By Herbert Vego
IN a TV interview, former Economic Planning Secretary Winnie Monsod laughed off the on-going participation of Pres. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. in the five-day World Economic Forum (WEF) in snow-laden Davos, Switzerland as a “waste of time and money”.
“He just loves to travel!” she roared.
I agree. Now in his unprecedented eighth foreign presidential trip in seven months, he has yet to show tangible benefits gained from the big-time businessmen thereat. His previous visits saw him in Indonesia, Singapore, the United States, Cambodia, Thailand, Belgium and China.
The trip to Switzerland would unfortunately remind the world that no less than the Philippine Supreme Court ruled in 2003 that the late President Ferdinand Marcos (Bongbong’s dad) had illegally acquired P25 billion worth of assets, which were kept in various Swiss bank accounts.
The Swiss Federal Supreme Court, also ruling that the secret Marcos account hidden in Swiss banks had criminal provenance, ordered its transfer to the Philippine government.
If very few world leaders are now in Davos, it is simply because WEF is a non-government organization that primarily gathers together business and civil society leaders with expertise in world economy. Its main objective is to discuss global issues, not to entertain investment pledges.
Informed that former British Prime Minister Tony Blair was meeting Marcos in the summit, Monsod belittled its significance because he could no longer represent the United Kingdom.
She criticized Marcos for his prepared speech vaguely “selling” the proposed “Maharlika sovereign wealth fund” that has yet to pass Senate approval.
The bill is aimed at authorizing state banks — notably Development Bank of the Philippines and Land Bank of the Philippines — to provide 75 billion pesos ($1.37 billion) for initial capital. The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) would contribute subsequently through dividends.
Monsod said the country is in no position to manage that fund because “we have no surplus.” So, how could foreign traders be motivated to invest?
Simply put, a sovereign wealth fund requires (SWF) a government-backed pool of funds from a country’s foreign exchange reserve.
“Junket” is the word that most appropriately describes the Davos delegation of supposedly 17 government officials plus big businessmen, media influencers, Marcos’ relatives and friends for a total of 70 — unfortunately at taxpayers’ expense.
Readers of this column will remember how I likened Bongbong Marcos to Roman Emperor Neru who fiddled while Rome was burning in 64 A.D. It is because he is unmindful of the inflation problem that has made onions in our country the most expensive in the world at P700 per kilo.
In a TV interview, private citizen Ronald Llamas — political adviser of the late President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III – expressed alarm over Bongbong’s “changing horses in midstream”.
“Teka teka, these are my people,” Llamas imagined Marcos’ predecessor, Pres. Rodrigo Duterte, as having expressed disfavor over such “change”.
Judging from Llamas’ tone, he seemed to imply that Duterte was not pleased over Marcos “piracy” of his former lieutenants.
The Duterte “loyalists” whom Marcos had adopted include former DILG Secretary Eduardo Año, replacing Clarita Carlos as the new National Security Adviser; Gen. Andres Centino returning as Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), replacing Lt. Gen. Bartolome Vicente Bacarro; and Carlito Galvez, Duterte’s Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process,, replacing resigned Secretary Jose Faustino Jr. at the Department of National Defense.
But what if they are Trojan horses who could be paving a way for another Duterte, his daughter Vice President Sara, to move up to the presidency sooner than later?
Que sera, sera. The future’s not ours to tell.
BASED on a news story written by our colleague Tara Yap for the Manila Bulletin, all mobile phone signals in selected areas will be shut down for the two-day Dinagyang Festival on Saturday and Sunday.
As told to her by Major Shella Mae Sangrines, Iloilo City Police Office spokesperson, signal will be jammed at the Iloilo Freedom Grandstand, Plaza Libertad, Plazoleta Gay, Provincial Capitol, Central Market, University of Iloilo, and the vicinity of SM Delgado from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. on both days.
Signals will also be jammed in portions of Mandurriao District from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday for the “Ilomination” (parade of lights).
The signal shutdown was requested by the city government and approved by the Iloilo City Police Office (ICPO) and the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), allegedly “for security reasons”.
Hmm, do they expect evil elements, in and out of performance areas, to talk business?
But of course, not everybody is happy about it. Emergency situations may arise when phone communication would be preferable – as in a mother losing a child in the crowd, or a spectator losing valuables to snatchers. In both cases, immediate contact with proper authorities would be sought for.
The broadcast and TV media may not be happy, too. In the absence of internet wi-fi, they have to find ways to cover the presentations live.
Andrea Ortega Guanco, founder-writer at Feature Iloilo website, said she would still do video coverage with the intention to post it “delayed” on Feature Iloilo and on her Facebook page.
And Tara Yap, being with the print media, would still be able to write her story with photographs for the next day.