Wednesday, May 25, 2011

President Noynoy Aquino and the Philippines Arms Race against China over Spratly Islands

President Noynoy Aquino yesterday warned Chinese Defense Minister Liang Gianglie that continued intrusions into the dispute Spratley Islands could lead to an arms race.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer today quoted him in a news item saying:

“I said, ‘If there are incidents such as these, doesn’t it promote an arms race happening within the region? When there’s an arms race, doesn’t the potential for conflict also increase? Who benefits from such a development?’” Mr. Aquino said. 
“I told them, ‘We may not have the capabilities now but that might force us to increase our capabilities also,’” he said.

Hmmm...  Okay, just for the sake of discussion and supposing that our President is actually serious, let's see how the Chinese military stacks up against our military.

Here are a couple of statistics from
Total Population: China: 1,330,044,544 [2008]; Philippines: 96,061,680 [2008] 
Population Available: China 729,323,673 [2008]; Philippines: 46,724,739 [2008]
Fit for Military Service: China  609,273,077 [2008]; Philippines: 38,059,588 [2008]
Active Military Personnel: China 2,255,000 [2008]; Philippines: 113,000 [2008] 

Total Land-Based Weapons: China 31,300; Philippines, 411 
Tanks: China: China 8,200 [2004]; Philippines, ?
Armored Personnel Carriers: China 5,000 [2004]; Philippines, ? 
Towed Artillery: China 14,000 [2004]; Philippines, 242 [2001] 
Self-Propelled Guns: China 1,700 [2004]; Philippines, ?
Multiple Rocket Launch Systems: China 2,400 [2004]; Philippines, ? 
Mortars: China 16,000 [2001]; Philippines, ?
Anti-Tank Guided Weapons: China 6,500 [2004]; Philippines, ? 
Anti-Aircraft Weapons: China 7,700 [2004]; Philippines,

Total Aircraft: China 1,900 [2004]; Philippines 257 [2003] 
Helicopters: China 491 [2004]; Philippines 126 [2003] 
Serviceable Airports: China 467 [2007]; Philippines 255 [2007]

Total Navy Ships: China 760; Philippines 36 
Merchant Marine Strength: China 1,822 [2008]; Philippines,  391 [2008] 
Major Ports and Harbors: China 8; Philippines, 6 
Aircraft Carriers: China 1 [2010]; Philippines, 0 
Destroyers: China 21 [2004]; Philippines, 0 
Submarines: China 68 [2004]; Philippines, 0 
Frigates: China 42 [2004]; Philippines 1 [2008] 
Patrol & Coastal Craft: China 368 [2004]; Philippines 24 [2008] 
Mine Warfare Craft: China 39 [2004]; Philippines 0 
Amphibious Craft: China 121 [2004]; Philippines, 12 [2008]
I can't even begin to describe just how wrong it is for President Aquino to openly say such a thing.

When I heard he had said something that seemed like he was threatening China with war, it was as if I had been thrown back to the time when President Joseph Estrada ordered a naval blockade in the Spratley Islands.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Convicted killer Leviste walks out of prison: The uncertainty of getting caught and punished

Last week, convicted killer and former Batangas Gov. Jose Antonio Leviste was able to leave prison for a supposed medical checkup without official authorization.

Far above the noise of people screaming injustice, there were those who took a look at the incident and wondered about whether criminals in the country can count on getting caught and punished for their crime.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

It's May 21... If you're reading this, it's supposed to be "The End of the World"

Scene from "Constantine"

Okay, to be exact about it, what my friends have been telling me is that May 21 is supposed to be the day when about a 140,000 people are snatched up into Heaven in what is called "The Rapture."

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Do we need less people or more economic growth?

Or why the RH Bill brouhaha has distracted us from the real issue of economic reform

Having been somewhat involved in politics for the last decade, I've noticed that the population estimates of our country grows by about 10 million every election year.  In 2010, our population was estimated at 90 million and going by my figuring, we'll have about 100 million people in 2013 and about 110 million in 2016.

