Fear mongering

"It does not have a place in public discourse." 



In other times and climes the barrage of statements by a number of senators on the possible (with emphasis on possible) negative impact of the various measures proposed by the administration’s economic team would have merited a crisp rebuke as unwarranted and baseless.

Why, even the MOUs signed by the government with China on various initiatives, particularly that on a cooperative arrangement for oil exploration, has been the subject of all kinds of speculation and attacks. This, even as Foreign Affairs Secretary TeddyBoy Locsin already said that the one-and-a-half-page MOU which he prepared and which was signed by the parties was simply an “agreement to agree to cooperate.” Nothing more, nothing less.

That assurance merely merited a sigh and a threat from Senator Bam Aquino for the government to “reveal the secret deals it entered into with China.” There’s none and Aquino knows it. But it seems he has all the time to quibble and keep this charade going on.

For the record, no less than Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra has said there is no need for the Senate to review the

MOU on oil and gas exploration, for example, since this is not in the nature of a treaty.

Said Guevarra: “There are no sovereignty issues whatsoever as the MOU merely expresses a mutual desire to agree on specific cooperation arrangements within 12 months. It is just an MOU. It’s non-obligatory, non-committal and non-binding from a legal standpoint. It is a mere expression of a mutual desire.”

Besides, Guevarra, noted, that the MOU expressly states that “it shall be without prejudice to the respective legal positions of the two governments and does not give rise to any rights or obligations under international or domestic law. “Here, we are just talking about a simple, straight forward reading of a one-and-a-half page document andlook where it has gotten the administration into.  The intent is clear—to sow doubt if not fear on an administration initiative which, if viewed from non-jaundiced eyes, is an honest effort to move forward on the possible development of a disputed area which contains resources which can be mutually beneficial to our peoples. Grabe.

What is ever more damnable are the contrived cries of Senator Risa Hontiveros on the same China adding that our effort to calm the waters and build bridges with our giant neighbor and the world’s number two economy might just lead to a trap, a bear hug, if you may, which can only squeeze us into submission.

Without offering any iota of evidence to support her claims that government’s efforts to bring our relations with China to a less hysterical, calmer level, Hontiveros proceeded to throw all kinds of condemnation on the administration’s efforts. I am not even sure if she has reviewed any of the documents purportedly being used by China to trap or squeeze us yet she went on a rampage to denounce the same as if our negotiators just folded up and let China run roughshod over us. Did she get to read and review the proposed loans for the train project, for example? If so, what particular provisions of the loan are objectionable and why? At the very least, if you claim that these loans will lead us to a debt trap come out with facts and figures to support your claim. Otherwise, refrain from spreading unfounded fear to stop a worthy project such as the rehabilitation of the PNR Bicol Line.

The same goes with the peroration of Senate Minority leader Frank Drilon that the passage of TRAIN, the second installment of the administration’s tax reform package dealing essentially with means to plug the billions of pesos in tax leakages being availed of by corporations registered with the tax giving agencies such as PEZA and the BOI. The veteran legislator said that passing a worthy bill meant to save the government billions of pesos in foregone revenues being doled out as some kind of “incentives forever” plan such as the case of thousands of undeserving registered enterprises will drive investors away from the Philippines.

Without offering even a whiff of real, not imagined, statistics and factual, not anecdotal, data, the Iloilo solon hogged the headlines yesterday for creating an environment of fear and dark foreboding. It is as if the sky were about to fall and the country careening into the abyss. Well, we are not and Senator Drilon and his colleagues joining him in this chorus and their propagandists should at the very least be asked to correct themselves before they are exposed as charlatans to the first degree. Fear mongering does not have any place in the public discourse unless one is bent in being negative no matter what.

For one, can the good senator at least give a list of the firms which have expressed interest in investing in the country but have now backed out because of the effort to rationalize the country’s incentives regime? Or at least a list of the companies which are now registered and which would definitely fly out if their existing incentives will now be reviewed and rationalized.

Instead of going full blast skewering the administration on the assumption that these unnamed firms “might leave the country due to a sudden shift in the policy which would cut the incentives given to foreign investors.” Would it not have been better to at least ask how many laws providing any and all kinds of incentives to investors, local or foreign, are in place and what provisions of these laws are going to be affected as a result of the rationalization plan?

If that is too much to ask, at least limit the incentives review to PEZA, BOI, BCDA, SBMA and other chartered export or free port zones to determine whether the rationalization will indeed affect current locators and prospective ones. Then, ask how much in terms of revenue loss (or leakage) will be in place just in case. Finally, how many of these companies will fold up or not even enter at all should the rationalization plan kick in. And, yes, how many jobs will be lost in the process.

With these facts and figures in place then we will have a better idea whether the administration’s plan is responsible and proper or not. But to proceed with the assumption that billions in investments and hundreds of thousands of jobs will be lost as a result of rationalization without even an iota of evidence is much too much. If these honorable legislators were in Singapore at the time that Prime Minister Lee  Kuan Yew was gearing the island state to developed country status and they as much as spewed out these unsubstantiated claims, they would have gotten, at the very least, the best of LKY’s tongue lashing. And they would have deserved it.

Topics: Lee  Kuan Yew , Teddy Locsin , Menardo Guevarra , Bam Aquino , Risa Hontiveros , Frank Drilon

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