The Southeast Asian Times
NEWS FOR NORTHERN AUSTRALIA AND SOUTHEAST ASIA
LETTERS:


Gun control in Thailand
Will not prevent crime
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 17 October 2017
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday 14 October 2017

The planned arms control measure which targets foreigners will not help prevent
gun crime in Thailand.
A number of Thais possess various types of guns without a licence and so many of them are from illegal origin.
The authorities should keep . a close watch on local people, not foreigners.

R H. Suga,
Bangkok,
Thailand




The Philippines is a state party to the International Convention
For the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday h16 October 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Saturday 14 October 2017

Please allow me to give my two cents’ worth on the matter of countering
terrorism in the Philippines.
I believe that addressing terrorism, including other acts involving violent
extremism and rebellion, is not just a matter of military operations and
prosecution of perpetrators under the Human Security Act of 2007.
It is also about looking into financing as a vital aspect of a good case management
framework.
While amendments to broaden the coverage and application of the Human Security
Act, as well as the institutionalization of a national ID system and SIM card
registration, are promising measures to counter terrorism, the defense sector
and the military should also consider cooperative or interagency measures to
implement our existing antiterrorism financing laws.
A major blow that could incapacitate, if not eradicate, any terrorist group is
to cut off its life support, i.e., resources or funds that sustain its unlawful
operations.
This would surely deprive the very means for which these entities are able to organize massive recruitments and purchase top-caliber weapons that
enable them to put up resistance against our military troops.
The Philippines has long recognized this fact, as manifested by its being a state party to the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism and a participant to other related UN programs and initiatives. Consequently, in keeping with its undertakings therein, the Philippines enacted the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001 and the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act of 2012.
Among the unlawful activities covered and addressed under the Anti-Money
Laundering Act of 2001, as amended, are: 1) terrorism and conspiracy to commit
terrorism as defined and penalized under Sections 3 and 4 of the Human Security
Act of 2007; and 2) financing of terrorism under Section 4 and offenses
punishable under Sections 5, 6, 7 and 8 of the Terrorism Financing Prevention
and Suppression Act of 2012.
On the other hand, the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act of
2012 has a provision on punishing “financing terrorism,” which pertains to the
possession, provision, collection or utilization of property or funds, or making
available property, funds, financial service or other related services, by any
person to carry out or facilitate the commission of any terrorist act by a
terrorist organization, association, group, or individual.
It is submitted that by looking into these laws and reconciling them with
existing legal processes and measures, our defense sector could come up with a
more holistic and encompassing approach to terrorism resolution.
It could also pave the way for new partnerships and increased cooperation among banking and financial institutions, community stakeholders, and other civil society
organizations.
In the face of current atrocities brought forth by existing and emerging
terrorist groups, such as the Islamic State-inspired Maute group, Bangsamoro
Islamic Freedom Fighters, Abu Sayyaf, and New People’s Army, it wouldn’t hurt
for our government to look at the flipside.

Adelaida Cabaddu,
Manila,
Philippines



 

Malaysia shows commitment towards
A nuclear-weapon-free zone in Southeast Asia
The Southeast Asian TImes, Sunday 15 October 2017
First published in the Star, Tuesday 10 October 2017

Citizens International congratulates the Malaysian Government on becoming a
signatory of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons at the United
Nations in late September.
The passing of this treaty should be lauded as a solid step towards the complete
elimination of nuclear weapons.
Thus, we implore the Malaysian Government to ratify this treaty in working towards maintaining world peace without the threat of nuclear annihilation.
As party to the Treaty of Bangkok, Malaysia has shown its commitment towards
maintaining a nuclear-weapon-free zone in South-East Asia.
We invite the Malaysian Government to raise this matter of profound concern to other Asean members, and to support and encourage the signing and ratification of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
Nuclear weapons are the most destructive and inhumane weapons ever developed,
posing a legitimate threat to the environment and human survival.
The process of developing nuclear weapons alone emanates high risk of catastrophes including contamination of food and water sources, deformation in foetuses, fatal diseases, famine and climate disruption, all of which will drastically worsen in the event of detonation.
Although deterrence is often used as a pretext for acquiring and developing
nuclear weapons, our society is not capable of addressing the humanitarian
crisis and providing adequate relief to victims in the aftermath of nuclear
disaster.
Hence, it is imperative that the international community prioritises human interest and cooperates to completely eliminate all forms of nuclear weapons to safeguard public resources, maintain positive socio-economic development and protect the health of future generations.
We encourage people to support the ratification of this treaty to ensure
peaceful coexistence on this increasingly interconnected planet.
We must allow the devastating consequences of Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the Chernobyl explosion to inform our attitude towards nuclear weapons as those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it.

S. M. Mohamed Idris,
Chairman,
Citizens International
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia




Call for Filipinos too purchase
Locally manufactured steel
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 14 October 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 12 October 2017

We thank Advocates of Science and Technology for the People (AGHAM) for taking up the cudgels for the local steel manufacturers in our fight against substandard imported steel, Support local steel industry,” Philippine Inquirer 20 September 2017.
Indeed, the quality of imported steel is a major concern for the government because substandard ones jeopardize the safety of the public.
As the government carries out its mandate to ensure the quality and safety of imported materials, rebar included, we would like to share relevant information to help the buying public be more aware of standards related to quality rebar.
Unlike imported rebar, locally manufactured ones undergo stringent testing to ensure that their quality adhere to the Philippine National Standards (PNS) set for a seismic region such as the Philippines.
The first sign of quality is the logo stamped on each rebar.
The website of the Bureau of Product Standards (BPS) carries a list of approved logos—meaning, these manufacturers have been green-lighted by BPS to sell rebar.
Hardware stores and other resellers would also have posters of these logos displayed in their areas.
Other telling signs of quality are not readily visible to the naked eye and the consumer would have to physically examine the rebar.
First, there is the issue of underweight or undersized rebar.
There are imported rebar that are sold as a size or grade higher than their actual specification.
When buying rebar, the customer may ask the supplier eg. the hardware store to weigh the rebar and check the figures against the tags.
Quality rebar are also not easily bent with just one’s bare hands.
PNS dictates that rebar pass mechanical and chemical tests that assure consumers that the rebar will withstand a certain level of stress eg. tremors during earthquakes.
While the consumer ought to consider locally manufactured rebar over its imported counterpart owing to safety and quality issues, the choice between these two is also a matter of national importance.
Locally manufactured rebar equals more jobs for our countrymen.
SteelAsia alone has around 3,000 direct hires and 15,000 more are employed in support industries.
Filipino investors who pour money into local production facilities also contribute to the development of the country’s very own industrial sector.
Indeed, locally manufactured steel produced through the most modern technology and passing the highest standards of quality is the Filipino consumer’s best
choice.

MA. Teresal, Pacis,
AVP,
Corporate communication,
SteelAsia,
Manila,
Philippines

 


Conference of Malay Rulers
Call for moderation
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 13 October 2017
First published in the Star, Thursday 12 October 2017

I refer to the report “Unity first, say Rulers” in The Star, October 11.
In view of the recent cases of bigotry and extremism, it is an absolute relief that our
beloved Rulers have come out to state clearly that, among others, Malaysia is a
multireligious and multiracial nation.
The Rulers have also reminded us to abide by the principles of the Federal
Constitution and the tenets of the Rukunegara, our national philosophy.
How many times do we have to be reminded that moderation is the way forward for our country?
Throughout our six decades of independence, we have been able to enjoy
continuous harmony and prosperity because we acted in accordance with the
principles of our Federal Constitution, which was drafted upon the understanding
that all citizens regardless of race, religion and culture would enjoy fairness
and justice.
Therefore, whatever we do, we must never go overboard in our thoughts and
actions.
Many countries have high regard for Malaysia because of the ability of its
people of diverse racial and religious backgrounds to live in harmony together.
Everyone has a place under the Malaysian sun as long as they work hard and with
integrity.
In fact, we always boast of our vibrant economy, the fruit of decades of
industrial growth and political stability as a result of close cooperation and
understanding among the people.
Surely, our Rulers’ call for moderation, tolerance and respect will resonate
among all Malaysians. We must respond positively to prevent extreme individuals
or groups from derailing our social and economic transformation programmes.
Daulat Tuanku!

Thomas Kok,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia

 


Filipinos recieve a Centenarian gift
On their 100th birthday
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 12 October 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Sunday 8 October 2017

We celebrate the annual Elderly Filipino Week on Oct. 1-7, with the first Sunday this month as “National Respect for Centenarians Day” pursuant to Republic Act No. 10868 or the Centenarians Act of 2016.
Under this law, any Filipino citizen who reaches the age of 100 years old shall be entitled to the “Centenarian gift” of P100,000 from the national government with a Certificate of Felicitation from the president and with corresponding cash incentives from and determined by the city or municipality where the elderly resides.
Thus, in line with this nationwide celebration, we, the senior citizens, would like to propose the following incentives for the consideration of the President and our lawmakers:
Section 4(c) of RA 9994, which grants to elderly persons “five percent discount on their water and electric bills provided the water consumption does not exceed 30 cubic meters and electric usage does not exceed 100 kWh” be amended to the effect that the discount should be applied to the first 30 cubic meters of water consumption and to the first 100 kWh electric usage. I already sent letters or proposed bills to our legislators and to date I have not yet received any action.
When an item is on “promo” authorized by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the coupon or advertisement should not only state the “promo price” but shall also include the price if purchased by an elderly or senior citizen. This is so because there are times when the “promo price” is higher than what an elderly would get if he would apply his 12-percent VAT exemption and 20-percent discount. Likewise, if the “promo” goes beyond the period allowed by the DTI, the “promo price” shall be treated as the regular price of the item on promo to which the elderly should be entitled to his 12-percent VAT exemption and 20-percent discount.
The DTI should clearly emphasize that when a “promo” is not allowed by the DTI or the “promo” is a personal undertaking by the firm or establishment, the elderly shall still be entitled to his 12-percent VAT exemption and 20-percent discount over and above the said promo price. The DTI should also stress that said discounts on “promo” should include the so-called “package promo” offered by hospitals, laboratory clinics, restaurants and similar establishments selling combination of items in special price offered to nonsenior citizens and the senior citizens at the same price.
The requirement that promotional discounts should be approved by the DTI is imperatively necessary, otherwise some dishonest firms would just say they are “on promo,” which will render naught and meaningless the purpose of the Senior Citizens Law.
And the same benefits should likewise be extended to persons with disability since they receive the same benefits enjoyed by Filipino senior citizens.

Romulo B. Macalintal,
Advocate for rights of senior citizens,
Las Piñas City,
Philippines



Rohingya in Malaysia
Receive distressing calls from relatives
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 11 October 2017
First published in the New Straits Times, Monday 2 October 2017

The atrocities committed against the Rohingya in Rakhine State in Myanmar in the
recent escalation of violence has caused much suffering to those there and the
Rohingya diaspora, many of whom are living in protracted displacement as
refugees and asylum seekers in Bangladesh, Thailand and Malaysia.
The decades-long persecution of the Rohingya in Myanmar has led to hundreds of
thousands fleeing Myanmar.
The latest wave of violence has affected the Rohingya in Malaysia, many of whom
continue to receive distressing reports of relatives who have been killed, are
missing or are struggling with hunger and exhaustion in their journey to safety.
Many have also lost contact with relatives and are gripped by anxiety.
Some community members have considered turning to human smugglers to help their
loved ones make the journey out of Myanmar, thereby increasing the risk of them
being trafficked.
For others, the feeling of relief after family members have crossed over to
Bangladesh is short lived, as they face distressing reports of the lack of
access to food, sanitation and shelter.
The Rohingya in Malaysia with families in Bangladesh and fleeing Myanmar to
Bangladesh are having their meagre resources depleted as they spend exorbitant
amounts of money to communicate with their loved ones and try to support their
flight from violence back home.
Additionally, their fears, uncertainties and dilemma, and the stress of having
to make difficult decisions that impact their lives here and the lives of those
in Rakhine State and Bangladesh have led to a community exhausting their
resources and reaching the end of their tether.
Community members report a deepening sense of helplessness, hopelessness and
desperation.
One community member reported that the only respite from her daily
anguish is the call from her family to communicate to her of their whereabouts.
She said: “Otherwise, what is there to hope? There is no hope.”
This sense of despair and stress exacerbate the distress of a vulnerable
population.
The traumatic preflight and flight conditions of the Rohingya in the
preceding years have resulted in acute and chronic health problems.
For others, the perilous journey has also resulted in post-traumatic stress
disorder and other mental health disorders.
Health Equity Initiatives is concerned about the heightened anxiety and stress
of the Rohingya in Malaysia that is caused by the violence in Rakhine State.
We call on the international community to condemn the human rights violations in
Myanmar and work to stop the atrocities in Myanmar.

Kuala Lumpur,
Malayalsia


Any definitive statement by ASEAN on the Rohingya
To be reached by consensus
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 10 October 2017
First published in the New Straits Times, Wednesday 4 October 2017

The Rohingya issue is a crisis that Asean is grappling with, both as an entity and as individual countries.
The crisis is worsening by the day.
Every state must define its position in accordance with its distinct geopolitical situation and within the context of the country’s values.
Any definitive statement by Asean must be reached via consensus.
The statement by Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman gave voice to the sentiments of Malaysians, who are deeply concerned about the Rohingya and who are every day welcoming refugees from Rakhine State as their brothers and sisters.
The perspective of Malaysia on this issue must be given weight proportionate to the nation’s engagement with the crisis, which is greater than any other Asean member state.
Malaysians reject any attempt to obscure the reality of what is taking place, and no one is better positioned to know this reality than the Rohingya themselves.
We applaud the minister for his bravery and honesty, and for affirming the sovereignty of Malaysia in defining the correct narrative on the violence in Rakhine State.

Azril Mohd Amin,
Chief executive,
Centre for Human Rights Research and Advocacy,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia




Millions of Philippine fishers and coastal settlers
Threatened by land reclaimation projects
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 9 October 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 4 October 2017

We, the small fisherfolk under the banner of Pamalakaya-Pilipinas, express our strong opposition to the confirmation of Roy Cimatu as secretary to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
Cimatu has completely aborted the positive gestures of his predecessor Gina Lopez in the environment department, particularly Lopez’s stand against land reclamation projects because of its disastrous effects to the environment and the people’s livelihood.
Contrary to Lopez, who refrained from issuing environmental compliance certificates to reclamation projects, Cimatu in one interview said that he will allow reclamation activities to proceed for it is “allowed by the law.”
With more than 100 reclamation projects covering almost 40,000 hectares of fishing waters approved throughout the archipelago, millions of fisherfolk and coastal settlers are under the threat of widespread community displacement in exchange for eco-tourism hub, commercial business districts, and even government projects that only benefit the private sector.
Reclamation not only threatens the people’s socio-economic rights, it also poses serious damage and destruction to abundant marine resources such as seabed, corals, and mangrove areas resulting to ecosystem imbalance and reduction of marine productivity. Such activity has been legalized by the Philippine Reclamation Authority, an attached agency of the DENR, through the crafting of the National Reclamation Plan.
We fear that keeping Cimatu in his position would expedite the completion of all reclamation projects, and will effectively wipe out productive fishing communities and millions of hardworking fisherfolk from the Philippine map, like what happened to more than 6,000 fishing families in 2002 upon construction of the Entertainment City project in Manila Bay along Roxas Boulevard in Parañaque City.
Cimatu is bringing back the traditional orientation of the DENR as the number one facilitator of destructive projects at the cost of the environment and the welfare of the people.
As a known corrupt former military general who was also a notorious defender of environmental plunderers, Cimatu is morally and politically not suitable to head the environment department.
Instead, we want no less than the likes of Gina Lopez in order to continue the positive reforms on the environment that are also beneficial to the Filipino people.

Fernando Hicap,
National Chair,
Pamalakaya-Pilipinas,
Manila,
Philippines



Call for governments to address climate change
At United Nations climate summit in Germany
The Southeast Asian Times Sunday 8 October 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer 4 October 2017

News of recent hurricanes in the Caribbean and the US were hard to ignore.
The devastating impacts of these hurricanes hit me deeply and resonated with my memories and experiences.
On this side of the world, in 2013, we endured the most intense storm to ever make landfall in recorded human history when Haiyan or Yolanda as we called it struck the Philippines.
It’s not a coincidence that many of the most powerful storms in history have happened recently.
We are seeing these storms because of climate change - global warming means higher sea surface temperature which means more powerful storms.
Climate change is not a natural phenomenon.
It’s the predictable result of emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at a massive scale.
And one of the biggest causes of these emissions is energy production.
This is what is doubly heartbreaking in the Philippines.
Our energy system is based on burning coal, oil, and gas.
These technologies have been around for hundreds of years but still, almost 20 percent of people living in rural areas don’t have access to electricity.
This poverty makes us even more vulnerable to super storms.
We know that coal, oil, and gas are driving climate change, contributing not just to super storms but to drought, crop damage, and ocean acidification, too.
And we know that these old systems of energy production don’t actually deliver for millions in the Philippines and almost 3 billion worldwide.
That’s why this October, we’ve joined with other organizations in Asia and across the world to push forward an initiative called Reclaim Power.
Reclaim Power is a catalyst for organizations, which don’t normally think about “climate change” or “energy,” to take action and highlight the urgent need for a transformation of our energy systems.
There is already abundant technology that can provide energy to all without burning the planet.
What is needed is a shift in the systems we use to deliver that energy.
We need to direct public (and private) finance and subsidies to encourage 100 percent renewable and clean energy instead of giving handouts to dirty energy companies.
We need to ensure community and public control of our energy systems to ensure that people’s access is prioritized over profit.
And we need to ensure that local and long-term sustainability is considered. Substituting food crops to grow biofuel or flooding the Amazon forest to make a mega dam is not a real solution to climate change or lack of energy access!
To drive this message home to our governments, we are planning over 500 actions across the world, on every continent.
We will create a wave of pressure on our governments before the UN climate summit in Germany in November.
We will host public education events and protest actions in India and in the Philippines, justice caravans in Kenya, memorials in Bolivia, occupations in England, some good old-fashioned tweeting at the World Bank in Washington, and many other actions in many countries across the globe.
All of these show that not only hurricanes can super-charge climate change, but that movements can, too.
People are rising across the world to say our energy systems are broken and that we know how to fix them. I hope you will join us. I know our governments are starting to listen.

Lidy Nacpil,
Manila,
Philippines



Critical thinking remains the best-known antidote
For gullibility
The Southeast Asian TImes, Saturday 7 October 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 3 October 2017

Gideon Lasco wrote an interesting piece in his September 28 column on Filipino gullibility, citing as one example the recent gathering of thousands at the UP Los Baños Freedom Park to collect their promised share of the Marcos loot, but not before they shelled out P30 each for a pamphlet that extolled the virtues of late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos.
Other examples of gullibility cited were the pyramid scams, and false and misleading testimonials and advertisements for medicines that do not work (notice how the annotator rushes through, like an express train, that part where the manufacturer disclaims any therapeutic value of their product like they don’t want you to hear it?). Don’t forget the rush of get-rich-quick scams.
To be fair, however, Lasco stated that the malady affects citizens of other countries as well.
One example of gullibility that Lasco failed to mention, however, is the myth of religion and the gullibility of millions of believers.
Hypocrites hide behind the cloak of religion: Imelda Marcos on her knees in Quiapo church as if saying ‘I believe in god, hence I am not guilty of stealing’;
Manny Pacquiao, in a recent incident with a couple of ladies in social media suggesting improper behavior, saying it was done with no malice (His proof? “I fear God.”);
John Paul Solano, the principal suspect in the death of hazing victim Horacio “Atio” Castillo, clutching a large crucifix hanging from his neck, purposely holding it up for all to see while he was being interviewed on television.
So, those who believe cannot be evil?
What does that make of the doubters?
Before the arrival of the Spaniards, our ancestors worshipped the sun, moon, stars, earth, trees and rivers; things that gave them light, nourishment and life.
The tragedy occurred when Spanish priests and conquistadores came to our islands and introduced Christianity with their yarn of an invisible man living in the sky who loves you but if you do not love him back, off you go to hell.
Don’t forget the priests, too, who came with their DNA!
Lasco is right: critical thinking remains the best-known antidote for gullibility.

Robert Alvarez Hyndman,
Manila,
Philippines



God bless Japan
And it’s people.
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 6 October 2017
First published in the Japan Times, Friday 29 September 2017

I was on holiday with family in Japan and on Sepembert 24 I visited the Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Dome. When I was praying for peace and choked with emotion at the Cenotaph for the Atomic Bomb Victims, my kids who were quite restless in the heat found a much-needed light blue Alice in Wonderland umbrella hanging from my backpack!
It was definitely not mine; some really very kind person must have seen the agony my kids were in and put it in my backpack silently so that I could use it for them.
So adorable and how thoughtful and kind.
To that noble person, I’m indebted to you. Arigato from the bottom of my heart. At the place where such a terrible disaster happened, you gave the message of love, kindness and hope. My kids and I learned lot from you … humanity and kindness.
God bless Japan and it’s lovely people.

Monica Munial,
Canberra,
Australia



Thailand has not gone from bad to worse
Under martial law
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 5 October 2017
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 2 October 2017

In his September 30 comment, Kong Rithdee said: "But still, history tells us that
when a prime minister has been driven out, the country has gone from bad to
worse, from one uncertainty to more uncertainties…"

Perhaps in the past.
Actually Thailand has not gone from bad to worse, but bad to much better than it was before.
At least there are less uncertainties, less corruption, and hopefully, it will get better and better, the longer Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha remains.
Sure, lots of reforms are a long way off, but they were a longer way off with
those past prime ministers who focussed on themselves rather than focusing on
the country.
If Prayut is quite a benevolent dictator in many ways.
Thailand could have had a Hun Sen, a Suu Kyi, (talk about wishy-washy indecisiveness), or even, someone akin to that blob who rules his personal fiefdom called North Korea.

Devilish Mango,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 



Imprisonment of former Thai PM Yingluck Shinawatra
Could have led to civil war
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 4 October 2017
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 2 October 2017

I would venture to suggest the disappearance of Yingluck Shinawatra to avoid a
jail sentence does not fit in the same category as other examples of criminals
escaping justice in the Land of Smiles.
Whether she is guilty or not is surely irrelevant.
The reality has become clear that to imprison such a personable and inoffensive
lady who enjoys, rightly or wrongly, the passionate support of at least half the
population would have been an act of folly that would have invited divisions
that could have led to unintended consequences, including civil strife and even
civil war.
Frankly, I would hope that all people concerned would appreciate that Yingluck's
departure, from a pragmatic point of view, is by far the best outcome and should
be gratefully accepted as such!

Tony Ash,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Call for law to make public health
Accessible and available to Filipinos
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 3 October 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 2 October 2017

We write to express our earnest support on the passage of House Bill 2475 or “An Act Prohibiting the Privatization of Public Hospitals, Public Health Facilities, and Public Health Services” filed by Bayan Muna party list and the rest of the Makabayan bloc in Congress.
The bill is important in a country: where hospitalization in the Philippines can cost three months’ worth of a worker’s wage; where six out of 10 patients die without ever seeing a doctor; where scores of patients have to line up before the break of dawn in the out-patient department of public hospitals only to be told that the limited slot for charity has already been filled up; where preventable and curable diseases continue to top the leading causes of morbidity and mortality; where it is virtually impossible for people from far-flung areas to consult a health worker because no public health facilities are present and transportation to the “nearest” hospital or clinic is worth a week’s income; or where the sick could hardly get the treatment they need because of user and service fees; and where public healthcare becomes a commodity with a price tag for every service.
The dismal public healthcare service is further aggravated by the continuing adherence of the government to the policy of privatization and corporatization of public hospitals and health facilities.
No less than Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Ubial declared that at least 33 of the 72 public hospitals will be corporatized to gain financial autonomy.
The National Center for Mental Health will be sold and transferred to Rosario, Cavite; Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital will be transferred and corporatized. Even without any legal basis, government hospitals like Quirino Memorial Medical Center, Eastern Visayas Regional Medical Center, Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center, and Corazon Locsin Montelibano Medical Center have increased fees making it unaffordable for the poor.
Thus, it is high time to pass a law that will make public healthcare more accessible and available to the people and make it illegal to make business out of health in public hospitals, public health facilities, and public health services; that will ensure a public healthcare system fueled by government fund and not indebted to any profit-making entity.
The passage of HB 2475 will bring the Filipino people closer to the healthcare system they truly deserve - free healthcare services in a unified public health system. Under such system, the government assumes full responsibility in the provision of free health services to all people, and provides essential medicines for free. From the national level down to the smallest unit, the government shall ensure adequate funds and resources are allocated using only public money.
The exclusive utilization of public funds for public health facilities will guarantee that healthcare is provided for free and will never be profit-driven or used for income generation at the expense of patients.

Eleanor A. Jara MD.,
Coconvenor,
Coalition for People’s Right to Health,
Manila,
Philippines


 

Laos accused of lacking protection
For foreign investoers
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 2 October 2017
First published in the Vientiane Times, Monday 18 September 2017

Re: “Laos prevails in Hongsa power plant court case”, in Vientiane Times, The
Nation,
Monday September 18.
The Lao Ministry of Planning and Investments presents a completely false picture
of the facts and legal status of the arbitration, according to the claimant,
Thai-Lao Lignite Company Limited (TLL), a company of Thailand’s Nganthavee
Group.Thai-Lao Lignite discovered the lignite mine and was awarded a mining concession from the Lao government’s Foreign Investment Management Committee in 1992 and a second power concession in 1994.
The Nganthavee Group was in the process of developing the project and, in 2005, entered into a joint venture with Banpu Plc.
After TLL terminated Banpu in August 2006, the contract required the project to
revert solely to TLL. Instead, Laos terminated both contracts with TLL in
October 2006 and awarded the deal to Banpu in a no-bid concession in December
2006.
TLL presented evidence that Banpu used confidential documents and information
invested in and developed by TLL.
The Lao government statement quoted by your newspaper falsely states “the
government, therefore, was compelled to terminate the project concessions in
2007” (the year was 2006) and also further falsely says that Laos requested
proposals from “other potential contenders”, when the truth is that the deal was
quickly given to Banpu.
In 2007, according to the 1994 contract, TLL filed for arbitration against the
Lao government and, in November 2009, won the case and was awarded $56 million – not $25 million, as the report incorrectly claims.
The report correctly admits that “the Lao government refused the enforcement of the” award and refused to pay even $1.
The report says that it “requested the Malaysian court, where the arbiter was
seated, to set aside’ the award in 2013”.

This would have been years after the award was issued in TLL’s favour and far beyond the 90-day statute of limitations contained in the Malaysian Arbitration Act. Nevertheless, the Malaysian court improperly allowed the Lao government to proceed and ruled that TLL had to file two separate arbitration cases for the mining and power agreements, rather than combining them.
It did not rule on the merits.Laos then incorrectly states that the Malaysian court’s 2017 ruling brought “the long case to an end, with a clear and important victory for the Lao government”.
In fact, the Malaysian courts made a purely procedural ruling and never
adjudicated the substantive issue at the arbitration, which was Laos’ illegal
termination of TLL’s concession and award of the deal to Banpu.
TLL has hired a new legal team and is presently filing new arbitrations,
litigations and other proceedings against Laos.
The case is not over and only has to be refiled.
Far from being “a clear and important victory”, Laos’ actions during the 11-year period from 2006-2017 show its lack of protection for foreign investors and
consistent refusal to pay arbitration awards against it, despite Laos being a
signatory of the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign
Arbitral Awards (New York Convention).
On June 29, the latest US State Department 2017 Investment Climate Statement
about Laos said: “Investors report that corruption at all levels of the public
sector and government administration remains a major concern.”

The 2012 Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index ranked the
country 160th out of 176 countries.
Sanum Investments in Singapore is another example of the Lao government’s
expropriation and refusal to pay, as is the infamous Gem Mining (“Danes”) case.
It has never honoured or paid an award or judgement made against it.
Even worse is that the Lao government profited financially from the termination
of TLL and delivering the project to TLL’s partner, Banpu. Under TLL’s
contracts, Laos was prohibited from owning shares in the Hongsa project.
But this time the Lao government required Banpu to give it a big share after taking
the project away from TLL.
According to the website of Hongsa Plc, www.hongsapower.com, the hareholders
are Banpu Power Plc (BPP) with 40 per cent, RH International (Singapore)
Corporation Pte Ltd, a subsidiary of Ratchaburi Electricity Generating Holding
Plc (RATCH) with 40 per cent, and Lao Holding State Enterprise (LHSE) with 20
per cent. Thus, Laos gained 20 per cent of a $3.5-billion project, or Bt23
billion, from its illegal acts.
Now that the extent of the damages to TLL are more clearly shown by Ratchburi’s
recently announced doubling the size of the project and Banpu Power’s IPO, TLL
is confident that the future proceedings will be able to award the correct level
of damages to the plaintiff.

Nganthavee Group
Thai-Lao Lignite,
Bangkok,
Thailand


 

Call for construction of railway
From Nong Khai to Nakhon Ratchasima
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 1 October 2017
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday 28 September 2017

It is good news that the railway project that links Bangkok and Nakhon
Ratchasima is moving ahead in November in Bangkok Post, Tuesday 26 September.
But there is one curious question: If the railway is meant to link the Sino-Lao-Thai railway system in order to increase the flow of traffic between China and Thailand, why don't we build the Nong Khai to Nakhon Ratchasima line first?
If so, Chinese tourists can come down through Laos and open up the unexplored
tourism industry for the great Isan area, not to mention that many Isan goods,
especially agricultural products, can become competitive by travelling via the
new rail line to China.
Instead of shunting the Isan region which is widely believed by the regime to be
the political base of their opposition, it should build up credit among the
people there by implementing solid projects that can enhance the region's
economy, not the other way round.

Yingwai Suchaovanich,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 


Thailand
To get worked over
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 30 September 2017
First published in the Nation, Wednesday 27 September 2017

Re: “Premier’s US itinerary confirmed amid human-rights concerns affecting Thailand”, The Nation, Tuesday 26 September 2017.
Acting US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian Affairs Susan Thornton
said “the US wanted Thailand to crack down on North Korean companies in the Kingdom as well as put pressure on its diplomatic mission”.
They will pressure the good general to do more to stifle North Korean business
in Thailand.
If he does not agree, the US will threaten trade sanctions.
The problem with being the all-powerful leader is that Trump can ask him to do
things knowing that Prayut need not to worry about a parliament or Thai public
opinion. Prayut’s desperation for recognition will be used against him.
He is going to get worked over.

Yellowboat,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 


Rankhin conflict in Myanmar
Beyond the blame game
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 28 September 2017
First Published in the Myanmar Times, Monday 25 September 2017

Coverage of the Rakhine crisis in The Myanmar Times since 25 August has diverged substantially from that of the international media.
I have, however, been somewhat reassured to read editorials in your paper such as “Rakhine conflict: beyond the blame game” in 15 September Myanmar Times and “Rakhine situation: fact versus fiction” in 22 September Myanmar Times.
These editorials urge a balanced, research-based approach to reporting on the crisis which is clearly welcome and required.
I was therefore aghast after turning to page 7 of Friday’s Myanmar Times edition and reading the opinion piece by Daw Khin Thidar Aye titled “Truth about Rakhine will prevail”.
The piece almost entirely comprises dangerous contentions which are not supported by a shred of evidence.
To give but five examples:
“The world is being deceived by fake news and biased analysis of the conflict in Rakhine State.” “As a result, international policy and investment are supporting the villains and fertilizing terrorist breeding grounds.” “The mainstream media is exaggerating the exodus of Bengalis from Myanmar to Bangladesh”. “ARSA terrorists have burned tens of thousands of houses to the ground, driving their own people to the other side of the border. Meanwhile moderate Bengalis are threatened and forced to lie to the media that the human rights abuses and destruction were committed by security personnel.” “ARSA planted landmines in conflict zones”.
In “Rakhine conflict: beyond the blame game,” your editorial team writes
“misinformation about the situation could have serious repercussions and cause further delays in humanitarian assistance”.
Daw Khin Thidar Aye has produced the most egregious example of misinformation that I have read in an edited publication since the escalation of the Rakhine conflict on 25 August.
I would hope, though I do not expect, that The Myanmar Times’ editorial team will
distance itself from this piece in Monday’s edition.
Rather it seems likely that I will choose to cancel my subscription, active since May 2014.
I will continue my subscription to the Global New Light of Myanmar.
It at least makes no secret of the fact that it is a government mouthpiece.

Name withheld by request
Sanchaung township,
Myanmar




Marist Brothers in the Philippines
Denounce extrajudicial killings
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 28 September 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 26 September 2017

We, the Marist Brothers of the Schools in the Philippines, denounce the use of extrajudicial killings (EJKs) as the most expedient way to solve peace and order problems.
Summary killings will never ever make our communities safe and secure!
Killers - state-sponsored or not - who wield their guns and oftentimes covered with bonnets - freely roaming around without being made responsible for their crimes - are phantoms lurking in the night.
And no doubt, this state of impunity brought about by the blithe disregard for life will leave a trans-generational trauma in our national consciousness.
Invoking the primacy of the Abrahamic faith principle of the sanctity of the right to life, together with the Catholic Bishops of the Philippines, religious congregations and faiths, academic circles, human rights and peace networks, we therefore urge:
All the major branches of the government executive, legislative and judiciary to adhere to the protocol laid down by the Universal Declaration on Human Rights of which the Philippines is a signatory.
The Philippine National Police, Armed Forces of the Philippines and National Bureau of Investigation to professionalize and cleanse their ranks of rogue elements;
The media and journalists to be factual and impartial in reporting incidents of crime and abuses without fear or favor.
The citizenry to be proactively involved in preventing crimes and human rights abuses in their respective communities and report occurrences of the same to authorities.
The ethico-spiritual leaders to always speak truth to power.
The academic community to continue to form our faculty’s and students’ consciences in the light of our cherished values as Filipinos;
The civil-society to link and partner with authentically democratic institutions, parties and social movements which can press for reforms in peace and security policies and programs;
The national and local leaders to refrain from using rhetorics of death, hate and violence, but instead promote a culture of peace, filial respect and solidarity.
Those who are involved in “demonic” acts such as production, proliferation and use of dangerous drugs; Extrajudicial killings (EJKs) violent extremism and terrorism, extortions, abuse of women and children, kidnapping for ransom, robbery, bribery, corruption, and exploitation, that they will have genuine conversion, for crime does not pay.
All peace-loving men and women of goodwill to earnestly Pray for Peace in our fragile land and let not the forces of darkness triumph by our inaction due to fear of reprisal.
As a positive and pro-active response to the prevailing national situation, we the Marist Brothers, commit to make our communities, schools and pastoral ministries as centers of peace.

Br. Lindley Sionosa, FMS,
Philippine sector coordinator,
Br. Manuel V. De Leon, FMS,
Kidapawan Community,
Superiors’ Group chair and 10 others heads of the Society of Martys in the Philippines,
Manila,
Philippines




The injustice of the war on drugs in the Philippines
A
ffects all Filipinos
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 27 September 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 26 September 2017

In the light of recent events concerning the Commission on Human Rights budget, we can’t help but recall the unjust killing of Kian delos Santos as if it were some sort of foreshadowing on the horrors that have already begun to dawn upon our country.
Kian was a 17-year-old boy who pleaded for his life last August but was still mercilessly shot dead - not by criminals nor the feared drug abusers - but by law enforcers themselves.
However, Kian was not the only one who suffered this fate.
There were thousands before Kian, and thousands more now, who are subjected to these unjust murders.
People tend to turn a blind eye to what is a clear violation of human rights as they believe that this is what it takes to build a safer community.
However, that’s what is peculiar about human rights:
You can’t expect to justify the violation of the rights of one, without degrading the value of rights for everyone.
Now, what seemed to only affect alleged criminals loitering on the streets has affected us all. Because we deemed their lives to be worthless, our rights were reduced to the worth of a lousy P1,000 bill by our own congressmen.
(The Lower House has since restored the CHR’s budget.—Ed)
That is why when we hear about these killings we should no longer let ignorance get in the way. Instead, we should get angry, we should be mad, and we should fight because we are affected as well.

Mia Abalos,
Alexa Abaya,
Rianne Igao,
Chinkee Naagas,
Brianna Sarile,
Kaye Trindad,
Manila,
Philippines




Call for Malaysian government
To monitor fake claims
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 26 September 2017
First published in the New Straits Times, Thursday 14 September 2017

Many may remember the Lynas issue and its rare earth business that was raised at the last general election.
The issue of Lynas almost took centre stage then.
The opposition made all kinds of claims on rare earth, all in the interest of securing votes.
One claim was that the processing of rare earth would be disastrous for the public, especially those living near the Lynas plant.
They produced fake evidence linking rare earth to cancer and other side effects. Their exaggerated claims somehow caused some unease among the people there.
The public took the opposition’s bait mainly because they were ignorant.
Rare earth processing is a new business in the country, although rare earth itself is not entirely new.
During the era of tin mining, waste from tin processing comprised rare earth.
And, children, including some among the vocal critics of Lynas, used to run around such tin mining waste, including a few of our colleagues at the Academy of Sciences.
They are all fine despite the exposure.
It was a pity such an issue was exploited at great cost. It was, to some extent, a waste of public money. At the academy, we spent time and money building factual information on rare earth.
I was sent to visit a thriving rare earth facility in La Rochelle, France. The aim was to gather evidence on the safety aspects of rare earth processing. To my surprise, the facility has been operating for decades with no harm inflicted on the environment.
In fact, La Rochelle itself was, and still is, a thriving tourist destination, attracting visitors from the European Union and the world.
Fellows of the academy appeared on television and radio to explain to the public that rare earth waste was not like nuclear waste. The radioactive level was extremely low, oftentimes lower than the natural background levels around Kuantan.
There are lessons that we can learn from the Lynas incident.
We should never take things for granted when it comes to bringing in investment to the country.
Rare earth processing is a good example where those opposed to the government’s well-meaning intention to bring in foreign direct investments and jobs twisted facts to confuse the public.
They hoped to derail the project.
That would have been unfortunate because the demand for rare earth in the new digital economy is expected to continue rising.
At the academy, we have even produced a report urging the government to initiate our own rare earth industry.
Our studies have shown that we do have healthy deposits of the more expensive heavy rare earth that is ready to be mined.
We have even drawn up a plan on how to move that industry as another source of revenue for the country.
Admittedly, the nation needs to diversify its revenue streams.
Though the government has, over the years, done much to diversify the economy, moving away from total reliance on oil, we need to be on the constant lookout for emerging opportunities.
With the advent of the new global economic order revolving around Industry 4.0, the rare earth business will, undoubtedly, be prominent in the coming years.
The other lesson from the Lynas incident is that we need to monitor scientific claims in the media.
Many errant parties are spreading fake scientific information to dupe the public to buy their products.
The palm oil industry is aware of such tactics.
There are also those peddling all kinds of medicines, spreading false science.
We need to have a group of scientists working closely with the media to monitor such fake information.
The academy can host this group.
With the 14th General Election looming, the government should monitor the emergence of fake claims, as was the case with Lynas.
For matters related to science, the academy has the expertise to do so.

Professor Datuk Dr. Ahmad Ibrahim,
UCSI University,
Fellow Academy of Sciences Malaysia,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia



China trying to challenge the US
Over the South China Sea
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 25 September 2017
First published in the Nation, Wednesday 20 September 2017

The Pentagon on Friday Septemmber 15 said it was concerned about an “unsafe and unprofessional” encounter between two Chinese fighters and a US surveillance plane over the South China Sea.
The Chinese J-10 warplanes intercepted a US Navy P-3 that was operating in international airspace on Wednesday, Pentagon spokesman Commander Gary Ross said.
As a defence analyst/researcher, I believe that China is trying to challenge the US after a US destroyer sailed in disputed South China Sea waters near a reef claimed by Beijing in the first freedom of navigation exercise under President Donald Trump.
The manoeuvres come ahead of a major regional security summit in Singapore next week.
It is a good strategy by China to signal a warning to Asean and the US about the latter’s defence posturing.
Meanwhile, the aircrew deemed the intercept unsafe and unprofessional.
There was no proper channel that China went to for the operation.

Jumel G Estranero,
Bangkok,
Thailand


Friendship with China is a pillar
Of Philippine foreign policy.
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 24 September 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 20 September 2017

It has almost been over a year since President Rodrigo Duterte declared his
“independent foreign policy”.
His policy has been variously described as “isolationist”, “anti-American”, and
even “pro-Chinese”.
Some suggest that the anti-American slant is a result of just a petty personal grudge by the president over the rejection of a US visa application some years back. Former national security adviser Jose Almonte tried to put some sense into it.
He defined it “as not for or against anybody but equidistant to everyone”.
If Almonte’s definition is accepted, then we have, effectively, a policy of nonalignment.
Whatever may be the true intentions of its architect, where has this policy led
us to so far?
President Duterte has continually badmouthed our American and Western European allies.
He rejected their aid and loan offers for “interfering in our domestic affairs” through their calls for a stop to the drug war killings and for full observance of human rights. At this point, it is still unclear whether investments from our (former) allies have shied away from the country, but it is reported that a number already doing business here are withholding expansion plans. A wait-and-see attitude appears to be in place.
This is not good news for our economy.
It was reported that President Duterte was not invited to the G20 Summit in
Hamburg, Germany, last July 7-8 even as tradition holds.
On the other side of the ledger, friendship with China is an avowed pillar of
Duterte’s foreign policy.
And how better to prove this than the package of loans totalling $24 billion that Duterte came home with from his state visit to China.
But as the saying goes: Beware of friends bearing gifts. Socioeconomic Planning
Secretary Ernesto Pernia announced that China’s Official Development Assistance
loans will carry a rate of 2-3 per cent (where Japan’s ODAs will charge less
than 1 per cent).
We should hold no illusions that we are now on the friendly side of China.
Far from it.
China wants nothing from us but the following: Disavow the Arbitral Ruling favourable to us issued by the Tribunal Court in The Hague on July 12, 2016, so that our loss of reefs and shoals now occupied by China becomes permanently lost to them.
It is that simple.

Mariano S Javier,
Manila,
Philippines




Thai students at English language classes
Converse in Thai
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 23 September 2017
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 12 September 2017

Re: "Language lesson for Thailand," in Bangkok Post, Sunday 10 September 2017
I have seen similar enthusiasm in young school students in Vietnam. While going
around the Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi, I found many students striking a casual
conversation with a foreigner just to talk and improve their English.
On the other hand, many Thai youngsters who spend millions to attend
international universities located in Bangkok shun English. It seems they just
want to socialise and feel proud of attending a hi-so university. While
attending English-language classes they tend to converse in Thai.
Sooner or later, they graduate mastering a few sentences, such as, "same, same
but different", "I go with you", "Why you no happy?" "I happy", or "I am so
exciting". Many Thai instructors also use the same lingo.

Kuldeep Nagi,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Call for Thai PM and government officials
To live on minimum wage
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 22 September 2017
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 13 September 2017

The refusal by the government and industrial sector to raise the minimum wage to
700 baht per day is telling.
If the economy and "Thailand 4.0" can only be sustained by paying a poverty wage instead of a living wage, than there is really no hope.
It smacks of elitism when those at the top believe the ones at the bottom must suffer so they remain in their levels of economic comfort.
To say that labourers being paid 700 baht would make "as high as 20,000 baht per month" and positioning this as a negative because it would be higher than the
monthly 15,000 baht for college graduates exposes two major problems instead of
justifying the action.
First is the assumption that labourers must work seven days a week since that is what they are forced to do at 350 baht per day for survival.
That is how the figure is arrived at.
It is really 14,000 baht a month.I wonder if the industry leaders and government officials responsible for this "refusal" work seven days a week with no vacations or leisure.
Second, if college graduates are only being paid poverty wages, then what is the
incentive to go to school and incur debt/cost?
Something is wrong with this scenario.
If the skilled are not valued in the economic model, what real hope is there?
How about having the PM and all future elected government officials be not only
paid, but forced to actually "live" on the prevailing minimum wage?
This is the only action that would force a true change in the economy that would allow everyone to thrive instead of the lower classes just surviving.
This might reduce the prevalence of coups and actually promote stability.
You want an example of a nearby country with a living wage and decent healthcare
and a thriving economy?
Look no further than Australia for the naysayers.

