POSTSCRIPT / December 4, 2011 / Sunday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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The gentle Asian way: Leading by consensus

BROADENING: In a way, it is good that President Noynoy Aquino has not kept his campaign promise to be different from his predecessors who were frequently on costly foreign trips.

It is good that duty has forced our President, a freshman representing one of the region’s economic laggards, to meet and exchange views abroad with other heads of government as the need arises.

Convening and exchanging views with his foreign counterparts, or even just listening to more seasoned statesmen, can be educational for one whose management background has been mainly in being a congressman and senator.

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CONSENSUS: Thrown into multilateral discussions, especially among Asian leaders, President Aquino must have seen how diplomacy and good faith smooth out seemingly insurmountable differences before they could worsen.

Even the mighty United States does not merely wave the stick and/or dangle the carrot. It tries to persuade with the voice of reason and accommodation.

In meetings among fellow Asians, Mr. Aquino must have noticed that many contentious issues are often resolved not by open voting – which divides the house as what happens in some power forums — but by consensus.

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NOT DIVISIVE: Asians have that, I think, admirable trait of not being too abrasive. We frown on slapping down the other party after we gain the upper hand in an argument. We give him a chance to step back when he realizes the weakness of his position.

After the opening statements in many Asian conferences, the presiding officer – usually from the host country — elicits comments and guides the discussion to determine the dominant sentiment of the group.

Sensitive issues on the table are usually not put to a vote, thus avoiding an offensive affirmation of positional differences that may exacerbate instead of smooth out the disagreements.

After the back-and-forth discussions draw out what look like an agreement in principle, the presiding officer announces the consensus.

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GENTLE ASIAN WAY: Decision by consensus seems to be the gentle Asian way in multilateral forums.

Ruling by consensus is one of the options that leaders have in this divided world. It helps, for instance, that after a particularly scarring election, the winner dwells not on the differences but on the common elements binding the various factions.

The first order of business after a bruising fight is to unite the erstwhile warring parties to the extent possible. Unanimity cannot be completely achieved, but the political skills of the winner will be put to a test by his being able to draw out the national consensus.

It is painful to see the animosities whipped up during the campaign being allowed to drag on and lead to another cycle of retribution that diverts focus from the urgency of improving the lives of the poor masses.

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CLARK WATER: Manila Water Company, an Ayala firm servicing half of Metro Manila among other sectors, is expanding its services to include Clark Freeport Zone in Pampanga.

Manila Water said it has acquired 100 percent of Clark Water Corp.’s capital stock for an undisclosed price after signing a sale-purchase agreement with Veolia Water Philippines Inc., Philippine Water Holdings Co. Inc. and Veolia Eau-Compagnie Generale Des Faux.

Clark Water services 1,800 locators in Clark with 20 million liters of water a day used mostly by commercial and industrial customers. It was awarded a 25-year water and wastewater concessionaire contract in 2000.

Manila Water has been given the prestigious Asian Human Capital Award by the SingaporeMinistry of Manpower, INSEAD and CNBC Asia. It is the first Filipino company to win the award given to companies for their innovative and impactful human resource practices. It recognizes Manila Water’s transformation from a struggling, underperforming water utility, to a world-class water service provider.

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MORE WATER: In Manila, MWSS Administrator Gerry Esquivel has obtained approval by the Project Development and Monitoring Facility Board to fund pre-investment studies on a major project under the Public-Private Partnership mode.

The Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System undertaking involves a P25-billion water supply-source project calling for the building of a dam, water treatment plant and pipelines to augment the supply of potable water for an estimated 15 million MetroManila residents.

The PDMF is a P550-million revolving fund for preparation and pre-investment studies. It is supported by the Philippine and Australian governments through the Asian Development Bank.

Angat dam in Bulacan is the only water source for the MWSS service area. In 2010, the 43-year-old dam provided only 4,000 million liters per day, against the present demand of 4,395 MLD, or a deficit of 395 MLD. By 2015, the demand is estimated to reach 5,054 MLD.

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UNCONSTITUTIONAL: Lawyer Alan Paguia accuses Malacañang and the Department of Justice of covering up their mistake in filing a case against Rep. Gloria Arroyo with the Regional Trial Court of Pasay City by ignoring clear jurisdictional provisions of the Constitution.

He pointed out in letters to the Supreme Court and Malacañang that Sec. 5, Art., XIII of the 1973 Constitution and Sec. 4, Art., XI of the 1987 Constitution place electoral sabotage, the crime attributed to former president Arroyo, under the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan, not the RTC.

Asked why he just wrote the SC instead of filing a formal petition, Paguia said: “First, I cannot afford the filing fee. Second, I am not a party to the case. Third, I wrote the letter as part of a citizen’s civic and moral duty to uphold the Rule of Law in our society. Fourth, with the letter, the SC Justices, the Office of the President, and those furnished with copies can no longer claim to the sovereign Filipino people ignorance of the grounds raised against the constitutionality of the subject laws.”

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of December 4, 2011)

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