POSTSCRIPT / December 2, 2008 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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RP not ready to cash in on Indian, Thai crises

OPPORTUNITY: It may sound opportunistic, even ghoulish to some, but I wonder aloud what the government is doing to have poor Philippines cash in on the violent turn of events in India and Thailand.

In Bangkok, a sort of twin city of Manila, two air terminals, including the premier Suvarnab-humi international airport, have been closed to all flights by the takeover of hordes of anti-government protesters.

The Federation of Thai Industries estimates that the airports’ takeover is costing Thailand $57 million to $85 million a day.

Some 60,000 tourists used to arrive daily, bringing in $1.4 million in revenues each day. With the cancellation of bookings, their tourism industry sees a 30-percent drop in hospitality earnings.

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JUST WAITING?: Has the Philippines positioned itself to catch some of those tourists now bypassing Bangkok?

We cannot just wait till the tourism manna drops from heaven. It may not be good form to appear to be taking advantage of a neighbor’s misfortune, but business is business. Anyway, the Bangkok crisis is not our creation.

With the onset of the cold season in European and other temperate countries, are Manila and Cebu — among other Philippine destinations — ready to catch the stepped-up tourist traffic skipping Bangkok?

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OUTSOURCING: In the aftermath of the terror attacks in Mumbai (formerly Bombay), Catanduanes Rep. Joseph Santiago said the Philippines should be poised to quickly absorb American and British firms that are likely to relocate their outsourcing operations there.

The chairman of the House information and communications technology committee, said the attacks that claimed at least 172 lives, many of them Cauca-sians, “have put the Philippines in a whole new light in the eyes of Western firms looking to offshore and outsource their non-core operations.”

Mumbai is a major global outsourcing hub and another city, Bangalore, is regarded as India’s outsourcing capital. The solon said American and British firms with outsourcing subsidiaries might now hesitate to expand their operations in the two cities.

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PINOY TECHIES: India and the Philippines are keen rivals in the global BPO industry. Yet, Santiago said, major Indian BPO providers have been tapping the Philippines’ renowned English-speaking information technology specialists.

Early this year, the IT services division of Bangalore-based Wipro Ltd. established a global delivery hub in Cebu. Last month, Mumbai-based Aegis BPO Services Ltd., a unit of Essar Global Ltd., acquired PeopleSupport Inc. for $250 million.

Los Angeles-based PeopleSupport boasts of more than 8,000 college-educated, fluent English-speaking Filipino personnel to staff its contact and transcriptions centers.

“If these Western firms are potential outsourcing clients, they would now likely favor awarding their service contracts to BPO providers grounded in the Philippines, over those based in India,” Santiago said.

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SEGUIS PANEL: National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales has been quoted as saying that the government is organizing a new peace panel to resume negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

(The assignment of Foreign Undersecretary Rafael Seguis as head of the government panel has been widely welcomed. Will his reputation be able to deodorize the discredited peace talks?)

With this fresh attempt to restart the stalled negotiations, we raise the same basic questions asked a number of times in this space.

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CREDENTIALS: Who appointed or deputized the MILF to speak for the peace-loving Muslims in the South? Note that this secessionist band cannot even claim control over its marauding armed forces.

Is it enough that the MILF has been chosen for us by American official and semiofficial pressure groups? In the first place, why do our President and other leaders allow foreigners to meddle in this internal affair?

It is basic that when two equals sit down to negotiate, they present their respective credentials. Has the government bothered to ask the MILF panel to show a piece of paper affirming that it is the duly commissioned spokesman of the Muslim community?

Why should the Republic of the Philippines treat the MILF as an equal — as another state — and allow this grotesque “equality” of the GRP and the MILF to be formalized in official documents and carried over in legal and diplomatic discussions?

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NOT FILIPINOS?: It should be clarified in writing or reflected in the minutes if the MILF negotiators and their members consider themselves Filipinos. They should also say categorically if they recognize the Constitution and owe allegiance to the Philippine flag.

Most likely, they would answer in the negative. Whatever are their answers, these should be duly noted in the minutes for future reference.

The above questions focus only on the personality of the MILF. There are more questions on the substance of the discussions, the agenda and the draft agreement to be taken up for possible signing.

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NEW FORMULA: Expecting an adverse decision by the Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the Memorandum of Agreement initialed by her agents, President Arroyo quickly disowned the contract and disbanded the government panel.

These moves distanced the President from the fatally flawed contract with the MILF.

That MOA, set for signing last Aug. 5 in Kuala Lumpur witnessed by the American ambassador to Manila and other international observers, was to have been the basis for the government and the MILF in carving out a Bangsamoro state in Mindanao.

To blunt criticism over this attempt to dismember the republic, Malacañang modified its position and announced it would resume talks only under a “disarmament, demobilization and reintegration negotiation framework.”

Will this formula — actually an afterthought — be followed? True Filipinos, keep watching.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of December 2, 2008)

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