BATU, Indonesia. Photo by Jes Aznar

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

my life in a backpack

Brussels, BELGIUM - Right here, right now where the sun is out, musicians are playing in the plaza and the smell of magic leaves is wafting in the crisp air, I've got only my life in a backpack. Traveling again. I'm here for the 2010 European Blogging Competition . It's not easy to be away from home but there are times just like this one when I have to. It is an honor to have been selected to participate in an event like this. I am excited with all the stories I have to work on.

I've come to accept that my life is in a backpack and that I always have to come and go. My home has become where my feet takes me. I hope my daughter understands all of this one day. She will always be in my backpack. I am missing you here my dear Isabel.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Interviewing Gordon

I didn't stay the whole time to finish the roundtable discussion because of another coverage. All I can say is that Senator Gordon, I noticed, can go on and on talking. If he does make it to the presidency -- which he believes is very much possible -- I believe he would spend hours and hours and hours just talking, mostly about his accomplishments.

Here is a man who can blabber the time away. He didn't arrive on time, by the way -- which is a big minus for me -- never mind if he is busy saving the world. Oh and while he criticizes the system in the Philippines, saying that only the rich and elite rule, Dick Gordon does not know the name of his personal barber.
"I call him anytime even at 12 midnight...I don't know....I don't even know his name."
For the most part, I remember him talking about what he did in Subic.
In my opinion, he is somewhere between messianic, delusional and passionate. He is my mother's candidate. Now whoever said that mothers know best....?!?

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Richard Dick Gordon.

Gordon vows to make RP investor-friendly
By Iris C. Gonzales (The Philippine Star) Updated March 09, 2010 12:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Bagumbayan presidential candidate Sen. Richard “Dick” Gordon wants to replicate what he did in Olongapo and at the Subic Bay Freeport Zone to the whole country if he becomes the next President of the Philippines.

In a roundtable discussion with editors, columnists and reporters of The Philippine STAR yesterday, Gordon said he would create an environment that would make the Philippines investor-friendly. This, he said, is the formula that spurred economic growth in Olongapo and in the Subic economic zone.

Gordon, a lawyer and a degree holder of history and government, served as founding chairman and administrator of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) from 1992 to 1998. He served twice as mayor of Olongapo City from 1980 to 1986 and from 1988 to 1993.

He said that to attract investors, the government must put in place the proper infrastructure and must be consistent with its policies.

Gordon noted that when he headed Subic, he was able to bring in global freight companies FedEx, United Parcel Service and DHL. This, he said was done by providing them adequate infrastructure such as roads, runways, airports and seaports.

As such, he believes that there is a need to put the proper linkages between growth areas in the provinces and in Metro Manila. This would also help decongest Metro Manila so that population growth wouldn’t be overtaking economic growth.

There would also be strong communication between local government units and the national government to ensure that policies are consistent.

“We have to have consistency. We can’t change rules in the middle because we can’t attract investors. We won’t be able to grow,” Gordon said.

He also said that in building the necessary infrastructure projects, his government would enter into Build-Operate-Transfer contracts with the private sector so that state resources can be used in other areas.

“We will have BOT projects. We won’t use government money,” Gordon said.

He believes the Philippines needs a steady growth of seven to nine percent to be able to create the “impetus” for change.

Gordon, who is running on a transformational platform, said he would also overhaul the current system in the country where only the oligarchs have control over the resources of government.

“The oligarchy does nothing but accumulate wealth,” he said. This paves the way for a system of patronage among the country’s political leaders, he added.

“We have to break this cycle,” he said.

Speaking on specific areas of the economy, Gordon said, he would prioritize agricultural growth by investing in irrigation facilities.

In the area of power, he said President Arroyo must be made accountable on the current power crisis and must be asked to explain why it is happening.

He said his government would promote the use of alternative energy and is even willing to look into tapping nuclear energy to resolve the crisis.

Gordon, who served as secretary of tourism from 2001 to 2004 said he would continue to make the Philippines an attractive tourism destination.

Citing Singapore and Hong Kong as ideal models in the region, Gordon said that if he becomes president, he would make the Philippines the one with the “cleanest and most honest government in Asia.”