Supposing that we do pass the RH Bill by this year, it will take another year for the new law to be implemented and with blind figuring, I estimate that it will take about 5 years to 10 years before the new law achieves any of its objectives in terms of population growth and better reproductive health.  And there are no guarantees it will, really, not if you are relying on leading horses to water -- the reality is that you'll still have to count on people using the services provided by the new law.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Want more jobs for our nurses? Junk the protectionist provisions in the 1987 Constitution

Over the past few days I've been looking at the protectionist provisions of the 1987 Philippine Constitution and this morning, I read the editorial of the Philippine Daily Inquirer where Health Secretary Dr. Enrique Ona says that he wouldn't allow his own daughter to take up nursing.

Now, for some time now, the glut of nursing professionals has been popping in and out of the headlines.  So far, the current administration hasn't done much to get much of the newly graduated nurses hired or get colleges and universities to accept less students for its nursing courses.

One thing that sort of clicked inside my head was the much hyped government program to promote "medical tourism".

With the Philippines being quite well known for the good quality of its professional health services and the portability of health benefits of some countries, it would be an easy sell or so I thought.

Then I realized something.

Not many physicians in the US, Japan, and other countries would rather than NOT send their patients here for treatment.
Apart from professional competition and professional concern, I guess, Physicians in other counties would be more confident in sending their patients here for treatment if they could be reasonably assured that their patients would be treated well.

Of course, they could go through their professional networks and contact a doctor here in the Philippines who could assure them on a person-to-person basis.  But how many of them have that network? Not many.

The bigger channel or volume of patients would probably come from health care organizations (hospitals, clinics, and even some health maintenance organizations).

Of course, foreign medical institutions can and probably have ties with Philippine medical institutions here, but still, wouldn't it be much easier for them to send their patients here if they had actually a branch here that is completely owned by them?

Certainly, these medical institutions wouldn't be able to afford to send over to the Philippines all the medical professionals they'll need to run a hospital or clinic and moreover, foreign doctors are certainly not allowed to practice their professions here.  Thing is, they'll have to hire our doctors as well as nurses and medical technology professionals.

If foreign ownership of hospitals are allowed, it certainly can spur a local demand for all our doctors and medical professionals.  It will certainly reduce the glut.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Constitutional Reform and President Aquino's declining approval ratings

The idea of amending or revising the 1987 Philippine Constitution has been around for quite some time.  In a number of times that it has been discussed broadly, the discussions focused on the personalities who were espousing the proposal as well as their supposed motives.

In at least two cases where Constitutional Revisions or Amendments were discussed widely, the one's identified as being the backers of the proposal were elected Presidents and fears were floated that it could lead to a succession of term extensions -- something that is not allowed in the present Constitution.

The single six year term provision is widely regarded as a reaction to and a means to prevent another 20 year dictatorship.  The thing is the framers of the Constitution probably think beyond the exigencies of the moment and perhaps responded more to what they perceived to be "the call of the times".

What most people don't realize and probably won't believe is that the circumstances that led to the Marcos dictatorship were very peculiar and perhaps would be nearly impossible to achieve again.  Marcos' rise to power is as much as a fluke as the so-called revolution that ousted him.

Anyway, given that the county's President has a single six year term, the country is basically locked in for six years and with hardly any way to compel or condition the performance of the President.

Right now, there is an ongoing brouhaha over President Aquino's approval ratings slide and while there is a tililing rampage over it, it won't really affect anything since Aquino doesn't have to worry about being re-elected anyway.  His approval ratings can go in the negative, for all we care (like his predecessor's), but it doesn't matter because he doesn't need an approval rating to maintain power.

Impeaching a badly performing or non-performing President, as the past few years of Gloria Arroyo's term proved several times, is nearly next to impossible.

Perhaps, in reaction to this limitation of the present Constitution and its provision on the President's term, there is some reason to revive discussions on Constitutional reform to either shift to a Parliamentary form of government or amend it so as to allow re-election for the President.

A shift to a Parliamentary form of government would allow for a change of leadership based on necessity rather than a fixed term.  Parliaments can change Prime Ministers just by a mere vote of its members. (Of course, you'd have to assume that those deciding on whether such a change in leadership is necessary are principled people.)

Amending the constitution to shorten the term of the President to, say, 4 years and then allowing re-election for a second term of another four years would probably compel Presidents to respond to approval ratings since these ratings would indicate their ability to seek another term.

