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


Why would anyone
Invest in a virtual asset
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday November 3, 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday November 28, 2021

Re: "Embrace adventure with care", in Bangkok Post, Business, November 22, 2021
In reading about the brave new world of the digital universe, I really struggle to understand the concepts behind the buying and selling of virtual assets.
I conclude that buyers are essentially just purchasing tickets to play games, akin to buying the online versions of Boardwalk or Park Place in a virtual game of Monopoly.
Why would anyone pay good money for an imaginary asset?
Wake up people; you're not buying anything real.
Those who buy virtual land plots in Ekamai or elsewhere will never recover their "investment" unless they can find another sucker foolish enough to buy something of no intrinsic value.
It is highly likely that, sooner rather than later, the population of suckers willing to buy worthless "assets" will dry up and most investors will be left holding titles of no greater value than titles to the Brooklyn Bridge or swamp land in Florida.

Samanea Saman,
Bangkok,
Thailand


 

Plight of Solomon Islanders worsens
Under PM Manasseh Sogavare
The Southeast Asian Times Thursday November 2, 2021

We read in the article ' Protests Rocks Solomon Islands: Here's What's Behind the Unrest' by The New York Time's Australia bureau reporter Yan Zhuang (Nov 26) that Malaita's premier Daniel Suidani, a vocal critic of the Solomon Islands prime minister, said " Over the last 20 years Manasseh Sogavare has been in power, the plight of Solomon Islanders has worsened whilst at the same time foreigners have reaped the best of the country's resources. People are not blind to this and do not want to be cheated anymore".
I wonder if that kind of perception of external influence in the Solomons has any bearing on other Pacific island countries as well?

Rajend Naidu
Sydney,
Australia



Raymond Bonner's book "Waltzing with a Dictator"
An insight into Philippine presidency of Ferdinand Marcos
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday November 1, 2021

In her most illuminating letter ' Ferdinand Bongbong Romualdez Marcos Jr. Fails to file income tax returns' in The Southeast Asian Times 29 November, Marua Margarita Aytona says " Marcos Jr. having enjoyed to the hilt the privileges of being the president's son, imagine what he might be capable of being and doing when he becomes president himself?".
I think there is very little to imagine.
The privileged son of a rogue president - which is what President Ferdinand Marcos was - is now himself aspiring to become president for one reason : to follow in his father's crooked footsteps.
See Raymond Bonner's book Waltzing with a Dictator for an insight into Ferdinand Marcos' corrupt, crooked, dictatorial two decade reign in power. Marcos Jr. knows only too well what plunder is possible as the holder of the most powerful office in the country. He has learned from a master Machiavellian politician, his father.
If the people of the Phillipines have not learned the hard lessons from one Marcos in power then they have only themselves to blame.
I only hope thinking Filipinos will pay heed to what someone like Marua Margarita Aytona says for the sake of good governance in the Philippines.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia



Ban on Amnesty International in Thailand
Guarantees votes for opposition candidates
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday November 30, 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday November 28, 2021

Re: "Ex-red shirt boss seeks Amnesty ban", in Bangkok Post, November
23, 2021.
Regarding Seksakol Atthawong, an assistant minister at the Prime Minister's Office, who is campaigning to expel Amnesty International from Thailand ... is he serious?
Does he realise that worldwide Amnesty International has over 10,000,000 members, and over 150,000 members just in Germany?
Does he have any idea of what Amnesty International's objectives are, or what they have accomplished?
Should he succeed in his endeavour I can guarantee that in the next national election the opposition candidates will get millions more votes.

Johnny Waters,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 

Ferdinand Bongbong Romualdez Marcos Jr.
Fails to file income tax returns
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday November 29, 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday November 22, 2021

The disqualification cases against Bongbong Marcos Jr. all boil down to his failure to file income tax returns for the years 1982 to 1985 and, naturally, failure to pay the taxes for those years when his father still ruled the country under martial law. What puzzles many is why he never bothered to do so given their family’s enormous wealth. Surely, the taxes supposedly due were just a drop in the bucket.
It’s pretty obvious, though. Hubris. Marcos Jr. must have really thought he and his family were so above the law that no one could tell them what to do and they could get away with any violation of the law.
At that time, he was not just a spoiled child (brat) who might be excused for lack of discernment. He was already an adult holding public office.
Marcos Jr. having enjoyed to the hilt the privilege of being the president’s son, imagine what he might be capable of being and doing when he becomes president himself!
And come to think of it, is it possible that his sister, now senator Imee Marcos, did not file any tax returns or pay any taxes during all those years, too?
Hubris runs in the entire family, right?

Marua Margarita Aytona,
Manila,
Philippines




Call for Bougainville to wake up
To the Pacific Labour Scheme
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday November 28, 2021
First published in the National, 25 November 25, 2021

While many provinces and districts in the country are benefiting from the Pacific Labour Scheme to work in Australia and New Zealand, Bougainville is missing out in a big way.
Recently, Milne Bay’s Esa’ala sent 100 young men and women to pick fruits in Australia under the scheme.
This is a reflection of their hard working local member.
When will leaders in Bougainville wake up to create something better for young Bougainvilleans?
Bougainville’s internal revenue stands as one of the lowest in the country, yet our leaders are always good in talking and talking with nothing to show for.
According to the National Research Institute report on Bougainville’s income revenue, one of the recommendations was for Bougainville to create opportunities to send its young unemployed youths to join the scheme.
Who is going to implement this recommendation?
Why is the Bougainville Autonomous Government sleeping too much?
Why is the regional member for Bougainville sleeping too much?
When will Bougainville leaders start creating something better for Bougainvilleans to earn money to boost Bougainville’s revenue rather than depending on monies from the National Government?

Mason Jason,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea




Covid-19 not the main problem
In the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday November 27, 2021

The policymakers’ decision to cut the projected budget of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) will impede progress efforts in the rural areas, particularly in the communist terrorist infiltrated areas.
We already saw the effect of the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program.
We knew where the main roots of the insurgency came from.
We learned how to counter it, but still, those selfish lawmakers focused only on the COVID cases.
The COVID-19 in the Philippines started 2 years ago, but the insurgency which is hampering our country’s progress has been on-going for almost 5 decades.
From my point of view, the administration has already done its part.
Making health protocol guidelines, giving relief goods and assistance, and providing a vaccine for every Filipino.
The question is, did they consider this the main problem in this country?
How about those people who suffered from atrocities, extortion, harassment, and killings by the communist terrorist group? They are also our countrymen living in the far-flung areas who need help, attention, and support from the government to have a peaceful community. Don’t they deserve some assistance?
Let us be just and distribute the benefits and advancement of government projects to our fellow citizens.
They were the ones who had endured the most and required the greatest assistance.
They hope that legislators will put their political interests aside and focus on the Filipino people who have suffered for so long.

Cybi Aariv R. Manto,
Butuan City,
Agusan Del Norte.
Philippines



Beware of false prophets
In Philippine elections
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 26 November, 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 24 November, 2021

Election season has begun. People have started going crazy, including so-called servants of God.
Guard against churches, ministers, pastors, and priests who barter their pulpits for “offerings” or donations from candidates who buy votes.
They are those who exploit their members, pray over “anointed ones” and raise their hands; those who solicit attention or are lured by political courting during elections.
They invite/allow candidates or politicians to their “prayer meetings” and sell their souls to the devil in exchange for political favors and pieces of silver.
Don’t believe their “hints” or endorsements.
They are wolves in sheep’s clothing.
The church’s role is to guide the flock toward being filled with the Holy Spirit and having the mind of God in electing the right leaders for the nation.
However, the church getting embroiled in politics or endorsing candidates is evil, because it always is apt to endorse not the will of God, but the parochial agenda of the politicizing church and personal interests of its false leaders - to the nation’s doom.
What does mobilizing “millions” of their cultic followers exactly mean to these wolves except to dictate upon the blind and muster votes to build political clout in the guise of religion or a morality movement?
Leave them alone and so be healed and truly saved - through Jesus Christ not religion..
For much of human history, religion may have been a necessary evil, but why was it more evil than necessary?
Isn’t killing people in the name of God a pretty good definition of insanity?” - George Washington.
“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits…” - Matthew 7:15-16

Reni M. Valenuela,
Manila,
Philippines



China and Russia noticeable by their absence
At the COP26 Climate Summit in Glasgow.
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday November 25, 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday November 24, 2021

Re: "Stop this fake news", in Bangkok Post, PostBag, November 15, 2021.
"A Reader" chastises the Bangkok Post newspaper for saying that the Chinese and Russian governments did not send delegates to recent the COP26 Climate Summit meeting in Glasgow.
Russia and China were about the only two major countries whose leaders did not attend the summit. Mr Biden, Mr Johnson and other world leaders were there. So why was not Mr Xi or Mr Putin?
Considering this was basically the "meeting of the century", as important as any in our lives, it says a lot that the leaders of these two countries, who are at the top of the world polluting totem pole, did not attend the summit.
The headline might have been misleading, but the fact remains that the leaders of China and Russia should have attended the summit. Its just as well that both countries sent no delegates to the COP26 meetings, considering that almost every other major country, including Thailand, did.

Paul,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Unfitting for Philippines to ask China's permission
To enter territory that Philipines has sovereign rights to
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 24 November 2021

I am extremely dismayed over the news that Chinese vessels had once again blocked two Filipino registered boats that are destined to deliver supplies to our military personnel stationed in Ayungin Shoal.
These bullies really have no respect for international law.
It’s annoying how they accuse us of trespassing an area without having secured consent from their government.
Are they out of their mind?
It is indeed unfitting to be demanding any sort of permission to enter a territory that we have sovereign rights and jurisdiction to.
Nonetheless, it has given me little solace that the Department of Foreign Affairs, has at least conveyed the country’s condemnation of the incident to its counterpart in China.
Even if this type of protest is just always disregarded, still, it is the best thing to do and a manifest insistence of our rights towards something we are validly entitled to.

Nica Amorsolo
Rizal Technological University.
Manila,
Philippines




Coal sold as black gold
In US, China, Australia and India
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday November 23, 2021
First Published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday November 18, 2021

Re: "The rich world's climate hypocrisy," Bangkok Post, Opinion, November Wednesday 17, 2021.
Well, blaming rich countries for the past and the present emissions will not solve any problems.
Yes, every country, including the US, China, Australia, and India where coal is used and sold as "black gold" will not stop using it.
It is quite possible that in a few years, in some cities in these countries people will not be able to see the sun.
But who cares about the polluted sky as long as we have our space station and thousands of satellites.
In every major economy, powerful corporate interests are clearly intertwined with political leadership.
The rich countries, Asean, or Thailand are no different.
Thailand only pays lip service to the environmental crisis.
Everything related to environmental degradation is swept under the rug of "sustainable development".
Sadly, the real change in environmental policies will only come when we are face to face with death.
Unless governments around the world respond to environmental catastrophe the way they are responding to the Covid-19 pandemic, nothing much will change. Only urgent global action can avert this crisis, not green hypocrisy or dubious policies of sustainable development.
To many sceptics, the chants of "net-zero" target mean "do nothing".

Kulddep Nagi.
Bangkok,
Thailand

 


Catholic church welcomes budget cut to National Task Force
To End Local Communist Armed Conflict

The Southeast Asian Times, Monday November 22, 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 17 November 2021

The Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP) welcomes the decision of the Senate committee on finance to cut the 2022 budget of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac) from P28 billion to P4 billion, and to reallocate the excess funds to the COVID-19 response.
However, P4 billion is still a very substantial amount for an agency that, since its existence, has espoused a culture of hatred and violence instead of a culture of dialogue and peace.
The NTF-Elcac has received billions of pesos in the wake of President Duterte’s unilateral termination of peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) in 2017.
The government could have used these billions of pesos to address the basic needs of our people, especially in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This also raises the issue of transparency as even the Commission on Audit has admitted having trouble auditing the expenses.
Contrary to its name, which is to end local armed conflicts, the NTF-Elcac has become a hindrance to the promise of peace.
The NTF-Elcac is now the critical weapon in the government’s total war against what it calls terrorists.
This total war relies on the use of violent means. Consequently, it only increases violations in human rights and international humanitarian law.
We are witnesses to the results of the government’s total war strategy as seen in the numerous killings, threats, harassment, bombings, and restriction of movement of farming and indigenous communities in remote rural areas.
A recent case was the aerial bombing in the Bukidnon hinterlands.
The NTF-Elcac has also become notorious for its rampant Red-tagging.
It is responsible for vilifying even church organizations, church leaders, and members.
It is also responsible for the withdrawal of the publications of the NDFP from several state universities, among them the printed agreements related to the peace talks.
Based on our faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the PEPP believes that violence breeds injustice, which results in conflict.
This complicated conflict will not be solved by an all-out war, not even a counterinsurgency program with billions in budget, if the government does not address the roots that fan its flames.
Several personalities and groups have called for the task force’s abolition.
For us church leaders, the most viable option for a just and lasting peace is to forge a negotiated peace settlement coupled with meaningful social and economic reforms.
Principled peace negotiations also require much, much fewer funds and are less costly to life and limb, which would ultimately mean more funds for our people who are mired in hunger and poverty amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
We thus affirm that a peace process that addresses social injustices is the will of God, and we will not stop working for it, starting with the call to resume formal peace talks between the government and the NDFP.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:9)

Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform
Archbishop Emeritus Antonio J. Ledesma, SJ, cochair, PEPP/em>
Rt. Rev. Rex B. Reyes JR., cochair, PEPP
Bishop Reuel Norman O. Margiza, general secretary, National Council of Churches in the Philippines
Rev. Dr. Aldrin Penamora, director, justice, peace & reconciliation, PARC PCEC
Sr. Mary John D. Mananzan, OSB, OWGC-AMRSP-Women
BP Emetirus Deogracias S. Iñiquez Jr., DD, cochair, EBF




Call for Jesus Christ to be Head of State
In Papua New Guinea
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 21 November 2021
First published in the National, Thursday 18 November 2021

Papua New Guinea is the only country in the world where original King James Holy Bible is placed in heart of the legislative house of Parliament which confirms our identity as a Christian nation where God is our only source of life and all that we are blessed with.
With that being said, I strongly believe our country should make King Jesus, who is God, Christ and Holy Spirit, the head of state for the independent state of Papua New Guinea.
Because He is the Creator of Heaven and Earth and maker of angel and man.
Our Constitution was drafted based on the Bible and its principles and with the original King James Holy Bible in Parliament, to consolidate these godly acts, we must legally make King Jesus the head of state to fulfil the prophecies in the Bible that speaks about our country.
I am calling on all pastors, priests, laymen and Bible teachers to study the Scriptures and advise the Government on this spiritual development and well-being of our nation.
Make it happen for our spiritual benefit and good of our country.

Christopher W Taweg,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea



Shock to see due for redevelopment billboards
Installed around Manila's Arroceros Forest Park
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 2o November 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 18 November 2021

In May 2019, environmentalists heaved a sigh of relief after years of consistent threats of losing Manila’s last lung, the Arroceros Forest Park.
We were assured by the new city authorities that the forest will be preserved to help in the air quality of the city.
The Save Arroceros Movement, of which Pamanlahi is an active partner, has been zealously crusading for the park’s preservation.
Mayor Isko Moreno guaranteed not to touch the forest by signing Manila Ordinance No. 8607.
However, this July, we were stunned to see billboards installed around the forest announcing that it was due for “redevelopment.”
This move was made without due notice to the Save Arroceros Movement. Immediately, the Winner Foundation, the forest’s main steward and a partner of the City of Manila, sought an audience with the mayor’s office.
But it was for naught.
Today, it’s a shock to see that the forest has given way to a manicured theme park. In lieu of the felled trees, ornamental plants have been hurriedly planted to “landscape” what used to be a canopied forest, in time for the contractors’ deadline in the first week of December.

Norma G. Atienza,
Pamanlahi,
Manila,
Philippines




All things related to environmental degradation are swept
Under the rug of sustainable development in Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 19 November 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday 18 November 2021

Re: "The rich world's climate hypocrisy," Bangkok Post, Opinion, November 17, 2021
Well, blaming rich countries for the past and the present emissions will not solve any problems.
Yes, every country, including the US, China, Australia, and India where coal is used and sold as "black gold" will not stop using it.
It is quite possible that in a few years, in some cities in these countries people will not be able to see the sun.
But who cares about the polluted sky as long as we have our space station and thousands of satellites.
In every major economy, powerful corporate interests are clearly intertwined with political leadership.
The rich countries, Asean, or Thailand are no different.
Thailand only pays lip service to the environmental crisis.
Everything related to environmental degradation is swept under the rug of "sustainable development".
Sadly, the real change in environmental policies will only come when we are face to face with death.
Unless governments around the world respond to environmental catastrophe the way they are responding to the Covid-19 pandemic, nothing much will change. Only urgent global action can avert this crisis, not green hypocrisy or dubious policies of sustainable development.
To many sceptics, the chants of "net-zero" target mean "do nothing".

Kuldeep Nagi,
Bangkok,
Thailand



The claim that the Philippines Golden age
Occurred under the Marcos dictatorship is disputed
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 19 November 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 16 November 2021

Why do we keep saying “never again” to what the Marcoses have done to the Philippines and to the Filipino people?
As if the plunder has stopped, or that the corruption has ceased.
The plunder continues only the methodology and the maneuvers have changed. Plundered money buys sophistication.
It pays trolls.
It brokers Machiavellian alliances.
The right amount attracts the services of analysts, the military and the police, and behavioral scientists, including psychologists.
As a former lady president famously said: “Everyone has a price.”
The Marcoses have never admitted their guilt, notwithstanding convictions by several courts.
They have never apologized to their victims.
There has been no reparation for the wrong they have done. They have not returned the money they have stolen.
They continue to inflict harm on the country.
Isn’t enough enough?
The escape to Hawaii courtesy of the Reagan administration was only a comma, it did not put a period to the saga of evil that Ferdinand E. Marcos began when he succeeded in having his conviction for the murder of Julio Nalundasan overturned. His conviction for contempt, however, stayed.
Why are we wasting time and energy debating the “moral turpitude” of Bongbong Marcos?
What morals are we talking about?
A discussion on amorality might do some good, but a conversation on the morality of the Marcoses would serve no purpose.
They speak as if they were the country’s liberators even as their behavior betrays predatory habits.
What “golden age” are they talking about?
They lie through their teeth about their competence and accomplishments and urge the people to move on when, in fact, they constitute the main obstacle for the country to be able to move on.
What could moving on back to the Marcosian “golden age” mean?
To label the Marcos dictatorship as the country’s “golden age” is a brazen lie.
It’s sheer trollspeak and the height of revisionism.
We’re still paying for the debts of the late dictator, his widow and heirs, his cronies. And if plundered money would be allowed to determine the outcome of the coming elections, the next generation, and that after, would still be indebted.

Fr. Wilfredo Dulay,
Convener
Religious Discernment Group




Planet Earth will incur more environmental damage
While the deck chairs are being rearranged
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 18 November 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 16 November 2021

Re: "Nuclear power the answer", Bangkok Post, PostBag, 14 November 2021
At the risk of incurring the wrath of fellow environmentalists, I tend to agree with much of the unpalatable conclusion of "Climate Realist" that we must continue to invest prudently in nuclear power for a finite number of decades.
It's plain to see from the Glasgow climate conference that fossil fuel reduction targets are not going to be met by 2050, let alone 2030.
Renewables and other technological solutions are not sufficient to "break fossil fuels' back" in the short term.
Phasing out of subsidies and construction of coal-fired power plants are steps in the right direction, but politically-driven decision-making will inevitably impede progress in this regard.
The planet will incur even more damage while the "deck chairs" are being rearranged.
With all due respect to Angela Merkel, I think her knee-jerk decision after Fukushima to remove nuclear from Germany's energy mix was one of the few major policy mistakes of her distinguished tenure.
For all its flaws, nuclear power remains a necessary bridging option until irreversible momentum in favour of "green" energy is achieved within the next few decades and even more progress is made with hydrogen-based alternatives.

Another Realist,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Don't be surprised
If Philippines nomination to UN succeeds
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 17 November 2021

Stephen L. Monsanto’s vehement opposition to the nomination of President
Duterte’s spokesperson legal adviser Harry Rogue to the International
Law Commission is understandable ( Letter, The Southeast Asian Times
11/11).
Rogue’s track record in his own country according to Monsanto is appalling.
This is endorsed by the Confederation of Lawyers of Asia and the Pacific
( COLAP) who consider Rogue’s bid an unmitigated insult, “ disservice to all
the victims of human rights violations under the regime of President Duterte”.
Monsanto applauds COLAP for “ having the balls to call Rogue out publicly on his lack of personal integrity and shameless hypocrisy”.
I couldn’t agree more.
How can such a person - deemed by many Filipinos to be a “ Palace Pinocchio for his uncanny ability to twist the truth of almost everything “ aspire to be part of a prestigious UN affiliated body in Geneva?.
How indeed?
But let us not forget that it is not uncommon to find such types sitting pretty in such UN bodies.
I will be the least surprised if Rogue gets in despite the strong
opposition.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia



Call for nuclear power to avoid exceeding
1.5ºC rise in temperature before 2030
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 15 November 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday 14 November 2021

Re: "Reducing emissions not so easy," in Bangkok Post Opinion, November 10, 2021
Your readers might have guessed the author of this article, Bjorn Lomberg, was once listed as one of "The 10 most respected global warming sceptics".
His book, The Skeptical Environmentalist, was criticised by the Union of Concerned Scientists as being "seriously flawed and failing to meet basic standards of credible scientific analysis".
Like most climate crisis sceptics, Mr Lomberg first cites the obvious with which all can agree:
We haven't done enough and reducing emissions is not easy. His only solution: Ramp up research in new, cheaper low CO2 energy.
He seemingly ignores the fact that many renewable energy sources are already cost-competitive with fossil fuels, especially so if we factor in the price of carbon emissions, which we surely must do in the near future.
Unfortunately, because governments have failed to respond to the climate crisis in a timely manner, the global carbon emissions budget remaining before we breach the dangerous 1.5º Celsius temperature increase means that there must be a massive decommissioning of fossil fuel power stations before 2030.
Of the electricity generated globally today, over 63 percent comes from fossil fuels, with just over 10 percent coming from nuclear, 15.8 percent from hydro and the balance of some 10 percent from solar, wind and other renewables.
To avoid exceeding the world's carbon budget for a 1.5ºC temperature rise, we need to decommission a large portion of current base-load fossil fuel electricity production by 2030, while not building any new fossil fuel plants, and replace this firm capacity with power from low or zero carbon sources.
This simply cannot be achieved by solar and wind alone, leading us to the unpalatable conclusion that we must invest massively in nuclear power, as countries like France have already done.

Climate Realist,
Bangkok,
Thailand



State parties at COP26 Glasgow summit
Solicit climate change mitigation financing
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 15 November, 2021

President Joko Widodo’s claim at COP26 in Glasgow of success in the
reduction of forest and land fires, the plan to rehabilitate 600,000 hectares of mangrove forest by 2024 and the phasing out of coal fired power by 2040 for transition to renewal energy that was brought forward from 2056, was all “ empty talk” according to Greenpeace Indonesia forest campaign spokesperson M Iqbal Damanik ( ‘ The Southeast Asian Times 6 November).
Who should one believe?
I think I will go with the Greenpeace campaigner.
The environmentalist organisation has a better grasp of the ground realities in Indonesia from working with people at the grassroots level.
President Widodo’s claim strikes me as Indonesian State propaganda to
attract big time climate funding.
That is not an uncommon strategy employed successfully by other State
parties at the climate summit to solicit huge climate change mitigation
financing.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney
Australia



Average earth's temperature
Will start to increase by 1.5C in 2030
The Southeast Asian Times Sunday November 14, 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday November 11, 2021

Re: "Don't climate blame", in Bangkok Post, PostBag, November 9, 2021
Kuldeep Nagi in "Don't climate blame" insists that "the US and European countries have been polluting the environment for more than a century", but China and India have only done so for decades.
So he basically implies in his letter that it is only reasonable for the US and Europe to do more stop climate change, than it is for China, India or other South Asian countries.
Be that as it may, the fact remains that if all countries do not do more now to fight climate change, the average temperature of the earth will start increasing by 1.5C starting in 2030, and irreversibly to 2C after that.
If anything, it is the countries of the southern hemisphere who should be doing more, given that global warming affects them most, what with the constant typhoons and floods we are now seeing here. So it was disappointing to see that China and even Russia did not send their leaders to the COP26 Climate Summit in Glasgow last week. Even Prayut went!
Mr Nagi ends his letter by saying that the "US must lead by its actions, not empty rhetoric", when it comes to environmental policies.
The reality though, is that "all" countries must lead by actions, and not empty rhetoric, when it comes to stopping global warming.

Paul,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Investigation into Department of Health (DOH) expenditure
To be conducted by Philippines Office of the Ombudsman
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday November 13, 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday November 12, 2021

Jake Maderazo wrote: “Please, senators and congressmen, file those charges ASAP in the DOJ, the court, Ombudsman and jail those Pharmally officers and their government accomplices who will be proven guilty” in Philippine Inquirer Tuesday November 9, 2021.
He noted as the “best development” the announcement of Ombudsman Samuel Martires that his office is already “conducting its own investigation on Pharmally transactions. This is the better and quicker way of putting to jail the perpetrators, if any.”
Honestly, we are not sure what rock Maderazo has been under and is now crawling out of.
His faith in the Department of Justice, the Office of the Ombudsman, and the courts is simply astonishing.
Pharmally is just laughing at those charges because it has, not necessarily the best, but the most powerful defense lawyer in town: President Duterte, who can tell Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra to go jump in the lake and Ombudsman Martires to go fly a kite!
Like dreams brought to the doorstep of Mona Lisa, any charges will “just lie there, and die there.”
And the courts, yeah right 20 years to come up with a final judgment, and the billions of money stolen all gone.
Never mind the investigation being conducted in the House of Representatives by the committee on “good government and public accountability”
What a joke!, which is all “in aid of corruption.”
The people are actually rooting for the Senate blue ribbon committee to keep on pressing for answers regarding the plunder of pandemic funds by Mr. Duterte’s friends.
Like the previous Senate investigation into the venalities of then presidential candidate Jojo Binay in 2016 which lasted all the way to near election day, the ongoing probe into Mr. Duterte’s alleged complicity in Pharmally’s shenanigans must be kept in the minds of the voters for as long as necessary, before his underlings do their dirty work of burying all evidence.

Ramon Norman Torrefranca,
Manila,
Philippines

 

 

"While your hands are not helping in paddling
Do not drag the boat by putting your feet in the water"

The Southeast Asian Times, Friday November 12, 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday November 7, 2021

Re: "Consumer confidence growing amid recovery," Bangkok Post, Business, November 5, 2021.
The news report quoted the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce (UTCC) as saying that "its consumer confidence index rose to 43.9 in October, from 41.4 in September and 39.6 in August, hitting a five-month high, while business sentiment rose for the first time in seven months, boosted by a drop in new Covid-19 infections, the easing of the lockdown restrictions, and the country's reopening to fully vaccinated foreign tourists."
I welcome the report as good news indeed.
It indicates the government has been moving in the right direction. An ordinary citizen like me would do what we can to help support our country.
Yet the Bangkok Post editors seem to see the opposite, by again unreasonably condemning the situation by printing a cartoon on the opinion page the same day depicting a tiny "tourism industry" trying in vain to lift up the huge Thai economy which is being dragged by the much bigger Corona virus cell, with the economy nearly falling off a high cliff.
I would like to offer my advice by quoting a wise man's words well known in Thailand: "While your hands are not helping in paddling, do not drag the boat by putting your feet in the water".

Thanin Bumrungsap,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Lawyers of Asia and the Pacific oppose Philippines nomination
To United Nations International Law Commission
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 11 November 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 4 November 2021

The Confederation of Lawyers of Asia and the Pacific (COLAP) has opposed the nomination of President Duterte’s spokesperson legal adviser Harry Roque to the International Law Commission (ILC), an adjunct to the United Nations whose function is to “initiate studies and make recommendations for the purpose of encouraging the progressive development of international law and its clarification.”
The multinational lawyers’ group considers Roque’s bid an unmitigated insult,“disservice to all the victims of human rights violations under the regime of President Duterte” (“Asia-Pacific lawyers’ group opposes nomination of Roque to UN commission,” Inquirer.net, October 31, 2021.
Roque, with his wife in tow, has been reported to be in New York for some time now to boost his chances for election to that 34-member commission this November.
He dreams of being among the eight lucky lawyers from the Asia-Pacific region to join the International Law Commission (ILC), for five years at Geneva, Switzerland, and ensconced among other legal luminaries from all over the globe in January 2023.
That trip is said to be “official business,” and so all expenses appurtenant to that “junket” are courtesy of Filipino taxpayers.
Why does Roque need to spend precious dollars to “campaign”?
Does he think the election by the United Nations General Assembly ay puedeng daanin sa pambobola tulad dito sa Pilipinas?
In his own country, the highest office he could ever hope to get “elected” to was as a “party list” representative, a merciful mechanism designed for the benefit of those who are generally deemed “unelectable.”
In the minds of many Filipinos, Roque has long earned the epithet “Palace Pinocchio” for his uncanny ability to twist the truth of almost everything that comes between his ears.
Consider the time he was bird-dogging China’s “creeping invasion” of swaths of West Philippine Sea (WPS) territories over which international law grants exclusive economic rights to the Philippines, which led him then to excoriate China as a “rogue state.”
But just when everyone thought his patriotism was beyond question, like the quintessential chameleon, he changed his color and is now virtually moonlighting as China’s mouthpiece, justifying its incursions into the West Philippine Sea as nothing but gestures of neighborly concern and friendliness.
It wouldn’t be a surprise if his colleagues in the International Law Commission (ILC) (should he get elected, God forbid) are laughing at the Philippines for having offered one who talks out of both sides of his mouth as its best candidate.
But more egregiously, while the Rome Statute that created the International Criminal Court (ILC) explicitly holds an offending head of state accountable despite the latter’s government’s “withdrawal” from that covenant if the offenses complained of occurred prior to such withdrawal, a view affirmed by the Philippine Supreme Court itself (G.R. No. 238875, March 16, 2021)
Roque went rogue with his own theatrical “dissent” from that unanimous decision. President Duterte should have fired him already for his incompetence and ignorance of international law, and for the embarrassing advice he was giving his boss all along.
How Roque got so drunk with his delusions and ambition for membership in a very prestigious United Nations body given his dubious claim to being an “international law expert” dishing out wishy-washy opinions, and the flippancy with which he regards the basic tenets of international law when they don’t suit his own selfish agenda, is beyond us. Kudos to the Confederation of Lawyers of Asia and the Pacific (COLAP) for having the balls to call Roque out publicly on his lack of personal integrity and shameless hypocrisy.

