THERE are two defining events in the horizon this week: the continuous purging and surrender of peddlers of illegal drugs and the ruling of the UN tribunal on the West Philippine Sea.
The purging has led to naming of five PNP officers and the soon to be naming of 35 local government officials involved in the illegal drug trade. Talk is also circulating about another list. This time media personalities who are in the payroll of alleged drug lords. In the process of coming out with the lists, the public apparently is vigorously supporting PRRD in his fight against illegal drugs. “National police data show 39 mostly drug-peddler suspects were killed since the start of the year until the elections. But since then, 72 have been killed, bringing the yearly total so far to 111 deaths”—and counting. Nearly “5,000 suspects have been arrested in anti-drug operations after the elections, bringing the number of arrests in a nationwide drive to nearly 19,000 since January, according to police records.”
Certain quarters are now condemning the execution-style killings of small players in the drug business. But the number of barangay influenced and infiltrated by illegal drugs is alarming. Government records indicated that “illegal drugs are present in nine out of 10 villages in Metro Manila. Studies have shown that 92 percent of the towns and cities in the metropolis are “not drug-free.” As of 2013, the illegal drug trade in the Philippines amounted to $8.4 billion.
But certain quarters have raised the issue of extrajudicial killings. That people have rights, even drug lords. That they should be given a day in court and serve the necessary penalties provided by law. But then you have the Bureau of Corrections, which has nurtured a different world or unique life styles for drug lords serving time, and some would say they are better dead. How to balance these contradictions is a challenge for the Duterte administration. Where the public is on the issue has to be established clearly to guide government. The call for the revival of death penalty is not a political grandstanding but an outright exasperation on its implementation. Duterte has said that the deterrence has not been felt because death penalty has never been enforced.
And so as The Punisher battles the drug lords domestically, The Hague will give Duterte the much-needed arm and muscle in putting together, hopefully, a shared vision on how to deal with China and its aggressive stance in the West Philippine Sea. There are five issues at hand, all revolving from the provisions of the UNCLOS. Principal of which is that a coastal state has the exclusive right to fish within its exclusive economic zone, an area 200 nautical miles from the coastal state’s baselines.
These five issues are: China’s historical rights; the claim made by China on what it formulated as the nine-dash line; on China’s insistence that rocks are islands; China’s breach of the law of the sea delimiting out sovereign rights and jurisdiction; and China’s damage to the environment with reclamation activities burying 311 hectares of coral reefs or a total of $106.29 million) in lost economic benefits.
We await the ruling and it will take time to sift through the pages and words of a historic decision that will redefine relations among nations in the region and be the basis for settling territorial disputes.
Islands are important to an archipelago like the Philippines. Islands are our wealth, resources-wise and as destinations. The Travel + Leisure readers have awarded three of the top 10 islands in the world to the Philippines, with Palawan as No. 1, Boracay as No. 2, and Cebu as No. 6. And yet the White Beach of Boracay is the best depiction of what greed truly is. A paradise in the 80s, it has continued its self-destruction with restaurants and hotels creeping very near its shoreline. D’Mall now is a concrete jungle that floods when it rains with a stench so unbearable because it comes from its constricted sewerage.
The road at the back is too small to allow easy access from Station 3 to Station 1. Boracay has been destroyed by local government officials who did not care about the environment and zoning but wanted to make hay while the sun shone, maxing up its per square meter of land for money. And yet, how much of the money is plowed back in terms of service is questionable. The national government would have to step in and close Boracay for six months or so and reengineer it in order to hold on to our crown jewels. If disputed territories with China are worth fighting for, how much more our Boracay? PRRD, in the few days in office, has proven “puede pala.” How about it, Mr. President—shut down Boracay and put sense to the local government officials in managing it?
And so when we talk of our country and moving people and products, we invariably have to discuss our airlines. Ours is a country of duopolies, which is why services are so bad. There is not much competition among telcos, airlines, electricity, water and other utilities. Additional players are blocked at entry level with regulations invoked to delay access.
A good vacation is destroyed immediately by unprofessional ground crews, who act like gods determining who should be moved up without nary an explanation. They will just assume that since planes are always delayed because of “traffic congestion in Manila,” you would grab whatever seat is available ahead of your flight, leaving behind family since only two can be accommodated. Worst, when they mess up, they won’t owe up and just point to nonexistent regulations. The oft-repeated “we apologize for the inconvenience” has no meaning at all because the delays are apparently standard operating procedure for an airline organization that speaks of the heart of Filipinos. PAL does not know how to take care of its customers. A PAL experience has always been less nurturing. Delayed four times, no gum or water given and was offered Cebu Pacific tickets because after the fouth, “there was 50 percent chance of plane being diverted to Kalibo.” C’mon, PAL, shape up!