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Breaktime

Back on the right tact

/ 12:43 AM October 10, 2016

On the last day of its 100-day honeymoon, the administration of the motorbike-riding Duterte Harley dropped the bombshell: The Philippines would go for what the administration called “independent foreign policy.”

That, ladies and gentlemen, was a nice way of saying that the administration would lead us away from more than 100 years of dependence on the United States.

In a never-before-done posting of official message on Facebook, Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay indicated the biggest gripe of the administration in the Philippine-US relations, saying we still could not address “security threats” from China over the dispute in the South China Sea despite the alliance between the Philippines and the US, since “our only ally” could not assure us it would immediately come to our defense.

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So what would the Duterte administration do? Well, it would want to get back on track in our relations with China by following in the footsteps of all previous administrations—from the Marcos dictatorship to the Aquino (Part II) administration—i.e. an official visit to Beijing.

Take note: Duterte Harley would make the China visit even if he had to push back a trip to Japan.

Business think tanks viewed the China visit as a business move, rather than a political attempt to resolve the dispute over large rocks in the sea.

In 2015, the Philippines got only 2 percent of the $10 billion China investments in Asean, or about $24 million. Philippine companies invested more in China at $40 million.

As for tourism, China recorded about 17 million outbound tourists to the 10 Asean members, and the Philippines received not even half a million, not even 3 percent.

The administration seems to be hurrying up measures for the Philippines to become a member in the $100-billion Chinese initiative Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank, or AIIB.

But the administration would just have until this December to complete the requirements, including the $196-million capital contribution.

Could Duterte Harley gain from his China visit a little priority in getting loans from AIIB?

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One think tank called the Philippine Asia Institute for Strategic Studies, or Paiss, noted that loans from AIIB would help the Philippines fund its ambitious “golden age of infrastructure” program.

According to the Asian Development Bank, the Philippines would need P6 trillion for infrastructure in the next 10 years, which would equal the budget of the republic for two years.

The beauty of it all would be that the AIIB loans would not carry conditions that would tie up the loans to giving contracts to Chinese companies.

In other words, even Filipino companies could get the contracts. Even US companies could, for that matter.

The Duterte administration would reportedly impose “carbon tax” to address excessive carbon emission in the country.

In a recent study, the National Tax Research Center (NTRC) said the government could generate some P120 billion a year from the tax.

The NTRC noted that the emission of carbon dioxide from fossil-fired power plants and vehicles had been increasing here.

What do you think, the carbon tax would perhaps force motorists to be sparing in using vehicles?

Another study by the World Bank claimed that some 57,403 Filipinos died from pollution related causes in 2013.

That number would mean the population death toll would be worse than the EJKs.

Anyway, economic loss from the deaths would also correspond to 4.3 percent of our 2013 GDP.

Among Asean countries in the study, the Philippines ranked third in the number of deaths caused by air pollution, topped only by Indonesia and Vietnam.

Of course fossil fuel power plants were also one major source of pollutants.

The Department of Energy recorded that plants running on fossil fuel—i.e. coal, natural gas and diesel—accounted for 66 percent of our total capacity, with coal plants at 32 percent.

More plants with capacity of 17,226 megawatts were in the pipeline, and coal plant would account for more than 9,000 MW.

If we think of the air we breathe, that is not good news.

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TAGS: Asian development bank, Business, China, Duterte Administration, Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay, independent foreign policy, Philippine news update, South China Sea
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