Stephen L. Monsanto,
Manila,
Philippines



Extravagance and self -aggrandisement are traits
Associated with leaders in poor developing countries
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday November 10, 2021

The Southeast Asian Times headline news report Vietnam’s Public Security Minister eats a steak at $1000 a bite at a London restaurant ‘( November 8), comes as no big surprise.
Extravagance and self-aggrandisement are traits frequently associated with the leaders in poor developing countries even as their own people struggle on a daily basis to make ends meet.
Thus it is hardly surprising to hear Vietnamese Pham Viet Duc say “ Vietnamese are experiencing extreme hardship due to COVID-19, but officials are enjoying themselves like world-class celebrities “.
And, Vietnamese Tommy Lee summed it up quite succinctly by pointing out such practices by officials is “ not unusual” .
According to him “ they’ve always spent their money this way”.
It’s more likely their money is actually public money or even corruption money.
It is pertinent that human rights activist Hoang Dung, who posted the Minister of Public Security of Vietnam dinning on steak coated with edible 24 carat gold on his face book, questioned “ the claim that Vietnamese officials were entitled to a spending allowance while on a business trip”.
If it’s an entitlement it’s obscene and it stinks.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia



Call for Thailand to amend repressive laws
Eliminate coups and strengthen democratic institutions
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday November 9, 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday November 7, 2021

Re: "Thailand can't have it both ways abroad," Bangkok Post Opinion, November 5, 2021.
Well, in today's world everything seems transitory but the image.
In spite of its stellar cousins, exotic temples, and pristine beaches, Thailand's image abroad is overshadowed by its history of coup-installed regimes, its poor human rights record, its travel industry embroiled in prostitution, massage parlours, and rampant corruption.
Its arcane immigration and property ownership laws and exploitation of foreign retirees is another matter.
Yes, doing business with Western democracies will require Thailand to adhere to international norms and expectations.
Mr Thitinan is correct that Thailand's tainted image puts it in the same bracket as Myanmar, Cambodia, and Laos.
China, Russia, and other authoritarian regimes are not good role models for Asean. And yes, there is no way for any repressive regimes to become a shining light of hope for the rest of the world.
Hence Thailand must change its image first by amending its repressive laws, eliminating coups, and refining and strengthening its democratic institutions.

Kuldeep Nagi,
Bangkok,
Thailand




No mention of vegetarian and meat industry
At the UN Climate Change conference (COP26) in Glasgow
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 8, 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 3, 2021

As far as I know at the so-called "climate summit" words such as "vegetarianism" and "meat industry" were not mentioned once.
This despite the fact that the UN has said the meat and dairy industry causes more climate change than all forms of transportation combined.
The politicians know who "butters their bread" (pun intended) so let the planet be damned.

Eric Bahrt,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Required one night hotel stay on entry into Thailand
Is an unnecessary scam
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 6 November 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 3 Novemner 2021

I am tiring of reading the lie that the Bangkok Post keeps printing for the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).
What do you call the one-night Safety and Health Administration (SHA) Hotel required stay upon entry to get a Covid 19 test?
If that is not a mandated quarantine then please tell me what it really is?
International standard by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) is two doses of approved vaccine and a Covid-19 test within 72 hours before entry. That's all!
Thailand wants you to also feed the hotel industry, medical establishment and insurance companies which is an unnecessary scam. Just more Amazing Thailand.

Brian Springer,
Bangkok,
Thailand



The Australian way of tackling climate change
Is the wrong way
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 5 November 2021

PM Morrison’s purported Australian way “ of tackling climate change is according to climate experts, scientists, climate activists, civil society groups and other world leaders the wrong way.
Allow me to borrow an analogy from our road warning sign “ Wrong way, Turn Back’.
That’s what Morrison and his political mob must do and do without delay to get back on track with the rest of the world on how best to approach this most pressing problem confronting humanity and planet Earth.
Morrison must stop acting the ostrich with his bogus “ Australian way “.
It’s a spurious way which clear thinking Australians have roundly denounced.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia



Philippines want US bases back
To help expel China from Philippine territory
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 4 November 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquierer Wedmesday 3 Novemeber 2021

The present situation in the West Philippine Sea requires a Philippine military pushback against China.
To expel China the bully from our country’s territory, we need the help of the much more powerful superpower who is our true friend and ally, the United States of America.
I propose that, upon takeover by the next Philippine president, who must be competent, sane, pro-Filipino, pro-Western, and NOT pro-China, the Philippines starts negotiations with the US for the conditional return to the Philippines of US military bases the size of the former Clark Air Force Base and Subic Naval Base, which were removed in the 1990s.
The conditions for the return of the US bases must be:
The renegotiation of the PH-US Mutual Defense Treaty to clearly specify that the US will immediately and automatically retaliate when any foreign third party attacks Philippine territory, exclusive economic zone (EEZ), or any Philippine aircraft, ship, or boat, government-owned or private.
For the United States to immediately and automatically evict, using whatever force is necessary, any foreign third-party intruder, civilian or military, that enters or occupies any part of Philippine territory, territorial seas, Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), or any island, reef, shoal, rock, or sandbar that belongs to the Philippines.
China became aggressive and started occupying our territory, Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) only after the United States bases were removed.
Without the massive American military presence and support that will be provided by the proposed US bases in our territory, China will one day just annex the Philippines as a colony or vassal state and enslave the Filipino people under its hegemony.
I strongly appeal to all my fellow Filipinos to agitate for and support the return of US bases.
Other countries also host US military bases, among them Japan, Italy, and Thailand.
These countries are indeed protected by the US defense umbrella.
The 2016 Arbitral Award by the Permanent Court of Arbitration places the Philippines on high legal ground in this military pushback against China. Furthermore, China’s ancient maps show that Hainan is China’s southernmost territory.
Alongside and simultaneous with the return of the US bases, we must also build strong military alliances with other friendly Western nations, namely the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Canada, as well as NATO countries; and also with friendly, like-minded neighboring countries such as Australia, Japan, India, and South Korea.
Most important of all, with the US bases back and with additional military support from our other allies, we could buy time to make the Philippines militarily strong. Our government and the private sector must exert an all-out effort to build and maintain our own armaments/munitions manufacturing and naval shipbuilding industries.
In war and peace, these industries must provide our armed forces with a continuous supply of indigenous modern warplanes, warships, missiles, tanks, ammunition, and other advanced military equipment.
Through this military-industrial cooperation, the armed forces will crush and defeat bullies and fight to win even decades-long protracted wars against invaders.
The same industries can turn the Philippines into an arms-exporting country, if and when we sell to other countries Philippine-made weapons.
Thousands of Filipino workers will be employed in these Industries, reducing unemployment in our country.

Pedro I. Santos,
Manila,
Philippines



Persecution of participants in Tiananmen vigil in Hong Kong
A blot on China's political landscape
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday November 4, 2021

The Southeast Asian Times article ‘ Eight charged under Beijing national security law for participating in banned Tiananmen vigil in Hong Kong ‘ ( 3 November ) is a blot on China’s political landscape.
In today’s world many countries acknowledge their dark past and especially the atrocities committed against their own people.
That apparently is not the case with China which seeks to erase the memory of the gruesome Tiananmen massacre of pro-democracy protesters through State propaganda pretending the massacre did not happen and the ongoing persecution of peaceful protesters who want that part of China’s brutal, authoritarian history remembered and the victims honoured.
And, that remains China’s national shame.
As one of the vigil keepers pointed out “ Commemorating the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre is a just cause”.
It most certainly is.
Nothing the Chinese communist state does can alter that reality.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia



Thailand on bottom of list of countries
When it comes to emission-reduction ambition
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday November 3, 2021
Firts published in the Bangkok Post, November 2, 2021

Re: "Embracing COP26 climate challenge", Bangkok Post Opinion October 15, 2021.
Paritta Wangkiat is definitely on the right track in urging Thailand to be bold and ambitious in moving toward net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.
But she is entirely too timid in calling for action from Thailand.
Few countries of the world have as much potential as Thailand to rapidly move toward the net-zero target.
The country is blessed with abundant sunshine and wind that could be captured to provide virtually emission-free electricity.
There are also large areas that could be planted with trees to soak up carbon from the atmosphere.
Major gains could be achieved by accelerating the transition to electric vehicles, expanded efficient public transportation, low-emission agriculture, and cleaner operating factories.
Thailand is not without opportunities for accelerating progress toward net-zero emissions.
Instead, it seems Thai officials and policy makers are without real ambition.
At the COP26 climate change summit in Glasgow, countries will be expected to make more robust commitments to strengthen and speed efforts to reach net-zero carbon emissions.
All Thais should be embarrassed if as it now seems likely - the country remains near the bottom of the list of countries when it comes to emission-reduction ambition.

Samanea Saman,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 


Port Moresby General Hospital
Is preparing for mass burials
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 2 November 2021
First published in the National, Thursday 25 October 2021

Many people are hesitant to get vaccinated because of the amount of misinformation currently being circulated on the social media platforms.
For those people who are hesitant, go and visit the general hospitals in Port Moresby, Lae and Goroka and see for yourselves what is happening there.
More than 10 people are dying every week in these hospitals.
The Port Moresby General Hospital is currently preparing for mass burials.
These hospitals are struggling with manpower, logistics, oxygen and other things to assist the patients with the fight against the Coronavirus (Covid-19) Delta variant.
Can those who are contributing to spread of misinformation be realistic?
Why are you sharing everything?
Think about yourselves, your family, your community and your country.
Yes, we have our democratic rights to say no to vaccines, but think of those that are dying who were not vaccinated.
If we want to get back to some normalcy, follow the “New Normal” direction of wearing masks, avoiding crowded areas, sanitising your hands regularly and/or get vaccinated.
Our vaccinated population is around two per cent only while our Melanesian neighbours Fiji, New Caledonia and Vanuatu, their vaccinated population stands between 80 and 90 per cent.
I got vaccinated for my health, my family’s safety and my employment.
If developed countries such as Australia and New Zealand could have many months of lockdowns, who are we to ignore and avoid the directions that could save our lives.
Anyway, buckle up for another lockdown.

Vaccinated Papua New Guinea Citizen,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

 

 

Call for freedom of information law
To curb graft and corruption in Philippines government
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 1 November 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 28 October 2021

For many, many years the people have been waiting and hoping for a freedom of information (FOI) law.
But, despite President Duterte having promised during the 2016 presidential election campaign that he would curb graft and corruption in government, there has not been any determined and serious effort to address the problem.
That Mr. Duterte has failed miserably is evidenced by so many huge anomalies that have surfaced during his administration involving the Department of Health, the Department of Budget and Management, PhilHealth and, needless to say, the Bureau of Customs.
This problem persists amid calls and pleas by well-intentioned individuals and sectors in society that he must certify to the necessity and urgency of an freedom of information (FOI) law if he really wants to make corruption a thing of the past.
An freedom of information (FOI) law will nip in the bud any evil scheme to defraud the government, since it will require the public disclosure of any deals and transactions involving public funds.
It will also obligate government offices or agencies to respond to public complaints and furnish people detailed information about expenditures of earmarked money.
Let’s study closely the stand of the presidential candidates vis-à-vis corruption. How will they solve this long festering problem? Are they in favor of an freedom of information (FOI) law?

Eusebio S. San Diego,
Founder, Kaguro
Former President, Quezon City Public School Teachers Association
Manila,
Philippines



Philippines St. Luke's Medical Center Employees Association
Enraged by government mishandling of Covid-19 funds
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday October 31, 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday October 27, 2021

The St. Luke’s Medical Center Employees Association agrees with all the points raised by the Philippine College of Physicians and other prominent health experts on the issues of corruption and mishandling by the government of its COVID-19 response.
We understand the basis of the sentiments of these experts not just as observers but based on their factual findings and experiences in addressing the present health crisis.
We too are enraged that amid the crisis pummeling the country, some roguish individuals are amassing wealth from the funds intended for the COVID-19 response.
The mishandling of funds sourced from taxpayer money is a crime that should not go unpunished.
Barring Cabinet members and other officials from attending hearings conducted by the Senate blue ribbon committee does not only disrespect the august chamber, but is also a clear attempt by the Duterte administration to shield the executives of Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp. and their cohorts from possible persecution.
As union leaders who are at the forefront of protecting the rights and general well-being of our members, we feel betrayed by these allegations of rampant corruption, and are in concert with our health experts’ call for an impartial investigation to unmask the culprits and masterminds of this heinous crime against the people.
A grave injustice was committed against health care workers (HCWs) when we were deprived of the benefits and rights accorded to us by law. We are indignant that laws were passed in our name, but were circumvented and violated by agencies that were supposed to implement them.
We know for a fact that our health experts are economically well-off compared to us ordinary workers who “kung hindi kami kakahig ay hindi kami tutuka.”
But we commend their bravery in speaking for the welfare of the health community to which we all belong.
The conditions of health care workers (HCW) are at their worst, especially in private hospitals.
We only have our unions to rely on for our rights and benefits, and we are lucky enough that our employer, St. Luke’s Medical Center, has provided us other benefits that are more than what is stipulated by law.
However, what about the greater majority of HCWs who are not represented by unions or are non-unionized?
In one recent forum we attended in Laguna province, we were informed by our fellow HCWs that they were uninformed of the mandatory benefits they were entitled to under the Bayanihan law.
Terms such as special risk allowance, meals, accommodation and transportation, and life insurance were alien to them, and they only got the information from the news.
We salute the health experts for standing up on the issue of prevalent and massive corruption amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
We join them in our common pursuit of truth and justice.

Roldan Jao Clumia,
President
St. Luke’s Medical Center Employees Association




Call for recognition of Myanmar civilian government
Is an absolutley correct call
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 30 October 2021

We read in The Southeast Asian Times 29 October that the Association of Southeast Asian Parliamentarians for Human Rights ( APHR ), chairman and Member of the Malaysian Parliament, Charles Santiago called on ASEAN member states and governments world wide to recognise Myanmar’s civilian National Unity Government ( NUG ) and to sanction the Armed Forces ( Tatmadaw ) of Myanmar for the takeover of the elected civilian government in February.
It’s an absolutely correct call.
We learn from a PBS NewsHour ‘ Myanmar torture ‘report on 28 October that torture has been the modus operandi of the military and police since the takeover.
It’s high time regional and the international community responded in that way to make it crystal clear that military coups were totally unacceptable.
That is the only effective way to end coups by making sure the coup makers did not benefit from their coups at the expense of the people.
It would be relevant to note the African Union has joined other western democracies and the UN in condemning the military coup in Sudan a few days ago.
That is as should be.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
New South Wales,
Australia


Monks in Thai cities
Not offered alms
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 29 October, 2021
First published in Bangkok Post, Sunday 24 October, 2021

Re: "Don't limit monks," Bangkok Post PostBag, October 16 and "More Meditating, Less Talking Please", in Bangkok Post PostBag, October 18.
Nowadays monks especially those living in the cities, live as monks like another occupation, such that we don't feel like offering alms because we don't know whether they are genuine monks or not.
We see monks shopping for mobile phones, buying amulets, buying lottery tickets, etc. Monks study just to get the title "Phra Maha"
There are so much indulging in desire, so much attachment which is not supposed to be as a monk.
They can't even understand the most basic teachings of the Buddha -The Four Noble Truths and The Noble Eightfold Path.
Don't argue about now we are in the modern era.
If you really have the intention to be a monk, be a good one and be enlightened and teach lay people to understand what the Buddha taught.
There are many good monks around.
Don't smear others.

Millie Tan,
Bangkok,
Thailand



ASEAN non-interference policy cannot stand
Against overwhelming moral imperative
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 8 October 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 26 October 2021

Re: "Give Asean seat to Myanmar opposition", Bangkok Post Opinion, October 22, 2021
Thais owe the Myanmar people an enormous debt of gratitude for two reasons. Firstly, for their courage and bravery in showing us how to resist a coup d'etat. Secondly, for teaching Asean that the so-called principle of non-interference can no longer be allowed to stand against an overwhelming moral imperative.
By recognising two competing claimants for the Myanmar seat at the upcoming 38th and 39th Asean summits, and failing to reach the much vaunted consensus by selecting either the junta Armed Forces (Tatmadaw) of Myanmar or the National Unity Government (NUG), Asean dealt a black eye to the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Forceful words from Indonesia and Malaysia at the emergency foreign ministers' meeting on Oct ober15, combined with strong anti-junta signals from Asean's major democratic partners, saw Thailand's defence of the Armed Forces (Tatmadaw) of Myanmar crumble, opening the way for a similar scenario of rejection the next time the Thai military stages a coup.
Given the intertwined history of our two countries across many centuries, much of it marked by distrust and war, perhaps now is the time our two people can learn from each other; how to consign our respective militaries to their rightful subservient roles in democratically elected civilian governments.
As the most coup-prone country in the world we need help.

ASEAN Insider,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Call for global solidarity
In Glasgow climate change negotiations
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 27 October 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday 24 October 2021

Re: "Spirit of climate cooperation faces test in Glasgow," in Bangkok Post Opinion, October 20
A fundamental question to be asked before the global climate change negotiations in Glasgow is: Do wealthy countries really mean business and are they sincere in their solidarity?
A meaningful, effective global cooperation on climate change is impossible without global solidarity which cannot be spontaneous even in cases of planetary crises.
Yet, we may express the hope that acting in a spirit of global solidarity the 120 members of the Non-Aligned Movement and the Group of 77 and China will manage to reach a win-win situation in their negotiations on the matter with the group of developed countries.
In this regard, an encouraging sign can be expected from an informal UN diplomatic event scheduled in New York on 26 October on climate action and focused on capacities at country level.
This event, titled "Delivering Climate Action - for People, Planet & Prosperity", will highlight best practices and achievements in renewables, in climate finance, and in adaptation.
The value of global solidarity cannot be promoted and enhanced without robust diplomatic action at the bilateral, regional and universal levels.

Ioan Voicu,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Tourism market in Thailand
Cannot be taken for granted
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 26 October 2021
First Published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 20 October 2021

Re: "Tourist fee could be nail in coffin", Bangkok Post, Editorial, October 10, 2021
The Bangkok Post editorial is spot on in warning of the risks of losing tourists to other markets as the world reopens after the Covid pandemic.
Thailand cannot take the tourism market for granted. Instead of adding to the perceptions that Thailand is simply out to milk tourists with exorbitant dual pricing, vague tourism development fees, over-pricing by taxi drivers and various other scams, the country needs to review every aspect of how international tourists are treated.
As the editorial pointed out, the tourism industry is restarting with a clean slate after Covid.
Countries that make visa and entry procedures simple, ensure the safety of visitors, offer quality tourism experiences and good value for money, and genuinely make tourists feel welcome and appreciated will come out on top in the competition for tourist numbers and income.
This is not the time for creating additional new schemes to fleece tourists.

Samanea Saman,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Historical sites endangered by construction of
Pasig River Expressway
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 25 October 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 22 October 2021

The 19.3-kilometer Pasig River Expressway (PAREx) has drawn flak from environmental and cultural groups who believe many cultural sites will be jarred by the construction of the elevated highway, thereby endangering historical sites such as Intramuros, Fort Santiago, Arroceros Park, and many others.
Worse, it will suffocate the fauna of the Pasig River.
The positions of both sides appear to stand on valid arguments.
Scores of projects have been undertaken to rehabilitate the Pasig River, both by civic organizations and the government.
Yet, the silt deposited on the river is a continuing problem, aside from the negligence of the communities around it.
The river also catches floodwater and debris from Laguna de Bay.
It seems in our society one problem engenders another, and we cannot get to the bottom of it all.
There has to be a more lasting heritage solution, not just to the traffic congestion or the environmental pollution.
The reality is that the Philippines has a much bigger problem in the unabated population increase of 1.5-2 million annually.
Urban life in Metro Manila will continue to be compromised by the influx of more people from the provinces to find work and escape extreme poverty.
Among the cities with the highest population densities in the world are Manila, Pateros, and Mandaluyong.
Congestion will suffocate the entire Metro Manila soon.
It can only be arrested by the government developing other less congested areas in the country to move work opportunities there, such as vast Mindanao.

Marvel K. Tan,
Manila
Philippines

 

 

Papua New Guinea
Proves to have a functioning democracy
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 23 October 2021

The allegations of misappropriation, official corruption and abuse of office against former PM Peter O’Neill might have been a case which was “ highly politicised “ as O’Neill contended ( Letter, The Southeast Asian Times 22/10).
But the fact that the case was thrown out by the court means Papua New Guinea PNG has a functioning democracy with an independent judicial system upholding the rule of law without fear or favour.
That’s something the people of Papua New Guinea PNG can be proud of and other countries in the region can draw lessons from to strengthen their democratic governance.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia



Exclusion of Myanmar Senior General Min Aung Hlaing
From ASEAN summit is long overdue
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 23 October 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 20 October 2021

Re: "Junta 'extremely disappointed' over summit snub", in Bangkok Post, October 18, 2021
At last Asean has shown some intestinal fortitude and has excluded the tyrant-despot Senior General Min Aung Hlaing from attending its next summit.
This is long overdue, because in the past several members of Asian, including Thailand and Malaysia, have heaped honours upon this most despicable man, who has being playing Asean as a fool.
Just look at a photograph of him in his uniform, which is stretched to breaking point with the weight of the medals, honours and awards hanging around his neck and pinned on both chests.
These include The Most Gallant Order of Military Service; Honorary Malaysian Armed Forces Order for Valor (1st Degree); Medal for Strengthening the Military Commonwealth (awarded by Russia); Badge of Honor for the Merits in the Field of Military-Technical Cooperation (whatever that means); and most disturbingly the Most Exalted Order of the White Elephant Knight Grand Cross (1st Class) and the Most Noble Order of the Crown of Thailand Knight Grand Cross (1st Class), both awarded by the Thai government.
There is not one award or medal for actual combat in defending Myanmar from foreign invasion.
The fact is that he was born in 1956. a decade after Burma's fight for independence from British rule and centuries after Burma's last wars with Siam. The only combat experience he has is against his own people, including the ethnic minorities of Kachin, Kayah, Kayin, Rakhine and Shan et al.

David Brown,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 

 

Allegations against former PM Peter O'Neill
Not proven in Papua New Guinea court
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday, 22 October 2021
First Published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 20 October, 2021

A stunning example of a life to draw inspiration from when facing adversity is the life of former Prime Minister and Ialibu-Pangia Member of Parliament Peter O’Neill.
Travelling from Brisbane, Australia, with his family one Saturday afternoon last May, police set up on him and took him in for questioning on allegations of misappropriation, official corruption and abuse of office over the purchase of two generators from Israel.
The allegations stem from a National Executive Council decision in 2014.
When asked about his arrest, O’Neill calmly said: “The case is highly politicised. I look forward to having my day in court soon so that the truth can prevail and this injustice corrected and exposed.”
Springing up a surprise arrest and hastily filing of a police complaint ended up marred in errors and the case was instantly thrown out.
That was the writing on the wall right there.
But that did not dissuade then-Police minister Bryan Kramer, who filed a fresh complaint and took one whole year to gather evidence and assemble witnesses for the case that was dismissed last Thursday.
Of all the allegations brought against O’Neill, nothing to date has been proven in court.
He is now free to concentrate on his People’s National Congress party and prepare for next year’s general elections.

David Lepi,
Port Moresby,
Papua News Guinea




Why would someone intentionally limit another's quest
For truth and understanding?
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 21October 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 20 October, 2021

Re: "Don't limit monks", Bangkok Post Editorial, October 16, 2021
The myopic decree to forbid Buddhist monks from expanding their intelligence and studying subjects not directly related to Buddhism will not preserve Buddhism or enhance a monk's awareness of reality.
In the 21st century, knowledge and information is increasing exponentially and any institution desiring to stay relevant must address this by expanding their knowledge base, not retarding it.
The Dalai Lama in his book The Universe in a Single Atom says that Buddhism must incorporate Science.
If science shows a Buddhist tenet is wrong, then Buddhism must adjust accordingly.
This flexible willingness to adapt is crucial in order to adjust to change and we are certainly in a time of rapid change.
There are numerous fields of study from brain research to historical trends of monasticism that would benefit a monk as he attempts to gain enlightenment.
Why would someone intentionally limit another's quest for truth and understanding?
If Buddhism is to be a part of society's future here, it has to adjust accordingly to the changes that society is encountering.
If not, it will swiftly be left out of the composition.
Already, most people I speak to claim they are Buddhist, but almost none say they meditate.
If someone could be shown the science that documents the physiological and psychological benefits of meditation practices, maybe they would be more inclined to practise it personally.
Finally, what would Buddha do?
Would he say to avoid knowledge and wisdom and remain ignorant or would he encourage seeking?

Darius Hober,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 

 

Politics in the Philippines
Is a family business
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 20 October 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 19 October 2021

The 2022 elections will once again provide proof that politics in this country has become a family business.
It is a family business that is guaranteed by the Constitution on one hand - they are elected by the people - and discouraged on the other - prohibition against local dynasties - “as may be defined by law”.
We have read stories of elective positions being unopposed or getting token opposition from brave souls or nuisance candidates.
We have been desensitized at the sight of family members exchanging positions regardless of qualifications for the new positions they are gunning for.
We have seen new family members running for positions because mom, dad, sister, or brother moved up to run for a national office.
In some instances, these new family members just relocated to the place, having grown up in Metro Manila or abroad, and not knowing the local culture or language.
Nevertheless, they are adored “ang guapo” or “gandang artista!
These political dynasties and agreements among politicians to effectively divide the governance of local governments need to be destroyed in order to give life to the constitutional mandate to the State to “guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service.”
The barrier to entering public service has become too high for the ordinary good Filipino citizen.
While these monopoly-minded politicians have gamed the system, we are not without remedies.
First, let us not vote for these politicians.
Second, let us educate our friends and family members on the evils of political dynasties.
Third, let us teach critical thinking to the next generation.
They are our only hope.
As they say, the only way for evil men and women to win is for good men and women to do nothing.

Jason Salazar,
Manila,
Philippines


 

Decision to exclude Myanmar military
From ASEAN summit is a good one
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 19 October 2021

We read in the Reuter’s article ‘ ASEAN excludes Myanmar junta leader from Summit ‘ ( 18 October,2021) that the foreign ministers from ASEAN took that unprecedented step at an emergency meeting on Friday night .
The bold and rare step was taken “ to uphold ASEAN’s credibility” according to the Singapore foreign minister.
The decision is a good one and will restore ASEAN’s credibility following the earlier one in April which allowed the junta chief Min Aung Hlaing to attend and give assurances and agree to a roadmap to restore peace .
Subsequent brutal crackdown on pro- democracy protesters in Myanmar showed the military leader who carried out the coup against an elected civilian government in February was not genuine in his commitment.
ASEAN had in good faith given the junta a chance to show it was committed to returning the country to good democratic governance but it has failed to do that.
So it is only proper that the junta chief be excluded to show him in no uncertain terms that the conduct of the military junta was totally unacceptable.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia



Call for PNG police and defence personnel
To enforce ban on mass gatherings
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 18 October 2021
First published in the National, Friday 15 October 2021

The many ground breaking ceremonies are putting people’s lives at risk.
The recent one in Menyamya, Morobe, by the Prime Minister James Marape and his delegation showed hundreds, even thousands, of people without face masks in a mass gathering.
Here we are talking about the spread of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) and banning mass gatherings, yet on the other side, the total opposite is happening.
Let us put a stop to ground breaking ceremonies now.
The statistics show that the increase in Covid-19 deaths right after Sept 16, which was celebrated in mass gatherings in many centres.
Marape himself, who was a guest of honour at Walume in Southern Highlands and in Maprik, East Sepik, during the Independence Anniversary celebrations was part of a crowd that had no regard for the Covid-19 health measures.
The celebration at Uiversity of Papua New Guinea (UPNG) was even worse with the Highlands traditional dance “Waipa” consisting of more than 10 groups where people were holding hands and jumping up and down.
The responsible authorities did not bother too much about the virus.
Now we have the same authorities concerned over the surge in Covid-19 cases.
It is a bit too late for that.
Despite the Covid-19 measures, Papua New Guineans have an attitude problem.
The bulk of the population is semi-educated.
If you tell them what to do, they will not do it unless it is enforced.
Therefore, measures must be strictly enforced by relevant authorities so that people will comply.
Put police and defence personnel on the streets so that people will listen to them and follow.
Otherwise, it is all a waste of time and we cannot deny that.

Siki Mangi,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

 



Call for Former PM Mahathir to explain
Failure to defend sovereignty of Pulau Batu Puteh
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 17 October 2021
First published in the Star, Thursday 14 October 2021

Penang Deputy Chief Minister II Dr P. Ramasamy must be taken to task for demanding that former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad must answer for the colossal failure to defend the sovereignty of Pulau Batu Puteh.
In a Facebook post, Ramasamy tried to clarify that it was not up to the Pakatan Harapan government of Dr Mahathir to have decided against the appeal on the grounds that they had no chance whatsoever.
He is attempting to divert all responsibility to Dr Mahathir. However, his remarks score an own goal as they reflect the incompetence and lack of political and administrative power of Democratic Action Party (DAP) former ministers within the Pakatan Cabinet.
If Ramasamy’s remarks do not confirm the inadequacies of the six Democratic Action Party (DAP) ministers namely Lim Guan Eng, Anthony Loke Siew Fook, M. Kulasegaran, Yeo Bee Yin, Gobind Singh and Teresa Kok in upholding Pulau Batu Puteh’s sovereignty, they only suggest these six were in deep slumber in the Cabinet, despite their mighty remuneration.
One can’t help but wonder if PM7 Dr Mahathir made this unilateral decision!
While Ramasamy’s remarks attempt to divert blame from Democratic Action Party (DAP) he is advised to not use this crass method as the party cannot evade responsibility.
In fact, responsibility for losing Pulau Batu Puteh does not rest solely on Dr Mahathir; the entire former Pakatan government is equally accountable.
On February 2, 2017, Malaysia under the Barisan Nasional government filed an application for revision of the judgment rendered by the International Court of Justice on May 23, 2008 on Pulau Batu Puteh.
However, on May 28, 2018, it was the Pakatan government which decided to withdraw this review application.
This withdrawal by the Pakatan government caused Malaysia to lose our right to claim Pulau Batu Puteh.
Pakatan’s decision to drop the territorial claim is exactly identical to the cabotage exemption approved by Democratic Action Party (DAP) then transport minister Anthony Loke for foreign-registered vessels to perform undersea cable maintenance in Malaysian waters.
Both these decisions disregard the importance of upholding national sovereignty.
Removing the requirement that foreign-registered vessels apply for a Domestic Shipping Licence (DSL) before entering Malaysian waters to repair undersea cables, sacrificing the sovereignty of our nation and the safety of our citizens' data, are akin to derhaka, treason!

Datuk Tan Teik Cheng,
Vice-president
Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA)
Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia




Risk of radiation leaks
From struggling nuclear power plants
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 16 October 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday 14 October 2021

Re: "Bitcoin miners eye nuclear power as environmental criticism mounts", in Bangkok Post, Business, October 3, 2021
As if the world didn't have enough reasons to reject the silliness of cryptocurrency, we can now add the risk of radiation leaks from struggling nuclear power plants that otherwise might thankfully be shut down due to lack of demand for the power produced.
This seems to be an example of one dubious industry climbing into bed with another.
The processing of cryptocurrency transactions requires voracious amounts of electricity at a time when the world should be aggressively trimming the unnecessary use of power.
Among the main attractions of cryptocurrency is the facilitation of dodgy transactions and the avoidance of taxes.
Rather than trying to extend the life of unneeded nuclear power plants and nurturing the sketchy cryptocurrency sector, the world would be far better off letting both succumb.

