POSTSCRIPT / August 18, 2011 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Text of new RH bill must be published

CLARK FIELD — It is well and good that Malacañang has seen to the rewriting of the controversial provisions of the Reproductive Health (renamed Responsible Parenthood) bill to widen its acceptability in this dominantly Catholic nation.

President Noynoy Aquino announced the changes after the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) meeting in Malacañang the other day.

But until the full text of the revised measure is published and its redirected intent is explained, it might be early to say if it will meet the stringent requirements of the religious majority and their pastors.

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CONTENTIOUS: The President said some provisions were removed after a review found them to be too contentious and “not necessary.” It was not clear who decided which new provisions were now acceptable or not.

The details removed included provisions fixing the ideal number of children per family to only two and the changing of the appropriate age for teaching sex education to children at 11 years old or when the child is in grade six or in high school.

Other proposed amendments include giving parents the option to discuss sex with their children and giving church-based hospitals the right to distribute artificial or natural family planning methods.

“This provision will be modified so that those church-based hospitals can practice their faith in recognition of freedom of religion under Article 3 of the Constitution,” the President said.

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ABORTIFACIENT: The President and his allies in the Congress should make clear their stand on birth control drugs and devices that induce abortion.

It is risky, if not irresponsible, to simply dump on the public a pile of contraceptives and, under the guise of free choice, let the people decide for themselves what will suit their physical needs and moral upbringing.

There is evidence that many of the contraceptives that the bill seeks to buy using public funds and distribute using government facilities and personnel are abortifacient.

The Arroyo administration should be forthright in informing the public the full impact of each and every drug and method that the bill will let loose on the public.

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CLARK ZONE: A casual visitor to Clark Field in Pampanga dotted with acacia, mango and molave trees will hardly suspect that on this 35,000-hectare Freeport Zone are 436 locators quietly churning out exports grossing some $1.45 billion each year.

Most of the factories and business service centers are tucked away from the main roads, away from the view of visitors who come here for something else – a quiet getaway and some tourism-related pursuits, including kids’ fun and casino gambling.

The tourism and recreation potentials were too obvious to be ignored by the new president of Clark Development Corp., Felipe Antonio B. Remollo, who comes from the equally quiet university town of Dumaguete.

In his first presentation of his vision for Clark under the Arroyo administration, he directed focus to making it a “destination of choice for leisure/sports, meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions and wellness travel in the Asia Pacific region.”

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GREEN PATH: Remollo stressed, however, that Clark’s tourism thrust will be “socially-responsible and sustainable,” meaning it will foster high-end tourism with minimum degradation of the environment.

Re-branding Clark as a tourist destination, Remollo has launched a program for holding major international sports and related events such as the ASEAN kite festival, PowerMan Duathlon, Ultimate Frisbee, and tournaments for paintball, baseball, football and cricket.

To improve Clark’s readiness, Remollo, is fast-tracking investments in such projects as the Clark Convention Center, Wakeboarding Facility, camp sites, a baseball stadium, historical caves and a tunnel complex.

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INDUSTRIAL SECTOR: The aggressive marketing for tourism, he said, will go hand in hand with enhancing Clark’s image as an investment haven, especially for techno industries, semi-conductor makers and other export-oriented firms in search of faster turnaround.

Movement of raw materials and finished products is made more efficient with the presence of the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport and the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Exressway linking the base to the Subic port and the industrial complex in Tarlac.

Locators find in Clark and contiguous towns an abundance of technically competent and skilled workers fluent in English.

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‘KULO’ ISSUE: With the Senate committee on education, arts and culture concluding after a public inquiry that there is no need to continue beating up the storm of contrary sentiments on the “Kulo” exhibit of the Cultural Center, the case may be considered closed.

Sen. Edgardo Angara, committee chairman, opines that there may not even be any need for new legislation to cover similar situations in the future.

He said that the committee will evaluate the inputs of all resource persons on the role of the Cultural Center as a public institution, the freedom of artistic expression and respect for religious icons.

“We believe we have already pursued all lines of inquiry – legal, moral, artistic and administrative processes – even if the artist, Mideo Cruz, was not present himself, because it is not really the artist who is the subject of the inquiry,” he said.

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PUBLIC JUDGE: The inquiry was triggered by the storm raised by an art exhibit that included the work “Politeisimo” by Cruz that carried religious images in a style that many sectors found sacrilegious.

Angara urged the Cultural Center management to review its policies on selecting works of art and performances for public exhibition.

“The public expects nothing less than the highest standards,” he added, but said that he would rather “let the power of public opinion be the judge and measure of the performance of artists.”

“It is not fair to bring down an entire institution just because one artist’s work appears offensive,” Angara said. “The CCP’s purpose is larger than that, in the same way the freedom of expression transcends this single incident.”

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of August 18, 2011)

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