Advocacy Mindanow : MILF and Mar Roxas PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 21 September 2012 14:45

BY Jess Dureza

I was a bit taken aback at the way  the recent MILF public statement expressing grave concern that Secretary Mar Roxas is soon to be head of  DILG was “angled” and given a negative spin by some. It recalled how he marshaled opposition and  questioned the constitutionality of the failed MOA AD. It was posted at the MILF “luwaran” website and picked up by mainstream media.
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MILF APPEAL —I am certain the purpose of the MILF was to seek the cooperation of  Sec. Mar,  high cabinet official in the ongoing peace negotiations especially as he will head the DILG which plays an important role in the implementation of peace agreements. But on hindsight, I think it was a mistake. There  was no need for the MILF to make those thoughts public. To publicly hope that Mar Roxas will be a “changed man” (meaning, to now support the peace agreement) is lacking in sensitivity. A quiet, behind-the- scene backchannel  to relay an appeal for cooperation would have been better. I am sure it was intended to be MILF’s earnest  way of reaching out to Sec. Mar requesting for help as the talks are reaching a crucial stage. As it appeared in the media and the “spin” given to it by some publications, the desired results  may be different from the MILF’s sincere  intentions. The MILF ought to have learned from an earlier  mistake when it also posted in “luwaran” an item criticizing  the MNLF which it also withdrew when it generated negative reactions. Bad press  can trigger conflict. We urgently need a final peace agreement ASAP. We are almost there.  We are at a sensitive and crucial stage. How media will treat and cover the negotiations at this critical stage will matter.
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PRESS INCIDENT - I  vividly recall one incident when I was chairman of the government negotiating  panel years ago.  We were already in Malaysia with my team and about to sign an important agreement  with the MILF. Suddenly, I got a call from  Malacanang summoning me to urgently fly to Manila asking me to hold things and not sign anything yet. I jumped on the first plane out, landed in Manila a few hours later, took a helicopter from the airport to the palace and conferred with a waiting and hastily convened cabinet cluster. After the meeting,  I took the first available plane back to Kuala Lumpur.
All because some sensational report came out in a Manila newspaper claiming —falsely— that the agreement I was about to sign was detrimental to national interest.  I had to clarify things. Indeed, media  reporting and the press are crucial . Especially in peace negotiations. So let’s all help get that peace agreement done.
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POWER IS POWER — I met a businessman friend over breakfast this week in Manila who is now urging Mindanaoans to be very vigilant about our power situation and our power resources.

For example, the planned sale as mandated by the EPIRA LAW of the Agus and Pulangi hydro plants owned by the government must be scrutinized and reviewed  closely. Big business players are salivating to gobble up those assets at the first opportunity. When this happens, government will lose its “leveraging power” to moderate power price hikes served by the Mindanao grid. And big business will be in total control.
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INDUSTRY “CAPTURE” —My friend called attention  on how big business investors have the big appetite to go into power industry business. Although the capital expenditures (capex) are tremendous, the projected business life  is  also almost indefinitely profitable. Being in the power industry is in itself power personified. The EPIRA LAW which was ostensibly to rationalize the power industry and ordered that the government-owned hydro plants be sold to private companies,  was passed according to my friend, at a time when even Congress was under “power industry capture” by the big players.
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BIG PLAYERS —This is not to say however that we do not need the big players around. On the contrary, they are the only one’s who can provide  substantial   capital that the  power business requires to be viable. The so-called “economies of scale”   means the bigger you are,  the more economical and cheaper and better for everyone . We definitely need the big players around. But we need to also take steps that we are not totally at their mercy and control. One way is to stop the planned sale and privatization of the government-owned hydro plants to assure cheaper power in the “price mix” for all Mindanaoans. Today, we pay cheaper for  electricity compared to those in Visayas and Luzon. But not for long if we do not remain vigilant!
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SMALL SCALE —What is important is for small communities and cooperatives, especially those in areas where there is a shortage of power supply  to start planning how to be able to stand on their own feet.

Small scale plants that can be put up to supply one coop area or a community can be viable. We have many rivers or dams  for this. Although the economies of scale dictates otherwise, small plants can fill in the gap especially for areas that still do not have adequate power source.

If anyone is interested to know more about this,  I can link you up with people I know  who are  into this. Just call  me.
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SINGAPORE FIASCO — Another example of a wrong statement  that briefly gathered a diplomatic storm was the recent Malacanang  media release falsely announcing — or boasting — that Singapore was supportive of the Philippine position on the issue of territorial  claims vis-a-vis China. It was a blunder because Singapore has been non-aligned and bland in its diplomatic position for the obvious reason that as a small country, it prospered tremendously because it is the economic hub of all big and small countries. It does not make sense for Singapore to  take sides.
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BLAME GAME  —What worsened the situation was that our  foreign affairs office and palace officials blamed reporters covering the event in Russia for the “false report”. Reporters however stood pat on the accuracy of their dispatches to their newspaper desks.

The best way to remedy this is for someone to say: “Oooops, my mistake. So sorry!”  But to further “spin” it will only worsen things! I had my own lessons learned when I was working in the Palace. We all make mistakes. What matters is how we are earnest about them.
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STILL MACHO — Changing the name of the disputed territories to “West Philippine Sea” will not change the situation. In fact, it will worsen things for us. Of course we look macho before  the eyes of the world. But that’s the most we can do. Worse, we got not only China   but also Taiwan  provoked. Other claimant-countries may also come forward and protest.  At this stage, it’s still posturing time for all. And no one can beat us Pinoys in this game.
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POPULAR —Let me say it again. We should  relegate this issue to the back burners. And in the meantime, let’s marshal resources and support internally and externally through quiet but intensive diplomacy. Let’s not provoke anything yet  when we are not ready to put our muscle where our mouth is! Yes, it’s popular  to appear macho and aggressive in protecting our national interest. But is this  the best way to handle the situation now? I doubt it.

We should not continue to  thrive on conflict or the dramatic. Yes, let’s do so if all we want is to be popular. But being popular, which is the easiest and simplest  thing to do,  is not always doing what is right. The latter, which   is more difficult and complicated,  is what good  STATECRAFT is all about!