POSTSCRIPT / March 24, 2015 / Tuesday


Opinion Columnist

Share on facebook
Share This
Share on twitter

Phl can learn much from Lee Kuan Yew

LEE LIVES ON!: Singapore’s founding father Lee Kuan Yew was dead at 91 yesterday, but his clear and deep view of things will live on to influence the future of his island-nation, the region and the world.

Many Filipinos reeling from the maladministration of traditional politicians have often been heard to say “If only we had a Lee Kuan Yew.”

They refer to the late Prime Minister of Singapore who once remarked that the freewheeling democracy copied from the Americans may not work well among Filipinos, and who commented on coup attempts having set back the Philippine economy:

“This was a pity, because they had so many able people, educated in the Philippines and the United States. Their workers were English-speaking, at least in Manila. There was no reason why the Philippines should not have been one of the more successful of the ASEAN countries.

“In the 1950s and 1960s, it was the most developed, because America had been generous in rehabilitating the country after the war. Something was missing, a gel to hold society together.”

* * *

WHAT WENT WRONG?: An outspoken Lee said: “The Filipinos were unwise to have asked the Americans to leave Subic Bay in 1992, forgetting the long-term consequences of their departure. Now they are saying: ‘Please come back.’”

Singapore itself having welcomed Filipino migrant workers, he said: “Something had gone seriously wrong. Millions of Filipino men and women had to leave their country for jobs abroad beneath their level of education.

“Filipino professionals whom we recruited to work in Singapore are as good as our own. Indeed, their architects, artists, and musicians are more artistic and creative than ours.”

Searching for their own visionary leader a year before the next presidential elections, Filipinos may do well to study seriously the Lee Kuan Yew model.

* * *

RESIGNATION: “Should erring Presidents resign?”

Public relations guru Charlie Agatep tossed us yesterday the same question bouncing around amidst a clamor for President Noynoy Aquino to step down for having made mistakes on many issues.

My quick, if somewhat evasive, reply was: “It depends on what ‘erring’ means.”

There are various degrees of errors. In engineering school we were told that even between “error” and “mistake” there is a big numerical difference that could mean loss of lives or one’s professional reputation.

* * *

IRAQ MISTAKE: The question, Charlie explained, was posed in an item in a Texas newspaper that reportedly said:

“Former US President George W. Bush made a mistake in declaring war on Iraq, causing the deaths of millions of Iraqis and US soldiers.

“Was he responsible? Yes. Was he accountable? Definitely. Did he resign? No.

“In a statement, Bush said: ‘The Iraq War, although well intentioned, was unnecessary and too costly to justify. In the run-up to the war, my administration made claims that turned out not to be factual.

‘I believed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. But when we couldn’t find the evidence, we fabricated it.

‘It was wrong to misoverexaggerate the nature of the threat. And although men like Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith were the most directly involved, ultimately I was the man at the top and I accept full responsibility.

‘The entire war was the biggest mistake of my life. I have asked my God for his forgiveness, and now I ask the American people. I hope history records that I was a good person, just trying to do the right thing.’

“In response to Bush’s statement, former Vice President Dick Cheney gave an interview to NewsMax in which he labeled Bush’s apology ‘childish’ and defended his actions during the war.

“‘I still believe that the world is a better place without the tyranny of Saddam Hussein,’ Cheney said. ‘It’s a shame this cowardly deadender no longer agrees and has joined the Cindy Sheehan wing of the Republican Party.’”

* * *

PROTECTIVE TARIFF: It has been four years ago, but an incident in Korea in 2010 may help explain why tariff protection must be given to local newsprint makers that have been folding up with the influx of much cheaper imported paper.

On Nov. 23, 2010, as South Korea and the United States were holding their “Hoguk” joint military exercise, North Korea shelled Yeonpyong Island, hitting military and civilian targets. South Korea retaliated by shelling North Korea gun positions.

The United Nations declared it to be one of the most serious incidents since the end of the Korean War. The incident had a global impact on the financial markets. Several Asian currencies weakened against the euro and the US dollar, while Asian stock markets dipped.

Philippine traders and firms relying heavily on Korea for raw materials looked for backup suppliers. Importers of newsprint were not exempted, knocking on dependable local suppliers. Good thing the local industry did not turn its back on them.

* * *

THREAT REMAINS: South Korea is the source of some 87 percent of newsprint imports. With Kim Jung-Un still in power, the threat of war remains. And Jeonju, the biggest exporter of Korean newsprint, is up for sale. It is selling its stock at fire sale prices.

But how long will the low prices hold before higher import rates kick in? By that time will any Philippine paper mill be still around? Since the mid ‘90s, 14 mills have closed, displacing thousands of workers. Those that are still operating are barely surviving.

What happens if there is a sudden disruption of shipments? Should we consider it a public interest if the newsprint industry dies, and there would be no dependable “panakip butas” since local mills have been dying one after another?

* * *

CLARK CUP!: This Friday is a red-letter day for red-hot golfers – it being the date of the 2ndClark Golf Cup that blasts off with an 8 a.m. shotgun at the hilly Clark SunValley Golf Course at the Clark Freeport in Pampanga. Grab a playing ticket, inclusive of free green fee, golf cart, caddie and valuable give-aways and raffle prizes. Contact Carlito Cernal, 09278794541.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of March 24, 2015)

Share your thoughts.

Your email address will not be published.