could Aquino expect to hide the plumb inefficiency and incompetence of his government behind his decision to superficially and temporarily ban air and road traffic for the duration of the summit? The summit is taking place on the eve of a presidential election, which only the most gullible and naive expect to deliver believable results, given the highly objectionable Smartmatic-PCOS-OMR automated voting system, and the oversupply of nuisance candidates, among other things.

    Will none of the foreign dignitaries or the independent traveling press bother to ask what has Aquino done all these five (now going on six) years to prepare for this summit? If they hear of anything as stupid and outrageous as the live bullets being planted on the hand-carried luggage of some old lady travelers and innocent overseas Filipino workers arriving at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, will they not wonder how the government expects to cope with the security needs of twenty heads of state and government, regardless of some US nuclear warship standing by in Subic or some nearby waters?

    Serious global economic problems and opportunities will engage the APEC summiteers. But even more serious political problems could surface among the major participants. How would Aquino, as host, ensure that the political undertow does not overwhelm the economic agenda of the conference? Will Russia’s disagreement with the United States over Syria blow up in this conference? Will China’s quarrel with Japan over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, or Aquino’s maritime quarrel with China for that matter, shadow any of the deliberations?

    It is not totally insignificant that the summit is taking place after the UN tribunal at the Hague has decided to arbitrate the maritime conflict between China and the Philippines upon the latter’s initiative, and China has rejected the tribunal’s decision and declared it would not accept the results. Some street demonstrations are expected to greet Xi Jinping because of this, and Aquino just might use the occasion to inject his own sentiment on the subject.

    It would not surprise if he calls for adherence to international law as a starting point for political and economic cooperation among nations and governments. He is unpredictable and spontaneous enough to do this. He did not hesitate to reproach Pope Francis for his problems with some Catholic bishops when he welcomed the Supreme Pontiff to Malacañang during his recent apostolic visit to the Philippines.

    But to be able to do this, he will have to overlook the fact that there is a standing call from the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention for him to release from illegal custody his immediate predecessor Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who has been in jail on highly questionable charges for almost as long as he has been in Malacañang. Her continued detention without trial or being found guilty, violates international law, according to the UN human rights group.

    Aquino has the rare ability to excuse himself from the most outrageous offense from which he will not countenance others to be excused, if they commit the same. So he will demand that China obey the UN tribunal, even though he will not obey the UN himself on something that really costs him nothing but pride. It will be his duty not to allow this issue to divert the APEC leaders’ attention from the main agenda of the summit.

    fstatad@gmail.com

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    16 Comments

    1. The name B S Aquino is so apt ! I would like nothing more then see him in jail after the elections,with one or 2 oligarchs or a few ,,,,,,,,,,I bet BS is going to bet on all plausible candidates and make arrangements for support either by himslf or his alter egos ( sisters, inlaws , or others ).
      We really got BS as president this time around,,,,,,,,,,,

    2. I wish to look at things this way. Our country will be facing a very tough responsibility in hosting this event. The heirarchy of love is God, country, then family. Support is what our country’s leaders need now. No matter what our political color is.

      The dignity of each and every Filipino here and abroad is on the line.

      This is democracy. Like a piece of clean white paper with a black blot. Which would we choose to be part of? The clean white or the black blot? I choose the clean white coupled with a lot of prayers that everthing goes right.

    3. This is the most eloquent review of the costs of the APEC to an already overburdened public. Bravo. This government is a major disaster and there is no spin the Yellow Army trolls can ever do on this one and on PNOY, perhaps the worst president in post-Marcos history.

    4. This should be the time that all people should take to the streets to protest on our government . Make it visible for the whole Apec leaders to see what this government is hiding.
      Let’s all be transparent and just have a peaceful rally to show all Apec participants that this government is not trustworthy. The money that is suppose to go to improving the lives of the people is being spent somewhere else.

      There maybe less cars on the roads and no traffic , but the people can walk the streets now for a peaceful demonstration.

