POSTSCRIPT / March 9, 2000 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Market can’t be saved just by changing Yasay

FILIPINOS should be told how shabbily Taiwan has been treating us after we have given aid and comfort to the Chinese who fled the mainland when the communists overran it in 1949.

Under the agreement adopted on Jan. 28 as a temporary framework for commercial flights between the Philippines and Taiwan while a regular air pact is not yet in place, each side was supposed to be allowed a maximum of 4,800 seats per week.

Complying in good faith, our Civil Aeronautics Board promptly approved 17 passenger flights for a total of 4,800 seats per week, in additional to three cargo flights, for Taiwan’s China Airlines, EVA Airways and their subsidiaries.

In return, Philippine Airlines initially applied for seven flights per week (2,222 seats) between Manila and Taipei. For its schedule starting April 1, PAL also applied to raise its frequency to 12 flights weekly to Taipei and Kaohsiung for a total of 4,072 seats.

But Taiwan’s Civil Aeronautics Administration approved only seven weekly Manila-Taipei PAL flights in exchange for the 17 weekly flights granted Taiwanese carriers.

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THAT’S not all. No sooner had PAL resumed its service to Taipei on Feb. 21 than the Taiwanese arbitrarily reduced the seven approved PAL flights to only four times weekly!

The order was issued evening of Feb. 22, just hours before the next morning’s flight was to take off from Manila. Imagine the expense and the trouble PAL had to go through to cancel that flight and the next two, not to mention the inconvenience to passengers.

Why did Taiwan do this? It was in retaliation for a decision of our CAB to defer action on additional applications of Taiwan for seven additional weekly flights on top of the 17 (representing the agreed maximum of 4,800 seats) already being enjoyed by its carriers.

* * *

TAIWAN actually flies 20 flights per week since in addition to the approved 17 passenger flights (4,800 seats), it also flies three for cargo. In exchange for four weekly flights (1,200 seats) for PAL! Kaawaawa naman tayo!

As Zambales Rep. Antonio Diaz told Taiwanese ambassador Hsieng-chin Chan in a recent congressional meeting on the issue: “You can use any mathematics – Chinese mathematics, Filipino mathematics – but 17 flights against four flights is unfair.”

Another important item agreed upon on Jan. 28 is the early resumption of the suspended air talks. Dates were already put forward for the talks, but Taiwan always came up with excuses for not sitting for the talks.

Why would Taiwan go into negotiations when it is already enjoying a lopsided arrangement? Instead of talking formally across the table, Taiwan has embarked on beclouding issues by double talk.

* * *

AFTER the corrupt Kuomintang government was driven out of the mainland and it dug in on Taiwan, the Philippines gave refuge and opportunities to the poor Chinese on the run.

Then generally undeveloped, Taiwan was a basket case compared to the Philippines. Many displaced Chinese made their pile in Manila. Indeed, Taiwan has a lot to thank Manila for.

But with Taiwan having grown prosperous under the protective shield of the United States, it has become overbearing and haughty.

No wonder an exasperated Filipino official said, “Taiwan’s posture has unmasked it for what it really is — a renegade Chinese province masquerading as a sovereign country. Clearly, Taiwan is not ready for the responsibilities of nationhood. It cannot be considered, by any stretch of the imagination, as a trustworthy member of the international community.”

* * *

WE refuse to believe that the fate of the Philippine stock market is in the hands of one man — Chairman Perfecto Yasay of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

For President Estrada to declare that the stock market is in crisis because of Yasay and that it would start booming — and investors’ confidence in the Philippine would return — if Yasay leaves the SEC is oversimplifying the complex problem.

In fact, to put it bluntly, Mr. Estrada himself is part of the problem. (He is also part of the solution.)

The problem is the lack of confidence in the Philippine Stock Exchange made worse by the government’s lack of will to put the house in order. While he is head of the regulatory commission, Yasay is just a minor actor overshadowed by a meddling President.

