POSTSCRIPT / July 31, 2022 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Marcos’ diplomatic acumen faces test

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. waved an olive branch to the world in his first State of the Nation Address on July 25. Being the new kid in the neighborhood, he has to exude somehow the gravitas that will make everyone sit up and listen.

The USS Ronald Reagan is operating in the South China Sea ahead of a possible visit by Nancy Pelosi. Photo: US Navy/ Jackie Hart

Marcos has to summon the perspicacity of his late father who ruled the country under martial law (1972-1985) and to quickly develop his own sense of diplomatic balance as he grapples with the clashing interests of friends and neighbors.

Aside from foreign policy tutorials, the President needs diplomatic skills to help prevent the brinkmanship game between the Philippines’ neighbor China and its treaty ally the United States from erupting into an armed confrontation with Filipinos caught in the crossfire.

There is, too close for comfort, the issue over the status of Taiwan, which US Speaker Nancy Pelosi plans to visit over the angry objections of China. American warships are steaming to the island nation, which China claims as its province, just 520 air km north of our Batanes Islands.

As this developed, US Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro told the AP in Manila on July 26 that any Asian aggressor who violates the sovereignty of other countries in the region risks punitive reactions, just like what Russia is facing now for its invasion of Ukraine.

Del Toro said that the US military focus in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly in the South China Sea roiled by disputes, would continue and in fact intensify.

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Marcos may soon have to deal also with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who his predecessor Rodrigo Duterte tried to draw into an ambitious “Beijing-Manila-Moscow axis” as he clambered up the world stage in what looked more of an ego trip than anything else.

In March, while China voted “No”, the Philippines voted “Yes” on a UN General Assembly resolution demanding that Moscow halt immediately its attack on Ukraine and withdraw its troops. It echoed UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ appeal for respect for humanitarian principles to protect civilians and non-military infrastructure in Ukraine.

The Batasang Pambansa was still reverberating with the applause that met Marcos’  SONA declaration that the Philippines will be “a friend to all, and an enemy to none” when news came out that it has canceled the ₱12.7-billion ($227 million) deal to acquire Russian Mi-17 helicopters.

Done deals are sometimes undone for good reasons but what made the scrapping of the purchase of the Russian choppers noteworthy, as reported by the Associated Press, was the reason given by officials.

Former Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who had overseen the transaction, said that the purchase was canceled with the approval of then-President Duterte before their terms ended on June 30, out of fear of possible US sanctions.

Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez was also reported by the AP as saying that the deal was canceled because Manila could face possible sanctions under US Public Law 115–44 (the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act) if the deal went through.

The AP added that a Philippine military officer whom it did not identify said the helicopter deal would undergo a “termination process” since a contract had been signed and a down payment made.

Under the purchase agreement signed in November, the first batch of the multi-purpose Mi-17 helicopters would have been scheduled for delivery by Russia’s Sovtechnoexport in about two years.

Ironically, similar Russian Mi-17s are among the equipment that the US is transferring to Ukraine to fight Russians. Many Ukrainians know how to operate them. Some Mi-17s were taken back by the US from Afghanistan when it was about to be lost to the Taliban in 2021.

• IL bettor bags $1.3B lotto pot

By the time you read this, someone may have won Friday’s estimated $1.28 billion jackpot in the MegaMillions lottery in the US where a bettor pays $2 for a lottery ticket with five numbers taken from 1 to 70 and a 6th number (the Mega Ball) from 1 to 25.

[Information provided by the Multi-State Lottery Association on Saturday, July 30: the winning MegaMillion numbers for July 29 were 13 36 45 57 67 Mega Ball 14; one winning ticket was sold in Illinois; the estimated jackpot was $1.3 billion ($747.2 million cash); next drawing on Tuesday, Aug. 2, with an estimated jackpot of $20 million ($11.6 million cash).]

Hit the six-number combination and win the jackpot, which by Friday afternoon was already around ₱70.4 billion (at ₱55 to the US dollar). If nobody got it, the ensuing frenzy of betting will push the prize soaring by the next draw on Tuesday.