Darius Hober,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Freedom of speech in the Philippines
Challenged by threats and intimidation
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 21 September 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 19 September 2017

Free expression thrives well in a democracy.
This includes raising questions and criticisms to check perceived abuses by those in power. But now, this freedom is utterly being challenged by threats and intimidation from the administration.
This is best illustrated by the fate of those criticizing and disapproving some actions and intentions of the present administration.
For instance, when Vice President Leni Robredo condemned in a video message the extrajudicial killings in connection with the drug war, she was threatened outright with impeachment (for treachery) by administration henchmen led by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.
Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, acting in accordance with constitutional mandate to cite legal points, met impeachment calls from the same quarter who thought that she was interfering with the executive turf.
The likes of Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, a staunch Duterte critic, naturally, could not escape the harangues of administration defenders whenever he expounds on the issue of the day.
But among them, Sen. Leila de Lima suffered the worst as a dissenter.
She has been critical of President Duterte since the latter was Davao City mayor, when at the time — as chair of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) — she conducted an investigation on the mayor’s alleged human rights violations.
Mr. Duterte considered that occasion too unforgivable that he relentlessly pursued the imprisonment of De Lima who he dubbed as protector of drug lords in the New Bilibid Prison.
Even the Court of Appeals got the ire of Speaker Alvarez when it ruled on the release of the “Ilocos Six” from detention in the House of Representatives.
The overreaching speaker threatened to abolish the court, unmindful of the constitutional crisis it may create.
In the meantime, President Duterte, bristling from the inquiries of the CHR on his drug war, has sent warnings to abolish the entire organization, without deference to the value of human life. Anyway, the President would not take heed of this great concern of humanity!

Nesty Reyes,
Bacoor City,
Cavite,
Philippines

 


Call for private religious schools in Malaysia
To be accountable
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 20 September 2017
First published in the Star, Friday 15 September 2017

G25 welcomes the announcement by the Deputy Prime Minister for an immediate inquiry into the tragedy at the Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah tahfiz school and hopes that a special committee will be formed to investigate the matter without delay.
G25 has among its members retired senior judges, civil servants and diplomats who can volunteer to sit as members of the committee.
They are willing to assist in finding out how and why the tragedy happened and the lessons that can be learnt so that the religious department in all states can exercise proper regulatory control over these private religious schools.
The religious authorities should not resist the open inquiry into the manner in which private religious schools are run.
Indeed, all parties should support the setting up of the special committee proposed by the Deputy Prime Minister because it is in the public’s interest to ensure that the founders and principals of these schools be made accountable for any failures to provide safety for the children under their charge.
This is normal practice in democratic and civil societies, and reflects a caring and responsible nation.
Malaysia should not exempt religious schools from the principles of common justice or hide the underlying problems of religious education from public scrutiny as this will only lead to similar tragedies recurring in the future.
All private religious schools should be subjected to minimum standards for boarding institutions, including a proper teacher/student ratio and adherence to fire and safety standards.
It has been reported that more than 200 fires have occurred at tahfiz schools nationwide since 2015.
With a problem of such magnitude these schools, whether they come under the purview of the Education Ministry or otherwise, should as a minimum be immediately subjected to an inspection on the fire and safety standards before another tragedy occurs.

G25 Malaysia,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia



US hand in friendship
A huge boost to Malaysia
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 19 September 2017
First published in the New Straits Times, Saturday 16 September 2017

The 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Malaysia and the United States reflects the long-running mutual commitment to further cement the solid foundation of ties.
The recent visit by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to the US on the invitation of President Donald Trump will elevate the current state of warm relations to a higher level. Bilateral relations between the US and Malaysia certainly have improved over the past decade with back-to-back visits by former president Barack Obama to Malaysia.
The importance of this long-standing relationship with the world’s biggest superpower encompasses a wide range of areas, including commerce, trade, defence, security, education and science and technology.
We have been benefiting immensely from the superior technology and know-how of the Americans, strong economic and technological cooperation and mutual collaboration.
The US is a crucial partner to us in continuing to boost our economic growth and stability.
The end of the Cold War brought about a seismic shift in global security, bringing with it new threats and challenges that are non-traditional in nature.
A close global cooperation and sharing of expertise and know-how between the two countries will go a long way in ensuring a stable and manageable regional and global security.
The US can provide the much- needed counterbalance against the growing influence of China, as well as act as a partner in counterterrorism in the region.
With security threats and challenges coming in various forms and from different sources, there is no better time than now to seize the day to work together in providing a mutually beneficial partnership.
With growing tension over North Korea and the potential catastrophic ripples and instability that it will create, as well as the unresolved Rohingya crisis in Myanmar, there is an urgent need to push for a careful and delicate strategy in striving for regional stability and security.
Actions and steps taken to address these crises are not to be directed from a single source or a superpower alone. It requires the right support, understanding, input and actions of all regional actors and players.
If mismanaged, these crises will result in a full-blown humanitarian catastrophe.
This is where the presence and support of the US in extending the hand of friendship will be a huge booster. Malaysia has taken the leadership in the past in working with American counterparts and is doing so now through the prime minister’s visit to the US.
We have been at the forefront of extending a helping hand to mediate and to lend our support in providing peaceful solutions to regional conflicts.
This proven track record can be used to push for a moderate and peaceful solution to conflicts in the region and trouble spots elsewhere.
The prospect of the region being the next driver of global political and economic arenas will surely invite greater scrutiny and interest from outside players, but through the principle of moderation, Malaysia and the US can bring about a peaceful solution to conflicts and, at the same time, preserve regional peace.
It is time Malaysia used our exceptional legacy of being a moderate and tolerant nation as a positive example for all to emulate.
We should extend the reach of moderation to the global arena, starting with the forging of closer and enhanced ties with our old friends in the Americans and to leverage on their support to continue to push for voices of tolerance and peaceful coexistence and the spirit of humanity and compassion.

Collins Chomg Yew Keat,
Universiti Malaya,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia



Homes in Malaysia
Are simply not affordable.
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 18 September 2017
First published in the New Straits Times, 6 September 2017

What does the term “affordable homes” mean?
After all, what determines whether a house is affordable is based on the income of the targeted consumers.
According to Khazanah Research Institute and Bank Negara Malaysia, the sign of a well-functioning and affordable home market is when the median price for the housing market is three times the gross annual household income.
Bank Negara would add that the monthly payment for the house should not be more than 30 per cent of the income. Payments of more than 30 per cent would be considered overburdening for the consumer.
Based on the above criteria, Bank Negara would suggest that an affordable home in Malaysia, based on the monthly median income of RM4,585 and the annual median income of RM55,020, is between RM165,000 and RM242,000.
In Malaysia, house prices are 4.4 times the median income.
Further, zeroing in on the states, house prices in Kuala Lumpur are 5.4 times, 5.2 times in Penang Island, 4.2 times in Johor and in Selangor, four times the median income.
While, according to Bank Negara, the affordable home is priced at RM242,000, in actual fact, the average price of houses in Kuala Lumpur is RM490,000; in Selangor RM300,000; Johor, RM260,000; and Penang Island, RM295,000.
To put it simply, houses in Malaysia are simply not affordable.Efforts should be made to reduce the prices of houses to an affordable range of about RM250,000 to RM300,000. Yet in 2014, only 21 per cent of new housing launches were priced below RM250,000.
There was a gross oversupply of houses above RM500,000 and an undersupply of houses below RM250,000. No wonder there is a mismatch between demand and supply.Bank Negara would suggest that between 2012 and 2014, there was a housing supply average of 85,000 units, while 118,000 households were formed.
Instead of putting policy interventions into place to reduce the prices of houses, developers are putting pressure on banks to give loans to consumers who cannot afford these expensive homes.
They want banks and Bank Negara to ease lending practices to make it easy for house owners to own properties.
The principle seems to be not to build houses that consumers can afford, but to build overpriced houses, and then put pressure on the lending institutions to give loans to the consumers.
Never mind the risks to the banks and the financial burden to consumers. Developers want to sell the overpriced homes that they have built.
There have even been proposals to set up a fund so that consumers can save early to afford overpriced homes.
The risks and burden is being pushed to the banks and consumers, while developers can continue to build overpriced homes.
The Federation of Malaysian Consumer Associations (Fomca) calls on the government to ensure that priority is given to homes Malaysians can truly afford.
The number of 1Malaysia People’s Housing (PR1MA) homes being built is way below the demand for new households.
The government needs to intervene and regulate the private sector to supply more affordable homes.
The government also needs to strengthen measures to eliminate speculation in the market, which inflates home prices. Polices should make speculation expensive to protect first-time home buyers.
Housing is a basic right of consumers. It is the government’s role to ensure that all Malaysian have access to affordable homes. The government should also focus on promoting a thriving rental market so that renting becomes a viable option for consumers.
Fomca proposes that government invests more in financial education for all consumers, especially young workers, to create awareness and build knowledge and skills on prudent financial management and making informed decisions in the market, including purchasing major assets such as houses.

Datuk Paul Selva Raj,
Secretary-general,
Federation of Malaysian Consumer Associations,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia




Enactment of the free college education law
An inexcusable faux pas
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 17 September 2017
Philippine Inquirer 5 Sept 2017, Tuesday 5 September 2017

Current media reports disclose that the recently-enacted Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act (RA 10931) does not provide the funding support for the government subsidy that will underwrite the payment of tuition in state colleges and universities.
It is reported that the law does not even have any working estimate of how much money is to be spent for the purpose. Nor does it identify the source of the funds to be allocated as government subsidy.
Now comes President Duterte who openly admits that the funding for the government subsidy is problematic because according to his economic managers who had opposed enactment of the law, the government just does not have the money to implement it.
Such absence of fund support creates a vacuum that renders the law inherently flawed, an oddity in public finance that should be eschewed.
To the extent then that government subsidy from public funds is needed to underwrite the payment of tuition in state colleges and universities, the free college education law partakes of the nature of a special appropriation law within the ambit of Section 25 (4), Article VI of the 1987 Constitution that states: “A special appropriations bill shall specify the purpose for which it is intended; and shall be supported by funds actually available as certified by the National Treasurer, or to be raised by a corresponding revenue proposal therein.”
By failing to indicate where the funds will be sourced from, the law does violate this mandate of the Constitution and, hence, is deemed as constitutionally noncompliant.
As it is then, so long as the law under scrutiny, in its present form, remains unfunded, it is unimplementable and likely to be reduced to a dead letter.
From the constitutional perspective, I view the enactment of the free college education law as an inexcusable faux pas.


Bartolome C. Fernandez Jr.,
Retired senior commissioner,
Commission on Audit,
Manila,
Philippines



Malaysia calls for economic sanctions
On Myanmar
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 16 September 2017
First published in the New Straits Times, Tuesday 12 September 2017

The atrocities committed by the Myanmar authorities on the Rohingya in Rakhine and other parts of Myanmar are well known to the international community.
Despite exhortations from Asean, world leaders and Nobel Laureates, there seems to be no redress or reduction to the conflict.
Malaysian non-governmental organisations and professional groups like the Muslim Professionals Forum have lucidly highlighted the situation and also reiterated possible measures to contain, if not solve, the problem.
These ideas seek to call on Asean and global organisations like the United Nations to pressure the Myanmar government to immediately and positively address the issue.
The Rohingya, pushed to a corner and deprived of basic necessities, have tried to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh and to nearby Asean countries by sea but even these attempts are fraught with risks, forcing them to retaliate in a futile way, only for the Myanmar authorities to increase their atrocities.
Therefore, urgent, specific and concrete measures are needed to alleviate this tragedy.
It is with great admiration that I read Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan offering to pay for the costs borne by Bangladesh in accepting and hosting Rohingya refugees temporarily until a more lasting solution is found.
I hope other rich countries can be magnanimous.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) should actively get more support for such measures.
Granted, there may be bad elements in the exodus, and UNHCR should vigorously help host governments filter and channel the refugees to manpower-deficient countries.
Malaysia, for instance, has a large pool of legal and illegal workers.
Accepting the refugees to work legally in sectors with labour shortage like in plantations, construction and the service sector, should be a priority.
Workers from Myanmar, including the Rohingya, are visible in the Malaysian labour force, but there is room for them, especially after the repatriation of illegal foreign workers.
Rohingya women should be prepared to work as domestic helpers as the demand for maids is high. In due time, it is hoped that other Asean countries and also other countries in the Arabian Gulf Cooperation Region may emulate the Malaysian model, which we hope will be fruitful and be recorded by history as the management of one of the worst humanitarian crises of the century.
Since the Myanmar government is not yielding to world pressure, it is time the world community imposes economic sanctions on Myanmar.

A.S.M. Shariff,
Petaling Jaya,
Malaysia




Call for Malaysia to sign
1951 Refugee Convention
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 15 September 2017
First published in the Star, Tuesday 12 September 2017

If Malaysia is serious about helping the Rohingya who have been refugees and asylum seekers in our country for many years, the Government must consider signing the convention on refugees along with its protocol relating to refugees.
Thousands of Rohingya have fled their home country over the past few years to seek refuge in neighbouring countries including Malaysia.
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there were some 149,100 refugees and asylum-seekers registered with UNHCR in Malaysia as of June 30 this year.
Of these, some 132,100 are from Myanmar, comprising 61,000 Rohingya, 38,200 Chin, 9,900 Myanmar Muslims, 4,200 Rakhine and Arakanese, and other ethnic groups.
The Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, also known as the 1951 Refugee Convention, is a United Nations multilateral treaty that defines a refugee and sets out the right of individuals who are granted asylum and the responsibilities of nations that grant asylum.
The Convention also sets out which people do not qualify as refugees, such as war criminals.
The Convention builds on Article 14 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which recognises the right of persons to seek asylum from persecution in other countries.
A refugee may also enjoy rights and benefits in a state in addition to those provided for in the Convention.
The Malaysian Government has till now not signed the Convention along with its protocol.
So far, 145 countries have become parties to this Convention. If the consequences of becoming a signatory member to the Convention are bad, why were these countries willing to sign this Convention in the first place?
As such, the Malaysian Government should reconsider its position on this issue.

Dr Muzaffar Syah Mallow,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia


Prosecution of fugitive former Thai PM Yingluck Shinawatra
Covered under new law
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 14 September 2017
First published in Bangkok Post, Tuesday 12 September 2017

Re: "Aim for the statutes," in Bangkok Post PostBag, Friday 8 September 2017
One does not need Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha's power of Section 44 to exclude the
period during which someone is on the run from the statute of limitations.
It applies to all crimes committed in the area of public affairs, Section 24/1
Criminal Procedure Code relating to politicians.
That does not apply to the Red Bull case.
This was a quick amendment made by an unelected government in response to
outcries about so many corrupt political and official convicts fleeing Thailand
in style.
Ms Yingluck will be the first case covered under this new law if she is convicted on September 27.
At least, that is one nice thing about being undemocratic for a change - the
power to ensure a quick response for real justice!

Songdej Praditsmanont
Bangkok,
Thailand




Turkey offers to pay for costs borne by Bangladesh
To accept and host Rohingya refugees from Myanmar
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 13 September 2017
First published in the New Straits Times, Tuesday 12 September 2017

The atrocities committed by the Myanmar authorities on the Rohingya in Rakhine and other parts of Myanmar are well known to the international community.
Despite exhortations from Asean, world leaders and Nobel Laureates, there seems to be no redress or reduction to the conflict.
Malaysian non-governmental organisations and professional groups like the Muslim Professionals Forum have lucidly highlighted the situation and also reiterated possible measures to contain, if not solve, the problem.
These ideas seek to call on Asean and global organisations like the United Nations to pressure the Myanmar government to immediately and positively address the issue.
The Rohingya, pushed to a corner and deprived of basic necessities, have tried to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh and to nearby Asean countries by sea but even these attempts are fraught with risks, forcing them to retaliate in a futile way, only for the Myanmar authorities to increase their atrocities. Therefore, urgent, specific and concrete measures are needed to alleviate this tragedy.
It is with great admiration that I read Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan offering to pay for the costs borne by Bangladesh in accepting and hosting Rohingya refugees temporarily until a more lasting solution is found.
I hope other rich countries can be magnanimous. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) should actively get more support for such measures.
Granted, there may be bad elements in the exodus, and UNHCR should vigorously help host governments filter and channel the refugees to manpower-deficient countries. Malaysia, for instance, has a large pool of legal and illegal workers.
Accepting the refugees to work legally in sectors with labour shortage like in plantations, construction and the service sector, should be a priority.
Workers from Myanmar, including the Rohingya, are visible in the Malaysian labour force, but there is room for them, especially after the repatriation of illegal foreign workers.
Rohingya women should be prepared to work as domestic helpers as the demand for maids is high. In due time, it is hoped that other Asean countries and also other countries in the Arabian Gulf Cooperation Region may emulate the Malaysian model, which we hope will be fruitful and be recorded by history as the management of one of the worst humanitarian crises of the century.
Since the Myanmar government is not yielding to world pressure, it is time the world community imposes economic sanctions on Myanmar.

A.S.M. Shariff,
Petaling Jaya
Malaysia



Philippine youth ready to fight
For those who cannot fight for themselves
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 12 September 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 5 September 2017

We are the youth and we are afraid.
The killing of Kian Loyd delos Santos has created a frightening atmosphere for each and every one of us. President Duterte’s “advocacy” is not the change that we wanted because these extrajudicial killings do not only execute lives, but also murder justice.
If we continue to live in a country built upon violence and inhumanity, what will our future be?
We are the youth and we are angry.
We are angry because ordinary people are accused of crimes and are killed without having the right to due process.
Life is being played with, and our lives are being held in the hands of those who do not seem to value it.
Our national police is sworn to protect each citizen, yet recent events have illustrated the lack of moral authority.
From our perspective, the government hopes to reach an ideal future for our country through these executions, yet this completely takes away that possibility for many.
We are the youth and we are ready.
Although these actions fill us with anger and fear, these sentiments will not hinder us from battling these unjust measures.
We are ready to be the change that we believe is necessary for our country.
With a lack of protection and welfare from those accountable of it, we shall ensure that the power of our speech will restore dignity back to our nation.
We are ready to take a stand against the measures on the war on drugs in order to bring back the humanity that has shamefully been lost.
We are the youth and we are ready to fight for those who can no longer fight for themselves.

Trini Daco, Bella Gironella, Chesca Sarmiento, Andy Velasco, Amaya Lacson and Juliana Salazar
Manila,
Philippines

 



Call for Myanmar government to change
It's behavour towards Rohingya Muslims
The Southeast Asian Times Monday 11 September 2017
First published in the Star, Thursday 7 September 2017

The Rohingya, or at least some Rohingya, are now being projected as terrorists who are out to kill Myanmar soldiers and civilians.
Myanmar leaders including Aung San Suu Kyi have spoken along these lines.
This view of the Rohingya is being propagated by the Myanmar government with greater zeal since a small armed group called the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) attacked security forces on October 9, 2016.
These attacks have continued in recent weeks.
In this new wave of violence, it is alleged that 12 security personnel were killed while the Myanmar military and border police have killed 77 Rohingya Muslims.
The way Aung San Suu Kyi and her government colleagues have framed the clashes ignores the brutal massacres committed by the military over a long period of time.
The oppression and persecution of the Rohingya by the State and other forces have been thoroughly documented by the United Nations Human Rights Council and other independent human rights groups.
It is well known that as a community, the Rohingya were stripped of Myanmar citizenship in 1982, deprived of basic human rights, tortured, imprisoned and forced to flee their home province of Rakhine.
This is why there are tens of thousands of Rohingya living in squalid conditions in Bangladesh or struggling to survive in a number of countries from Malaysia to Saudi Arabia.
They have been described by the UN as one of the world’s most persecuted minorities. Simply put, the Rohingya are the victims of a slow genocide, to quote Nobel Laureate Prof Amartya Sen.
To condemn the violence of a minuscule fraction of the Rohingya without taking into account their massive marginalisation and severe oppression is a travesty of truth and justice.
It is extreme desperation and hopelessness that has forced some of them to resort to violence.
Of course, violence is not the solution.
It will not help to restore the rights of the Rohingya, especially their right to citizenship.
Our concern is that the violence will escalate.
The signs are already there. Given the underlying religious connotations of the conflict - though the conflict itself is not rooted in religion per se – it is not inconceivable that the violence will spread beyond Myanmar’s borders and engulf Muslim and Buddhist communities in other parts of South-East Asia.
This would be catastrophic for Asean, a regional grouping in which 42 percent of the population are Muslim and another 40 percent are Buddhist.
Finding workable solutions to the Myanmar-Rohingya conflict is therefore of utmost importance.
It is in this regard that the “Final Report of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State” under the chairmanship of former UN secreta­ry-general Kofi Annan deserves the urgent attention of all stakeholders.
Announced in August 2017, the report calls for a review of the 1982 citizenship law and notes that “Myanmar harbours the largest community of stateless people in the world”, and urges the government to abolish distinctions between different types of citizens.
Other recommendations pertain to reduction of the poverty rate in Rakhine state which is 78 percent, improving the socio-economic condition of the people, enhancing access to health services and education, ensuring freedom of movement and encouraging people’s participation and representation.
Though the report is worded with a great deal of caution and diplomacy, it does send a clear message to the powers that be in Myanmar that the status quo cannot be allowed to persist.
That message is significant considering that the commission was actually initiated by the Myanmar government.
Will it take heed?
So far, there is no indication that it would respond positively to the recommendations, which is not surprising.
It is the harsh authoritarianism of the go­vernment embodied in the power of the military that is prima­rily responsible for the targeting of the Rohingya as the “ethnic other”, resulting in the genocide we are witnessing today.
Even if the Myanmar government does not act of its own volition, the Kofi Annan report can be used to persuade other governments to pressurise Myanmar to act. Apart from Asean governments, civil society groups and the media should also initiate special efforts to convince Beijing, Tokyo, New Delhi, Islamabad, Washington and London to demand that the Myanmar government protects all its citizens without discrimination.
If they fail to do so, these capitals should review their economic and/or military ties with Naypyidaw.
It is with the aim of persuading the leadership in Naypyidaw to change its behaviour that the Permanent People’s Tribunal is holding its concluding session in Kuala Lumpur on the treatment of the Rohingya, Kachins and other minorities in Myanmar from Sept 18 to 22.
As more voices plead for justice and compassion on behalf of the oppressed in Myanmar, they may eventually pierce the walls of Naypyidaw.

Dr Chandra Muzaffar,
President,
International Movement for a Just World (JUST)
Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia



Is it still the same old trickle-down effect
In the Philippines?
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 10 September 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 7 September 2017

We are now a nation being challenged once more with several issues emanating from the present administration’s policies concerning its war on drugs and corruption. The latest word war among government officials - appointed and elected - has created more problems than solutions.
Filipinos are fed up with such bickering and endless “he said, she said” rhetoric in the midst of high prices of commodities and utilities that affect the daily life of an ordinary Juan dela Cruz.
Pundits are asking: “Where are the promises pertaining to a better life for every Filipino especially the poor?” Even middle-class families are slowly inching toward lower class status.
Are we seeing a repeat of the past administration’s promises that were never fulfilled, particularly the supposed positive economic results of foreign investments? Is it still the same “old trickle-down effect” or BS taking this country for a ride?
News of investments that will bring jobs via “build, build, build” seems to be stuck on the drawing board.
Some analysts observe that we are being herded (like cattle) into a debt trap.
Which is which?
Are we really moving toward industrialization, meaning more jobs, more buying power for the needy and more opportunities for growth?
President Duterte can possibly feel the heat this time.
Our peso is on a free fall, prices of commodities were compromised by bird flu hype, there is the ongoing Marawi crisis as well as the shocking control of top Chinese drug lords of our political system; even the Marcoses are attempting to dupe him of the fool’s gold and stale gold certificates to avert the global class suit the family will face soon.
President Duterte has been advised to implement a revolutionary government which will surely fail due to the infighting among his political party mates.
The President should think and act out of the box if he wants to survive this crisis by design.

Erick San Juan,
Manila,
Philippines



War on drugs in the Philippines
Is a fascist war on the poor
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 9 September 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 7 September 2017

In response to the latest hogwash statement made by Rodrigo Duterte that the brutal murder of young innocent victims Kian Loyd delos Santos and Carl Angelo Arnaiz will not be the last, we say the war on drugs is in fact a fascist war against the poor and the youth.
Mr. Duterte said in his latest response to criticisms from the United Nations that a halt in the drug war will further imperil Filipinos, adding that this war is an existential struggle for the nation to “usher in real, lasting and meaningful change.”
We strongly condemn Mr. Duterte’s myopic and delusional obsession on the drug problem. We emphasize that this is not the root of the country’s social ills.
The mad President is putting the cart before the horse by thinking that drugs are the cause of poverty.
Mr. Duterte deviously uses such one-dimensional and outrageous description of Philippine society to rationalize the unjustifiable by calling for the senseless killing of more youths in his bloody drug war.
Following the death of Kian Loyd, the fascist US-Duterte dictatorship has again claimed the life of another youth, UP Diliman interior design student Carl Angelo. The unceasing spilling of blood ultimately points to the utter absurdity of the antidrug campaign which Mr. Duterte himself admitted will not be resolved by the end of his six-year term.
Bloodthirsty Mr. Duterte continually encourages the police to kill without due process while deceitfully shielding big capitalists and smugglers involved in various drug deals, even to the point of protecting his son, Davao Vice Mayor Paolo “Pulong” Duterte, who was linked to the drug-smuggling “Davao Group,” which is now at the center of a P6.4-billion shabu scandal.
We twit as absurd Mr. Duterte’s repeated insistence of drugs as the root problem of Philippine society. Imperialism, bureaucrat capitalism, and feudalism, which Mr. Duterte’s regime now willfully serves, are the real reason for the continuing exploitation and oppression of the Filipino people.

Vencer Crisostomo,
National chair,
Anakbayan,
Philippines

 


Call for drones to support
Forest management in Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 8 September 2017
First published in the Bangkok Post Wednesday 6 September 2017

Re: "Mangrove-planting drones ready for mission", Bangkok Post, Sunday 27 August 2017
Environmentalists should enthusiastically embrace modern technology - such as
drones - to support forest management.
At the same time, however, resource managers must not be blind to the real issues constraining forest conservation.
Drones and other high-tech tools are not "silver bullet" solutions to bypass the
difficult challenges of managing mangroves and other forest resources.
Mangroves have been severely depleted in Myanmar, Thailand and throughout
Southeast Asia, as investors have converted millions of hectares to fish and
shrimp ponds, local people have overused mangrove trees for fuelwood and
charcoal, and so-called development banks and organisations have perversely
encouraged expansion of rice production in mangrove-covered river deltas.
Undoubtedly, major efforts are needed to restore dwindling mangrove forests
wherever feasible. These endeavours could potentially include use of drones and
other technology, but unless the underlying causes of forest loss and
destruction are addressed, all the drones in the world will not result in
restored mangrove forests.

Samanea Saman,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Malaysian Muslims call on ASEAN
To stop violence against Rohingya Muslims
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 7 September 2017
First published in the New Straits Times, Monday 4 September 2017

 

The current genocide of the Rohingya by Myanmar’s forces has captured global attention. Civil societies around the world are outraged by the daily images of the atrocities flooding mainstream and other media.
In a chilling report by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) dated Feb 3, mass gang rapes, slaughtering of babies and children, torture and inhumane treatment were detailed.
The past week has witnessed yet another wave of military crackdowns on the Rohingya in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, which has killed an estimated 3,000 civilians, while 10,000 homes and shops were razed to the ground, creating thousands of Internally Displaced Persons (IDP).
Forced to flee their homes to the nearest country, scores of Rohingya are now trapped between two countries and wanted by neither.
The devastating cruelty described by the UN as “very likely commission of crimes against humanity” follows a long-standing and systematic persecution of the Rohingya.
Decades of abuse, violations, discriminatory policies, exclusion and marginalisation have rendered them the most persecuted people in the world.
The deafening silence of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and her government’s repeated refusal to allow the OHCHR unrestricted access to the worst affected areas of Rakhine bring into question her commitment towards human rights.
The Muslim Professionals Forum urges the Malaysian government to:
Urgently call upon Asean leaders to step up their efforts to ensure the government of Myanmar immediately stops the massacre and the grave human rights violations against the Rohingya, and to safeguard their safety and access to justice and reparations;
Call on the nation’s Asean neighbours to urge the UN to pressure the government of Myanmar to fully comply with the recommendations of Kofi Annan’s commission or face economic sanctions, regional and international isolation;
Call on the Asean community to stop the cycle of violence against the Rohingya and facilitate a sustainable, just and peaceful resolution to the humanitarian crisis;
In the interim, organise relief missions into Rakhine State to provide urgent medical and humanitarian aid to the victims; and,
Call on all Malaysians to extend their solidarity and assistance to Rohingya refugees, either directly or indirectly, through non-governmental organisations that have been supporting them regularly over the years.

Board of Directors,
Muslim Professionals Forum,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia


"An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth"
Says Philippine President Duterte
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday September 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 5 September 2017

President Duterte was quoted as saying “eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,” Exodus 21, 23-25, the “lex talionis” or the law of the talion.
He mischaracterized it as “the law of the jungle” “Duterte frowns on idea of reforming criminals,” News, 1 September 2017.
A very common misconception.
Before the lex talionis, the law of retaliation, the exchange rate was 7:1, even 77:1, not 1:1, in the time of Lamech in Genesis 4, 23-24. In effect: “You kill one of our tribesmen, we’ll kill seven, even 77, of yours.”
Lex talionis brought equivalence or parity, one eye for one eye, and was therefore a liberal progressive step.
Of course the new testament is suffused with lessons on love and charity; Jesus teaches us to forgive, to turn the other cheek, and to be kind and compassionate. We are not to give up on anyone but sadly, “Duterte frowns on idea of reforming criminals,” the same Inquirer article blares.
We attended the same law school but we simply seem fated never to understand each other on human rights addiction and the one thing we can ever be in life: to be kind.

R.A.V. Saguisag,
Palanan,
Makati City,
Philippines



Ferdinand Marcos hero status
Now the law of the land in the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 5 September 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 30 August 2017

We have set Aug. 21 as a holiday to honor the martyrdom of Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. whose body rests in a private cemetery. It was his family’s self-effacing choice to bury him there among ordinary people for whose sake he sacrificed his life.
The wax? body of his tormentor - and the people’s - rests ingloriously in the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
Thanks to a Supreme Court beholden to the family of the late tyrant, Ferdinand E. Marcos has been virtually proclaimed a “hero!”
The Supreme Court has thus spoken it is now the “law of the land!”
Can an annual holiday to “honor” that stinking “hero” be farfetched?
And we now might want to rethink and erase that ridiculous saying etched in some monuments around the country: “The Filipino is worth dying for,” and replace it with an apt, more honest-to-goodness one: “The Filipinos are a crazy people,” or so the Supreme Court thinks!

Jeremias H Tobias,
Manila,
Philippines




Call for Malaysia to make education
More affordable
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 4 September 2017
First published in the New Straits Times, Wednesday 30 August 2017

I write based on my experience of having being a school teacher, a university
lecturer and facilitator for thousands of executives here and abroad, spanning
35 years.
I refer to the debate on university education and unemployed graduates.
For as long as we are unable to admit our faults, but look for scapegoats or are
bent on keeping a safe distance from our paymasters, we are doomed.
We will never resolve our education predicament.
Firstly, parents are to be blamed.
They have competed with their neighbours to make sure they can announce that
their kids are in university.
To most Malaysians, getting enrolled in a university is the ultimate measure of
great parenthood, a mark of having brilliant children.
Many look down on themselves and others if the kids are going to pick up a trade
or skill upon finishing schooling.
To belong in this category is shameful and a mark of failure.
We fail to recognise that being purposeful in life and to society is the greater glory of civilisations.
Adults have come to peddle the notion that in order to survive in this world,
one must get into a university at whatever cost.
And so, throughout the schooling years, much is invested in tuition classes.
As long as we keep the private tuition industry thriving while schools hand over
this commitment to teach to tuition classes, we are to be blamed.
The argument may be one of wanting to make education more affordable or to
create enough room for the growing demand.
The fact is university education is becoming more expensive.
There is no university that is happy to just break even or operate at a loss.
Profits, expansions and grand facilities are all wrapped into a marketing
bundle.
Proclaiming excellence through glossy bro-chures and advertisements is
the order of the day.
Thirdly, let us be honest if we are serious about remedies that can work.
The quality of lecturers and faculty members is not something we can be proud
of.
I have encountered so many of them who have stopped reading even a book a year, let alone do research to boost their knowledge.
Getting by, doing routine tasks, was all that mattered.
It was this survival mantra that had taken root. Keeping your job and promotions mattered more.
And, the justification that prevailed was that the need to fulfil administrative
requirements, cramped teaching hours, preparing for examinations, plus marking
and grading, left hardly any time for them to read.
Fourthly, some students who enter universities are cut-and-paste material.
The majority of them can hardly write a two-page essay to demonstrate their
understanding, comprehension and thinking abilities.
Gone are the days where teachers were respected for their passion and pursuit of
knowledge and for being an authority on their subject. Gone, too, are the days
when teachers wrote well, read well and spoke well.
For as long as parents run the race with blinkers on, we will continue to suffer
this fate of unemployed graduates, unemployable graduates, misfit graduates,
declining standards of professionalism and acute shortage of skilled workers.
A lot needs to be done to see a change or set the education system back to its
glory days, where schools and universities were the hallmarks of excellent
education.

J. D. Lovrenciear,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia

 


Call for Islamic mosques in Malaysia
To go green
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 3 September 2017
First Published in the New Straits Times, Wednesday 30 August 2017

Thank you, Dr Zorina Khalid, for your letter titled “Let fresh air flow through
our mosques”
in New Straits Times, August 25.
It was an excellent piece.
The points raised and suggestions are not only applicable to mosques but also to
schools, colleges, other places of worship, community health, hospitals and
private organisations.
Environmentally-sustainable architecture to maximise use of natural light,
ventilation and rainwater, besides recycling and reusing, are necessary to
manage global warming and human sustainability.
Therefore, incentives provided for installation of solar panels for generating
electricity and rain harvesting systems for water conservation should be promoted by the authorities.
I am a member of a mosque management committee and am also involved in other
organisations where I have been trying to persuade initiatives like installing
solar panels, which not only give free electricity and reduce costs, but also
obtain additional revenue through Tenaga Nasional Bhd.
Reducing air-conditioner usage, especially on cooler and rainy days, and opening
the windows for air are other initiatives I am working on.
However, I encounter apathy and disinterest among committee members in these
attempts.
Perhaps it is good if state Islamic departments institutionalise these ideas
into guidelines for mosques or surau.
The Education and Health Ministries should work on guidelines for schools,
learning institutions, and hospitals.
The impact of greening these organisations is immense for the community, country
and world.
Other countries may follow successful Malaysian initiatives in workable,
eco-friendly and sustainable ways.

A.S.M. Shariff,
Petaling Jaya,
Selangor,
Malaysia




Prison for former PM Yingluck Shinawatra
Likened to William Addis
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 20 September 2017
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday 31 August 2017

Re: "Yingluck's flight is no win-win deal", in Bangkok Post, Opinion, Wednesday August 30.
Soonruth Bunyamanee ably pinpoints the reality that fleeing a jail sentence
dooms political hopes. In contrast, being locked up is absolutely no barrier to promotion.
Ho Chi Minh, Hitler, Mandela, Stalin, Lenin, Gandhi, etc were all examples of eaders who had been in prison earlier in their careers.
Another incidental bonus of prison is that you might do something useful.
William Addis invented the toothbrush whilst in his cell and Cervantes managed to write the immortal novel Don Quixote.

Barry Kenyon,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 


Illegal foreign workers are flooding
The Malaysian labour market
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 1 September 2017
First published in the New Straits Times, Sunday 27 August 2017

Workers should be treated with fairness, dignity and equality without distinction, irrespective of whether they are locals or migrants.
All forms of exploitative and abusive practices against workers are prohibited by
international and domestic legislation.
Slavery and forced or compulsory labour is prohibited by the Federal Constitution and the Penal Code.
The growing pace of economic globalisation has seen a hike in the number of
foreign or migrant workers entering the country.
Malaysia has increasingly relied on them to address its labour shortages, especially in the manufacturing,
construction and plantation sectors.
Despite the trend, over the past year, to restrict the number of foreign workers
and hire local labourers, foreign workers continue to enter Malaysia in large
numbers.
Foreign workers hired legally are accorded equal treatment and have the same
working conditions as locals, in line with the United Nations Convention on the
Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.
The primary objective of this convention is to foster respect for migrants’
human rights.
The Immigration Act provides, among other things, that the employment of a
foreign national must be upon the issuance of a valid employment permit.
The employment permit so issued is only valid in respect of the particular
employment and, further, the employer specified therein.
Unfortunately, illegal foreign workers are flooding the labour market and they
are posing greater risks to public safety and national security as some are
engaged in criminal activities.
In certain sectors, they are subjected to physical, verbal or psychological abuse.
Exploitation of illegal foreign workers is not uncommon.
Poor and hazardous working conditions, excessive and unreasonable demands, excessive working hours, inadequate rest days, non-payment or low wages, forced labour, child labour, sexual exploitation and verbal or physical abuse are some of the usual grouses of these workers.
These are often highlighted by the international media, which tarnishes the country’s image and creates tension between the host and the labour-supplying countries.
Hiring an illegal foreign worker or even harbouring such workers is an offence
under the Immigration Act.
If found guilty, the punishment is a fine of between RM10,000 and RM50,000.
Where it is proven that the person has, at the same time, harboured more than
five of such persons, that person shall be liable to imprisonment for a term of
not less than six months but not more than five years and shall also be liable
to caning of not more than six strokes.
This country has many illegal or undocumented foreign workers. Many refuse to
take up the government’s amnesty offers, which would lead to their repatriation
or legalisation, because unscrupulous employers keep hiring them.
Vigorous enforcement of the law is required and employers found guilty of hiring
illegal workers should be subjected to maximum fines, imprisonment and caning.
The proposal to raise the fine to RM100,000 and to impose caning for each
illegal foreign worker employed is commendable.
This will ensure that legally hired foreign workers do not violate the terms of
their contracts by absconding and discourage employers from hiring illegal
workers.

Professor Dr Ashgar Ali Ali Mohamed,
International Islamic University Malaysia
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia





Former Thai PM Yingluck Shinawatra
Lives to fight another day
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 31 August 2017
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 30 August 2017

Vint Chavala's response to the disappearance of Yingluck Shinawatra and his
disappointment, brings to mind the old adage: "He who fights and runs away,
lives to fight another day."

We still have to hear Ms Yingluck's side of the story, which I'm sure will give
us more of an insight, told from her new comfortable home than it would from an
overcrowded cell in the Bangkok women's prison. Can't wait.

Brian,
Bangkok.
Thaailand


War on drugs in the Philippines
At the cost of humanity
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 30 August 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 28 August 2017

(EJKs) lately, especially with regard to Kian Loyd delos Santos, reminds me of
what former president Benigno S. Aquino III was quoted to have said recently in
your paper that the phrase itself is a misnomer because the Philippines has no
death penalty so it has no “judicial killings.”
Therefore, there is no such thing as “extrajudicial killings,” only “murder” in “Drug killings are murders — Aquino,” Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 23 August 2017
This reminds me of what Australian lawyer Julian Burnside meant when he wrote
about “weasel words,” examples of which are “safe sex,” “therapeutic abortions,” “reproductive rights,” “compassionate release” for euthanasia, “enhanced interrogation techniques” for torture, etc.
A long dead Russian dictator once said that one death is a tragedy, but a
million is a statistic.
The number of those unlawfully killed may be over 10,000, with no end in sight.
People like Delos Santos and Danica May Garcia are not some anonymous faceless statistic nor “collateral damage.” They were once someone’s son, someone’s daughter.
Most of the perpetrators of Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge killing fields have yet to
face justice, but their victims’ remains are reminding the world of their crimes
against humanity.
Are we in a race to the bottom with the Khmer Rouge to eradicate the scourge of drugs?
We may do so only at the cost of our humanity and our souls, and will have to
live with that shame.
Rambo was no hero to me, but the TV detective Columbo was.

Walter Paul Komarnicki,
Manila,
Philippines



Christian missionaries in the Philippines
Condemn the war on drugs
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 29 August 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 25 August 2017

We, the Redemptorists of the Philippines composed of the vice-province of Manila and province of Cebu, express our outrage over the recent spate of killings in line with the government’s war on drugs.
As missionaries dedicated to serving the poor and the abandoned, we condemn the war on drugs as a war on the poor.
Most of the victims of extrajudicial killings are poor people.
The police have become more relentless as President Duterte himself had on many occasions incited the police to carry out a murderous war on the poor.
On the other hand, rich drug lords and coddlers of drug suppliers are given full
extent of due process; 6.4 billion-worth of shabu freely entered the country due
to connections of rich drug lords to politicians and Customs officials.
In all of these, there was no howl from the President and other high-ranking government officials.
As Christians, we are appalled by the utter loss of respect for the dignity of
life and human rights of the police operations.
We are utterly distressed that in a Christian country like ours, the killings are tolerated, even supported.
We dread the reality that a split-level kind of faith exists among our people.
Such faith sees no connection between the gospel values and the wellspring of
Christian faith, and the suffering and killing of the people.
As Filipinos we are gravely concerned with the kind of society we have become.
What kind of people have we become?
After more than a year of the war on drugs, our country has turned into a big killing field. Death is the order of the day.
A culture of killing with impunity is the new normal.
On the other hand, a culture of silence and a climate of fear prevail. In the midst of the daily killings, many people go on with their lives, show no empathy to the victims and accept the government’s war on drugs as a necessary evil.
Condemning the war on drugs does not undermine our stance against drugs. Even
before the Duterte administration, we have denounced the menace of drug
addiction in our proclamations and programs.
We did not just denounce, however; we also organized programs and services for victims of drugs like counseling, livelihood projects and community support mechanisms.
We call on the government to respect the law and uphold life.
We call on the government to stop the killings.
The “war on drugs” which in reality is a war on the poor has to end.
Now!
We call on the Church to defend the sanctity of life during these dangerous
times.
We call on all people of goodwill to assist the poor victims of the drug
war and participate in building programs to counteract the evil effects of drug
addiction.
Our Mother of Perpetual Help, pray for us that the spate of killings in our
country may come to an end!

Fr. Ariel Lubi, CSsR,
Vice-provincial superior,
Redemptorist Vice-Province of Manila,
Fr. Nio Perezico, CSsR, provincial superior,
Redemptorist
Province of Cebu,
Philippines




Abu Sayyaf accused of staging attacks in Zamboanga
To shift attention from Marawi
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 28 August 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 25 August 2017

It’s been a week since the public was bombarded with news on the alleged murder of Kian Loyd delos Santos by police forces.
To date, a humongous number of people have already reacted to the situation: journalists, politicians, concerned citizens, obnoxious trolls and netizens, religious groups, activists, Left-leaning congressmen and organizations—name it.
Yes, I would have to agree that Kian’s alleged murder by police forces is
deplorable, distressing, and shocking. However, I think there are also
other issues that equally deserve public knowledge, scrutiny, and exposure.
On August. 21, the Abu Sayyaf rioted over a quiet and peaceful village in Zamboanga
City, which resulted in the killing of nine unsuspecting villagers who were
preparing for their coming fiesta.
The Abu Sayyaf killed and mutilated one man, and wounded two minors (one is a 10-year-old youngster while the other is 9 years old), among others.
While the Abu Sayyaf has long been terrorizing Filipinos and destroying public
and private properties, its sudden and sporadic scourge raises great suspicion.
The possibility that the Abu Sayyaf stage such attacks in order to shift media,
as well as military and security forces’ focus from Marawi, deserves attention
and consideration.
If we, Filipinos, much more our politicians and other government officials, are
bothered and outraged by Kian’s alleged murder, with more reason that we should
all be more concerned and appalled by the ongoing terrorist attacks, which are
becoming more periodic and larger in scale.
Again, let us be reminded that the Maute group started by bombing a specific
area in Davao City in late 2016. The next thing we know, they already joined
forces with the Abu Sayyaf, got hold of Marawi, plundered said city into ruins,
and have been causing a number of casualties among government troops.
I believe the Abu Sayyaf attacks are giving us a premonition, something that we should now be heeding, given the insidious ways of this terrorist group and our recent experiences in Marawi.
Yes, Kian’s case deserves empathy and attention. But how about our terrorized
and violated brothers and sisters in Mindanao? Should they be left out?

