More fun

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Sunday, January 27, 2013

BORACAY–The “More fun in the Philippines” campaign has obviously succeeded. The sea of tourists I saw during last week’s Sinulog in Cebu, the eve of Iloilo’s Dinagyang, and now in Boracay tells me the campaign has earned for the Philippines more visitors than before.

DOT figures showed that the Philippines welcomed a total of 4,272,811 foreign visitors in 2012, posting a 9.07-percent increase from 3,917,454 visitors in 2011. This marks the first time in the country’s tourism history to surpass the 4-million visitor arrival mark. We are on our way to achieving that impossible goal of 10 million tourists by 2016.

Official figures last year showed that more South Koreans visited the Philippines than other nationalities. However, I was surprised to see a lot of Russians gallivanting around Boracay today.


I remember that pessimists, among others, raised the lack of tourist class infrastructures as a major obstacle to this goal. But it seems tourists would brave riding small boats and tricycles just for the Boracay experience of overnight partying at the beachfront. They also love just walking around from one end of the white beach to the other end.


But I cannot quite agree with President Noynoy Aquino when he proudly extolled supposed successes against corruption in the Philippines that he claimed to have unlocked our country’s economic potentials. I agree with the effort and success in getting rid of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona. But somebody seems to be feeding the President wrong information about rice importations.

Yes, there was a surplus of imported rice when President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo left possibly because of fund-raising efforts during the election campaign. For several years under the Arroyo reign, the First Gentleman (FG) set up a supposed elaborate system of legally importing rice using farmer coops and the National Food Authority (NFA).

I thought P-Noy’s people would dismantle the system but people like Lito Banayo quickly filled the leadership vacuum at the helm of NFA. Then suddenly old and new players renewed landing hundreds of 20-footer vans of imported NFA rice at the Cebu International Port.

They said the shipments were legal. But I remember very well what the slain collector Wewe Lao told me when FG first set up this NFA importation system. The money is in the recycled papers, over-quantity, and some hocus-pocus in the quality.

The system is unfair to real farmers who are only used as the supposed beneficiaries. But the benefits have not reached them. Neither has the cost of producing rice in the Philippines been addressed.
The administration’s inaction on cases filed by Team Rama congressional candidate Totol Batuhan against Councilor Bebot Abellanosa is telling me that P-Noy’s anti-corruption effort is only directed against political opponents like Gov. Gwen Garcia.

I was simply amazed at how brazen Abellanosa is. He signed as president of the Asian College of Technology in the scholarship agreements between the school and Cebu City Hall. These agreements would have been hidden from the public until now had the once mighty BOPK remained united. But the councilor continues to insist that there is no conflict of interest because he did not force the students and their parents to choose his school.

Either Abellanosa does not understand the law or he is deliberately twisting things to get off the hook. Still, this shows him lacking in delicadeza, which is a character flaw. He also presents himself as unworthy of becoming one who makes laws.


The United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) will make Cebu a major electoral battleground when it decided to hold its grand proclamation rally on Feb. 12 here. Thus, expect the suspension of Governor Garcia to become a national issue. Whether this will work for UNA remains to be seen. Still, we know that Vice President Jojo Binay has an accurate feel of the political pulse as gleaned by his back from the behind victory in 2010.


I cannot sympathize with either Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile or Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano. Both allowed their exchange to fall into the gutter. Still, the latest Senate drama unearthed one anomaly in the handling of the pork barrel. It is an anomaly that the senators accepted as tradition. Sometime during the late ‘90s, the senators then created a fund that could be liquidated using mere certifications. Savings are then re-aligned to this fund and distributed among the senators as gifts.

Collateral damage in the controversy was Enrile’s chief of staff and open secret at the Senate, Atty. Gigi Reyes.


Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 28, 2013.


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