More Equal Than The Others

Winston Arzaga

That strong letter from Palawan Contractors Association,Inc. (PAIC) to the Provincial Board is the first of its kind to openly question a Provincial Government policy and to practically brand one of its offices as insensitive to the needs of a particular industry. Judging from the the media blitz which followed the appearance of PAIC in the Q and A of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, we can surmise that the group headed by Ting Consebido of Roxas is ready for the long haul. For a time, they were murmuring on the wrong tree. Poor PMRB and Atty. TJ Matta, they could only say as much as to why no quarry permit is being released. Now out from the cold, PAIC must brace itself for the protracted tough days ahead. As it is, the policy on sand and gavel suffers from birth pangs as it migrates from single permittees to one where the community is the direct beneficiary. As a finite resource, extracting it is a privilege better granted to a cooperative than to a few lucky individuals. The challenge now for government and the private sector is to come up with acceptable solutions to address the shortage of quarry materials before it further damage the government’s own infrastructure projects. No less than our own DPWH District Engineers have sounded the alarm. DE Fajardo and DE Ventilacion have suffered low ratings, not because they have suddenly become wayward in their performance, but because there is simply no material to work on for their construction projects.

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After getting all the flak for his acidic “Who is he?” speech he delivered just before leaving for Laos, one thing stands clear for PRRD: he had, in a flash, articulated the core principles of our foreign policy in clear concise language. As the President emphasized, we have long ceased to be a vassal of another country. As a sovereign nation, nobody could interfere with our domestic policy and no one, no matter how powerful, could meddle in our affairs. Directed at President Obama and the United States, PRRD blasted America ‘s own dismal human rights record. One could not recall any of our past presidents ever speaking directly in such vitriol, and at the same time cussing the President of the only super power in the world today. What PRRD said, though, are basic truths delivered devoid of any diplomatic niceties. The brash words were enough trigger for President Obama to cancel a scheduled one-on-one Meeting between the two Presidents. As a result of the cancellation, many decried the lost opportunity for both leaders to engage in fruitful dialogue beneficial for both countries. After the fiasco, there is almost a unanimous call for the President to temper his rhetoric and for him to realize he is in the big league now with a worldwide audience that goes beyond the boundaries of his native Davao. As he will have to engage in more high level Diplomacy, he will have to learn intimately that diplomacy has its nuances which practitioners of the craft must gingerly observe. And one of the most basic is the respect accorded to the Heads of other countries. You cannot just pick a quarrel with them or be confrontational in public. Irritants in relations are threshed out in bilateral meetings or in the more secretive back channeling. It is true that as a sovereign nation, we are the equal of others anywhere in the world. But there is one reality all nations have come to accept: that some countries are more equal than the others. As President Obama wryly observed, the Philippines is a strong puncher fighting above its weight class.

AND BY THE WAY there is one heartening news from Laos which somehow made up for the cancelled meeting between President Obama and President Duterte. It was the warning of Obama for China to observe international law as the foundation for settling Maritime disputes. As Justice Carpio enthused, we have every reason to honor the American President for championing the cause of the Philippines. Rightly so, but Obama is just being faithful to the admonition of America’s first President, George Washington, who in his farewell message to then fledgling nation said : “we shall make war or peace as our interest may counsel”. Americans will not take up our cause out of the purity of their hearts or of their unabashed love for Filipinos. It is just that their interest and ours converge at the West Philippine Sea.

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