* * *

THE central issue is Malacañang meddling in an independent quasi-judicial body. The general impression is that the SEC is being treated like any other government agency expected to serve as rubber stamp of Malacañang.

The perception is widespread that Malacañang wants the SEC controlled by somebody who is ready to do the bidding of the President when a problem arises.

Unfortunately for Yasay, he showed himself in the Best World Resources case involving a presidential crony accused of manipulation to be unwilling to play along. So he has to be replaced.

Yasay is not so much the problem of the securities market as he is the problem of Malacañang. (Others may say it’s the other way around: Malacañang is the problem of the SEC chief.)

Flight of foreign capital is inevitable when events validate the perception that a bootleg mix of politics and business has made the playing field uneven, that some well-connected players are more equal than the rest.

* * *

WHETHER this perception corresponds with reality is beside the point. It is there, fairly or not, and it has to be addressed if the stock market is to be saved.

And while we say that changing Yasay is not the whole solution, we are not necessarily suggesting that the solution is to change the President.

* * *

HERE’S Sen. Rodolfo Biazon reacting to our criticism of his proposal to activate Civilian Army Forces Geographical Units (CAFGUs):

“You are right in citing Section 24 of Article XVIII (Transitory Provisions) which calls for the dismantling of the private armies and other armed groups not recognized by duly constituted authority. This includes the notorious Integrated Civilian Home Defense Forces (ICHDF) of which Norberto Manero was a leader.

To implement this provision, former President Aquino issued EO 275 on July 15, 1987, dismantling paramilitary forces. However, on July 25, 1987, she issued EO 264 creating the Citizen Armed Force, Section 3 of which provided for the definition of the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Units (CAFGUs).

To further institutionalize the CAFGU, an enabling act was passed by Congress, RA 7077, providing for the development, administration, organization, training, maintenance and utilization of the AFP’s Citizen Armed Forces.

The CAFGU therefore is an existing entity that has legal and constitutional basis under RA 7077 and EO 264, in accordance with the mandate of Section 4 Article XVI of the Constitution which provides that:

“Sec. 4. The Armed Forces of the Philippines shall be composed of a citizen armed force which shall undergo military training and serve, as may be provided by law. It shall keep a regular force necessary for the security of the State.”

The CAFGU should not be confused with the Barrio Self-Defense Unit (BSDU) and the Integrated Civilian Home Defense Force (ICHDF), which have been dismantled by EO 275.

In contrast with the BSDU and the ICHDF, the CAFGU is characterized by the following as required by the enabling acts mentioned: Basic recruitment qualifications; formal training for at least three months; led by AFP officers and enlisted personnel; covered by the Articles of War; deployed for barangay self-defense and not for police or offensive military operations.

Since 1995, strategic errors (of the government) have resulted in the resurgence of the New People’s Army and the Moro Islamic Liberation Force. The NPA is now estimated at 10,000, and the MILF at 13,000.

This resurgence is very apparent in the events in Central Mindanao, Bohol, Quezon, the CARAGA region, Panay, Negros, Mindoro, Laguna and elsewhere. The increased terroristic acts of the insurgents in the countryside have prompted 124 mayors of the affected area to ask for the remobilization of the CAFGUs.

Two options are to raise the level of the AFP’s strength that would probably cost P7 billion to P10 billion excluding the necessary pension, retirement or separation benefits. For the same level of strength 30,000 to 35,000 CAFGUs will cost the government only P1 billion.

* * *

GRAFT charges have been filed against Parañaque Mayor Joey P. Marquez and five associates for non-payment of books costing P6.4 million ordered for public schools in the city.

As he is not in the good graces of Malacañang like Pampanga Gov. Lito Lapid and Caloocan Mayor Rey Malonzo — both fellow actors on the other side of the political fence – Marquez may just be suspended while the case is being heard.

The complaint was filed with the Ombudsman by Lizabeth C. Carreon, a representative of several publishers/suppliers who claims having been given the run-around by Marquez. She said it has been more than a year since the books were delivered and distributed to various city schools, yet not a centavo has been paid.

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of March 9, 2000)

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