Samanea Saman,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Philippine state involved in lawyer killings
Lawyers advised to protect themselves
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 15 October 2021
First published by Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 12 October 2021

Your editorial “Impunity gone berserk” October 9, 2021 contains much with which all would agree - the killing of lawyers with impunity is a threat to the rule of law and therefore to a democratic Philippines.
However, it seems that the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) has also gone berserk.
The number of lawyers killed under President Duterte, now 69, is lamentable, but it is nowhere near the 500-percent increase that the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) proclaims and which, willy nillly, the media continues to trumpet unquestioningly.
Unfortunately, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) continues to use the inaccurate numbers first produced by the Free Legal Assistance Group.
Here are the numbers recorded by the Monitoring Committee on Attacks on Lawyers of the International Association of People’s Lawyers: According to numerous monitoring groups, there were 18 lawyers killed from the Marcos to Estrada presidencies, 83 under President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, and 47 under President Benigno Aquino III.
Thus, pre-Duterte there were at least 148 killings.
Your editorial cites the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) claim that ”the number of lawyers killed since President Duterte came into power in 2016 has skyrocketed by 500 percent.”
That is obviously a claim that cannot be justified.
What is true is that at 1.1 lawyer killed per month, the rate under Mr. Duterte far exceeds the rates under his two predecessors: Arroyo at 0.74 and Aquino at 0.65.
The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) would be well advised to seek ways in which the lawyers can protect themselves.
Relying on the government, especially when state forces are involved in lawyer killings, is rather like waiting for snow in Manila.
They might follow the example being set now in Nigeria where the national Bar has called a temporary boycott of the courts, in similar manner as in France, India, and Pakistan. Governments must be persuaded to act, and not only expected to do so.

Gill H. Boehringer,
Co-chair,
Monitoring Committee on Attacks on Lawyers
Manila,
Philippines











Call for ASEAN to rethink its position
On how to restore democracy in Myanmar
The Southeast Asian Times Thursday October 14, 2021

It is absolutely wonderful news that the EU Parliament has taken the decision to support the National Unity Government (NUG) as the legitimate representative of democracy in Myanmar ( The Southeast Asian Times 13 Oct).
It has done the right thing by the oppressed people of Myanmar whose will to chose their government democratically was overridden by the military takeover at the beginning of the year.
Since then there has been a reign of terror in the country against all pro-democracy activists.
They can now draw immense inspiration and courage to continue their fight for democracy in Myanmar.
ASEAN on the other hand did the wrong thing by allowing the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces ( Tatmadaw ) of Myanmar, Sr Gen. Min Aung Hlaing to attend the ASEAN Leaders Meeting in Jakarta.
That sends the wrong message.
It says the military takeover of a democratically elected government is acceptable. It’s not.
And, that should be made abundantly clear to the rogue military leaders. ASEAN did not do that.
It’s action gave tacit recognition, even legitimacy, to the rogue military rulers of Myanmar.
That’s totally unacceptable. Let’s hope the EU Parliament decision will get ASEAN to rethink its position on how to restore democracy in Myanmar .

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia




Call for Papua New Guinea government
To help take back Papua New Guinea
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday October 12, 2021
First published in the National, Monday October 11, 2021

I agree with Jack Anis Kukiwa’s comments in National paper about the banks’ lending policy regarding the money from the funds allocated by the Government for small to medium enterprises (SMEs) .
The government should set the criteria for simple people to access these funds instead of big and well established business to have the upper hand over SME owners.
This kills the interest of the people and does not help with improving lives.
The Government should come up with an alternative to help the majority if it wants us all to play an active roll in taking back Papua New Guinea.

Gende Kiman,
Lae,
Papua New Guinea




Ruling party looking for clone of President Rodrigo Duterte
For
Philippines 2022 elections
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday October 12, 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday October 11, 2021

We will end up with many presidential candidates, but will the best of them win? Even a lame foot can win a hundred meters if the others collapse before the goal.
A choice in which the majority sees no other way out but to choose between bad, worse, and worst is certainly not a great moment for democracy.
The one perceived as the least unsuitable by the citizens can win.
The ruling party is looking for a clone of Rodrigo Duterte.
The opposition - whose clone is it looking for?
Who actually wants to continue the politics of the last few years?
The problems have just gotten too big to sit things out any longer.
We need a government that renews social cohesion and an industrial base that does not pay low wages and makes further cuts in social benefits.
We need more investments, better education, better pay for skilled workers, the restoration of a performance-oriented welfare state, and consistent promotion of future technologies.
If you instead let the middle class and the lower half of the population pay for the mistakes of the past, you are committing a sin against democracy and our future.

Dr. Juergen Schoefer, Ph.D. Cainta,
Rizal,
Manila
Philippines



Marcos wealth and abuses of martial should be consudered
In choosing the next president in 2022
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 11, October 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 8, October 2021

If one is fully aware of the kleptocracy under the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos and his wife Imelda, the revelation about the P203 billion in unpaid estate taxes by the Marcos family in “Tax debt of the Marcos estate,” Philippine Inquirer, Crosscurrents, September 30, 2021 would be revealing but no longer shocking.
It just tells us the kind of people that have been trying to regain lost political power after looting government coffers dry during their 20 years in power.
The way Imelda Marcos and her children have brazenly disregarded the payment of their estate taxes shows how they have become used to trifling with the rule of law in the country with so much impunity.
The ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses has long been proven to exist, as declared by several Supreme Court decisions “Do the Marcoses have ill-gotten wealth?,” With Due Respect, September 9, 2021.
And yet that continues to be vigorously denied by the Marcos heirs.
Equally disgraceful are arguments that exculpate the children for the misdeeds of their father, conveniently overlooking the fact that the Marcos children and their families have lived luxurious and privileged lives on the fruits of their father’s plunder.
Did they ever wonder for a second where all the billions of money came from?
And now they have been using this stolen wealth to make a grand political comeback, with support from President Duterte who idolizes his dictator-hero so much that he allowed Marcos’ burial in the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
The Marcos wealth and the abuses of martial law are legitimate issues that should be considered by our countrymen in choosing the next president in 2022.
This is not indulging in blame game and politicking, even if political opportunists are sure to surface during this political season.
We are very close to the next elections, and the country’s future will be shaped by the kind of leaders we will have for the next six years.
The electorate should scrutinize the track record of those who present themselves as the best candidate that can save the country from its current terrible situation.
Maybe we can start with the COVID-19 response of the Duterte administration, which has been so mismanaged and corrupted as to enable overpricing and manipulation in the procurement of COVID-19-related medical supplies and cause so much human misery.
As voters, we cannot be so smug and indifferent as to turn a blind eye to the corruption and misgovernance that have afflicted the country, and so undiscriminating as not to recognize false and pretentious leaders whether from the past or present who have brought this curse upon the nation.
We have to demand accountability and even retribution for their crimes against the people - by not electing them into office and depriving them the opportunity to commit the same transgressions again.

Donato Soliven,
Manila,
Philippines



Preserve Thai land
For Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 10 October 2021
First published Bangkok Post, Friday 8 October 2021

Re: "Selling the family silver?", in Bangkok Post, Editorial, September 27, 2021
Thailand does not allow direct foreign ownership of land. Since I am a foreigner, this policy works against my interests as I would love to own a freehold home in Thailand.
But I have always admired this Thai policy because it protects the interests of Thai citizens. That is precisely what the government should be doing.
In many countries worldwide, there are appalling numbers of empty homes and properties purchased by investors.
They may not need to live there, and they may never intend to. But when investors purchase property, it becomes unavailable for would-be homeowners.
I also have a different point of view to offer. Market competition can be beneficial and improve efficiency, but the global and domestic economies must be considered separately to protect Thai citizens.
Foreign investors will gladly walk through any door you leave open.
As I mentioned, I would like to buy a freehold house.
What do you think would happen if investors were offered a choice between apartments and land?
Would any foreigner ever buy another condo?
How many well-heeled foreigners might there be worldwide that are capable of investing a few million dollars in an infrequently used "vacation home" upcountry? And what would this scenario do to the price of real estate for average Thais, not to mention the poorest and most at-risk?
Thailand appears to be taking reasoned steps towards rebuilding the economy.
I am gratified that although there are differences of opinion about what approaches to take and what to prioritise, there is a vibrant, spirited debate and well-intentioned effort.
Please do not compromise Thai ownership of the country for a one-time gain of foreign investment. Preserve Thai land for Thailand.

Jeremy Lucas,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Papua New Guinea terms of agreement with ExxonMobile
Good for Papua New Guinea
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 8 October 2021
First published in the National, Thursday 7 October 2021

The Government’s negotiation team recently met with ExxonMobil executives in Houston, Texas, United States.
Prime Minister James Marape, ExxonMobil president for up-stream Liam Mallon and other executives were part of the meeting.
The gas agreement, as highlighted in the meeting, captures key fiscal, regulatory and licensing terms negotiated over the last two months.
The terms set in the meeting are good for the country.
It is a commendable move Marape and the negotiation team.
The Government, under Marape, has made a bold decision which reflects a win-win solution for the State and the developer.
The first negotiation failed.
The government had to find another way around.
I remember the original development plan, mooted in 2018, called for the development of P’nyang as a one train liquefied natural gas (LNG) addition to the existing two-train PNG LNG project.
In 2019, a set of fiscal terms of Papua LNG project was agreed upon, but P’nyang segment of the plan collapsed last year when ExxonMobil would not agree to the Government’s push for increased benefits and walked away from the negotiation.
Despite a dark moment, Peter Larden, the new managing director for ExxonMobil PNG, said he hoped new negotiations would be fruitful.
The recent discussion of P’nyang gas agreement in Houston ended with a better deal, a deal that is promising for our landowners and the Government.
In addition to all the entitlements, the State’s take is at 63 per cent in the deal, compared to 49 percent in PNG LNG and 51 per cent in Papua.
This is made possible by increasing production levy of 3 per cent and the State equity (including the commercial purchase) being at 32.5 per cent compared to just 19.5 per cent in the PNG LNG and 22.5 per cent in Papua.
I believe the prime minister has achieved a significant milestone in the history of PNG’s extractive industry.
The construction cost of both projects will exceed K25 billion.
I believe this would be a tremendous investment and our economy should pick up once PNG produces and exports gas all the way to 2050.
What a deal.

Justin Max,
Port Moresby
Papua New Guinea



Bougainville to become an economic power
In the Pacific
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 8 October 2021
First published in the National, Wednesday 6 October 2021


Bougainville President Ishmael Toroama should split Bougainville into special free trade zones or economic corridors and encourage manufacturing and downstream processing for all our commodities.
Develop and declare three seaports and airports of Buka, Kieta, and Buin into world-class international entry and exit ports.
Redevelop Arawa town, which will become the capital city of Bougainville.
Satellite towns should be built in all the districts of Bougainville.
This is to ensure Bougainville has a strong currency and will allow trade with other economies.
Ensure the central bank of Bougainville looks after and manages all the wealth of Bougainville, including Bougainville’s sovereign wealth fund.
No foreign banks should look after and manage the wealth of Bougainville, the central bank of Bougainville should do it.
The people should not be paper-figure observers, but be real custodians and managers of their wealth.
Any foreign countries that want to have monetary trade with Bougainville should come and do it in Bougainville.
With these suggestions, I hope Bougainville becomes an economic power in the Pacific.
Bougainville can assist other countries in terms of development.
It can provide aid to other countries.
It should build world-class research institutions, health and education institutions.
Bougainville will not necessarily need a sophisticated military force to protect its national security because it will use niche diplomacy as a national security tool
It will only have a paramilitary unit in its police service to ensure the safety of everyone and to respond to other internal security matters.

Arob Blood,
Port Moresby
Papua New Guinea



Slow tourism recovery
Forcast for Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 7 October 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 6 October 2021

Re: "Collection of B500 fee from foreigners starts next year", in Bangkok Post, Business, October 4, 2021.
I have been stranded in Thailand since March last year.
I read the Bangkok Post almost daily, though in some places the printed edition is not available.
I was reading many predictions by the boss of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, Yuthasak Supasorn.
As an experienced tour guide and travel agent for 30 years, I have been laughing all year about his forecasts for millions of foreign tourists.
Last year, my forecast was a slow recovery in April 2022. It looks like I am not too far off.
Who protects the head of the Tourism Authority of Thailand TAT?
Is he a relative of Coup Minister Prayut (minister for everything) or just related to a family of the Thai Tatmadaw?
In all Western countries he would have lost his job a long time ago.
Even in today's Bangkok Post article, it seems like he just rolled his dice to any seven-digit number.
Believe me, there are many cheaper countries in Asia than Thailand, which has a ridiculously high alcohol tax similar to Muslim nations like Malaysia and Indonesia.
I've come to Thailand probably 100 times since 1993, when I spent one night in Bangkok.
I had to, because of the famous song.
I stayed at the Dusit. It was still the Land of Smiles.
During my 19-month "Covid stay" here, the friendliest people have been immigrant workers from Myanmar.
In 2019 I visited Vietnam four times, because for my nationality 15 days are visa-free.
I flew in to Ho Chi Minh, left via Danang, flew into Nha Trang, left from Haiphong, etc.
As a writer (Lung Stib) to PostBag said in a letter more than a year ago, Thailand is a failed state.
And I agree!

Travelagent,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Call for Catholic politicians in Philippines
To campaign on teachings of the Church
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 6 October 2021
First published in Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 5 October 2021

Time and again, Catholic bishops say there is no such thing as a “Catholic Vote.” In fact, they do not even endorse candidates or support politicians during elections. But they continue to shepherd the flock and enlighten Catholic voters on the prudent use of their freedom to select the next leaders of this country.
Bishops are often quoted as saying that the faithful should vote according to their conscience.
Catholics with their informed conscience, they say, are free to discharge their grave and moral responsibility to vote their own candidates according to the principles and teachings of the Church, on the belief that an informed conscience leads to an informed vote.
It’s about time the Church should catalog the performance of Catholic politicians, especially on how they stand on issues of the day.
We Catholic faithful may rather support a non-Catholic politician who lives a public life reflecting the Gospel values than a Catholic politician who openly opposes the teachings of the Church.
We therefore challenge Catholic politicians to become proxies of the living Church and be moral exemplars and leaders of our times.
We ask them to stand by the commitment of the Church regarding the political, social, moral, and economic issues besetting our society.
Their political actions and decisions should be reflective of their enlightened faith and the teachings of the Church.

Reginald B. Tamayo,
Manila,
Philippines



Call for investigation into Covid-19 vaccination
With empty syringe
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 6 October 2021
First published in the Star, Monday 4 October 2021

Deputy Health Minister I Datuk Dr Noor Azmi Ghazali must be applauded for the quick reassurance he gave to the public on the case of the empty syringe at a Covid-19 vaccination centre, “Dr Noor Azmi: Empty syringe was an accident, 12-year-old boy got vaccine immediately after” in The Star Saturday 2 October 2021.
He said it was a genuine mistake by the vaccinator, and described it as “an on-duty mistake or human error”.
He was referring to a video, which went viral on social media, showing a vaccinator at the Vaccination Centre in Universiti Malaya plunging the wrong empty syringe into the arm of a 12-year-old child.
Despite the deputy minister’s assurance that action against the staff had been taken to ensure such an incident would not recur, some questions still remain, and these must be addressed in order to restore full confidence in the vaccination process among the public.
If one examines the video carefully, it can be clearly seen that besides picking up the wrong syringe, the vaccinator did not press the plunger.
This fact would cast doubts on the assertion that the episode was a mistake.
And if she had pressed the plunger, the lack of resistance would have immediately alerted her to the fact that the syringe was empty.
Having jabbed many a person, it is inconceivable that the health worker could not have forgotten to press the plunger.
Saying that it was a mistake seems to be a convenient way to avoid a full-scale investigation into what could be the tip of an iceberg.
It is therefore incumbent upon ProtectHealth, which conducted the investigation and advised the health authorities, to do a complete investigation to assuage the troubled rakyat.
We do not wish to see the laudable work done by the Health Ministry so far sullied by any deliberate despicable act.
It seems to be a good move, as stated by the deputy health minister, to allow parents to witness their children’s vaccination process, but this is like closing the stable door after the horse has bolted.
We want to know how many “horses” are now roaming free, posing a threat to others as well as to themselves.
The public are concerned.
Did they really receive the vaccines?
Do they now have to go for antibody tests?
These are searching questions that cannot be answered in a cavalier fashion.
It calls for a full investigation and for the findings to be made public.
When we exhort the public to take the jabs, it is incumbent upon us to keep them fully informed of the benefits and risks, if any, along the way.
That is the responsible thing to do.
I concur with Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye, chairman of Alliance for Safe Community, when he said incidents of empty syringes being used during the vaccination process should be viewed more seriously and should not be swept under the carpet.
He also said these incidents could lead to those who had been vaccinated doubting the integrity of their jabs.
He has asked, and I support him, that the authorities should quickly release the results of investigations into previous allegations of empty syringes.

Emphil,
Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia



Philippine Supreme Court ruled a hero's burial
For late President Ferdinand Marcos
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 4 October 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 30 September 2021

In his column “The Supreme Court as historian” in Philippine Inquirer September 23, 2021, retired Supreme Court justice Antonio Carpio wrote: “Those who seek to revise the historical narrative of the Marcos plunder during martial law will run against a formidable wall of authoritative decisions of the Supreme Court which were rendered after the Marcoses were duly heard.”
Indeed, numerous decisions of the highest court of the land had long settled the issue of whether or not the Marcos family was a bunch of thieves after finding ill-gotten wealth in their Swiss bank accounts amounting to almost $670 million, and ordering the same “forfeited in favor of the petitioner Republic of the Philippines.”
But not so fast, Justice Carpio.
The same Supreme Court virtually hailed the late dictator, Ferdinand Marcos, a “hero” deserving to be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in its 2016 decision by a majority of nine votes - three of them by Atenean justices, Arturo Brion, Mariano del Castillo, both retired; and Estela Perlas-Bernabe, retiring in May 2022.
That “hero’s burial” would never have happened and Marcos’ carcass would have remained in a refrigerated coffin had the latter three justices dissented or at least abstained as the five dissenting justices had, resisting President Duterte’s importuning to accommodate the Marcoses, who had extended financial support to his election campaign.
Dahil lang sa pera, niyurakan ang dangal ng Pilipinas.
We became the laughingstock of the whole world.
That 2016 decision being the latest from the Supreme Court concerning the despicable rule of the late dictator, all those prior pronouncements adverse or derogatory to Marcos seem to have become meaningless now in the face of the “heroism” judicially bestowed on him.
No wonder the Marcos heirs have now found the gall to rewrite history to conform to the “heroism” of their disgraced patriarch.
And, to the disgust of many, this is all thanks to the three Atenean magistrates who should be remembered for having been too confused to tell the difference between a hero and a world-class thief.

Scarlet S. Sytangco.\,
Manila,
Philippines


 

Alcohol ban in Thai restuarants
Gives rise to generation of state-at-home alcoholics
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday October 3, 2021
First published in Bangkok Post, Friday October 1, 2021

As we slowly awaken from this Covid-19 nightmare, I hope the government will learn lessons from its disastrous and repeated alcohol restrictions.
Thailand's arcane alcohol laws conflict with its desire to become a premium tourist destination.
The stupidity of restricting sales for three hours in the afternoon speaks for itself.
The knee-jerk blanket ban on alcohol in restaurants has served not only to fuel police corruption, but has also given rise to a whole generation of stay-at-home alcoholics.
God knows what damage this has done to the health of the nation.
I do not call for a "free-for-all" over alcohol, but we must stop the process of demonising it.
The recent hint that the tax on wine may be reduced is a step in the right direction.
Please, no more nonsensical restrictions that continue to blight our lives.

Alan Mehew,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Call for investigation into Thai Airways
Purchase of Rolls-Royce jet engines
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 2 October 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday 28 September 2021

Re: "Thaksin linked to THAI's losses", in Bangkok Post, September 18, 2021

It is unfortunate but not necessarily illegal when national leaders make bad policy decisions.
Surely, Thai Airways THAI was not the only airline in the world to purchase the A340 aircraft, which are now widely recognised as inefficient fuel-guzzlers.
The fact that the planes led to Thai Airways THAI losing large sums of money for years after their purchase is not itself an indication of wrongdoing.
That said, I'm all in favour of investigating the background of the purchase of the planes with a view to increasing transparency and uncovering possible malfeasance. At the same time, it would be very appropriate for investigators to look into deals that Thai Airways THAI made for Rolls-Royce jet engines between 1991 and 2005.
If anyone needs reminding, in 2017, Rolls-Royce admitted to British fraud investigators that bribes were paid to Thai intermediaries. Sadly, Thai investigators never saw fit to probe the cases or even request related evidence from Rolls-Royce or the UK Serious Fraud Office.

Samanea Saman,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Call for Covid-19 testing
Before entering Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 1 October 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday 25 September 2021

Re: "Disease law set for change", in Bangkok Post, September 22, 2021
Instead of requiring all foreigners to be vaccinated before entering Thailand, which is no guarantee they are clear of Covid 19, why not just test them before entering the country?
Hell, you could even test them on the airplane.
And if they test positive you can quarantine them until they recover.
My proposal is cost-effective and could help revive the tourism industry.
But any suggestion that doesn't benefit the vaccine industry will never be considered.
I am convinced that all this obsession with vaccines is about money, not health. And if I'm wrong then why not go ahead with my proposal?

Eric Baht,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Countries, nations, cultures, customs and traditions
Are all at heart human fictions
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 30 September 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 28 September 2021

Re: "China's Xi warns of 'grim' Taiwan situation in letter to opposition", in Bangkok Post September 26, 2021.
More humans need to realise that countries and nations, along with cultures, customs, and traditions, are all at heart only human fictions, as historian Yuval Harari correctly explains in his justly famous book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (2015).
Mindless faith in blind nationalism or spurious ethnic myths notwithstanding, should be irrelevant to its right to self-determination today.
If the people on the piece of land called Taiwan, or Tibet, or Texas, or Catalonia, or Australia, or whatever do not want to be Chinese, or American, or Spanish, or British, or whatever, that is for them to decide today constrained only by just contractual agreements entered into.
Should they wish the people currently occupying some piece of real estate to remain within the same fiction that is a nation, it is for China, the United States, or Britain to persuade those citizens to freely remain in that organisational structure. Force or threats of force already betray any pretence to respecting the rights of the people.

Felix Qui,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Call for deportation of foreigners
In Papua New Guinea with illegal visas
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 29 September 2021
First published in the National, Friday 24 September 2021

I commend the taskforce team that includes officers from Immigration and Citizenship Authority and police officers for confiscating illegal visas from foreigners who knowingly abuse the laws of this country and making a mockery out of it.
While the authority is making money from fines, these foreigners should be detained at Bomana Immigration Centre and deported to their home countries.
These foreigners know how weak our systems are.
What are fines compared to them living and running business illegally?
Paying a fine is too easy for some of them.
They will pay you, then what?
It is recommended these foreigners should be detained and be deported immediately.
Throughout Papua New Guinea, foreigners operate in groups, so the more we become too relaxed by just collecting fines, more will take advantage of our weak system and continue to live and operate illegally.
For example; if you go to Australia and your visa expires and you continue to reside illegally and work, you will automatically be deported and blacklisted from travelling back to Australia once you are caught by Australian authorities.
The same should be done for foreigners in Papua New Guinea.
Our laws should be respected.

Concerned Citizen,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea

 


Contract awarded to Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp
Is a sweetheart deal
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday September 28, 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday September 27, 2021

Congressmen said the Senate blue ribbon committee’s investigation of the transfer of COVID-19 funds from the Department of Health to the Department of Budget and Management is meant to destroy the President.
Far from it.
The President himself said he requested Michael Yang, a Chinese national and a long-time Davao businessman, to help Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp., a newly organized trading company with a capital of only P625,000 and with no track record.
The award of the P8.7 billion contract to Pharmally is a sweetheart deal. One who has P42 billion will not even think of talking to a new entity with only P625,000 capital, no declared income, and no track record.
The award to Pharmally is grossly disadvantageous to the government; it calls for a thorough investigation for violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
In a similar situation, Malacañang would say: “If they have nothing to hide, they should let the hearings continue.”

Jose J. Ferrer, Jr.,
Manila,
Philippines



Manila streets renamed since independence
From United States in 1946
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 27 September 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 24 September 2021

This is not the first time we’re renaming a street.
We do this rather often.
We renamed Forbes Avenue to Lacson Avenue, Divisoria to Salas Street, Echague to Carlos Palanca, Morayta to Nicanor Reyes just to name a few.
There are about 170 streets in Manila alone that have been renamed after we gained independence from the Americans in 1946. Historian Gregorio Zaide said this is a fruit of “bigoted nationalism.”
And yet up to now, people still use the name Divisoria, Forbes, Echague, and Morayta.
This phenomenon shows both a lack of historical sense and collective memory when we change the name and also the presence of both when we still use the old names.
It would be good to foster in our people greater historical sense and true patriotism in contrast to nationalism by preserving the old names of our streets and using the names of people in our history to name new streets.
If a street has had the same name for some generations, perhaps it would be wiser not to change the name anymore.
As we can see, even if we change the name, the old one is still used by the people.
Other countries seldom change the names of streets, so that some street names are preserved even for centuries.
For example, the Via Appia in Rome was built about 300 BC.
It still exists, and it still has the same name.
The street and the name teach us a lot of history.

Fr. Cecilio L. Magsino,
Manila,
Philippines


 

One day jail sentence for corruption
For Malaysian senior federal council
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday September 26, 2021
First published in the Star, Saturday September 18, 2021

Anti-Curruption campaigners were startled by the decision of the Sessions Court in Butterworth last month to sentence a senior federal counsel to jail for one day and a fine of RM130,000 after he pleaded guilty to three charges of accepting bribes amounting to RM700,000 last year.
They would have been quick to point out that in contrast, more severe sentences have been meted out in cases of petty theft, such as on a labourer in Terengganu who was jailed 15 months for stealing petai, and on an unemployed man who was sentenced to 10 months’ jail for stealing RM50 from a fund belonging to a mosque.
Under the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Act 2009, punishment for corruption-related offences are imprisonment for a term not exceeding 20 years, and a fine of not less than five times the sum of the gratification or RM10,000, whichever is higher.
The previous Anti-Corruption Act (ACA) 1997 carried a more severe punishment, namely a mandatory jail sentence of not less than 14 days and not exceeding 20 years and fines amounting to five times the bribe amount or RM10,000 (whichever is higher).
In comparison, under Section 406 of the Penal Code, penalty for criminal breach of trust (CBT) is imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than one year and not more than 10 years and with whipping.
The convicted person would also be liable to a fine.
For cheating, the penalty under Section 420 of the Penal Code is imprisonment for a term of not less than one year and not more than 10 years and with whipping, and also a fine.
Corruption is far more serious when compared with other offences such as criminal breach of trust CBT, cheating and even homicide because it has far-reaching consequences.
Compared to, for example homicide, which generally involves the offender and the victim’s family, corruption affects the wider public as the money could otherwise have been used on healthcare services or in the building of new schools and roads.
The theory of deterrence developed by Hobbes, Beccaria and Bentham states that “the more severe a punishment, the more likely that offenders will desist from criminal acts.”
Therefore, the one-day jail sentence for corruption cases should be scrapped.
It would be more appropriate under the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) MACC Act 2009 to impose a mandatory jail time of at least two months with a minimum of two strokes of the rotan plus a fine.
A heavier sentence coupled with a longer prison term with whipping will open the eyes of the public to the fact that corruption will surely lead to the ruin of not only the persons involved but their entire family as well.

Datuk Seri Akhbar Satar,
President,
Malaysia Association of Certified Fraud Examiners,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia


 

Senate digs up evidence of plunder in investigation
Into shenanigans of President Duterte’s friends
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 25 September 2021
First published in the Philippines, Tuesday 21 September 2021

The commentary “Politics as farce” by Gino Paje in Philippine Inquirer, September 14, 2021 contended that the ongoing investigation by the Senate blue ribbon committee of the shenanigans of President Duterte’s friends and associates known as the “Davao group” is just “politics,” given that the main investigators used to play footsie with Mr. Duterte and are now eyeing elective positions in 2022.
However, regardless of their motives, the Senate probers are actually doing a great service to the Filipino people.
They are destroying the myth that Mr. Duterte is an invincible opponent, by exposing the massive corruption in his administration.
It has now become clear that hundreds of millions of public funds intended to address a raging pandemic wound up in the pockets of the President’s greedy “Davao group.”
And the farther Mr. Duterte goes out of his way to protect his boys, the more guilty as hell he looks.
But there is one thing that needs to be reckoned with in spite of all the compelling evidence of plunder that’s being dug up in the Senate: Only the Department of Justice and the Office of the Ombudsman are authorized by law to commence criminal prosecution against crooks.
But with the officials running these government offices afraid of displeasing Mr. Duterte, who else can hold the crooks accountable?
Thus, it’s all up to the electorate if they still want more of the same, or they will finally save this country from going to the dogs.

Rey C. Escobar,
Manila,
Philippines



The military and government are distinct
In a functioning democracy
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday Septemeber 24, 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday September 20, 2021

Re: "Coup anniversary fizzer", in Bangkok Post, Sunday September 19, 2021.
Gen Sonthi said "there are different types of democracy and Thailand should find one that fits its needs".
It is true that democracy spans a range of institutional arrangements.
But functioning democracies share several principles: the people elect the government; political institutions support and maintain their choices; the government serves the country; the military and the government are distinct, not overlapping, entities; and the military serves the country, not the government.
Thailand has a long way to go before it can claim to be a functioning democracy.

Tom Parkinson,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 


Espionage comes to mind with Chinese national appointment
As Philippine presidential advisor on economic affairs
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 23 September 2021
First published in Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 21 September 2021

Michael Yang of the Pharmally scandal is a Chinese national doing business in Davao City.
Mr. Duterte has trusted this man as a friend for decades, and in fact appointed him at one point as a “presidential adviser on economic affairs.”
How that patently unlawful designation was justified by Malacañang is as clear as mud. Yang’s connection with the Chinese Communist Party is quite evident from the fact that a Chinese ambassador to the Philippines was said to have had no problem sleeping over in Yang’s house.
It would thus be the height of naivete for anyone to believe that Yang is only a businessman.
Doesn’t espionage come to mind?
Never mind the oxymoron, but is that part of the Armed Forces of the Philippines doing “military intelligence” okay with Yang traipsing the corridors of power and getting privy to practically everything that President Duterte has been doing all these years?

Rimaldo Pacifico,
Manila,
Philippines

 

New normal industrial-era education model
Will weaken education mafia in Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 22 September 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 20 September 2021

Re: "Classroom enhances the value of learning", in Bangkok Post Opinion, September 18.
Mr Ferguson makes some excellent observations about the virtues of classroom or on-campus teaching and learning.
We are the products of the industrial-era model of the brick-and-mortar system where we had all kinds of experiences the good, bad, and ugly.
It is quite possible that in the "new normal," the industrial-era model of education, focusing on time, process, and teaching, will be eclipsed by online learning rooted in outcomes.
In the past two years of the pandemic, students have discovered their potential to learn by themselves.
The drastic changes in their behaviour will not allow them to go back easily to the usual conformity and compliance most instructors in Thailand expect.
There is enough evidence to support the idea that the institutional control of education will decrease, and the power of students will increase.
With near-universal access to digital devices and the internet, students will seek from the education sector the same things they are getting from other sectors, such as the music, movies, gaming, and eCommerce industries.
Online learning entities will drive up competition and drive down prices.
The education mafia in Thailand which has been squeezing families with its deceptive advertising and exorbitant fees for decades will weaken.
We should all come to terms with the fact that in the post-pandemic era the dominance of degrees will diminish.
According to experts, non-degree certifications and diplomas and "just in time" education will increase in status and value. In reality, education is all about experiences, not necessarily confined to schools or classrooms.
The "golden era of ivory towers" is over.
Online learning and students themselves will now drive reforms.

