POSTSCRIPT / June 10, 2018 / Sunday


Opinion Columnist

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What Bourdain said of Duterte’s regime

CELEBRITY chef, traveler and story-teller Anthony Bourdain — host of CNN’s award-winning series “Parts Unknown” — died Friday at age 61 in his hotel room in Paris, apparently a suicide.

“In death, as in life, Anthony Bourdain brought us closer together,” said CNN in announcing Bourdain’s demise. “Through the simple act of sharing meals, he showcased both the extraordinary diversity of cultures and cuisines, yet how much we all have in common.”

After US President Donald Trump’s election in 2016, Bourdain was interviewed by writer Alexander Bisley. In that exchange, he said something about the Philippines, which he has visited many times in the course of his sharing meals in parts less traveled. Excerpts:

Bisley: What concerns you about Trump?

Bourdain: What I am not concerned about with Trump? Wherever one lives in the world right now I wouldn’t feel too comfortable about the rise of authoritarianism. I think it’s a global trend, and one that should be of concern to everyone.

Bisley: In your Brexit episode of “Parts Unknown,” Ralph Steadman, who illustrated Appetites eye-catching cover, said “I think human beings are still stupid.” Does that explain Trump’s election?

Bourdain: I don’t think we’ve got the (exclusive) franchise on that. If you look around the world (in the Philippines, in England), the rise of nationalism, the fear of the Other. When people are afraid and feel that their government has failed them they do things that seem completely mad and unreasonable to those of who are perhaps under less pressure. As unhappy and surprised as I am with the outcome, I’m empathetic to the forces that push people towards what I see as an ultimately self-destructive act. Berlusconi, Putin, Duterte, the world is filled with bad choices, made in pressured times.

(For the full text of Bisley’s interview titled “Anthony Bourdain: The Rise of Authoritarianism Across the World Should Concern Everyone” published on the rsn [reader supported news] website, go to:

 Phl-China policy gets embarrassing

PHILIPPINE relations with China as charted by President Rodrigo Duterte is proving to be an embarrassment – as recent developments indicate that the Chinese “good faith” that he was banking on is as inconstant as the ruffled waters of the West Philippine Sea.

Embarking into foreign affairs for the first time in his life, the Mayor may have realized by now that China is just too big and too complicated a puzzle to solve by himself. It is time he sought counsel outside his coterie of amateurs and China lackeys.

The latest embarrassment is the revelation by Filipino fishermen that China Coast Guard personnel have not only been driving them away from Panatag (Scarborough) shoal off Zambales but also boarding their boats and seizing the best of their catch.

With the absence of Philippine symbols of authority in Panatag, China has taken full control of the rich fishing ground just 120 nautical miles from Luzon (within the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone) and 450 nm from the nearest Chinese land mass.

The fishermen’s complaints were filmed by a TV crew of GMA-7. The network has been asked, according to presidential spokesman Harry Roque, to confirm its reports so the foreign office can act accordingly.

Why does not the government itself look quickly into the complaints and document what looks like piracy and defiance of the UNCLOS-based ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague that Panatag is a common fishing ground of neighboring countries?

Manila’s timid reaction shows that Malacañang either does not know what is going on, does not care, or is afraid to displease China which has been dangling promises of massive aid, loans and investments to hypnotize Duterte.

Before the harassment of Filipinos in their own traditional fishing ground, the Philippines has also been napping or looking the other way while China built up hitherto uninhabitable WPS reefs and shoals and transformed them into military outposts.

Instead of protesting, President Duterte keeps repeating that he did not want to provoke a losing war. Why is violence the only response that his mind could muster when in a tight situation?

 An end to Duterte’s migraine attacks

A FORMER president was said to suffer migraines because thinking interfered with his normal mental processes. Just what is migraine? Years back, somebody quipped that it’s migraine if you’re rich, but just a headache if you’re poor.

Whatever it is, the presidential official photobomber shared days ago information that his boss Rodrigo Duterte had another severe migraine and vomited on the flight back to Manila from Seoul. He didn’t call it a headache.

He explained to media covering the President’s visit to South Korea that the Mayor has been having recurring migraine since he had a motorcycle mishap when he was Davao City executive.

Here’s good news for him. The first medicine formulated to prevent migraines has just been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, the New York Times reported May 17.

The NYT said: “The drug, Aimovig, made by Amgen and Novartis, is a monthly injection with a device similar to an insulin pen. The list price will be $6,900 a year, and Amgen said the drug will be available to patients within a week.

“Aimovig blocks a protein fragment, CGRP, that instigates and perpetuates migraines. Three other companies — Lilly, Teva and Alder — have similar medicines in the final stages of study or awaiting FDA approval.”

Its $6,900 price tag breaks down to a basic monthly cost of $575 (or P30,188 at the exchange rate of P52.50 = $1) minus a 20-percent senior citizen’s discount and the 12-percent value-added tax exemption for the 73-year-old President.

That P30,188 price for the monthly injectable is prohibitive for the average Filipino, whether subsisting on a P10,000 monthly family income or adjusted to P42,000 by experts at the National Economic and Development Authority.

That price may be stiff to ENDO (end of the world) contractual workers, but is still reasonable – we submit — as it could prolong the shelf life of the President and help him make level-headed decisions in-between attacks of migraine.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of June 10, 2018)

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