Meynard Dasig,
Manila,
Philippines




The war on drugs in the Philippines
Is a war against the poor
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 27 August 2017
First Published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 25 August 2017

Stop peddling the lie that our streets our safer now.
If they were, many children who have been casualties of this drug war would still be alive now. The murder of 17-year-old Kian Loyd delos Santos is only the latest—we have at least 31 Filipinos aged 18 years and younger who are now dead because of police operations or vigilante-style killings.
They are not collateral damage—they are victims, as well.
This war on drugs, as we have already seen before, is a war against the poor, against those who do not have access to justice, and against our youth.
Safety isn’t just being able to walk alone at night without fear of being a victim of crime.
It is also in being able to do the same knowing that our law enforcers will be ready and able to protect you. Right now, one thing is clear:
We are far from being safe and secure.
In August 2016, two months after this new administration took office, I—together
with my colleagues Akbayan party-list Rep. Tom Villarin and Camarines Sur Rep.
Gabby Bordado—filed a resolution in the House of Representatives directing the
committee on justice to conduct an inquiry on the upsurge of extrajudicial
killings and summary executions that have occurred during that time.
Now, the numbers have risen.
More people—including children like Althea Barbon 4 years old, Danica May Garcia and Francis Mañosca (5 years old), San Niño Batucan 7 years old, and many others—have been killed.
One year after, our resolution has not been acted upon.
No hearings have been scheduled, no law enforcers have been called on to explain these incidents.
I once again call on my colleagues in Congress to investigate these cases and hold the perpetrators accountable.
We must stop the killings and reclaim our humanity. Huwag muling payagang umiral
ang dilim.

Rep. Kaka Bag-Ao,
Lone District,
Dinagat Islands,
Philippines


Call for Thai tourists
To stop vandalising the environment

The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 25 August 2017
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 21 August 2017

Re: "Tourism troubles", in Philippine Inqrer Sunday 20 August 2017
Khun Brian claims nothing was the matter with the stability around the hot pool
where Thai tourists trespassed.
He claims he is a geologist. Unfortunately this trespass, like most others in Yellowstone and other similar parks is not related to geology, but to ecology. There are notices in Khao Yai National Park
warning people not to steal wild orchids, but this does not help. Nearly 100 percent of visitors are Thais.
One of the tourists in Yellowstone was videoed crouching down collecting small
pebbles and tossing them into the pool.
There are areas in heritage sites worldwide, like the famous caves in Puerto Rico, where one is not permitted off the flagstone path, and visitors are cautioned not to touch the walls, or dip their fingers into the small pools and puddles of water because human bacteria could harm the stability of the water.
The size of a sign is meant not to mar the environment or vista, and is not
related to the intensity of the danger that can occur in a trespass.
A "Beware of Dog" notice on a fence does not have to be the size of a billboard to caution people.

Yellowstone Mango,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 

What to do with Bangkok's
Abandoned Lavalin Skytrain bridge
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 25 August 2017
First Published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday 24 August 2017

I'm baffled by the BMA's latest brainwave for using up their annual budget with
a proposed "Sky Park" on the abandoned Lavalin Skytrain bridge in Bangkok Post, August 19.
This is located between the two spans of the Phra Pok Klao Bridge, adjacent to
the Rama I Memorial Bridge.
Opened in 1984, the central span of the three-span structure was intended for a
mass-transit rail track with Lavalin of Canada slated to include this river crossing in a three-line city-wide network.
Since the Anand government cancelled the contract in 1992 this has been left derelict and inaccessible.
The BMA would spend 129 million baht on a 2,380 square metre garden which is less than 1.5 rai and equates to 54,200 baht per square metre!
Besides the inordinate cost, the noise and air pollution from six lanes of traffic whizzing by just some feet away on both sides would make for a most unhealthy destination.
The span is positioned well below the level of the two adjacent roadways so there are presently no river views.
The BMA plans "higher platforms" so visitors can enjoy these views but this will only expose people to even more pollution.
As the Post's aerial photo shows, both ends of the Phra Pok Klao and Rama I
Memorial Bridges features heavily wooded parks and gardens.
Some are closed to the public; others appear to be underutilised. I would suggest the BMA use just 10 percent of their budget on rehabilitating these existing parks and repairing the torn-up river promenade whilst making the area more accessible for walkers by building pedestrian underpasses.
But what to do with this abandoned bridge?
It could be covered with solar panels, or, just left as a monument to poor planning and lack of "negotiating skill" by Lavalin with the Thai authorities.
A brown information board could be placed at each end describing the history of this huge white elephant.

John L Sheppard,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 

The Philippines is the only country in the world
That does not allow divorce
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 24 August 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Saturday 19 August 2017

Is the Philippines the only country that doesn’t allow divorce?
According to some writers, it is.
There are countries with “no-fault divorce” and “fault divorce.”
No-fault divorce is filed by the petitioner without indicating that either the
petitioner or the other spouse is at fault.
Fault divorce, on the other hand, can be likened to the annulment of voidable marriage or declaration of nullity
of void marriage in the Philippines because the petitioner must specifically
cite the ground for the dissolution of marriage.
The ground or grounds must be proven.
In effect, the petitioner is blaming the other spouse.
The Philippines does not have fault divorce, but there is no need for it because
there is a counterpart. In annulment of voidable marriage or declaration of
nullity of void marriage, the petitioner blames the other spouse or someone else
for grounds enumerated in the Family Code of the Philippines.
If the ground for the declaration of nullity of void marriage is psychological incapacity, the petitioner is blaming himself/herself or the other spouse, or both.
For clarity, divorce advocates in the Philippines may say that what they want is a no-fault divorce.
Assuming that the Philippines is the only country without divorce, is it necessary for our country to follow the world?
Peter Wallace, who I admire since I met him years ago when he was guest speaker
at our school, said in his Like It Is column (“The only one,” Opinion, 8/10/17):
“The Philippines is the only country in the world that does not allow divorce.”
Well, not really. The Philippines has relative divorce (“Handbook on the Family
Code of the Philippines” by Alicia V. Sempio-Diy, reprinted in December 2006) or
legal separation. However, it only ends property relations and marital
obligations.

Leandro N. Opetina,
General secretary,
Circle of Advocates for Workers,
Quezon City,
Philippines





Call for Bangkok to adopt
The South Korean public bus system
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 23 August 2017
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday 19 August 2017

Re: "The ABCs of bad transport policy plans", in Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 10 August 2017.
I have lived in South Korea for the past two years.
When I arrived in the country, I was impressed with its clean and efficient public transportation system.
Its extensive subway system is world-renowned, but what is less known is
its excellent bus system.
Should Bangkok wish to adopt the public bus system from South Korea, it should do so according to its actual functions and implementations.
All buses are air-conditioned and installed with comfortable seats.
There are also clearly labelled seats designated for the elderly and disabled, which
occupy the front half of the bus.
At every bus stop there are clear map routes indicating the buses that pass through as well as their destinations, operating time, and frequency.
Crucially, South Korea employs the Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) to
its buses.
At every bus stop, a small screen indicates precisely when your bus will arrive.
The real-time information is so accurate that commuters can even see when their bus has left the previous stop! Such reliability may be difficult in Thailand, where traffic is chronically bad.
The colour-coded scheme in South Korea is different from what has been adopted
in Bangkok.
The colours of the bus (and yes, the paint covers the entire body of the bus!) are not zone-designated as in Bangkok's case, but rather indicates the purpose and function of the bus.
Blue indicates a bus that runs regular, middle-range routes, and green for buses that run through smaller neighbourhoods and alleys or to mountainous suburban areas. Neither Korean nor Thai commuters need to know which bus colours operate in which zone of the city (north, south, east, west); hence, Bangkok's latest colour-scheme adaptation entirely misses the mark.
The South Korean government provides guide maps detailing all bus routes in the
form of booklets and online both in Korean and English, so locals and tourists
can easily access them. Most of the current information available online is in
Korean, although I have already seen some genuine efforts to increase
English-language access in the relevant applications.
Finally, paying for the bus fare is a breeze, since apart from the pre-paid
transportation card option, one can even use their bank debit card to pay for
both buses and subway rides!
Furthermore, buses run frequently and it is illegal for bus drivers to skip stops. Therefore, two-hour waiting times that have been mentioned among Thai commuters is unheard of here.

Vee Chansa-Ngavej
PhD candidate at Sogang University
Seoul,
South Korea






Call for examination of whether the beliefs
Of the majority should reign supreme over others
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 22 August 2017
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday 19 August 2017

In her August 18 comment, Khun Paritta Wangkiat opined that "it is important for us to start asking why we think established values or beliefs of the majority
should reign supreme over others. It's clear we must urgently examine our
society and its structural problems".

If you wish to live in a democratic society then the majority view prevails subject to some protection of minority rights.
Is it society that is at fault or our practice of democracy?
All too often we see that democracy is just a fig leaf to allow powerful groups (our "superiors") to serve their own ends and interests.
The parties in the US, UK or Thailand are just as self serving as Vladimir Putin, or the Communist Party of China.
What we should urgently examine is how we can make democracy work better. Our elected "superiors" are part of the problem.
Democracies around the world are failing to deliver because we have lost sight
of three things in my view.
First that elected members are supposed to be representatives of their constituents first and party members second.
Too often they are just party rubber stampers, not much different to delegates to the party congress in China.
When was the last time we saw a rebellion against the party whip in Thailand?
We must return to electing proper representatives not party hacks.
Second, the politicians chosen either as representatives or members of the
executive must be honest and govern with integrity.
Nobody believes politicians any more because they lie and mislead so often.
This integrity must extend to being realistic about what is affordable and possible when putting forwards policies.
Populism is a form of dishonesty because it pretends there are no limits to government largesse and resources.
An honest politician has to say no to or at least prioritise the wishes of the people when making policy promises.
We need a different quality of politician. But who elects the politicians and
falls for their populist promises time and again?
The voters are the essential third part of this story.
All sides have conspired to leave voters feeling disconnected from their politicians and the results of their vote.
It is nothing to do with coups, but because all of the parties actually have been dishonest in their promises and none have actually followed the principle of government of the people, for the people, by the people when in power.
The core structural change that needs to occur is for voters to take up their
responsibility to assess and select representatives and leaders to govern in the
interests of the country and all its people, rather than in their own narrow
self interest.
The media has a vital role to educate and inform the citizenry about this important task and the vital need to perform it thoughtfully and wisely.
If we want a different outcome we must make different choices at the
forthcoming election regarding both the qualities of our representatives and how
they will govern.

P Jackson,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 

Former President Ferdinand Marcos is a hero
Says final Supreme Court ruling
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 21 August 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer Saturday 19 August 2017

In its final ruling on the matter, the current Supreme Court said former president Ferdinand E. Marcos “possessed all the qualifications to be interred in the Libingan ng mga Bayani being a former president and commander in chief, a legislator, secretary of national defense, a military personnel, a veteran, and a Medal of Valor awardee” “Marcos to remain buried at Libingan, Surpreme Court rules with finality,” in Philippine Inquirer 8 August 2017.
In a word, he deserved to be called “bayani”a “hero”!
The previous Supreme Court saw Marcos as rotten to the core and deserved to be
kicked out of the country in 1986 after his family’s 20-year regime of plunder
and pillage.
Numerous decisions came out of that Court denouncing the late dictator for having committed every corrupt act and practice in the book “Supreme Court on Marcos,” Opinion, Artemio Panganiban, 16 April 2017.
With this latest ruling of the current Supreme Court, past rulings have amounted
to nothing more than total nonsense!
Clearly, in those hallowed halls of “justice,” it is still “weather-weather lang!”
And those magistrates have the gall to think they have the wisdom to preside over the lives and fortunes of the entire Filipino people?
For shame!

Marites Dela Merced,
Manila,
Philippines


 

It is no joke
Being the wife of a Philipine soldier
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 20 August 2017
First published in the Pilippine Inquirer, Saturday 12 August 2017

I want to share my thoughts and feelings as a wife of a soldier through this letter. I hope this can serve as an inspiration to other people.
To this day, I do not know when exactly the Marawi siege began.
I tend to not count the days because it will hurt me more.
This war is like a nightmare because a lot of soldiers are sacrificing their lives to save innocent people and free Marawi from the hands of evil.
A war that once again deprived me to be with my husband.
It hurts me so much knowing the hardships my husband and his fellow soldiers are facing until now.
To my husband, I know your body aches because of the strenuous battle and
carrying those heavy rifles.
I feel very nervous when you tell me that you almost got hit by a sniper’s bullet and toppled by a steel bar because of the intensity of the airstrike.
But you still manage to smile and laugh because you do not want me to worry.
My conscience bothers me when you only drink coffee as your breakfast and eat a small packed meal that I know is not sufficient.
I cannot sleep and eat well when a day passes that you were unable to give me a
call because you were on the move.
You know how much it gives me relief when my phone rings and it flashes your name.
Whenever you call, I answer you with a happy and lively tone but deep inside, I am lonely, nervous, and frightened.
But I must be strong so that you will also be strong to fight the enemies.
I should not be lonely so that you will not worry.
It is hard living without you all the time and waiting for you with uncertainty.
It is hard waking up without you by my side.
It is hard seeing you endure all the pain and hardships and I cannot comfort you when you need me.
I can only offer prayers for your safety.
Stay strong for me and do not lose hope.
I am always here and waiting for you.
It is no joke being the wife of a soldier, including all the challenges we face
whenever our husbands are assigned to far-flung places and dangerous missions.
Despite all these, I am very proud of him and I understand what he has pledged
to the country.
I only hope that this war will end and he will come back home to be with us again.
We are very lucky that we have them and we are grateful that Filipinos
appreciate their efforts.
From the day I married a soldier, I know that part of him belongs to our country.
He is not only my hero and lifesaver.
He is also a hero and lifesaver to many Filipinos.

Precious S,
Manila,
Philippines




Call for private ambulance
To install emergency equipment
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 19 August 2017
First published in the Star, Friday 11 August 2017

I have been a regular patient at Universiti Malaya Hospital since 2012.
While waiting for my appointment, I have noticed private ambulances bringing patients to the hospital’s emergency section.
The ambulances are very colourful and the personnel wear very bright uniforms.
I was taken to the hospital’s emergency department once in 2014 in a private
ambulance (called by a maternity doctor) after I suffered a heart attack while
having breakfast at a food court in Subang Jaya.
That particular ambulance was manned by a male driver and a lady assistant who
sat with me.
As there was no medical equipment in the ambulance, I did not receive any medical attention.
However, the lady asked me to pay RM250 for the use of the ambulance while en
route to the hospital.
I was shocked but had no choice as she had a receipt in her hand and was waiting for the cash.
Are these ambulances legal and approved by the Health Ministry?
Are their personnel medically qualified to render assistance to the patients they are
ferrying to the hospital?
Shouldn’t the ambulances carry at least vital equipment such as oxygen tank and blood pressure kits?
Shouldn’t the personnel (at least the one sitting with the patient) be a medically qualified person?
Could the Health Ministry or any other authority clarify the above?
If the answer is in the negative, could they explain why no positive steps are being
taken to ensure the safety of patients travelling in those ambulances?
As precaution is better than cure, shouldn’t the problems be nipped in the bud?
There is no use forming a task force to investigate the matter only after a
tragedy has happened.
The only benefit to the patient is the speedy transport to the hospital as the
ambulances use a siren.

Lawrence Lang,
Subang Jaya,
Malaysia


 

Philippine hospitals call on President Rodrigo
For release of humanitarian aid
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 18 August 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 11 August 2017

Your Excellency, President Rodrigo Duterte: First, we wish to thank your administration for finally facilitating the release of hospital equipment and supplies donated to Department of Health-affiliated Adela Serra Ty Memorial Medical Center (ASTMMC) in Tandag, Surigao del Sur.
This arrived in April 2015, and impounded by Customs for 18 months.
A second donation to Southern Philippines Medical Center, Davao City, is reportedly still unreleased.
The donor is Virginia-based Montero Medical Mission (MMM), led by Dr. Juan Montero, MD.
But Dr. Montero still has a problem.
Customs wants the government-affiliated ASTMMC to pay a staggering P1.2 million in fees and charges.
This ballooned from P559,435.69 as of May 2016.
The increase was partly due to delays in Customs processing, courier service, etc., leading to compounding penalties, until it was ridiculously considered abandoned by Customs for nonpayment of fees that the hospital and donor could no longer afford to pay.
In frustration, Dr. Montero abandoned the hopeless Davao City case but pursued
the Tandag case because the donation included P17.5 million worth of prosthesis
equipment which would benefit thousands of poor paraplegics.
It is unfortunate that humanitarian donations for poor Filipinos are held at bay
by government fees and charges.
The Montero case is actually the tip of the iceberg.
Many donations from US-based Filipino doctors, who want to give back to
their countrymen, suffer the same fate.
The government has a mandate to help the poor, than to make more money for itself at the expense of the poor.
Please, Mr. President, pakiusap para sa mahihirap na makikinabang (a favor for beneficiaries who are poor).
We appeal to you to have the Tandag and Davao City donations
released at once.
We also appeal to you to come up with an Executive Order freeing future humanitarian donations from charges and Customs red tape.

Bernie V. Lopez,
Manila,
Philippines

 

Call for free, fair and safe elections
In Papua New Guinea
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 17 August 2017
First published in the National, Friday 11 August 2017

I am a simple farmer and my understanding of democracy is that I have the
freedom to do whatever I wish in compliance with the laws of the country.
If democracy is for me, why were my family and I, tribesmen, and the people of
my beautiful Tolu council wards deprived of our constitutional right to vote for
the leaders of our choice?
Our ballot boxes were allegedly taken into Kerowil, Singirok Barracks, where
voting took place under the watch of security officials.
An amateur footage showed what happened.
Isn’t that enough evidence for Electoral Commissioner Patilias Gamato to allow
the six disputed boxes to be counted again?
My family and I did not vote in this election because we were intimidated and
threatened not to enter the polling station.
Is this what we call a free, fair and safe election?

John Karapka
Tolu 2 council ward, North Waghi district
Jiwaka
Papua New Guinea



First Philippine Industrial Park (FPIP)
Rejects accusation of discrimination
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 16 August 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 11 August 2017

This is in reference to Daxim Lucas’ Biz Buzz article titled “Yellow discrimination?in Philippine Inquirer Business, 7 August, wherein he alluded to First Philippine Industrial Park’s (FPIP) predisposition toward Japanese locators at the expense of Chinese locators.
FPIP was established in 1996, and since then has remained true to its vision to
provide a world-class manufacturing environment in the Philippines to:
1) attract foreign investment; 2) generate export revenue; and 3) create jobs.
In line with this vision, FPIP has consistently taken action to ensure that park
productivity is maximized.
It is for this reason that FPIP strictly adheres to a policy of selling property in the industrial park only to end-users.
In line with this policy, we have, on occasion, bought back property from locators who have decided to scale down or close down operations. This was the case in 2009 when Fujitsu approached FPIP regarding its intention to sell its property. FPIP bought the property back from Fujitsu in September 2009 after months of
negotiation.
Since 2009, we have welcomed 67 new locators to FPIP. Of the 67 locators, 25
locators (37 percent) are non-Japanese.
Of the 25 non-Japanese locators, five (20 percent) are Chinese or Taiwanese.
This is proof that FPIP welcomes legitimate locators to its industrial park,
regardless of their nationality.
FPIP’s shareholders, First Philippine Holdings and Sumitomo Corporation of
Japan, value fairness and conduct business with the highest integrity.
We would never condone acts of discrimination based on race, creed, religion, age or sex.
We hope this helps clarify the matter.

Ferdinand Edwin S. Coseteng,
President,
First Philippine Industrial Park,
Manila,
Philippines




Call for ASEAN to support peace process
In Philippines, Myanmar and southern Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Tueaday 15 August 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 11 August 2017

The Initiatives for International Dialogue together with its allied networks—the Asia-Pacific Solidarity Coalition and the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict-Southeast Asia, and the broad civil society movement in the region—urgently calls on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to
put front and center issues on peace and human security that continue to
challenge regional stability and affect the lives of the most vulnerable peoples
in the region.
We view Asean’s 50th anniversary—marked last Aug. 8—as an opportunity to once again remind governments of their paramount duties and obligations to their
peoples. We believe that recent efforts by member states toward regional
cooperation must seek to pursue and explore initiatives that will
institutionalize mechanisms for sustainable peace, social justice and
development, and a transparent and fully consultative civil society
participation in the regional mechanism with the interest of the people at its
core.
We believe that serious challenges to peace and human security issues are
embedded in the inability and inaction of most governments to address the roots
of internal armed conflicts arising from assertions of the right to
self-determination, ethnic struggles for autonomy, political unrest, violent
radicalism and the rise of terrorism, disputes over cross-border territorial and
maritime issues, militarization and the protection of human rights and
fundamental freedoms, among others. In resolving these conflicts, we reaffirm
that the primacy of democratic processes over military or strong-arm solutions
must prevail.
Unfortunately, the most vulnerable and marginalized peoples of the
region continue to bear the brunt and suffer the scourge of all these conflicts.
More concretely, we urge Asean to ensure utmost support to formal and informal
peace processes in the region particularly in the Philippines, Myanmar and south
Thailand. Asean member governments must strengthen their preventive diplomacy to
address comprehensive peace and human security issues and social impacts of
recurring conflicts by establishing partnerships especially with civil society
movements and communities that are directly affected. This is so it can
demonstrate its commitment to a comprehensive security agenda as stated in the
Asean political-security blueprint.
We salute the peoples of Asean in their persistent and valiant assertions,
struggles and engagements to achieve peace, justice, democracy and
self-determination. We particularly note and remember that this year’s 50th
anniversary is also the 29th anniversary of the Burmese student-led uprising
against military rule under Gen. Ne Win. This revolt, popularly known as
“8-8-88,” was quickly and brutally suppressed. But the fight continues and we
will continue to celebrate this struggle that sparked and inspired the
resistance to authoritarian rule in Myanmar and around the region.
With this year’s summit also highlighting disputes in the West Philippine Sea,
we urge that these should be resolved by peaceful means in accordance with international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.
“Partnering for Change, Engaging the World” is the theme commemorating Asean’s five decades of existence. As it has consistently proven since its inception,
Asean has a remarkable acumen in crafting catchy slogans every year.
The problem, however, lies in its failure to transform those catchphrases into
reality and breathe sincerity to these commitments.
Asean must now realize that an inclusive and sustainable regional peace and
security cannot be possibly achieved if it remains detached and indifferent from
the realities on the ground.
The regional bloc’s vision of a people-centered and peaceful Asean will remain illusory without putting the genuine peace and security of the peoples of the region at the forefront of the Asean vision.

Gus Miclat,
Executive director,
Initiatives for International Dialogue,
Manila,
Philippines




Thailand
Has key role in ASEAN
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 14 August 2017
First pubished in the Bangkok Post, Thursday 10 August 2017

Re: "Time for Thailand to step in and lead Asean (again)," in Bangkok Post August 7.
Asean cannot be thought of as a separate entity from Thailand given the
diplomatic contribution the country has made up until now and its key role in
the foundation, consolidation and transformation of the group.
In the future, Thailand will have the opportunity to further contribute to the
strengthening of Asean by promoting and developing the bloc.
Asean diplomacy is an essential component of global diplomacy in dealing with a
raft of complex issues such as those affecting our planet.
Thai diplomacy has the capacity to build bridges between the region and the rest
of the world.

Ioan Voicu,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Lumads have been effectively vilified
As enemies of the Philippine State
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 13 August 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 9 August 2017

As the country celebrates National Indigenous Peoples’ Day on August 9, it is saddening that indigenous peoples remain to be maligned and largely misunderstood.
With President Duterte announcing in his press conference after his second State of the Nation Address that he will “bomb” lumad schools for espousing communist ideals, lumad have been effectively vilified as enemies of the State.
The diverse indigenous peoples in Mindanao, collectively known as lumad, are by
nature peace-loving.
What they yearn for is recognition and protection of their rights to their ancestral domain and lands, as well as basic services coming from the government.
For several decades, however, they have been caught in the crossfire between the military and the New People’s Army (NPA) and Bangsamoro rebels.
More than that, their ancestral domains (similar to other indigenous peoples in the country) have also been plundered by logging and mining companies.
This has resulted in the lumad’s displacement from their lands and the loss of their livelihood.
Worse, it has led to the steady decay of their culture and identity.
The greater lumad population are the victims.
The belligerence of some of them are mere reactions to the historical oppression that they have experienced in the hands of the government and military, mining and logging companies, and various rebel groups.
The President’s threat to bomb lumad and their schools simply does not help uplift their lives as it doubles the victimization of these people.
Their vilification not only unfairly depicts them but it solidifies the reason for mainstream society to continue discriminating against them.
Worse, it even feeds into the rhetoric of the NPA, proving the insensitivity of the
government.
Dealing with lumad and other indigenous peoples requires recognition and
acceptance of their historical and continued oppression.
It also requires placing them at the forefront of the government’s redistributive agenda for basic services.
These courses of action allow the government to focus on the cause of the problem and not simply address the symptoms of their belligerence.
This is clearly the better approach compared to the fear-inducing rhetoric
against the lumad that unwittingly depict them as the problem that should be
blasted.

Raymond Marvic Baguilat,
Law reform specialist,
The University of the Philippines Law Center-Institute of Human Rights,
Manila,
Philippines

 



Would an Asean member country
Follow Thailand's example?
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 12 August 2017
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 9 August 2017

Re: "Time for Thailand to step in and lead Asean (again)", in Bangkok Post Monday 7 August 2017
In present circumstances, the historical events about Asean are not the best way
to forecast the future. The only viable data about social change in Thailand
pertains to military coups. Hence, it is quite impossible for Thailand to be a
good leader or a role model? as the region faces growing dangers of internal
strife, religious radicalisation and the struggle between the forces of
democratisation and authoritarianism. A governance model based on a bad
combination of fear and servitude cannot be a leading light for Asean.
Would any Asean member like to follow Thailand's example? As they say, quality
of governance in any country cannot exceed the quality of its leaders. We see a
similar leadership crisis in the US, Europe and many other parts of the world.
?Although all politics is local, being a regional or world leader requires more
than coups?.

Kuldeep Nagi,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 

Call for investigation into murder
Of two journalists in the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 11 August 2017
First published in The Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 9 August 2017

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) condemns the murder of two journalists in Zamboanga del Sur and Sultan Kudarat provinces.
The NUJP calls for an immediate investigation on the separate killings of Rudy
Alicaway and Leo Diaz and demand the identification, arrest and prosecution of
those involved.
Two men riding tandem gunned down Alicaway while he was on his way home last
August 6 in Molave town in Zamboanga del Sur province.
The gunmen finished off Alicaway as he tried to crawl away after being shot, according to a report in the Inquirer (“Radyo ng Bayan anchor gunned down in Zamboanga del Sur,” Inquirer.net, 8/7/17).
Alicaway, 46, was a radio anchor of Tigmo-Tigmo program at dxPB 106.9 (Radyo ng Bayan Molave).
He was reportedly also a village councilman of Miligan in Molave.
Last August. 7, a motorcycle-riding gunman shot Leodoro Diaz after leaving his
house in President Quirino town in Sultan Kudarat province.
He died from multiple gunshot wounds.
Diaz was a columnist of Sapol Newspaper and a reporter of Radio Mindanao Network.
Their deaths, if work-related, bring to a total of 177 the number of Filipino
media workers killed since 1986.
The killings happened in two provinces of Mindanao even as the whole region is
under martial law.
This again highlights the culture of impunity in the attacks against and killings of Filipino journalists that have remained unabated despite an international outcry.

Dabet Panelo,
Secretary general,
National Union of Journalists of the Philippines,
Manila,
Philppines



Call for closer look at killings
In southern Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 10 August 2017
First publishedin the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 25 July 2017

Violence has for years gripped the entire region of Thailand's far South.
It is sad that the Thai media and civil society have not done enough to take a little
closer look into the killings and murders of civilians.
There is a real need to go beyond the normal of "what, when, where and how" but little into the "why".
The media has been to quick to take up explanations from Thai government security officials, as if they are honest brokers or innocent stakeholders in the matter.
Sadly, no one is posing tough questions as to why Malay suspects have been killed in questionable circumstances as if their constitutional rights don't matter. Meanwhile, the state wants people to have faith in the justice system.
Take the recent shooting death of Paoyee Tasamoh, 45, for example.
He was detained on Friday, July 14 at the back of his residence in Pattani's tambon
Paka Harang of Muang district while being escorted by a group of security
officials to an area where separatist militants had supposedly buried their
weapons.
His wife stood and watched him helplessly as they escorted him to the wooded area where he was shot dead. The official explanation said Paoyee had picked up a weapon, shot at them and fled. They said they had no choice but to kill him.
Similarly, on March 29 in Narathiwat's Rueso district, two ethnic Malays were
shot dead after security officials separated them from their 15-year-old niece,
who was driven away.
She insisted the two suspect s weren't armed when the authorities escorted them out of the car the three were travelling in.
In the end, it was her word against the authorities'. Imagine if these had happened in
other regions of the country.
How would the people react?
If the government wants the Malays of the South to have faith in the law of the land, the same rights and the rule of law (applied elsewhere in the country) must be applicable in the deep South.

Arfan Wattana,
Former director of advocacy for Permas,
The Patani Students’ Federation representing Melayu Muslim students in Thailand,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Phillipine government offficials
Worth millions of pesos
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 9 August 2017
First Published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 7 August 2017

President Duterte has signed an executive order canceling “excessive pays and bonuses” of government-owned or - controlled corporations.
That was long overdue.
Whoever said public service is such a thankless job was quite right - who needs gratitude if there is so much to loot?
The common justification or excuse for the astronomical salaries, allowances and
bonuses given high government officials is the need to attract the best minds to
do public service.
Without such “perks” and “incentives,” it seems the message is, public service can go hang!
Based on the Commission on Audit’s “Report of Salaries and Allowances” for 2016,
The most obscene pay went to then Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Amando
Tetangco Jr. (P15.9 million), followed by now Governor Nestor Espenilla Jr.
(P12.28 million), and deputy governors Diwa Guinigundo (P12.24 million) and
Vicente Aquino (P12.14 million).
Easily, each of them was receiving at least P1 million per month! Multiply that by the countless public “servants” helping themselves to amounts just slightly lesser, we are looking at billions of pesos of taxpayer money bloating personal bank accounts while the nation teeters on the brink of bankruptcy!
Incidentally, those BSP officials must have really done a terrific job in keeping things in the banking system copacetic, or in excellent order, to deserve such mind-blowing compensation.
And lest it be forgotten, bank depositors all over the country must also really feel they owe it to those
nabobs of the banking system for all the gains they have been enjoying with
their hard-earned money deposited in banks to earn whopping interests at the
rate of less than 1 percent per annum!
Yet, the Supreme Court has been saying the “legal rate of interest” in this country is 6 percent per annum, so go figure!
But the thing is, many high officials in government have reported net worth in
the tens or hundreds of millions of pesos.
In other words, they are already so filthy rich what do they need to be paid so much for from the sweat and blood of taxpayers?
Can President Duterte not cajole them into doing “missionary work” for once to tide this country over a multitude of financial difficulties he has to deal with in the next five years of his term?
President Duterte is presently grappling with the dilemma of how and where to
find the funds for the rehabilitation of Marawi City now in utter ruins, his
election promise of free tuition in state universities and colleges, among a
myriad of other MMonetary woes.
Sadly, his multimillionaire-friends in the administration do not seem to care, much less share his vision and mission, as they continue to rake it in. The President, their boss, receives under P100,000 per month in salary. Is there no one in “public service” ashamed of receiving more?

Stephen L Monsanto,
Loyola Heights,
Quezon City,
Phiilippines




Philippine educators alarmed
At order to bomb Lumad schools
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 8 August 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 7 August 2017

We, members of the Educators’ Forum for Development, are alarmed at President Duterte’s order to “bomb lumad schools.”
The administration also staunchly defends the extension of martial law in Mindanao which has further disrupted Lumad schools. The safety of the lumad schoolchildren will only be secured with the immediate withdrawal of the military from community
schools and an end to aerial bombardments on the island.
The Lumad of Mindanao have overcome the absence of educational facilities in
their communities by setting up hundreds of schools with the help of charitable
institutions, devoted educators, and missionaries.
Contrary to the President’s misinformed description that they operate illegally, most of these schools have earned official recognition from the Department of Education, while the rest continue to hurdle toward getting the official stamp.
Through volunteers and licensed teachers, some of whom hail from the country’s
premiere universities, Lumad schools teach not only science, math, English,
Filipino and social studies, but culture and agriculture.
They aim to mold Filipino citizens who are not only knowledgeable but also socially conscious and responsible, and who value their indigenous heritage and harness their agricultural empowerment toward nation-building.
The government’s militarism is undermining these initiatives.
Even prior to the declaration of martial law in Mindanao, Lumad teachers and students have been victimized by counterinsurgency campaigns.
They are vilified, forced to evacuate their communities, and their school authorities and community leaders are killed without judicial process. Since the declaration of martial law, government has closed 20 Lumad schools, while instances of military occupation, killings, threats, harassment and intimidation, destruction of property, indiscriminate firing, filing of trumped-up charges, enforced disappearances, and torture have heightened. Last week, three Lumad school teachers who were among the protesters during Congress’ joint session on the extension of martial law were illegally detained.
The government has the responsibility to uphold, protect and promote the right
to education, particularly of underserved sectors such as indigenous children.
We call on the President to order his troops to vacate and stop aiming their
guns and bombs at community schools and premises.
Ending the militarization of Lumad communities is an immediate doable step that the Duterte administration can take to help indigenous groups in Mindanao reclaim their lives and continue their learning.
We also join calls for an end to martial law in Mindanao that has already displaced and disrupted the lives and livelihood of hundreds of thousands

Ninia Dela Cruz,
Secretary general,
Educators Forum for Development,
Manila,
Philippines

 

 

Call for Supreme Court to determine parameters
For future grant of bail and other court privileges
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 7 August 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 2 August 2017

It is worth looking back at previous Supreme Court resolutions: one, allowing hospital arrest to a former president on ground of poor health in a case where she was later on exonerated on demurrer and the other, granting bail to a senator on humanitarian consideration, a ground which was not even invoked by him in his bail petition.
Immediately after her release, the former president went business-as-usual as a
member of the House of Representatives without the telltale signs of one
suffering from an alleged serious neck ailment who went through the rigors of
years of incarceration.
For his part, the senator who is now enjoying temporary freedom by virtue of the
bail granted went the same route: discharging his duties and responsibilities as
a member of the Senate without exhibiting any sign of an old and sickly
nonagenarian.
He was even seen lawyering for Imee Marcos during one congressional hearing. No doubt, he is hale and hearty.
Will not those personal circumstances merit a second hard look by the Supreme
Court to enable it to determine with a decent degree of precision the parameters
of any future grant of bail and other court privileges?

Benjie Guerrero,
Business Center,
Sulo Riviera,
Diliman,
Quezon City,
Philippines

 

 

Call for Philippine President
To recognize and support Lumad schools
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 6 August 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 3 August 2017

Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people…” —Isaiah 10:1-2
We, the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP), a mission partner of the
Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines (AMRSP), condemn
President Duterte’s threat to bomb Lumad schools and demand that he revoke his
statement.
Tribal schools in Mindanao were initiated by various religious institutions and
nongovernment organizations and operate with the help of the community members
themselves.
It is an effort to reach those communities too far away from regular schools.
The President’s statement is more than just bullying.
It is a legitimate threat to the lives of Lumad students, parents and volunteer teachers.
The government has failed to give services to these communities. Instead of vilifying them, President Duterte should recognize and support these schools for through them, Lumad children have gained access to education that the government has failed to provide.
Despite accusations that they are training Lumad children to be rebels, these
tribal schools are part of the Philippine education system’s Alternative
Learning System (ALS) and are by no means illegal. Some of them have been
granted permits by the Department of Education; others are denied permits, not
because they lack the requirements, but as part of continued attacks on
indigenous peoples’ rights.
We join many other organizations in demanding that President Duterte retract
this threat and call on Church people and the religious community to do so as
well.
Spare Lumad schools! Stop the militarization of rural communities!

Elen Belardo,
Rgs, Francis Anover,
Rsm, Agnes Mesina,
Sr, Lily Salilin,
Msm, Merlita Rodilfo,
Msm, Auleen Villarosa, Evelyn Urbiztondo,
Marcel Salem
Manila,
Philippines

 

 

US-Duterte regime
Is taking the anti-Lumad people road
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 5 August 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 3 August 2017

It’s logical.
If the Philippine president himself threatens to bomb a school of indigenous peoples
(IP), where else can we run to?
These self-help schools were built by the bare hands of the Lumad people because
there were no schools in their communities.
The schools such as Alcadev in Lianga, Surigao del Sur, whose executive director Emerito Samarca was killed with Lumad leaders Juvelio Sinzo and Dionel Campos in 2015, were expressions of Lumad people’s hunger for genuine development while preserving their culture of collectivism and care for environment.
It is a way of the Lumad elders to secure the future of their next generations and equip the youth to protect their ancestral lands from corporate plunder and land grabbing.
The US-Duterte regime is now taking the anti-people road.
This road will eventually lead him to accountability unless he makes a turn left, the road to just and lasting peace through the National Democratic Front of the
Philippines-GRP peace talks, and make radical changes in his policies which will
address basic problems of the Filipino people.
Instead, President Duterte bullied us indigenous peoples and Moro who joined the
people’s protest during his State of the Nation Address by saying “Umuwi na
kayo.”
We came all the way from Mindanao to call for a stop to the all-out war,
martial law and bombing of our communities.
Thousands have evacuated due to threat of bombings and human rights violations of military and paramilitary groups.
And we were bullied by no less than the President.
Our situation as national minorities is already worse as it is.
The Maranao people continue to suffer in evacuation centers as the Armed Forces of the Philippines refuses to end the firefight to justify the extension of martial
law.
The IP are still facing the wrath of the all-out war through intensified military operations in communities.
Political killings against national minorities continue with 21 victims under the Duterte regime.
With President Duterte’s threat to bomb Lumad schools, violence is encouraged
against Lumad and Moro.
If the schools were destroyed, so is our future.
Essentially, it is to destroy our race.
If so, we are left with no choice but to resist.

Jerome Succor ABA,
Cochair,
Sandugo,
Philippines


 

Federation in the Philippines
Depends on local government
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 4 August 2017
First Published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 2 August 2017

I listened to the second State of the Nation Address of President Duterte and I did not hear in his speech any proposed plan, program or specific executive instruction that the local government units (LGUs) have a vital role to play in realizing the
national goals set by the President.
I find it strange that the President, a former city mayor himself, never mentioned LGUs in his speech. It must be stressed that most of the national programs are primarily initiated at the LGU level. Simply put, LGUs provide action to national plans and programs.
However, it should also be understood that LGUs are not simply machines for
delivering services of the national government but are expressions of empowered
local entities which are capable of independent and sustaining growth and hence
have the right to determine their own fate.
I hope LGUs would get more attention from the national government especially so
that the latter is pushing for the adoption of a federal or a unitary form of
government and such an initiative largely depends on the nod of the LGUs.

Reginald B. Tamayo,
Marikina City.
Philippines

 

 

Call for Philippine President Duterte
To uphold mining closures, suspension and cancellation orders
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 3 August 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 2 August 2017

In his second State of the Nation Address, President Duterte gave the same old lip service to mining and the environment, but his statements lacked substance.
There was nothing significantly different from the hollow promises he ranted about in his first State of the Union Address (SONA)
The same old rhetoric of holding large-scale mining companies accountable is
belied by Duterte’s replacement of then-environment secretary Gina Lopez with a
pro-mining ex-general, Roy Cimatu.
Mr. Duterte should start walking his cheap talk by taking large-scale foreign
mining companies to task by upholding the mining closure, suspension and
agreement cancellation orders issued by Lopez.
These orders have been stuck in the Office of the President, and it only needs the political will of someone who is honestly against the big foreign mines.
On his proposal for a new mining policy, it must be emphasized that Mr.
Duterte’s idea of just imposing a new mining tax policy will never be enough to
solve the deep-seated problems of the liberalized mining industry.
We demand that President Duterte immediately scrap the Mining Act of 1995 by passing House Bill 2715 or the People’s Mining Act of 2016 for no less than the full overhaul of our national mining policy.
The Act proposes the implementation of a National Industrialization program for
the mining industry, which is precisely what President Duterte said he
envisioned for the strategic long-term utilization of mineral resources.
It also proposes stricter environmental, socioeconomic and labor regulations, including clear-cut provisions for the mandatory cleanup and rehabilitation of
mining-affected ecosystem and communities that Duterte wants to impose on the
big mining companies.
Duterte should also remove Roy Cimatu from the DENR and appoint an environment secretary who will go above and beyond the standards set by Lopez.
On Duterte’s proposed new agency on disaster risk reduction and management, we
know for a fact that the Duterte regime’s proposal is to transform the NDRRMC
into a Civil Defense Authority, which grants Marcosian powers to the Armed
Forces of the Philippines to interfere in the operations, finances and programs
of NGOs and social movements engaged in disaster risk reduction and management.
We fear that this may be a sugarcoated tool to further militarize the bureaucracy.
What is most detestable is that Duterte still asserts the continuation of his bloody drug war and militarization campaigns that have created the most intense climate of impunity that took the lives of no less than 19 environmental defenders under his bloody iron-fist rule. It is hypocritical and callous to say that he is against big mining when these most reviled transnational corporations have contributed to almost 80 percent of all 120 environment-related killings we have monitored since 2001.
So much for Communications Secretary Martin Andanar’s claim that this Sona will
be exciting for environmentalists.
It seems the only dialogue that works with Duterte is resolute, militant protest. Duterte can expect that we will push for nothing less than the full enforcement of the mining closure, suspension and agreement cancellation orders, the passage of the People’s Mining Act, a pro-people disaster risk management authority and land use policy, and justice for environmental defenders through protest upon protest.

Leon Dulce,
Campaign coordinator,
Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment,
Manila,
Phiippines

 

 

Thai Tsunami alert system
Out of order
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 2 August 2017
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 31 July 2017

Re: "Tsunami alert system 80 perent out of order, in Bangkok Post, Tuesday July 29.
This discovery was a great shame for owners and operators of those broken
systems.
Of course those systems should be in good condition at all times.
Those warning systems should be renovated and combined into systems people use
on a daily basis such as community radio broadcasting, so people can help check
whether they are functioning.

RH Suga,
Lamphun,
Thailand

 

 

Consulate General of Spain in Manila
Refutes allegations as published in Philippine Inquirer
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday, 1 August 2017
First published in the Philipine Inquirer, Friday 28 July 2017

For the second time this year the Inquirer’s Biz Buzz section has deemed it your readers’ interest to write about the Consulate General of Spain in Manila “Consul strikes again,” by Daxim Lucas, Business, 10 July 2017.
Regrettably, such story, going well beyond an unwarranted exercise of press freedom, contains totally false allegations regarding our work.
I can understand your newspaper’s disposition to resonate the tribulations of,
as the author puts it, certain “tycoons” who feel “shabbily treated” and
inconvenienced when dealing with the procedures of the Spanish Public
Administration.
These procedures, enshrined in the Constitution of Spain and scrupulously respected and enacted by the Consulate General of Spain in Manila,
“advocates as the highest values of its legal order, liberty, justice,
equality…”
(Article 1) and “serves the general interest with objectivity and
acts in accordance with the principles of efficiency (…) being fully subject to
justice and the law”
(Article 103).
Given that the concepts of “tisoys” and “Chinoys” are foreign both to my mother
tongue and mentality, I can only assume as the author’s personal lucubration the
proposition that prejudice on my part was the cause of the concerns narrated to him.
Yet, it is my duty to protest the unfounded allegations the piece contains
regarding our work at the Consulate General of Spain in Manila, whose efficiency
and compliance with the law are duly monitored, and accordingly recognized by
the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, that has appointed me
consul general.
These totally baseless allegations place the content of the Biz Buzz section not
only far beyond the unjustifiable exercise of freedom of communication and
expression, but has even reached the realm of libel and slander.
I am sure this is something that cannot be considered professional or ethical by
a respected newspaper such as the Inquirer.

