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Lunch with old friendsAntonio M. Reyes

Last Sunday I had lunch with two old friends Victor and Rosette Lerias at their residence in Ibarra.

We had delicious beef stew that had all the ingredients my mother use to put into it, and barbecued pork belly, that tasted better than lechon de leche. But it was the company I remembered most because we talked about old times and the banquets we used to have there when the Speaker was still alive and Rosette was still the provincial governor.

I asked them what they were doing these days, and Victor said he was in the construction business, and Rosette was helping him out. She had lost weight and was surprisingly up beat about developments in the country and I was happy to learn that Dundeet was now the Executive Director of the League of Municipal Mayors. And couldn’t help thinking, what an inspiring congress woman she would be.

Victor, who was never meant to be a politician, surprised me when he said he sympathized with the Mercado brothers because they invested so much in the last election and must be wondering how they could ever repay for the loans they had incurred.

There was one other guest at that luncheon, named TitaCapili from Macrohon,who taught us (among other things) the priceless virtues of the much malignedGemelina tree which we thought consumed too much water and deprived other trees from having their full. This amazing woman, who I had never met before (but should have) informed us that reports about the tree was false and her reasons were:

The Gemelina may consume more water than other trees during rainy season, but it stored and shared them with its neighbors
during drought, and insured a steady supply of fresh water for our underground aquifers which we will depend on when the impact of climate change begins to take effect. If you doubt the absorptive power of this miracle tree, wrap one of its dry leaves on aching arthritic knees, and see how moist it becomes minutes afterwards.

It was a three and a half hour luncheon I won’t forget. And yes, the Red Label was a welcome reprieve from the usual Tanduay
Rhum that we have grown accustomed to.

Antonio M. Reyes is the publisher and editor of the Southern Leyte Times the largest circulating newspaper & website in Southern Leyte.

by Atty. Jess G. Dureza

By the way, I now hear more grumblings that we must be consistent in our global insistence to protect our territorial integrity and sovereignty. If we are so loud and determined to fight for our
rights over the disputed territories with China, why are we so quiet and docile with our Sabah claims with Malaysia? Someone jokingly suggested that the Chinese should also do what Malaysians did. They should become a "facilitator" in the negotiations with the CPP/NPA/ NDF and succeeding in that, then perhaps, we can extend gratitude in the same way we are quietly
conceding Sabah to Malaysia today.

Interesting thought!

I have been following closely the search for the missing Malaysian Airlines plane. After 3 weeks, the mystery as to where the plane is with its passengers, still remains.

What strikes me most now is that for once, the whole world, for all its technical advancement, appears helpless. Humanity had been bragging about its almost superhuman capability but in this case, the world is still scratching its head in puzzlement. It is humbled by the vastness and enigma of Mother Nature. That shakes us back to reality, for once, that we humans are finite and vulnerable beings and are not in full control of all things. Our superior air and our bloated egos that have made humans feel like modern-day gods due to our advancements in science and technology have all gone pffffft!

It's a good reality check for all. It brings our feet back on the ground.

The kind of public beating Malaysia is getting from this plane tragedy is decidedly unfortunate and clearly undeserved. This can happen to any country or to any company and the way things appear by the nature and magnitude of the disaster, the normal human reactions of anguish, anger and looking for answers and those to blame are to be expected. The whole world is
agonizing by the day still searching for answers.

In the meantime, so-called experts in tandem with the world media who boast of their analysis and theories are having a heyday!

It's becoming a media circus now, TV cameras intruding and even projecting to the world human anguish better left behind closed doors in the privacy of the suffering loved ones. These coverages worsen the human dimension of the tragedy. We have become vultures feeding on carcasses of the victims. How sad.

I have attended a few graduation or closing ceremonies during a last few days. When parents are called up to the stage to help pin a medal or confer a medallion on a graduating son or daughter who garners honors or awards, one can't escape notice the unending joy this brings. It is during childhood days of children that parents must enjoy most. So hold their hand always or hug them while you still can. When they grow up, they will seldom be around for us to enjoy them. And don't be surprised because this is just that in-exonerable life cycle that we parents when we were children, had also gone through before.

So, enjoy your children now while you can.


Geography as Destiny
By Juan L. Mercado

Suppose our 80 provinces were countries. How would we compare with 185 other nations, say in increasing life expectancy? What about improving health? Or keeping kids in school longer, plus tamping down gender bias?

“Philippine Human Development Report 2013” raises those issues in a country reeling from legislators slurping at the pork barrel. That detracts attention. This 8th PHDR probes how hazard-studded geography can cripple people’s access to health clinics, schools and jobs. Is geography destiny?