Kuldeep Nagi,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Face shields a symbol of waste and corruption
Under Deterte administration
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 21 September 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 16 September 2021

We echo the assertion of some senators that face shields add little or even no protection against COVID-19 infections.
It adds to plastic pollution aside from being an unnecessary expense for citizens.
We are outraged to learn in the Senate blue ribbon committee hearing that the government procured overpriced face shields.
Face shields are important for medical workers, but under the Duterte administration, these items have become a symbol of waste and corruption.
It is useless to convince the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases to reconsider its order for the mandatory use of face shields, that is why they are now appealing to local government units to stop requiring the use of face shields in their respective jurisdictions.
The optional use of face shields will hopefully partially reduce plastic garbage aside from removing an inconvenient financial burden on our people.
We ask the government to make a concrete plan on how to properly dispose of the plastic mess they had created, and to make officials and so-called experts accountable for legitimizing the improper use of public funds for an irrational pandemic policy.

Kevin Paul Aguayon,
Campaign Coordinator,
Nilad Metro Manila Environmental Network,
Manila,
Philippines

 

 

Thai Elite Card program to attract rich foreigners
Proves to be a boondoggle
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 20 September 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday 19 September 2021

Re: "Govt to entice rich expats," in Bangkok Post September 15, 2021
Once again it shows how misplaced the Thai government's notions are?
If you have to invest $500,000, have a yearly income of $80,000, buy $100,000 insurance, and have few thousand dollars of loose change to enjoy yourself, why in the world would you relocate to Thailand?
Why not Portugal, Italy, Istanbul, or Mexico?
I must say that Thai officials do live in some La-La Land thinking that rich people around the world are ready to flock to Thailand with a load of money to rescue the Thai economy!
The Thai Elite Card programme touted to attract rich foreigners has proved to be a boondoggle.
The Covid crisis has already hammered the Thai travel sector.
Sandbox and other novel experiments are not working.
So why come up with more of the same ideas?
Albert Einstein is widely credited with saying, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results."
Instead, the government must pay more attention to expats who are already inside. The retired foreigners who live here and own condos, and are married to Thai women, and spending lots of money supporting the Thai economy are subjected to 90-day reporting and the annual pilgrimage to immigration offices.
Why not allow these insiders to own land and provide them work permits and a 10-year visa?
The Thai government should entice this group to invest more, rather than coming up with exotic ideas to attract new expats during this pandemic?

Kuldeep Nagi,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Police torture of supects
Standard practice in Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 19 September 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday 16 September 2021

Re: "Anti-torture bill overdue," Bangkok Post Editorial, September 14, 2021"
This bill was written primarily to prevent rogue officials from torturing suspects.
But seriously, does the Bangkok Post leader-writer know for sure that torture involving police is "rogue behaviour?"
Police putting plastic bags over the heads of suspects during interrogation has been documented time and again.
It was even once demonstrated in parliament.
The group of policemen in the Joe Ferrari fatal torture clip didn't seem at all surprised at the method being used; just another day at the office.
Is police torture really rogue behaviour, or simply standard practice?

Alec Bamford,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Romualdez Marcos Jr.,
In violation of separation of powers
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday September 18, 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday September 17, 2021

Bong Go Marcos is an incumbent senator.
Despite his election to that national position, he has remained the most prominent member of President Duterte’s presidential entourage.
Former senator Serge Osmeña has derisively called Go Duterte’s caregiver.
But Go is more than a caregiver.
He is, aside from being Mr. Duterte’s gofer, a de facto Cabinet member, right-hand man, enabler, and overall surrogate.
His being all of the above almost all of the time, and on Senate time from where he draws handsome compensation, is a blatant violation of the separation of powers. It smacks of out and out opportunism.
By acting as he does, Go demeans his exalted position as senator, a mandate given to him as a gift by the Filipino people to whom he owes a sacred obligation that must be discharged with utmost honesty and fidelity.
Go should stop straddling the legislative and executive divide. He should realize the blatant anomaly in what he is doing. It is conflict of interest and corruption of the worst kind.
Go should resign forthwith from the Senate to become Mr. Duterte’s full-time caregiver, gofer, de facto Cabinet member, right-hand man, enabler, and overall surrogate.
By doing so, he shall have reduced the number of Duterte lackeys and toadies in the Senate.

Carnell S. Valdez,
Manila,
Philippines





US expat in Thailand looks forward to
Chinese and Korean movies
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 17 September 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 13 September 2021

I see Disney has cancelled Fox Sports Asia as it consolidates its streaming platform.
The loss of this international sports broadcast outlet just adds to the frustration of US expats who have already seen the demise of Major League Baseball, Nascar Racing and NCAA college football.
This Fox channel provided coverage of the four Grand Slam tennis tournaments, the F1 racing season and other international sporting events.
Not to worry though, True says we can depend on its eight branded networks for quality sports programming. Currently being shown are the NFL pre-season, which ended two weeks ago, the 2020/2021 NBA season, which ended two months ago, and three tennis tournaments.
In addition, this 76-year-old US expat can look forward to a new Chinese movie station, a new Korean movie station, a new kids station and a new gaming-centred station.
We lost HBO and Showtime for Warner and Paramount.
Anyone see a trend here?

Fred Prager,
Bangkok,
Thailand


 

 

President Duterte connected with contract awarded to
Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp for Covid-19 equipment
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 16 September 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 14 September 2021

The “Davao connection” is all over the transfer of P42 billion COVID-19 funds from the Department of Health to the Department of Budget and Management in March 2020.
Lloyd Christopher Lao, who hails from Davao, is a fraternity brother of President Duterte, and is a former undersecretary in the Presidential Management Staff under Christopher Bong Go, approved the supply contracts with Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp.
Pharmally had a paid-up capital of only P625,000, and had no declared income in 2019.
Pharmally officials were personally introduced to Mr. Duterte in March 2017 by Michael Yang, his former adviser on economic affairs who is also from Davao City.
The pattern is unmistakable: The Davao connection is entrenched in government corruption.
All good men and women should stay focused on the Senate blue ribbon committee investigation to see what other connections it can reveal.

Jose J. Ferrer Jr.,
Manila,
Philippines




Wanted: Public toilets
In Indo-Pacific
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 15 September, 2021

With reference to the Reuters report ‘ India, Australia security ties’ ( 12/9 )
I hope the security ties ( read, military and military intelligence ties ) will not take away resources and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s plan to build more public toilets for the people of the India.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia


Mismanagement of Philippines pandemic funds
Trigger protest action from health workers
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 14 September 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 10 September 2021

As Covid-19 has raged on, corruption in government has also been exposed.
The report on the health department’s mismanagement of P67 billion for the pandemic response has triggered protest actions by health workers from public and private hospitals.
Their protest actions have gathered tremendous support and sympathy from different sectors, the public, doctors, and other health professionals.
Even the World Health Organization has recognized the health worker’s plight.
Who are responsible for the plunder of public funds?
It was to lawyer Lloyd Christopher Lao of the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM) that Health Secretary Francisco Duque III entrusted P42.4 billion of the Department of Health (DOH) funds. President Duterte admitted he had appointed Lao to the PS-DBM. Lao was Mr. Duterte’s election lawyer in 2016.
Lao was also the assistant secretary at the Office of the Special Assistant to the President, formerly headed by Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go.
What about Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp.?
This is a subsidiary company of Pharmally International Holding Company; its executives are associates of Mr. Duterte’s former economic adviser Michael Yang, and these executives have active criminal cases in Taiwan for alleged manipulation of stocks.
On March 17, 2017, Mr. Duterte was in a meeting with Pharmally executives and Yang, as Malacañang video footage shows.
It is a big question why Mr. Duterte has been defending Yang, Duque, and Lao while at the same time castigating the Commission on Audit and the senators investigating the P42-billion anomalous transaction of the DOH. He has admitted ordering Duque to transfer the amount to fast-track the procurement of medical supplies without bidding. Duque has also admitted his failure to execute a memorandum of agreement with the PS-DBM.
Who will be made to account for what is turning out to be “premeditated plunder,” in the words of Sen. Franklin Drilon?
As the Senate investigation continues, people are hoping that such investigation will not only be in aid of legislation, but, more importantly, will lead to convictions. I am one of them.

Ruth Elio, registered nurse,
National Council Health Alliance for Democracy Inc.,
Manila,
Philippines



Taiwan calls on Philippines for support
For Taiwan's participation in the United Nations vision
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 13 September 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 10 September 2021

The 76th anniversary of the United Nations (UN) is arriving when the world is still faced with the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As highly-contagious variants of the virus continuously affect us, the world needs a more effective UN to help recover from the COVID-19.
The UN responds by declaring the theme for this year’s General Assembly, which is to be held in New York on 14-30 September 2021, as “Building resilience through hope – to recover from COVID-19, rebuild sustainability, respond to the needs of the planet, respect the rights of people, and revitalize the United Nations.
The realization of UN’s vision requires all of us at the table.
After almost a year of successfully containing the virus, Taiwan experienced a surge of confirmed cases in mid-May this year.
Nonetheless, it has stabilized the situation with effective anti-pandemic responses, and emerged as a more reliable partner to work with in the global community on the fight against the COVID-19.
Taiwan has also dedicated itself to implementing the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and joins hands in pandemic response with like-minded countries, including the Philippines.
Despite Taiwan’s effective response against the pandemic and the important role it played in the global supply chain, the government and people of Taiwan continuously face difficulties when attempting to take part in the mechanisms, meetings and activities of the UN system.
This situation erodes the United Nations principle of universality.
Multilateral collaboration requires bilateral cooperation. As close neighbors and maritime nations, Taiwan and the Philippines are enduring partners which uphold the values of freedom, democracy, and the rule of law.
The continued threat posed by the pandemic calls for the spirit of “bayanihan” to bring everyone to the table.
We sincerely hope our Filipino brothers and sisters to voice their support for Taiwan’s participation in the UN system.
The people of Taiwan need the international community to support our aspirations and our right to fair treatment by the UN.
At the very least, stop turning us away at the door.
Taiwan can do much to help build a more resilient UN system.
Let Taiwan be Taiwan and it is the right time to bring Taiwan to the table.

Peiyung Hsu,
Representative,
Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in the Philippines.
Manila,
Philippines



Call for Hon. Senator Emmanuel "Manny" D. Pacquiqo
To hang up his gloves
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 12 September 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 10 September 2021

Your August 27 Philippine Inquirer, editorial, “It’s time, Manny” leads us to look at the record of the accomplished boxer.
He was a Great Pretender as congressman, contending for Top Absentee.
For our people to elect him as Senator is a form of estafa.
As senator, while he occasionally criticizes the Palace, he had two months preparing for his latest fight.
That time he could have devoted to proving his charges last June of administration corruption.
But nothing, while our cynical people may be getting insensitive to such claims over the decades.
Indeed, being a Great Pretender may be another form of corruption.
We don’t advise that if anyone reaches a fork in the road to take it.
Manny should hang up his gloves.

R.A.V. Saguisag Sr.,
Manila,
Philippines




People of Myanmar fight against military repression
For right to live in freedom and human dignity
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 11 September 2021

On the deepening crisis in Myanmar I refer to the article ‘ Call for Australia to make a stand’ in The Fiji Times 9/9 ( first published on Devpolicy Blog from the Development Policy Centre at the Australian National University).
Don’t count on it.
Australia and the international community are good at paying lip service on calls for the restoration of democracy following a military takeover.
The bottom line is after an initial expression of condemnation for the takeover they find ways to return to business as usual with the rogue regime to further their own vested economic interests.
They are driven by what’s political expedient for them and not what’s right for the oppressed people of Myanmar and elsewhere.
Six months after the military takeover and brutal military crackdown in Myanmar if Australia has not taken a solid stand what does that tell you?
The people of Myanmar will have to fight against the tyranny of military repression and for their right to live in freedom and human dignity.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia




Thai police officer accused of murder
Keeps mask on at press conference
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 10 September
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday 4 September 2021

Re: "Joe Ferrari' denies all accusations", in Bangkok Post, August 29,
2021.
Watching from beginning to end on Thursday the press conferences organised by the Royal Thai Police on the arrest of Police Colonel Thitisan Utthanaphon - the suspect accused of torturing and murder of a drug suspect - I couldn't help thinking something fishy was going on.
First, at the first news conference to showcase the suspect in front of the public, the police generals failed to remove the mask covering the suspect's face.
This led to speculations and suspicion concerning the true identity of the suspect. The suspect on display seemed to be smaller and thinner than he should have been.
Second, during the second press conference late in the evening, the suspect was not shown, but was allowed to answer questions via a phone-in - it looks like the suspect has been given a chance to clear himself.
Also, cross-questioning by reporters was not fully allowed. The police generals who were present also refused to answer important questions concerning the case.
Lastly, instead of improving its image through these press conferences, the Royal Thai Police seems to have plunged to a new low.
It would have been better if this seemingly half-hearted and illusory press conference never happened.

Vint Chavala,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Philippine government hell-bent
On waging war against its own people
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 9 September 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 7 September 2021

Amid the controversy over the Department of Health and the Procurement Service-Department of the Budget and Management anomalies that were flagged by the Commission on Audit, the issue of the P28.1 billion budget being requested for the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac) has been lost in the din.
It appears to us that this government is hell-bent on waging war against its own people who are airing grievances over what they see as a lack of government support in their hour of need, and even for simply establishing community pantries as a means to help those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Olympic gold medalist Hidilyn Diaz was red-tagged when she asked the private sector for assistance in preparing for the Tokyo Olympics.
The people involved in the community pantries were Red-tagged, too. Their only sin was to help the needy amid the pandemic.
But while millions are suffering, those in government are swimming in humongous funds that they allocate for themselves.
The irony of it all is, why is this government waging a war against what it sees as local communists while at the same time cavorting with Communist China?
If the government has not been remiss in its job of looking after the well-being of its people, there will be little protest and few grievances.
If there is no corruption in government, there will be fewer poor people in this country.
And if the problems mentioned above are nonexistent, there is no need for that white elephant called the NTF-Elcac.

Ramon Mayuga,
Manila,
Philippines




Wanted U.S. resources in pivot to Indo-Pacific
To balance China's aggression policies
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 8 September 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday 5 September 2021

Re: "Biden's pivot to free, open Indo-Pacific", Bangkok Post, Opinion, September 3, 2021.
Yes, after two decades of efforts to build democracy in a tribal land, the US military has gone home.
There is no doubt that the Afghan clans and tribes will go back to fighting among themselves.
This age-old pattern will unfold soon.
Any society where one holy book or scripture becomes the basis of life is doomed. A society where people treat guns as ornaments will have enemies.
As a consequence, they will hunt down each other and also harm the innocent.
It is happening in the USA.
It is quite customary in Afghanistan, tribal areas of Pakistan, and many other countries.
An enlightened and liberal society can only be built through tolerance to the diversity of faith, religions, cultures, and opinions. Nation-building requires educated masses and robust economies.
Preserving the sanctity of human life is what is missing in the Middle East, Africa, and other parts of the world.
The Taliban and the IS may gather steam from US withdrawal and may again start new adventures into Southeast Asia.
Once again, Pakistan and Afghanistan will turn into a safe haven for radicalised and extremist groups.
The whole region from India's northern territories, from Kashmir to the border of Iran, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and China, will face the rise of Islamist radicals.
I also doubt the Biden administration will put resources in its Indo-Pacific pivot to balance China's aggressive policies.
Just like the USA, China's incursions within the region will backfire. It will also pay the price for its misadventures.

Kuldeep Nagi,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Waiting for Godot
In Pattaya and Phuket
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 7 September 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday 5 September 2021

Re: "Pattaya needs sustainability", Bangkok Post Editorial, September 3, 2021
I agree: sustainability is the answer.
But is "sustainability" in Pattaya and Phuket only achieved by resurrecting
"beer bar tourism?"
The current hope of a renewed Walking Street boom is like an expectation for the return of dinosaurs.
Thailand is like the play Waiting for Godot on that score … an unfounded fantasy that may or may never be realised given the rapidly changing realities of business/tourism travel internationally.
In the past 18 months of this Covid disaster we have only heard from the government about restarting tourism.
Never a suggestion that, instead of filling defunct hotels and soapy massage parlours, that we could build technical colleges as quickly as temporary field hospitals, that would house and train Thailand's youth with skills-based education to fill new factories and businesses.
It beats waiting for the beer bars to reopen. There's a future waiting … and a great political opportunity for the visionary.

J West
Bangkok,
Thailand


 

In a plutocracy the plutocrates first duty
Is to take care of themselves
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday September 6, 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday September 1, 2021

Re: "Booster shots start 'next month'", in Bangkok Post August 30, 2021
In countries where every human life is considered to have value, governments, even those which are otherwise inept, regard it as their responsibility to keep their populations alive. In the context of Covid-19 this has meant doing everything possible to vaccinate their whole population.
Because even the first shot of a vaccine can offer substantial protection, the length of time between the two prescribed shots was lengthened from three weeks to up to 12 weeks in some cases.
This was in order to ensure some protection for the greatest number of people.
Compare the situation in an imaginary plutocracy.
There, the plutocrats' first duty is to take care of themselves.
They will handle the contracts for purchasing vaccines and, in the process, increase their own wealth.
More importantly, they will ensure that they, their families and friends are at the front of the queue for vaccinations.
They will get their second shots after three weeks because only their lives are important, never mind the fact that the vast majority of the population cannot get even their first jab.
Once they learn though that a third,
booster, vaccination can give them still better protection, they will grab those too. In other words, to hell with the general populace.
So long as the betters, the important people, the elite, hi-sos or whatever are taken care of, everything is hunky-dory.

Keith Barlow,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 

 

Plastic bags drawn over drug suspect's head
To prevent him seeing police officers faces
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 5 September 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday 4 September 2021

Re: "Fears mount cops will shield 'Joe Ferrari'", in Bangkok Post August 28, 2021.
"I covered the suspect's head with plastic bags to prevent him from seeing officers' faces," says former Pol Col Thitisan Utthanaphon, charged with murdering an alleged drug trafficker in custody.
Ah, how we remember our childhood hours, playing games like Blind Man's Bluff, where one child had to be blindfolded by wrapping multiple plastic bags around their head!
Happy days!
Former Pol Col Thitisan is clearly not aware and as a high-ranking police officer. How could anyone expect him to be aware that placing a plastic bag over a suspect's head has been adjudicated by the courts as attempted murder?
May I suggest that if the police wish illegally to hide their identity in future interrogations, they wrap each other's heads in plastic bags.
This may of course lead to the accidental suffocation of a few officers.
But then again, the loss of would-be anonymous torturers might actually benefit the police in the long run.

Blind Pugh,
Bangkok,
Thailand




World Bank reports that the Philippines education system
Has much room for improvement
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 4 September 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 3 September 2021

The Asian Development Bank Institute (ADBI) working paper titled “Foundational Mathematics and Reading Skills of Filipino Students Over a Generation,” which corroborates the dismal findings on our basic education contained in the World Bank (WB) report, “WB apologizes for PH education report; Asian Development Bank Institute (ADBI) echoes findings,” in Philippine Inquirer July 10, 2021 that aggrieved the Duterte administration, particularly the Department of Education (DepEd), has resurfaced on the internet after around a month of disappearance.
Was the temporary removal perhaps prompted by the reaction of the government to the World Bank report?
It was taken down a few days after the World Bank bowed to the demand of Education Secretary Leonor Briones and Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III for the bank to apologize over the report and take down the report from its website.
The Asian Development Bank Institute (ADBI) paper then reappeared under the name of main author Takiko Igarashi and is no longer on the website of the Asian Development Bank Institute (ADBI).
Most interestingly, the last paragraph of the conclusion, which contained the verdict of the authors on the effectivity of our education system to impart foundational skills, has been deleted.
The missing paragraph is as follows: “Considering the Philippines’ status as a low-middle income country, improving the quality of the education system must remain a matter of national priority. The likelihood for the country to achieve high income status would be determined, first, by its ability to ensure that all students master foundational skills. Our findings, together with the results from international assessments, show that the Philippines educational system still has much room for quality improvement.”
Before the arm-twisting of the World Bank, the DepEd leadership went all out to discredit the article “70,000 Bicol pupils can’t read DepEd” in this paper’s Feb. 17, 2020 issue. It branded the report as “exaggerated,” “inaccurate,” even “ malicious” and “shoddy.”
In a press conference in Malacañang on that same day, Briones argued that there could not be 70,000 nonreaders in Bicol because the Philippine Informal Reading Inventory (Phil-IRI), the reading diagnostic test that surfaced the nonreaders, is supposedly a tool that determines if a student is reading and comprehending at his grade level, and since the purpose of the Phil-IRI is to place reading levels, all the takers are already readers.
Apparently, Briones did not read the Phil-IRI Manual 2018 which she herself issued. Pages 6, 8, 696, and 697 of the manual say that nonreaders are identified by their classroom teachers, with the information passed on to the administrators of the Phil-IRI.
“Not knowing how to read is different from being illiterate,” Briones also stated. No comment needed on that one.
Similarly, Undersecretaries Diosdado San Antonio and Nepomuceno Malaluan questioned the data of the DepEd-Region 5 on the ground that the Phil-IRI is only intended for Grades 3 to 6, and included in the report are Grades 1 and 2 and high school students.
The two officials forgot that the subject of the report is the number of nonreaders and not the classification of the entire Bicol studentry into the different reading levels, thus the kind of tool used is irrelevant.
Like Briones, they, too, don’t seem to know that nonreaders are not identified by the Phil-IRI but by the classroom teachers prior to the Phil-IRI process.
San Antonio and Malaluan were trying to say that in order for the DepEd to detect that a child can’t read, it needs an official reading diagnostic test when any printed text, even that on candy wrappers, can separate the literate from the illiterate.
Unfortunately, the unseemly, unprofessional, and immature reaction of the top brass of the DepEd was effective in stopping the circulation of information on the country’s reading crisis.
No subordinate official has dared to report to the media on the subject since then. Given the ADBI’s action on the working paper, it also appears that our international partners were put on notice by the vehement reaction of the government to the WB report, and are now wary of putting out helpful findings and assessments that could ruffle the feathers of the DepEd.

Pacifico Veremundo,
Manila,
Philippines

 


Thai VIP's to recieve third vaccination
Millions of Thai's yet to recieve first vaccination
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday Septemebeer 3, 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday September 1, 2021

Re: "Booster shots start 'next month'", in Bangkok Post, August 30, 2021.
Starting in September through October third shots will be given to the 3 million Thais who already received two doses of Sinovac at least three months ago.
What about the 7 million Thais who thus far have only received one dose and are being told they cannot get their second shot until October and November?
My wife, who owns a restaurant in Bangkok, has her second shot of AstraZeneca scheduled for late November, as do her entire staff, and cannot open her place of business which has been closed for now going on the eighth of nine months in 2021 because this government has not provided the ability for her and her staff to be vaccinated as they need to do to open.
And yet here they are giving third shots to all these others.
And what about the 40 million Thais who have not received their first shot, let alone their second or now third?
The plan to use the precious Pfizer vaccine as a third shot booster vaccines for anyone other than frontline workers, medical doctors, nurses and hospital staff, is just another move by this obtuse government out to please their hi-so ultra-wealthy VIP friends, themselves and their oligarchy cohorts.
Making regulations that they themselves, this government, make impossible for the average Thai business owner of eateries, restaurants and pubs to meet, and then using the needed vaccines that will allow them to meet these requirements as third shot boosters instead of making sure all have at least one vaccine and getting those who do not have, their second vaccine must be the priority of this government now.
Stop playing a life and death game with the people of Thailand in order to please yourselves and your VIP friends and take care of the Thais and foreign residents.
For once, do what is right for the people

Mitchell,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Philippine President Duterte
"Is the best communicator"
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 2 September 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 1 September 2021

In her column A legacy of bad communication” in Philippine Inquirer August 16, 2021, Kay Rivera wrote: “Among the many legacies of this administration is one of truncated, illogical, false, unhelpful communication, and it is a legacy that will continue to color spokesperson Roque’s career, long after the need for this blatant sycophancy has receded.”
One would think a former University of the Philippines (UP) College of Law professor would still have the slightest dignity to distance himself from blatant lies. Yet Harry Roque found the gall to say that “President Duterte is the best communicator” he knows.
What planet is he from?
Indeed, just when we thought nothing could beat the anecdote about an ultra-loyal general during martial law who was said to have replied “from what floor, sir?” when his commander in chief ordered him to jump from a tall building, now comes Roque who would probably sky-dive from a plane without a parachute if his boss told him to do so.

Danica Monica R. Mortiz,
Manila,
Philippines

 

 

Call for Thailand to accept reality
Learn to live with Covid-19
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 1 September 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday 29 August 2021

Why are we still locked down if covid-19 has become endemic?
I can no longer comprehend why we remain in lockdown into month five if you start from April, and month six if you include January.
I won't even speak to pre-2021 as this experiment made sense then, when clearly it is doing nothing to curb numbers now.
Yes they fluctuated slightly down these last few days but this is based on opaque information given that many people are now self-testing and not reporting their cases otherwise they have steadily increased from April to now in a de facto lockdown.
If we all agree on a few points. Covid-19 is now endemic and is not going to disappear no matter how hard we try, look at China, Australia, and New Zealand the strictest of all nations.
We believe in the vaccines as an effective method of prevention from serious illness last report was 81.4 percent of people in Bangkok had received at least one dose of a vaccine according to the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) English briefing on August 20.
Vulnerable populations should isolate if they choose until we have further information.
Why are we still locking our children at home and not educating them, let's not pretend virtual school is a reasonable method any longer, closing our restaurants, hotels, and shops; blatantly wreaking financial havoc for no reason at all?
We are now killing people with Covid-19, along with a widespread mental health disaster, and financial challenges.
The world is collapsing around us and we persist like little mice to think we can stop an unseen virus from entering our space when we should be learning how to live with it.
Does Thailand really want to continue letting the baht devalue to the point that we will be in an economic recession worse than the Tom Yum Kung crisis of 1997? Let's accept the reality.
Let's focus on how to stay healthy to be ready for when we are, in fact, infected, while continuing to engage in safe practices such as mask wearing, hand washing, and some distancing, but not at the behest of our lives, our education, our livelihoods, or our mental and physical health.

Nicole Sheldon,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 


Call for protection and promotion of rights of women
In Papua New Guinea Parliament
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 31 August 2021
First published in the National, Friday 27 August 2021

The Government has so far passed eight new bills in Parliament, including the Oil & Gas Act Amendment Bill 2021 and MVIL Third-party Insurance Bill among others.
The decision to revert to the first-past-the-post voting system which was abolished in 2007 in preference for the limited preferential voting (LPV) system was voted against through a bipartisan support.
The LPV system was adopted because it minimised problems including vote rigging and other inequalities that were identified in elections prior to 2007.
The LPV system ensured that the elected MPs had wider mandate from the electorate and province by redistributing second and third preferences of losing candidates in each rounds to the leading candidates.
However, in a culturally diverse country such as Papua New Guinea, inequalities often exist regardless of the voting system and it’s often difficult for the election officers and security personnel’s to mitigate vote rigging and the disenfranchisement of different groups of voters.
One of the agenda to address inequalities in general elections in the country has been alluded to the reserve seats for women in Parliament.
This agenda was tabled in Parliament by Dame Carol Kidu in 2009 after her observations of the limited number of female candidates being elected into Parliament since 1975.
Despite the push to have reserve seats for women in Parliament, the Government saw that the move was untenable due to an absence of a supporting bureaucracy and the lack of financial capacity.
Since then the agenda has become a trivial agenda but discussions are still continuing between different groups and the government to ensure that the agenda is brought to fruition.
At this juncture, the Government should also consider amending the Organic Law on Political Parties and Candidates (Olipac) to ensure that more female candidates are endorsed by the political parties as an alternative means to elect more female candidates into Parliament.
The Olipac has been recently amended to instil compliance, efficiency and transparency, however, the practice of electing more male candidates than females continue to be an issue with less women being elected into Parliament.
Hence, the Olipac should be amended to allow political parties to endorse equal number of male and female candidates with the result of increasing the probability of voting more female candidates into Parliament.
The Government has been passing bills in its endeavour to fulfill its “Take back PNG” slogan so importantly it should consider the protection and promotion of the rights of women in Parliament and elsewhere.

Mickey Haro,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea



Call for reform of Thai drug laws
To respect indivual right
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday August 30, 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday August 27, 2021

Re: "Custody death clip sparks storm," in Bangkok Post, Wednesday August 25, 2021.
It comes as no surprise that the policeman accused of masterminding the torture and murder of a drug suspect at a police station is, in fact, "regarded as one of the best drug suppression officers".
It must be wondered for how long such extortion has been going on in that police area.
It must also be wondered, given the prevalence of such accounts of brutality and extortion, how widespread such practices are in Thai society in general.
I also wonder what other evils lie secreted in closets protected by repressive censorship from healthy public knowledge and open debate.
Had the video of the man being tortured by these upstanding men of law and order waging war against druggies not gone public, would there have been even a pretense of seeking justice?
Perhaps if Thailand's drug laws, which have conspicuously failed to reduce drug use, were reformed to respect individual rights, we would see not only no big increase in drug use, but savings in tax money and police resources.

Felix Qui,
Bangkok,
Thailand




2022 Philippines general election
Is a catch-22 proposition
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 29 August 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 27 August 2021

With no less than President Duterte perfunctorily exonerating high-profile crooks in his government who squirreled away or by their sheer incompetence, if not collusion, helped squirrel away billions of public funds, juxtaposed with his boast that he has “sackloads” of money to bankroll the election of his candidates in 2022 “Duterte to campaign for PDP-Laban bets; to bring ‘sackloads’ of cash,” in Philippine Inquirer July 17, 2021, it takes no rocket science to figure out where that filthy lucre might be coming from.
And this, coming from the man who used to say he hates corruption and cannot stand even just a “whiff” of it?
How is it that voters still give Mr. Duterte the “highest approval rating” despite his colossal failures?
Can we really blame it on the mediocrity of the vast majority of our voters?
If that be the case, are not Vice President Leni Robredo and some of the really brilliant members of Congress also products of that same mediocrity?
We were trying to understand this dilemma from Richard Heydarian’s “The foolish myth of ‘bobotante’ voters” in Philippine Inquirer August 10, 2021 in light of the “inequality” in our society between those “wealthy enough to buy the electorate” and those too poor to have qualms about selling themselves.
Alas, not much help there.
A great thinker like him seems just as bewildered.
It’s a catch-22 proposition: Only an enlightened electorate can produce good government.
But only good government can produce an enlightened electorate. So where do we go from here?

Yvette San Luis-Petrocelli,
Manila,
Philippines




Thai protesters against military constitution
Don't have pro-civil rights administration to turn to
The Southeast Asian Tines, Saturday 28 August 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 27 August 2021

As an American I'd like to respond to Burin's letter August 25 in which he notes the non-violent tactics during the civil rights movement in America worked better than the violent tactics of protesters in Thailand.
He overlooks one important point - although America has a racist history it is still a democracy and the governments in power during that era the Kennedy and Johnson administrations were pro-civil rights.
President Johnson, the Senate and the Congress used their government power to enforce civil rights in the Southern states which resisted it.
In Thailand, it is the oppressors who rule.
Unlike the civil rights protesters of the 1960s, the Thai protesters don't have a higher power to turn to.
While I am not promoting violence, non-violent protests are much more effective in a country that has a Western-style democracy.