    5. Kit, the Palace-in-the-Cuckoo’s-Nest repeatedly denies that the MM transpo system is a despicable mess yet the admin resorted to this APEC traffic scheme to shield the APECkers from the horrendous traffic that they deny but each tax-paying MM resident/guests suffer from daily. Can we call this a paradox ? or whatever ?

      Anyway, we have been happy that with a heavily conscripted media, we have a blessing such as social media that serve as a counter weight against the treasonous media. But is it really a blessing ? Isn’t it something that spelled the total loss of our appetite to mount street demos ? We can no longer even mount a decent size crowd to shout out our protest against this admin. It is kasi more convenient, costs nothing and safe to express our anger against this admin using social media which maybe 90% of the Filipino population are not even able to read or participate in. Isn’t it time that we return the battle back in the streets ?

    6. There is no other way but to do it his way because that is the only way he knew how. It doesn’t matter if that would cost the public perhaps more than what they’ll gain from the summit. On top of that he has incompetent people around him and the ones that could do the job have resigned so he has to make do with whatever he’s got… so in order to do that…walang tao sa kalye, walang lilipad, walang papasok sa eskuela o sa opisina. In other words, wala siyang paki sa Filipino bastat gusto niya gawin ang sa kanya eh madali. Walang kakuwenta kuwentang pangulo itong ibinoto ng nakararami daw. May I use the filipino slang word ‘PALPAK” This man has shamed the country much too much.

    7. That 4-day holiday actually hurts contractual workers such as myself because of the “No work, no pay” policy of the government agency I am working for. Sigh. This cancellation of office and school during the APEC summit isn’t really necessary. There are other ways to go about this but BS Aquino always chooses the easiest way at the expense of the public whom he has nothing but indifference and apathy towards. :( Shame, such shame.

    8. Leodegardo Pruna on

      We are awaiting the results of the APEC summit. Would it be truly inclusive and beneficial to the welfare of all peoples in the world? God bless the Philippines.

      • You hit it sir. And just to add:

        Blame List: GMA, Marcos, Marcos Family, Martial Law, Former CJ Corona, Former Ombudsman Gutierrez, Opposition, 3 Jailed Senators, Poor Filipinos, Filipinos in General.

        Praise List: Ninoy, Cory, Aquino Name, Mar Roxas, Liberal Party, Noynoy, Noynoy & more Noynoy

    9. Other than PNoy and his minions, there is one person who is very very and satisfied that the APEC is held in the Philippines, in particualr, the City of Iloilo. This person is no other than Franklin Lolong Drillon, who is personally in charge of the project. Of course, he is very happy because the APEC is very profitable to him, according to Augusto Syjuco. Got it?

    10. Kit, Traffic is everywhere. You’ll find it in Dubai Shk. Zayed Road or A4 in Northern Italy. It is a fact, that thousand of cars are added in the street. Many Filipinos could now afford to buy cars. Each middle income family would have at least two cars minimum.
      With regards to holding the APEC summit in the Philippines, it is not only to show case the beautiful places in the Philippines but an honor for any country to hold one.
      Many Filipino businesses, hotels, tourism would find this very valuable and will boost their businesses. Forget
      Let’s not put negativism on this APEC conference but rather let all Filipinos join together to help our country move forward. Enough with politics. Lets not blame each other like children. Grow up!!!

      • “Each middle income family would have at least two cars minimum.” –I would love to see the data behind this statement.

      • How can filipinos help our country move forward when it is the govt who is making the workers go on forced vacation. Depriving them of badly needed income to fill their stomachs. Not everybody is as comfortable as you. Think of those millions of sub n min wage earners in metro manila which comprises the majority of the workforce.

      • Define middle income family? Or your definition of middile income is base do on the number of cars a family own.

      • The numbers of private cars in the Philippines is EXTREMELY low compared to developed countries.

        Something like 10-15 times lower.

        Very few people in the Philippines can own a car.