Friday, May 06, 2011

His Excellency, Juan Tamad

Over the past few days, much has been said about President Benigno "Noynoy" S. Aquino III's work habits largely due to at least two recent columns.

One column, written by former Senator Ernesto Maceda partly attributed the President's declining approval ratings to his work habits.
We submit that a big reason for peoples’ dissatisfaction with President Aquino is that he is not working hard enough to solve the country’s problems. Coupled with his stubbornness in refusing to reduce or suspend the VAT on oil products. 
The President’s laid-back working style is demonstrated by his short working hours, and his irregular and infrequent Cabinet meetings. In addition, only one LEDAC meeting has been held so far.
Apparently piqued, President Noynoy defended himself from the criticism that he was hardly working.  In an article published by the Philippine Daily Inquirer today, he was quoted as saying:
"For this information, this is my third engagement for the day," Mr. Aquino said of his noontime appearance at the Ecop conference. "I started out rising at 5:30 in the morning not because I have to plant some seeds, but because I have to board a plane by 6:30 to go to the wakes of two of our party mates -- one in Cebu, one in Samar."
Indeed, Mr. Aquino had a full schedule yesterday, with two more appointments after the Ecop conference, -- a staff meeting at 2:30 p.m. and a courtesy call by the Singapore Technologies Telemedia and ABS-CBN and Skycable at teh Yellow Room in Malacanang.


Having served as part of the Presidential Broadcast Staff (RTVM) during the last three years of President Fidel V. Ramos' term,  I can perhaps provide a small personal account of how hard working the President was -- and it is a well known story.

Ramos wakes up at around 3:00 AM or 4:00 AM -- no matter if he slept past 12:00 midnight.  When he wakes up, he expects to his news clippings from PBS-RTVM to be hand delivered to his quarters (or wherever he is).  He reads through them, jots down instructions to various department heads.  He goes through whatever paper work he has to go through and then goes on to his first schedule which usually is at around 7:00 AM or 8:00 AM.

Almost every hour of his day is filled with either an engagement or a meeting.  His day ends usually ends late, at around 9 or 10 in the evening.

Even when he is on the road or en route from one engagement to the next, he still manages to squeeze in work using a portable office installed in his car.

His favorite word was or still is "mutli-tasking" and what this roughly translates to is accomplishing as many objectives as possible within the same working period.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, despite what can be said about her, also kept to a tight and packed schedule.

In any case, the amount of working hours one racks up is less important than what one actually achieves.

The President is not expected to do all the work himself and what he is expected to do, really, is lead his people towards achieving the stated objectives of his Presidency.

I cannot claim to know what a President does, but I can only imagine that it would involve at least having a plan of some sort, communicating that plan to his staff and making sure the plan gets implemented, getting as many sectors and organizations to support the implementation of his plan, and such.

I guess, a year in office may be a bit too early to judge whether President Noynoy's working style actually works or will actually achieve anything.

This brings me back to the time when I first heard that President Noynoy had won the Presidential race and said, "Who knows?"

In the meantime, here are other news items that ought to be considered:

Aquino hit over corruption score hike

Our neighbors have been busy signing up new foreign investments

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Master Debating

When I was taking a seaman's safety training course, an instructor noted that Filipino crew members who fail to make a career at sea are some times referred to as 'lawyers' in a disparaging sense.

On a tight ship, he said, there is hardly any room given for crew members to debate orders given to them. If they do choose to debate orders given to them by their superior and decide to countermand them, the usual recourse for the superior is to ask the crew member to leave the ship.

There is no democracy on a ship, he said, and orders emanating from the Captain down to the lowest crew member must be carried out.

The thing is, some Filipinos (and the instructor singled out Manilenyos or people from Manila), are those who often turn out to be 'lawyers'. Manilenyos, unlike their brethren in Ilokos, Visayas, and Mindanao, are quite argumentative and there are many cases when they argue based on either lack of information or wrong information.

Of course, being a Manilenyo myself, I argued that he was completely wrong about his stereo-typing.

In any case, I love hearing and reading good arguments for or against any position I encounter. Especially when I find these arguments in a formal debate.

Now, in the world of Social Media, debates do occur and while some actually become interesting to the point that those reading the threads in the online discussion become better informed.