Eric Bahrt,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Bishops accuse Philippine President Duterte of muzzling
Investigation into Department of Health pandemic funds
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 27 August 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 23 August 2021

Instead of reproaching the independent state audit body for doing its job, President Duterte should have called for an investigation on the alleged deficiencies of the Department of Health (DOH) in the use of its P67.3-billion pandemic funds.
The Commission on Audit (COA) said “the deficiencies in the handling of the P67.3-billion pandemic response fund were caused by noncompliance with pertinent laws, rules and regulations, and undermined the timely and efficient response to the pandemic last year.”
It said “the DOH failed to utilize P59.124 billion of its 2020 budget and was unable to use as much as P11.8 billion of the COVID-19 funds, which meant that these ‘were not translated into much-needed health supplies, equipment and services that could have benefited both the health workers and the general public during the critical times of the pandemic.’”
But what was more appalling was the reaction of the President who said on national television that Commission on Audit (COA) report implied corruption.
The President even told Duque to “ignore the COA report,” obviously unmindful that Commission on Audit (COA) is an independent constitutional body whose mandate includes publicly disclosing expenditures by state agencies.
One of Mr. Duterte’s avowed commitments at the start of his presidency was to rid the government of corruption.
He declared that he would fire officials with just a “whiff” of corruption on them. Why is he now muzzling the agency that guards against corruption, and shielding those who committed irregularities in using public funds?
What all these reek of is colossal mismanagement, even clear and present signs of corruption, that should warrant the resignation of Duque.
In the best interests of the suffering Filipino people, he must resign immediately even if his boss tells him not to.
And if the President cannot or will not rid government agencies of corrupt officials, he must resign, too!

Ecumenical Bishops Forum
Bishop Emeritus Deogracias S. Iniguez Jr.,
Ft., Revd. Rex B. Reyes Jr.,
Bishop Joel E Tendero.
Bishop Ciriaco Francisco,
Bishop Dindo Ranojo.




Malaysia's Pharmacists calls on government
To manage sale and distribution of Covid-19 self-test kits
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 26 August 2021
First published in the Star, Saturday 21 August 2021

The Malaysian Pharmacists Society (MPS) is concerned about the unregulated sale of Covid-19 self-test kits especially via social media platforms including WhatsApp.
We are particularly concerned about the rampant sale of fake kits as well as sales by unqualified sellers who are neither pharmacists nor doctors.
Fake Covid-19 self-test kits and wrong use of these kits would produce inaccurate results such as false negatives that would not help in combating the pandemic. Moreover, with more cases of brought in dead (BID) being recorded, the government must act immediately.
Ideally, self-test kits should be provided free to the public.
But if the government is not able to do this, a mechanism to subsidise the cost should be activated.
Malaysian Pharmacists Society (MPS) urges the government to manage the sale and distribution of self-test kits efficiently via a subsidy or price control mechanism. This would immediately curb and eventually stop the sale of fake kits as well as sales by unqualified sellers.
Should a price control mechanism be the way, Malaysian Pharmacists Society (MPS) urges the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry to allow a grace period of one month before implementation.
This would assist pharmacists who have already purchased the self-test kits at a higher cost to clear the more expensive stock.
If a grace period is not granted, Malaysian Pharmacists Society (MPS) wants a subsidy or refund mechanism to be put in place to prevent losses to pharmacists who purchased the stocks in good faith.
To benefit the public, the ministry must ensure that the price control mechanism includes not only standardisation of the sale price but Malaysian Pharmacists Society (MPS) also control of the cost price from the supplier.
Malaysian Pharmacists Society (MPS) has received numerous complaints from both the public and pharmacists of self-test kits that are being sold online and via WhatsApp at extremely low prices and with no guarantee of the product being genuine.
Currently, as the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry only has a general complaints page on their website Malaysian Pharmacists Society (MPS) would like to suggest that a dedicated page be set up for complaints against fake products and sales by non-pharmacists and non-doctors.
This would enable turnover of complaints to be handled quickly and efficiently by the enforcement arm of the ministry.
It is critical that a mechanism to identify fake and genuine stock of self-test kits be implemented to further protect the public.
Suppliers of self-test kits, the ministry and the Medical Device Authority (MDA) should work on this immediately.
The ministry should also help to enforce the Medical Device Authority (MDA) policy on conditional approval for importation and distribution of Covid-19 self-test kits, which allows only licensed pharmacies and healthcare facilities to sell the kits online.

Amrahi Buang,
President Malaysian Pharmacists Society,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia




Cash payment required in Philippines
For Covid-19 admittance to Intensive Care Unit
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 25 August, 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 20 August, 2021

A close relative of ours in Quezon City who is over 60 years of age recently had her vaccine shots.
But some weeks later, and contrary to expectations, she was found positive for COVID-19.
It was so severe that she needed to be hospitalized.
Her son drove her around as they looked for any hospital in Quezon City that would admit her.
None could be found.
He had no choice but to bring her back home.
On the second day of her illness, her son brought her to the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) in Manila and got her “waitlisted” at the emergency Room (ER), which was already full.
On the third day, she finally got a room, but her condition so deteriorated that she was immediately “waitlisted” for admission to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), which was also full.
At around noon of the fourth day, her son inquired how much was required to get his mother admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) the moment a vacancy would occur.
No information came until way past 6 in the evening, when he was told that the bill was over a hundred thousand pesos.
He didn’t have that kind of money on him, so would Philippine General Hospital (PGH) accept his credit card, the credit limit of which was more than enough to cover the bill?
He got the shock of his life: Philippine General Hospital (PGH) does not accept credit cards, only cash!
A vacancy in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) finally occurred later that evening.
But no hard currency, no admission to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) was the final word.
The son only had P20,000 with him at that time, and he tearfully pleaded with the hospital because banks were already closed.
Had people in charge of billing informed him much earlier that only cash payment would do, he would have had no problem getting the money from the bank before it closed.
Private hospitals do allow settlement of bills through credit cards.
So why can’t Philippine General Hospital (PGH), a public hospital funded mainly by taxpayer money?
Perhaps because a lot of its patients are not able to pay after treatment, hence it needs to be “segurista”?
But Philippine General Hospital (PGH) losses are practically covered and insured by Congress, which appropriates taxpayer money to keep it going no matter what. On top of that, it is constantly the recipient of hundreds of millions in donations from philanthropists here and abroad.
It’s really no skin off its back if destitute patients abscond.
There is a hard and inconvenient lesson to be learned here for those not familiar with Philippine General Hospital (PGH) protocols.
Anyone taking any sick relative to Philippine General Hospital (PGH) that could potentially require Intensive Care Unit (ICU) treatment had better bring along a bagful of hard cash because the country’s premier public hospital appears to have not heard of the payment facility known as credit cards.

Stephen L. Monsanto,
Manila,
Philippines

 

 

Philippines President Duterte's communications skills
Revolve around the word "kill"
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 24 August 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday August 23, 2021

Of all the shameless lies Harry Roque has been dishing out to the public, this one must surely take the cake: President Duterte is the “best communicator… he has no lapses in his way of communicating”
“Roque asked: If Duterte ‘good communicator’ why do you have to explain him?" in Philippine Inquirer August 10, 2021.
A "good communicator," indeed, whose vocabulary practically revolves around the word "kill"?
Well, come to think of it, with tens of thousands already killed under his regime, can anyone still doubt Mr. Duterte’s "communication" skills?
How the heck can Roque, the former human rights lawyer whose heart used to "bleed" and eyes "shed tears" for the downtrodden, live with those atrocities?
How he would worm his way back to the University of Philippines (UP) academia to teach young idealistic students after Mr. Duterte is gone would be one eyebrow-raising spectacle to watch.

Dino M. Capistrano,
Manila,
Philippines




Call to include concept of accountability
In Thai education system
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 23 August 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday 22 August 2021

During the past few years, I've been advocating a wake-up call for Thai society to try, learn and accept the concept of "accountability" and simultaneously oppose, reject and segregate "the conflict of interest".
Admittedly, I've not seen a light at the end of a tunnel.
There are two simple routes for us Thais to consider:
Education.
It's time that the government, Ministry of Education and those concerned agencies ought to seriously start and include the concept of "accountability" including responsibility in our education system, beginning as early as elementary schools and up to higher levels.
The issue of "conflict of interest" should start at a higher level because of its complexity.
Exemplary examples.
We've been taught to follow "the phuyai" elders for centuries.
It's time the phuyai in the government Education Ministry included, judicial, congressional and business sectors, including those in the "high social" echelons, must act in this regard for the younger generations "to follow".
No less important is the leading role of the families, parents in particular, in this regard.
It should be noted here that the adoption learning of "accountability" and opposition to rejection of "conflict of interest" will surprisingly put down the problems of injustice and corruption in our beloved country.
By the way, the appointment of the current 250 senators in the Senate and the Red Bull saga are clear examples of these two subjects accountability and conflict of interest.
But it's the reverse.
The conflict of interest is clear-cut but there's no accountability at all.
Please think about this my dear senators, police and Attorney-General officials. Also, the Minister of Education.

CK,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Call for Philippines
To adopt China's development model
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 21 August 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 20 August 2020

This is regarding the commentary “Learning from an awakened dragon” in Philippine Inquirer, July 21, 2021 by Roland Simbulan.
The transformation of China from an impoverished nation into a global economic power in a matter of four decades was made possible by the Communist Party of China (CPC), which enjoys monopoly under a one-party system.
This enabled the Communist Party of China (CPC) to launch a strategic vision that conceptualized policies and long-term plans and programs through a combination of authoritarian rule and a market-oriented economy based on state-led capitalism.
Our country, on the other hand, is under a democratic system of government with a multiparty system characterized by personality politics, with policies and long-term plans and programs that change every six years.
The challenge is for us to call for strong leadership from our leaders, especially the members of Congress which is the policy-making body, and for them to institutionalize a strategy that envisions long-term plans over 50 years.
Such plans will undertake reforms in the economic, social, and political order to address the socioeconomic inequality and mass poverty in the country, by adopting the mechanics of the Chinese model of development into our democratic system of government.

Antonio de Guzman,
Manila,
Philippines




Message for new Malaysian PM
The people are counting on you to deliver
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 21 August 2021
First published in the Star, Thursday 19 August 2021

I have a message for the incoming prime minister: “Do not reset the good progress to date towards achieving national herd immunity and the ongoing financial assistance to the suffering rakyat and ailing businesses.”
Whoever is selected, do not rejoice.
Instead, roll up your sleeves and take loads of vitamins because you will be living on borrowed time and have nightmares even during your daytime naps.
Your appointment letter will come with a mother lode of problems that must be addressed and solved as soon as possible.
I would advise you to retain the Science, Technology and Innovation minister and Finance minister, who are instrumental in driving the vaccination and financial relief programme respectively.
You can also retain those ministers in charge of Youth and Sports, Agriculture and Food Industries, etc, who can be entrusted with supporting roles in the vaccination and financial assistance programme.
Please get rid of the non-performing ones.
You must quickly set up a unit in the Prime Minister’s Office comprising technocrats who have excellent problem-solving skills to quickly devise sound plans to reduce the Covid-19 mortality rate once herd immunity is achieved.
Until we reduce the mortality rate to an acceptable level, don’t waste your time and effort in developing plans to reopen the economy or set up travel bubbles.
The months of September and October will be crucial in gauging whether Malaysia is on track to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic and economic doldrums.
I wish you the best of luck and we, the rakyat, are counting on you to deliver.

Mohd Shukri Abd Aziz,
Selangor,
Malaysia




Philippines calls for solar power
Instead of nuclear power
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 20 August 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 17 August 2021

Last July 8, Peter Wallace wrote in his column about nuclear power plants being safe and that there are many countries operating their nuclear power plants safely over the last 50 years: the United States, Germany, Taiwan, Japan. etc.
I agree about recommissioning the Bataan nuclear plant.
As a chemical engineer, I can say that we have enough controls to operate it safely.
However, reviving the Bataan plant will take at least five years.
Why not recommend the use of solar panels instead, per Republic Act No. 11285 or the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Act, which requires building owners to use renewable sources like solar?
The Philippines is the only country in the world with 2,000 hours of sun per year.
Germany went on to use solar panel systems on roofs and, in a short period of time, four million houses have been generating power, resulting in the shutdown of many coal plants.
In the United States, New York appointed an energy czar to speed up the use of renewable energy.
Australia gives incentives to households that use solar batteries. lberdrola Spain has made tremendous progress on the use of renewable energy, becoming one of the top five electric utility companies in the world.
Portugal and Spain have invested in photovoltaic battery storage systems.
In the Philippines, solar energy can be a solution.
We can follow the Iberdrola strategy to use this renewable energy, along with wind and hydroelectric plants.

Cesar V. Campos,
Chairman Emeritus,
Cenel Development Corporation,
Manila,
Philippines

 


Philippine President Duterte denies claim
That he was bankrolled by China to win 2016 election
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 19 August 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 17 August 2021

In “Duterte scoffs at claim that China made him president” in Philippine Inquirer, July 21, 2023 President Duterte was said to be really pissed off at former foreign secretary Albert del Rosario who virtually accused him of having been bankrolled by China to win the 2016 election and now becoming its puppet.
Mr. Duterte lashed out at Del Rosario and accused him in return of being the one “liable for treason,” because it was during his watch as top diplomat under the presidency of the late Noynoy Aquino that Philippine ships withdrew from Scarborough Shoal during the 2012 stand-off with China, which resulted in the country losing control of the area to Beijing.
A little fact-checking is called for to see whose sense of history got skewed. Aquino’s former ambassador to Washington Jose Cuisia Jr. was the point man involved and, therefore, knew whereof he spoke.
Mr. Duterte was then just mayor of Davao City, who knew nothing and didn’t give a hoot about international politics.
Cuisia said it was a US-brokered deal for China and the Philippines to mutually withdraw from the contested area to avoid a potential shooting war and pending a more peaceful solution to the conflict.
The Philippines complied in good faith, but China did not.
So how is that “treason” in the mind of Mr. Duterte, who keeps reminding everyone he is a lawyer?
He has been pushing the narrative that it was wrong for the Philippines to withdraw. Look who’s talking. Hasn’t he himself been “withdrawing” even from mere conversations adverse to China, out of fear of what China might do at the slightest provocation?

Ramon Norman Torrefranca,
Manila,
Philippines




Call for outdoor activities
In Covid-19 dark-red Thai provinces
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 18 August 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Saturday 14 August 2021

The risk of infection from Covid-19 is high but the risk of dying from it is very low: 99.17 percent of those infected in Thailand were cured as of August 12.
The danger is not of dying, but of getting infected.
The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found that Covid-19 spreads mainly through the air not surface infection.
At the Tokyo Olympics, with full vaccination, etc, of the 299 Covid-related cases, very few involved athletes despite the inability to mask or social distance in many sports. Even with no herd immunity, political protests here or elsewhere have not resulted in super-clusters probably due to the outdoor ventilation and fleeting contact between participants.
Let's experiment with outdoor activities in a few dark-red provinces like dining, jogging, selling products or going to parks and zoos.
Some classes can be held outdoors, with teachers and staff being fully vaccinated. If it works well, expand those activities and pro-vinces.

Burin Kantabutra,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Call for anyone for PM for Malaysia
But for former PM Najib Abdul Razak
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 17 August 2021
First published in the Malaysiakini, Friday 13 August 2021

I nearly choked on my lunch today when I read the news that an Non-Government-Organisation (NGO) has submitted a memorandum asking the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong to pardon Najib Abdul Razak and appoint him as interim prime minister.
Seriously?
Do we want a Prime Minister who has been sentenced to 12 years in prison and a fine of RM210 million, not to mention still facing a litany of criminal charges?
Are we so bereft of prime ministerial candidates that we have to shamelessly elevate a convict to become the most powerful man in the country?
The current administration may not be perfect.
But to even entertain the notion of Najib's return is to scrape the bottom of the barrel.
Even if we were to rule out Perikatan Nasional leaders as successor to the prime minister, surely we can think of other leaders than him?
Lest we get carried away by the Bossku's rapid-fire daily social media posts, a former "Malaysian Official 1" is the man who led a nation the US labelled as kleptocratic for being party to one of the most brazen heists of public funds in recent times.
The shenanigans sparked investigations by over a dozen countries with the money trail littered with his fingerprints and that of his fugitive co-conspirator, Jho Low. This is the same man whose conviction was described as "the worst case of abuse of position," by the judge who presided over and meted out the sentence against Najib.
Do we still want to become a global laughing stock for bringing back a convicted PM?
Have we not been shamed enough by the international media's reports on how brazen the grand larceny was carried out right under our noses during his administration?
Imagine what he will do upon his return.
Remember how ex-AG Abdul Gani Patail was unceremoniously removed just as efforts were underway to charge Najib between July and August 2015 for corruption and abuse of power?
Not only was Najib spared from prosecution, but his enemies became victims of a witch-hunt.
Who can forget the sight of boxes and boxes of designer handbags seized by enforcement officers from posh condominiums?
Or the list of assets like luxury yachts, Monet paintings and prime addresses in New York bought using money from 1MDB?
Can we trust this man again with our public funds which have been running short due to the Covid-19 pandemic?
We certainly will not fall for tall tales about how his family's fortunes were amassed from menabung sejak kecil (savings since young).
Or that Najib's family wealth was from his father's inheritance.
So please, we can have anyone as prime minister but not him.
I'd rather settle for a cat to be the Prime Minister than to see Najib's return.

Chai Xin Seng,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia



Malaysian Bar calls on PM Muhyiddin Yassin
To act in accordance with Federal Constitution
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 16 August 2021
First pulished in the Star, Saturday 14 August 2021

The Malaysian Bar takes the view that in light of the ongoing political impasse in our country, the honourable thing for the Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin to do, is to act in accordance with the Federal Constitution.
In his public address on national television on 13 August 2021, the Prime Minister admitted that several Members of Parliament (MPs) from the governing coalition had withdrawn their support for him, casting doubt on whether he still commanded the support of the majority of the Dewan Rakyat House of Representatives.
He went on to say that under such circumstances, he had two options according to the Federal Constitution - namely to seek the consent of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to dissolve Parliament and call for a general election, or to resign.
It is thus clear that he himself acknowledges that his position is no longer tenable.
He, however, went on to say that this situation notwithstanding, no other Member of Parliament MP has shown that he/she commands the support of the majority of the members of the Dewan Rakyat.
As such, if he were to resign, there would be no one to replace him.
And if he resigned, he would also have to tender the resignation of the entire Cabinet, which would leave the country without a functioning government at this crucial time of fighting the Covid-19 pandemic.
He expressed concern for the future of the nation. In order to avoid this vacuum of governance and political leadership, he announced a detailed list of constitutional and Parliamentary reforms, as well as pre-legislative procedural and practical changes which he was prepared to offer in exchange for support from Members of Parliament from the Opposition in the upcoming vote of confidence.
With all due respect to the Prime Minister, the questions raised by him reveal a misunderstanding of his position under the Federal Constitution. The provision of Article 43(4) is clear:
“If the Prime Minister ceases to command the confidence of the majority of the members of the House of Representatives, then, unless at his request the Yang di-Pertuan Agong dissolves Parliament, the Prime Minister shall tender the resignation of the Cabinet.”
The words are clear and the meaning and intent are beyond doubt: If the Prime Minister no longer has the support of the majority, unless at his requests the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to dissolve Parliament, the Prime Minister must resign.
The Federal Constitution also does not provide that the Prime Minister shall only tender the resignation of the Cabinet if there is another MP that has emerged who can demonstrate that he/she commands the confidence of the majority of the members of the Dewan Rakyat.
The question of who else might be called upon to try to form a government and whether he/she has the requisite Parliamentary support and confidence, is one that is accorded under Article 43(2) of the Federal Constitution, to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.
It is therefore not the place of the Prime Minister to usurp that consideration to himself, or to pre-empt the decision and discretion of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. Neither is it the place of the Prime Minister to make that question the condition for his future actions.
The Prime Minister has repeatedly stated that he wants to comply with the Federal Constitution and take the honourable route. In his announcement, he stated that he believes that “we will heal this nation together and bring back its glory”.
The Malaysian Bar is of the view that the best way that the Prime Minister can begin the process of healing this nation and bringing back its glory, is to honour and respect the words, spirit, meaning and intent of the Federal Constitution, and to abide strictly by its provisions.
When the Prime Minister does not command the support of the majority of the Dewan Rakyat, the honourable and gracious route that the Prime Minister should take is to step down, because that is the right thing to do.
We further call upon all Parliamentarians to carry out their duties in accordance with the Federal Constitution to ensure a functioning government for the well-being of our beloved nation.

AG Kalidas,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia



Covid-19 death toll in Papua New Guinea
Doesn't make sence
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 15 August 2021
First Published in the National, Thursday 12 August 2021

During the coronavirus Covid-19 outbreak, there were fears that Papua New Guinea would be hit hard because of our poor health system and our Melanesian way of congregating.
Thousands died from the Covid-19, which caused Papua New Guinea to impose lockdowns and strict measures.
Businesses, schools and people’s way of living were disrupted.
The economy stopped.
A year and a couple of months later, the since Covid-19 penetrated our shores, our cases now stand just above 17,700.
However, what doesn’t make sense is the Covid-19 death toll in Papua New Guinea.
The death toll doesn’t correlate to the fears and expectation we had for the virus.
We were told that we would die in thousands, our health facilities would be overwhelmed and our country would be in chaos.
But, so far, our death toll is just about 200.
I am not a medical expert, but from what I’ve learnt through the media about the rate of Covid-19 death tolls around the globe, a 190-plus deaths in Papua New Guinea is confusing.
We have thousands dying per day with cumulative death tolls skyrocketing to hundreds of thousands in the developed nations that are more advanced in science and medical facilities with cutting edge technologies.
But a small country with a poor health system is recording less deaths than expected.
This doesn’t make sense.
Can we find out why we’re recording less infections and deaths?

Prentice Kewanu,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea



Whitewash in the works
In Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 13 August 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 13 August 2021

Thailand's curse is its continuing lack of accountability in the halls of power.
Juntas commit high treason by overthrowing elected governments by force - then pardon themselves.
Vicha Mahakun submits two reports to fight the graft that allowed Red Bull heir Vorayuth Yoovidhaya to get away with killing - and PM Prayut hides them from the media.
Another whitewash is in the works - for PM Prayut plans that as long as they "act honestly and decide based on empirical evidence", those involved in procuring anti-Covid medical equipment, medicines and vaccines cannot be sued.
If so, Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) head Donald Duck and Minister of Public Health Mickey Mouse could not be sued even though they lacked the competence to evaluate evidence presented and so made gross errors.
In a special cabinet meeting in April, PM Prayut took on the authority to manage any aspect of the Covid-19 fight himself.
Thus, no matter what anybody does related to Covid-19, PM Prayut bears ultimate accountability - which cannot be washed away.
No whitewash!

Burin Kantabutra,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Thai Government advised to help large companies
With provision of Covid-19 test kits
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 13 August 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday 12 August 2021

Re: "Uncertainty continues", in Bangkok Post, Business, Monday, August 9, 2021.
The chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) proposes that the government helps companies to pay for Covid rapid antigen test kits.
We are only a small company with 12 employees but of course the company pays for the test kits.
But the big shots - the richest 10 of them just added almost a trillion baht to their assets in the last 18 months - need government support to buy test kits for their staff?
This is a small snapshot of what is wrong with the existing Thai political and economic system.
Meanwhile, protest leaders are put in jail.
I would propose putting some of the sycophants and bad advisers to the government in jail.
They do enormous damage.
But the real problem are of course the "important" people they act up to.

Karl Reichstetter,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Don’t change the ship
Just kick out the failed captain
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 12 August 2021
First published in the Star, Friday 6 August 2021

Last year, as the Covid-19 pandemic took hold of the world, the country’s democratically-elected government imploded.
Pakatan Harapan could not hold back from prioritising their politics, positioning their heir-apparent to take over the seat of Prime Minister.
Then-Prime Minister Tun Mahathir lost his calm and tendered his resignation after Dato’ Sri Anwar Ibrahim and his close supporters’ kept pushing for succession.
This serves as a reminder, the cohort of politicians we have are hard-wired to the fact that they need to consolidate power.
This has proven dysfunctional for the country as the opposition’s motivation is to add more political weight to sink the Perikatan Nasional ship.
But these manoeuvrings are short-sighted ventures.
Our Prime Minister was the first to announce in November 2020 that a General Election will be held once the Covid-19 situation is brought under control.
This is the constitutionally right way to correct the political error that has wounded our democracy.
Now, do we hear of any calls for that from any other leader? Very little, if any.
The current rhetoric against the government is - don’t change the “ship”, just kick out the “failed captain.”
This will take us back to the uncertainty that we saw in the Sheraton move.
It takes a lot to remove the Prime Minister.
What will happen to the Cabinet then?
Some politicians are happy where they are.
Some political parties think they are underrepresented despite their electoral significance.
Some have ambition.
While these concerns may have their time and place, this certainly isn’t the right time to pursue politics.
A political stalemate is the last thing we need in Malaysia right now.
As we approach close to 20,000 cases a day, we have to admit that we are all guilty of politics.
But we can also be guilty of pursuing peace.
But what is the cost of peace?
Perhaps, it will be at the expense of our politics.
No amount of politicking and jockeying for positions of power will change the fact that we are in a race against time to suppress the pandemic before it further mutates and claims more lives.
We need to remain focused on the task at hand to combat Covid-19, protect livelihoods and secure a future where we can still have a stable and safe society to return to.
We need to deliberate on what this stable and safe society means to us.
If it is eradicating the pandemic to finally bring this matter to a vote, then perhaps all we see with our politicians is unnecessary.
There are plenty of opportunities in the pipeline for our MPs to make a political stand in the coming months.
The tabling of the Budget 2022.
The reading of the 12th Malaysia Plan.
The vote of confidence that was announced by the a Prime Minister yesterday. These are the opportunities that politicians can take to determine our future.
But right now, our people are falling sick and dying.
Right now, many are left jobless.
Right now, some even don’t have enough to eat.
So as we are all guilty of our politics, we should use our energies, resources, and influence to fight the pandemic.
This way, we can win this battle and all be guilty of peace.

Chan Quin Er,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysa




Bounty from Chinese tourists to Philippines
Could buy elections for President
The Southeast Asian Times. Wednesday 11 August 2921
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 9 August 2021

The editorial “Hollow fight,” August 5, 2021 in Philippine Inquirer took note of a report from the Ateneo School of Government which showed that President Duterte miserably failed to do the one major thing he promised during his 2016 election campaign - to eradicate corruption in government “by the end of that year.” The fact of the matter is, it only got worse thereafter and is much worse today.
That Ateneo paper posited that such “failure followed from the presidential approach to governance that removed or weakened the guardrails already proven necessary to control corruption.”
Having institutionalized impunity, Mr. Duterte has grown very fond of talking tommyrot, frequently saying he has fired corrupt officials here and there when in truth he would just “recycle” his favorite appointees to other lucrative posts.
The editorial failed to mention the one thing that made the Duterte administration more prone to corruption: Ombudsman Samuel Martires, who obviously continues to look after Mr. Duterte’s interest.
Take the case of that continuing airport “heist” by some 43 or is it now 86? Bureau of Immigration personnel in the form of “pastillas” bounty from Chinese “tourists” reportedly amounting to P40 billion.
Everyone is wondering why that scandal never got any prosecutorial attention from the Ombudsman. Mischievous minds can’t help thinking:
That kind of money could buy elections for president, vice president, senators, and congressmen this 2022.
When will Filipino voters quit thinking like they were born only yesterday?

Ulysses Bermudez,
Manila,
Philippines



Poverty could transform Thailand
Into a national tourist sandbox of danger
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 10 August 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post Monday 9 August 2021

Re: "The shame of Thai tourism", Bangkok Post, Editorial, August 7, 2021.
I agree with the Bangkok Post's editorial on recent tourist deaths and murders in Thailand, but I think the writer missed one point.
The article seems to place the burden for tourist safety almost entirely on the government, and better policing.
Yet I must ask if tourists really will be as safe as they used to be among the Thai people themselves, given the massive escalation in Thai poverty brought about by Covid-19.
Poverty always escalates violent crime, and videos are emerging showing starving Bangkok residents fishing in dirty canals for their meals, or Thais going hungry in displays of blatant poverty elsewhere; people waiting in breadlines, and many sleeping on the street.
Given these scenes, I ask if it really is possible for the government to keep tourists as safe as they once were, as poverty usually breeds desperation and increased violence.
So, with so much of Thailand steeped in abject poverty, I can't help but wonder if those mounting levels of poverty might eventually transform Thailand into a national tourist sandbox of danger.

Jason A Jellison,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Sedition Act denies Malaysians
Right to voice opinion
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 9 August 2021
First published in Malaysikini, Wednesday 3 August 2021

Being born and living in Malaysia for 22 years, the current political instability truly disappointed me. I couldn’t see an end to it.
The economy is going down, and people are suffering. But the government remains useless to cope with the ordeal.
So here we are, fighting for the future of Malaysia.
But the authority wanted to silence us with Sedition Act.
One of the founders of Misi Solidariti, Sarah Irdina Mohammad Ariff, was arrested by the police a few days before the #Lawan protest.
She was released afterwards, but the motive is clear: to deter the people from protesting the Perikatan Nasional government.
If voicing out discontent toward the government is deemed wrong, does democracy still exist in Malaysia?
People should have the right to voice opinions.
However, the existence of the Sedition Act has denied us the right.
People should be the watchdogs, but who dares to speak loud when there is a law to shut down the voice?
However, the government could not silence the people forever.
If they silence one, there will be others.
Like the case of Sarah, the arrest does not stop the youths from attending the #Lawan protest.
We will unite even stronger against oppression.
I stand strongly with the #Lawan movement and the protesters.

Chong Xin Yi,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia

 


Nothing concrete will come out of appointment
Of ASEAN special Envoy to Myanmar
The Southeastasian Times, Sunday 8 August 2021

To go through the ritual motions under its “ five point consensus plan “ we are informed ‘ASEAN appoints Brunei diplomat Special Envoy to Myanmar’ ( The Southeast Asian Times 6 Aug 2021 ).
Nothing concrete will come out of that. Just ask any pro-democracy person in Myanmar.
A brutal military regime does not understand the language of democratic engagement. That is not the way it operates.
It’s not its modus operandi. Rule by dictatorial fiat and fear is .
The tentacles of the military junta needs to be cut to liberate the people of Myanmar from ruthless repression and restore democratic rule.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia



How to hold Philippine government officials
Accountable for handling of pandemic
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 7 August 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 5 August 2021

While the COVID-19 pandemic is a challenge that has to be overcome, it is also an opportunity for us as citizens to reflect about what we do as a society, what we value as a people, and, more importantly, what we can do to change the social mechanisms and our priorities as a nation.
This pandemic underscored the source of our collective misery and disappointment: inefficient and corrupt leadership, disinformation, and social inequality.
These factors have made it difficult for the country to manage COVID-19 better than our Asian neighbors.
There has been a shortage of testing kits and personal protective equipment, as well as slow distribution of relief goods.
Disinformation has bred anxiety and panic.
Social inequality has highlighted the limited access of the lower classes to health facilities, transportation, and digital technology during lockdowns when movements are limited.
With the implementation of the enhanced community quarantine anew, we have a limited window to make immediate changes.
We can monitor the actions taken by our government officials in managing the crisis, and check the reliability of information that we see and share on social media.
Through these, we can ensure that checks and balances in government remain.
We have to reflect as a society:
How do we hold government officials accountable for the lousy handling of the pandemic, poor health care facilities, and backward digital technology?
For change to happen in our country, we have to take collective action.
Otherwise, any future crisis will remain a challenge to be overcome and never an opportunity for ourselves and our society to transform into something better.