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Interviewing Gibo

The call time was 12 noon. I arrived 12:15. I was late because I stole a few minutes to e-mail a very urgent letter from a nearby coffeeshop. The security guards at the Philippine Star office said Gibo had arrived. Yikes, I'm late. I jumped out of the car. In my haste, I forget to change into a decent pair of shoes. I was wearing slippers. Went back and grabbed my gray stiletto from the trunk. I rushed inside the labyrinthine office. The conference room was filled to the brim and all eyes were on the man sitting on one end of the long wooden table.

GILBERT Teodoro Jr., in a white and light blue long sleeves polo, is in the hot seat, facing the editors and reporters of the Star for the paper's presidentiables series. My task is to write about his economic platform. He had just started talking about the economy when I entered the room.

He looks at me straight in the eye. I am surprised. Most men -- especially the unfaithful ones -- can't ever look at you straight in the eye. Some, only for a moment. But they always look away when the discussion gets tough.

But Teodoro, a man with a pleasant face, keeps the eye-to-eye contact. Serious and penetrating. He wants to get his message across, I thought.

He talks about a lot of things -- investments, poverty, the Securities Regulation Code, infrastructure, corruption, physics, geometry, universal kindergarten, divorce, etc. etc.

He talks passionately and with enough brilliance to keep his listeners' attention.

Most of the time, he has very specific, straight-forward answers.

For example, when asked about his thoughts on divorce, Teodoro said if the couples want it, it should be granted. (Amen to that).

But when asked about his thoughts on family planning and abortion, the answer wasn't very clear.

He also offered to fix the streetlights, saying this would help solve the problem of extrajudicial killings. (Huh? Well if this is some figure of speech, I didn't get it all.)

Teodoro nonetheless gave more than enough answers to a lot of difficult questions. He gave pragmatic solutions to many problems. He recognized for instance the need to raise consumer taxes and leave income tax rates as is. He recognized the need to reform the educational system and raise the salaries of teachers. He recognized and committed to push for universal health care. He recognized the need to bring down the cost of medicines. He wants more funds for research and development and wants to increase the salaries of corporate regulators.

The Harvard-educated Teodoro seems to know what he is talking about. Whether or not Filipinos are convinced is still anybody's guess.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Gilbert Teodoro, Jr.

Growth must trickle down to masses - Gibo
By Iris G. Gonzales (The Philippine Star) Updated March 02, 2010 12:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Lakas-Kampi-CMD standard bearer Gilbert Teodoro Jr. vowed to make economic growth trickle down to the grassroots level if he gets elected as the next president of the Philippines.

The Harvard-educated Teodoro said this can only be done if there is sustainable economic growth of at least eight percent for a period of at least 10 years.

“We have to have long-term growth so that it can trickle down,” Teodoro said in a rountable discussion with editors of The STAR.

Such sustainable economic growth, he said, can only be possible if the government puts in place the proper environment to attract foreign and local investments.

For foreign investments, he said, he would use his first 100 days to invite two big-ticket global firms to set up operations in the country and use this as pitch to invite other potential investors.

”Success will build on success,” he said.

He believes in liberalizing some lands except agricultural lands. He also believes in opening up other sectors such as tourism and mining to attract investments. At the local level, Teodoro promised to provide fiscal incentives to local government units that are “investor-friendly.”

Additional funds to help in extending these incentives may come from the President’s discretionary funds, he noted.

He is counting on investors to bring in the funds that would fuel economic growth but was also practical enough to recognize that there is a need to impose new taxes.

“No choice,” when asked if he plans to impose new taxes.

However, he said he wouldn’t anymore touch the current income tax rate, noting that this is already among the highest in the region.

“Our income tax rates are one of the highest. You can’t anymore play with that. It’s very high already,” he said.

Instead, Teodoro said, he would push for an increase in consumption and excise taxes.

He also plans to maximize growth areas outside Metro Manila by ensuring that there are enough roads and bridges that would link the regions to the capital.

“We will ease communication between and among regions.

You’ll have to have more airports and seaports. That’s the only time you can serve more,” he said.

Teodoro said his government would push for improvements in the corporate regulatory environment by raising the salaries of regulators.

In the area of power, Teodoro said his government will tap alternative sources of energy but those that are not too costly for the country.

He noted that geothermal energy is quite expensive and added that there may be a link between earthquakes and the use of this kind of power.

As he laid out these grand plans, the former defense secretary said that ultimately, the key to ensuring economic growth is to have peace and order and a stable government.