However, there are cases where debates on very worthy topics turn into flame-wars and some times people come away from these "battles" diminished in many ways.

The problem, some times, is that these "debates" are some times started for no reason other than to show one's appraisal of his or her intellectual prowess and verbosity.

The more useful and noble intent, of course, would be to arrive upon a common view or decision on the subject of the debate.

Being an argumentative lot, I think it would benefit a lot of Filipinos if they learned about how to debate or at least, engage in a critical discussion.

Anyway, here are a couple of links leads to articles on Debates: -- Which presents an aggregated definition of the word debate and provides references to source documents on the web. -- Catalogs various debating formats. -- Contains the "Eight Rules for Logical and Respectful Discussion" -- Which is a pretty good summary of desired debate qualities and some of the pitfalls that plague debates.

And just in case you're too damned lazy to actually click the link, here is an excerpt from one of the articles you'll find above:

Eight Principles for Logical and Respectful Discussion

The key to meaningful debate is to respect others as you wish to be respected. You respect others by acting civilly and arguing reasonably. You cause others to respect you by maintaining civility, decorum and politeness in presenting your arguments. Here are eight principles that allow you to do both:

PRINCIPLE ONE: Understand the `classical' view of tolerance.

The classical view of tolerance teaches that while we may strongly disagree with opposing opinions, we must treat the person behind those opinions with respect.
DO disagree, even strongly, with other people, and say so!
DO demolish opposing arguments and viewpoints.
DO NOT attempt to demolish opposing "people."

PRINCIPLE TWO: "No `ad hominem' attacks, you moron!"

Nothing turns a debate into a brawl more quickly than attacking those making the arguments rather than refuting the arguments themselves. Remember that the beliefs, character, circumstances, or political ideology of the person has nothing to do with the validity of the position they hold.
DO NOT stoop to name-calling (moron, idiot, etc.)
DO NOT imply negative monikers onto people simply because they disagree.

PRINCIPLE THREE: Shun Obscenity & Prohibit Profanity

The use of inappropriate language and shocking statements is a sure sign that the author lacks the ability to argue their position in a calm and reasonable manner. Respectable debate does not allow this disdain for others.
DO NOT be upset when inappropriate language results in post deletion.
DO NOT be upset when multiple offences result in a ban.

PRINCIPLE FOUR: He who asserts must prove.

This is one of the most critical aspects of proper debate and requires that you carefully guard yourself from making groundless statements. Logic or evidence must support every proposition you make.

Logic includes everything from complex arguments to cause-and-effect. Evidence can take the form of examples, statistics, and quotations from authorities in the field. Supported arguments stand until refuted. Unsupported arguments do not deserve a response and might as well not exist.
DO confirm other people's points without provided additional support.
DO NOT make additional arguments or publicize your disagreement with someone else's position without providing adequate support.

PRINCIPLE FIVE: Respond to the argument, not to the spelling.

There is no surer sign of inadequacy on the part of a debater than when he or she takes issue with some small "error" on the part of their opponent while ignoring the main points their adversary has made.

If you are unable to refute your opponent's position, do not insult his or her spelling, grammar, or insignificant deviations from fact. Your opponent is most likely correct and their small error has nothing to do with the overall truth of the proposition they defend. Do not make a fool of yourself by being a sore loser.
DO point out significant errors that effect the validity of a claim.
DO NOT point out errors to embarrass your opponent.

PRINCIPLE SIX: Debating When Less Is More.

A common tactic adopted by inexperienced debaters is to ask a long series of questions that place an enormous burden on their opposition, without actually making any particular point. Such an approach is unfair to your opponent and is not argumentation. No one can respond to a "question avalanche" in the confines of a post and the tactic will create animosity.

The same is true of those who present far too many arguments at one time in hopes of "burying" their opponent under supposed "empirical" weight. Both of these abuses inhibit true debate.

Respect yourself and your opponents at all times by using moderation in your argumentation and questioning.
DO ask pertinent and probing questions about your opponent's position.
DO make powerful and relevant arguments against your opponent's position.
DO NOT ask loaded questions.
DO NOT expect answers for loaded questions.
DO NOT write 5 page tomes.
DO NOT expect answers to your 5 page tome.