Prince Aldama,
University of the Philippines
Los Banos,
Philippines




Covid-19 Antigen rapid test kits
Repackaged at Thai Pharmacy
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 6 August 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 3 August 2021

Re: "The importance of testing", Bangkok Post, Life, July 26, 2021.
Recently I went to my pharmacy to purchase a Covid-19 Antigen rapid test.
I asked for two kits and was given two clear plastic zip top bags each with a sealed kit, sealed swab, solution tube and drip attachment.
I was charged 400 baht for each.
When I arrived home, I realised there were no instructions enclosed so I searched the manufacturer and found, to my amazement, that this kit normally came packed in a small cardboard box containing two complete sets.
It would appear the pharmacy was buying the kits as packaged, opening them, and repackaging them as individual units.
This increases the chance of cross contamination from handling and allows them to sell the kits at a ridiculously high price.
If this is common practice it places the kit out of the reach of many.
Like failing to price control the green chiretta herb this opens the door to price gouging.

Fred Prager,
Bangkok,
Thailand


 

Victims of pandemic in Thailand
Dumped at temple
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 5 August 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 4 August 2021

Re: "Death rites pose deadly risk", in Bangkok Post Saturday 31 July 2021.
I agree with the idea that monks, undertakers and other temple workers should be among the first to be inoculated with anti-Covid vaccines.
In any ordinary situation, temples are a place where people normally dump their pets such as dogs and cats which they no longer love.
But in a situation such as we are having today, as appeared on television news a few days ago: a woman and her husband drove her octogenarian father who was seriously sick with Covid-19 to a temple in Korat, left him there, and quickly disappeared.
Hence, temples are not just a dumping ground for discarded animals at the moment but live humans as well.

Vint Chavala,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Time to ponder if the Duterte family
Is truly God’s gift to the Filipino people
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 4 August 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 29 July 2021

Regarding the “tangled web” Stephen Monsanto wrote about “The question of succession,” Letters, July 26, 2021, it really started on the day more than 16 million Filipinos were first deceived by a small-time mayor who became president of the entire archipelago with promises of better things to come, which he now admits are impossible to fulfill after almost 6 years in office.
President Duterte has been prone to making “palusot” ever since.
But his even darker side was his profanity, which was evidenced by his total lack of respect for the leader of more than 1.2 billion Catholics around the world when he denounced Pope Francis as a “son of a bitch” for clogging up traffic and disrupting his presidential campaign due to that once-in-a-blue-moon papal visit in November 2015.
Anyone who might have thought Mr. Duterte would at least start minding his tongue once he got elected to the country’s most exalted post got it all wrong.
He has turned out to be the most incorrigibly foul-mouthed president this country has ever had.
It’s our misfortune that he speaks for all of us here and abroad.
This country prides itself in being the only “Christian” nation in Asia, with around 86 percent of the population being Roman Catholic.
So, what, dear Lord, have the Filipinos done to deserve this miserable state of the nation’s affairs?
Well, for one thing, despite the unmitigated insult Mr. Duterte had hurled at Pope Francis, people still voted for him.
The President later proved he had no problem calling their God “stupid.”
As incredible as it may seem, Mr. Duterte is said to have bagged the highest “approval rating” more than 90 percent! in recent surveys, a record no president before him had even come close to obtaining.
And given the convoluted “succession” Monsanto was talking about, Mr. Duterte’s dynastic misrule may stay longer than anyone is expecting.
Evangelist-turned-party-list-representative Eddie Villanueva’s fear that Mr. Duterte’s unbridled “blasphemy” may “bring curses” to this country should give everyone pause, and time to ponder if the Duterte family is truly God’s gift to the Filipino people.
Will Hail Marys work for any opposition candidate?

Jeremias H. Tobias,
Manila,
Philippines



Call for Papua New Guinea Parliament
To ratify results of Bougainville referendum
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 3 August 2021
First published in the National, Friday 30 July 2021

I want to raise this concern in relation the recent Joint Supervisory Body (JSB) consultation between Prime Minister James Marape and his counterpart – Bougainville President Ishmael Toroama.
Both parties resolved to find a political settlement for Bougainville by 2025 and not later than 2027.
The question is whether this Joint Supervisory Body (JSB) resolution is consistent with the Bougainville Peace Agreement and the Papua New Guinea and the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) constitutions. The two governments should cease discussing political settlement for Bougainville.
They should continue discussing the shortest possible time frame for Parliament to ratify the results of the referendum.
Fix a time for this current parliament to ratify the results of the referendum.
Propose an act of parliament to specify a manner in which parliament will ratify the referendum results.
Get parliament to convene to ratify the referendum results.
If parliament fails to master enough numbers to ratify the results of the referendum, the people of Bougainville should accept the parliament’s decision.
If none of the above takes place, Joint Supervisory Body (JSB) needs to reconvene consultation that will result in reaching a political settlement similar to the ones enjoyed by Palau and the United States or the Cook Islands and New Zealand.
This is the settlement that will cater for 98 per cent for independence in which Bougainville and Papua New Guinea will remain as associated states.

Pau Piahe,
Kangu Beach,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea




Duterte wants to be successor-president
God save the Philippines!
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday July 2 August 2021
First Published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday July 30, 2021

We have known all along that President Duterte has very little respect, if at all, for the Constitution.
Not content with blatantly betraying the public trust reposed in him to protect Philippine sovereignty by warmly welcoming China to come in and trample our sacred shores, he also mocks the constitutional mandate limiting his term to only six years and absolutely no more.
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman has put in black and white what everyone was already saying:
Mr. Duterte is shamelessly lusting for a power grab, “Lagman: Duterte wants to be ‘successor-president’ with VP bid,” Philippine Inquirer July 18, 2021.
Knowing as a lawyer that the vice presidency is just a “spare tire” post and there is absolutely nothing in it for him, what in God’s name is Mr. Duterte really up to?
This is very ominous.
Since a VP bid for Mr. Duterte seems to be a “sure thing” if the surveys are to be believed and they usually come true and could carry his presidential “manok” or dummy to victory with him, it is a foregone conclusion that he will have the latter step aside pronto to give way to his succession.
And it will all be legal, albeit totally immoral.
God save the Philippines!

Jan Vincent L. Martinez,
Manila,
Philippines




Philippine President Duterte obliged to cooperate
With International Criminal Court (ICC)
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday August 1, 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday July 30, 202
1

The Supreme Court has ruled: “Withdrawing from the Rome Statute does not discharge a state from the obligations it has incurred as a member. Consequently, liability for the alleged summary killings and other atrocities committed in the course of the war on drugs is not nullified or negated here” in “Inevitable fate, Philippine Inquirer, Opinion, July 27, 2021.
It was a unanimous pronouncement by the highest court of our land.
No one, not even any of President Duterte’s appointees, dissented.
Only Palace spokesperson Harry Roque “dissented” in defense of his boss, lamely arguing that it was “obiter dictum” or, to his way of thinking, empty words in a 101-page resolution!
The petition questioning Mr. Duterte’s unilateral withdrawal was itself dismissed for being “moot and academic” following the United Nations’ acceptance of that withdrawal.
The withdrawal was Mr. Duterte’s desperate attempt to escape criminal prosecution for his alleged crimes against humanity in the conduct of his war on drugs, which has seen the slaughter of tens of thousands of suspected drug users and pushers, including innocent bystanders.
Bottom line is, between 15 Supreme Court justices who were one in ruling that Mr. Duterte is obliged to cooperate in the criminal process, and Roque by his lonesome who disagreed that his boss is not so obliged, is there ever any doubt in any right-thinking person’s mind whose word carries more weight?
So, is this really now the absurd, ridiculous extent to which the former University of the Philippines College of Law professor is willing to go in his obsequious service to his principal?

Angeli O Marconi
Manila
Philippines



Scott Morrison says 'sorry'
For his failings as PM of Australia
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 31 July 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 26 July 2021

Re: "Australian PM 'sorry' for slow vaccine rollout", in Bangkok Post July 23, 2021.
It's refreshing to see the rare instance of a leading politician actually take responsibility for his shortcomings.
While most leaders around the world are deflecting, pointing fingers at others, and making excuses for poor outcomes related to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Australian prime minister has taken ownership of his decisions and mistakes, including apologising for the slow pace of vaccinations in his country.
The world needs more leaders who assume responsibility for their decisions and actions and work to correct them rather than simply make excuses for failings. It takes a real leader to accept responsibility, admit errors, and move swiftly to remedy mistakes.

Samanea Saman,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Neutral polling organisation to evaluate police
More credible than police reporting on police
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 30 July 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday 27 July 2021

Re: "Deal struck to cut police graft", Bangkok Post July 24, 2021
I laud new police chief Pol Gen Suwat and National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) head Pol Gen Watcharapol in working together to reduce graft in 88 Metropolitan Police stations in Bangkok.
This is to elevate operational quality and encourage better budget allocation in hiring and human resource management.
But rather than stressing just self-assessment by the cops, Pol Gen Suwat and Pol Gen Watcharapol should focus on the citizenry whom they are supposed to serve in each precinct.
The reason is simple: if you want to know how delicious the food is, you ask the diners - not the chefs. Asking anybody to evaluate themselves is an obvious major conflict of interest.
A major and neutral polling organisation, such as the National Institute of Development Administration (NIDA) or Suan Dusit polls, could design and carry out the survey, and their reports would be far more credible than if the police reported on themselves.
Also, the police and National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) should not reinvent the wheel.
Pol Gen Vasit Dejkunjorn's panel proposed in-depth police reforms to then-Prime Minister Abhisit, and Khun Vicha Mahakun's committee recommended thorough changes at the police and Attorney-General's Office to PM Prayut.
Their work provides an excellent starting point in cleansing the police of graft and should be used.

Burin Kantabutra,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 


Sara Duterte's bid for presidency
Could be for real
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 29 July 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 27 July 2021

In his column “Isko vs Sara: The battle of mayors” July 20, 2021, Richard Heydarian seemed to make the argument that presidential daughter Sara Duterte’s reported bid for the presidency with her father as running mate could be for real, given that her “philosophy of governance stands in sharp contrast to her father’s, who is more visceral and top-down in his decision-making.”
Her independent-mindedness may therefore be her strongest suit against critics who see her as no more than a dummy being used by her father to extend his term and gain immunity from prosecution for another six years via succession.
If Sara becomes - and stays - president, we may yet see the difference and breathe a sigh of relief.
Or, she may just follow her father’s advice to step down and be spared from all the hurtful political intrigues that come with the job.
So if she dutifully resigns and her father takes over, who then becomes vice president?
The line of succession allows the Senate president and the speaker to succeed to the presidency only in default of the president and the vice president.
There is no succession to the so-called “spare tire” position.
Section 9 of Article VII of the Constitution provides: “Whenever there is a vacancy in the Office of the Vice-President… the President shall nominate a Vice-President from among the Members of the Senate and the House of Representatives who shall assume office upon confirmation by a majority vote of all Members of both Houses of Congress voting separately.”
Unlike the US Constitution which gives the new president the prerogative of appointing anyone to fill his old post with the approval of Congress, our Constitution limits the president’s choice to the members of Congress.
Thus, if President Duterte does get recycled as president, he can nominate either Sen. Bong Go or Davao City Rep. Paolo Duterte to fill the position he vacated, thereby placing any one of them in the position to succeed him in the event he feels he’s too sick or tired to continue running the show.
And with either his son Paolo or best friend Bong as “president,” Citizen Duterte can remain just as powerful and untouchable, and may continue to dictate the terms of our elections even beyond 2028.
“Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.”

Stephen L Monsanto,
Manila,
Philippines



Thailand fines rapper for accusing government
Of bungling Covid-19 crisis
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday July 28, 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Tuesday July 27, 2021

Re: "Rapper fined for govt slur", in Bangkok Post, July 23, 2021
Rapper Danupa Milli Khanatheerakulat has been fined 2,000 baht for "accusing the government of bungling the Covid-19 crisis".
She said the mismanagement has led to surging infection and death rates.
Freedom of expression is guaranteed by our Prayut-drafted constitution, and she was exercising that right.
Not only that, during the recent past, the curves of our confirmed Covid-19 infections and deaths have been rising almost vertically, ICU beds are almost full, and three bodies lay in Bangkok's streets for hours before being collected.
Was she telling the truth?

Burin Kantabutra,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 


President Duterte to jet-ski in West Philippine Sea
In defiance of China's claim over South China Sea
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 27 July 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 16 July 2021

President Duterte has idiotized the Filipino voters like no past president had, as shown by his "high approval rating" to this day.
This is precisely why he has become so bold as to announce that he is available for a second term by running for vice president, with the obvious intention of immediately eliminating the dummy he picks to run for president.
If the voters bought his improbable bravado about "jet-skiing" to the West Philippine Sea in defiance of China, they would most likely believe more of the false promises coming out of his mouth.
The framers of the Constitution had fixed the term of the president to be no more than six years.
But they clearly failed to reckon with the shamelessness of a president who wants to cling to power longer by any means, fair or foul.
Didn’t they ever see how mischievous many of our politicians have been - going up and down the ladder ad nauseam as they reached their term limits, and getting away with it?
There is a saying:
If the letter killeth, the spirit that giveth life should prevail. Now, is it the other way around?
The spirit killeth Mr. Duterte’s bid for another term, but the letter giveth it life!
The plain language of the Constitution does not prohibit his run for vice president, and therefore allows it—so scr*w the "spirit"?
God, please spare this country from more COVID-19 misery - and especially from more of Mr. Duterte, who was said to be "praying" for divine guidance if he should run for vice president or not, despite having called Thee you-know-what. Let not his blasphemy cause us all this suffering.
Hirap na hirap na po ang Pilipinas. Parang awa N’yo na po!

Nimfa Rina Ricafort,
Manila,
Philippines




Philippine government loses another case
In recovery of Marcos ill-gotten assets
The Southeast Asian Times. Monday 26 July 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 20 July 2021

As if the 2019 Sandiganbayan decision dismissing the case for recovery of P200 billion in ill-gotten assets against the Marcoses was not jaw-dropping enough, comes now the report that the government has lost another Marcos case.
This makes people wonder:
What the hell is wrong with our judicial system?
It seems that when it comes to the Marcoses, Philippine courts are more fixated on the hole in the donut rather than what’s on the dough - conveniently finding evidence that does not suffice, instead of finding evidence that suffices.

Rogelio S. Candelario,
Manila,
Philippines





Ministerial "leakage" in Thailand
Can cause cost and value to diverge
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 25 July 2021
First Published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 23 July 2021

Re: "Three months on, govt inks Pfizer deal," in Bangkok Post, July 21, 2021
"The government has signed a supply agreement for 20 million doses of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine - the delivery is expected in the fourth quarter of this year."
We've heard this before.
Public Health Minister Anutin also "expected" AstraZeneca to grant Thailand more than its contracted supply so the government could meet its jab target.
I don't trust what the government expects any more.
What is the specified delivery date in the contract?
Furthermore, "The value of the deal was not disclosed."
Why the big mystery?
The value should be public knowledge.
After all, the article references the US embassy website as saying the 1.5 million doses of donated Pfizer vaccine are worth US$30 million about 984 million baht. That works out to 656 baht per dose or 1.312 billion baht for the 20 million doses purchased.
But perhaps it's the cost of the deal that the government does not wish to disclose - since it is often rumoured that ministerial "leakage" can cause cost and value to diverge.

Tom Parkinson,
Bangkok,
Thailand





Is saying anything that is positive about China
Necessarily appeasement?
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 24 July 2021
First Published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 22 July 2021

We thank Solita Monsod for recognizing that there are large benefits in our relationship with China in “The costs of appeasement,” Get Real, July 17, 2021. She also brought up the need to study net benefits vs costs.
Our difference then in outlook is in the valuation of these contributions and the attribution of intentions.
Is saying anything that is positive about China necessarily “appeasement”?
We briefly share some alternative views.
The value of timely assistance in times when we confront life or death is incalculable.
The quick ending of the Marawi siege is by no means attributing this to Chinese or Russian donation of arms alone.
But planeloads were donated at a time when the US initially blocked arms delivery but later released, just when we were at risk of becoming an IS-run state.
The early donation of billions in lifesaving personal protective equipment, medical supplies, and vaccines protected our frontliners.
It also allowed the start of our turnaround - value in the hundreds of billions a month, with the help of medical workers, private donors, and public servants.
For months, the US hoarded all vaccines, and countries like India that waited suffered immensely.
Yes, we have to control poachers.
Why do Antonio Carpio and Albert del Rosario never mention that the most frequent poachers are Vietnamese, or that Indonesians blew up dozens of Filipino boats they claimed were poachers, or Malaysians physically punished arrested Filipinos?
Yet we manage those issues and expand cooperation.
Has Professor Monsod calculated the million Filipinos dead in the war with the US, the millions killed in wars worldwide, the various sovereignty violations, including the US abandoning our claims on Sabah - are these already justified by US benefits?
To calculate lost income as billions of dollars yearly is based on theoretical potential and has no bearing on our practical reality.
Why do our children not dream of becoming fishermen?
Over 90 percent of our own coral reefs and coastal fish are endangered as reported by World Resources Institute, the UN Environment Program, our own fishermen.
Yes, we need to help and work together.
Deficits?
We are also in a deficit to Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, South Korea, etc., because we consume more than we produce, and our people and educated class don’t have much interest in manufacturing.
Trade is mutually beneficial, we have the choice to not buy from China.
Industry players know China’s technologies have enabled millions of our people to afford smartphones and broadband.
Much of our improved internet coverage recently allowing our lives to resume online is due to Chinese tech companies partnering with our Filipino telecoms and upgrading the skills of our engineers.
How we approach issues productively rather than emotionally, to uplift our people, is the goal of IDSI.
The first step is obtaining accurate facts, then using proven frames of analysis that give good results.

Integrated Development Studies Institute (ISDI)
Manila,
Philippines

 

 

Bougainville secession from Papua New Guinea
Ploy to salvage Government plunging popularity
The Southeast Asian Times. Friday 23 July 2021
First published in National, Wednesday 21 July 2021

Gone are the days of Sir Noel Levi, Sir John Kaputin, Kilroy Genia to name a few of our very own Henry Kissingers, who graced the world of statesmanship with an aura of dignity and proudly wore Papua New Guinea on their sleeves.
Those who ardently followed the Bougainville reconciliation and peace process right from the beginning wouldn’t miss former Foreign Affairs minister Genia’s remarkable skills of negotiation and statesmanship in finding a diplomatic solution.
Secession was never on the agenda.
Our leaders and negotiators at the time were so mindful in the peace talks to never compromise the sovereignty of Papua New Guinea.
In every way possible, our unity in diversity as one nation, one country and one people was defended right up to the hilt.
Not until in 1997 former prime minister, the late Sir William Skate opened the flood gates to Bougainville self-determination.
Notorious Sir William with alleged connections to Port Moresby’s criminal underworld soon brought the country to its knees.
His erratic fiscal mismanagement jeopardised Papua New Guinea’s standing with international aid donors and investors.
Coupled with economic mismanagement the country suffered in his two-year rule through a prolonged drought, a tsunami that killed some 2,000 people and the Asian financial crisis hurting the country’s exports, Sir William needed something to salvage his dying popularity.
He set foot on Bougainville as the first Papua New Guinea prime minister since the conflicts started in 1988.
Sir William committed to fast-track the peace process.
In mid-1999, he resigned to avoid a no-confidence motion.
Former United States president Abraham Lincoln once said: “The central idea of secession is the essence of anarchy”.
Now it is stomach churning when “lesser men”, men not grounded on smart statesmanship are attempting the Bougainville question.
Today, Prime Minister James Marape’s government is no different to Sir William’s.
Papua New Guinea is confronted with a worst ever economic recession, now heavily relying on tax with the closure of all revenue streams, blatant economic mismanagement killing off investor confidence, public debts racing pass manageable thresholds, mine and business closure leaving thousands out of job and an over sensitised Covid-19 pandemic with billions of emergency funding becoming the Government’s milking cow while imposing unnecessary restrictions.
Bougainville may again pose as a perfect sacrificial lamb to salvage the Government’s plunging popularity.
It is best for the country that Marape, a man standing at the very shadow end of the statesmanship pool to not try grandstand the Bougainville issue for political expediency.

David Lepi,
Port Moresby
Papua New Guinea



Call for lawyer to be disbarred for defending
China against Philippines fishermen
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday, July 22, 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday July 19, 2021

“Palace Pinocchio” Harry Roque should be disbarred.
Once lawyering on behalf of some fisherfolk in Zambales and Pangasinan who were being harassed in the West Philippine Sea by the Chinese Coast Guard, he now brazenly lawyers for China in the fishermen’s complaint against the bully that keeps on doing what it has been doing all these years, to the detriment of their livelihood.
The editorial “Who’s parroting whom?” July 16, 2021 took note of the fact that this time around, Roque has taken up the cudgels for China despite evidence-based “abuse and bullying of those whom China considers interlopers in the South China Sea,” like his own former clients.
Many years ago, Roque had no problem branding China as a “rogue state” for claiming that the West Philippine Sea is “its lake and, hence, part of its internal waters.”
He vehemently denounced that claim as “utterly bereft of legal merit.”
Now, in exchange for the dubious fame and fortune attached to his main duty of sanitizing all the codswallop that President Duterte spews in constant praise of China, Roque has no problem eating his words.
Lawyers have been disciplinarily dealt with for lesser instances of malfeasance.

George Del Mar,
Manila,
Philippines




Russia is providing strong support
To Asean's guiding role in Myanmar
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 20 July 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday 18 July 2021

Re: "Russia is back and it's a little bit better," in Bangkok Post Opinion, July 13, 2021.
In his commentary, journalist Kavi Chongkittavorn said that "for unknown reasons, Moscow has attracted admiration for its strong tactics and unwavering support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and besieged Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, not to mention the annexation of Crimea".
Let me make these reasons clear.
Unlike other great powers' inconsistent double standards, and hidden international manoeuvres, Russian foreign policy insists on observing international law, adherence to governing rules, principles and due procedures that accompany them.
Attempts to overthrow a legitimate government with the assistance of illegal foreign military intervention, however motivated, correspond to none of the above.
On the contrary, a limited Russian military presence as well as support of Syria were entirely legitimate, since both had been requested by the Syrian government.
Belarus is a Russian ally and closest partner.
Russia is engaged in building an allied state in accordance with bilateral agreements.
Threats to its stability by mobs in defiance of political procedures are naturally detrimental to immediate Russian security and economic interests.
For the same reason, the support for Venezuela was aimed at opposing overthrowing an elected leader bypassing due political process rather than helping Mr Maduro alone.
As for Crimea, before calling annexation, Khun Kavi forgot to mention a referendum that won the unequivocal support of the peninsula's entire population to reunify with Russia.
Russia is providing strong support to Asean's guiding role in Myanmar.
The Russian position is consistent with the provisions of the association's five-point consensus; first of all, provisions regarding the cessation of violence and the exercise of utmost restraint by all conflicting parties and the development of a dialogue among them aimed at stabilisation.
Together with Asean, Russia shares the view that unilateral sanctions, rhetoric of threats and any attempts to interfere in Myanmar's internal affairs will have destructive effects and further polarise its society.
Hopefully, the expected appointment of Asean's special envoy for Myanmar will be the next big step that provides necessary momentum to Asean-Russia's joint efforts to settle the situation in that country.
It is for consistency, predictability and adherence to principles that Russian foreign policy attracts admiration worldwide.

Pyotor Ivanovich,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Court in Hague ruling on South China Sea
Nothing but a piece of waste paper
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 20 July 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 16 July 2021

The news item “Gov’t urged to act immediately on latest issues concerning West Philippine Sea,” July 14, 2021 left us wondering whether we should laugh or cry.
There was supposedly public outrage over the Chinese ambassador’s remark that the Arbitral Award in favor of the Philippines was nothing but a “piece of waste paper,” but seriously, what’s the fuss all about?
The Chinese envoy was just repeating what President Duterte had said months ago “Duterte on PH win over China: ‘That’s just paper; I’ll throw that in the waste basket’,” June 5, 2021!
Mr. Duterte himself saw no value in the Philippines’ victory, so why blame China for agreeing with him totally?
Thanks to their duly elected president, our people deserve this utter humiliation. Yet, despite knowing now that they had voted for a president who couldn’t care less about the public outrage his subservience to China is causing, they continue to give him very high approval ratings, which has only emboldened him to go for another six years, by hook or by crook.
“Duterte-Duterte tandem leads in Pulse Asia survey,” July 13, 2021 reads a recent news item.
Is there still any doubt what lies ahead for this country?
For the love of God, are there no more Filipinos in the current regime decent enough to say enough?

Marcelo “JR” Garcis,
Manila,
Philippines

 

 

Call for investigation into misappropriation of funds
Marked for PNG islander resettlement program
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 19 July 2021
First published in the National, Friday 16 July 2021

We have been following the news about the investigation into the misappropriation of funds marked for the Manam Restoration Authority.
It is sad that the millions of kina allocated were allegedly misappropriated by people in authority in Madang while the islanders suffered and did not benefit from the funds that were released by the Government.
We in East Sepik are asking if an investigation of some sort can be done into funds that were released for the Kadovar islanders.
They are currently temporarily settled at the care centre at Dandan, along the Wewak eastern coast.
We ere told that K5 million was marked to help the islanders in a possible resettlement programme.
However, we are not sure if the money has been released.
We have been asking questions for people in authority in Wewak and East Sepik to tell us how the islanders could be helped.
So far, no one has responded to our questions.
We, the people in Wewak, are asking too about the long-term plans for the islanders who are settling in Dandan.
Are they going to be living there forever?
If so, have the landowners agreed to this.
We want the people in authority to tell us that.
We are aware of the problems faced by Manam islanders who have been resettled on the mainland.
We do not want our Kadovar islanders in Wewak to face the same issues.
As a start, we want an investigation into the money that was marked to help with the Wewak islanders.
Was K5 million from the Government given?
If so, where is it?
How was it used?

Wewak Islander,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea




Military dynasty in national security apparatus
Holds monopoly of power in Philippines today.
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 18 July 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Sunday 18 July 2021

Since 1986, the entire national security apparatus of the nation has been sick.
The 1986 Edsa Revolution started it all.
The Air Force of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff who came from the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (Philippines) (ROTC) was replaced by Fidel V. Ramos, a US military academy graduate.
Thereafter, graduates of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) succeeded him to the position of chief of staff.
Down the line, Philippine Military Academy (PMA) graduates started occupying key positions in the national security apparatus.
Was there anything wrong?
Not at all, after all Philippine Military Academy (PMA) graduates were well trained and well selected.
They came from the best of our youth, trained by the best military school.
But however good it was, there was a bad side.
It was the beginning of the military dynasty in the national security apparatus that holds the monopoly of power today.
That monopoly of power has placed Philippine Military Academy (PMA) graduates in almost all key positions, which has split the officer corps in two: one for them and the other for the second-class officers who came from the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (Philippines) (ROTC) but occupy 70 percent of the officer corps.
With this structure, it is easy to see that morale had become a rooted problem. Such a problem erodes the efficiency, effectiveness, and efficacy of the organization. The indicators are there to see.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) has an unwholesome reputation.
Their generals go to jail.
The rank and file don’t report for duty.
The Philippine Air Force (PAF) flight safety record is not something to be proud of. Their mistah system doesn’t work well.
I know. I was there for 35 years.
The Air Force of the Philippines (AFP), managed by Philippine Military Academy (PMA) grads, has been fighting the insurgency for 70 years.
The public can judge for itself how well or unwell it has gone.
The truth of the matter is that in any organization where there is monopoly of power, elitism will rear its ugly head.
Competition becomes extinct. Camaraderie disappears.
People lose the elan to strive for excellence.
Power corrupts.
It is as true today as it was in the days of Lord Acton.
That is why there is always the need for checks and balances as enshrined in our Constitution. Seven years ago, there was a bill in the Senate filed by five senators to establish separate academies for the Air Force and the Navy to produce officers in the Air Force of the Philippines (AFP) that would serve that all-important doctrine of checks and balances.
Instead, the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) was reinvented to become a tri-service academy.
The result: more of the same.
The graduates have continued to flood the entire security apparatus.
The monopoly of power is for us to see.
It is from one mistah to the next like a revolving door. The military dynasty enshrined elitism in the entire national security apparatus.
Let it be said that the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) is not an elitist school. Most of the cadets come from the middle class and poor families.
Elitism is never a doctrine or policy in the Air Force of the Philippines (AFP).
I sent two of my sons there, and we are not by any means an elitist family.
But the course of human events led the organization to what it is today.
Truly, the Air Force of the Philippines (AFP) Officers Corps is now too powerful. It is a monster.
The public knows that. Sadly, there is nothing to provide checks and balances.

Lt., Gen. Antonio E. Sotelo,
the Air Force of the Philippines (AFP) (Ret.)
Manila,
Philippines




Call for US donated vaccines to Thailand
To include vaccination of US citizens in Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 17 July 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, July 8, 2021

Re: "Thais set for 1.5m US doses", in Bangkok Post, July 8, 2021
While the US donation of vaccines to Thailand is welcome support, many Americans are wondering why some of the vaccines being sent here cannot be explicitly earmarked for US citizens residing in the kingdom.
China can do it.
France can do it.
Why can't the US do it?
Is the provision of vaccines to Americans too costly?
Is the operation too difficult?
Or, are American officials simply too uncaring?

Samanea Saman,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Dismissed court justices recieve retirement benefits
Despite justices found guilty of corruption
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 16 July 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer Tuesday 13 July 2021

Once again, the Supreme Court has demonstrated how generous it can be when it comes to dispensing taxpayer money like an ATM in favor of people deemed “more equal” than the rest of us.
“Special people” like former Sandiganbayan justice Gregory Ong and the late chief justice Renato Corona have been allowed to enjoy the whole package of retirement benefits despite having been both found guilty of corruption during their “public service” time in the bench (“SC shows ‘mercy’ for ex-justice who fixed Napoles case,” July 7, 2021; “SC vindicates Corona, grants full retirement benefits,” February 9, 2021
If the Supreme Court has no better use of surplus cash in the tens of millions being showered on those former magistrates, it could have thought of the millions of Filipinos wallowing in abject poverty, misery, and sickness amid this raging pandemic, now without much help from a supposedly bankrupt government.
Not to be insensitive to the “miseries” of the Ong and Corona families, but what greater acts of corruption did the millions of Filipinos do to be treated to the spectacle of being denied even just a sprinkling of similar financial aid from the “highest court of law and justice”?

