Nobody’s panicking yet?

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Sunday, December 29, 2013

MANY Filipinos can’t seem to look as far as December 2015 when the Asean Economic Community becomes a reality.

On the bright side, the Asean Economic Community will make the 10-member nations a huge economic entity encompassing a population of some 600 million that could compete with the huge China and Indian market. For Philippine brands that prepared for 2015, the AEC will open up a vast market that spells growth and profits.

On the dark side, many have not prepared. There are even those still clueless as to the economic impact AEC will bring to local brands that cannot compete with bigger and better-funded brands from other Asean countries.

After Googling for Asean 2015 preparations, I realized that our national and local officials are as prepared as they were in Tacloban on the eve of Yolanda’s wrath.

We could not forget DILG Secretary Mar Roxas and Defense chief Voltaire Gazmin checking on the preparations in Tacloban a day before Yolanda struck. Both gave their approval only to blame the local government for being unprepared in the Yolanda aftermath. But even both Roxas and Gazmin were not armed with satellite phones or military radios when downed cell sites are part of the worst-case scenario.

On the other hand, Tacloban Mayor Albert Romualdez failed to Google the meaning of storm surge and failed to prepare accordingly. He stayed at his seaside beach resort, not at the disaster management HQ if there was one, when Yolanda struck. Mas maayo pa ang mga lumolupyo sa usa ka isla sa Guiuan, Samar.  

Well, closer to home, Cebu City and regional fire officials were figuratively at each others’ throats a day before Yolanda’s awaited arrival.

Today, it is Mayor Mike Rama and private citizen Tomas Osmeña at loggerheads over the winning private sector bidder for a vital Asean 2015 preparation, the expansion of the Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA). Then Rep. Benhur Salimbangon enters with his complaint about privatization.

The sooner this bigger terminal is finished, the better for Cebu because we can now accommodate more domestic and international flights. This should further facilitate the growth of tourism and investments in this gateway to central and southern Philippines. After all, tourism is supposedly one of our bright spots as we enter Asean 2015.

With a better MCIA, Cebu can also be positioned as a gateway for Western visitors to the rest of the Asean region. Honorary Consul Armi Garcia is doing a great job in attracting Russian tourism and investments to Cebu. Her brainchild, the Philippine-Russia Business Association, is doing a great job of competing with other regional gateways like Singapore, for instance.

With our tendency to panic only at the last moment, I thought 2013 and 2014 will be the years when we begin screaming, “Why in the hell we were not warned years ago?” And I already have a ready retort. The Asean 2015 declaration is also known as the Cebu declaration. It was approved in Cebu during the 2007 Asean summit. Unfortunately, we were not paying attention to the strategic implications of what were being discussed.

We were more interested in the business generated and the more sensational lamp post controversy.

But it seems there is no panic. It is as if we are indeed prepared.

As a layman trying hard to make sense of what 2014 offers, I look forward to four things:

1. Cebu at the center of post-Yolanda rehabilitation and rebuilding efforts.

2. The fast growing young population in the BPO industry.

3. The emerging startup community of potential local versions of Mark Zuckerbergs.

4. Local last-minute preparations for Asean 2015.

I intend to elaborate on this in my column next week. Well, you could always check out my blogs for posts in between columns this week.


I have written a number of times since 2010 about how a syndicate using bogus farmer coops and the National Food Authority (NFA) has been smuggling rice into the country.

This is a scheme that began and was perfected during the FG era but continues until today. Recently, the scheme has again reached the front pages of national broadsheets.

This time, the name David Tan has come out akin to “You Know Who” being openly referred to as “Voldemort.”

Still there are mysteries even during the watch (or under the noses) of retired generals playing tax collectors. For instance, why allow the release of thousands of bags from a shipment found questionable for over-quantity? These are now in a warehouse near a bar at the Mandaue Reclamation Area. In the first place, why allow questionable allocations using a questionable scheme? Or is it just a matter of David Tan and the Binondo group being replaced by new anointed players?


Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on December 30, 2013.


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