Despite irritants triggered by President Rodrigo Duterte’s anti-US statements, Manila and Washington reaffirmed their commitment to the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty. In a meeting in Washington on Sept. 19, Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo discussed addressing regional challenges including Beijing’s militarization of the South China Sea. Unimpeded passage along international navigational lanes for commercial cargo ships is the main concern of the US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said the two secretaries also took up the threats of terrorism and the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
Secretary Pompeo, according to Nauert, reiterated the US readiness to assist the Armed Forces of the Philippines to modernize by granting weapons including warships for its territorial defense. A rising China and its agenda of hegemony in the Southeast Asian region is a great concern to the US.
In another good development, two Philippine senators—Edgardo “Sonny” Angara and Sherwin Gatchalian—said they would restore cuts in the budget of the Department of Education. Angara, who was elected president of the Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino, said scholarships for deserving students must not be sacrificed in the altar of the P3.57-trillion national appropriations act. He was also concerned that slashing the DepEd budget would hamper the building and repair of schools and classrooms destroyed by a series of typhoons.
Mamba on mayors
Cagayan Gov. Manuel Mamba took exception to our column last Friday about the vice governor and 10 mayors who were in Manila when Typhoon “Ompong” swept the province. In the interest of fair play, we are running his letter that took issue with some of our comments. Here it is in full:
I write relative to your Sept, 21 column titled “Why Cagayan mayors were in Manila.”
At the outset, let me make clear I was never informed of the travel or invitation from Malacañang of the 10 mayors and provincial officials your column referred to. I did not know that these officials left their area of responsibility because none of them requested travel authority from my office, Hence, I could not have fed “false reports” to Palace reporters.
It was days after Ompong devastated Cagayan that I learned of the Palace invitation. I read news reports that SAP Bong Go extended the invitation long before Typhoon Ompong threatened and cancelled the meeting precisely because of the oncoming typhoon. To my mind, the concerned mayors and provincial officials should have exercised the same acumen.
As early as Sept. 10, 2018, I announced during the flag-raising ceremony at the provincial capitol that Super Typhoon Ompong was likely to hit the province and directed everyone to prepare for the same. In fact, the provincial government was incessant with the announcements, preparations and preemptive evacuations. Had I known of the impending travel of the concerned officials, I would have stopped them from leaving their areas of responsibility. Given that they did not request for travel authority, they should have nonetheless exercise better judgement by not leaving their people, considering the people’s traumatic experience and devastation from Super Typhoon “Lawin.”
I am not privy to the purpose of the mayors’ and other provincial officials’ travel to the Palace on Sept. 14, 2018 and as to why former Senator Juan Ponce Enrile was with them. But it is not for them to
judge whether or not I am serving my people well. I bring the funds and services of the provincial government to everyone of the 820 barangays in the province under the No Barangays Left Behind Program or rendering 24/7 quick response services through the Task Force Lingkod Cagayan with six stations strategically located province-wide or opening communications with the Governor 24/7 under the I Text Mo Kay Gov services. I bring frontline services of the provincial government closer to the people or improving the hospitals and making the provincial health services responsive to the needs of the people by fighting illegal drugs , insurgency, terrorism, corruption and impunity by local officials. [If this is not service], then I don’t know what “serving the people well” is.
Cagayan was once the premier province in northern Luzon. Compared to Isabela, Kalinga, Apayao and Ilocos Norte, Cagayan was resplendent. Look at us now.
Governor, Cagayan Province