Chin Chin Katigbak,
Manila,
Philippines




Call for moral excellence in Presidential candidate
In 2022 Philippines elections
The Southeast Asian Times Thursday 15 July 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 9 July 2021

President Duterte has turned our country into a topsy-turvy land defined by a culture of violence and lawlessness; extrajudicial killings and human rights abuses; a crisis of confidence in institutions such as the Supreme Court, the Senate, House of Representatives, Commission on Elections, and local government units; wanton violation of the Constitution and democratic system; suppression of the freedom of speech and of the press; historical revisionism, political patronage, and rampant militarization; jarring mass poverty, widespread corruption, unaccomplished benefits for workers and the poor, and inferior health programs; complaisant subservience to China; and the betrayal of our country and people with his divisive, incompetent, autocratic leadership.
Such ills must not describe the next presidency.
We have a chance at real change in 2022.
Let’s not elect/reelect the self-advancing wreckers of the nation’s hard-earned democratic institutions - those mutilators of our political-social-moral-economic fabric.
Miriam Defensor Santiago said that academic, professional, and moral excellence are needed for the presidency. Vice President Leni Robredo has these qualities, and more. We, the 1,000 plus-members, families, and friends of Mga Apo’ Ni Tomas are ready for her presidency.

Pit M. Maliksi,
Manila,
Philippines



Call for differentiation between
Religion and state in Papua New Guinea
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 14 July 2021
First published in the National, Monday 12 July 2021

I am against the move by the Government to declare Papua New Guinea a Christian Country.
I know some people are against it as well.
This move seems to be a practice of dictatorship.
We need to embrace the type of governance this country adapted since Independence.
We’re a democracy.
Democracy promotes citizens’ rights to freedom of choice in voting Members of Parliaments, rights to education, and rights to choose to follow whatever religion that suits an individual’s belief.
Section 45 of our Constitution is one of the basis of democratic laws and it guides the citizens’ rights to religious beliefs and practices.
So long as the creed and practices of a particular religion are morally right, they can be allowed to practice their faith.
If we successfully declare Papua New Guinea a Christian country, what would be its limits, restrictions or implications?
The non-Christians in the country should be advised on this.
As it is now, the move sounds dictatorial to non-Christian religions such as Baha’i, Islam and Judaism, which are already in Papua New Guinea.
In the case of Islam, I am a follower of Islam (reverted Muslim).
It was established in Papua New Guinea in 1982 as The Islamic Society of Papua New Guinea Inc.
Currently, Islam in Papua New Guinea has nearly 6,000 followers and is one of the fastest growing religion.
As the saying goes: “You can take a horse to the river, but cannot force it to drink the water”.
The Government cannot deprive our democratic right to choose whatever religion we want to follow.
It’s a conviction that comes from the heart and cannot be replaced with whatever external physical means. When we have to look at the Bible, some teachings are yet to be understood.
Different people have different interpretations when it comes to understanding certain messages in the Bible.
Different denominations have different practices. All in all, there are so many bible versions (roughly more than 40 versions today), which differs in so many verses.
Therefore, when we want to uphold certain agreed concepts or values and practices, it will be much more complicated to come to a better resolution. The Constitution itself is enough to provide a better community, promotes individuals prosperity and our interactions with other countries, if properly enforced.
It encounters every facet and dooms of morals and values that can prompt a better and peaceful living.
Just look at Australia, it is better off with a democratic system of governances.
Religion and politics are two different controversial topics and should be dealt with separately.
Political leaders should make a distinctive decisions as political leaders and not religious leaders so as to minimise conflicts of interest and opinions and to represent people well.

Abdul Ahemed (Muslim brother)
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea



Tons of used Covid-19 face masks
Getting into waterways
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 13 July 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 9 July 2021

Dr. Wong Chen Seong of the National Centre for Infectious Diseases of Singapore said that improper discarding of face masks that are soiled or have a “large amount of respiratory secretions” is a potential health hazard.
The virus on such masks that are left exposed is said to survive for a few hours to a few days and even for months to years if kept in a cold place.
According to Dr. Wong, one should wash his or her hands before taking off the mask.
Remove it not under the chin but rather through the ear loops.
Next, fold the mask in half inward so the droplets from the mouth and nose will not be exposed.
Fold it again to another half, then to another half until the mask looks like a roll. Finally, wrap it with its ear loops and put inside a piece of tissue before throwing it into a rubbish bin.
Associate Professor Alex Cook of National University of Singapore also said that those infected with the virus “should be more mindful of where they discard their mask. It would be a good idea to put it in a bag and throw it immediately in the trash rather than leave it sitting exposed.”
Experts say used face masks are getting into waterways, where they reach fresh water and the marine environment.
Oceans Asia reported in February 2020 the presence of face masks in waters off Hong Kong.
BBC has also reported that in Anilao, Batangas, scuba divers found numerous face masks in sea corals and in other marine areas, posing a danger to fish and other sea animals.
In my morning walks, I have seen face masks on streets, dogs biting into face masks, and children playing with dirty masks.
Just recently, a friend forwarded a plea from garbage collectors asking that homes segregate their face masks from other waste.
A study conducted by the University of Phayao, Thailand last year showed that in 49 Asian countries including the Philippines, 16,659.48 tons of medical waste, mostly face masks, were being generated daily during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In India, it’s 6,491.49; Iran, 1,191.04; Pakistan 1,099.30; the Philippines, 353.03.
As we continue to grapple with the pandemic, we must do our share to protect the environment.
We should also kneel harder in prayer that our garbage collectors, like our other frontliners, may do their job well and will not get sick.

Mario D. Dalangin,
Kapatirang Bihiya treasurer,
Manila,
Philippines



Call for Integrated Bar of the Philippines
To redress death of Filipinos due to China's Covid-19
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 12 July 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 8 July 2021

While admitting that there is no law prohibiting President Duterte from running for vice president, former Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) president Domingo Cayosa seemed to make the argument that a challenge can be lodged with the Supreme Court in case Mr. Duterte makes good that threat.
He warned that “the process can be tedious and drawn out” “No legal obstacle to Duterte VP run, but will his 16 million voters back him again? lawyer,” July 5, 2021, suggesting it may not be resolved during Mr. Duterte’s extended presidency through succession.
Our own takeaway is that the challenge will not be long and drawn-out, but will be quickly disposed of for being pointless.
Take the case of former president Gloria M. Arroyo who ran for Congress after her term expired. Has any lawyer ever doubted her right to do so?
The Constitution plainly bars any president from seeking election again to the same office, but not to any other office regardless of his or her ulterior motive.
It all simply boils down to how the electorate will view such "lust for power."
Cayosa should find better use of his influence and time by rousing his colleagues in the currently moribund Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), whose only proof of life is felt in its vigorous effort to collect the annual dues from its members.
He could rally them to do something more patriotic: to seek redress in a court of law on behalf of about 1.5 million Filipinos sick and the heirs of about 25,000 dead due to China’s COVID-19.
More evidence is already coming to light, pointing to the military arm of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) as having ginned up the virus in its Wuhan lab to make it more lethal and highly transmissible to humans - a biological weapon, many are convinced, for all intents and purposes.
The task is no doubt herculean and unprecedented.
There might arise the need for a special tribunal composed of the best legal minds in the country to preside over a class suit that could be deemed sui generis, as it seeks indemnification amounting to an astronomical sum.
Suing a foreign political party or organization running a foreign government whose satellite companies are doing business and holding enormous assets in this country is fraught with extreme difficulties.
Only the cachet that the members of the Supreme Court hold can lend credibility to such proceedings.
And while, as a rule, our Supreme Court has been declaring itself not "a trier of facts," the truth of the matter is it can disregard that rule any time it needs to. Indeed, if it can take time out to act as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal to receive evidence of electoral fraud as in Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos vs. Vice President Leni Robredo, surely it can deviate from its regular role and become a “people’s tribunal” of sorts for a matter of so much more transcendental importance and higher public interest than any case in its docket.
Isn’t it time this course of action is put on the table for serious consideration?
Given their talent to think of the often unthinkable, has any group of lawyers hereabouts ever thought of finding ways to hold the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) accountable for what could well be the “crime of the century”?
Or, are we all resigned to just suffering in silence and rolling over as this pandemic continues to ravage our people and country with no end in sight?
Elite Filipino lawyers and statesmen once found the great patriotism and guts to go after China at the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), despite knowing that any judgment in the Philippines’ favor was going to be unenforceable.
The message was what really mattered: The Philippines was not going to be pushed around by a bully.
And yet, the ripple effect of that judgment has seen powerful countries challenging China’s ambition to exercise dominion over all the islets, the waters, and resources within its “nine-dash line” in the South China Sea, a claim the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) has ruled to be bogus.
We won’t be alone.
More enterprising lawyers around the globe have commenced COVID-19-related class actions against the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and its surrogates in their respective jurisdictions since last year. In around 40 countries including the United States, Great Britain, Canada, litigations are ongoing for punitive damages aggregating hundreds of trillions of dollars against the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), with an eye on its businesses and cash-rich assets in their territories.
What will it take for our own former Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) to wake up and start lawyering for the Filipino people? Or is anybody even home?

Stephen L. Monsanto,
Manila,
Philippines





Permanent peace on Bougainville
When Bougainville gains independence
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 10 July 2021
First published in the National, Wednesday 7 July 2021

As the second consultation between Bougainville and Papua New Guinea leaders progresses in Wabag, Enga, the people of Bougainville are wondering whether Papua New Guinea will honour their wishes for an independent Bougainville.
The people unanimously voted for independence in the recent Bougainville referendum.
The right to determine a political destiny by the people is a human right, which is recognised under international law.
It is known as the right to self-determination.
Through that right, people can freely determine their socio-economic, cultural and political future.
Through that right, the people of Bougainville were given the opportunity to determine their political future of which they voted for separation from Papua New Guinea.
Papua New Guinea, on the other hand, as a sovereign state, will always want to safeguard its territorial integrity just as any other nation.
It does not wish to see disintegration.
In fact, as a general principle under international law, no territory within a sovereign state is allowed to disintegrate itself without the consent of the mother state.
However there is an exception to this.
Where the mother state conducts itself in a manner that is contrary to human rights practices or where the right to self-determination of a particular people within the mother state is being deprived, the mother state can no longer protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
In the case of Bougainville and Papua New Guinea, Papua New Guinea lost its cause for protecting its territorial integrity and sovereignty when it declared war on Bougainville and used its military to kill 20,000 Bougainvilleans and caused thousands to suffer for 10 years.
Human rights atrocities in Bougainville committed by the Papua New Guinea Government’s agents were serious that any state can cause to its own people.
The pain and suffering that the people went through is still fresh in the minds of the people.
About 20,000 Bougainvilleans who perished remain uncompensated while Papua New Guinea compensated those soldiers that lost their lives in Bougainville.
The Papua New Guinea Government needs to understand that it can no longer preach about protecting its national unity when it already lost its obligation to protect its territorial integrity over Bougainville.
Permanent peace on Bougainville and in Papua New Guinea will only be attained when Bougainville gains independence.

Weko Tantanu,
South West Bougainville
,
Papua New Guinea



Malaysia's creative arts industry
In desperate need of help
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 9 July 2021
First published in the Star, Wednesday 7 July 2021

The performance arts industry is facing a catastrophic crisis because of Covid-19. This pandemic has reshaped the arts world like it has never before.
As the post-pandemic future of the arts looks bleak, we end up with the vicious question we keep asking ourselves – “How do we move forward at least for the next three months?”
When a performing arts centre plans to stay afloat for the next three months instead of planning productions for the next one to two years, it is a clear indication that things are beginning to fall apart – and yes, we are beginning to crumble.
With our government’s lack of enthusiasm to address the pandemic’s effect on the creative arts industry, what more to safeguard us from tumbling over, we can only rely on ourselves to keep us alive.
This is nothing new to us, for we are all very much aware of the situation – unfortunately knowing does not make things any easier to swallow.
Like an old wound, we continue to bleed.
As we lower down our anchor, we have decided on drastic changes to stretch the duration of our survival.
After one year of struggling with a 30 percent salary cut, our team is forced to endure another round of salary cuts, effective June 2021.
Also, the employment status of our team has been transformed from full-time employment to contractual employment.
We are doing everything in our power to survive, unfortunately we also need to prepare for the worst-case scenario.
We still need to brace for further impact if the economy doesn’t rise up soon enough or no assistance is found.
If that happens, we may be forced to make a follow-up salary cut even when we find our salary barely enough to survive at the moment.
We are grateful to have a wonderful team who are in this difficult journey with us. However, as the journey gets harder, we may have to part ways with some of them.
It won’t be easy to say goodbye to family, but this pandemic has not made anything easy either. In fact, we have informed our team that we will accept their decision if they do receive better employment offers elsewhere.
We just can’t drag them along as we sink.
We are doing our very best to stay alive, however we do not wish to sugarcoat this very difficult situation.
Our survival is very much in a limbo; we do not even know if we can make it past August.
Our fund is depleting and we are working very hard to get donations and sponsorships in.
Unfortunately, nothing is helping much at the moment.
We are in desperate need of help.

Fa Abdul,
General Manager,
Performing Arts Centre of Penang (penangpac)
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia



 

China has become as capitalistic and impericalistic
As the United States of America
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 8 July 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 7 July 2021

Randy David’s column “America and China: A tale of two systems,” Public Lives, July 4, 2021 strikes me as a challenge to our Filipino youth who are easily swayed by the communist ideology for whatever reason - youthful idealism, patriotic fervor, extreme poverty.
China has become as capitalistic as its biggest rival, the United States of America, and even as imperialistic as shown by its bullying of the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries in the South China Sea.
It has been using its economic muscle to impose onerous and predatory loans on developing countries that leave them dispossessed of their patrimony in case of default.
It is quite perplexing, therefore, that our left-leaning youth movements are still captivated by the Chinese model of development which, as Randy David observed, only remains viable if fueled by an authoritarian and highly centralized system of government and a fiercely market-driven economic system.
It is quite amusing to hear our street activists continuously denounce US imperialism when our existential problem today is in fact Chinese imperialism, a superpower encroaching on our territorial seas backed up by military might.
How I wish the talents and energies of our young activists were directed toward exploring solutions to our national problems that harness democratic and Christian values and instincts and not those driven by deep ideological conflicts, hatred, and class struggle that leave no room for enlightened dialogue and peaceful coexistence. Instead of constantly organizing mass actions and engaging in political activities to create the “revolutionary situation” that will tip the balance in favor of a new political order, would not the intelligence, creativeness, and moral courage of our youth be better put at the service of the country through productive and nonviolent ways?
For instance, by being engaged in their chosen professional careers, whether in business, industry, government, or even in the political arena, our youth can channel their drive for excellence and patriotism to redressing existing structures of injustice, inequality, and discrimination, alleviating mass poverty, and helping build a better society.
Our society is fast collapsing under the weight of political corruption, socioeconomic inequality, and decades-long armed insurgencies.
All these will fall on the laps of our youth, the next generation of Filipinos, so that it is critical that they discern very carefully the pathways that will save our nation from endless strife and social disorder.
There are a number of alternatives to choose from, but five decades of debilitating and fruitless armed struggle modeled on a foreign ideology has not worked, and we need to look elsewhere for the solution.

Donato Soliven,
Manila,
Philippines

 


Former President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III
Offered a narrative that could be used in next elections
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 7 July 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 1 July 2021

So much has been said about former President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III in light of his untimely passing.
The various testimonies made us see a man who served his country well the best that he could.
The accounts of a number of people who worked with him when he was the chief executive offered the public a narrative that could be used as a reference next year.
This should open our minds to what the presidency should be.
We have already seen 16 presidents - from Emilio Aguinaldo to Rodrigo Duterte. The country has been offered a myriad of presidential styles.
There were those who managed the government well and there were others who left office with controversies hounding them, even to their grave.
The presidency is still the office where we place our collective aspirations as a country.
And it is in this perspective that we the electorate should envision the kind of leader we need.
One who would help us achieve our goals and address our problems.
This discussion is very timely as we go to the polls next year to elect a new president.
Names of potential presidential candidates are already floating around.
Some appear to be “reluctant” while others are just waiting for the right time to throw their hat in the ring.
The electorate needs to vet each one of them thoroughly.
Go over their respective platforms and consider their stand on various issues.
Once these are satisfied, vote for who you believe is best qualified for the job.
A reminder: Please choose wisely.

Mark Jerome T. Bongalon,
Tabaco City,
Albay,
Philippines




Former President Noynoy Aquino
An eye for an eye
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 6 July 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 5 July 2021

When I interviewed Noynoy Aquino end of August 1983, just days after the assassination of his father, for Celebrity magazine, I recall now what he told me then:
I am a biblical eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth guy. If you hurt my mother, if you hurt my sisters, I’ll get back to you.”

Amadis Ma. Guerrero,
Taguig City,
Metro Manila,
Philippines



Malaysia raises safety concerns
Over pre-colonial buildings
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 5 July 2021
First published in the Star, Tuesday 29 June 2021

The collapse of the 12-storey beachfront condominium building in Miami, Florida on June 24, killing at least nine people and leaving 100 people still missing as of Sunday, should raise concern over the safety of buildings in our own country.
Could a similar incident occur in Malaysia, where there are many pre-colonial buildings that are still being occupied?
The Uniform Building By-Laws (UBBL) 1984 enacted under the Street Drainage and Building Act 1974 stipulates that all new buildings require submission of plans for approval prior to construction.
The plans must be submitted by a principal submitting person (PSP) such as a professional architect or professional engineer.
UBBL 1984 stipulates the building’s structural requirements related to the design and specifications of materials, loadings, foundation and superstructure. It also governs the design, specifications and construction of walls, floor and building structure and fire requirements of a building.
Section 85A of the Street, Drainage and Building Act 1974 states that for buildings exceeding five stories, the local authority may “by a notice in writing served on the owner of a building, require the building to be inspected – after the 10th year commencing from the date the first certificate of fitness for occupation in respect of the building was issued; and thereafter at intervals of not more than 10 years from the date of the completion of the last inspection of the building under this section.”
The inspection must be conducted by a professional engineer registered under the Registration of Engineers Act 1967.
Section 85A(6)(c) states that “if, after having considered the results of the visual inspection, the engineer reasonably suspects or is of the opinion that there is a defect, deformation or deterioration in the building or its structural elements as will or will likely endanger or reduce the structural stability or integrity of any part of the building he shall request for permission from the local authority to carry out a full structural investigation on the building including investigation in respect of its structural elements...”
Furthermore, the Fire Services Act 1988 requires designated premises to undergo an annual fire inspection before they are issued with a Fire Certificate (FC) by the Fire and Rescue Department.
This shows that we have stringent laws and regulations in place to ensure the safety of buildings, and it is of paramount importance that they are strictly implemented and enforced.
All designated premises in Malaysia must be mandated to display the Fire Certificate and all buildings that are more than 10 years old must display proof that the periodic inspections have been carried out.
In the era of big data technology, it should be easy to compile information on all buildings that are more than 10 years old. Compliance with the regulations will ensure that buildings in Malaysia are safe for occupancy.

TS. IR. Wong Chee Fui,
Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia

 


Thailand calls for flexibility
In purchase agreements with China
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 3 July 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 2 July 2021

Re: "China confirms purchase of 20,000 tonnes of rice," in Bangkok Post, Monday June 28, 2021.
It's reported that China agreed in 2015 to buy 2 million tonnes of rice from Thailand.
The buyers later reduced the volume by half, to only 1 million tonnes - and to date only three-fourths of that amount has actually been purchased.
When Thai officials speak of purchase agreements with China for dubious items such as submarines, tanks, and high-speed train systems, they emphasise the sanctity and rigidity of agreements made previously.
It seems that China is able to alter the terms of purchase agreements quite easily; why is the same flexibility not possible from the Thai side?

Samanea Saman,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Duterte candidate for 2016 elections
Turned out to be the Manchurian candidate
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 2 July 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Thursday 1 July 2021

Reading the news item “Duterte on 2022 VP race: ‘If there’s space for me there, then maybe’” June 29, 2021 left us feeling like puking over the sheer hypocrisy of it all.
Doesn’t President Duterte ever tire of speaking with a forked tongue?
Sobrang pa-cute! Kunyari ayaw, pero sige na nga!
He’s recycling the same gimmick he used in 2016: Pakipot.
Sir, tama na po, kumita na po yan! He really has no choice but to stay in power. Despite all his “bravado” about taking full responsibility and bluster about going to jail himself for the alleged EJKs committed by his minions, he now seems more like desperately seeking a continuum of his “immunity” as president, by hook or by crook, to escape criminal prosecution.
A win by the opposition in 2022 is for him not an option.
Mr. Duterte badly needs an absolutely reliable “president” who will have no problem stepping aside for his immediate succession.
Only his daughter, Sara, fits the bill; or alternatively, his gofer, Bong Go - both already seen to be positioning for the greatest hoax this country has ever known.
Only Vice President Leni Robredo can beat Sara, if only she could stop being so wish-washy about her intentions.
She’s said to be just thinking of running for governor in her hometown instead. Seriously?
Now is the time for her to show what stuff she’s made of.
Sara has already been brazenly “campaigning.”
So what the heck, shouldn’t Leni be?
The stark contrast between the decency a Robredo brand of governance offers and the unbridled vulgarity the Duterte brand has demonstrated should now open the eyes of the more than 16 million Filipinos who put their trust in a “macho” candidate in 2016 who turned out to be more “Manchurian” - more beholden to a foreign country than to his own.

Grace Po-Quicho,
Manila,
Philippines

 


Death of Noynoy Aquino a foreshadowing
Of return to a respectable president ?
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 1 July 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, 29 June 2021

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has observed that whenever our country is ruled by a corrupt, abusive, and tyrannical president, an Aquino dies and rouses individuals and democratic forces to fight for democracy.
During the Marcos dictatorship, the Left consistently fought for the rights of the people, but it was only after the assassination of Sen. Ninoy Aquino that thousands of Filipinos, especially the middle classes, became active in the so-called parliament of the streets and in the 1986 presidential election.
In 2004, former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo cheated her way to the presidency “Hello, Garci?”.
Corruption became a way of life and repressive measures were implemented by her Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to quell the various forces opposing her administration.
The death of President Cory Aquino swept to victory her only son, “Noynoy” Aquino, who instituted various social, political, and economic reforms when he became president.
Today, we are led by a president under whose rule billions of shabu still manage to slip in, thousands of petty pushers have died, fake news abound, and servility to China is the norm.
Is the death of Noynoy Aquino a foreshadowing of the return of a respectable president who will assert our rights against China, open up the democratic space, and provide medical and health solutions instead of police or military ones to the drug problem and the pandemic?

Raffy Rey Hipolito,
Manila,
Philippines





Not safe to be caught up in traffic
In Port Moresby
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 30 June 2021
First published in the National, Monday 28 June 2021

The rise in crime in Port Moresby is a challenge for the police .
In recent weeks, there has been a lot of crime.
People are living in fear
What are our authorities doing to address this?
It is not safe to be caught up in traffic.
It shows the city has become lawless and our leaders have not done anything to address it.
The city is growing fast causing a lot of issues with traffic.
Vendors and thugs are taking control of the traffic.
We have to address this before it gets worse.
When you study the success of cities such as New York, the fastest way to reduce major crime is to stop petty crimes.
Please hear the calls of our people in the city.
We are frightened.
We are worried.
If we want the country and our capital city to move towards a positive future, we need to eliminate these elements that are holding us back.
Let’s stop petty crimes now before we implement curfews and other drastic measures to slow it down.

Concerned City Resident,
Port Moresby
Papua New Guinea

 

 

Philippine President Duterte wants Filipinos
Who are not vaccinated thrown in jail
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 29 June 2021
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 29 June 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 28 June 2021

During the incumbency of United States Republican president Donald J. Trump, he submitted himself to a cognitive ability test in response to critics who excoriated him about his competence, i.e., to see if he is crazy or not.
He aced it and the doubt was settled, except for the hardliners of the rival Democratic Party.
President Duterte wants Filipinos who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19 be thrown in jail “Amid scarcity, Duterte wants COVID-19 vax refusers jailed,” June 23, 2021, despite the fact that there are not enough vaccines available to millions of Filipinos.
He would need to build the biggest jail in the world to contain more than 100 million Filipinos.
Doesn’t anyone think it’s time for Mr. Duterte to undergo that same cognitive test?
Asking lang po.

Yvette San Luis-Petrocelli,
Manila,
Philippines



About the plight of indigenous forest dwellers
In Thailand's national parks
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 28 June 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Thursday 24 June 2021

Re: "Violence hampers Unesco park quest", in Bangkok Post, Opinion, June 17, 2021
I'm sure for many expats in Thailand the plight of indigenous forest dwellers in Thailand's national parks is something of a mystery.
I had to study a map to, vaguely, discover where some of the disputed lands were located.
It is not easy to understand what lies behind labyrinthine forest affairs or state-sponsored policies of violence against the Karen, or why laws were passed in 2019 enabling forest authorities to further destroy their property.
In one's efforts to make sense of this murky business, what little I have gleaned is thanks to the dedicated research and reporting of Sanitsuda Ekachai.
It is reassuring that this senior Bangkok Post columnist recognises her role entails more than rearranging pro-China hand-outs or acting as a state sycophant in defence of the regime's persecution of members of the pro-Democracy movement.

Yannnawa David,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 

 

Armed Forces of the Philippines
Show no mercy for Lumad children
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 27 June 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 25 June 2021

We, an association of consecrated women in Mindanao, express both lamentation and rage over yet another spilling of innocent “lumad” blood on ancestral lands.
The blood of Angel and Lenie Rivas, and Willy Rodriguez, “cry out to the heavens for justice.”
It is the same cry of Emerito Samarca, Dionel Campos, and Datu Bello Sinzo who were massacred in Lianga, Surigao del Sur in 2015 by government-sanctioned paramilitary forces.
We grieve with their families and community and with the Diocese of Tandag under the Most Rev. Raul Dael, who held a “Dialogue of Life” with the Manobo of Lianga earlier this year.
Angel was a Grade 6 student of the Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur (TRIFPSS) lumad school.
Willy and Lenie were members of the Malahutayong Pakigbisog alang sa Sumusunod (Mapasu or Sustainable Struggle for Future Generations).
They were gathering abaca hemp to sustain their livelihood especially in these dire pandemic times when they were mercilessly shot by military men belonging to the 3rd Special Forces of the Philippine Army.
The lack of mercy from their attackers is shown by the fact that before they went to their farm, the victims had “sought permission” from the military - an ironic situation because as lumad they are supposed to exercise sovereignty and self-determination in their own land.
The military fired upon them with full knowledge of their being civilians going about their daily living.
This is, therefore, murder most vile.
Angel, Lenie, and Willy were presented as New People’s Army rebels as the military’s justification for the treacherous massacre.
It reflects the state policy of Red-tagging that leads to extrajudicial killings, and extrajudicial killings justified by the Red-tagging of its defenseless victims.
The Lianga massacre of 2015 is an example of the former, the Lianga massacre of 2021 of the latter.
We are witness to this ever-widening policy of death and destruction in the many communities where we live out our missionary work, especially among poor farmers, the Moro, and the lumad. Land-grabbing of ancestral lands, killings, forced evacuations, economic and food blockades, forced and faked “surrender” of civilians, the slander and harassment of community leaders, advocates, and support groups these are clear transgressions against human dignity and human life.
Our witnessing comes with the realization that the fullness of life for the Manobo as envisioned by the Most Rev.
Ireneo Amantillo, the Bishop of Tandag during the dark days of martial law when he pioneered the TRIFPSS school, necessitates a sustained work for justice, the same principle lived out by the “malahutayong pakigbisog” of Mapasu.
As consecrated women, we commit ourselves to this work of justice for the Lianga massacre victims.
We affirm God’s love, mercy, and justice for them and their communities.
We are not dismayed in the face of this violation of justice and righteousness against the poor.
We take comfort in the certainty that the high officials who perpetrate this violence and terrorism shall be made accountable to yet Higher Ones over them.
The instrumentalities of human rights nationally and internationally are higher levels of accountability.
The upcoming elections provide another arena for accountability in terms of raising awareness and providing guidance in choosing leaders that uphold life and human rights.
The peoples’ movement for social justice, while vilified and violently repressed, journeys on even more resolutely to bring about Shalom.
And, above all, we are strengthened in faith in our God of History, who walks with the people in building the “kin-dom” of solidarity, peace, and justice.

Sisters’ Association in Mindanao (Samin),
Manila,
Philippines



Call for Philippines nuclear power plant to be converted
Into center for manufacturing organic oil
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 26 June 2021
First published in the Philipine Inquirer, Thursday 24 June 2021

It is good that the Noynoy Aquino administration did not consider reviving the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP).
Yes, we all agree, it is economical to operate a nuclear power plant. But if it fails, it is also expensive and destructive.
If the power cost is only P1 while the cost of repairing damages is P10,000 in case of failures, you don’t need to study economics at UP or Ateneo to know the difference.
I am not a licensed engineer to say that the strength of materials has a certain period to remain unbreakable, or what we call in layman’s terms “metal fatigue.” But what about other factors that cannot be seen by the experts like “meteorites” dropping from the sky, or if China’s relationship with the Philippines changes and it decides to bomb our nuclear plant, or we lack uranium because China and other suppliers do not want to sell?
Former president Ferdinand Marcos’ cronies - like Herminio Disini - got fat commissions from Westinghouse.
Cory mothballed the plant, and to prove to the world that the Philippines has integrity, she honored the country’s liabilities with Westinghouse.
Meanwhile, scrap scavengers, in connivance with people inside, had methodically stolen most of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) essential parts, like titanium condenser tubes.
The Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) can be converted into a center for manufacturing “organic oil,” because it is very near Pampanga, Bataan, and Zambales that have millions of hectares suited to plant jatropha, cassava, sugar cane, and malunggay.
Millions of jobs will be created, too.
About time we do something to erase the image that the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) is “a showcase of world-class corruption.”

Isidro C. Valencia,
Taguig City,
Philippines

 

 

Support for criminal investigation into Thai MP's
Conviction for smuggling herion into Australia
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 25 June 2021
First published in the Bankgok Post, Thursday 24 June 2021

Re: "MP takes legal action over Thamanat's Aussie jail time", in Bangkok Post, 22 June 2021
I fully support Seri Ruam Thai leader Sereepisuth Temeeyaves' demanding a criminal investigation over Thamanat's conviction for smuggling heroin into Australia: if the drugs came from Thailand, his offence should have been illegal in Thailand, and he may not be eligible to be an Member of Parliament or cabinet member.
Can Thamanat deny his handwritten confession - and was he really smuggling "flour", as he vehemently told parliament?
Or should he come clean, confirm his heroin smuggling, but say that since he's served his sentence, he should be given a second chance?
To uphold the rule of law, as he's vowed to do, PM Prayut should move Capt Thamanat to an inactive post until the investigation is over and appoint an impartial probe panel.

Burin Kantabutra,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Call for Catholic church in Philippines
To speak out against injustice
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 24 June 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 22 June 2021

I read with interest the letter “Amid violence and injustice, Church and media are no longer game changers”
I agree that “the Catholic Church since the passing of the Cardinal Sin era has been reduced to a whimper in a vast howling wilderness of violence and injustice with only a few prophetic voices that are hardly heard or even disregarded by its very own constituency.”
The Catholic Church must strongly speak out.
Those who think the Church should not get involved against the social evils in our country have missed the Church’s teaching of prophetic criticism.
The Church is the conscience of the state.
When the state leads a wicked societal life, the Church, its conscience, cannot
afford to become cowed and silent.
The Church is the state’s “best” critic.
The Church is not just called to issue a reflection of the evils in society, but also to instruct the faithful on what to do when confronted with such in light of the Gospel values and teachings of the Church.
The Church is called to share the Gospel values to all and to shape society when it is not following the path consistent with these values.
The Church is never called to popularity, but to faithfulness.
The Church can never be silent about social evils.
When it is or chooses to be, it ceases to be the real Church.