Javier Martin Garcia,
Consul General,
Consulate General of Spain in Manila,
Philippines



Martial law under Rodrigo Duterte
Differs from martial law under Ferdinand Marcos
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 31 July 201
First published in the Philipine Inquirer, Friday 28 July 2017

Much has been said about martial law and its extension:
(1) “an authoritarian rule under the guise of the protective mantle of
constitutional sanction”;
(2) “Mr. Duterte’s evil plan of domination”; and (3)
“breeding ground of evils and abuses.”

People always tend to correlate Mr. Duterte’s Proclamation No. 216 with the one
promulgated by Ferdinand Marcos.
But what these detractors don’t realize is the factual milieu that sets apart the current martial rule from the other one—actual grave crisis and public necessity.
No matter what they say, nothing can change the fact that enemy forces have been
diminished and the lawlessness and violence are now being contained and
exterminated because of the enhanced military operations under martial rule.
To date, AFP troops are only one square kilometer away from redeeming Marawi from the hands of the rebel groups and terrorists.
We also have an increasing number of neutralized militants, which, if I’m not mistaken, now adds up to 411 combatants.
If only the people don’t turn a blind eye to the fact that our country is facing
something grave that could eradicate our meek archipelago from the map of peace
and prosperity, they will understand the wisdom behind President Duterte’s
decision to put martial law to operative existence.
However, they continue reacting and acting upon the imaginary and alleged evils of martial rule, the existence of which they themselves cannot substantiate.
Every step and measure they pursue that meddles with the affairs of the
administration, the military and other security forces bring the Philippines
closer to becoming a militant and terrorist hub in Southeast Asia.
Every interference they devise in order to prevent responsive measures, such as an
extension of martial law, bolsters the confidence of the enemies and other
similar lawless elements to prey on our country and consume whatever our
peace-loving fellowmen have - up to the last bit.

Rica Bulalacao,
Manila,
Philippines




Call for Thai government
To spend money on Thais
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 29 July 2017
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 17 July 2017

I was no fan of that irresponsible tax money spender and vote buyer Ms Yingluk,
especially when she subsidised the buying of new cars for first-time car
buyers. But when she squandered our tax money, at least most of it was
squandered domestically - the money mostly went to Thais.
The military, on the other hand, wants to give our tax money to the Chinese,
South Koreans, Americans and I don't know who else, but apparently all to
countries that are significantly economically better off than we are.
I would prefer that no government squander our tax money, but if one is going to
squander it, I would prefer that they squander it on Thais, especially the 14
million or so who recently pleaded poverty.

Observer,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Thai PM Prayut Chan-o-cha
Doing an exeellent job
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 28 July 2017
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 26 July 2017

The other day I took my daily afternoon walk with my dog and chanced to meet a
neighbour friend on his bike.
We talked about life and things we have in common until he opened his gob, praising and defending the "Man in Dubai" while faulting the present government for any shortcomings.
I held my tongue and listened to his rant. It seemed he benefited a lot from the previous administration.
He said Yingluck's case is about politics, and not about rice-pledging or dereliction of duty.
He said Thaksin would soon return to Thailand and resume normal life scot-free. Something I found hard to believe.
Our premier is doing the same.
He listens to criticism about some of his government's initiatives. And where these hurt, academics and activists come out to blast his government in unison.
Yes, no one is perfect.
And nothing is perfect.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, you're doing an excellent job trying to move
the country forward.
The task you set out to accomplish is already half-done.
You have a long and arduous slog ahead. Be steadfast in your endeavours.
Remember, always hold your tongue.
Silence is golden. Just keep calm and carry on.

Norman Sr,
Bangkok,
Thailand




The war on drugs in the Philippines
Promulgates a culture of killing and impunity
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 27 July 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 24 July 2017

Religious activists: Refuse the culture of death, destruction.
As months pass under the watch of President Duterte, our mourning over the death of thousands of poor people caused by the bloody “war on drugs” only intensifies.
We grieve over the declaration and implementation of martial law in Mindanao.
These blend with and further deepen our frustration and disappointment in the unfulfilled promise of change.
Our nation has witnessed the brazenness of state forces in violating human
rights.
Under the Duterte administration, this has gone as far as ever — sparing
no one.
The elderly, women and children have all been included. Alarming impunity underscores great fear in the country as we are daily disturbed by continued reports of “bloody” and brutal liquidations of drug users and drug-dependent persons.
The police approach in addressing the illegal drug trade has been marked by sowing “terror” in the hearts of the poor and marginalized.
Even worse, the bloating of the statistics on drug pushers and drug-dependent
persons has cast a wide net to justify wanton violence and illegal activities by
police elements.
This promulgates a culture of killings and impunity.
Horrible, bloody and fear-inducing stories are leaving yet another generation of
orphans and weeping widows with uncertain futures.
Terror and anxiety overshadow every member of the family as well as entire communities.
Meanwhile, the continuing aerial bombings and displacement of hundreds of
thousands of people is adding to the historic injustice suffered by our Muslim
brothers and sisters.
The war on so-called terrorism has failed to protect the welfare of the majority, but instead has intensified the suffering of the Mindanaoan.
Once again, it promotes the culture of death and destruction.
Martial law in Mindanao and its extension are used to justify militarization and
the continuing human rights violations of lumad, workers and peasants.
Explicitly disregarding the democratic rights of the people, more evacuations of
communities worsen their situation and hamper the atmosphere for peace-building
and peace negotiations.
President Duterte is missing the point. He is missing the truth that the poor
people, the lumad, the Mindanaoan, the farmers and workers are the people to
whom he promised change.
He fails to see that these poor and marginalized ones are being victimized by martial law and brutalized by his “war on drugs” and the prevailing culture of death and destruction.

Rev. Grace Masegman,
Cochair,
Promotion of Church People’s Response,
Manila.
Philippines




Time for the Philippine boxing champ
To hang up his gloves
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 26 July 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 24 July 2017

No offense, nothing personal, Manny!
But why is it that whenever you lose, you believe and you think that the boxing judges cheated you?
I cannot figure out what is wrong with you.
You have more than enough wealth, a nice family and many friends who love you.
Manny, your time has passed and it’s time to hang up the gloves.
Many fighters are better than you are and it makes no sense to keep pushing yourself till you drop dead.
“Magkawanggawa ka naman.” It’s a good project for you in sports.
That will become your passion, too and is very rewarding.
But you always seem to work for money only.
Well, that time is over for you.
Be smart and listen to your family and your friends who keep admonishing you to stop your craziness.
It only takes one punch to end your career and ruin your health and life forever. Good luck!

C.P. Goss,
North Fairview, QC,
Manila,
Philippines

 

 

Call for end to martial law
In Mindanao
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 25 July 2017
First Published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 18 July 2017

Martial law in Mindanao should never be extended. How does
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez know that if he agreed to the extension of martial law
for another five years, something good would happen? How can he say, “Extend
martial law for the duration of President Duterte’s term”?
Alvarez wants martial law for his own benefit. Wow! Doesn’t he see that the
people are suffering too much? They are living very uncomfortable lives, and
children are dying.
Please stop this and rebuild Marawi. You should do something other than
extending martial law and continuing to destroy the city. Have mercy on the
people of Marawi. Please. Pray that God will give you all the wisdom and
direction that you need.

Caroline Vitaliano-Cruz,
Manola,
Philippines

 

 

Moros are the same brothers and sisters
As Malaysians and Indonesians
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 24 July 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 17 July 2017

Following the news about the fighting in Marawi, we come acr
oss some numbers.
The conflict started out with about 100 Maute fighters, according to the news, and then it went up to 300 to 500 when they received reinforcements from other groups.
Last week it was announced that they were down to 80. Interestingly, there was a military intelligence report about 500,000 arms supposedly in nongovernment hands.
If we do some analysis of, let us say, 10,000 separatist fighters, how many are part-timers who fight today and go home to their communities tomorrow?
As Filipinos, we have to ask ourselves:
How long will this go on?
How much more spilled blood can we take, in both the government side and the separatist side?
Will the fighting even end?
Fundamentally, we are dealing with an ideology, a belief system that provides
oxygen whether we agree or not on individuals’ sense of being.
It is further reinforced by calls of radical fundamentalism from abroad.
What is the peaceful solution to this conflict?
And what will that bloodless solution entail?
Is the Philippine nation strong enough to handle separatist movements in Mindanao?
If martial law is imposed on the island for five more years, as suggested by some lawmakers, what will life be like for its residents?
Will it solve the problem of differing ideology and fundamental beliefs?
Perhaps the nation as governed by Filipinos is failing?
It seems to have failed miserably, and the wish of Manuel L. Quezon of Filipinos
running the country even if they run it like hell seems to have come true.
In that context, imagine how the Moros could have benefited from all this.
The solution may be a referendum for residents of the affected areas:
Do they still want to be part of this country?
What matters are the votes of the people actually affected, not those of lawmakers who are living in the comfort of their mansions in Manila or elsewhere.
The affected people - aren’t they composed of men and women who have the right of self-determination and forging the future for their children and their children’s children?
We have to remind ourselves, especially those of us in other parts of the country, that the Moros are the same brothers and sisters to us as the Malaysians and Indonesians, with whom our blood and history before colonialism
were intertwined.
There will be no loss, just gains.

Jose Santamaria,
Manila,
Philippines




Mali the elephant has been in a zoo
Since given to Imelda Marcos
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 22 July 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 17 July 2017

The statement quoted in the report on Bertha the hippo supposedly having lived a happy life in Manila’s zoo is false in Philippine Inquirer Friday 12 July 2017.
Manila Parks and Recreations Bureau Director James Albert Dichaves tried to
refute Jason Baker, vice president of the People for the Ethical Treatment of
Animals (Peta), by claiming that Bertha was “happy interacting with our
zookeepers.”

That statement is laughable.
Has anyone really monitored the daily number of hours zoo keepers romp around with the animals?
I visited Manila’s zoo soon after the petitions for the release of Mali the elephant began around 2010. D
The zoo was in a pitiful state; there was hardly any greenery in any of the cages. The few zookeepers I saw seemed disinterested in the animals.
I was told that a vet sometimes visited Mali, who has been in the zoo since she was given as a baby to Imelda Marcos by the Sri Lankan government.
To look at Mali’s misery is heartbreaking.
Mayors Alfredo Lim and Joseph Estrada ignored all demands by Peta to be allowed to take her to an elephant sanctuary in Thailand.
Absurd reasons were given for why she could not be shipped - that she was doing okay, and that she would be unable to survive the trip, etc.
I would not be surprised if Mali will be the next death at Manila’s pitiful zoo.

Isabel Escoda,
Cebu City,
Philippines


 

Call for trial in absentia
For former PM Thaksin and Red Bull heir
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 22 July 2017
First Published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 17 July 2017

Re: "Political law blasted for bias, ambiguity", in Bangkok Post, Saturday 15 July 2017.
The National Legislative Assembly passed a draft organic law on criminal
procedures for holders of political positions to allow trials in absentia.
Critics point out that since the defendant will not be present in such a trial,
he cannot defend himself and the law is thus unjust. They also charge this law
is directed against a single person, that is Thaksin, now in self-exile.
A trial in absentia can be just if the defendant's absence is truly voluntary
which surely holds in Thaksin's case, so I have no problems with that. If
Thaksin so wishes, he can appoint someone to defend him.
But I suggest that trials in absentia should be used for other serious crimes as
well, where the maximum penalty would be imprisonment for a given number of
years, or death -- such as homicide. Thus, for example, Red Bull scion Vorayuth
"Boss" Yoovidhya should be tried for the alleged killing of a cop with his
Ferrari -- if PM Prayut Chan-o-cha has the political will to bring all under one
legal standard.
A law must be just and applied without fear or favour, and that is what we
should do.

Burin Kantabutra,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Call for Philippine president Duterte to deliver social justice
To millions of poor coconut farmers
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 21 July 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 17 July 2017

It has been a year since President Duterte assumed office.
During his campaign he promised to deliver social justice to the millions of
poor coconut farmers in the country.
Back in March 2016, then Mayor Duterte, with his running mate Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, signed a commitment to coconut farmers in Quezon province, assuring them of benefits from the recovered coconut levy. The two candidates were referring to some of the cases involving the recovery of the coconut levy filed by the Philippine government against Danding Cojuangco and cohorts that were decided with finality after almost 30 years in court.
Since October 2012 the government has been in possession of some P69.5 billion
in cash coming from the redemption of preferred shares in San Miguel Corp. — a
block of shares funded by the levy way back in 1983.
This amount has feebly grown to P75 billion at present, as more than 80 percent of the fund earns no interest at all.
Worse, not a single centavo may be used until such time that a law governing the utilization of the fund is in place.
The issue of the coconut levy recovery and utilization has been repeatedly
addressed by administrations from past to present since the fall of the Marcos
dictatorship.
All failed in their promises due to prolonged court litigation so they say.
But in the main, it was really the lack of political will of leaders or their closeness and subservience to Cojuangco and associates that prevented the sequestered or recovered coconut levy from benefiting the coconut farmers who so badly deserve and need it.
For decades the coconut farming sector has persevered despite continuing
frustrations and dampened expectations from politicians.
The Kilos Magniniyog march from Davao City to Malacañang finally pushed the courts to issue an entry of judgment on the case of the SMC shares in December 2014, more than two years after the final decision; pushed the Aquino administration to issue an executive order after keeping mum on the topic; and pushed the House of Representatives to pass the bill creating a Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund on third reading during the 16th Congress.
But politics continues to stand inthe way, as it has for decades.
Despite promises, the Senate miserably dropped the counterpart bill at its end the last time around. Today the 17th Congress is again abuzz with the same bill at hand.
But where it is really headed is so uncertain, as not much has changed in the
legislature.
Coconut farmers continue their battle for social justice. But they need a worthy
champion in the government who can change the odds for the better. President
Duterte will have to “force the issue in Congress” if his commitment still
stands.

Joey Faustino,
Executive director,
Coconut Industry Reform (COIR) Movement Inc.,



Call for Philippine president Duterte to deliver social justice
To millions of poor coconut farmers
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 21 July 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 17 July 2017

It has been a year since President Duterte assumed office.
During his campaign he promised to deliver social justice to the millions of
poor coconut farmers in the country. Back in March 2016, then Mayor Duterte,
with his running mate Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, signed a commitment to coconut
farmers in Quezon province, assuring them of benefits from the recovered coconut
levy. The two candidates were referring to some of the cases involving the
recovery of the coconut levy filed by the Philippine government against Danding
Cojuangco and cohorts that were decided with finality after almost 30 years in
court.
Since October 2012 the government has been in possession of some P69.5 billion
in cash coming from the redemption of preferred shares in San Miguel Corp. — a
block of shares funded by the levy way back in 1983. This amount has feebly
grown to P75 billion at present, as more than 80 percent of the fund earns no interest at
all. Worse, not a single centavo may be used until such time that a law
governing the utilization of the fund is in place.
The issue of the coconut levy recovery and utilization has been repeatedly
addressed by administrations from past to present since the fall of the Marcos
dictatorship. All failed in their promises due to prolonged court litigation —
or so they say. But in the main, it was really the lack of political will of
leaders or their closeness and subservience to Cojuangco and associates that
prevented the sequestered or recovered coconut levy from benefiting the coconut
farmers who so badly deserve and need it.
For decades the coconut farming sector has persevered despite continuing
frustrations and dampened expectations from politicians. The Kilos Magniniyog
march from Davao City to Malacañang finally pushed the courts to issue an entry
of judgment on the case of the SMC shares in December 2014, more than two years
after the final decision; pushed the Aquino administration to issue an executive
order after keeping mum on the topic; and pushed the House of Representatives to
pass the bill creating a Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund on third
reading during the 16th Congress.
But politics continues to stand inthe way, as it has for decades. Despite
promises, the Senate miserably dropped the counterpart bill at its end the last
time around. Today the 17th Congress is again abuzz with the same bill at hand.
But where it is really headed is so uncertain, as not much has changed in the
legislature.
Coconut farmers continue their battle for social justice. But they need a worthy
champion in the government who can change the odds for the better. President
Duterte will have to “force the issue in Congress” if his commitment still
stands.

Joey Faustino,
Executive director, Coconut Industry Reform (COIR) Movement Inc.,

 

 

Women had high hopes
When President Duterte came into power
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 20 July 2017
First Published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 3 July 2017

Filipino women have been suffering for decades under a succession of governments who have promised change. Genuine social change, however, never came. Governments came and went, but the same social problems remained — kleptocracy, the plunder of our country’s resources, widespread poverty, joblessness, landlessness, low wages.
Women became modern slaves, laboring without end in a futile attempt to ward off hunger and homelessness; suffering the lack of support services for their own basic needs; experiencing grave abuses of their human rights in the hands of men in uniform as they defend their land, their homes and their communities from local and foreign big business; experiencing sexual and other forms of violence against their person.
Women had high hopes when President Duterte came into power, even taking an active role when peace negotiations between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and the government began.
We anticipated the realization of the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (Caser) as a possible way to peace, a possible avenue for reforms in the fundamental issues of the nation, which are also the fundamental issues of women: land reform, expanded basic social services, national industrialization, an end to low wages and contractualization.
A sudden turn of events, however, threatens to put these initiatives into the dustbin. The government panel canceled the fifth round of the peace talks.
The declaration of martial law in Mindanao worsened the climate of impunity with which the Armed Forces commit human rights abuses against peasant and indigenous communities.
Government response to the Marawi siege has turned severely out of proportion, with ground assaults and indiscriminate aerial bombings causing massive destruction and innumerable loss of lives.
It is now a war against terror that has itself sown terror among the people of Marawi.
A war gone awry, whose consequences are bound to fall heavily on women’s shoulders as they struggle to rebuild what is left of their previous homes and communities.
The entry of US military forces into what should be a purely Philippine military and police operation in Marawi runs counter to the Duterte administration’s pronouncement of adopting an independent foreign policy.
US intervention threatens to turn our country into another laboratory for a US-defined war, a war with no clear parameters and no clear boundaries.
As if these weren’t enough, President Duterte’s own callousness, as shown by his seemingly habitual jokes about rape and disrespectful treatment of women, abets his allies’ misogynist attitude and the Armed Forces’ impunity in violating women’s human rights.
Women have had enough!
We demand genuine change. We demand respect and guarantees for women’s human rights.
We urge the Duterte government to carry out its pronouncements for a truly independent foreign policy.
There can be no real peace without social justice. We call for the resumption of the peace talks and demand a successful conclusion to Caser. End Martial Law Now!

Mo. Mary John Mananzan, Osb, Institute of Women’s Studies,
Carmencita P. Karagdad, Ecumenical Women’s Forum,
Gert Ranjo-Libbang, Gabriela National,
Darlene Marquez-Caramanzana, Association of Women in Theology and Women from various groups




There is a bottom line to national security that
No sovereign country like China can ignore
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 19 July 2017
First published in the Nation, Thursday 6 July 2017

Hong Kong democracy activists are pawns in a Western plan to checkmate
rising China.
When President Xi Jinping visited Hong Kong last week on the 20th anniversary of
its reunion with the mainland, Western media attacked China for “meddling” that
has caused a deterioration of freedom on the island.
How can we ask China to stop meddling with Hong Kong, when it is in fact a part
of her territory?
Beijing has not backtracked on any promises it made at the handover, as widely
alleged.
Meanwhile “patriotic national education” denounced by Hong Kong’s pro-democracy activists is now proven necessary, as evidenced by protesters waving British flags and chanting for independence at the weekend.
Businesspeople understand that Hong Kong is fully supported by China under the
“one country, two systems” policy.
They would like to see a stable Hong Kong climbing aboard China’s fast train to prosperity, and condemned protesters who wanted to wreck that plan by forcefully occupying the financial district and downtown a couple of years ago.
The social unrest instigated by student activists has not only eroded the financial competitiveness of the island, but also pulled down the ranking of several Hong Kong universities, the breeding ground for many of these protesters.
I have relatives born in the 1990s who sympathise with the activists because of
growing job insecurity, high property prices and the nuisance caused by mainland
Chinese tourists flooding the island.
However, these are economic issues that the Hong Kong government has to tackle; they have nothing to do with democracy.
The majority in Hong Kong is revolted by the childish conduct of those activists
advocating independence.
They are pawns in a game that the West is using in its attempts to destabilise China. By offering them moral support, irresponsible Western media only encourage a situation where the protesters will eventually be imprisoned on treason charges. There is a bottom line to national security that no sovereign country can ignore, and President Xi explicitly announced that in his visit to Hong Kong last week.

Yingwai Suchaovanich,
Hong Kong


 

President Duterte is empowered under the 1987 Constitution
To proclaim martial law in Mindanao
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 18 July 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday13 July 2017

As an ordinary citizen who wants nothing more than a safe, peaceful and orderly society for myself and my family, I strongly agree with the decision promulgated by the Supreme Court on July 4, upholding President Duterte’s proclamation of martial law over the entire Mindanao.
I humbly believe that the position taken by the Court on the issue truly exemplifies a unified stance which any government should assume when faced with public disorder and lawlessness, like the recent Marawi attacks.
I am even more relieved to know that the Court has - as it always has - tilted the scales of justice to embrace objectivity, reason and compassion for the protection and welfare of the Filipino people.
President Duterte both has the power and duty to protect and safeguard the
Filipino populace against acts of rebellion, terrorism and other forms of lawless violence.
In fact, he is empowered under the 1987 Philippine Constitution to do so. Accordingly, “whenever it becomes necessary, he may call out such armed forces to prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion or rebellion.
Also, in case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it, he may likewise place the Philippines or any part thereof under martial law.”

Indeed, “whenever it becomes necessary.”
Although I am not from Marawi and other conflict-stricken areas, I strongly believe that what the President did is but necessary and called for.
It is devastating that some individuals, particularly the critics of the recently imposed martial rule, choose not to see the real and critical situation faced by our brothers and sisters, who have been trapped and distressed by the armed conflict instigated by the Maute group.
While their sentiments and apprehensions should not outright be taken for granted, I humbly submit that the welfare of our distressed countrymen should be of paramount consideration.
Lodging a petition before the Supreme Court in order to seek the invalidation of
an executive measure that protects the people of Marawi and of the entire
Mindanao against jeopardy on the ground of “lack of factual basis” is, to me,
nothing but a motion bereft of any consideration and compassion at all.
How much “factual basis” do they need in order to be convinced that martial law in Mindanao is anchored on true and actual necessity?
Need our Marawi brothers and sisters suffer more just to provide justification for President Duterte’s executive act?
Fortunately, objectivity prevailed and the Supreme Court took judicial notice of the real situation in Marawi and the threat to the rest of Mindanao.
The decision to uphold the validity of Mr. Duterte’s martial law proclamation
over the whole of Mindanao also demonstrates how the doctrine of the separation
of powers and principle of check-and-balance are never hindrances to achieving a
solid and stable stance against lawlessness and terrorism, to maintain peace and
order in the country.

Divine S. Ojeda,
Manila,
Philippines


 

 

Philipines call for unity in protection
Against Chinese in West Philippine Sea
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 17 July 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 13 July 2017

Missiles and military facilities are being built in parts of the West Philippine Sea. Meaning, China need not invade us to control our natural resources and install a willing dictator.
This scenario is becoming clear; we should anticipate it to prevent its realization.
The foremost step is to overcome the fear which is being inculcated.
We must constantly recall and banner the patriotism invested by heroes for us to
be free.
We must remind ourselves of the necessity of sacrifice.
The betterment and improvement of conditions for those who are to come after us could be the drive we need to once again unite us.

Fr. Ely Trespalacios,
Manila,
Philipines




Cruelty to animals will end when animals
Are not held as exhibits in zoos
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 16 July 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 11 July 2017

Bertha’s life at the Manila Zoo was one full of boredom, misery and deprivation.
It’s a tragedy that she only realized freedom through death, and other animals imprisoned in zoos, including Mali the elephant, continue to suffer.
They are denied everything that’s natural to them, and every aspect of their lives is manipulated and controlled.
They are told when they will eat, what they will eat, when they can sleep, and who they can mate with.
Their enclosures, like Bertha’s was, are tiny fractions of the size of their natural habitats, and their specific needs are neglected.
This cruelty will end only when animals are no longer held as living “exhibits,” which won’t happen until people refuse to patronize zoos.

Jason Baker,
Vice president of international campaigns,
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals,
Manila,
Philippines



Call for assurance for rehabilitation of Marawi
As soon as city is liberated from ISIS
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 15 July 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 11 July 2017

I fully support and agree with President Duterte’s statement that the real enemies of the government and the military in the siege of Marawi City are the members of the IS-Daesh-inspired Abu Sayyaf-Maute group, and not the local Moro community.
The enemies are local extremists and bandits who want to propagate their imported ideology of “destroy and kill” just to achieve their evil goals of creating a new global Muslim caliphate and making the city a province of the Islamic State.
I am a native of Marawi now engaged in a jewelry business with my family in Manila, and I have seen the damage done to the city and the hundreds of thousands of residents displaced by the siege, with the bandits using their homes and buildings as hiding places to fire and snipe at the soldiers hunting them.
I really am very sad to see video footage of the displaced families, the hostage-survivors, the civilians and soldiers killed by the bandits.
These extremists should all be held accountable for the gravity of their sins.
Also, I wish and pray that the President’s assurance to allot P20 billion for the rehabilitation and rebuilding of all houses, buildings and other edifices in Marawi will materialize as soon as the city is liberated from the bandits.
The fulfillment of that promise will compel the residents as well as national and local officials to believe in the sincerity of the Duterte administration, and will surely not allow the return of the IS-inspired groups to the city or any other part of Mindanao.

Shaira Fahad R. Dimaporo,
Manila,
Philippines




Former Philippine president Aquino has forgotten
That soldiers died saving his life
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 14 July 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 4 July 2017

Supposedly, the pension rate of retired military personnel is based on the salary of active military men.
Unfortunately, when the preceding Aquino administration raised the salaries of active military personnel, it did not allocate a budget for the corresponding increase in the pension of retired military personnel.
Being a retired military man, I felt deserted by our former commander in chief
because of this oversight.
I surmise thousands of families left by those who sacrificed their lives on battlefields feel similarly.
Former president Benigno Aquino III should have taken into account, too, the
sacrifices made by the retired military personnel who spent the prime of their
lives in the service of our country, away from home and family.
Now that they are in the twilight years of their lives, they are being denied the benefits they ought to receive.
The former president might have forgotten that soldiers died saving his life
and did not abandon him when he was ambushed and wounded by rebel soldiers.
May this letter reach President Duterte as an appeal for his administration to
allocate a budget for the corresponding increase in the pension of retired
military personnel, and the fallen soldiers’ widows and children.

Ildeonso G. Falla,
Paraianaque City,
Philippines




The greater the number of generals in Thailand
The better it is to maintain control under martial law
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 13 July 2017
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 5 July 2017

Re: "Top-heavy top brass", in Bangkok Post Wednesday 28 June 2017
This informative letter from Darius Hober regarding the high number of generals
in the Thai military comes at a time when their position in society needs to be
reviewed by all concerned citizens.
It is quite obvious that this number of generals far exceeds the amount needed
for repelling a foreign attack or defending the country, which begs the question, why so many?
Once the military is accepted as a sociopolitical group which, like all Thai institutions, works from the top down, it's obvious that the greater the number at the top, the better it is to maintain control.
Seeing the military as an institution necessary for the control of the population
rather than a method of defence makes sense of the numbers.
Darius then suggests the PM should be doing something about this in his position
of maintaining good governance and fiscal administration, but that, of course,
is impossible.
His position as PM is totally reliant on being at the top of this pyramid.
He owes his success to this high number and is therefore unlikely to make any changes to a winning formula.

Lungstib,
Chiang Mai,
Thailand





Promises given by new Philippines president
Given way to compromise, reversals and betrayal
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 6 July 2017
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 12 July 2017

The promise that change is coming under the new President seems to have come and gone.
There was so much to look forward to when Rodrigo Duterte came to power on the crest of popularity, novelty and cruelty.
People waited with varying degrees of disbelief and hope that criminality would wane, corruption curbed, impunity abated, economic well-being assured, foreign intervention and domination stopped, and a principled, just and lasting peace pursued.
Many just yearned for simple common sense, decency and dignity that the past administrations took away.
Never mind the unique bluster, hyperbole or histrionics of an enigmatic leader. Never mind too the arrogant public officials who fantasize that they are omnipotent. Nor the dimwitted public servants who think public service is a private trust fund.
But after one year, the demagogic promises seem to have given way to compromise, reversals and even betrayal over time.
Indeed talk is cheap, especially the populist kind. What matters is: Whose side is the President really on?
Who is really in charge here?
Is it the oligarchs, military and the neoliberals?
Is it the fascists and machiavellian political and economic elite that hold sway?
Why are scores of farmers still landless? Why do workers still get routinely laid off before half a year? Why are many still jobless and the face of poverty is still in our streets?
Why don’t we still have our own industries even while we have abundant minerals, timber, waters and all? Why is Mary Jane still on death row?
Why are the poor being slaughtered casually even as families get raped and massacred by evil petty druggies?
Why is there still no accountability for rights violators? Why are many now generals, Cabinet members, ambassadors and corporate board members?
Why are there still multiple standards of justice and the people still cynical about the courts?
Why are the police and military feared and still have credibility issues? Why are torture and police brutality still commonplace?
Why is there an expansive martial law at all? And why are dictators called heroes?
Why are there still hundreds of political prisoners facing false charges, many sick and elderly? Why are the peace negotiations and socio-economic solutions conditioned on capitulation?
Why are there still US boots on the ground and foreign wings in the air? Why do we still siphon out our rich resources and get processed crumbs back?
And before we forget, why the hell is Edsa still a big carpark even while the daily commuter becomes corned beef incarnate?
Yes, we need more of SSS, Pandi and Lapanday.
We need more of Ka Paeng, Judy and the like in every interstice of government. And we need to be treated with respect as a people.
We need justice as we need food.
We need liberation as we need land. We need peace as we need progress.
We need more than rambling narratives and confusing signals, no matter how amusing.
We need real change.
The nation needs a new birth.
Walk the talk, Mr. President.
Be on the side of the people you love as you committed, not in the cradle of those who will eventually stab you in the back when you have outlived your usefulness to them.

Edre U. Olalia, president,
Ephraim B. Cortez, secretary general,
Maria Cristina P. Yambot, public information officer,
National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers,
Manila,
Philippines

 


Weapons from China
Undermines strength of Thai defence forces
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 11 July 2017
First Published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 5 July 2017

Re: "US approves new Black Hawk helicopter sales", Bangkok Post, Friday June 30
It may be easier and cheaper, but Thai armed forces should not buy weapons from
China.
Buying weapons from China undermines the strength of our defence forces in case
of Chinese invasion since the country will know well what type of arms we have
and how to use them.
Buying weapons from the US and other countries is a good choice because they have very little intension of invading Thailand, and because Chinese would not have enough knowledge about our military secrets.

RH Suga,
Lamphun,
Thailand




Call for watch on crooked politicians
In rebuilding of Marawai City
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 10 July 2017
Fisrt published by the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 6 July 2017

The government, through the Department of Public Works and Highways, is reportedly formulating a ‘master plan’ to rebuild, reconstruct and rehabilitate’ Marawi City once the fighting ends there.
That is very good news for the thousands of residents of the city, many of whom
had fled to neighboring towns and cities because of the fighting between
government troops and the Abu Sayyaf-Maute terrorist group combine that led to
the destruction of their homes and loss of lives of relatives.
Public Works Secretary Mark Villar said the administration would avoid the
mistakes that were committed when the government rebuilt communities in Eastern
Visayas devastated by Supertyphoon “Yolanda.”
The government, reports said, will allot P20 billion for that purpose, and I
hope that local and national politicians from Mindanao will not be taking
advantage of their positions to corner contracts and exact kickbacks from the
effort.
It would take years, if ever it would be implemented, before the “master plan”
can be finally completed.
And I hope that our soldiers and police force would be present before and during the rebuilding and rehabilitation of Marawi City to keep watch against terrorists and at the same time prevent crooked politicians from taking advantage of the situation.
When the government rebuilt communities in Eastern Visayas devastated by
Yolanda, politicians from the region dipped their hands into every project,
lobbying to have their favored contractors bag contracts, resulting in
substandard homes and facilities.
I hope that the President and Secretary Villar will tap the AFP and the PNP to
monitor and denounce crooked politicians who will take advantage of the
situation when the ‘master plan’ to rebuild Marawi City starts.

Danar. Del Rosario,
Manila,
Philippines



Move over Makati City
A new financial center is born
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 9 July 2017
First pubished in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 6 July 2017

Taguig City today is undeniably emerging as the Philippines’ financial center.
What makes Taguig City tick and click?
Well, plain and simple.
Ample spaces, less traffic, good location, an ecofriendly environment, good
governance and most important a graft-free city government.
Multinational companies such as BPOs, hotels, condos, malls, international schools, etc., are all located in Taguig’s Bonifacio Global City. More local and foreign companies and even government offices such as the Supreme Court are already about to set up shop in the sprawling Bonifacio Global City in the near future.
So … move over Makati City? A new financial center is born.

Pedro V. Refuerzo Jr., jn.,
Manila,
Philippines

 

Genuine tax reform means reversing
The pro-rich bias in the taxation system
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 8 July 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 29 June 2017

The existing tax system in the Philippines, already biased toward the rich, is up for reform.
However, the Duterte administration’s proposed tax reform package House Bill No. 5636, also referred to as the Tax Reform Acceleration and Inclusion Act or TRAIN, recently adopted by the House of Representatives, further burdens the poor and low-income earners.
Genuine tax reform means reversing the pro-rich bias in the taxation system.
It must be a mechanism that redistributes wealth from the rich to the rest of the
population. Income inequality is increasing, with the richest families earning
nine times more than poor families.
Genuine tax reform should be a mechanism for reducing the gap in income inequality.
But the Duterte administration’s tax reform does the opposite.
According to estimates by some legislators, it reduces the income of the bottom 60 percent of the households.
The monthly take-home pay of poor households will shrink by P1,189 and those of middle-class workers by P13,652.
According to the bill, workers earning P250,000 a year or approximately P20,000
per month won’t have to pay taxes.
Yes, but this looks like a con scheme.
More of our income will go to paying the value added tax (VAT): The VAT will be
expanded and it will be imposed on some exempted goods and services.
According to some estimates, the government will be collecting around P170 billion less from the richest families, while the rest of us will be paying more than P340
billion for previously VAT-exempt items.
We will pay more for oil and petroleum products as the excise tax on these
commodities will be increased (P3-P6 excise tax per liter of fuel).
The overall package would result in a net gain of P133.8 billion for the
government.
This tax revenue will mainly fund the Duterte administration’s trillions worth of infrastructure spending; but note the lucrative contracts for these projects under the program will be awarded to the corporate rich.
It’s a win-win for the rich and their corporations, while the rest of us are
being conned into paying the lucrative infrastructure contracts to be awarded to
the corporate rich, which will include foreign-owned firms.
In view of this, Partido Lakas ng Masa calls for genuine tax reform to
redistribute wealth and reduce the income inequality between the rich and the
rest of the Filipino populace.
It means scrapping VAT; implementing a steeply graduated and progressive tax system where the wealthy pay their share; introducing a wealth tax for the super rich; exacting bigger tax from environment polluters; ending the billions of pesos in public subsidies to private corporations, banks and energy companies; doubling the tax free threshold to P500,000 a year; increasing the minimum wage and the social wage, among others.

Rei Melencio,
Partido Lakas ng Masa,
Manila,
Philippines




Hong Kong cannot be independent
Hong Kong's economy depends on China
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 7 July 2017
First Published in The Bangkok Post Wednesday 5 July 2017

Re: "China must stop meddling", in Bangkok Post, Wednesday 5 July 2017.
Your editorial says: "Only Beijing can make things right by living up to the one
country, two systems principle".

This small island was robbed by Queen Victoria's navy when China tried to stop
UK traders who brought in opium to destroy the health of Chinese people and
damage China's economy (the annual sale of opium at that time was sixfold higher
than China's national budget). Since the occupation of Hong Kong by the UK is
not right and fair, why does Beijing have to honour that promise?
Hong Kong cannot be independent because its economy thrives on China's support.
It also cannot survive without water supplied from the mainland at a friendly
price.

Prasan Stianrapapongs,
Pattaya,
Thailanda



What good is a hundred thousand pesos
To a centenarian?
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 6 July 2017
First Philippine Inquirer, Saturday 1 July 2017

A case of too little, too late?
Well, maybe not too little. But yes, perhaps too late.
Approved by the House of Representatives as House Bill No. 834, the Centenarians
Act of 2010 gives Filipino senior citizens reaching the ripe old age of 100 a
cash gift of P100,000, plus 50 percent discount on the purchase of goods and
services, as well as exemptions on value-added tax
Authored by then Minority Leader Edcel Lagman, the bill is well-intended, and is doubtless welcome news to the estimated 8,000 superseniors it is meant to bless.
But of what good is a hundred thousand pesos to a centenarian? Sure, it may help
defray the cost of hospital and medical bills, pay for medication and caregivers
-a dismal list - but will it really bring cheer to the hearts of the old dears?
I doubt it!
Likewise, whom will it really benefit, the intended beneficiaries, or their
caregivers?
Not that caregivers don’t deserve to be rewarded.
But if the amount is genuinely intended to ease the lot and bring cheer to the targeted
beneficiaries, shouldn’t it perhaps be made earlier, at a time in their lives when they can still enjoy its benefits say, at 90 instead of 100?
Let’s face it!
There is not much a 100-year-old can do with P100,000, no matter how healthy or fit he/she may be at that age. A decade earlier perhaps, and the beneficiary may be better able to appreciate, use and enjoy the gift.
But at 100, it’s like giving the centenarian a pair of dancing shoes!

Blanche Daid-Gallardo,
Muninnlupa City
Philippines



Philippines only nation in Southeast Asia
To aid Jews during World War Two
The Southeast AsianTimes, Wednesday 5 July 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 3 July 2017

Allow me to openly thank the Inquirer for the very inspiring article “Monument to Philippine humanitarianism rises in Israel” in Philippine Inquirer 12 June.
In times like this, we’re proud to be Filipinos.
The article relates how the Philippine Commonwealth, led by President Manuel L.
Quezon, issued 30,000 passports to Jews in 1939 to help rescue them from
persecution.
This “humanitarian gesture made an impact on the consciousness of Jewish survivors who had to pick up the pieces of their shattered selves after the war. To the Jews and the Israelis, the Philippines was the only nation in Asia to run to their aid.”
The article wonderfully continued: “As a result, the Philippines has been numbered by Israel and the Jews among ‘Righteous Gentiles.’”
In a recent visit to Washington, DC, we noticed, in the Holocaust Memorial
Museum, that the Philippines seems to be not included in the list of those who
extended help to the Jews.
Anyway, the humanitarian act that our country did is worthy of emulation by leaders and citizens alike as a noble act of rising above self in serving the needs of others.
The article likewise mentioned that a modern public sculpture called “Open
Doors”
was installed in Tel Aviv, Israel, where these cherished words of Quezon
are inscribed:
It is my hope and, indeed, my expectation that the people of the Philippines will have in the future every reason to be glad that when the time of need came, the country was willing to extend a hand of welcome.”
These are heartening marks of the Filipino traits of compassion and hospitality
that must be passed on from generation to generation.

Ching D. Aunario,
Manila,
Philippines

 

 

Chinese-Thai rail project from Bangkok to Lao border
Not really needed

The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 4 July 2017T
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday 30 June 2017

The Chinese-Thai rail project is wrong for several reasons.
To begin with, it's not really needed. Secondly, even its proponents admit it
will probably be a money-loser. Third, it will cost more than the
170-billion-baht estimate, as all big-ticket municipal items in Thailand always
cost more in the long run.
Thailand will be committed to paying Chinese banks mega-amounts of money for
something akin to the giant concrete monuments leading out to Don Mueang
airport. The self-appointed military men needed to take over government a few
years ago, to lessen political demonstrations, but they should have started, on
day one, to steer Thailand toward new elections. That could have taken six to 10
months. Instead, they've put themselves in power semi-permanently and are making
big decisions for Thailand's future for the next 60 years. They're committing
future Thai generations to sending a trillion baht to China to pay for military
hardware and fancy infrastructure that's not really needed.
Thailand needs elected leaders to steer towards its future -- not self-appointed
military men who primarily care about using taxpayer money to buy expensive
military items (and speedy trains of questionable quality) from China.

Kip Keino,
Bangkok,
Thailand




A greater loss than the sale of the British Embassy in Bangkok
Is the duty of care by embassies of their expats
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 3 July 2017
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 28 June 2017

Regarding the sale of the British Embassy in Ploenchit, whilst I share the view
that the loss of the current place is a pity, there is no question the embassy's
role, make-up and way of doing business has changed a great deal in the 17 years
since I left it.
Yes, it was a marvellous and spacious place in which to work and the number of UK-based staff was much greater than it is now.
Apart from its diplomatic role as the British government's representative in Thailand, the embassy carried out all the traditional services that expatriates had come to expect.
Fast-forward a few years and reductions in budget and staff, coupled with a "do
highly paid diplomats need to do x?" approach from whitehall, has inevitably led
to the outsourcing of these services at - and I have no qualms in stating this
- extortionate prices.
It has also led to the selling off of the real estate, although no doubt much of the revenue from this will be sucked up by the new location purchase and move.
Like most British expats here, I mourn the passing of the old embassy, but you
can't fight City Hall and you can't turn the clock back.
But the greater loss is of what might have been termed the "duty of care" by embassies for their resident expats.
However, the standards are not set by them, but by the UK government, and there are precious few signs of any sort of duty of care from that source.

Col Johnny Thoyts,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Call for Malaysians not to be influenced
By US statements against Malaysian government
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 2 July 2017
First published in New Straits Times, Monday 260June 2017

It is crucial for Malaysians not to be influenced by statements made by the
United States against our government.
The series of statements by the US Department of Justice against the Malaysian
government since last year cannot be considered facts as they are just accusations. They have made many accusations, but why has there been no action taken against the accused?
I agree with Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Abdul Rahman Dahlan’s statement that DoJ should clarify and provide proof of their
accusations. Contrary to popular sentiment, 1MDB was never a party to the civil
suit submitted by DoJ.
However, when DoJ issues statements with terms such as “the Malaysian
government”, “Malaysian Official No. 1” and “MO1”,
it creates the perception that our country’s leaders are in the centre of its investigation.
The fact is that last year, Public Accounts Committee vice-chairman Dr Tan Seng
Giaw, who is Kepong DAP member of parliament, stated that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak was not involved in any 1MDB dealing and acted only as a non-executive chairman of the advisory board of the government-owned company.
We have to remember that if an accusation or information comes from any
government department or agency of the US, we need to take it with a pinch of
salt.
I’m not saying all the statements by the US are elaborate lies for it to pursue
its agenda, but some of them are exaggerated and far from the truth.
It is time for Malaysians not only to be politically mature, but also to use our
logic and common sense, especially in understanding a statement made against
Malaysia by a country that is willing to do anything as long as it fulfils its
agenda.
I believe that we have to trust our leaders, and even though some of us are
unable to do that, never trust foreign countries, especially those that have a
record of lying and media manipulation, even against their own people.

Ahmad Soffian,
Shah Alam,
Selangor

 


Call for investigation of alleged human rights violations
Under Martial Law in the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Tmes, Saturday 31 June 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 29 June 2017

June 23 marked a month of unfolding tragic events in Marawi City.
We, the Young Moro Professionals Network (YMPN), express our deep sadness over the destruction and death in Marawi.
We stand firm in the belief that Islam is a religion of peace.
We strongly oppose all acts of violence and terrorism as these are all against Islamic
teachings.
All acts of violence and terrorism committed by any group run counter to the essential values of Islam, which are justice, care for humanity, mercy and compassion, and religious tolerance.
The terrorists’ goal is to divide people and ignite hatred against other religions.
But we will not allow them to succeed.
We have witnessed Muslims and non-Muslims protecting and helping each other during this crisis.
It is time for strengthened intra- and inter-faith dialogues to help humanity’s fight against terrorism in Marawi.
It is also a call to unite and stand up for humanity.
For the past 30 days, we have witnessed different sectors and stakeholders
across the country coming together for Marawi.
YMPN salutes every individual, civil society organizations, non-state actors and government institutions for continuously extending humanitarian assistance, sympathy and charity to affected civilians and evacuees; and for their acts of courage and selflessness in rescuing stranded civilians.
We pray for the families who have lost their loved ones because of this painful incident, and for our brothers and sisters who also lost their lives protecting our land.
Given the issues and concerns being raised by the people of Marawi, we call for
the creation of an independent body to probe allegations of human rights
violations, as human rights should still be upheld at all times, even during
martial law.
We also call for a continuous humanitarian assistance not just to address the immediate needs of the displaced families but also for long-term rebuilding and rehabilitation of Marawi.
In observance of Eid’l Fitr, which signaled the end of the Holy Month of
Ramadan, we offer prayers for the release of the civilian hostages; for wise and
just actions by our leaders in government as they work at resolving the
situation in Marawi; and for the restoration of peace and stability in Marawi.
Together let’s pray for the unity, safety and fortitude of our people and our
country.