PHDR first came off the press in 1994, crafted under National Economic Development chair Solita Monsod’s no-nonsense leadership. The 1997 report tracked gains, by women, in education, jobs – and constraints. As insurgency flared, the 2005 report dealt with “Human Security and Armed Conflict”. The 2009 theme examined how institutions and politics impact on human development.

Today’s study continues a 19 year effort, to shatter one-dimensional yardsticks. “Gross Domestic Product” divides national wealth by population. They shove the beggar, in tattered hand-me-downs, alongside 83-year old Imelda Marcos wailing over President Benigno Aquino’s plan to auction the confiscated Roumeloites jewels.

Conventional gauges reveal “what sets toothpaste prices”, the late Mahbub ul Haq of World Bank noted. Are these the “right questions”? No, responded 1998 Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen. Focus instead on life spans, hunger, primary schools, human aspirations too. “We need a measure that is not as blind to social aspects as ‘GNP’ is.”

Would that include toilets? Sen trigged an international uproar July when he wrote in his new book “An Uncertain Glory”. "Half of all Indians have no toilet.” At UNDP, Sen and Haq crafted human development indices. HDIs measure average performance, by a country, in (a) longevity; (b) knowledge; and (c) decent standard of living. HDIs were deployed, for the first time, in the 1990 global Human Development Report.

“People are the real wealth of a nation,” the lead sentence read.

Twenty three years later, PHDR found top notchers here clustered in Luzon: Benguet, Batanes Rizal, Cavite , Bulacan, Bataan , Laguna, Nueva Vizcaya,, Ilocos Norte plus Pampanga. Life expectancies were almost two decades longer than those in conflict ridden provinces those who resided in Benguet had 74 year life spans. It's a truncated 57 in Sulu.

Seen in an international matrix, life span for a Filipino is 69 years. --- Similar to Indonesia but behind Thailand’s 74. The Philippines is wedged as No. 114 among 186 countries for human development, says UNDP’s “The Rise of the South”. We’re sandwiched between Moldova and Uzbekistan. Malaysia is way ahead at Slot 64.

Lagging provinces, as in the past, included Lanao del Sur , Masbate, Zamboanga del Norte, Sarangani, Davao Oriental, Agusan del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay, Tawi-Tawi , and Maguindanao In the bottom five provinces, , kids, dropped out of school after six years --- compared to almost 11 years for the top five.

As in earlier PHDRs, the “Provinces Versus Countries.” analysis provides insights by comparison. Achievements in Benguet and Metro Manila, for example, are bracketed between Singapore on one end and Kahzakstan on the lower end.

Cebu, Zambales, Cagayan, Nueva Ecija and Davao del Sur are boxed in by Paraguay on top and Africa’s Moldova below.

Performance by Guatemala and Equatorial Guinea compress that of nine provinces: Camarines Norte, Zamboanga Sibugay, Western Samar, Romblon, Mt. Province, Northern Samar, Sultan Kudarat, Palawan and Basilan. Jose Rizal’s epigraph is relevant to issues that PHDR 2013 addresses, writes UP economist Emmanuel De Dios who heads Human Development Network. Some are happy in their place of stay or even have the luxury of choosing it. “Others are simply condemned by their circumstances to endure it.”Geographic inequality impacts economic growth and interlock in. “basins of attraction” like cities and mass markets. But “social and political barriers can frustrate people’s efforts to better their own lot.” PHDR stresses: Still, "uneven, unbalanced growth is not incompatible with inclusive human development.”

Sure. But current public policy falls short. Over-centralized government programs tailor a "onesize- fits-all" approach. Disease-specific health campaigns skip neglected tropical ailments. Transport reforms are piece-meal. A “silo”-complex buttresses unresponsive bureaucratic framework that locks out human needs.

Improvement of HDI has been slow but steady. They mask oscillating performance in some provinces that haven’t closed the gap in human development. These provinces are locked into the vicious circle of falling incomes and slumping health and education outcomes.No effective political authority today tracks the record of human development at a province’s level. Hence, response is scattershot to cities and farms are strapped with leading or lagging areas.There is need to change current city-centric emphasis.

A maze of laws and planning practices gut provincial tax bases and powers. A window of opportunity is opening in public sentiment to revisit the Local Government Code (1991) after more than two decades of implementation.

Provinces need elbow room, in law and budget allocations, to plan and implement programs --- with the democratic accountability that autonomy entails as philosopher George Santayana groused: “it seems a dreadful indignity to have a soul controlled by geography.”

Juan L. Mercado is the Founder of the Press Foundation of Asia and is best known as one of the Visayas Region's most prolific and multi-awarded writers.





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