PRINCIPLE SEVEN: Do your own research.

Remember that your opponents are busy people who are taking time out of their day to discuss relevant issues with you. Do not place an excessive burden on them by requiring them to go "off-site" to read lengthy articles or study ancient philosophers, scientists, etc. If Aristotle makes "your" point then "you" should be able to make the argument. Your opponent certainly will not (and should not) have to make it for you.
DO provide links to outside sources for your opponent's consideration.
DO support your arguments with outside resources. Summarize what the resource says. Otherwise, your opponents will consider your argument unsupported.
DO NOT expect your opponent to read outside sources unless you can make them want to.

PRINCIPLE EIGHT: The fallacy of the majority.

When the majority of participants in a discussion hold your position, it is common to start acting as if the last seven principles no longer apply. You feel you can destroy the dissenter, along with his or her position, since you have so many like-minded peers.

However, the majority has no more right to silence the opinion of a minority through disrespectful, improper argument than the minority would has to engage in the same tactics.

Victory by means of respectful, logical argument is true victory. Victory by any other means is no victory at all.
DO destroy dissenting opinions using respectful, logical argument.
DO NOT silence dissenting opinions by “swarming” or "piranha attacks."

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Restorante La Capre

Guess what happened?

I decided to knock off work early today and head off to treat myself to few rounds of beer at what is now my favorite watering hole, "Restorante La Capre".

It is a resto-bar tucked away in one of the quieter sections of the Morato area (well, it's two or three blocks north of T. Morato) on the corner of Scout Santiago and Scout Limbaga.

As soon as I sat down and ordered my first San Mig Light of the day, the waiter that was taking my order told me that I was getting free pulutan -- on the house.


Simply because this little restaurant owned and operated by Nandy Ilagan had just celebrated it's first anniversary on April 29.

And from various accounts from the regulars here, it was a blast! (Too bad I wasn't there.)

Anyway, Restorante La Capre's strong suit is its delectable and delicious array of standard as well as exotic beer-mates or pulutan.

Restaurante La Capre is here to give you a different kind of dining experience.
We serve different kinds of exotic dishes such as Sizzling Asian Crocodile, Tapang Usa, Baboy Damo,
Sizzling Kabayo, and Adobong Duck.

Get a load of it's exotic dishes:

I usually order Pizza Kebab, but this afternoon, I decided on having something gamey... So I ordered Kalderetang Duck.

This spicy bit of heaven on earth is -- I swear -- the best rendition of Kaldereta anything! And I've tried almost every imaginable kaldereta in the country.

And best of all, San Mig Light is just P28.00 and San Mig Pale Pilsen is P25.00

Tara na!

You can win the debate, but lose d-vote...

One thing that I noticed during the 2010 elections was the apparent popularity of Presidential Debates and the rather dismal, disconcerting response of the average Filipino voter to the product of these debates.

Debates, at least in the Bizarro World that is the Philippines, don't amount to a Presidential candidate winning in the elections.

The thing is, I think one or two Presidential candidates did win the debate but in the end failed to gather votes.

Debates, I think, would win votes in a country that places a higher value on reason and logic than emotionally driven decisions.

I think, on one hand, most Filipinos have a wrong notion of what a real debate is and what a debate's function is in a democracy.

Having been conditioned by the Philippine Boob Tube, most people's idea of a debate is basically two or more people engaged in a barahan match.  What happens, most of the times, is just a little more than a verbal tussle and a superficial attempt at a resolution.

In any case, a debate is in one way, a means of testing out an idea or a bunch of ideas.

One valuable thing that people can take away from a debate is the resolution and perhaps, if done with an intent of building a superior position from the combination or synthesis of two or more contrasting ideas, a consensus among all those involved in the debate could be reached.

Now, I'm of the belief that no idea is so superior that it will not have a flaw or limitation to it and it is in the admission of those flaws or limitations that one can create a space for modifying a position.

For me, I think, debates are worthless if they do not produce a basis for implementable action and in a way, compel people to act.

Now, the thing is, you can actually win a debate but lose supporters and allies.  Sometimes a debate is declared for no other reason than to come up with an ostentatious display of "intellectual brilliance".

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