Young Moro Proessionals Network,
Manila,
Philippines

 

 

China Overseas Engineering Consortium
Failed to pay contractors for Warsaw-Berlin motorway
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 29 June 2017
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 28 June 2017

Re: "PM asks public to back Sino-Thai deal", in Bangkok Post,
Wednesday 21
Allow me, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, to relate two incidents of China's
technological prowess before rushing headlong into the controversial railway
deal with that country.
It was reported in the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Financial Times
that state-sponsored COVEC (China Overseas Engineering Consortium) was
contracted in early 2000 by the Polish government to build a stretch of the A2
Warsaw-Berlin motorway.
Halfway through the contract, construction progress showed signs of slowing
down.
Apparently COVEC ran into financing trouble after winning the bid at a ridiculously low price.
The Chinese group failed to pay the Polish subcontractors.
The manager overseeing the project was AWOL in China.
When qestioned, the Chinese asked for contract renegotiation but at a higher cost.
Poland stood firm, insisting the Chinese must abide by the terms of the contract. Work was heading nowhere.
The group failed to observe and preserve the nvironment required by the contract.
Finally in 2011 the Polish premier, Donald Tusk, cancelled the contract.
The Chinese group was slapped a hefty fine and blacklisted.
They later emerged elsewhere under a new identity.
In another development, China began courting many poor African countries during
the 1970s and 80s, pouring in money and tens of thousands of workers in exchange
for natural resources.
They were contracted, so it seemed, to develop Tanzania's rail system.
Presumably they did finish the job.
Well done.
But rumours had it that they left behind many of the low-level labourers to resettle there.
Of course they will insist it's been a long time and that they've changed.
So PM Prayut, be very careful when you deal with crafty people.
Remember, past behaviour predicts future behaviour.
You will do well to heed this saying: Fools rush in where wise men dare not tread.

Norman Sr,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 

 

The Thai revolution of 1932
Not yet finished
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 27 June 2017
First Published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 26 June 2017

Re: 'The Great Dictator' blocked on 'democracy day', in Bangkok Post, Saturday June 24.
Thai historian Thongchai Winichakul is correct in saying the revolution of 1932
is not yet finished. An obvious reason for this is the antipathy some feel
towards the values that underpin democracy, for which antipathy leads them to
repeatedly make up excuses, however lame and false, to tramp democratic
evolution into the dirt.
The quotation from Sulak Sivaraksa reminds us that those making up their excuses
for opposing the Thai nation's democratic growth "truly believe they are good
people".
But the excuses given cannot justify a coup. Sincere belief cannot make that
belief true. The Earth did not move to the centre of the universe because popes
and bishops sincerely believed it to be there in accordance with Biblical
teaching.
Nor does a coup become necessary or morally right because those committing it
truly believe themselves to be doing something morally right or necessary.
It remains wrong and an assault on good morals.
These basics from elementary critical thinking explain the desperate need to
censor and suppress free thought and open discussion, which have characterised
Thai society and politics for decades, but even more intensely since May 2014.
There is only ever one primary reason for censorship. Censorship is always,
without exception, imposed to enforce ignorance, to prevent a sound knowledge
and informed understanding of the topic being censored.
This is why China makes it a criminal offence for Chinese citizens to learn
about Tiananmen. This is why North Korea makes it illegal for citizens to access
foreign sources. The intent is to protect false myths from being exposed.
The truly bizarre result of the censorship imposed on the captive Thai audience
is that foreigners can and often do know more about Thai affairs than locals do.
The only Thais who can reasonably claim to have a sound understanding of their
nation, its society, its history and its government are those who have sought
out and considered the views of academics and others held in contempt by the
censors.
These so-called enemies of the state are either forced into exile or imprisoned;
or they are censored to protect the public from opinions related to Thai affairs
that are of genuine importance.
NOTE: The previously blocked clip of The Great Dictator with Thai subtitles is
available on YouTube again.
Censorship is beloved of those with contrary values.

Felix Qui,
Bangkok,
Thailand


PNG prison system failed to protect prisoners
As provided under UN Charter
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 28 June 2017
First published in the National, Monday 26 June 2017

I support the call by from the Chief Secretary Isaac Lupari for an inquiry into
the prison break and killing of the escapees in May this year.
The reported killing of the prison escapees by warders is inhumane and total
violation for human dignity in so far as the proper use of fire arms is
concerned.
My experience as a prison administrator in large institutions says there is no
security contingency plan in place by Correctional Services authorities in all
prisons.
The inquiry must establish the root cause of continuous mess prison break.
It is sad to see that the Papua New Guinea Prison system on numerous instances
have failed to protect the prisoner’s human rights as provided under the UN
Charter of the Minimum Standard Rules for the Treatment of Offenders in custody.

Ex. red cape
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea




Call for end to threats to abolish
Philippines Court of Appeals
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 27 June 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 26 June 2017

Lawmakers have been expressing their thoughts on martial law (ML).
Individually, through press interviews or statements. But why, oh why, can’t they meet, exchange views, and vote as a deliberative assembly on the floor?
That’s what we pay them as our leaders for.
Are they out of town, out of the country, or out of this world?
I fear what they fear is lack of quorum.
Still, even merely to change the name of a street requires a quorum, and recorded voting, as depositions for history.
I think we deserve to know each lawmaker’s recorded stand on changing from normal life to a martial law existence.
They have to find the time to meet, vote and explain.
Instead, almost 200 congressmen, wherever they are, not happy with a Court of
Appeals (CA) order, reportedly want it dissolved. Santa Banana.
You and I may move for reconsideration of an adverse ruling or go up to the Supreme Court.
We may even file an administrative case, or as the “Bigger House,” the “Echo
Chamber,”
contemptuously proclaims, file disbarment cases against offending
justices.
But you and I must keep it confidential, as required by Section 18 of Rule 139-B of the Rules of Court.
But representatives, led by scofflaw Speaker Bebot Alvarez and Rep. Rudy
Fariñas see themselves as “MAD,” Mga Anak ng Diyos, who may ignore rules enacted by the Supreme Court.
Congress enacted just four laws after one year, it is reported.
Instead of lawmaking, it has been far busier investigating in aid of something, like
reelection.
And traveling. And threatening the Court of Appeals in our decaying society.
How does the Court of Appeals rank in the hierarchy anyway?
Piqued Speaker Alvarez, the “Tsikboy” who heads the Echo Chamber, should stop petulantly threatening the statutory Court of Appeals with abolition.
The Chamber’s remedy is to go to the constitutional Supreme Court, which the
“Echoes” cannot abolish.
This is the civilized institutional arrangement, to correct errors of lower courts. Supreme Court errors, of course, become the law of the land.
Abolishing the Court of Appeals may lead to chaos in the administration of
justice.
In Watergate, a lowly undistinguished district judge, John Sirica, ordered
President Richard Nixon to turn over certain tape recordings and papers.
The power of the equivalent of a Regional Trial Court judge to so order was
sustained by the federal Supreme Court, unanimously, on July 24, 1974.
Sirica was a former boxer (like Manny Pacquiao). I have a sense that Congress
may not want to convene now. “Cuz, we’re entitled to private time,” the
lawmakers may chorus.
Pacquiao’s excuse may be: He needs to make money for his family and cannot be
disturbed. Fine, but pay your taxes naman sana.

R.A.V. Sauguisag,
Palanan,
Makati City,
Manila




Call for Malaysians to take information from the US
On 1MDB with pinch of salt
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 26 June 2017
First published in the New Straits Times, Thursday 22 June 2017

It is crucial for Malaysians not to be influenced by statements made by the
United States against our government.
The series of statements by the US Department of Justice against the Malaysian
government since last year cannot be considered facts as they are just accusations.
They have made many accusations, but why has there been no action taken against the accused?
I agree with Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Abdul Rahman Dahlan’s statement that DoJ should clarify and provide proof of their accusations.
Contrary to popular sentiment, 1MDB was never a party to the civil suit submitted by DoJ.
However, when DoJ issues statements with terms such as “the Malaysian
government”, “Malaysian Official No. 1” and “MO1”
, it creates the perception
that our country’s leaders are in the centre of its investigation.
The fact is that last year, Public Accounts Committee vice-chairman Dr Tan Seng
Giaw, who is Kepong DAP member of parliament, stated that Prime Minister Datuk
Seri Najib Razak was not involved in any 1MDB dealing and acted only as a
non-executive chairman of the advisory board of the government-owned company.
We have to remember that if an accusation or information comes from any
government department or agency of the US, we need to take it with a pinch of
salt.
I’m not saying all the statements by the US are elaborate lies for it to pursue
its agenda, but some of them are exaggerated and far from the truth.
It is time for Malaysians not only to be politically mature, but also to use our
logic and common sense, especially in understanding a statement made against
Malaysia by a country that is willing to do anything as long as it fulfils its
agenda.
I believe that we have to trust our leaders, and even though some of us are
unable to do that, never trust foreign countries, especially those that have a
record of lying and media manipulation, even against their own people.

Ahmad Soffian,
Shah Alam,
Selangor,
Malaysia



Chinese workers in Thailand
Should be replaed by Thai's
The Southeast Asian Times, 24 June 2017
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday 22 June 2017

Re: "Thai experts get on board Thai-Sino rail", in Bangkok Post, Tuesday June 20
To prevent further delays to the project, it is unavoidable that the project
commences with nearly 100 perent Chinese workers.
But Thai authorities should establish mechanisms to keep the door open for Thais to replace those Chinese workers during construction and following commercial operation of the railway.
The facility opens the door for all Thai engineers and workers who want to be
modern railway employees.
It can provide entrance examination to screen those with basic qualifications and give training programme for qualified applicants.
Then, at any time, any Thai worker proved to be qualified for a certain job held
by a Chinese worker should be allowed to replace the Chinese.
Running this programme continuously will gradually change who is in charge of
the railway's construction and operation from Chinese workers to Thais.

RH Suga,
Lamphun,
Thailand

 

Japan domestic laws
Don't fulfill UNTOC obligations
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 24 June 2017
First published in the Japan Times, Thursday 22 June 2017

I would like to explain the significance of the bill criminalizing an act of planning and preparation to commit terrorism and other serious crimes, which was mentioned in The Japan Times editorial of May 27, and the opinion pieces by Jeff Kingston on May 28 and Jiro Yamaguchi on May 30.
Revising the law is necessary for Japan to conclude the United Nations
Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) which already has 187 tate parties.
Concluding the UNTOC is a pressing issue for Japan, as we are going to host major events attracting many foreign tourists, particularly the 2019 Rugby World Cup and the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Although Japan signed the convention, current domestic laws do not fulfill the
obligations of the convention, impeding Japan from concluding it and cooperating
with other countries.
After recent terrorist attacks in the United Kingdom, Sweden and Belgium, the
Group of Seven leaders meeting in Sicily called for more cooperation to implement international agreements, including the UNTOC. Updating domestic laws and concluding the treaty will allow Japan to fill an international legal loophole and contribute to preventing organized crime, including terrorism.
On May 29, Yury Fedotov, executive director of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, welcomed Japan’s efforts in this regard.
The proposed provision criminalizing an act of planning and preparation to
commit terrorism and other serious crimes will apply only to “organized criminal
groups,”
and the listed crimes to which the provision may apply are rigorously
limited to those likely to be committed by such groups.
There are few countries that limit the scope of punishment as strictly as Japan does.
Regarding Kingston’s points on Abenomics and “womenomics,” since the
inauguration of the Abe administration, nominal GDP has risen by 9.4 percent, or
¥46 trillion, and real GDP has increased by 5.8 percent, or ¥29 trillion, in
four years, reaching the highest level of all time.
In particular, there have been significant improvements in employment - an
utmost important indicator for people’s well-being.
The number of people employed has increased by 1.85 million, with women representing 1.5 million of these new entries into the workforce. The unemployment rate has decreased to 2.8 percent, or close to full employment.

Norio Maruyama,
Press Secretary.
Japanese Foreign Ministry,
Japan

 

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Civilians used as human shields
In seige of Marawi City in southern Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 23 June 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 22 June 2017

My heart was filled with so much outrage upon hearing reports that Maute terrorists had destroyed graven images and other Christian artifacts at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Marawi City.
By desecrating edifices and artifacts held sacred by people of other faiths,
Islamic State-inspired groups, and their local and foreign members, have shown
that they do not believe in religious freedom. Worst of all, the death and
destruction they have wrought in Marawi City clearly show they are a threat to
humanity.
After desecrating the cathedral, the terrorists abducted a priest and his
companions and used these hapless civilians as “human shields” against pursuing
police and soldiers - which proves that they are in fact a cowardly bunch of
bandits afraid to engage authorities in a face-to-face combat.
It is very hard to understand how these brutes proclaim that they are out to
create a global Muslim caliphate while killing, even beheading, innocent
civilians, including women and children, most of whom are Muslim believers,
which they claim themselves to be despite their very un-Islamic crimes.
The Marawi City siege is a wake up call for all Filipinos, Christians and
Muslims alike, to unite against terrorism and terrorists.

Jomarie Kaye R. Patalinghug,
Manila,
Philippines


s

 

How does Thailand benefit
From Chinese-supported infrastructure projects?
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 22 June 2017
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 21 June 2017

Re: "China rail expert plan under fire", Bangkok Post, Thursday 15 June
Making concessions to allow Chinese engineers to circumvent Thai laws and
regulations is just the tip of the iceberg, and something Thais might as well
get used to if the Thai-Sino railway project is to move forward.
Who do you think these Chinese- speaking engineers are going to supervise in
constructing the railway?
On a recent visit to Sri Lanka, I could not help but notice that the workers
at every Chinese-supported infrastructure project were mostly Chinese!
If China is supplying the engineering expertise, the workers to build the
railway, the switching technology and rolling stock, and the financial capital
(to be paid back at commercial rates to Chinese banks), just what is it that
Thailand gets out of this deal?
Even if the railway were completely free - which it obviously is not - the rail network will undoubtedly benefit China
more than Thailand in both the near- and long-term.

Samanea Saman,
Bangkok,
Thailand




ASEAN relations with major powers
Based on rules and principles accepted by all parties

The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 20 June 2017
First published in the Nation, Friday 16 June 2017

Re: “Asean at 50: China-US rivalry now a key concern”, in Nation, Monday,
June 12.

It is indeed difficult to predict the future of relations between Asean and key
major powers.
However, what we can legitimately request and expect is that these relations be based on rules and principles accepted by all parties.
Here, the political background is promising thanks to a diplomatic document born
of the East Asia Summit (EAS) on November 19, 2011, and entitled “Declaration of the 6th EAS on the Principles for Mutually Beneficial Relations”.
The declaration is signed by the 10 members of Asean as well as Australia,
China, India, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Russia and the US.
In it they reiterate their commitment to the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia and other recognised principles of international law.
All 18 EAS participating countries declared themselves willing to create a peaceful environment to further enhance cooperation and strengthen their existing bonds of friendship. In keeping with the principles of equality, partnership, consultation and mutual respect, all are expected to contribute to peace, stability and prosperity in the region and the world at large.

Ioan Voicu,
Bangkok,
Thailand


Philippine president has the power to prevent
Lawless violence, rebellion or invasion from spreading
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 20 May 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 16 June 2017

Section 18, Article VII of the Constitution provides: “The President shall be the Commander-in-Chief of all armed forces of the Philippines and whenever it becomes necessary, he may call out such armed forces to prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion, or rebellion. In case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it, he may, for a period not exceeding sixty days, suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus or place the Philippines or any part thereof under martial law.”
The above provision talks of three specific powers of the president: (1) to call
out the armed forces when necessary in order to prevent or suppress lawless
violence, invasion or rebellion; and in case of invasion or rebellion and when
public safety requires, (2) to suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus and (3) to declare martial law.
We can all agree that lawless violence is now happening in Marawi. It is then
clearly within the power of President Duterte to call out the armed forces
(which he already had) to suppress such violence.
This power draws rationale from the fact that no civilian official other than the president, as commander in chief, can summon an unlimited number of police and military troops from out of their normal or regular assignments and move them to any place where an abnormal or emergency situation exists.
However, unless what is happening in Marawi can be considered invasion or
rebellion, methinks the President may as yet, strictly speaking, neither declare
martial law nor suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.
This is without prejudice to the more or less reasonable presumption that, regarding the true state of the nation, the President knows more than what any other
government official does, giving him the appropriate information to make a calculated judgment call to do what is necessary as public safety requires.
Meanwhile, there are divergent views on this issue. Christian Monsod, a member
of the 1986 Constitutional Commission, has been quoted in the news as saying he
does not think rebellion exists at this time; and so, declaring a state of
emergency, instead of martial law, would have been sufficient to address the
situation in Marawi. Law professor Antonio La Viña opined that the declaration
of martial law was justified, but only in Marawi City and if all the terror attacks were true.
To a certain extent, I beg to disagree.
Following the Ampatuan massacre on November 23, 2009, then President Gloria Arroyo declared martial law, and suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus a few days thereafter, in Maguindanao.
I don’t recall any mention of rebellion in related news reports.
On the other hand, the above-quoted Charter provision gives the president the
power not only to suppress an existing lawless violence, invasion or rebellion
but also to prevent the same from befalling on or spilling into adjacent localities.
The foregoing are, of course, purely and only a layman’s point of view and must
yield in due course to the views of Congress and the Supreme Court.

Rudy L.Coronel,
Manil,
Philippines


 

Australian government to pay compensation
For detainment of refugees in Papua New Guinea
First published in the Southeast Asian Times, Monday 19 June 2017

Even after the Australian government has had to fork out $70 million in an out of court compensation to settle the class action by 1905 detainees on Australia's off- shore concentration camp on Manus Island ( euphemistically, called a refugee detention centre ), Immigration Minister Peter Dutton continues to bombastically peddle " alternative facts " regarding the unlawful, cruel and inhumane detention of refugees and asylum seekers.
I think the man needs help to deal with his delusions.

Rajend Naidu
Sydney
Australia



The downfall of first president Emilio Aguinaldo
Led to the Philippine century long waltz with the US
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 17 June 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 14 June 2017

Philippine Independence was proclaimed in Kawit, Cavite, to June 12, 2017 - a span of 119 years - the Filipino people have endured a long and tortuous trek in quest of freedom and full nationhood. Sadly the journey has been dark and
inconsistent.
Perhaps it is time we paused and asked ourselves: What have we, as individuals,
done for this country, such that peace and inclusive progress has been so
elusive?
If a nation’s greatness were to be measured in terms of its GNP (gross national
product) or the excellence of each individual citizen in the pursuit of his
calling, then we deserve some breast-beating. But who benefited from these giant
strides?
Evidently something is missing, and this we must resolve.
Toward this end, the following historical events may prove useful:
The capture of Emilio Aguinaldo, president of the first Philippine Republic at
Palanan, Isabela, on March 25, 1901 actually a “sellout” conspiracy by his own
men) was a major setback in our struggle for independence and nationhood. It
doused the fire of nationalism that ignited the Katipunan revolution against
Spain and resistance against American occupation.
Aguinaldo’s downfall, machinated by Filipino conservatives who advocated
annexation to the United States, led to our century-long “waltz” with the
Americans. But thanks anyway for the tutelage in democratic concepts of
governance and some measure of material progress.
Fast forward to the Cold War era when the old empires crumbled and former
emperors had to change clothes, so to speak, to somehow hold on to their former
colonies. With a new concept (read: weapon - transnationalism - and with their
“market forces,” they then broke through national borders and infiltrated
governments of small states.
These forces maligned nationalism and gave it ugly connotations. Our own leaders
genuflected in obeisance before them and facilitated the smooth acceptance of
their version of economic and political policies. The divide-and-conquer
strategy lived on, leaving behind more divisions within and among states.
Soon enough, the Cold War stoked the fires of a peasant rebellion and cities
were afire with protest rallies, intensifying the ideological hostilities, and
militants were placed under surveillance. Even student leaders - who, out of
touristic curiousity, slipped into China and Moscow to attend international
conferences - were investigated by the congressional committee on anti-Filipino
activities as soon as they came back. Activists were hauled to Camp Crame;
others simply disappeared; the rest took to the hills to provide intellectual
substance to the insurgency.
These events provided then-president Ferdinand Marcos the backdrop to declare
martial law which all the more spawned violence and divisiveness. This singular
political act inspired concerted moves that led to the famous Edsa revolution.
The rest is history.
To make this year’s celebration of Independence Day more meaningful, Filipinos
must act together as one people and one nation in the pursuit of common goals.
The nation’s interest must be prioritized in every citizen’s mind and in all
programs of government. This may be the only way to attain inclusive progress
and find the missing link to national greatness.

Eva Maggay-Iniong,
Unions Square One Condominium,
15th Avenue, Cubao,
Quezon City,
Philippines



Why not include US involvement
In Russo-Afghan war
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 14 June 2017
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 9 June 2017

Re: "A fresh look at the Afghan war", in Bangkok Post Tuesday 6 June
Following this well-researched report describing the colossal damage both
financial and in human lives in this war in the last 15 years, one is left to
question why the author did not go back just a few more years and include US
involvement in the Russo-Afghan fiasco.
It must be fairly obvious now that most of this catastrophe would not have
occurred had the Russians been left alone to occupy the country and prevent the
rising Islamic threat to adjacent Russia via the many millions of Muslims living
in Russia.
I still remember the disbelief among European academics at the time.
"These Afghan fundamentalists stone teachers to death for teaching women to read and write, and the Americans are supplying them with surface-to-air weapons that can bring down airliners!!"
These weapons were later used against coalition troops of course, and contributed to the destruction described in the article.
With bin Laden and al-Qaeda among the beneficiaries, who can say that Sept 11
would have happened, that the Iraq invasion and the present Syrian mess would
have occurred, had the Russians been left to it.
The Russian occupation would certainly have prevented the country from being used as a base for international terrorism.

Tony Ash,
Petchaburi.
Thailand



Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA)
Accused of milking cocunut levy fund
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 13 June 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Sunday 11 June 2017

In the last three administrations, the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) did nothing for the coconut agroindustry, its farmers and workers. s
During the Estrada, Arroyo and Aquino (Noynoy) presidencies, the PCA further became a bastion of corruption, fattening the wallets of officials of the PCA, the Department of Agriculture and related agencies.
Until today, PCA officials appear to be mainly concerned about controlling—and
milking—the coconut levy fund. In Arroyo’s time, an added source of “milk” for
officials was coco lumber, as the cocolisap infestation in Calabarzon led to the
issuance of tree-cutting permits.
In Aquino’s time, officials found another milking cow: commissions from the importation of chemicals to be used for getting rid of cocolisap.
While all these benefited officials, this pushed coconut farmers and workers into deeper desperation.
It seems that the PCA is one area where President Duterte’s promise of change isn’t being felt.
Today, a bitter leadership struggle engulfs the PCA.
If and when this is resolved, whoever wins may find that the coco levy fund had been misspent long ago.
Meantime, no one in the PCA or even in the whole government, looks for ways
to improve coconut cultivation, introduce manufacturing options, develop
finished products, and imagine other innovations that could allow over 20
million Filipinos involved with coconuts to enjoy a long-promised inclusive
economic growth.
Let’s hope something good will come to the Mindanao coconut farmers and
industry with the “martial law” declaration. Martial law should have been
declared for the entire coconut industry a long time ago.

Jose Z. Osias,
Manila,
Philippines



Marcos dictatorship
Clawing its way back to power
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 12 June 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Sunday 11 June 2017

Former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos wants to impress his political followers by filing, in the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, an electoral protest against Vice President Leni Robredo.
He is asking for a manual recount of votes cast for him and Robredo in 36,465 precincts.
In the 2016 election for vice president, Robredo garnered 14,418,817 votes and
Marcos got 14,155,344 votes.
The question is: Would a recount change those numbers in Marcos’ favor even as those numbers had been all accounted for in the official canvassing that led to the proclamation of Robredo as the winning candidate for vice president?
In his complaint, Marcos alleges that the automated counting of the votes was
manipulated to reduce his votes.
Yet he gathered no evidence of the alleged fraud; he just relied on the notion that his lead in preelection surveys could lead him to victory in the actual election.
With supporters and loyalists at every protest rally, Marcos denounced the Vice President as a nonentity, a pretender to the high position she now occupies.
Then came the threat of impeachment from several the administration allies,
citing an “impeachable offense” she supposedly committed for taking a position
critical of President Duterte who admittedly is an admirer of the Marcoses.
Here, today, we are witnesses to the spectacle of a disgraced dictatorship
clawing its way back to power.

Nesty Reyes,
Molino 2,
Bacoor City
Philippines




Thailand warned about China's loan
For construction of shipping ports
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 11 June 2017
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 9 June 2017

I just heard a report on BBC radio about a failed Chinese investment in Sri
Lanka.
It could be a warning to Thailand.
Here's the scenario in a nutshell: Sri Lankan officials gave the OK to allow China to build a giant shipping port on its southern coast.
There's no large industry there, so even in the planning stages, mistakes were made. The port has been built for US$6 billion but (surprise!) there is nearly no activity there.
Now Sri Lankan officials say they can't afford to pay back the loans to China.
Here's what has ensued: China will take 80 percent possession of the port and
surrounding properties.
Industrial areas will be created which require land to be commandeered from local Sri Lankans.
Not surprisingly, this plan is very unpopular with local farmers and residents. People are being jailed. Riots are possible.
Here's how similar scenarios could play out in Thailand: Thai governments often
look to China for large infrastructure investments funded by Chinese banks,
which are essentially the Chinese government. Some of Thailand's current and
future China-funded mega-projects include: high-speed rail, three submarines, a
mega-shopping complex, a shipping port.
It's known that Thailand is not always reliable when it comes to paying back
loans.
Next we could see negotiations for Chinese banks, or China itself, to
commandeer Thai properties in compensation. Thailand may one day be known as the "Thailand Autonomous Region". Message to Thailand's self-appointed leaders: Be careful who you take to bed.

Kip Keino,
Chiang Rai,
Thailand

 


Too many eyes watching for repeat of abuses
Under Marcos martial law
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 10 June 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 9 June 2017

A joint session of the House of Representatives and the Senate to review President Duterte’s decision to declare martial law in Mindanao would have been an exercise in futility.
Everybody knows that both chambers of Congress will simply junk any attempt to
reverse any decision of the President.
Although I believe the exercise would have been just a waste of time and
taxpayer money, still, it was needed for formality’s sake.
It’s water under the bridge now, let’s just rally behind our troops to restore
law and order in Mindanao. I don’t think the police and military abuses during
Marcos’ martial law reign will be repeated this time around.
Too many eyes are watching.

Leo Soliman,
Merville Park,
Paranaque City,
Philippines


ss


Call for mobilization of reservists units
To maintain peace and order in the Philipinnes
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 9 June 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 8 June 2017

Maute rampage triggers need to mobilize reserve force Last May 23, President Duterte issued Presidential Proclamation No. 216, declaring martial law all over
Mindanao - another milestone in the Duterte administration and Philippine history.
He said, if the situation deteriorates, it will not be long before he declares
martial law nationwide.
Thanks, we have a President with guts. In a letter “Reserve force urgently
needed today” in Philippine Inquirer Opinion, 19 May, I said that the Maute, Abu Sayyaf, and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters are terrorist organizations to be watched.
And what we thought might happen did happen. Maute terrorists went on a rampage in Marawi City, killing unarmed innocent civilians, including women and
children; taking a number of hostages, burning homes and buildings. There was
either a failure of intelligence on the part of the military and police, or a
failure of vigilance on the part of the affected barangays.
Mr. President, there is an urgent need to mobilize whatever reservist units we
now have to maintain peace and order. They can be tapped to secure vital
installations such as water, electric power and communications facilities, while
the regular force are engaged in combat, clearing and mopping-up operations.

Joel. R. Hinlo,
Retired Brigadier General,
AFP,
Manila,



 

Call for Thailand to proceed with caution
In China OBOR initiative
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 8 June 2017
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 7 June 2017

Re: "China heads for imperial overreach", in Bangkok Post, May 29.
Beyond Brahma Chellaney's conclusion that China is exposing itself to excessive
financial risk and overstretching in efforts to expand its influence under the
"one belt, one road" (Obor) initiative, recipient countries should be very cautious of the risks in accepting investment under the Obor programme.
Various countries that have signed on to the Obor programme are already
regretting having provided overly favourable concessions to China in the form of
access to land bordering high-speed rail routes built under the Obor initiative.
Others are pushing back against Chinese attempts to use commercial port facilities constructed under the Obor programme for military purposes e.g.,sssswarship and submarine port calls.
Even the initial construction of infrastructure under the Obor programme is proving disappointing to most participating countries as they discover that many of the construction jobs they thought would come to their own countries are actually being filled by imported Chinese laborers instead of local workers.
Thailand should take note of these experiences and proceed with caution.

Samanea Saman,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Filipino on death row in Indonesia
Subjest to legal gobbledygook
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 7 June 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 6 June 2017


On May 22, 2017, the Court of Appeals issued a preliminary injunction preventing the taking of Mary Jane Veloso’s testimony via written interrogatories in Indonesia. How in heaven’s name can we get to hear the side of a fellow compatriot who is behind bars, waiting in death row in a foreign land, but who cannot come home for the purpose?
Stripped of legalese and legal fiction that may be ideal at another place, time
and circumstance, how can the accused illegal recruiters who profess innocence
be able to controvert Veloso’s whole narrative already well-known publicly all
over the world if she is doggedly gagged from officially telling her story by
invoking what may be deemed esoteric and archaic legal argumentation given the
peculiarities of the case?
The recruiters assert that they want to confront her in person, yet they
themselves oppose and put all roadblocks every step of the way to make this
happen.
Veloso’s situation is unique in that it calls for judicial equity, if not flexibility. Indeed, it warrants common sense—or basic empathy.
Whatever happens in the meantime to the fate of distressed overseas workers like
her, may in large measure be attributable to a fixation with legal gobbledygook,
abstracting lofty legal principles and procedures that are open to serious
impressions, such that they are bereft of reality, compassion and a sincere
search for justice in a case where time is of the essence.

Edres U. Olalia,
President, National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers,
Manila,
Philippines

 

 

Tobacco industry
Targeting Malaysian women
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 6 June 2017
First published in the Star, Sunday 4 June 2017

This year the World No Tobacco Day has adopted the United Nations’ Sustainable
Development Goals (SDG) as its theme: “Tobacco: A threat to development.”
The Malaysian Women’s Action for Tobacco Control & Health seeks to protect women and children from tobacco and finds that smoking is threatening the rights of
this group.
Tobacco use is hampering Malaysia from attaining SDG Goal No. 5: “Achieving
gender equality and empowering all women and girls.”

The industry targets women and teenage girls by implying that smoking enhances
gender equality, glamour and success.
Cigarette packs shaped like little lipstick boxes are sold in Ma-laysia to
target teenage girls.
Studies show that adolescent girls take up smoking because they think it will
help them control or lose weight.
For women, it is a huge mistake to believe that smoking like men signifies
gender equality.
Medical evidence shows that women have a higher risk of succumbing to
smoking-related diseases. Cancers among women are on the increase in Malaysia.
People are aware that smoking causes lung cancer.
But, most people do not know that second-hand smoke increases risks of cancer,
too. Women and children are most vulnerable to this health risk.
Money spent on cigarettes means less money for food, education and healthcare.
Studies show that in poor households, especially when a breadwinner smokes,
spending on tobacco products often represents more than 10 per cent of household
expenditure.
Women often do the shopping for the family.
They should be empowered to choose food over tobacco.
One pack of cigarettes, at the minimum price of RM10, can buy 25 eggs, four
loaves of bread, 5kg of rice, 1kg of ikan kembung or some vegetables.
A premium pack of RM17 can buy even more food, which makes a huge difference in the diet of poor households.
Women are challenged daily on their right to breathe clean air or work in a
smoke-free place. Many struggle to make their homes smoke-free.
Among the female workforce, many continue to be subject to second-hand smoke,
especially in small working places like coffee shops, hotels and lounges.
According to one study, about 30 per cent of women are exposed to smoking at
their workplaces.
Women and girls in Malaysia have a long way to go in defending their rights to
breathe clean air.
When exposed to second-hand smoke, it is common to see women and girls wave away the smoke to show their disgust.
Many are hesitant to ask smokers, usually men, to stop.
The government can protect the public and empower women by making public and
workplaces 100 per cent smoke-free.
The right to breathe clean air is a right that must be protected.
When it comes to smoke-free places, the norm should be that public and workplaces are declared smoke-free.

Datuk Hatijah Ayob, President,
Malaysian Women’s Action for Tobacco Control & Health,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia




Philippines calls for trade embargo
Against China
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 5 June 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 1 June 2017

I am appalled by China’s leader Xi Jinping’s threat to go to war against the Philippines, after our beloved President Duterte told him that the Philippines would be drilling for oil in the West Philippine Sea which China includes in its “9-dash line” or territorial claims in the South China Sea.
Our President has shown only great diplomacy in handling our relationship with
China, even to the chagrin of many of us.
But enough is enough.
We will not take this matter sitting down. We may not have the military might to fight China, but we have the following:
1. the United Nations-backed decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, which is favorable to us;
2. good relations with our Asean neighbors;
3. great, worldwide respect for our President;
4. our loving God Almighty Whom we love and serve.
My humble suggestion is, we fight in the economic front. As one country and as individuals:
1. Let’s stop importing/buying products from China;
2. Let’s not do business with China—e.g., no traveling or vacationing to China
3. Unite with our friends in Asia in imposing a trade embargo against China.
Let’s not do any business with China.
The products of China are inferior copycats of American products, whose
“blueprints and labor business” the United States stupidly shared with that
nation. And now America owes China so heavily—in trillions of US dollars. Not
only that, many of the “food products” China sells to us are not really food,
they are mixed with plastic and cardboard; and the China-made toys are heavily
laced with toxic lead. So who needs Chinese products or China for that matter.
I myself have boycotted “Made in China” products and scrapped China from my list
of possible vacation getaways. Why spend my hard-earned money for the benefit of
an enemy who wants to wage war on us and occupy our territories.
Little David defeated the giant Goliath who profaned God, and threatened and
belittled His people. I say to China: You, too, face destruction, pestilence,
natural calamities, economic collapse and defeat if you continue to bully the
Philippines, our nation, this nation that serves and praises the Living God in
Jesus’ mighty name.

Rosemarie Miranda Lim
Manila,
Philippines



Impeachment complaint against Philippine president
Railroaded on grounds of insufficient in substance
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 3 June 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 1 June 2017

I had always believed that the impeachment complaint filed by Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano would eventually end up kaput. But I never expected the House committee on justice casting the die as hastily as it did. In cockfighting parlance - with which, incidentally, many of our congressmen are familiar, anyway “fast-kill” is the name of such a gallant feat.
And so, I sincerely commiserate with Alejano who shouted his voice hoarse before
the media, saying the congressmen had railroaded the junking of his complaint.
We can all agree—meaning, those of us who watched the House panel proceedings on television—that Alejano was perfectly right in his accusation, if we consider the following facts.
In the initial phase of the session, it was quite obvious from their respective
manifestations that more than the majority of the justice committee members were
of the opinion that the complaint was insufficient in form. As a matter of fact,
one of them even opined that they should probably already dismiss the complaint
at that juncture.
But then, another congressman argued that the House rules were silent on
whether or not they could indeed summarily dismiss the complaint on mere
insufficiency in form.
The rules, he said, clearly allow outright dismissal only after the complaint has been declared insufficient in substance and that, being found insufficient only in form, the complaint will have to be sent back to complainant for revision or fixing and then refiled.
Clearly realizing that the revision and refiling process may yet take several
more days, the committee chair suspended the proceedings for a while so they
could hold an executive session and reconsider the ambiguous House rules.
When the proceedings resumed, wasn’t it monumentally surprising that alongside the initial, nearly unanimous opinion of the lawmakers, the committee suddenly found the complaint to be sufficient in form?
And so, they proceeded without further ado and, finally declaring the complaint
as insufficient in substance, effectively dismissed it. Alas and alack, if the
above process is not railroading the impeachment complaint, I do not know what
is.
Well, there is one moral lesson that Alejano must have learned: President
Duterte would not have been recently voted by Time Magazine as the world’s most
influential person if he could not convince or influence Congress—be it openly,
secretly, discreetly, silently, through sheer body language or without even
lifting a finger—to say NO to all the impeachment complaints against him, at
least this year if not throughout his constitutional term.

Rudy L. Coronel,
Manila,
Philippines



Reforestation
Can impede global warming
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 2 June 2017
First published in the Nation Thursday 1 June 2017

Re: “This is climate change: When is Thailand going to do something about it?”, The Nation, yesterday.
Universities in Thailand have shown reforestation can impede global warming
greatly. It takes about three years for a forest to generate to where the
animals will start to live in it. Without further interference from governments,
electric cars will be plentiful. Solar cells get cheaper and more efficient
every year. Governments and politicians sound the alarm, but only want to tax
people more for ineffective efforts. Even if you do not believe in global
warming, you may wish the world to be a cleaner place.

Yellowboat,
Bangkok,
Thailand



1,500 Palestinian prisoners in Israel
On hunger strike for six months
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 1 June 20
17
First published in the New Straits Times, Wednesday 31 May 2017

Today is the third day of Ramadan.
Muslims in many parts of the world have begun their month-long fast.
Most of them are not aware that 1,500 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails are on a hunger strike that began almost six weeks ago.
These prisoners have undertaken a hunger strike to protest the denial of basic
human rights in prison. When they began their strike, they were only drinking
salt water to survive.
It is reported that many have stopped drinking water altogether. Their health is
deteriorating rapidly.
They are in dire straits.
Their hunger strike is not just about prison conditions.
In a larger sense, it is against the occupation of Palestine and the oppression
and injustice that have occurred through the decades.
It is a strike for liberation from Israeli domination. It is a strike for human dignity. This is why the strike has been described as the Dignity Strike.
The world has to all intents and purposes ignored this mass strike partly
because the media, both mainstream and alternative, has given so little coverage
to it. It is a reflection of Zionist power over the global media.
Faced with this situation, civil society groups with a conscience should speak
up. As more and more groups and individuals take a stand, the Israeli authorities
will be forced to respond.
By giving support to the Dignity Strike, those of us who are fasting will be
enhancing the meaning of our own fast. For our fast is also about dignity and
justice. It is not just Ramadan that carries this meaning. In the Jewish
tradition, exemplified by the teachings of Prophet Isaiah, fasting is also about
justice.

Dr Chandra Muzaffar,
President, International Movement for a Just World
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia



Democracy
The best way forward for Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 31 May 2017
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 30 May 2017

Re: "Flak builds for PM over poll questions", in Bangkok Post Monday 29 May 2017
In my opinion, as national leader, Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha should put himself in
front of the Thai people and willingly answer whatever questions we want to ask
him - not pose them to us just like that.
Questions aside, it is the duty of this interim regime to bring the country back
to democracy, after it seized power from a government that reeked with division
and corruption, despite being an elected one.
Gen Prayut needs to understand that Thailand needs to have democracy for the
simple reason that it has been proven and accepted across the world as the most
equitable system for all classes of people.
Simply put, democracy is the best way forward for our country and people to
really achieve progress.
It is time we all stopped thinking about ourselves and our generation and
proceeded onto building a better future for our country as well as future
generations.
There is no time left for a question-and-answer session now.

Vint Chavala,
Bangkok,
Thailand





Martial law in southern Philippines aimed at dissidents
Against land grabbing and US intervention

The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 30 May 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 29 May 2017

Katribu Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (Katribu) condemns the Maute Group’s terrorist attacks in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur, and the sudden declaration of martial law in Mindanao.
Katribu demands that President Duterte revoke his anti-people declaration.
What started as a “surgical” operation, supposedly, against some elements of the Maute Group suddenly turned into an all-out gunfight.
And civilians in the densely-populated Marawi City were caught in the crossfire.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has since declared the situation in Marawi City “containable.”
Still, Mr. Duterte imposed martial law on the entire island, which could lead to grave human rights violations and other chilling consequences.
What happened in Marawi City was definitely an operational blunder by the AFP and yet, it continues to be used to justify martial rule in the entire Mindanao.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana was quoted as saying that the declaration is directed against all the other resistance groups in Mindanao, including the New People’s Army. Lorenzana’s chatter about solving the Mindanao conflict within 60 days of martial law is downright delusional and reeks of fascistic tendencies, contrary to President Duterte’s promise of peaceful ways to resolve the roots of the armed conflict in the country.
As part of the administration’s Oplan Kapayapaan, an all-out war has already been launched against what they call “terrorist groups,” including the Maute Group. Also, last February, the AFP also launched an all-out war against the NPA, and this has led to, at least, four lumad killings by state forces, four bombings in indigenous communities, and, 2,000 dislocated lumad communities.
History tells us that a militaristic approach to the problems of the Moro people and the revolutionary armed struggle launched by the NPA have always led to massive human rights violations against civilians.
Mindanao has always been subjected to countless military operations, state of emergency declarations, and all-out war pronouncements; and we have yet to find peace, because poverty, landlessness, discrimination and widespread oppression still persist, and the real instigators of terror are the state and the men in uniform themselves.
Martial law will just give the military (and the paramilitary groups under them) a stronger license to pillage indigenous and Moro communities, and abduct and murder known legal activists and ordinary citizens.
The declaration of martial law is not aimed at sowing peace in Mindanao.
Its fangs are really aimed at legitimate dissidents who are fighting against environmental plunder, ancestral land-grabbing and US intervention.
We stand with our Moro brothers and sisters who are currently caught in the crossfire, and we will send help there, especially that Ramadan has started.
We are also in unity with their continuing call for genuine recognition of their right to self-determination and of their struggle against all forms of oppression against national minorities.

Pya Macling Malayao,
Secretary general, Katribu,
Manila,
Philippines

 

 

Philippines not giving up sovereignty
Over islands in West Philippine Sea
Philippine Inquirer 26 May 2017 Letter
How are PH-Sino relations faring?


Yes, our relationship with China gained traction at the One Belt, One Road Forum for International Cooperation which President Duterte himself graced, but China has warned the Philippines that it will go to war should the latter drill for oil in the West
Philippine Sea.
On May 22, Malacañang assured the public that President Duterte has the
Philippines’ best interests at heart.
The statement came after he revealed that Chinese President Xi Jinping told him that while China wants to maintain warm relations with the Philippines, it will “go to war” if the Philippines enforces its claim over parts of South China Sea. This prompted lawmakers to call for sending China a diplomatic protest.
Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said, “The first and last priority of
President Duterte is the national interest and the well-being of the Filipino.”

But he also stated that Malacañang is “very clear that we are not giving up our
claim of sovereignty and sovereign rights over certain islands in the South
China Sea, at the same time, these matters are pursued in the context of
maintaining peace and prosperity in the region.”
This new rhetoric from Xi Jinping has created a more confusing political
consciousness among Filipinos.
It was only on May 19 when Xi Jinping and President Duterte nearly signed the Code of Conduct in South China Sea (vis-a-vis the recently concluded meet on the Bilateral Consultation Mechanism).
After all, what the people expect is one good news: a bilateral tie-up with China to diplomatically address their maritime disputes.
Here is a dilemma. By accepting voluminous trade benefits from China, the
Philippines could be seen to be doing a very quick 180-degree turn on its West
Philippine Sea claims in exchange for short-term benefits, like more fishing
rights.
Ironically, what we see is a two-faced China.
It wants to see a united Asean on issues like trade, but on strategic territorial issues, like control of the South China Sea, China would rather work bilaterally and not face a united front. It’s one way of signaling other countries to “turn a blind eye” to
Chinese activities in the South China Sea.
That is the biggest puzzle the Duterte administration should address. If President Duterte has a bigger game to play, we hope for a sustainable result for the entire nation.
Meanwhile, despite the Philippines’ and China’s overlapping claims in South
China Sea, relations have improved after President Duterte reached out to China.
I still look forward to the Philippines and China continuing what they started
last May 19: committing to a peaceful resolution of the socioeconomic and
political challenges facing them.
The recently concluded Bilateral Consultation Mechanism is one platform for confidence-building, to address issues pertaining to the South China Sea.