The odds of hitting the MegaMillions jackpot have been calculated at 303 million-to-1. But at just $2 to buy one computer-generated ticket or one bearing a bettor’s six lucky-pick numbers, it is worth the long shot.

A Pinoy visiting the US may buy tickets from any lottery retailer. Those who are physically outside the US can ask friends or relatives in the participating 45 states, the District of Columbia, and the US Virgin Islands to place bets for them.

What to do if you hit it? You no longer have to beg, steal or borrow, or become a rotten politician to amass untold wealth. Fall on your knees and pray that that fortune entrusted to you will not ruin your life but enrich it even more as you share your blessings.

That heavy windfall crashing down on an individual could make him lose his moral balance, as many stories have told of some winners losing it all back – together with their humanity.

The winner or the ticket-holder (note the difference) gets the jackpot either as a cash lump sum upfront, or receives annual payments over 30 years, increasing by 5 percent each time as a hedge against inflation. Friday’s jackpot would amount to some $747.2 million after taxes if collected in one cash payment.

Security-conscious Pinoys want to know: Can a jackpot winner claim the prize anonymously? It depends. Public disclosure laws vary from state to state. Some states require their lotteries to publicly identify winners, while others do not.

(This is an update of the original Postscript column first published in the Philippine STAR on July 31, 2022, with the head “Bet $2, win $1.28B, share your blessings!”)

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News RoundUp

Philippine STARState funeral for Fidel V. Ramos at Libingan today
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The late president Fidel Ramos will be accorded a state funeral today at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in Taguig City where his cremated remains will be inurned. The country’s 12th president will be met with full military honors upon arrival at the ceremony at 10:30 a.m. (Aug 9)
Philippine STARMeralco rates down for 2nd straight month
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Meralco rates are down for the second consecutive month due to lower generation and distribution charges. Meralco said at a briefing yesterday that the overall rate for a typical household went down by P0.2087 this month to P9.5458 per kilowatt-hour from last month’s P9.7545 per kWh.: (Aug 9)
Philippine STARMarcos to address UN Assembly next month
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President Marcos is expected to attend the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA)’s annual gathering of world leaders next month, the Philippine ambassador to the United States Ambassador Jose Manuel Romualdez said Marcos is expected to address the UNGA on Sept. 20. (Aug 9)
Philippine STARSpeaker vows early deliberations on 2023 budget
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Now that the composition of nearly all committees of the House of Representatives is almost done, the next move is to start deliberations on the proposed 2023 national budget as soon as the executive department submits it to Congress. (Aug 9)
Philippine STARHouse bill seeks penalties for creating, spreading 'fake news'
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A bill has been filed at the House of Representatives pushing for the criminalization of the "creation and dissemination" of "fake news" — the common term for misinformation and disinformation. (Aug 9)
Philippine STARImee Marcos tests positive for COVID-19
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Another member of the Senate has tested positive for COVID, but Sen. Imee Marcos was still able to attend yesterday’s session virtually despite a raging fever. Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said other senators are praying for her immediate recovery,. (Aug 9)
Philippine STARCOVID-19 wave taking longer than expected – OCTA
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The current COVID-19 wave is taking longer than expected and may extend until the “ber” months, with high positivity rates recorded in 20 provinces, the OCTA Research Group said yesterday. OCTA Research fellow Guido David said there are no signs of slowing down in COVID-19 infections. (Aug 9)
Philippine STARMarcos wants review of disaster response SOPs
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President Marcos has called for a review of the government’s standard operating procedures (SOPs) to create a uniform and coordinated approach for disaster response. “I think we have to review our SOPs when there’s a warning. So, what do we immediately do when the alert is given to us? (Aug 7)
Philippine STARDon’t escalate tension, senators appeal to US, China, Taiwan
Read More
Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, chairman of the Senate committee on national defense, said he would call officials of the national security and concerned military officials to conduct a briefing on the situation. He scheduled the briefing for Wednesday. (Aug 7)
Philippine STARBill seeks fixed salaries for bus drivers
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Sen. Jinggoy Estrada has filed Senate Bill No. 48 in seeking to shield bus drivers and conductors from the impact of rising fuel prices as well as having all PUV drivers enjoy social welfare service benefits and other livelihood assistance. (Aug 7)
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