Reginald B. Tamayo,
Marikina City,
Philippines

 

 

 

Military coups
Are totally unacceptable
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 23 June 2021

We read in The Southeast Asian Times ( June 22 ) that citing " the situation in Myanmar " the United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said " we cannot live in a world where military coups become the norm ... it is totally unacceptable ".
He is absolutely right.
Just how totally unacceptable military coups are is something only people who have lived through military coups know.
Military coups result in the deaths of innocent citizens.
The lives and livelihoods of the living are ruined.
People live in perpetual fear of the military mob in power and their ruthless modus operandi which has no regard for human rights and democratic freedoms.
The country is taken backwards.
The tragedy is that often when a military coup happens after an initial perfunctory condemnation the rest of the democratic world return to business as usual with the post coup regime, including the sale of military arms.
Will that change ?
That's the big question.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
Australia


 

Port Moresby pokie machine operators want
PNG government to increase shared revenue
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 22 June 2021
First published in the National, Friday 18 June 2021

A number of site operators of pokies machines in Port Moresby have taken offence to the National Gaming Control Board (NGCB) bragging about increasing its revenues when it’s not sorting out the long-outstanding issue of an equitable sharing of current pokies revenues in the the National, June 15.
At the moment, the monthly revenue is shared 75 per cent to the NGCB and 25 per cent to the site operators.
A further two per cent is taken out of the operators’ 25 per cent share, leaving the operator with a mere 23 per cent or so each month.
The operator then has to pay for staff wages, security, rent, electricity, water and repay bank loans.
That leaves a tiny 5 per cent or so of gross monthly revenue for profit.
This has been raised to the NGCB chairman and chief executive so many times in writing and in meetings but the board has not done anything about this.
The issue of equitable sharing has not even been placed as an agenda before board.
We, the operators, demand that the NGCB immediately address this issue and make a determination.
A fairer equation is that 60 per cent of gross monthly revenue should go to the site operators who bear all the costs of making this money.
Some Papua New Guinean businesses are operating pokies machines and it is the Government’s job to assist them with better revenue so that they can grow family-owned businesses.
Even if the NGCB’s 75 per cent is seen as taxation, it is massively excessive by any standards in any country in the world.
Indeed, it may be argued that the Government, through the NGCB is using site operators, some of whom are citizens of this country, as slaves to increase its revenue.
Any forensic analysis of the board’s costs of regulating the pokies machines in this country will show that they are killing businesses.
Before the NGCB talks about casinos and any other forms of gambling, it should deal with the pokies site operators’ issue for a fair and equitable share of the monthly pokies revenue.
The site operators demand 60 per cent share of the monthly revenue and 40 per cent to the NGCB.

Pokie machine site operator,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea


Call for world to return to normality
For economic well-being of all
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 21 June 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 16 June 2021

Re: "Sandbox shambles", Bangkok Post PostBag, June 8, 2021
Rocket Scientist touches on a global issue, not just a Thai one.
The inescapable fact is that Covid-19 has arrived and is here to stay, in its various guises.
The world has to quickly function normally again for the economic well-being of all. The poor have certainly suffered disproportionately in the last 18 months.
This means that border restrictions and international movements must be eased. We cannot continue with quarantines and expensive multiple tests if this is to achieved.
Unless an instant free test can be devised, vaccinated people should be allowed to travel freely.
Travel to well vaccinated countries should present no discernable risk to those countries and the additional risk to unvaccinated countries will be minimal.
If every country insists on three polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for travellers, as is currently the case, that is six tests for a return trip.
For a family of four, that is 24 tests, which is probably the cost of the holiday.
That is just unrealistic long term.

Phil Cox,
Bangkok,
Thailand



Where are Asian values when the young
Are shot and killed for raising their voices?
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 20 June 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Friday 18 June 2021

Re: "Asean, China promotes Asian values," Bangkok Post, Opinion, June 15
It is not clear what Kavi Chongkittavorn means by Asian values.
The region is ruled by many dictators and despots who muzzle the voices of young people, openly flout human rights, and put anyone opposing them in jail.
Mr Kavi forgets that Soviet Union was one time a rival superpower to the USA.
Its collapse teaches us one important lesson - smart leaders always use self-serving ideology to come into power and remain in power.
It is no surprise that for more than a century communist and socialist ideologies have been used to promote a false sense of pride in collectivism and for promoting herd mentality.
Democracy has its own flaws, but it does allow dissenting voices and the removal of despots through elections and voting.
Many Asean leaders also churn out their own unique models of governance.
China is in constant strife with India and the rest of the countries in the so-called South China Sea.
The sad happenings in Hong Kong and Myanmar are right in front of us.
Where are the Asian values of consensus and inclusiveness when young people are thrust in jail or shot and killed for raising their voices?

Kuldeep Nagi,
Bangkok,
Malaysia

 

 

What happened to funds
For education in remote Papua New Guinea
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 19 June 2021
First published in the National, Wednesday 16 June 2021

Development is supposed to be embraced and delivered to citizens in the remote parts of Nawaeb.
But the few engineers who are attached with local Member of Parliament Kennedy Wenge and a few protocol officers are entertaining themselves and their families.
The district funds are not changing the people’s life.
Can the Government check Nawaeb and blacklist those contractors who cannot deliver?
Check the education projects in the district.
Students are expected to learn without disruptions, but there are many delays.
Nawaeb High School still has an incomplete science laboratory.
There are also other projects in other schools that are also incomplete.
What happened to the funding?
We should do away with contractors who are only good on paper.
Students are struggling.

Worried Nawaeb Citizen,
Port Moresby
Papua New Guinea



Papua New Guinea churches
Benefit from Casinos
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 18 June 2021
First published in the National, Wednesday 16 June 2021

I had goosebumps reading that National Gaming Control Board chairman Clemence Kanau, said that churches also benefit from the gambling industry in the country and should “keep quiet” as the Government is working on establishing a casino at Paga Hill, Port Moresby.
I see why many churches are not against this move.
Even if they have said something against this move, it is not loud enough.
The churches who benefit from sponsorships and other financial support from the National Gaming Control Board cannot speak up against the building of this casino.
If it was some other issue, they would have been the first ones to raise their concerns.
They probably want to remain quiet in fear of risking their chances of getting more benefits from the National Gaming Control Board.
Where in the Bible does it say it is okay for churches to fund their ministries from the proceeds of evil activities such as gambling?
Is the National Gaming Control Board chairman telling Papua New Guinea that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob approves of his wayward and misconstrued assumption that it is okay to compromise righteousness?
The churches who knowingly remain silent on this development agenda will equally be accountable before God.
Churches should not be funded through proceeds from evil activities like gambling.
As a Christian, it sickens me to read this article.
May God Almighty rescue Papua New Guinea from the crooked people and their crooked decisions.

Paliaima A Tanda,
Port Moresby
Papua New Guinea



Thailand has a bloated military
With a legion of decorated admirals and generals
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 17 June 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 16 June 2021

Re: "Thailand's irresponsible runaway debt", Bangkok Post, Opinion,
June 11.
Almost all governments are now on a spending spree to cope with the devastation caused by the Covid crisis.
Surprisingly, China is the only country to successfully avoid a serious blow to its economy.
In the USA, the deficit, a favourite pillar of the Republican agenda has completely vanished.
For stabilising the Thai economy efforts should now be made to prioritise spending on major projects and reducing the lopsided reliance on the tourism sector.
More attention should be paid to exports, innovation in green technologies, education reforms and labour skill development.
It is quite amusing that a country like Thailand with no imminent threats or enemies has a bloated military with a legion of decorated admirals and generals who have never fought a war?
Prof Thitinan is correct that the government is leaving a massive bill for younger Thais to repay over their lifetimes.

Kuldeep Nagi,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Philippine National Police
Fly too close to the sun
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday16 June 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Wednesday 9 June 2021

In Greek mythology, there is the story of Icarus.
Icarus was given artificial wings made of wax and feather so that he could fly. Daedalus, his father, warned that if Icarus flew too close to the sun, his artificial wings would melt.
But Icarus, feeling the high of flying and unmindful of Daedalus’ warning, soared too high and saw his wings melt.
He plunged into the sea and drowned.
This is a tale of hubris - or the excessive pride toward or defiance of the gods.
This overbearing pride leads humans to follow paths that lead to certain self-destruction.
Some policemen have hubris in abundance, murdering hapless individuals.
The killing caught on cam of a 52-year-old woman and the alleged accidental killing of a man with special needs muddied the already dirty face of the police organization.
The saddest thing here is that it’s not only Zinampan, Nuezca, and their ilk who end up the recipients of public condemnation and mistrust, but also other officers who are law-abiding, loving, and kind.
Two years back, I spoke before police trainees in a Philippine National Police (PNP) training session.
I discussed their tenets of accountability, responsibility, and respect for life. Spearheaded by the Couples for Christ and the Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals, our session allowed us to talk about these vital values.
The sad, harrowing events where policemen execute civilians who cannot even defend themselves is downright deplorable.
What has led these humans to shed their humanity and descend to animal behavior? This is a question that should be answered by policymakers and leaders of the police force.
Zinampan once posted on Facebook that the sin of one is not the sin of all.
But there is a need to reform and look into the psyche of these men.
Their hubris needs to be checked, because the actions of a few misguided elements affect and undermine the thousands of other members of the organization.

Clemelle L. Montallana,
Manila,
Philippines

 

 

The rise of the military in the political domain
Has shifted politics from where it should be
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 15 June 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday 6 June 2021

Re: "PM shows he has political resilience," in Bangkok Post OpEd, June 4,
2021.
The analytical views of the columnist are appreciated from the vantage point of politics.
There is no doubt that Thailand is a political economy, and the truth that eludes us all is that the centre of focus had better be on critical constituents of the Thai body politic.
The rise of the military in the political domain has shifted the focus in Thai politics from where it should be:
First, with the farmers and with their markets which for a long time have always been domestic.
That is no longer the case.
Farmers need to be encouraged to yield more for the sustainability of Thais themselves and for world markets which are in need of their agricultural products.
The visionary King Rama IX tirelessly campaigned for farmers, saying he and farmers were fighting against a greater enemy than communism - which was hunger.
His self-sufficiency projects have benefited farming communities and the kingdom at large.
No military weaponry or armaments can sustain us in the face of impending global catastrophes such as land desertification through global warming and rising sea water levels which are already hitting so many countries.
Second, youth have always been the mainstay of innovative and novel approaches to solving problems.
Politicians need to look at the needs of the youth more critically and create avenues for them to progress in their studies and beyond that in the social and political realms so they will learn how to value and cherish their kingdom and their fellow beings.
We cannot trap our youth in cages. Through their forward-looking policies, politicians and governments lead hope for youth.
Do not jail them in prisons for daring to learn, to think and grow.

Glen Chatelier,
Bangkok,
Thailand




Call for lockdown
Of Drink-driving death clusters in Thailand
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 14 June 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday 6 June 2021

An analogy that we often hear is that if you are walking around without a mask, or not socially-distancing or refusing to get vaccinated, it is the equivalent of driving drunk, because besides yourself, you could kill someone.
Similar to having the coronavirus, you could also say that driving drunk is "highly transmissible from person to person" and that includes adults and children, since road accidents in 2016 were the most common cause of death for Thai children aged 10-14.
In 2018, as reported by the Bangkok Post, 90 percent of traffic offences were for drink-driving and 40 percent of road fatalities, 4,498, resulted from people driving while under the influence of alcohol.
Why doesn't that get more press for the other 51 weeks out of the year aside from those "Seven Deadliest Days" of New Year?
Why is having one of the world's worst road-fatality rates 32.7 per 100,000 people in 2018 and so many deaths caused by vehicles 22,491 in 2018 not as big a deal as cumulative deaths by Covid-19 a total of 1,177 as of June 5?
Everyone on mass transit is checked (to see if they have a high temperature of 37.8ºC or greater.
But we don't check people on the roads as diligently for signs of drink driving.
Why aren't roads that have drink-driving death 'clusters' ever locked down?
In other words, why - when it comes to talking about or dealing with these tragic road deaths - do we lighten up?

Eddie Delzio,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 


Ruling PDP-Laban party has deteriorated
Since its foundation against Marcos dictatorship
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 13 June 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Friday 4 June 2021

The ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino–Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) party was established with the goal of opposing tyrants.
The murdered Sen. Ninoy Aquino and former Senate president Nene Pimentel coalesced their parties to take a principled stand against the dictatorship of President Marcos.
But look at how the party has deteriorated.
Its current leaders are mobilizing their members to make it appear there is a groundswell of support for a Duterte-Duterte tandem.
From its history and spirit of resistance, the PDP-Laban now wants a continuation of the same administration that has initiated mass killings, harassed media companies and personalities, and kowtowed to China.

Raffey Rey Hipolito,
Manila,
Philippines



Violence begets violence
As Myanmar shows
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 12 June 2021

Violence begets violence.
This is illustrated so clearly in the Myanmar case.
Aung San Sui Kyi had for over three decades advocated peaceful pro-democracy protest to bring about change in the entrenched military rule in Myanmar.
But now in light of the brutal military crackdown and killing of peaceful
pro-democracy protesters following the latest February 1 military coup many from within Sui Kyi's political party and other civilian protesters no longer regard peaceful protest as a viable option.
We learn from the SBS Dateline ( 8 June ) that many new generation youth have gone to acquire armed resistance training with the Karin military to equip themselves with the skills to fight the Myanmar military junta.
How is the country to benefit from the cycle of violence that now appears
inevitable ?
It's a crying shame that the power- hungry, kleptomaniac military generals in Myanmar have brought the country down to this counter-productive state of violence.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney,
New South Wales,
Australia

 

President Duterte urged to run
As vice president in 2022 elections
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 11 June 2021
First published in the Philippines Inquirer, Monday 7 June 2021

The ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino–Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) party internal squabble is its problem, but the group’s resolution urging President Duterte to run as vice president should be condemned outright.
It has to be named for what it is: a shameless maneuver to extend Mr. Duterte’s term beyond 2022.
The PDP-Laban is no ordinary party; it is the ruling faction whose members include top officials of the country.
Mr. Duterte himself is the head of this party.
Hence, its resolution is a matter of public concern.
It is highly unlikely that PDP-Laban members would come out with this unusual appeal without the implicit approval of the President or his inner circle.
Mr. Duterte authorized the meeting and he had the chance to comment or reject the resolution during his weekly televised address.
We fear that the ruling party is scheming to create a fake clamor aimed at convincing Mr. Duterte to run in 2022.
It is appalling that the party in power is proposing an action that would circumvent the constitutional provision prohibiting the reelection of the incumbent president. The term limit was placed there because of our painful experience during the Marcos dictatorship.
We do not want another president who will abuse his power and wantonly use government resources to guarantee his reelection bid.
We had thwarted previous attempts to amend the Constitution which would have removed term limits and allowed politicians and political dynasties to remain in power.
The PDP-Laban resolution is the latest variant that seeks to perpetuate the rule of the incumbent president.
Mr. Duterte’s party should offer new candidates instead of plotting the President’s reelection.
For many Filipinos who sincerely want reforms in society, our best option is to support not another Duterte candidacy, but the pursuit of accountability and justice.

Mong Palatino,
Chair,
Bayan Metro Manila,
Philippines

 

 

Approval for Pacific Pearl Casino in Port Moresby
Shows PNG running out of ideas to grow economy
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 10 June 2021
First published in the National, Thursday 3 June 2021

The approval by the Government for the establishment of Pacific Pearl Casino at Paga Hill, Port Moresby, indicates it has run out of ideas to grow the country’s economy.
There are more problems than benefits that this industry will bring into the country. National Gaming Control Board (NGCB) chairman Clemence Kanau mentioned that the industry would bring in much-needed foreign exchange and employ about 10,000 people.
However, these benefits should have been quantified and released for public consumption.
On the flip side, casinos around the world are sites where money laundering occurs.
This is an avenue where drug lords, terrorists and organised gang elements illegally channel their money to avoid being caught.
Without effective systems to monitor our international borders and no tough laws on money laundering and drugs, our country will be a haven for illegal activities to flourish.
It seems the recent major drug bust just outside Port Moresby, where the accused are yet to be penalised, has not taught the Government a lesson before approving the casino to be constructed.
The National Gaming Control Board (NGCB) in its media release, has given the guarantee to the country that they would go out and source the best international operator to run the casino.
But how much experience do they have in executing this task?
If Australia’s major casino operator, Crown Casino, can be implicated in money laundering at their casinos in Sydney and Melbourne, how much guarantee can the National Gaming Control Board (NGCB) give this country that all will go well once the casino is in operation?
The National Gaming Control Board (NGCB) has no experience in effectively running other gambling activities.
It has mentioned that they would look at legalising lottery, bingo and online betting. These will add more misfortune to Papua New Guinean families who are already suffering because of our struggling economy.
The introduction of these gambling activities also contradicts the current consultation processes on making PNG a Christian nation.
This confused Government is bringing more pain than gain to the country.

Tore Kila,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea



The Philippines National Police
Greatest threat to the Philillipines not China
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 9 June 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 7 June 2021

The greatest threat to the Philippines is not China or insurgent groups.
The greatest threat today against the Filipino people is the internal gangrene of abuse and corruption happening inside the police system of the Philippines.
This is an existential threat to the nation, and our leaders need to act swiftly.
The recent murder of an elderly woman named Lilybeth Valdez in Quezon City by a drunk policeman has once again brought too many painful flashbacks of abuse committed by the Philippine National Police and other law enforcement agencies.
In August 2017, the nation saw the murder of Kian delos Santos and many others after him as unfortunate victims of the brutal drug war, while uniformed coddlers of syndicates went scot-free.
In December 2020, just five days before Christmas, the shooting of a mother and son in Tarlac shocked the entire nation.
Last February, law enforcers were killed during a supposed anti-drug operation between the Philippine National Police (PNP) and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in Commonwealth Avenue - a case that up to now remains shrouded in mystery.
Even lowly barangay tanods (village watch) figured in mauling incidents against civilians in several communities during the lockdown.
These examples of abuse clearly show a systemic malignancy pervading the law enforcement and justice system in the Philippines. Did these scalawags and miscreants manage to enter the service because of the poor screening and recruitment policies of the government?
Or were these abusive officials once patriotic public servants who were later on co-opted by the corrupt system inside law enforcement?
Whatever the case, the situation is unacceptable to the Filipino people.
It is of absolute necessity that our leaders act with vigorous resolve to right what is wrong inside our law enforcement system.
Our existence as a nation depends on it.

Rod Templo,
Baguio City,
Philippines



Philippine President Duterte accused of pursuing
A policy of appeasement towards China
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 8 June 2021
First published in the Philippines, 4 June 2021

I totally agree with Solita Collas-Monsod that Filipinos should not feel they owe a debt of gratitude to China for its vaccine donations, or for that matter for any seemingly friendly assistance it has extended or plans to extend to our country
“A victory for tobacco, a defeat for our children,” Get Real, May 29, 2021
This “utang na loob” chant that President Duterte touts as his motivation for pursuing a policy of appeasement toward China is just a smokescreen for his real intentions, which are nowhere close to love of country and concern for the welfare of the Filipino people.
I cannot, of course, read the mind of Mr. Duterte, but as an ordinary citizen I am able to observe facts and events during this administration that stare us in the face and easily debunk any notion that the President’s partiality toward China, or more precisely toward Xi Jinping, is driven by nationalism.
Look at some of these facts and how Mr. Duterte can only manage to respond to them with deafening silence: the massive invasion by Chinese Pogos of our communities and their corrosive moral effects and rising criminality spawned by their presence; the mysterious entry of huge drug shipments from China through the Bureau of Customs that was never prosecuted, and the likely entry of more of such shipments; the meteoric rise of presidential crony Dennis Uy who has built a business empire in such a short period of time, and who has partnered with Chinese investors to gain a strategic foothold in the country’s telecommunications and natural gas industries; the onerous infrastructure contracts the government has entered into with China and, in the case of Kaliwa Dam, the displacement of indigenous peoples from their ancestral lands.
And look at how his apologists, led by the sycophantic spokesperson, fumble and lie in defense of Mr.
Duterte’s untenable position on the West Philippines Sea, even resurrecting the disgraced Juan Ponce Enrile in a desperate attempt to gain public support.
There are rumors and speculations that Xi Jinping has long given his assurance of support to the continuing stay in power of the Dutertes.
The coming national elections will truly be a test of our people’s political maturity, and if there is enough of it to save the country from a failed leadership that we ourselves allowed in 2016 to lead the country into a treasonous and ungodly path.

Donato Soliven,
Antipolo City,
Philippines




Moves to constitutionally make Papua New Guinea
A Christian country
The Southeast Asian Times, Monday 7 June 2021
First published in the National, Friday 4 June 2021

Prime Minister, James Marape raised the hopes of Christians with his mantra of “Making Papua New Guinea the richest black nation”.
He has done so again with the move to constitutionally make Papua New Guinea a Christian country.
On the other hand, Marape has also approved the construction of a casino in the name of providing employment and generating revenue for the Government.
What is happening?
Casinos are places where evil and forces of darkness rule and control people to squander their hard-earned money.
Gambling is the reason for poverty and chaos in society.
Christianity is not practiced inside casinos.
I suggest you, Marape, stop your Christianity propaganda and allow Western and Asian paganism to be included in the Papua New Guinea constitution.
May The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob rescue Papua New Guinea.

Paliaima A Tanda,
Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea




Proposed NGO Act in Thailand
Mechanism to silence civil society
The Southeast Asian Times, Sunday 6 June 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 2 June 2021

Re: "Dream on," in Bangkok Post, PostBag, May 31.
The point about "Bangkok as a second Geneva" at this moment in history is that we have to make it clear that divisions in society will irreparably and dramatically deepen if the NGO Act and amendment of the Official Information Act are sneaked through parliament in a period when public social life in Thailand is debilitated under a severe pandemic and chaotic "emergency rule".
It would nail down the total failure of reconciliation as the major justification of the most recent coup d'état.
Thus the constitution of 2017 should likewise be invalidated.
Back to the constitution of 1997 and forwards to peacebuilding in the region.
Post-Covid transformation is not only needed, it is possible.
"Bangkok: a second Geneva" is a metaphor we should allow ourselves to nurture as a powerful dream.

Hans Van Willenswaard,
Bangkok,
Thailand

 


Malaysia Shows true leadership
With salary sacrifice
The Southeast Asian Times, Saturday 5 June 2021

We read in The Southeast Asian Times 2 June that Malaysia's PM and all ministers and deputy ministers in his government will forego three months salary to
" contribute to the Covid-19 National Disaster Relief Trust Fund".
That is showing true leadership rather than paying lip service to it.
It's a rare thing that kind of personal sacrifice on the part of the political leadership anywhere.
Usually what we hear is the opposite.
How a political leader has used/abused his position to fill his own pocket.
That is a much more common phenomenon.
In light of that the Malaysian people should feel proud of their political leadership at this time of national struggle against the pandemic.
I would be if I were a Malaysian citizen.

Rajend Naidu,
Sydney
Australia


Wanted fresh and new leadership
After 2022 elections in the Philippines
The Southeast Asian Times, Friday 4 June 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer Friday 28 May 2021

The Philippines will elect a new president in 2022.
Past elections have shown that those who get elected are the most popular and/or backed by a well-oiled machinery at the grassroots level.
The voters in the provinces who make or unmake a president are controlled and dominated by strongly held patronage/dynastic politics.
We witnessed how the Parojinog family of Ozamiz City, Misamis Occidental built their political enclave and fortunes on drug running for two decades, and the Ampatuans of Maguindanao who milked public works funds for decades, ending in the tragic massacre of 58 people, including the spouse of the opposition candidate and 32 journalists, in what is now known as the Maguindanao massacre on November 23, 2009.
These family dynasties operated untouched and had their merry way under the very noses of several administrations.
Unfortunately, it is not the individual voter’s honest choice but that of mayors, governors, and congressmen that will decide who will become the country’s next president.
That is a sad and irrefutable fact we see often.
Local politics makes or unmakes a president.
The 1992 elections saw the country having two excellent choices for president: Gen. Fidel Ramos and Sen. Miriam Santiago.
Early on, Santiago was the runaway winner in most of the random pre-poll surveys over Ramos.
But some wizened media people saw it differently: Administration candidate Ramos would win by a small margin because, by experience in elections, 60 percent was controlled by local politics; that factored in when assessing “winnability,” and the administration had that sewed up for him.
True enough, the overwhelming early lead of Santiago from the National Capital Region and urban centers was slowly eaten up by the late Mindanao and provincial results for Ramos.
The rest is history.
Haven’t we noticed that congressional haggling with Malacañang over “pork” insertions facilitate legislation?
They’re a must for congressional incumbents, and not to have them in an election year will mean rough sailing for them, short of political suicide.
We need to change mindsets with a new brand of leadership, or else we perish in our own follies.
A fresh and new kind of leadership is exciting with the announced broad political coalition in 1Sambayan as a winnable alternative to the administration’s stable of stale choices.
The make-up of the general electorate, however, dampens the little enthusiasm we might have. Gut issues are still the overweening consideration.
Look at how many people, including wheelchaired senior citizens, lined up till the wee hours of the morning to wait for their “ayuda.”
What is worrisome and a challenging development for 1Sambayan and right-thinking citizens is the huge unspent public funds totaling around P4.2 trillion at the disposal of the administration from now until the electoral spending ban on December 31, 2021.
We each might have our criteria of who should be our best choice for a leader. However, we can brace ourselves to accept the predictable fact of life that in this country, patronage politics will elect the next president - your prudent choice or mine notwithstanding.

Marvel K. Tan,
Manila,
Philippines



Call for China to come clean
On how the viral infections started in Wuhan
The Southeast Asian Times, Thursday 4 June 2021
First published in the Philippine Inquirer, Tuesday 1 June 2021

The global community continues to reel under the scourge COVID-19 has caused. As of May 25, more than 167 million infections have been confirmed and more than 3.4 million have died, as more infections and deaths are being reported on a daily basis.
Yet, after about a year and a half, no one knows for certain how this pandemic started, despite what seems to be the worldwide consensus that the virus came from Wuhan, China.
Whether it was nature from bats in its wet markets or culture from the so-called “gain-of-function” research in its lab that spawned it, the mystery has remained to this day. The worst fear was that the virus from the Wuhan Institute of Virology was manipulated to become a more lethal “biological weapon” - the idea fueled largely by suspicions about China’s pursuit of its hegemonic intentions as evidenced by its relentless aggression in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) and elsewhere.
China stonewalled all attempts to investigate how the viral infections started in Wuhan.
It suppressed early accounts of those who knew what was going on in its lab and silenced or disappeared witnesses, as the world cried desperately for answers. Gathering sufficient facts and information about the origin of the virus could help prevent another deadly pandemic from happening again.
Indeed, experts agree that had China been more cooperative from the start, the COVID-19 infections might have been contained.
Up to now, China has seemed to be under no moral or legal compulsion to come clean.
It has remained as intransigent as ever amid all calls for transparency. Nations - nay, the whole world - should now unite and take positive steps against China to determine its culpability for this pandemic and, more importantly, the reparations in the hundreds of trillions of dollars it should make for all the deaths and economic devastation the whole world has suffered and continues to suffer.
It’s time to put the kibosh on all speculations.
A basic principle of law that is generally accepted in civilized judicial fora says that evidence willfully withheld is presumed adverse to the party withholding it.
This is based on plain, common sense.
A party who has nothing to hide should have no problem bringing out such evidence when asked to produce it.
The more than 160 countries that boldly urged an investigation by the World Health Organization of the origin of the virus, but got nowhere near the truth because China denied access to necessary data, should now formally take legal action before the International Court of Justice and demand full disclosure of what China has been hiding about COVID-19.
If, as China insists, it is without fault, it should welcome its day in court instead of invoking technicalities the constant recourse of scoundrels, as it did in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) case filed by the Philippines against it before the Permanent Court of Arbitration.
While China may have gotten away with its arrogance and disdain for the Arbitral Award in favor of the Philippines, no propaganda can save it from the scorn of all the nations around the globe that are still counting the deaths of their citizens due to its tortious, if not malicious, breach of world health protocols.
After all this time, chances are China has already destroyed all inculpatory
evidence - all the more reason to believe there was malice on its part.

Stephen L. Monsanto,
Manila,
Philippines



Philippines turned from Pearl of the Orient
To Sick man of Asia
The Southeast Asian Times, Wednesday 2 June 2021
First Published in the Philippine Inquirer, Monday 31 May 2021

Despite serving three administrations, senior associate justice Antonio T. Carpio didn’t become chief justice.
Now retired, Citizen Tony is betting the credibility he has earned by challenging China’s false claims in the West Philippine Sea.
His new mission with 1Sambayan is to mobilize Filipino voters to elect a true servant leader in the May 2022 elections.
Filipinos have been overtaken by neighbors who used to revere Asia’s first democratic republic and sole Catholic nation.
Until the 1970s, the Philippines was much admired, even envied, as Asia’s pacesetter.
But a series of bad leaders after Ramon Magsaysay turned the “Pearl of the Orient” into the “sick man of Asia,” and COVID-19 isn’t helping the Philippine health and economy.
Thus, odds are stacked against 1Sambayan.
President Duterte still enjoys popular support and his anointed successor will be hard to beat, considering the name recall, financial resources, and campaign organization needed to win - and the fact that opposition egos won’t unite, even with 1Sambayan’s best efforts.
But other factors are in play.
One more pandemic surge, if met by the same incompetent response by lackeys like Duque and spokesmen like Roque, may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, galvanizing angry desertions by the public.
Even the military might join in if a COVID-19 uprising brings economic meltdown, since there appears to be no Duterte strategy to restart the economy.
The meteoric rise of community pantries shows that people power could erupt any time.
If health and hunger keep oppressing patient Filipinos, a tipping point could be reached soon.
Also, international tensions and digital disruptions add to uncertainty.
China’s moves can spark a shooting war given the animosity between Taipei and Beijing, and the competing claims over the West Philippine Sea.
The US, Europe, Japan, India, and Asean are all ready to block Chinese moves that may block trade or risk an invasion of Taiwan or the Philippines.
Disruptions wrought by artificial intelligence (AI) and other digital technologies can dislocate economies and lead to desperate moves.
Mismanaged, the 2022 elections could involve Filipinos in a world war.
The potential for spontaneous combustion is too great.
We hope and pray that the servant leader sought by Carpio will emerge.

Jose Z. Osias,
convenor,
BalikProbinsiya,
Manila,
Philippines

 

 

10 million doses per month over six months
Will only inoculate 30 million Thai's
The Southeast Asian Times, Tuesday 1 June 2021
First published in the Bangkok Post, Monday 31 May 2021

Re: "AstraZeneca jabs will be on time," in Bangkok Post 26 May 2021

Maybe it's time to put all of this planning, considering, mulling, ordering and promising into some kind of perspective.
The first thing we need to do is stop talking about doses and start talking about reality.
Each person will require two jabs.
So all this talk about 10 million doses per month over six months from Siam Bioscience, in the long run, will only inoculate 30 million people.
Let's stop with all these inane promises and suggestions.
Inoculate 70 percent of Bangkok.
That's 7+ million people or 14+ million doses.
How about vaccinating 100 percent of Buri Ram Province.
That's 1.6 million people or 3.2 million doses.
Add to that sandboxes, walk-in shot clinics, Hua Hin, Phuket, and who knows what else, and you've already used up three months' production from Siam Bioscience, if they come through as promised.

Fred Prager,
Bangkok,
Thailand