Maria Jumela E. Decena.
Manila,
Philippines





Philippine farmers demand control
Of their land in Davao
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 27 May 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 26 May 2017

News reports sourced from the Philippine News Agency that Lapanday backs President Duterte’s stance on agrarian dispute in Madaum, Tagum City, Davao del Norte, are a poor attempt to turn truth on its head.
It tries to frame Lapanday as the victim and the land reform beneficiaries, members of the Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association, Inc. (Marbai), as the culprits.
Last April 18 and 21, Lapanday deployed around 800 armed guards to prevent the enforcement of the Department of Agrarian Reform order to re-install Marbai
members on lands originally awarded to them through the government’s land reform program. On December 12 last year, Lapanday guards shot at protesting farmers, wounding seven of them, then on New Year’s Eve evicted the farmers from their lands.
This, eight years after Lapanday forced the beneficiaries (FWBs) out of the very lands awarded to them, and then prohibited their reentry.
In fact, as early as 1998, Lapanday had turned the FWBs into powerless cash-cows.
It did so by luring the FWBs into a one-sided agribusiness venture agreement (AVA), the Banana Sales and Marketing Agreement (BSMA).
This gave Lapanday all the power to decide the scale of production, the flow of credit and capital, the sale of products, the kind of crops to be planted, the
class-assessment of products, and the technology to be used in production - even
the right to take over the whole operation during arbitrary “special cases.”
Also, under the agreement, Lapanday buys from FWBs supposedly Class B bananas for P40/box, then sells them abroad at P1,196/box as Class A bananas. Production costs are shouldered by the FWBs.
With the FWBs stripped of their rights, Lapanday profits hugely.
All in violation of the “government’s basic policy” on agrarian reform.
As repeatedly emphasized by the Supreme Court rulings on Luisita, “control over the agricultural land must always be in the hands of the farmers.”
It may be the hands of FWBs working on the lands in Madaum, but it is Lapanday who has effective control of the lands and the agricultural production.
AVAs are similar to the lamentable stock distribution option (SDO) scheme that
was implemented by President Cory Aquino in Luisita and put FWBs into
inequitable arrangements that only mired them deeper into poverty and debt.
AVAs have become the new way hacenderos are perverting agrarian reform.
In both schemes, landlords deceive, coerce and force farmers into agreements that
stripped them of control over their lands.
This is the reason hundreds of Marbai FWBs rejected the AVA with Lapanday.
These farmers are now rightly demanding control of their lands, and even President Duterte has expressed support for them.
Hacenderos have long used the legal system and government functions as means of
legitimizing their outmoded claims (e.g., the colonial hacienda system was legal).
And the worst of them have no qualms about violating laws in pursuit of higher profits.
We have seen this in the Mendiola and Hacienda Luisita massacres where state forces opened fire at protesting farmers.

Lester Gueta,
National Network of Agrarian Reform Advocates-Youth,
56 K-9th St., West Kamias,
Quezon City,
Philippines




Lest we forget
China is no stranger to poor quality products
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 26 May 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 25 May 2017

We totally agree with Associate Justice Antonio Carpio “PH can take China war threat to UN = Carpio,” in Philippine Inquirer 21 May 2017, Randy David “Aid with no strings attached?” in Opinion, 21 May 2017, and Solita Monsod “Looking at the issue of foreign aid,” in Opinion, 20 May 2017.
The views they shared were very instructive.
We rue the day we thought and believed that Alan Peter Cayetano, then a senator,
carried a sensible head on his shoulders.
Now as foreign secretary, he seems to have become a bloviating buffoon with nothing coming out of his mouth and brain? but diplomatic nonsense - all in defense of a manifestly indefensible president.
Against all logic and common decency, President Duterte keeps saying there is
nothing we can do in the teeth of China’s bullying and military buildup right on
our maritime claims.
China has threatened “war” against anyone who stands in its way.
World opinion is the only weapon available to nations with little or no military might to speak of.
But Carpio’s suggestion to go to the United Nations has fallen on deaf ears as the President keeps cursing and insulting most of the world leaders, saving all praises for the Chinese and Russian despots who are not bothered at all by his excesses simply because their own regimes are just as blood-stained as his.
And Mr. Duterte is boasting about his accomplishments in securing promises of
“foreign aid” from China and Russia.
His rejection of all “foreign aid” from the European Union is being justified by claims of “strings attached” and of being used to interfere with our domestic affairs.
David and Monsod asked the most elementary of rhetorical questions: Chinese and
Russian “foreign aids” are purely altruistic?
Hello? Anybody home at Cayetano’s Department of Foreign Affairs?
And how reliable is China as an ally?
Remember the NBN-ZTE deal which reeked of too much “bukol” and corruption? The Chinese government was right in the thick of it all, along with our country’s best architects of kickbacks.
Though scrapped for being too graft-ridden, that project would never have succeeded anyway due to cheap (i.e., substandard) infrastructure and equipment on account of the cost-cutting schemes necessitated to satisfy the “unmoderated” greed of the public officials involved.
Lest we forget, China is no stranger to “poor quality products.” Just take a
quick look at all the cheap (i.e., substandard) goods and wares made in China
being dumped on our markets since time immemorial.
And the President wants all of us to pin our hopes on China’s integrity, sincerity and good will - never mind its current invasion of our territorial waters?
Pray tell, can Russia be any different, given its own self-aggrandizing,
back-stabbing and double-talking regime?

Arnulo Magistrado,
Manila,
Philippines



Philippines call for China to abide by
United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 25 May 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 23 May 2017

China keeps on occupying more territories that it claims as its own despite the protestations of other claimant-countries.
It continues to build manmade islands and turn them into missile bases, even as it causes massive destruction of the environment.
This is part of its strategy to project supremacy and advance its economic agenda and military designs.
China wants to take control of the Spratly Islands, and obviously is interested
in Benham Rise, because of their vast economic resources and strategic location.
It desires to secure all methane hydrate for its own and make the West
Philippine Sea as an asylum for its nuclear-armed submarine.
China’s government has already declared that the military installations it has built on the islands will be limited to required resistance necessities.
The Kagitingan Reef now occupied by China is also claimed by the Philippines,
Taiwan and Vietnam. China’s display of power signals its aggressive designs
which the international community has condemned from the day the sea dispute
erupted.
Nevertheless, such aggression does not diminish our sovereign rights which the
Permanent Court of Arbitration categorically acknowledged on July 12, 2016.
The question is, are we allowing China to exploit our natural resources?
Our country should be extra concerned with this because such act poses a serious
threat to our country as well as to other claimant-nations.
This particular issue should awaken the spirit of patriotism in every Filipino and unite the nation in asserting our sovereign right to our exclusive economic zone or EEZ.
The hard part is that we cannot call for war or for a more hardline reaction.
China is a global superpower with nuclear warheads and a missile arsenal that
could hit the Philippines from the mainland.
But if China wants respect as a global power, it should abide by the UN-backed arbitral court ruling that invalidated its expansive maritime claims.
We hope China would not threaten peace and stability in the West Philippine Sea
nor disrupt other countries in the exercise of their sovereign rights.

Ann. R. Aquino,
Manila,
Philippines




Call for public to respect Indonesian court ruling
On Jakarta governor guilty verdict for blasphemy
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 24 May 2017
First Published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 23 May 2017

With reference to the May 15 editorial, "Ahok case spreads hate", the Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia in Bangkok would like to offer some emphasis on the
judges' verdict on Mr Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (Ahok) as follows:
For the Government of Indonesia and its people, promoting and upholding the
implementation of rule of law and law enforcement indiscriminately for all
Indonesian nationals regardless of status, religion and ethnicity, is a pillar
of democracy and human rights.
The judge's verdict on Mr Basuki Tjahaja Purnama is a clear form of the
implementation of rule of law and law enforcement as it is based on Indonesian
positive law.
Before the verdict, the Ahok legal case went through due process of law exercised in a transparent and fair manner.
This kind of due process of law and the verdict have also been applied equally to some other Indonesian nationals who were found to have committed blasphemy.
The Government of Indonesia has called on the public to respect the court's
ruling in the Ahok case and follow the next due process of law, including an
appeal which might be taken by Mr Basuki Tjahaja Purnama.
The Government stressed that Indonesia as a democratic country will leave all legal matters to the due process of law with no Government or other parties' intervention.
As a democratic institution and entity, the Government of Indonesia and its
people fully respect any kind of freedom of expression by Indonesians of both
the pros and cons of the Ahok verdict, providing the expression does not commit
violation, disturbance to public order, and is conducted in accordance with the
rule of law.

Dodo Sudradjat,
Minister Counsellor for Information,
Social and Culture,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 




Call for Malaysian Armed Forces
To deal with their own in Military courts
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 23 May 2017
First published in the Star, Monday 22 May 2017


"We have of late heard about Armed Forces personnel being prosecuted in civilian
courts.
Last year, two senior naval officers were charged in the Ipoh courts for offences involving millions of ringgit.
This week a corporal was slapped with 79 charges of making false claims in a
court in Melaka.
While I do not condone such behaviour, I am concerned as to why these cases were not dealt with internally by the Armed Forces.
The armed forces are equipped with provost officers (military police) and their men cover all the four services (Joint Service, Army, Navy and Air Force).
The first question is why were these cases not detected by the Armed Forces
authority, or was there a complaint lodged?
Secondly, upon detection, was there no inter-agency trust to allow the armed
forces to deal with the cases themselves?
Thirdly, the armed forces - namely the Army, Navy and Air Force - each have
their own court building for the purpose of holding court-martials within their
premises but still open to the public.
My concern may sound biased, especially as I am an ex-naval legal officer, but
let me assure you that this formulation of an internal court specifically to
deal with the Armed Forces has a very specific and serious design.
The Armed Forces is an organisation that ought to have the trust of the public.
The primary business of the Armed Forces is the protection of the realm; in
Malaysia specifically, after Hari Merdeka (Independence Day), it means the
preservation of the Federal Constitution.
The roles these officers and men shoulder are no mindless tasks and they work as
one concerted body.
The public needs to know that the Armed Forces is highly motivated and disciplined.
They must command the utmost respect of the public; not only the Generals but even the privates below.
For these reasons, Parliament, following in the footsteps of its predecessors,
decided to adopt and use a separate set of laws and a court system that allows
the Armed Forces to deal with their own away from general public scrutiny, so as
to maintain the exclusivity and integrity of the armed forces and so that they
are not brought into the limelight, or scandalised with gossip and speculation.
The Armed Forces laws are quite unforgiving and more severe compared to civil
criminal punishment.
As an example, an offence of drug abuse is punished with 12 months imprisonment and dismissal.
The Armed Forces laws are also allowed to prosecute servicemen and officers who break any Federal penal civil laws, including offences under the Anti-Corruption Act.
The court-martial is vested with the power to impose maximum punishment of
death.
In the worst case scenario, after an investigation is completed by an outside
authority (because the Armed Forces is incapable of conducting their own
investigation or because of the of inter-agency trust), why are these accused
not offered a trial by their peers in a court-martial?
The outside agencies’ investigation is still admissible in a court-martial.
If it is a question of capability of the prosecution, the rules allow for officers from the legal office of the Defence Ministry (usually officers seconded officers from the Attorney-General’s Chambers) to prosecute in a court-martial.
The Armed Forces are unlike the police, who do not have a similar court to deal
with their own because the nature and integrity of their establishment relate to
the public directly.
The prosecution of Armed Forces personnel and officers in public courts is
distasteful and undermines the reputation of the Armed Forces.
It would better serve the Armed Forces if these cases were tried in a
court-martial and given the necessary press coverage to ensure transparency
(court-martials are conducted in public).
The Armed Forces is ready, capable and willing and thus ought to be given the
opportunity to do what is necessary to purge itself of these perpetrators and
preserve its integrity within the confines of the Armed Forces Law.

Lt. CDR. (R) Zalil. Mohd Mess,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia

 


China shaping a future world order
In which all roads lead to Beijing
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 22 May 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Sunday 21 May 2017

As the One Belt, One Road Summit opened in China last May 14, a new wave of opportunities and challenges emerged.
The summit, initially, was supposed to burnish Chinese President Xi Jinping’s stature as a world-class statesman with his signature foreign policy thrust - shaping a future world order in which all roads lead to Beijing.
Xi envisions to reassert China’s past prominence as the dominant power in Asia
whose culture and economy deeply influenced its neighbors and peoples as far as
Africa and Europe.
It speaks volumes of the Chinese’ pride in their country’s explosive economic growth and political clout after a century of humiliation at the hands of foreign powers that formally ended with Mao Zedong’s successful communist revolution in 1949.
The initiative also reinforces the Xi administration’s reputation for muscular
foreign policy.
Under Xi, China has strongly asserted its claim to virtually the entire strategic South China Sea; and he has established the Asian Infrastructure Development Bank as a global institution alongside such bodies as the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and International Monetary Fund
I believe that the South China Sea claim has been loosely defined; it even
appears to include more and more projects of peripheral importance and
questionable value.
Since so many of the states involved have weak economies and limited capacity for growth outside of mining, the potential for waste and corruption is high, raising the possibility of small returns on the vast sums being spent and massive losses for the Chinese state banks funding the projects.
Here is the danger:
The initiative could also set back the goal of establishing a domestic economy centered on consumption rather than investment. Meaning, China’s investment priority should be at home, not abroad.
It’s possible that such forward-leaping overseas investments would delay domestic development.
It is easy to just give out money; China has to prove that these projects are
sound and they have the management expertise to carry them through.
In the Philippines, our foreign policy appears to dovetail with the United States’.
President Duterte has assured Xi that it would be different this time and would see the establishment of closer economic ties with Beijing.
We see a Philippines which is willing to adjust and realign its foreign policy in the
name of trade. In fact, Mr. Duterte said earlier, “So we’re getting a relief
now from our hardships because a lot of money is coming in.”

Meanwhile, beyond Asean-related issues, the only key international issues
directly affecting the region involve the Korean Peninsula, the South China Sea,
maritime security cooperation, terrorism and extremism.

Ricardo E. Catindig,
Manila,
Philippines

 


Call for release of Philippine Bishop Carlo Morales,
For his association with New Peoples Army
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 20 May 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 19 May 2017

The National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Bishop Carlo Morales, his wife Maria Teofilina, and their companions, who are now in government custody.
Morales is the bishop of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, a member church of
NCCP, in Ozamiz City.
Maria Teofilina is a public school teacher of good standing, a Vacation Church School writer of NCCP and an active member of the Teatro Ekyumenikal, a cultural-liturgical ministry of NCCP.
We condemn this harassment of God’s workers who earnestly work for peace and justice in our land.
The good bishop serves as a shepherd and a prophet not only within the confines
of his church and to IFI constituents but also to the local ecumenical movement
in their region.
We also condemn their treatment by the military and the Ozamiz police.
According to reports, Morales and Maria Teofilina were arrested, handcuffed and
placed in a detention cell without warrant last May 11 for being in the company
of an alleged NPA member.
They are held until now by the military.
But they will possibly charge Morales and Maria Teofilina with illegal possession of firearms and ammunitions.
The fabricated charges are intended to keep the bishop and his wife in government’s custody and intense scrutiny.
This shows the continuing fascist strategy of the state forces against church leaders who are actively advocating for the advancement and protection of the rights of the oppressed and marginalized sectors in our country.
We are calling all member-churches of the National Council of Churches in the
Philippines, the Regional Ecumenical Formations, and the international
ecumenical community to express utmost support to our beloved bishop and his
wife and their companions as we strongly condemn the State-perpetrated violation
of their rights.
We also call our friends from media to visit the military station in Ozamiz City
where the bishop and his companions are being held in order to hear their
side - not just rely on the information reported by the Philippine National
Police - for an impartial and fair report.

Dr. Rommel F. Linatoc,
Program secretary,
Program Unit on Christian,
National Council of Churches in the Philippines,
Manila,
Philippines


 

New Zealand
Puts God above the law
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 19 May 2017
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 16 May 2017

Re: "Nation set to axe 'archaic' blasphemy laws this month", in Bangkok Post, May 11.
Kudos to New Zealand for moving to scrap a misguided and archaic law that could
potentially be used to restrict freedom of expression.
Other countries would be well-served to review and eliminate similar laws that curb citizens' rights to free speech and freedom to practise religion according to individual beliefs.Particular to the New Zealand law on religious expression, we should note the wisdom of Anglican Archbishop Philip Richardson, who said, "God is bigger than needing to be defended by the Crimes Act."

Samanea Saman,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 


Thanks to Philipine President Duterte
For reducing queues for passport renewals
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 18 May 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 16 May 2017

What is it about the bureaucracy in this country that loves to see applicants sweating it out in long lines for this and that clearance, permit, license, registration, renewal or what-have-you?
Only one answer comes to mind: To make “fixing” more lucrative.
It enables public officials and employees to double or triple their incomes by sharing in the loot amassed by fxers.
What took Congress so long to come up with a commonsensical solution to shorten the lines and make “fixing” irrelevant?
In the Department of Foreign Affairs, there is always a deluge of applications for passport renewal in volumes more than its personnel could handle.
The 10-year expiration of passports would automatically reduce the number of such applications by more than half.
It took the genius and gumption of one man, President Duterte, to hammer into
the heads of 300 congressmen and 24 senators the sheer stupidity of a five-year
passport validity, given the DFA’s ineptitude and incompetence in handling such
matters.
The rhetorical question posed by Dino Capistrano - “And we, the people,
pay billions of pesos for such ‘wisdom’?”

“Excessive payment of PH legislators’ ‘wisdom,’” in Opinion, 9 May 2017 resonates with people who have suffered too long the endless lines for renewal of passports with a shelf-life of only five years.
The same was true of the previous three-year validity of a driver’s license
where the ill-equipped and undermanned Land Transportation Office was seldom up to the task. Renewals every three years added to the never-ending lines for a
myriad of applications on any given day at any of its offices.
A day was practically spent waiting and wasted in that office alone.
Thanks again to Du30, we can now see the lines decreasing to just a few bodies, allowing people to use the rest of the day to attend to other business.

Angelio. Marconi,
Manila,
Philippines



 

Malaysia calls for cultural change
To address corruption
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 17 May 2017
First published in the Star Tuesday 16 May 2017

Johan Jaaffar’s article “Corruption and its debilitating impact” in The Star, Monday 15 May is a timely reminder of the seriousness of this problem.
Former US vice-president Joe Biden made the observation that fighting corruption is not just good governance; it’s self-defence, it’s patriotism.
In the Malaysian context, corruption is the enemy of development and of good
governance.
However getting rid of or reducing corruption is easier said than done.
It calls for a change in mindset or cultural change.
It is often said the accomplice to the crime of corruption is frequently our indifference.
Often the worst affected by corruption is the common citizen or rakyat so it is
critical both the government and the public come together to achieve this
national objective.
The Star Media Group’s partnership with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission for the “3J” Campaign - Jangan Hulur, Jangan Kawtim, Jangan Settle "Don’t Give and Don’t Settle" - underlines the fact that corruption is not confined to just an individual but invariably endangers the economic and social advancement of the wider community and the entire country.

Sze Loong Steve Ngeow,
Kajang,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia




Thailand cannot survive
Without direct foreign investment
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 16 May 2017
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 15 May 2017

Re: "20-year plan draws out military rule", in Bangkok Post, May 13.
The 20-year National Strategic Plan can go down the drain in 20 days if the Thai
economy tumbles.
A prolonged stay by the military is bound to diminish the flow of foreign capital, especially from democratic countries.
This sort of trickery to dominate and blackmail future governments will have tragic consequences for the country.
Just imagine what could happen to the Thai economy next year if there is a
15 percent -20 percent drop in travellers from Western countries.
The "zero-dollar" tourists from China have already proven to be a zero sum game.
It seems the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) is acting as a pimp to keep the current government in business.
The sooner NLA members realise that Thailand cannot survive without direct foreign investment, the better off the country will be.

Kuldeep Nagi
Bangkok,
Thailand




Call for pledge to fight corruption
To the end
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 15 May 2017
First Published in The Star Saturday 13 May 2017

I have to give credit to our relatively new Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief commissioner Datuk Dzulkifli Ahmad for his courage and conviction to “rid graft in the country”.
His bold remarks to a media caucus recently was music to my ears as a former
chairman of the MACC Panel on Prevention of Corruption, and I hope all parties –
the Government, political leaders and the people – will back the MACC more
substantively to fight corruption to the end.
This may be our last chance as corruption is now rife and because, as the chief
commissioner said, “corruption is everywhere”. No MACC chief has been so frank and bold and we have to congratulate Zulkifli for his candour.
Let’s examine his major issues.
Zulkifli’s request to declare graft as the nation’s No. 1 enemy is right and
proper and will be welcomed by all except the corrupt and would-be corrupt.
This is his challenge to the Government.
Will the Government accept this brave challenge? The Government should at least call corruption one of the biggest national enemies, along with racism and religious bigotry.
Dzulkifli stated clearly that by declaring corruption the No. 1 enemy, “There
would be radical changes and the war would naturally extend to trafficking,
illegal gambling and environmental issues and lax border security.”

It is clearer now why drugs and arms smuggling is also prevalent. The situation is
getting so bad it has prompted the MACC chief to declare that “It’s time to take
this seriously.

Could this also mean that so far we have taken corruption lightly.
It is difficult to agree with Dzulkifli’s heavy hints that the MACC would go
after the politicians only after the 14th General Election, however.
Why should the corrupt enjoy a honeymoon in the meantime?
Are they allowed to make hay while the sun shines and then get away with the loot? This would be grossly unfair to the rakyat and worsen any poor perception they have of the MACC and the Government as well.
So why not go for them now so that the corrupt do not stand for election?
It is gratifying that Dzulkifli said he will go for those “who win votes the
wrong way”.

But the horses would have bolted out of the stable by then.
So please, chief commissioner, at least warn those concerned personally not to
stand for election before it is too late and we vote them in without knowing
better.
It may be difficult for the MACC to charge those in power after the election.
Dzulkifli is right about most Malaysians.
We hate corruption but many dare not make a report because they see the culprits getting away and they fear reprisals.
So please catch and prosecute at least one culprit every day rather than just one every week.
Furthermore, why do we need 1,000 MACC officers to play the role of creating
awareness and prevention and another 1,000 to deal with “administration matters” out of the relatively small number of 2,900 officers?
Should this task not be done by the civil service under the Chief Secretary to
the Government?
Can’t religious groups and leaders and universities and schools be co-opted to run this campaign?
The MACC could step up its campaign to invite and even reward the public for genuine information on corruption.
This could be encouraged among the 1.6 million civil servants and the business community as well.
Dzulkifli’s proposal for “contesting candidates to undergo a background
screening”
for corruption is very welcome and fully supported by right-thinking
Malaysians.
It is hoped that the Government will agree to this proposal for ALL candidates.
Dzulkifli’s statement that his “mission over the next three years is to create a society which has the strength or willpower to go against it (corruption)” was well said.
We hope he will be blessed with determination, dedication and devotion to duty to serve the country to the best of his ability with the full support of his keen staff and, of course, the Government and rakyat.
I hope Dzulkifli will be allowed to serve his full term and even beyond in order
to wipe out corruption totally.
I would reiterate that this may be our last chance to get out of the “corruption trap”.
Indeed, corruption could drag us all to the depths of destruction and deprivation, and even social instability, if we don’t fight it more aggressively.
Like others my age, I hope and pray the Government will resolve to take the MACC advice seriously and commit itself before and after GE14 to declare corruption one of the enemies of our beloved nation.

Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam,
Chairman,
Asli Centre of Public Policy Studies,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia




China raises regional concerns
Turns reefs and shoals into artificial islands
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 13 May 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 12 May 2017

On May 2, the Department of Foreign Affairs issued a strong statement dismissing the claim of Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua that the Philippines’ planned improvement works at Pag-asa Island would be illegal.
“Pag-asa Island and the larger Kalayaan Island Group are a municipality of Palawan,”
DFA’s spokesperson Robespierre Bolivar told reporters.
A day before, Zhao said, “We view the occupation by the Philippine side of those islands as illegal. And so the buildings on it are also illegal.”
From this point, we can see that China will always defend its moves in contested
areas as the owner of islands and reefs they want to control and occupy.
And we believe that China will continue to send a warning to those who oppose these moves - with airplanes or an aircraft carrier.
On the other hand, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana pointed out China’s
extensive development of Subi Reef. Satellite images show anti-aircraft guns and
weapons systems on a reef being claimed by Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines.
In trade, China and the Philippines appear to be in good terms; the challenge,
however, is on maritime issues.
In fact, China has raised regional concerns by turning reefs and shoals in contested areas into artificial islands, even installing military facilities and airstrips on some of them.
President Duterte, who was elected last year, has distanced himself from the
Philippines’ traditional, longtime ally, the United States.
He has played down the country’s territorial dispute with China in favor of greater economic aid and investments from Beijing.
Meanwhile, there is an interesting scene here where it was the DFA’s executive
director, Zaldy Patron, who notified that not one of the Asean leaders “strongly
pushed”
against China’s militarization and reclamation activities.
During the Asean plenary and summit, no leader mentioned the inclusion of or made reference to land reclamation, militarization and arbitration in South China Sea.
For now, Sino-Philippine relations remain strong as can be gleaned from the
partnership of the two countries in planned multimillion-dollar infrastructure
projects.
I don’t think that small issues will affect the overall direction of our bilateral relationship.
Pag-asa Island is the largest of the islands under the municipality of Kalayaan,
which was created in 1978.
The town, which has 180 residents, has a complete political structure.
The town center is on Pag-asa Island, which China calls “Thitu.”

Kristamel E. Narvasa,
Manila,
Phiklippines

 


 

Call for Philippines to impelement
Rice Self-Sufficiency Program (RSSP)
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 12 May 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 1 May 2017

The article “Duterte: I have final say on rice imports” Philippine Inquirer 11 April 2017 reported that the President fired Agriculture Undersecretary Maia Chiara Valdez who approved the order to extend rice importation without the authority to do such thing.
Mr. Duterte’s firm action signals that he is serious in promoting domestic rice
production instead of relying on importation which only benefits businessmen.
For an agricultural country like the Philippines, the need to import rice
underscores a fundamental problem - a rice crisis fueled by various factors such
as landlessness, high cost of inputs, lack of support services, land-use
conversion, and liberalization of the agriculture sector.
Mr. Duterte should not only sack corrupt officials; he should also implement a
genuine Rice Self-Sufficiency Program (RSSP) so that there would be no need to
import rice from other countries.
In order to implement a genuine RSSP, the Philippine Network of Food Security Programmes (PNFSP) recommends that the President veer away from policies that promote the use of petrochemical farm inputs and high-yielding seed varieties, such as his earlier plan to revive Ferdinand Marcos’ Masagana 99 does.
Instead, the government must implement pro-farmer policies such as sustainable
agriculture that eliminates dependence on expensive chemical pesticides and
fertilizers that destroy the soil’s fertility.
And appropriate technology for pre- and post-harvest facilities must be made accessible to the rural communities in order to improve and increase the country’s total rice production.
Also, the conversion of agricultural lands into commercial uses must be
immediately stopped.
PNFSP urges the President to immediately sign an executive order imposing a two-year moratorium on land-use conversion.
In addition, the Quantitative Restrictions on Rice which expires on June 30,
2017, should be extended. Without it, the local market will be flooded with
cheaper imported rice and essentially destroy the livelihood of Filipino
farmers.
Although proponents of free trade argue that consumers will benefit
from the reduced rice prices, in the long run the country’s food insecurity will
worsen especially if, for example, the exporting countries suddenly decide to
stop their exportation during times of natural calamities.
Lastly, the National Food Authority must be empowered into doing its mandate of
palay procurement from farmers to ensure availability of affordable rice for the
poor without having to rely on cheap imported rice.
PNFSP hopes that the President will remain sincere about protecting the local
farmers and the agriculture sector to ensure a strong and stable domestic rice
production, so that there would be no more need to import rice.

Sharlene Lopez,
Executive director,
Philippine Network of Food Security Programmes,
Manila,
Philippines




Malayan Sikhs
Alive and kicking
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 11 May 2017
First published in the Star, Monday 8 May 2017

I refer to Star TV’s recent video titled “Sikhs of Malaya: Gone but not
forgotten”.

It is a welcome step in the right direction to portray that our beloved nation today is the result of the blood, sweat and tears of various ethnic groups.
However, it has numerous factual errors which must be rectified to ensure
accurate documentation of the history of Malaysian Sikhs.
First, the Sikhs started immigrating to Malaya in the 1870s and not 1900s as
stated in the video mainly to serve in the police and paramilitary forces.
The pioneer Sikh police recruits (besides Pathans and Punjabi Muslims totalling
95 men) were enlisted by Captain Tristram Speedy at Lahore, Punjab in 1873 to
help Ngah Ibrahim territorial chief of Larut, Perak restore law and order in
Larut. Trade and tin mining in Larut were disrupted by frequent fighting between
two warring Chinese clans Ghee Hin and Hai San.
By July 1, 1878, there were 247 Sikhs in the Perak police force.
Subsequently, 40 Sikhs joined the Selangor police force in 1884 and by 1889 the
Sikh Contingent in Selangor totalled 128 men.
By 1890, the “First Battalion Perak Sikhs” had 713 Sikhs; the police force of
Sungai Ujong had 75 Sikhs; and the Sikh Contingent in Pahang totalled 154 men.
It is important to note that before the enlistment of police recruits by Captain
Speedy, there were in 1857 about 60-70 Sikh convicts in Singapore.
Another little known fact is that there was a garrison of 100 Sikh mercenary
soldiers recruited from the Straits Settlements stationed at Kuala Selangor in
1871 to assist Tengku Kudin who was involved in a civil war against Raja Mahdi.
Many of these Sikh mercenary soldiers were subsequently killed in the Selangor
Civil War 1867-1873.
Second, the Sikhs involved in the Battle of Kampar were defending Malaya against
Japanese invasion and not fighting “to seek independence for Malaya” as
erroneously stated in the video.
Third, in 1931 there were already about 20,000 Sikhs in Malaya. Perak had the
largest number of Sikhs, followed by Selangor and Singapore.
Before the Second World War, Sikhs were found in most parts of Malaya with concentrations in or around the large towns.
Hence, to imply in the video that the Sikhs started immigrating to Malaya in
large numbers after the Battle of Kampar December 30, 1941 to January 2, 1942
is incorrect.
Fourth and finally, the title of the video itself is rather misleading.
There are still thousands of Malayan Sikhs (including me) who are still “alive and
kicking” and not “gone”.

Dr Ranjit Singh Malhi,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia

 


The Philippines vulnerability to climate change
Is worsened by crushing poverty
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 10 May 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 28 April 2017

The Philippines ranked fifth in countries most affected by climate change this year,
according to the Global Climate Change Index.
We have experienced drastic changes in temperature and rainfall patterns since the year 2000.
Of the 10 deadliest storms ever to hit the country, five occurred from 2006 onwards, with Supertyphoon “Yolanda,” the strongest storm on record worldwide to make landfall, claiming more than 6,000 lives.
Climate change also worsened the effects of the El Niño phenomenon in
2015 and 2016, affecting almost 30 provinces and millions of lives and costing
at least P4 billion in damages to agricultural products.
The country’s vulnerability to climate change is worsened by crushing poverty.
Government policies have also proved ineffective in mitigating climate change
and its devastating effects.
More than 11 million Filipinos remain jobless while 15 million continue to go hungry.
The government continues to rely on coal as one of our main energy sources while large-scale destructive mining and logging companies continue to reduce forest cover and poison our waters with impunity.
Giant agricorporations remain dominant in the agriculture sector, using
processes and methods deemed unsustainable and nonenvironment friendly.
The public transportation system is a mess while automobile companies continue to
rake in millions in profits selling private cars that severely contribute to
carbon gas emissions.
Ever-increasing profit is pocketed by companies while the Duterte administration flip-flops on resolving the climate crisis in his own backyard.
Climate change is real.
The climate crisis is getting worse.
It is something that we must face and resolve now and in the years to come or face untold hardships in the future.
It is high time to change this profit-oriented political and socioeconomic system into one that is people-centered, proenvironment and sustainable.
We urge everyone to link hands and contribute to the struggle for climate justice and environmental rights.
Let our voices be heard today more than ever.
Climate Justice Now.
System Change, Not Climate Change.
Stop Corporate Plunder of Natural Resources, and Destruction of the Environment!
Advance Science and Technology for the Environment and for the People!

Belna Cabasan,
Executive director,
Climate Change Network for Community-based Initiatives,
Manila,
Philippines

 

 

Not all landowners in the Philippines
Are millionaires
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 9 May 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 28 April 2017

Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano is all talk, talk and more talk.
A communist at heart, he is obviously trying to ingratiate himself to the left-leaning clique in and out of the Duterte administration.
But hasn’t he heard that Maoists in China have long been consigned to oblivion with the advent of the capitalist regime that now controls all the wealth and power in that country?
As reported in “DAR chief says 6M hectares for farmers” in News, 17 April 2017, Mariano boasted that he is going after some 6 million hectares of public and private
agricultural lands for free distribution to poor farmers, supposedly as a truer
measure of genuine justice.
He did not say how he was going to circumvent the constitutional injunction and the law already in place regarding “just compensation” to the landowners. Ah, basta - he seemed to say.
It is well for him to understand that not all landowners in this country are
multimillionaires.
They acquired property they now own and live on through sheer honest, hard work.
To deprive them of what they rightfully own under the laws of the land just like that smacks of arbitrariness.
Mariano may have forgotten that our system of government is still democratic, not communistic.
But here’s something that Mariano can do right away, i.e., right now: His
department should initiate proceedings to confiscate the hundreds of hectares of
agricultural lands sold by farmer-beneficiaries to capitalists now operating
that so-called “Hacienda Binay” in Batangas.
Being subject of forfeiture for having been disposed of contrary to law, those farm lots are now fair game and can be given away to other more qualified farmers - for free.
That should be a good start.
It’s a no-brainer.
If Mariano can do that, then kudos to him.
But we believe President Duterte - who is friends with people who actually own that “royal” estate and have been enjoying its amenities for their rest, recreation or staycation - will hear none of it.
We suspect Mariano’s energies will instead be focused on the President’s
least favored, if not most hated, things like the Hacienda Luisita.
As urged by his comrade in Congress, that vast hacienda should be “the first to be distributed free” in Inquirer.net, 4 Augusts 2017.
So, there you go, weather-weather pa rin, ha?!

Marcelo "JR" Garcis,
Manila,
Philippines

 

 

Filipino's expect more
From their president
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 8 May 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 5 May 2017

When candidate Rodrigo Duterte promised change among other things in his campaign, should he win the presidential election, voters went for him.
And he did win.
The problem is, it was not clear what kind of change he had in mind.
As it is now, the changes we see are in style - in governance, in the presidential
language used in public statements and in remarks about the private lives of
administration officials.
It has become normal for us to hear the President lace his public statements,
including speeches before sensitive audiences e,g., women and children, with
expletives.
For a leader, it does not speak well of his upbringing.
People look up to him to be a model of rectitude.
Doesn’t he care what effect he could have on children watching him in person or on TV?
And we have his spokesperson, Secretary Ernesto Abella, supposedly a Christian
minister - former? who tries to soothe the public’s feelings by asking the
people to just forget everything as it’s just the President’s way of speaking.
And comes House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, unable anymore to deny that he has a girl friend, having the gall to justify the relationship, saying there’s nothing
wrong with it, never mind that he has a wife.
And the President agrees with him.
Is it because it is something that both of them have in common?
I do not claim to be somebody who is “metikoloso” (meticulous), but I expect
more from our President.
I expect him to be polished in his speech and in his public appearances (no to rolled barong sleeves, for one).
He is no longer a city mayor, he is the president of the Philippines.

Ed Mislang,
Manila,
Philippines

 

 

US funded Pol Pot
For its own political agenda
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 6 May 2017
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 2 May 2017

Re: "Wrong on Indochina", in Bangkok Post. Wednesday 29 April 2019.
My thanks to Samanea Saman for his explanation of US involvement in Vietnam and Cambodia.
Over 20 years ago, at a get-together in the United States, I spoke of American
involvement in Cambodia and their support for Pol Pot's brutal regime, which was
responsible for about 2 million deaths from 1975-1979. The hosts and other
guests at the get together politely said to me, "you must be misinformed".
A month later, while saying "goodbye" to some of the same people, a special
notice flashed across the TV screen that Time magazine had exposed information
that the US government had funded Pol Pot for its own political agenda.
My friends and family turned and stared at me. I shrugged and said, "Time is
only exposing what Southeast Asia has always known."

Verneita Boonlom,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 


Thai Buddhism teaches a pro-active approach
For righteous actions
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 5 May 2017
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 3 May 2017

In his April 28 article, "Are Thais getting the dictators they deserve?"
Thitinan Pongsudhirak points out that Thais are docile, tame and cowering to the
current military dictatorship.
Silence should not be taken as condoning military coups or government.
People with clear minds understand the culmination of causes and magnitude of political crises leading up to the recent coup.
Thais should be patient and give the military regime a chance to reform the
failing systems of the country, otherwise the vicious circle will remain without
any end in sight.
I am certain that if the military tear apart the roadmap, the silent majority
will come out in full force, even more so than in the recent past, protesting
against the military government in whichever ways they can, and will do likewise
once again regardless of whatever forms of dictatorial governments - military
or civilian.
The spontaneous mass protests by millions of Thais against the infamous Amnesty
Bill in 2013 is still vivid in our memory.
Those who correctly understand the teachings of Buddhism know the focus is a
pro-active approach for righteous actions, not passivity as presented by the
article. The Eight Folds Path is a case in point.

Domedej Bunnag
Former ambassador of Thailand,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 



The UK is well aware that the world
Is bigger than Europe

The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 4 May 2017
First published in the Nation, Tuesday 2 May 2017

Re: “Post-Brexit UK ‘wont have same rights’”, in the Nation Tursday 27 April 2017.
That is very true.
The pro-EU Agence France-Press should know that once the UK releases itself from the EU’s shackles, its trading rights will expand globally.
Currently the UK’s hands are tied, being unable to achieve one-on-one trade
agreements with other countries.
Only the incompetent EU bureaucracy is permitted to arrange trade agreements
on behalf of its 28 member states.
Lacking in commercial ability and knowledge of history they are simply unaware that Great Britain was the greatest trading nation in the world.
Its 44 years in the EEC and then the EU have wasted its time and insulted its international prowess.
Angela Merkel is in a panic, as the withdrawal of the UK from the EU will leave
a large financial black hole which Germany, being the largest EU economy, will
have to fill.
Also the UK has a 90-billion-pounds trade deficit with the EU member states, so the EU needs the UK more than the UK the EU.
Leaders of German industry and French and Italian wine producers are all deeply
worried about the possibility of losing their best market.
The streets in the UK resemble a German car exhibition, lined with BMWs, Mercedes, Audis and Porches, showing what German industry has to lose if they are foolish enough to “punish” the UK for a hard Brexit. Supermarket shelves are stacked with European wines and produce, all of which can be replaced by world producers at lower cost, particularly from the British Commonwealth.
If the EU is childish enough not to respect the UK, it will be the one who
suffers.
While EU politicians are banding around threats in their bitterness, EU industrial leaders are well aware of what is at stake with Brexit.
Gradually these leaders must start to ask themselves why they are shackled to a
political dictatorship that controls their trade.
But further, they surely must question why they pay billions each year to the EU in order to trade among themselves and with other countries of the EU’s choosing. As the UK is well aware, the world is much bigger than Europe and they will not pay a membership fee to Australia to buy its wine and excellent produce.
The EU is much the same scam as Greenshield trading stamps were.

JC Wilcox,
Bangkok,
Thailand


 

Malaysia questions mushrooming
Of unaccredited schools
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 3 May 2017
First published in the Star, Sunday 30 April 2017

For the longest time, I have been concerned about the issue of tahfiz schools.
I neither went nor sent my children to one, but I have donated to a few who
solicited funds either via mail and at wet markets.
Then I received a sudden flood of emails asking for donations.
This made me realise there are so many tahfiz schools out there.
I suppose the schools I donated to must have shared my contact details with the others.
I did some research online and while there was not much to go on, the picture I
got was that there are about 74 accredited maahad schools and hundreds more,
some operating as semi-orphanages and private set-ups.
Apparently, some of these schools operate in dire circumstances.
When canvassing for donations, some show pictures of pitiful accommodations where “students” sleep on floorboards and shoulder-to-shoulder.
Is it any wonder, under these overwhelming conditions, that we hear of the
tragic story of Mohamad Thaqif Amin Mohd Gaddafi?
I am also concerned that perhaps the motivation driving some individuals to set
up these schools is a selfish one.
I wonder how these unaccredited “schools” were allowed to mushroom.
Are the authorities (Registrar Of Companies, Inland Revenue Board, Education Ministry, Welfare Department, and the police) even aware of their sad existence?

Hanim,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia

 

 

Philippines Defense Secretary taggs Philippine communists
As antidevelopment, antiprogress and antipoor terrorists
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 2 May 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Sunday 28 April 2017

May I react to the article titled “Lawmaker hits Lorenzana for tagging NPA
as ‘terrorists’”
in Philippine Inquirer 4 April 2017.
According to the report, Bayan Muna Partylist Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate, vice
chair of the House committee on peace, reconciliation and unity, also slammed
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana for dertermining the cordial atmosphere of
the peace process” by tagging the New People’s Army (NPA) as “terrorists.”
Zarate also alleged that since the Armed Forces of the Philippines renewe“ its
combat operations, the spate of human rights violations and extrajudicial
killings against activists has spiked, particularly in Bulalacao, Oriental Mindoro.
It is true that name-calling and militarist labeling do not help peace negotiations to move forward; but such words should not be misconstrued by politicians.
Allegedly, the verbal exchange is spoiling the positive strides made by both the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front in the current stage of the peace process.
On the other hand, the secretary’s words may be interpreted as an expression of
personal frustration.
To support his claim that the communist armed group is an antidevelopment, antiprogress and antipoor “terrorist,” Lorenzana condemned the NPA’s recent attacks on government troops and private companies.
In any political communication, it is but normal to see a government official
blurting out words against State enemies, but one should be careful since the
subjects are lawless elements who may pose a danger to people’s lives.
Meanwhile, we should take note that Bayan Muna is under the Makabayan bloc, a
Left-leaning political propaganda “movement” disguising itself as a voice of the
masses.
The AFP itself should proceed with its military operations as a peace mission
despite allegations from Bayan Muna that it has bombed civilian settlements,
displaced farmers and indigenous peoples.
Bayan Muna’s propaganda should not be taken seriously and, thus, ignored.
Zarate’s statements do not advance the cause of just peace in the country,
especially in this crucial stage of the peace negotiation which now centers on
socioeconomic reforms.
Meanwhile, the government has been doing its best to negotiate with the Communist Party of the Philippines.
The AFP and defense department’s efforts are being felt by the public most especially in remote areas that the military has placed under protection from insurgents.

Ricardo E. Catindig,
Manila,
Philippines

 

 

So where has Quezon City
Taxpayer money gone?
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 1 May 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Sunday 30 April 2017

“SC stops QC tax hike” went a news item in Metro, 19 April, reporting that the Supreme Court has restrained the Quezon City government from enforcing an ordinance increasing the land values and real property taxes, which was approved last December.
The petition was filed by the Alliance of Quezon City Homeowners’ Associations, Inc. (AQCHAI).
QC taxpayers have already paid the newly assessed taxes before March 31,
availing themselves of the 20-percent discount to somehow cushion the effect of
the unconscionable increase.
What took the AQCHAI so long? It could have filed the petition in January this year when “public hearings” held last year were turning into a farcical exercise in “public consultation.”
The temporary restraining order might have been issued before taxpayers got ripped off.
QC Mayor Herbert Bautista is now urging the Supreme Court to resolve that
petition “at the soonest possible time so as not to hamper the basic service
delivery of the city government.”

With the city government awash with cash from past collections, Bautista’s plaint sounded disgustingly hollow. QC is the
richest local government unit in the entire archipelago, beating even Makati
City in terms of income generation and surplus.
So where has QC taxpayers’ money been going?
Largely to the “pork barrels” of its bloated city council whose shameless members help themselves to taxpayer funds to pay for their never-ending stream of tarpaulin advertisements in aid of reelection “Happy Fiesta,” “Congrats Graduates,” etc., complete with their photoshopped pictures on them, their frequent foreign travels.
But “delivery of basic services”?
This has always been a joke in this city where chaos prevails - squatters keep occupying center islands and private property, traffic remains unmanaged, crimes become more rampant, piles of garbage are seldom collected, etc.

Nimfa Rina Ricafort,
Manila,
Philippines



Call for reduction in fishing effort in the Philippines
To protect and conserve marine protected areas
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday, 29 April 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 27 April 2017

Since rice and fish are staple food for Filipinos, it is important to understand how government should respond in order to reverse the trend of declining marine fish catch and meet the need of the present and future generations.
The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) attributes the 6.34-percent decline in
fisheries production in 2016 to natural phenomena like hot weather conditions,
coupled with rough seas and typhoons.
But there is a more specific cause.
In a letter titled “A challenging task for Duterte” in Philippine Inquierer 1 June 2016, I explained that the success of pelagic fisheries, which provide 70 percent of the total marine fish catch, depends on a delicate balance between the physical
oceanographic factors that trigger the occurrence of alternating El Nino and La
Nina phenomena, on the one hand, and the effect of fishing on the standing
stock biomass, on the other.
Relating fish catch data with the Oceanographic Nino Index (ONI), which records
the monthly sea surface temperature in the Pacific Region, shows that:
in January and December 2012, sea surface temperature was negative 0.7 degree
centigrade weak La Niña and negative 0.2 neutral La Niña, respectively;
while in January and December 2015, it was 0.6 weak El Niño and 2.3 very
strong El Niño, respectively.
The change from La Niña in 2012 to El Niño in 2015 coincided with the decline in marine fish catch from 2.119 million metric tons to 2,094 mmt, respectively, or by 1.2 percent;
In 2016 ONI changed from 2.2 (very strong El Niño in January to negative 0.7
weak La Niña in December; this coincided with the further decline in fish
catch to 2.027 mmt tons or by 3.2 percent.
The above data imply that during El Nino in the second half of 2015, there were
more blooms of plankton - the foundation of the marine food web - that could have
sustained high fish stock biomass; but the standing stock biomass was already at
lower level due to overfishing or “high-fishing effort.” we can see from
the increase in the number of fishers 1.37 million in 2002 to 1.6 million in
2012, resulting in low fish reproduction and productivity.
Hence, the decline in catch was inevitable.
Therefore, the 2017-2022 Philippine Development Plan (PDP) annual
productivity-target increase of 2.5-percent in commercial fishing and 1-percent
in municipal fishing is not realizable.
However, the target increase in catch may be attained if fishery law enforcement and the protection and conservation of marine protected areas will be combined with a reduction in fishing effort.
This can be done by putting a limit - through licensing and registration - on the
number of commercial and municipal fishers allowed to fish.
President Duterte has shown political will in giving urban poor people free
housing, and farmers the privilege to tap irrigation systems for free.
Well, he is facing a great challenge: to provide fishers - those who will be displaced by the reduction in fishing effort - with projects that would allow for income
diversification and alternative livelihood.
After all, fisherfolk have the highest poverty incidence at 39.2 percent; among the farmers, the poverty incidence is only 38.3 percent.

Edmundo Enderez,
Manila,
Philippines

 

 

Call for revival of
Reserve Officers Training Corps program (ROTC)
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 28 April 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 27 April 2017

The Reserve Officers Training Corps program (ROTC) was scrapped from college curricula at a time the sentiment against the military organization was at its peak. Also at the time, the program was rocked by scandals that were too hot to handle.
The ROTC is designed to be the bedrock of a citizen army that could be tapped on
short notice to respond and attend to any event or development e.g., calamities, catastrophes, war that calls for their assistance or mobilization in the interest of the nation.
It has two stages: the Basic and the Advance.
Basic ROTC covers basic soldiery and followership; this qualifies the “Basic
graduate” t
o an enlisted rank in the Reserve Force of the Armed Forces of the
Philippines.
Advance ROTC covers officership and leadership.
The completion of this stage qualifies the “Advance graduate” to an officer rank (second lieutenant) in the AFP Reserve Force.
Hence, they are called “reservists.”
The National Service Training Program (NSTP), which is now in effect in all
colleges and universities nationwide, made ROTC one of the alternative courses
required for college graduation.
Under this present setup, very few opt to take ROTC. In effect the manpower component of the AFP Reserve Force has greatly diminished.
However, there are now organizations that have affiliated themselves with the
AFP Reservists program and have willingly undergone military orientation
training courses to be part of the AFP Reserve Force.
Those who completed the courses are given appropriate military ranks and insignias as officers and enlisted personnel. It would be much better if they had undergone ROTC.
ROTC can still be revived even if it is an optional course under the NSTP.
As they say, it is a matter of sweetening the pot to attract more men and women to
take the course.
Perhaps, the proper AFP authorities can pick up from this.

Romeo C. Prado,
Retired Colonel,
PAF,
Manila,

 

 

Philippine President Duterte
Gives Communist rebels ultimatum
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 27 April 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 18 April 2017

Isn’t the resumption of talks with the communist rebels just a waste of time?
A month after President Duterte stopped the negotiations due to rebel attacks on government troops, he said certain conditions were no longer negotiable as far as he was concerned.
Recently, however, the government and the communist National Democratic Front
have again agreed to resume peace negotiations focusing on shaping a bilateral
ceasefire agreement and on socioeconomic reforms.
Mr. Duterte said that the rebels must stop collecting revolutionary taxes,
release soldiers held in captivity, and avoid claiming ownership of territories.
There are certain conditions to me which are no longer negotiable so either I
have it before I embark on another journey of peace talks or not,
” he added in
a press conference.
He clearly mentioned that if the rebels don’t accept his conditions, he wouldn’t deal further with them.
He strongly urged the rebels to release all prisoners of war.
The rebels must stop turning away troops in their self-claimed territories,
extortion and arson.

Ann R. Aquino,
Manila,
Philippines

 

 

Alternatives to coal-fired power plant in Krabi
More apparent than ever
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 26 April 2017
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 25 April 2017

Re: "Krabi coal plant up in the air", Bangkok Post, Business, April 24).
Your correspondents' assertion that "options (to a coal-fired power plant in
Krabi) appear few and far between" is curious.
Given advances in technology (on which your newspaper regularly reports),
alternatives to coal are now more apparent than ever before in history.
These include solar, wind, bio-gas and imported LNG.
Moreover, your dismissal of natural gas as a viable alternative ignores real changes in the supply and market dynamics that continue to take place.
It is true that our dependency on gas is currently 70 percnt and true that gas in the
Gulf of Thailand is being depleted.
Any additional gas must therefore be imported. But the need to import is true also for coal - except that coal is no longer cheaper than gas, produces more toxins, requires heavier capital investments and has greater supply risks.
Your correspondents complain that gas price "is volatile as it moves with global
oil prices"
- I would like to ask them: What do they think coal price is linked
to, if not global oil prices, just like gas?
I think we need to think beyond the set of options the electricity Generating
Authority of Thailand and the Ministry of Energy has been trying to force upon
us. Current proposals were initiated even before the Democrats came into
government almost 10 years ago.
Assumptions made by both agencies regarding power needs have been proven to be way off the mark, causing tax payers to fund excessive capacity to the tens of
billions of baht per year.
Now it's time for the agencies responsible to update and optimise options for
Thailand today, given the very radical changes that continues to take place in
both market conditions and technology.

Korn Chatikavanij,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 

 

Malaysian jails filled with Indians
Due to limited socio-economic opportunities
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 25 April 2017
First published The Star, Monday 24 April 2017

I refer to your report “MAICCI: Blueprint a positive milestone for Indians” to drive the community’s progress in The Star, April 23.
I laud the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak for drawing up a national
Indian Blueprint to alleviate an estimated 695,030 Malaysian Indians who are in
the B40 category or bottom 40 percent of households with a monthly household income of up to RM3,855.
This amount is insufficient to manage a family in an ever-increasing cost of living standard currently.
Indians who form about 2.1 million of the 31.7 million of our nation’s population feel politically, economically and socially backward as the old action plans of the MIC to uplift the community were labelled as “too vague” and the party was more plagued with infighting.
Over 800,000 Indians were, displaced from the estates in the 70s with promises
that they would be re-skilled and given outplacement programmes which did not
take place.
This resulted in a huge increase in urban Indian squatters and a rise in gangsterism - about 71 percent of our jails are filled with Indian gangsters due to limited job opportunities and poor career counselling.
Now some of the youths have the opportunity under the MySkills Foundation to
bring about life-changing improvements through education rather than indulging
in gangsterism in schools, as we witnessed recently at a school in Taman Sri
Andalas, Klang, with the arrest of 13 students.
Now the Prime Minister has pledged to personally to appoint a director-general
to implement, monitor, measure the progress of the comprehensive action plan.
This in-depth research which was shared by leading academics such as Datuk Dr
Denison Jayasooria, a principal research fellow at the Institute of Ethnic
Studies in Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, and Prof Mahendhiran Mair from Monash University Malaysia who provided valid input for linking the Indian Blueprint to the socio-economic development which will impact a million Malaysian Indians as part of the National Transformation 2050 programme.
The National Blueprint for Indians is a framework that will, among others,
address the plight of the estimated 300,000 stateless Indians born in this
country but do not have valid documents, and be more inclusive of the displaced
community especially the 40 percent who lost their enthusiasm after being treated as “third class” citizens in their homeland.
The credibility of Indian leaders are at stake.
If the promises are not kept, they will lose the trust of the people and if this just an election gimmick, it will derail the National Transformation plan also.

C. Sathasivam Sitheravellu,
Seremban,
Malaysia

 

 

Protests against Thai government proposal
To allow foreigners 99 year lease of land
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 24 April 2017
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 21 April 2017

Re: "P-move opposes 99-year leases for foreign investors", in Bangkok Post, Monday April 17.
Once again spurious and xenophobic arguments are being used by certain groups of people to protest against the cabinet's resolution allowing foreign investors to
lease designated government land for up to 99 years.
As has been stated on numerous past occasions, Thais can, and do, buy outright
land and properties in such countries as the US and the UK, but any hint of
allowing others to do so in Thailand is immediately quashed with the
abovementioned arguments.
Perhaps the key to this is the part in the article which states "...foreigner
investors will reap great profits...".

Now we can't allow that, can we?
However, who talks about the great profits reaped by Thais in the early 1990s
during the property boom when, at last, foreigners, after many years of debate,
were allowed to buy condominiums?

Martin R,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Bangkok streets to become clinically clean
Like Singapore
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 22 April 2017
First Published in the Bangkk Post, Friday 21 April 2017

Re: "Khao San, Yaowarat skirt BMA's ban on street food", in Bangkok Post, Thursday 20 April
I read with no small alarm the plan by the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration
to clear vendors off the streets of Bangkok and "reclaim the space for
pedestrians".

Before I first set foot into Bangkok more than two decades ago, I remembered
looking at images of the city and I could never understand why hordes of people
found it attractive when all I saw was traffic jams, human congestion, air
pollution - a little chaotic in fact.
Then, out of curiosity, I made my first foray and from that day, I became one of
the hordes of tourists who continue to make Bangkok one of the top travel
destinations in the world, if not the top.
Great and varied shopping aside, one of the attractions of Bangkok is the
intoxicating street life -there is so much vibrancy, energy, laissez faire and
a nice kind of chaos to it all that make it hard to wean oneself off once you've
been there. Clearing these off the streets may turn Bangkok clinically clean
where most foods could then be found in food courts and shopping malls. That
would certainly take much of the shine off what is uniquely Bangkok.
I have always advised people to see places as soon as they can, because
conditions at every destination are changing fast and the uniqueness of each
place is disappearing as the world becomes more globalised - every place will
soon be more like the other. Sure there will be improvements in pedestrians'
rights but, as in life, there'll be trade-offs.

Peh Chwee Hoe,
Singapore

 

 

Call for adherence to safety rules and regulations
Following death of two workers in sewer
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 21 April 2017
First published in the Star, Wednesday 19 April 2017

I refer to the report “Two die after inhaling sewer gas” in the Star, March 18.
The tragic incident has again raised concern over the safety of workers in
confined spaces which include storage tanks, tankers, boiler rooms, silos and
other tank-like compartments with a manhole for entry and exit.
Other confined spaces include pits, pipes, sewers, tunnels, shafts, ducts and
any shipboard space where entry is via a small manhole, cargo tanks, cellular
double-bottom tanks, duct keels and oil tanks.
Hazards in confined spaces include poor air quality; chemical, biological,
radiation and fire hazards; extreme noise and temperature; low visibility and
process-related hazards such as residual chemicals.
Unfavourable natural ventilation can also compound the situation and it is the
utmost responsibility of all employers to ensure the safety and health of
workers and prevent any form of injury, illness or death arising from exposure
to these hazards.
Those working in a confined space have to exercise great care and concern
because it is more hazardous than regular work sites.
Workers who are injured or lose their lives are a loss not only to their
employers but also the country as they are important contributors to economic
and social development.
In the latest incident, where two men carrying out maintenance work in a manhole
in front of a mall in Ipoh were overcome by sewer gas, causing them to
suffocate, both the utility company and the contractor must be investigated to
check whether they adhered to the rules and regulations stipulated by the
Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) 1994.
They have to ensure that the workers were certified to enter the manhole and
whether they followed the guidelines in the Industry Code of Practice (ICOP)
for Working in a Confined Space 2010.
The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has worked with
the Department of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) to set up the national
standards for safety in work involving confined spaces, whereby a permit will be
given to competent persons.
Workers who plan to enter a confined space must have the Authorised Entrant and
Standby Person (AESP) for Confined
Space certificate while the person who supervises their activities must obtain
the AESP and Authorised Gas Tester and Entry Supervisor for Confined Space
certificate.
Only those who have the certificates from approved training providers, such as
NIOSH, are allowed to carry out work in confined spaces.
ICOP is legally binding and must be adhered to by all industries and parties
involved in confined work spaces.
Under ICOP, every employer and contractor must conduct a risk assessment in
relation to the safety and health risks posed to any person who may be affected
by his undertaking, and take all reasonably practicable steps to eliminate any
foreseeable risk.
Working in a confined space can expose a person to risky situations that can
cause diseases or accidents, leading to injuries and, worse, death.
In most cases, the cause of death is due either to inhalation of toxic gases or
oxygen deficiency.
Employers who fail to provide safe and healthy working environments for their
employees can be charged under Section 15 of the OSHA, which carries a maximum
fine of RM50,000 or two years’ jail or both.
Under the Act, “employee” includes an independent contractor engaged by an
employer, or a self-employed person and any employee of the independent
contractor.
According to DOSH, the main reason for accidents in confined spaces is the
sub-contracting of work to contractors who do not have knowledge and experience
working in a confined space.
These contractors normally do not have proper work procedures and equipment for
working in a confined space.
Since the work to be done is not routine or regular, the persons involved are
normally contract employers with poor safety induction.
Few or none of the standard safeguards would have been provided to them; safe
practices and procedures would be neglected; and persons with basic first aid
and CPR skills would not be available when needed.
To prevent accidents and fatalities in the future, only those with the
certificate of competency issued by a DOSH-registered training provider should
be allowed to work in confined spaces.

Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye
Chairman,
National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health

 

 

The language spoken and understood in the Philippines
Is Filipino not English
The Southeast Asian Times. Thursday 20 April 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 18 April 2017

This is in response to Michael Henry Ll. Yusingco’s commentary titled “Is there still need for a national language?in Philippine Inquirer, 10 January 2017.
To the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF), the sole government agency for the
propagation of the national language and all Philippine languages, the answer to
Yusingco’s question has always been obvious: For a multilingual and
multicultural society, a national language is supremely necessary.
It is a unifying factor in nation-building, and for it to be effective, it should be
based on a native language instead of being replaced by a foreign substitute.
English may be the language preferred in business and government and by our
college-educated middle class, and it has certainly spawned a profitable
business-processing and IT industry, but it is not the language spoken and
understood by most Filipinos.
The language spoken and understood by most Filipinos is Filipino, which is
based on Tagalog and is now being enriched by its usage all over the archipelago
and the gradual entry of words from other native languages.
In other words, the prevailing lingua franca of the Philippines is Filipino.
Historical surveys bear this out. In the national censuses conducted from 1939
to 1980, the speakers of the national language increased from 4 million to 12
million, or from 25.4 percent to 44.4 percent of the entire Philippine
population.
The 1989 survey conducted by Ateneo de Manila University further
showed that 92 percent understood Tagalog, the basis of the Filipino language,
83 percent could speak it, 88 percent could read it, and 81 percent could write
in it.
In its own Nationwide Usage Survey conducted in 2014, the KWF used its
Sentro ng Wika at Kultura extension offices in regional and provincial centers to
interview 3,506 respondents composed of students, teachers, and family members
who were 15-21 and 22-60 years old from 19 areas in Mindanao, the Visayas and
Luzon.
All respondents reported they used Filipino, and that 9,162 total members
of their families spoke Filipino in various domains - home, community, office,
school, marketplace, church and cell phones.
This is only the statistical proof. Linguistically, Filipino (and all our native
languages) is part of the huge Austronesian language family that is spoken in
the Pacific region from Madagascar to New Zealand.
In terms of grammar, usage and language similarities, it is more natural to develop a national language on the basis of a native language.
Language is a complex issue, and the KWF can only fulfill its mandate by keeping
in sight the unifying value of the Filipino national language.
At the same time, our sense of nation must acknowledge, as well as enrich and enhance, our diverse linguistic heritage.
We must celebrate diversity, but we must not use it as an excuse for disunity.

Dr. Purificacion. G. Delima,
Commissioner for the Ilokano language,
Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino,
Manila,
Philippines

 

 

Infestation of coconuts in the Philippines
Could be nationwide
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 19 April 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 18 April 2017

It’s déjà vu: cocolisap threatening Philippine coconuts.
This time, the infested areas are Basilan and Zamboanga, with reports coming in
that Bicol and Southern Tagalog are also at risk.
The last Calabarzon cocolisap infestation destroyed over 3 million coconut trees
from 2013 to 2015.
Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol fears that 3 million coconuts may already be infected in Basilan and Zamboanga alone.
So this infestation could be worse, almost nationwide.
In the 2015 infestation, Sen. Kiko Pangilinan (then President Aquino’s presidential assistant for food security and agricultural modernization) injected a banned chemical, neonicotinoid, into trunks of infected trees,
killing not only coconut trees but also pollinators and other fruit trees like lanzones.
But it wasn’t the chemical injection that banished the pests; it was Typhoon
“Glenda” that truly cleaned up the cocolisap infestation - but chemical importers
and their “ninongs” also “cleaned up” hundreds of millions of taxpayer pesos as
authorities had earlier rushed to import neonicotinoid.
At the least, the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) should release reports on
how neonicotinoid was applied and what results, if any, this effort brought.
Trunk injection was resisted vehemently by many communities, forcing the PCA’s
contractors not to pursue the injections.
And the local opposition was strengthened when people saw honeybees dying, and the cocolisap transferring to lanzones and other fruit trees.
So, how much was really spent on neonicotinoid?
Who benefited? Are rear guards of the past administrations mounting a cover-up on this?
Will a Senate blue ribbon probe be needed to bring the truth out?
And given the experience that the Department of Agriculture, the PCA, and local
communities have had from past infestations, what should be done now?
Our hope is that it won’t be more neonicotinoids, which may risk a loss of the
international markets for Philippine coconut products.

Jose. Z Osias,
Convenor,
Balik Probinsiya,
Philippines

 

 

Tourists stranded in Bangkok
Find that there is no such thing as a free lunch
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 18 April 2017
First Published in the Nation, Sunday 17 April 2017

Re: “Thousands of passengers stranded at Suvarnabhumi Airport after their tour agent fails to show up”, in Bangkok Post, April 11.
Instead of enjoying the long holidays of Songkran festival, more than 1,000
passengers were in trouble at Suvarnabhumi Airport last Tuesday.
They had hoped to travel to Japan were left allegedly stranded by a direct sale
company called “Wealth Ever”, that sells food supplements.
Nation TV revealed a clip before the incident on that night showing a way that
Wealth Ever motivates and convinces people to spend money to apply to be members and to promote their hope to travel abroad.
Some content in the clip said that “500 baht is a membership of Wealth Ever,
doesn't buy a tour. [Those] who come to register to travel for 9,730 baht, get
150 PV [Point Value]. And their 150 PV that has a list to Japan already have
commissions of at least 30,000 baht for each person.”

Is this propaganda possible?
Besides members who would get to travel abroad, they already had a “profit” of about 20,000 baht, despite not having shown their ability to boost sales volume.
Checking information of a package tour before purchasing could help people not
be lured and cheated, as well as suffering damage and trouble when they travel.
Prices for a budget/economy package tour to Japan generally cost around
Bt30,000.
And if people travel during Songkran or high season, costs are usually a lot more.
Comparing prices and services of each tour firm gives an idea of what people
can expect – and should do.
Tour companies must be licensed by the Department of Tourism, and we should know about the tour company’s service history.
In addition, travelling with a huge number of passengers and taking many charter
flights - these are things that are suspect or “fishy”.
So, it is imperative that we inform related authorities in advance.
The truth is there no such thing as a free lunch.
This should be a lesson not only for the victims, but also for everyone on what can happen and how they may be able to prevent people to avoid being caught in Ponzi schemes or any scam.

Sutipunt Bongsununt
Bangkok,
Thailand

 

 

Philippine government and the National Democratic Front
Address the roots of the armed conflict
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 17 April 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Sunday 16 April 2017

Peace possible in our lifetime.
This is the message that the successful fourth round of peace talks between the Philippine government (GRP) and the National Democratic Front (NDF) conveys.
The Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP) congratulates both panels and
the third-party facilitator, the Royal Norwegian government which has the
support of the Dutch government, for this positive development.
The outcome of the talks shows that the concerns of the people are central to the resolution of the decades-old armed conflict in our land.
It is a signpost of hope after the impasse of these past two months.
The GRP and NDF have agreed on the following major points: implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International
Humanitarian Law (Carhrihl) and the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity
Guarantees (Jasig); release of NDF-listed prisoners; results of the Proceedings
of the Reciprocal Working Committees on Social and Economic Reforms (RWCs-SER); ceasefire; release of AFP and PNP elements in the custody of the New People’s Army; socioeconomic Projects; and enhancing the liaison between the panels.
The parties have also scheduled the fifth round of formal talks on May 26 to
June 2 this year.
This goes to show that much can be achieved through principled negotiations.
We commend the efforts of the Reciprocal Working Committees on Social and
Economic Reforms to prioritize the issue of landlessness as a fundamental
provision for the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms
(Caser).
This is essential in addressing the roots of the armed conflict.
The PEPP would like to underscore the importance of Caser in the negotiations
and we enjoin the people to get involved to help both parties achieve a
meaningful agreement that will be felt by people at the grassroots level, especially the poor and the marginalized.
We also appreciate the signing of the agreement on an interim joint ceasefire
which “…shall take effect upon the approval and signing of the ground rules and shall be effective until a permanent ceasefire is forged.” The PEPP commits to mobilize our constituents, including the resources of our churches, to help ensure that this interim joint ceasefire can attain its objectives of providing
a conducive atmosphere for the GRP-NDF negotiations and an “…enabling
environment for the eventual and early signing of Caser.”

We will also remain committed to helping facilitate the release of AFP and PNP
elements in the custody of the NPA as well as the NDF-listed prisoners.
“Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding” (Romans 14:19). Let us all join hands and support the peace talks as a viable way for justice and righteousness to reign in our land.

Archbishop Antonio J. Ledesma,
Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro City and REX RB
Reyes Jr.,
National Council of Churches in the Philippines, co-chairs of PEPP;
Bishop Noela. A. Pantoja,
Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches
Bishop Deogracias. S. Iniguez. Jr.,
Ecumenical Bishops Forum,
Sr., Mary John D. Mananzan



 

President Duterte says Filipino soldiers
On South China Sea Islands are unarmed

Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 15 April 2017
First Published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 14 April 2017

Re: "Duterte says he will not militarise islets", in Bangkok Post, Tuesday April 11.
The inconsistencies of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's policies are
glaringly on display in his statements and rhetoric.
On the one hand, Mr Duterte is ordering the Philippines military to occupy nine disputed islands in the South China Sea off the coast of the Philippines.
Ironically, however, he insists the soldiers will not take any offensive weapons
to the islands, "not even one gun".
Perhaps the occupying Filipino soldiers will somehow deter invaders from contesting countries with a secret concoction of body odour, fish sauce and dried durians?

Samanea Saman
Bangkok,
Thailand

 


Philippines discover that long work hours
Are detrimental to health and production
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 14 April 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 12 April 2017

I am glad that Sen. Grace Poe is looking into the possible negative effects of “overwork” on Filipino workers.
It’s about time.
While working excessively might be bad for health, evidence suggests that it is also detrimental to production.
For example, a study was done in Great Britain during the early years of World
War II.
In the factories where laborers worked 66 hours a week, morale was poor,
absenteeism and sick leaves were up, spoiled work and accidents were increasing,
and the workers seemed edgy and quarrelsome.
When the number of work hours per week was reduced to 54, output remained the same, but morale improved while absenteeism, sick leaves, spoiled work and
accidents dropped.
The workers also appeared happy.
When the number of work hours was further reduced to 48, production went up 15 percent.
At the same time, morale and general wellbeing further went up, while absenteeism, sick leaves, spoiled work and accidents further went down.
Similar findings were seen wherever this experiment was tried.
Evidently, working too hard reduces performance, and reducing fatigue increases
output.
If this is true, an overworked employee must work less to accomplish more.
That is why I look forward to government acting to regulate the number of work
hours, not only for workers’ health, but also for industrial and national
productivity, which will significantly contribute to our economic development.

Jori Gervasior R. Benson,
Manila,
Philippines


 

Dr Supat knows the impact of coal-fired power plant
On health of Songkhla residents
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 13 April 2017
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 12 April 2017

Re: "Locals plan protest to keep rural doctor" in Bangkok Post, Tuesday
A
pril 11.
Fourth Region Army commander Piyawat Nakwanich is wrong in seeking to transfer Songkhla's Chana Hospital director Supat Hasuwannakit for protesting against a coal-fired power plant in his province.
A medical doctor's duty is to protect the health of his patients, in line with
the Hippocratic Oath, which says "Whatever houses I may visit, I will come for
the benefit of the sick..."

Dr Supat knows the effects of a coal-fired power plant on the health of Songkhla
residents and visitors far better than Lt Gen Piyawat, especially as Dr Supat is
also vice-president of the Rural Doctors Society in the South, and so is
qualified to take a stand on the matter.
Indeed, as hospital director, locals would look to him for guidance.
I also agree with the general, who said officials who leave work for unrelated
activities without permission must face disciplinary action, especially those
who act in a way that incites public unrest.
However, surely protecting the health of Songkhla residents is directly related
to Dr Supat's medical duties - just as if he left hospital premises to, say,
campaign against HIV-Aids.
As for inciting public unrest, the general does not argue that the doctor is,
say, inciting to violence.
If peaceful expressions of one's opinion were unlawful, then PM Prayut would
have jailed the many thousands protesting against his making the carrying of
passengers on pickup beds a crime - yet on the contrary, PM Prayut heard their
voices and postponed applying his order.
Lt Gen Piyawat should follow PM Prayut's lead and rescind his transfer request.
He should then work with local leaders, including Dr. Supat, to engage in
inclusive, credible discussions comparing coal versus alternative sources of
power.

Burin Kantabutra,
Bangkok,
Thailand


 

Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG)
To be transferred to the Office of the Solicitor General
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 12 April 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 10 April 2017

The Duterte administration is reviving some dying dreams.
Through its Office of the Solicitor General, the administration recently moved
to acquit Janet Lim Napoles of her serious illegal detention case.
By tainting the integrity of whistle-blower Benhur Luy, Napoles’ acquittal will indirectly benefit former senators Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla in their pork barrel scam cases.
To recall, during the campaign season, candidate Rodrigo Duterte assured the Cavite voters of Revilla’s “right to bail,” if he became president.
As for the Estradas, the President is “God-given from heaven.”
The same is also happening in the House of Representatives, where Speaker
Pantaleon Alvarez is seeking to transfer the functions and duties of the
Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) to the Office of the Solicitor General.
For the past years, the PCGG has recovered billions of pesos of the Marcoses’ ill-gotten wealth; and it has tirelessly promoted methods to combat and prevent corruption in government service.
Now that someone from the administration will oversee it, will it be like the Senate justice committee which suddenly steered away from the possibility of implicating President Duterte in thousands of drug-related killings, after Sen. Dick Gordon started leading it?
Rumor has it that former senator Bongbong Marcos will soon head the Department
of the Interior and Local Government, a powerful political machine that could
catapult him and his family back to power.
It will indeed benefit him that a Duterte ally will head the agency that has long been after the so-called Marcos ill-gotten wealth.
So President Marcos and Senators Estrada and Revilla again in 2022?

Rejinel Gamboa Valencia,
Manila,
Philippines


 


Not all Thai's are
Equal before the law
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 11 April 2017
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday 2 April 2017

The Thai public are currently being treated to an affair that illustrates in many ways that the politicians and the military share some common interests.
Several years ago the son of a well known politician was involved in an incident
in a disco where a man was killed and chaos resulted.
The suspect was spirited away and all efforts were made by the father to avoid a
fair trial ever being brought to court.
Today we see a similar situation where the amassed personnel of the justice
system are unable to get a suspect to face his accusers in a court of law.
Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha has finally discovered an issue that has brought a great
many of Thailand's lower classes together and united them in a common cause they
they all agree upon, not an easy task.
The justice system is rife with prejudice, class distinction and double
standards.
It stinks like a pile of rotten fish.

Lungstib,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 

 

Thai Tourist governor sentenced to 66 years imprisonment
What about Red Bull heir
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 2 April 2017
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday 2 April 2017

To give credit where credit is due, I highly praise PM Prayut Chan-o-cha and the
Office of the Auditor-General for allowing justice to take its course and
ex-Tourism Authority of Thailand governor Juthamas Siriwan be sentenced to 66
years in jail for bribery.
This is one of the few times where justice has clearly been seen to be done in a
case involving the high and the mighty.
This is an excellent first step to show the world that under PM Prayut's watch,
we have the rule of law, with only one standard for rich and poor alike.
But the course of justice in another case has reached a major stumbling block
that requires all of PM Prayut's will to solve - that of Red Bull heir Vorayuth
Yoovidhya, who allegedly drove his Ferrarri on September 3, 2012 and crashed into a cop who was killed instantly.
The Office of the Attorney-General has not brought the youth to trial, because
"Boss" has been too busy to report to the authorities while he lives the good
life of the super-rich overseas. The statute of limitations on the speeding
charge has expired, and another charge's limit will be reached this September 3.
At this rate, the reckless driver will, like Thaksin, live a life of luxury
abroad and be able to thumb his nose at our justice system for as long as he
wishes.
PM Prayut should show that he is determined to follow in South Korea's
footsteps, where even their former president and heir-apparent of the vast
Samsung empire can be, and are being, promptly brought to trial and justice
shown to be done.
Such acts by PM Prayut will help show that rule of law has truly arrived in our
beloved country and show that he heeds the words of our dear national father,
the late Rama IX, who said, "If the country does not follow the rule of law, it
will not survive."

Burin Kantabutra,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 

 

Philippines call on US Defence Agreement
To stop China expansion in the West Philippine Sea
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 8 April 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Sunday 2 April 2017

We strongly support Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio’s “call to specific actions” in reaction to China’s announcement that it would build a “monitoring or radar station” on Panatag (Scarborough Shoal) this year.
President Duterte’s “puzzling” reaction and statements assume that the only
choices to China’s incursions are war (which we cannot win) or surrender (which
the Inquirer calls defeatism).
But Justice Carpio mentioned a whole array of alternatives involving the use of
diplomacy in the exercise of the constitutional mandate of the President, as
commander in chief, to defend the national territory:
The least that can be done, lodge a formal protest against any foreign construction on Panatag.
Send back the Philippine Navy to patrol Panatag. In an agreement in 2012, both
China and the Philippines agreed to withdraw their forces until the
sovereignty issue shall have been settled.
The Philippines withdrew but China did not, so the Philippines has every right to return to Panatag.
Solicit the help of the United States under the terms of the 1951 Mutual
Defense Agreement, should Philippine Navy ships be attacked.
Unfortunately the President has tied his own hands by taking an anti-American stance and suspending joint Philippine-American patrols in the West Philippine Sea. He has yet to appoint an ambassador to Washington.
Follow Japan’s lead in getting the United States to recognize Panatag as part
of the Philippine territory covered by the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) of
1951, similar to the US-Japan MDT coverage of the Senkaku Islands.
Not mentioned by Justice Carpio is the possibility of an MDT between the
Philippines and Japan, and joint Philippine-Japanese patrols in the West
Philippine Sea.
A Philippine built lighthouse on Panatag could be reoccupied.
None of these intermediate steps is a declaration of war, but all these involve
an active exercise of diplomacy in defense of our territorial integrity.
The Inquirer also advocates mobilizing the consensus of Asean, whose
chairmanship the Philippines holds this year.
We must avoid the inept defeatism that has characterized this country’s attitude
so far, a shame on the 75th anniversary of that shining beacon of Philippine
valor, Bataan.

Benito Legarda Jr.,
Manila,
Philippines

 

 

Malaysia calls for policies
For scholarship students to return home
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 7 April 2017
First published in the Star, Sunday 2 April 2017

I agree with the writer of the letter “PSD flip-flop must end” in The Star, March
29.
Other countries via their respective scholarships have been taking away our
talents for a long time.
Many Malaysians have gone to study in other countries and become citizens there
after they completed their tertiary education.
In Singapore, for example, many former ministers and highly qualified Singaporeans were once Malaysians.
I’ve met many senior executives overseas and was delighted but also sad to learn
that they are former Malaysians.
The delay in resolving the Unified Examination Certificate (UEC) recognition issue will drive many students to go overseas for their tertiary education.
Many of these students may not return.
As such, our talents will be wasted unnecessarily.
Graduates of Nanyang University of Singapore were not recognised in the 1960s
and ‘70s and this resulted in the loss of many talented Malaysians to other
countries like Singapore and Taiwan.
Our Government must have firm policies to encourage talents to remain with us.

Thomas Foo,
Subang Jaya,
Kuala Lumpur,

 

 


Call for Philippine clergy to declare income
From baptism, wedding and death fees to taxation department
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 7 April 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuessday 4 April 2017

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez has recently been in the news, wanting to impose taxes on church-run schools “Alvarez wants religious schools taxed,” in Philippine Inquirer News, 7 March 2017.
I do not claim to be a tax expert, but in my humble opinion the Speaker cannot
do it by simply filing the corresponding bill in Congress, as he did in his
eagerness to restore the death penalty.
Methinks any such legislation would be unconstitutional for as long as Article
VI, Section 28(3) of the present Charter exists: “Charitable institutions,
churches and parsonages or convents appurtenant thereto, mosques, nonprofit cemeteries, and all lands, buildings, and improvements, actually, directly and exclusively used for religious, charitable, or educational purposes shall be exempt from taxation.”

On the other hand, amending this provision to suit his purpose would take a relatively more difficult and much longer process.
That said, I believe, though, that the door is not totally closed for government
to find out, at the very least, if church-run educational institutions should be
taxed or not.
Even if they are registered as nonprofit and nonstock corporations, they are certainly making profits. And so, the final test of their immunity or exemption from tax should be whether or not the profits they make eventually personally benefit particular private individuals.
Of course, the immediate assumption is they don’t because they are not
stockholders.
The thing is, has the tax bureau indeed ever verified this matter completely and beyond doubt?
As such - meaning, the profits they make are merely being plowed back into their operations in order to improve the quality of education they provide - then, Alvarez may not have a truly valid axe to grind.
That is, of course, on the assumption that he filed the bill for a reason other
than to exact vengeance on the Catholic clergy for their continuing vocal and
vehement stand against the present administration’s war on drugs and consuming
desire to restore the death penalty.
Otherwise, perhaps Alvarez might just as well also endeavor to find out, through the auspices of the Bureau of Internal
Revenue, if all priests do really file tax returns and include in their annual
taxable income their share of baptismal, wedding, death and other fees they
receive from well-meaning parishioners, on top of their basic salaries.

Rudy L. Coronel,
Manila,
Philippines

 

 


Call for Malaysians
To sing national anthem
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 5 March 2017
First published in the New Straits Times, Wednesday 29 March 2017

Expressions of love for one’s country come naturally.
It should be encouraged and transformed into positive contributions to our nation.
A good way to get fellow citizens to love Malaysia is to sing our national anthem while watching the Jalur Gemilang being hoisted.
Many citizens belt out Negaraku with pride.
Some weep with joy when Malaysians win international events.
Such expressions of love for one’s country come naturally.
It should be encouraged and transformed into positive contributions to our nation.
If not, it may just be gone with the wind.
For example, football fans can be fanatical in their support for a club.
They can easily turn into an unruly mob, acting on herd mentality, but turn sheepish when alone.
The love for our country should translate into concrete action.
Singing the national anthem is good for recharging our spirits, but should not be the end result.
But, how can citizens love a country when they are not bothered about their own
neighbourhood?
If they have little love for their community, colleagues, customers, relatives or even family, how can they love the country?
Can hate-mongers, who are fond of condemning fellow citizens of a different
race, language, culture, faith and opinion, love the country, which they
unashamedly claim to do?
Should we continue to organise activities, which are more like charades, to
express love of our country?
Could we go beyond the superficial and work on something truly meaningful?
It is common to see people patronising others to please them.
The love of one’s country has to start with loving oneself.
Only by learning to respect ourselves can we do the same to others.
But, the majority will fail at the first hurdle as petty quarrels are common among family members, as well as relatives and colleagues.
We must also learn to love our work and do a great job that others will be proud
of.
Instead, many Malaysians do a lousy job and yet are proud of themselves.
When we are efficient and productive, we contribute to our nation’s economy and
the taxes we pay add to the government’s coffers to develop our country.
On the other hand, if we treat our work as unimportant and earn low wages, we
will be draining our country’s resources by relying on government facilities
when we fall sick.
When we contribute to charity and society with our talent or time to help the
poor, sick or the needy, we are showing love to our people and country.
On the other hand, those involved in pilferage, leakages and wastages are
bleeding the nation.
Bigots have a field day pulling others down instead of lifting up their communities,
which they are not prepared to do as it requires too much work.
When answering a supplementary question in the Dewan Rakyat, Prime Minister
Datuk Seri Najib Razak said extremist groups fan feelings of anger and hatred,
as this tactic was easier than to ask people to uphold principles and practise
moderation.
Those who have the greatest love for our country fight against corruption,
poverty, injustice, ignorance, extremism, pollution and degradation of our
environment.

C.Y. Ming
Ampang,
Selangor,
Malaysia

 

 


Call for Philippine president not to take advic
e
From those paid by oligarchs and neo-liberal monopolists
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 4 April 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Sunday 2 April 2017

There are many areas and initiatives where people can readily support President Duterte:
In weeding out corrupt and inefficient officials and employees, particularly
at the Land Transportation Office/Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory
Board, Pagcor, Department of Public Works and Highways;
In going after the real, big drug lords and tax evaders and their supporters.
But with no exceptions, even if they happen to be his kumpare or campaign.
This will help show his character as a leader of great integrity.
No extrajudicial killings or “palit ulo” though.
And a big “NO!” to impeachment games, including those that his “supporters” are trying to arrange;
In upholding our national interests, be they economic or environmental, to
affirm our sovereignty and preserve for the next Filipino generations our
national patrimony.
The President should take into consideration the counsel of
experts who are not paid by oligarchs and neo-liberal monopolists.
He should keep in their present positions the heads of the Department of Environment and
Natural Resources, the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the
Department of Agrarian Reform, and the Department of Health.
They are “big assets” in his drive for clean governance.
The President should take note that his “advisers” are not helping him when
they justify (defend) anything he says, even those that are bound to be
interpreted as “alternative facts,” just so they themselves remain in the
coattails of power.
I hope this letter catches the President’s attention.
I know he is a sincere person, ready to help the needy and the poor.
I personally witnessed how solicitous he was in helping an old PWD when we happened to take the same flight
to Davao.

Prof. Rowene Boquiren,
Social Scientist/Historian
Manila,
Philippines


 

Sultan of Johor makes housing
A dream come true for Malaysians
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 3 April 2017
First pubished in the New Straits Times, Wednesday 29 March 2017

There was a massive turnout at the launch of the affordable housing scheme by
Sultan of Johor Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar at the Galleria Kotaraya complex
in Johor.
More than 10,000 had gathered from as early as 4am to get registration forms for dream homes.
The overwhelming response is testimony to how much affordable houses mean to the people.
Looking at the houses and properties these days would give people in their 60s
and 70s a heart attack.
Houses in cities and towns are being sold between RM850,000 and RM1.5 million, while houses in the suburban areas are going for RM400,000 to RM800,000.
How can young graduates and couples afford to buy homes at these prices?
Even taking joint bank loans and government loans will make young couples
debtors for life.
Johoreans can look forward to affordable and good quality houses.
This is the vision and dream of the sultan of Johor.
Dream houses costing under RM100,000, including semi-detached houses and
bungalows, will be the sultan’s gift to the people of Johor in conjunction with
his 59th birthday celebration.
He launched more than 1,800 houses under Phase 1.
The housing scheme will be expanded to 10 districts in the state.
The houses will truly be a dream come true for the people as even low-cost
houses cost more than RM100,000 these days.
The dream houses envisioned by the sultan will be for a multiracial community
and truly affordable quality houses.
Despite prices being cheaper than the market rates, the quality of the dream houses will not be compromised.
The three-bedroom bungalow or semi-detached houses will have a 102 sq m floor
space and are partially furnished.
Hopefully, this project by the sultan of Johor for Johoreans will reinvigorate
the housing industry and spur housing developers to be more considerate and
bring down prices.
Other state housing developers may emulate the dream house project of the sultan
of Johor and make housing a dream come true for every Malaysian.

Samuel Yesuiah,
Seremban,
Negri Sembilan,
Malaysia

 

 

Call for Malaysia
To maintain heritage listed properties
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 1 April 2017
First published in the Star, Wednesday 29 March 2017

It is the responsibility of building owners to ensure the maintenance, management and care of their properties so they are in good condition, safe, comfortable to use and habitable.
We have many laws and guidelines that regulate this, and there are penalties
which can be imposed if uninhabited buildings are left to ruin and potentially
raising concerns over public safety.
In the case of buildings such as the former FMS Survey Office, which was
gazetted as “heritage” on the National Heritage Register, there may be
additional regulations imposed by the National Heritage Department, the
custodian of this Register.
Section 42 of the National Heritage Act 2005 states that it is the duty of the
owner of a heritage site to keep the building in a state of good repair and that
the National Heritage Commissioner can take steps to ensure that this is
complied with, in keeping with the heritage value of the building.
While we may want to know who is responsible, or how this sad state of affairs
has come about, it is more pressing to have an urgent action plan to bring the
relevant parties together to stop further deterioration and restore the
building.
It would be timely for the responsible authorities to work with heritage Non Government Organisations NGOs and other stakeholders to initiate a management regime to prevent this from happening to other heritage buildings, especially public or government-owned buildings.

Elizabeth Cardosa,
Badan Warisan Malaysia president.
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia

 

 

Philippines call on Beijing
To show the money for Panatag Shoal
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 31 March 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 29 March 2017

President Duterte seems to be willing to abandon Panatag Shoal to China because of the multibillion dollar deals that he has been offered by Beijing.
This is absolutely mindless, criminal and unconstitutional.
And we all know that the Chinese will sign any and all deals and later repudiate them.
So the President should allow the country to retain the last shred of dignity
and tell the Chinese: “Money down first!”

Rene Torres,
Makati City
Philippines




Animals subjected to
Hell on earth
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 30 March 2017
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 29 March 2017

Re: "Without meat, would you exist?", Bangkok Post, PostBag, March 26.
Eric Bahrt is not alone in wanting to end the wholesale slaughter of animals for
food.
Many people feel this way because they've come to recognise that robbing others
of their precious lives for something as frivolous and unnecessary as taste bud
pleasure is unfair.
But we don't just kill these animals.
We agonisingly mutilate them, lock them in small cages and pens and deprive them of all semblance of a natural life.
We subject them to hell on earth.
Vegans don't shun animal products because they "love" animals, they do so
because needlessly subjecting them to this unspeakable suffering is unjust.
If a meat eater was forced to switch places with a factory farmed pig or chicken
would he still want Eric Bahrt to "shut up"?

Jenny Moxham,
Australia




Thais hopeful they will succeed
In democratic development
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 29 March 2017
First published in Bangkok Post, Tuesday 28 March 2017

Re: "Democracy hardly 'in peril'", Bangkok Post PostBag, March 26.
The writer, in chastising me for commenting on American democracy, has shown he or she is hardly a democratically inclined person.
Democracies everywhere in the world are experiencing drastic change.
These are examples:
First, more and more cash is being used in elections everywhere in the world -
resulting in self-seeking political neophytes emerging as national leaders.
This is even more evident in the US, where presidential candidates spend billions of dollars in advertisements and organising political rallies in order for them to get elected.
This is a different scenario from just a few decades ago.
Second, more leaders of today are won to tell lies - instead of the truth - to
the general public in administrating their governments.
In its latest edition, Time magazine has posed this question on its cover:
"Is truth dead?"
As for Thailand, the country needs time to correct itself after 15 years of
ideological conflicts - brought on by populist and money politics.
Despite all these drawbacks, Thais are hopeful we will succeed in our democratic
development.
No sensible Thais want their children and grandchildren to be oppressed as a
result of corrupt and ruthless dictatorial rule.

Vint Chavala,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 



Call for Henry Kissinger
To be stripped of Nobel Prise
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 28 March 2017
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 22 March 2017

Re: "Simply no comparison", in Bangkok Post, PostBag, March 22
Yes, Lungstib, Henry Kissinger is another, among many, who should be stripped
of their Nobel prizes.
But you are very loose with your words when you accuse me of "displaying poor judgement" for not making a list of unworthy recipients.
You have missed an essential point.
Vietnam is history.
The ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya in Myanmar is happening as we speak. Unfortunately, most of the world would prefer not to know and turns a blind eye to the atrocities being committed by our next door neighbour.

David Brown,
Rayong,
Thailand

 

 

Thai beer
Made in Australia
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 27 March 2017
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 22 March 2017

Regularly I go to a specialised shop to buy foreign mainly Belgian beers.
A few times a week I treat myself with something special.
This time I was advised to try a Chalawan pale ale, a Thai beer.
Being polite I purchased one bottle, which I just opened. Marvellous; and for a relatively decent price.
But it came with a customs-seal because it had to be made in Australia.
Please open up your mind, the ruling elite of Thailand.
This is a great innovation in Thai beers by a small company, but by the protective laws (protecting the big companies) they had to flee the country.
You are chasing away talent!
Accept more competition and grow yourself also in this process.
The end result will be better for everyone.

Dr AF Engelkes,
Rayong,
Thailand

 

 

Call for Malaysian Islamic Family Law
To address underage marriages
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 25 March 2017
First published in the New Straits Times, Friday 17 March 2017

As the government goes ahead with the proposed Child Sexual Crime Act, it should also consider addressing underage marriages under the proposed act.
The act is a good step to protect children from harm.
It would also ensure that action would be taken against culprits and justice
would prevail.
Complaints involving sexual crimes against children have been on the rise,
judging from the number of police reports lodged.
But, at the same time, the number of cases brought to court is lower.
The proposed act will introduce new offences against children, namely child
grooming and child pornography.
It will take into consideration children giving evidence and the establishment
of a court to deal with child sex offenders.
Under our law, the marriageable age for Muslim women is lower than that for
Muslim men.
Section 8 of Malaysian Islamic Family Law (Federal Territories) Act of 1984 (Act
303) states that the minimum legal age for Muslim boys to marry is 18, and for a
Muslim girl, 16.
They are allowed to marry with the written permission from the Syariah Court
after both sets of parents put in an application to formalise their union.
Without having such permission from the court, couples commit an offence and
shall be punished with a fine not exceeding RM1,000 or with imprisonment not
exceeding six months, or both.
For non–Muslims, the legal age of marriage is 18.
Non–Muslim females are permitted to marry between the ages of 16 and 18 with the consent of the chief minister.
This is stipulated under Section 10 Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976
(Act 164).
Although the law on this issue seems clear, it can be open to abuse.
To prevent abuse, addressing the issue under the proposed act would further
guarantee the child’s protection.
Underage marriages have lasting consequences, especially for girls, as the
trauma will go beyond their adolescent years.
Women married in their teens struggle with the health effects of getting pregnant at a young age.
Underage marriages can also open the door to domestic violence, child sexual abuse and marital rape if no steps are taken.

Dr Muzaffar Syah Mallow,
Senior lecturer,
Faculty of Syariah & Law,
Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia




God save the Phiippines,
We pray!
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 24 March 2017
First pubished in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 17 March 2017

"Sol Gen calls De Lima hypocrite, cites warrant case vs Arroyo” in the Philippine Inquirer 28 February 2017.
The executive department’s so-called “best legal mind,” Solicitor General Jose Calida, expressed the totally uncalled-for opinion that there was nothing “unusual” about the speed with which the warrant of arrest was issued on Sen. Leila de Lima who is just being “hypocrite” now that the tables are being turned on her.
Calida cited the same haste with which the warrant of arrest on former president
Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was issued under De Lima’s watch as justice secretary of the Aquino administration, which filed an electoral sabotage charge against her.
What Calida is actually saying - and borrowing from deposed president Erap
Estrada’s witticism - is: “Weather-weather lang talaga yan!”
So, is that how the entire justice system really boils down to?
Is that how judges and justices in this godforsaken nation are being looked down on by people in very high government places?
We already have it straight from the mouths of no less than a former president
and the current solicitor general.
And to show that he can put his money where his obscene mouth is, Calida has
even urged the Court of Appeals to declare Janet Lim Napoles the biggest and
the most notorious of the “pork barrel” scammers innocent - on some “quid pro
quo” deal only he and his master, President Du30, know.
God save this country already, we pray!

Yvette San Luis-Petrocelli,
Manila,
Philipppines


 

Dead rats, rat droppings and cockroaches
Found in Penang restuarants
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 23 March 2017
First published in the New Straits Times, Friday 17 March 2017

The Penang Health Department and the Penang Island City Council carried out
inspections on three eateries in Penang Road on March 13.
Two restaurants were ordered to close for two weeks.
A dead rat was found in one of the restaurants, as well as rat droppings, ockroaches and dirty toilets in both eateries.
The third restaurant was fined RM1,000 for having a dirty kitchen.
It was also issued a RM250 compound for not using a grease trap, and RM90 for failing to vaccinate three workers.
I visited Penang last May and checked out the three restaurants, before deciding
on one, which turned out to be a huge disappointment.
The food was below average compared with the nasi kandar restaurants that I have
tried over the years.
My favourite is still the same outlet that I have patronised for more than three
decades.
It started out as a stall in a Chinese coffee shop in Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, Kuala Lumpur.
Later, it moved to its own shop a few doors away and subsequently took up two
shoplots.
It is common to find a long queue around lunch time.
Not far away, a corner shop had also become popular with even longer queues at
times.
These nasi kandar restaurants in Kuala Lumpur can easily give those in Penang a run for their money.
We should not continue to hype up restaurants just because they used to be
popular.
A restaurant that has been declared dirty and unhygienic should not be allowed
to continue operating, even if it has been in business for a long time.
Restaurant operators owe it to the public to provide hygienic food and premises
after raking in huge profits for so long.
Routine inspections must be carried out at restaurants in the cities, and this
is not limited to Penang.

C.Y. Ming,
Ampang,
Selangor,
Malaysia

 

 

China says no cause for alarm
For research ships in Philippine waters
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 22 March 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 20 March 2017

China’s aggressive activities in the South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea, have caught the attention of both international and local media.
Recently, Chinese survey ships were reported to have been spotted in Benham Rise, one of the Philippines’ resource-rich territories recognized by the United Nations.
Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said the government is concerned about
the presence of Chinese ships in the area.
China, on the other hand, contends that the survey ships’ passage through the country’s territorial seas was unintentional. Beijing says that Chinese research ships indeed passed through Philippine waters but there should be no cause for alarm
a lame explanation that I hope the Philippine government would not fall for.
Unfortunately, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has accepted China’s
explanation.
Let us remember that China has undertaken reclamation work around some reefs
and islets belonging to the Philippines.
And the latest word about them is that missile systems are being installed in at least one of these.
The Philippines should keep on patrolling Benham Rise and possibly put up a
structure there to assert Philippine ownership of the area, lest this part of Philippine territory, which is rich in coral reefs and schools of fish, turn into another of China’s “reclaimed” lands.
The brewing problem that is Benham Rise should be addressed before it becomes a full-blown crisis.
Let’s bear in mind that China has not excluded from its big dream small territories or reefs. Aristotle wrote something like this: Conflicts arise “not over small things but from small things.”
Claims and incidents like what’s happening at Benham Rise, however petty they
may seem to outsiders, if they are tied to the vital interests of those in position of power, could lead to war.
And this we want to avoid.Looking at this issue in a wider perspective: In an international order dominated by the United States, China, whose naval power is rising, is demanding a new regional order that as the most dominant indigenous player in the region, it can control.

Ricardo E. Catindig,
Manila,
Philippines

 

 

Malaysia calls for US Navy protection
From North Korea missile attack
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 21 March 2017
First published in the New Straits Times, Friday 17 March 2017

The deterioration in relations between our country and North Korea over the Kim
Jong-nam case has raised the possibility of a war, even if remote.
North Korea is known to have nuclear capabilities, with its Taepodong-3 ICBM
intercontinental ballistic missile reaching 12,800km, covering two-thirds of
the globe.
While Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein’s reminder of our close
ties with many countries assures us that they would come to our aid in the event
of a war, if an ICBM is launched from North Korea, we would have only
about 20 minutes before it hits us.
The United States Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class destroyers are armed with a
Standard SM-3 missile, which has an antiballistic missile capability.
The SM-3 Block 1B, with its range of about 640km and a maximum altitude of
183,000m (the thermosphere), can intercept ballistic missiles and is part of the
US’s Ballistic Missile Defence system.
We could request the US Navy to deploy two such destroyers - one off our east
coast, the other in the Straits of Malacca - to cover and defend our country in
the event of an attack.
Coming back to the Jong-nam issue, while it is acknowledged that the right of
sovereignty rests with our country since his assassination occurred on our soil,
we must take into account two factors.
He is a citizen of North Korea and he is a direct relation of their supreme commander.
As such I believe that it would be protocol and a gesture of goodwill on our
part to allow North Korea to play a part in the investigation of this incident; and,
Rerurn his body to their country and their leader, and let them handle the task
of locating his next of kin.

Tham Wai Keong,
Defence analyst,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia

 

 

Chinese ships spotted
In Philippines northeastern Luzon
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 20 March 2017
First published in the Nation, Sunday 19 March 2017

The Philippine Department of National Defence hinted that China is showing
interest in Benham Rise, over which the Philippines has undisputed claim in the
United Nations, as it reportedly scouts for spots to park its submarines.
If unimpeded, says the department, this foray could turn into another source of
conflict among Asian neighbours, which twisted in the wind earlier as the
Permanent Court of Arbitration deliberated on Manila’s challenge of Beijing’s
“excessive” claims to the West Philippine Sea with its nine-dash line.
At a threat assessment forum held in Camp Aguinaldo last March 9, Defence
Secretary Delfin Lorenzana reported that Chinese ships were spotted in the
Benham area in northeastern Luzon.
He added that satellite photos and incident reports provided the basis for his alert. In fact, he said, a Chinese ship is believed to have had an accident while in Benham Rise, prompting the survey team to send one of its men to a hospital in Surigao.
Former national security adviser Roilo Golez, in January, cautioned about
China’s interest in Benham Rise and said that he feared China was casting
lustful eyes on our East Sea.
Aggression has been the mark of China in the past years.
Our country does not want to add to the tension that China has been recklessly whipping up in Asia and the Asian region.
China, though, continues to challenge our sovereignty and laws by encroaching on our territory.
China apparently covets the entire area because of its economic prospects. China’s motive is clear:
To build up its military capability to pursue its economic interest.
If only China could show the maturity in dealing with its rival countries in territorial disputes, it would gain more respect not only from its rival claimant-nations and Asian neighbours but also from the whole world.
As it is, China is instead consolidating its power in the South China Sea, showing its
might and ability to control disputed territories, as well as the flow of commodities for its own economic gain.

Ann R Aquino,
Manila,
Philippines

 

Philipinne Senator Manny Pacquiao
More a Pharisee than a senator
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 18 March 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer. 15 March 2017

You no longer call a liar a man who confesses to recanting his lie for the same reason that a sinner who repents could become a saint.
Sad to say that Sen. Manny Pacquiao looked more like a Pharisee than a senator
when he interrogated the self-confessed spiritually renewed Arthur Lascañas, a
retired police officer, during the reopened Senate hearing on the existence and
crimes of the Davao Death Squad.
My dear Brother Pacquiao explained his understanding of spiritual renewal - and it was flawed.
It would do well for the “born-again” senator to remember that, not too long
ago, his lie about the condition of his health - his keeping secret of his
shoulder injury in particular, prior and during the Floyd Mayweather fight - was
an international disgrace that triggered an outrage among the boxing aficionados
and casual fans.
Good for self-righteous Pacquiao that the millions of people worldwide whom he deceived as an already spiritually renewed man are no Pacquiao in mindset.
No person can claim that he never lied again after his spiritual conversion to
Christianity or any religion.
A holy life isn’t equal to absolute perfection.
You succumbed to human nature and fall down once in a while, but you get up
every time, and every time it is by God’s grace. Life for a saved soul is all
about mercy from start to finish, and it is called sanctification, “perfecting
holiness in the fear of God.”

Lascañas was compelled to recant a lie purportedly to save the truth, while
Pacquiao was compelled to tell the truth after his loss to Mayweather - to save
face.

Renin M Valenzuela,
Manila,
Pgilippines


 

Thailand is a signatory
To International Human Rights Conventions
The Southeast Asian Times. Friday 17 March 2017
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 14 March 2017

n refuting allegations of torture by Thai police, Makawadee Sumitmor, acting
spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, cited an article in the draft
constitution which prohibits torture and pointed out that torture is also
punishable by criminal law in Bangkok Post, PostBag, March 11.
If that is so, then there are no prostitutes in Thailand, no illegal casinos, no
underground lottery, no corruption in a government, no unlicensed hotels, no
loan shark syndicates, no motorcycles zooming on sidewalks, because they are
prohibited by law.
She also babbled about Thailand being a signatory to a
variety of international human right conventions, which doesn't prove at all
that there is no torture.
I know it's hard to rebut the allegation of torture without sounding ridiculous,
but she ought to come up with a decent refutation.

Somsak Pola,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 

 

Call for pece talks between the Philippine government (GRP)
And the National Democratic Front (NDF) to resume ASAP
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 16 March 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 15 March 2017

What could be the compelling reason for the peace talks between the Philippine government (GRP) and the National Democratic Front (NDF) to resume as soon as possible?
As soon as the NDF in late August last year reciprocated the GRP’s unilateral
ceasefire declaration, President Duterte and the Armed Forces of the Philippines
moved several battalions from “NPA areas” to Sulu, Lanao Sur and Basilan.
Yet, Isis (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria)-aligned groups there proved resilient
despite the higher military pressure.
The Davao night-market bombing has been conclusively attributed to the
Maute-Isis group.
And the President knows too well that there are scores of Isis bombing teams scattered all over the country, from as far north as Cagayan province and Baguio City to Soccsksargen in the south.
The Abu Sayyaf-Isis groups in Basilan and Sulu have even intensified their attacks on foreign commercial vessels plying our southwestern corridor.
The stigma of the Davao bombing still haunts us, especially the President, in
whose backyard the bombing occurred and the victims, survivors and their
families still call for explanation and, of course, justice.
More bombings of this type are therefore expected should President Duterte and the military fail to neutralize the vectors of extremism.
The military knows it cannot effectively address simultaneously the New People’s
Army’s insurgency and the Abu Sayyaf and the Isis-aligned groups’ terrorism.
Such is the import of an all-out war against the NPA while maintaining pressure
on the Abu Sayyaf-Isis.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines will be overstretched and eventually lose as a result of fighting both fronts in the long term.
It is therefore necessary to set priorities.
The military has, in fact, not opposed the release of almost 500 NDF-allied political prisoners just so it can support the peace talks and, more importantly, so it can buy time to finish off the extremists based in Moro areas.
The accusations and counter-accusations about violations and victims of each
party’s unilateral ceasefire are, to me, insignificant and could have been and
can still be considered collateral damage in a war where peace talks were
suspended and where previous bilateral agreements were almost forgotten.
After all, the NDF, even if allowed to recruit unhampered under conditions of a
ceasefire, cannot overthrow a popular Duterte government within the next five
years.
Clearly, it is to the interest of the majority of Filipinos, including those in
Moro areas, that the GRP-NDF peace talks resume ASAP.
We, the people caught in-between, should insist that the peace talks continue
along with the unconditional release of all political prisoners and a bilateral
ceasefire between the GRP and NDF.
This is the package that can bring back the now-stalled peace talks on track. The release and the bilateral ceasefire were on the agenda of the peace panels before they exchanged charges and countercharges of the alleged violations. This should be the package that millions of Filipinos should demand from President Duterte and the NDF.
Is this too much to ask for?
No.
Let’s get back to the bigger and more relevant frame.

Guillermo B. Laazaro Jr.,
Grand Lodge of the Philippines,
Manila,
Philipines

 

 

The US Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system
Has altered the balance of power in the region, says China and Russia
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 15 March 2017
First published in the Star, Monday 13 March 2017

The Malaysian Government has done the right thing in keeping the channels of
communication with the North Korean government open.
It wants an amicable resolution of the friction arising from the February 13 murder
of Kim Jong-Nam, the elder brother of the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-Un, at
KLIA2.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has made it very clear that Malaysia
has no intention of severing diplomatic ties with North Korea.
The North Korean government has also adopted a positive stance.
It has given a firm assurance to its Malaysian counterpart that the nine Malaysians who are still at the Malaysian Embassy in Pyongyang are safe and are allowed to carry on with their daily routine.
However, they are barred from leaving North Korea.
The Malaysian Government has reciprocated by reiterating that North Koreans in
Malaysia who are prohibited from leaving the country will not be harmed in any
way.
These positive vibes from both sides should encourage the two governments to
begin serious negotiations on a variety of issues pertaining to the current
crisis.
It is quite conceivable that the talking has already commenced.
If a facilitator is required, the Chinese government would be the best candidate. It remains - in spite of its disillusionment with Pyongyang - North Korea’s only real ally.
At the same time, China and Malaysia are close friends.
Apart from lifting the bans on nationals from each other’s country that Pyongyang and Putrajaya have imposed, the two governments will have to address
the central question of Kim Jong-Nam’s murder and the investigations being
conducted by the Malaysian authorities.
North Korea will have to concede that Malaysia has been rational and professional in its approach. It has adhered to international law and established norms in the handling of cases of this sort.
For these reasons Pyongyang should extend its fullest cooperation to Putrajaya.
Going on the basis of North Korea’s past record, it will not be easy to persuade
its leadership to uphold the principles of international law.
is a case in point, in spite of six sets of UN Security Council resolutions
aimed at stopping North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests, it continues to
conduct such tests.
The latest was its firing of two powerful Musudon medium-range missiles on March
1, one of which flew 400 kilometres into the Sea of Japan.
North Korea has often argued that it conducts these tests because the United
States of America and South Korea continue to hold annual military war games in
its vicinity.
The Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, has proposed that North Korea suspend its nuclear and missile tests while the US and South Korea halt their military exercises.
A quid pro quo approach he hopes can bring the three parties to the negotiating
table.
Once negotiations begin, other outstanding issues can also be addressed.
The recent deployment of the US’s Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system in South Korea has undoubtedly exacerbated relations between South and North Korea and between South Korea, on the one hand, and China and Russia, on the other.
China and Russia perceive THAAD as a system that alters significantly the
balance of power within the region. THAAD, and the larger question of the
denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula should be discussed among all concerned
parties.
In fact, denuclearisation was the focus of a six-party discussion from 2003 to
2008. North Korea, China and Russia, together with South Korea, Japan and the
United States constituted the six parties and they met in Malaysia.
Though the talks did not achieve their desired goal, there is no reason why an
attempt should not be made to revive it.
Immediate concerns such as missiles and
THAAD rather than denuclearisation should be the main items on the agenda this
time.

Dr. Chandra Muzaffar
President,
International Movement for a Just World (JUST)
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia

 


Philippine anti-mining policy deprives government
From revenues from mining
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 14 March 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Sunday 12 March 2017

Is Secretary Gina Lopez of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources competent to handle the demands of her job?
There’s no doubt that she is very passionate about protecting the environment.
But that doesn’t mean that she should neglect or ignore the other aspect of her
job, which is to make our bountiful natural resources, such as minerals, serve
the goals of economic development.
Lopez has ordered the closure of 23 mining companies and the suspension of five
others for alleged violation of environmental laws.
She has also cancelled more than 70 mineral processing sharing agreements because she said these would be done in watershed areas.
She made these decisions without even hearing the side of the mining companies.
In fact, she even declined to reveal the results of the DENR audit of the mining operations.
The mining firms are correct in saying that they were flatly denied due process and are asking the Commission on Appointments to reject her appointment.
The TV station that her family owns aired live her confirmation hearing, obviously to condition public opinion in her favor.
A confirmation of her appointment would be a grave injustice to the 60,000 mining workers and the 1.2 million Filipinos dependent on the mining industry for their livelihood.
Her anti-mining stance will deprive the national government and local government
units of much-needed revenues from mining operations.
President Duterte should dismiss Lopez from his Cabinet as she is not an asset
but a liability in his drive to accelerate socioeconomic development and to
bring about genuine change in this country.

Joselito Matias,
Manila,
Philippines

 

Tourists who like to play monkey
Are likely to lose out to the real monkeys in Malaysia
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 13 March 2017
First published in the Star, Thursday 9 March 2017

A tourist from South Korea was hurt recently after being harassed by monkeys in
Kuantan.First published in the.
The man was walking alone from Teluk Cempedak to Teluk Tong­kang and found a
troupe of monkeys behind him when he turned around.
He panicked and ran, falling on some rocks, injuring his head and bruising his
hands. It could have happened to me.
Last October, I spent three weeks at a popular beach resort at Pantai Tengah in
Langkawi.
One morning, I walked from my hotel towards another one at the island’s southern
most tip where cruise ships berth at the Awana Pier.
The road was deserted at dawn and when walking up some jungle covered hills, I
came across a troupe of monkeys on the road.
I was adamant to complete my morning walk and reach my destination before
turning back. So I did what I normally do when I came across dogs on my path.
Instead of arming myself with a stick, I pretended not to take notice of their
presence. I continued as if they were not around.
It would be a mistake to establish eye contact, as dogs and monkeys may turn
aggressive once they sense fear or aggression.
I met the monkeys again on my return trip. Again, nothing untoward happened as
they probably recognised me.
But resort hotels should warn guests on the presence of wild monkeys and the
precautionary measures needed.
I often see people feeding monkeys in a dangerous manner. It may seem cute to
have the animals pick up the fruit from your hand.
But some monkeys may be aggressive as others may have teased them before by not releasing the fruit from their grip.
Always throw the fruit to monkeys.
Those who like to play monkey are likely to lose out to the real ones in such encounters.

Cy Minh,
Ampang,
Malaysia




Philippine Federation of Chemistry Societies calls on legislators
To use science in drafting laws on dangerous drugs
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday10 March 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 9 March 2017

The Philippine chemistry community, represented by the Philippine Federation of Chemistry Societies (PFCS), strongly urges our legislators to use science in drafting laws.
House Bill No. 001, also referred to as the “Death Penalty Law,” aims to address the scourge of dangerous drugs in Philippine society.
While we recognize this important concern, we oppose the provisions that equate dangerous drugs with precursor and essential chemicals.
Because of their importance in industry, agriculture, health, education and research, inclusion of these chemicals in the proposed law must be done with adequate scientific knowledge.
Please note the following important points: The bill does not define and identify what are precursor chemicals and essential chemicals.
Virtually all precursor chemicals and essential chemicals are multiuse chemicals.
Precursor chemicals may be precursors to other important products, such as pharmaceuticals, fragrances, cosmetics, agrochemicals.
Likewise, essential chemicals may also be used for many other purposes, including in the manufacture of household and health products.
The cost of banning them would be staggering to the economy.
The proposed bill is not scientifically rational.
Mere possession of a precursor chemical or an essential chemical is not
equivalent to possession or manufacture of dangerous drugs.
The proposed bill will criminalize legitimate users, and raise the cost of goods and damage the economy.
This will also provide many opportunities for corruption.
The bill equates pure substances with mixtures.
It does not distinguish a compound that is relatively pure from its 1-percent composition in an essential oil or spice.
HB 001 will criminalize the possession of many medicinal plants and cooking ingredients.
This topic of precursor chemicals and essential chemicals should be discussed
extensively together with experts in the field and with industry manufacturers.
The PFCS is composed of four organizations: the Integrated Chemists of the
Philippines, the Kapisanang Kimika ng Pilipinas, the Philippine Association of
Chemistry Teachers, and the Philippine Association of Chemistry Students.

Armando M. Guidote Jr.,
President, Philippine Federation of Chemistry Societies,
Fabian M. Dayrit,
President, Integrated Chemists of the Philippines,
Nestor S. Valera,
Kapisanang Kimika ng Pilipinas,
Jose M. Andaya,
President, Philippine Association of Chemistry Teachers,
John Michael Porca,
President, Philippine Association of Chemistry Students

 

 

Call for Papua New Guinea
To address high illiteracy rate in rural areas
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 10 March 2017
First published in the National, Thursday 9 March 2017

This year is the very crucial year for the people of Papua New Guinea.
The decision people make will determine our country’s social, political and
economic future.
I am aware that most of our people are unable to make informed decisions
because of their uncertainty in the current issues in the government due to the
high illiteracy level.
Papua New Guinea’s high illiteracy rate is hampering our people’s ability to understand the current social, political and economic trend in the country.
They are not able to make good choices, and they definitely will not make
better decisions to elect good leaders into parliament.
Our people will be blinded by political agendas and people will not differentiate the truth from politics.
Only educated people can have the ability to read the minds of the intending
candidates.
Politics is a game and only educated people and well to do people can compete
for a seat in the parliament.
Most candidates will have good agendas and policies to persuade the people to
elect them. They will promise good things.
However, at the back of their mind, they have something which people cannot see
and understand.
Our unfortunate population need proper awareness to distinguish dishonest from
honest leaders.
Our country needs honest, transparent, and good leaders to serve the people’s
interest and the interest of the country.
I am appealing to the educated people who have the heart for the people and the
country to educate our majority of the rural (illiterate) population to make
better choices when electing their leaders into parliament.
Educate people about the truth, and help them make good decisions for the good
of the country.

Sky Bobeng
University of Papua New Guinea,
Waigani,
Papua New Guinea




Call for Malaysia to cut ties
With North Korean government
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 9 March 2017
First published in the Star, Monday 6 March 2017

In light of the expulsion of the North Korean ambassador from Malaysia who has
been declared “persona non grata”, the Malaysian Government needs to strongly
consider reviewing our diplomatic ties with that country entirely.
This should include the possibility of cutting our diplomatic ties with North
Korea.
All these come after a series of continuous baseless accusations put forward by
the ambassador and the North Korean government over the assassination of Kim
Jong-nam, the half brother of the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un at Kuala
Lumpur International Airport 2 (KLIA2).
Since investigations into the assassination began, the North Korean ambassador
has not only been seen to be uncooperative but has gone beyond being a
diplomatic guest in our country, starting a campaign to tarnish Malaysia’s name
internationally.
The ambassador had said last month that Pyongyang “cannot trust” Malaysia’s
handling of the investigation, and accused the country of “colluding with outside forces”, in a veiled reference to bitter rival South Korea.
Our Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Abdul Razak has called the comments as “diplomatically rude.”
Our Foreign Minister has also demanded an apology from the ambassador, but none was forthcoming.
Declaring the ambassador persona non grata is our right guaranteed under Article
9 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
If matters become worse, there is no need for our government to continue its
diplomatic ties with them. Taking this step will not jeopardize our interests as
our country has only small economic dealings with them.
It is worth noting that for many years North Korea has been widely accused of
having one of the worst human rights records in the world.
North Koreans have also been referred to as “some of the world’s most brutalized
people” by the Human Rights Watch, because of the severe restrictions placed on
their political and economic freedom.
Amnesty International also have reports of severe restrictions on the freedom of
association, expression and movement, arbitrary detention, torture and other
ill-treatment resulting in death.
There were also public executions carried out in a most gruesome way.
With such a poor human rights record, we should ask whether we would like to be
friends with such a country. As such, our government must strongly consider
reviewing our diplomatic ties with North Korea.
Before such a bold step is taken however, our government must ensure that none
of our fellow Malaysian citizens remain in that country.

Dr Muzaffar Syah Mallow,
Faculty of Syariah & Law,
Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia,
Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia,



Australia breaks Papua new Guinea laws
At Manus refugee centre on Los Negros Island
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 8 March 2017
First published in the National, Monday 6 March 2017

Your article on Australian agency breaching Papua New Guinea law in the Manus processing centre raises a lot of questions in regard to the agreement that was signed between the Papua New Guinea and Australian governments.
We, the landowners of Los Negros Island have raised such concerns with the Papaua New Guinea authorities at the camp since the opening but nothing was done.
The Australian camp management company and their service providers have broken so many of our laws, including dumping of camp refuse in dug shallow pits,
dumping of raw sewage in the sea, dumping of asbestos in the bushes, non-payment of superannuation for employees, and now allowing the asylum seekers to walk freely in a foreign country.
The Minister for Health seems ignorant of the health issues at the camp when
there is a government agency which is there to ensure that the Australian
government complies with our laws.
We have expressed such concerns of no control of Australian illegal activities
but the Papaua New Guinea Immigration Office have compromised their positions because of inducements from the camp management and service providers.
Our two politicians claim to have no control but are now vocal about the
economic and social impacts toward the province.
The camp is almost closing and it is now late to talk about Australia breaching
our laws because the landowners, the Los Negros LLG, and the Manus people have been the great losers of all the benefits.
The Papaua New Guinea Government has broken all the laws and allowed Australia to do the same.
While it is impossible to get into or reside in Australia without honouring its
laws, they have allowed the asylum seekers to roam the streets of Lorengau, get
away into all parts of Manus and break all our laws.

Chawi Konabe,
Port Moresby
Papua New Guinea





Call for Philippine House of Representatives
To reject the death penalty
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 7 March 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Sunday 5 March 2017

For two months now we have been trooping to the House of Representatives - mothers, daughters, workers, community leaders, NGO advocates, the religious sector - in protest of the restoration of the death penalty.
Almost every day we marched into Congress with this message: Legislators should pay attention to providing jobs to our families, to protecting our daily livelihood and our lives; and they should reject the Duterte administration’s priority bill that seeks to reimpose the death penalty in the country.
Protesters included many from the poorest sector of our society, and they had
every reason to be there.
From their ranks came the more than 7,000 casualties in the government’s bloody
war on drugs.
From their ranks will come the three million more that President Duterte promised to exterminate up to the end of his term.
Each day’s mobilization was an exercise in dread and exhaustion - dread that our
voices would fall on deaf ears, dread of an unexpected voting, dread that so few
would be allowed inside.
While observing the deliberations, with nothing to eat from afternoon till the
early evening, we were already exhausted by the time every plenary session was
adjourned.
All our energy, all our time wasting away, when we could be making
better use of our days.
Why?
Because we were trying to stop lethal injection, the rope, the electric chair from coming back as the ultimate penalty.
But isn’t that what Congress is supposed to be doing - to uphold the highest
standards of life for the Filipino people?
In these august halls of history, should we not be marching with our heads held high, proud to be watching our representatives fight for our best ideals?
Should we not be looking forward to witnessing the top minds in the country work, and to actually learning something?
Instead we got to see just how empty Congress is - devoid of brilliance, dignity, courage.
What we saw strutting around were figures of false pride, corrupt self-importance, displays of wealth amassed from our taxes.
Where we sought passionate debates, we only saw lazy silence; where we sought
intelligent arguments, we found insults; where we sought compassion, we found
callousness and brutes.
We were embarrassed for our people. It is unthinkable to continue engaging in this same system of electoral politics over and over, and breed this kind of legislature for future generations.
If the law is where social order springs from, and if these are the lawmakers expected to enact them, then we have been doomed from the start.
Indeed we need a system change - not simply a change in representatives - in what is now a House of Death.

Niza Concepcion,
In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement,
Manila,
Philippines

 




To: His Excellency: King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud
From: Rieke Diah Pitaloka: Member of the Supervisory Indonesian Migrant Worker Supervisory Team

The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 6 March 2017
First published in the Jakarta Post Sunday 5 March 2017

Assalamualaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh

May Allah Almighty bestow all blessings to His Excellency, King Salman. Welcome
to the Indonesian Parliament Building.

First of all, please let me introduce myself. I am Rieke Diah Pitaloka, a member
of the Indonesian Parliament. I would like to thank you for your visit to
Indonesia, one of the largest Muslim-majority nations in the world. Therefore,
Saudi Arabia, a place where we (Muslims) perform the fifth of the five pillars
of Islam (the pilgrimage to Mecca), is always in our heart.

Beside the spiritual bonding we have shared through the ages, Indonesia has
historical ties with Saudi Arabia which were initiated by President Soekarno,
our first President and our Founding Father. For the sake of friendship between
our countries, Soekarno contributed his thoughts and ideas on the architectural
design of Masjidil Haram during its renovation. Also there is another story of
‘Soekarno’s tree’ that makes Arafah green till now.

I have heard that His Excellency has come to our country with a group of 1500
people and plans to invest trillions of rupiah in Indonesia. We are glad and
proud of your generous investment.

His Excellency, through this open letter please let me express my thanks and
gratitude for job opportunities given to the Indonesian people in Saudi Arabia.
There are plenty of things that we need to work on this country, however, on the
other side, I hope in the future the two countries can fight for an equitable
legal system for migrant workers. I believe Islam teaches us to fight for
humanity and justice. I believe, His Excellency, King Salman, is wise and fair
and has the same value in promoting Islam as “Rahmatan lil’ alamin”.

His Excellency, through this open letter please let me introduce you to a
special lady connected to both of our countries. Her name is Rusmini Wati Binti
Nakrim. The 31 year old Rusmini is originally from Indramayu, 209 km from
Jakarta, Indonesia. Her parents are agricultural laborers with an unstable
income. Her husband is a porter at a rice mill with very low wages. Rusmini
strives to relieve her families’ poverty and hardship by working in Saudi Arabia
as a housekeeper. She departed in 2009 and was given a position by Aheel FBR
Recruitment di Ryadh-Khalid Bn Al-Waleed SI-P.O. Box 55551 (Phone. 2091028).

Rusmini worked for Abdul Aziz Muh Al Zanidi. For two years, the total amount of wages she got was 1.3 million rupiahs, which equals to SAR 365,71 (exchange rate: USR 1= 3.554,71 Rupiahs). This means that Rusmini’s monthly wage was 54.167 Rupiahs. That is equal to SAR 15,24. Of course her wage was incommensurate with the energy she put into her job. Finally, Rusmini wanted to return to Indonesia. However, the employer refused her request to return home and reported Rusmini (to the police) on the charge of casting a spell over her female employer.

Yet on July 12th, 2012, Rusmini was sentenced to death and was fined SAR 1
million. This is the equivalent of 3.5 billion rupiahs. Alhamdulillah, in
January 2015, upon the mercy of King Salman through the Shagra Court authority, Rusmini was pardoned from the death sentence. However, her death sentence was commuted to 8 years’ imprisonment. In addition, in September 2016, the SAR 1 million fine was also commuted to the equivalent of 4 years imprisonment.

This means that Rusmini does not have to pay SAR 1 million fine. Therefore, she has to undergo a total 12 (twelve) years of imprisonment and flogging. Rusmini has served half of her sentence and has been flogged 1200 times. Besides, she has to work as a housekeeper for the wardens everyday by turns.

His Excellency, perhaps I don’t understand about the legal system in Saudi
Arabia. However, Rusmini’s family and I are sure that Rusmini did not cast a
spell over her employer. As I have mentioned above, I am sure that King Salman
is a wise and fair leader. The abrogation of the death sentence by the King
indirectly implies that the accusations against Rusmini were not proven. On
behalf of Rusmini and her family, I would like to thank you for the abrogation
of the death sentence. However, twelve years of imprisonment and the flogging
for things she did not do is unjust. I believe, King Salman, in the depths of
his heart, would be unable to accept, nor tolerate the sufferings that this poor
woman from Indonesia, Rusmini, has had to endure. I am now begging for your
mercy to release Rusmini and to send her back to Indonesia. Hopefully, the
release of Rusmini would become a milestone in Indonesia-Saudi Arabia bilateral
relations. It has become a commitment for the two countries to build economic
cooperation based upon the recognition of humanity and justice, mutual respect
and solidarity which will promote people’s welfare in both countries and lead to
world peace and social justice.

Once again, welcome to Indonesia, happy holiday and enjoy the beauty of Bali!
Hopefuly the ‘Gods Island’ inspires His Excellency to acquit Rusmini from
further prosecution and send her back to her family in Indonesia. May Allah
bless the people of Indonesian and Saudi Arabian with His hidayah.

Wassalamualaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh

Rieke Diah Pitaloka,
A Member of the Supervisory Indonesian Migrant Worker Team,
The House of Representatives of The Republic of Indonesia,
Jakarta,
Indonesia

 

More political prisoners in Philippine jails
Under new president Duterte rule
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 4 March 2017
First pubished in the Phikippine Inquirer, Wednesday 1 March 2017


We must don a sense of proportion and look at things in a holistic perspective.
On top of hundreds of political prisoners that previous administrations had
“collected,” some 30 others - lesser known, powerless activists, farmers,
indigenous peoples, social workers and peace consultants - have already been
arrested brazenly in the dead of the night, for political reasons under the
Duterte administration.
They have been thrown into decrepit, squalid jails on false charges - though in fact for far nobler causes - without the glare of the floodlights or excessive publicity hype.
It is disgracefully hypocritical - for those who were in power before to
ironically now cry foul, or for those who kept their silence during those long
years - to inaccurately depict a transitory intra-elite sordid ordeal.
Yes, the treatment of Sen. Leila de Lima has all the appearances of political harassment, corruption of legal and judicial processes, selective punishment and abuse of transitory power.
But the stand for human rights cannot be selective, time-bound and self-serving, even as we must view it holistically.
And while everybody was distracted, where art thou heartless, big-time drug
lords and coddlers who ply the trade all the way to the bank?
It is thus unfair to selectively obscure hundreds of faceless names long
persecuted even during the previous watch of those who did not protest or
condemn, nay, looked the other way from or justified the torture, disappearance,
arrest and jailing of consistent and selfless political dissenters and principled political prisoners.
When things have calmed down, and it’s “business as usual” for political
accommodations, horse-trading and legal wranglings, and after all the charivari,
finger-pointing and self-righteous posturing have died down, the fundamental
problems of our society - the cries of the poor and oppressed, and the need for
genuine reforms, including consistently upholding the rule of justice without
fear or favor - remain.

Edre U. Olalia, president,
Ephraim B. Cortez, secretary general,
National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers

 

 

Give peace a chance
Says the Philippines United Methodist Church
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 3 March 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 1 March 2017


A few days before President Duterte announced the termination of the peace negotiations between the Philippine government and National Democratic Front (NDF), a religious community gathered and prayed for unity and expressed its support for the pursuit of a just and lasting peace.
But after the New People’s Army announced it would lift a ceasefire it had
unilaterally declared, an incensed President ended the peace talks.
Charges and countercharges have been made by both parties as to the disconnect between commanders on the ground and their representatives in the peace talks.
Instead of immediately calling for an investigation, the President’s knee-jerk reflex
jolted him into terminating an ongoing and seemingly succeeding peace talks.
In so doing, he exposed his primary concern for the welfare of men in uniform over
the plight of the majority of the Filipino people who are suffering injustice
and penury.
Such concern may have influenced him into giving undue consideration to martial forces against peace. And peace negotiations collapsed for the umpteenth time.
The College of Bishops and the Philippines Central Conference Board of Church
and Society urge, nay, appeal to President Duterte to reconsider the decision,
change his mind about terminating the peace talks with the NDF, pave the way for
the resumption of discussions, return to the negotiating table, and pursue with
the NDF the next rounds of talks.
Mr. Duterte should not allow to go to waste the positive and substantial gains
made in the three rounds of discussions with the revolutionary movement since
the negotiations were resumed last year.
The termination of the peace talks will only resurrect the perils that an
all-out war has brought into our midst since it began, leaving tens of thousands
of combatants and civilians dead.
Human rights violations will only increase in number without resolving the roots of conflict.
People, especially the poor who are the real stakeholders in the talks, are
expecting that the next steps would tackle significant issues relating to socioeconomic reforms.
But most importantly, as long as the peace talks continue, the people will keep on finding hope in the prospects for peace.
The Philippine government must not lose sight of the goal.
It must keep on listening to the cry of the poor. Peace negotiations must continue. Give peace a chance.
“Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the sons of God.”
We are also making an appeal to the peace-wreckers.
You are involved in what is really happening in the countryside, which is directly affected by the obstacles you place to ruin peace.
With every pull of the trigger, you deprive children, women, indigenous peoples and other communities of the peace and justice they have been hungering and thirsting for so long.
Please desist from violence. Now.
Stop killing the poor.
You are not pursuing the interest of the poor or of the public, but the interest of the few ruling class.

Bishop Rodolfo Juan,
Bishop Ciriaco Francisco,
Bishop Pedro Torio,
Rev. Israel Painit,
Rev. Aniceto Villalon Jr.,
College of Bishops and the Philippines Central Conference Board of Church and Society
of the United Methodist Church

 



Thai officials in denial about
Sex tourism in Pattaya
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 2 March 2017
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 1 March 2017


Re: "No painting over 'sin city'", Bangkok Post February 25.
How can we take our officials seriously when they make such fools of themselves
by claiming that Pattaya thrives on nature tourism, not sex?
Some authorities even go so far as to assert there is no prostitution in Pattaya!
Officials taking this kind of defensive attitude do a disservice to the city and
the country, when blatant prostitution slaps every visitor to Pattaya directly
in the face, immediately upon entering the city or stepping outside their hotel.
If officials are serious about changing the image of Pattaya, they must take
action - not simply pretend the problems don't exist.
A real make-over of the city will take decades of concerted effort, not a denial
of reality.

Samanea Saman,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Philippines call on China to respect
Hague court ruling over South China Sea
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 1 March 2017
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 27 February 2017


Beijing warned Washington against challenging China’s sovereignty following reports that the United States was to conduct naval patrols in the disputed South China Sea.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said that the tension in the
South China Sea had stabilized due to hard work between China and the Southeast
Asian countries, and he urged the United States and foreign nations to respect
it.
“We urge the US not to take any actions that challenge China’s sovereignty
and security,”
he added.
How about respecting the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration?
Does China know what respect is?
After all, it still claims most of the strategic waters.
It has built, with audacity, on seven man-made islets in the contested Spratly chain, military grade airfields and antiaircraft and antimissile systems, regardless of the 2015 “word of honor” by which Chinese President Xi Jinping committed not to “militarize” the islands.
Then why is China, with all its power, too afraid that the United States is going to conduct naval patrols in the South China Sea?

Dana R. Del Rosario,
Manila,
Philippines