Is globalization today different from the 19th century globalization?

Globalization is not a 20th century phenomenon. It is, however, more pronounced today, than a century ago. Barbara Stallings (2007) defined globalization as “the increasing integration of the world through transnational flows of goods, capital, ideas and norms.”

Fundamentally, the purpose of globalization remains unchanging — to provide a platform for international trade and finance. But the growth of democratic ideals coupled with continuously evolving technology and institutionalized formal structures such as the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (later on succeeded by the World Trade Organization) and the International Monetary Fund, has made globalization more complex and intrinsic to economic activities today.

The only difference of globalization then and now is the level of integration of the international market. There is greater capital mobility nowadays with innovations and improvements in communication and technology. In a matter of seconds capital can be wired from one country to another. This presents greater risks than in the past because it also implies that the system can collapse in a matter of minutes or hours if speculations are magnified to cause panic and/or fear.

       I.            Level of Integration

Although globalization is inevitable in the capitalist order, it is  also a result of the industrializing nations’ conscious effort to advance their political and economic interests in the global market. This has been evident in the foreign trade policies of the economic powers like the US, the Great Britain and Germany. As early as the nineteenth century, States either reverted back to protectionism whenever they felt the risks of global integration outweighed any likely benefit or they pushed for bilateral agreements instead.

The nineteenth century, according to Frieden (n.d.), has demonstrated a general openness to international trade and remarkable economic growth. He referred to several instances in history which indicated the period’s inclination toward more economic integration such as the signing of the first bilateral trade agreements and the creation of the Gold Standard.  On the one hand, it showed how local economies benefited from globalization but on the other it also exposed how vulnerable domestic markets were to unprecedented global crises.

During this period, free trade advocates like trade unions and European and American companies campaigned for deregulation and for the opening of local markets to foreign competitors. However, an obvious challenge that confronted nations then was the lack of adequate social safety nets that could buffer against the influx of cheap goods from abroad. People lost their jobs.

This scenario, however, is not unique to the nineteenth century since the only way to ensure jobs in developed countries nowadays is through the creation of new industries that will require high – skill labor since multinationals are transferring their manufacturing operations to developing nations that offer cheap labor.

Take for instance, the case of the United States (US), which, after falling into recession in 2008, has been seeking measures to arrest rising unemployment. The US manufacturing sector has been stagnating for many years. Although the world power has always been strong in the information – communication technology sector, jobs in this industry require advanced education. Sadly, a university degree in the US carries a hefty price tag that most young people cannot afford (Rattner 2011).

In an effort to convince companies to bring jobs back to the US, President Barack Obama gave US companies  incentives such as tax breaks (Thomas 2012). The problem is, even if labor cost in China, for example, will become expensive, jobs will most likely head toward Vietnam or toward any other location where there is cheap labor. This definitely does not include the US.

a.      Gold Standard and Bretton Woods

Present day globalization is also marked by more complex financial integration.  Globalization always sought a certain level of predictability, first with the Gold Standard, then with Bretton Woods agreement.

Lenders must be assured of the credit worthiness of a country otherwise the money needed to build infrastructures intended to increase the export capacity of domestic markets will not be achieved.

The Gold Standard provided a sense of stability for international trade and finance. Any country that was part of the system agreed to a “pre-established currency rate” against the price of gold (Frieden n.d.).

However, the Gold Standard was used before the flourishing of democracy,  where people were not allowed to contest the policy choices of the government. Austerity measures were seen then as the only way to stay on the gold which meant good credit rating for countries that participated in world trade. Today, severe reduction in government spending, job losses, higher interest rates which are all part of austerity actions spell chaos.

Post – World War I saw a series of social reforms and the birth of civilian-led governments in Europe. Frieden noted that this was one of the two lasting effects of the war. The other was the replacement of the world hegemon, Great Britain/Europe by the United States.

The form of government was more or less representative of the peoples’ concerns. The people now had an opportunity to lobby policies that benefit them. At the same time, labor unions also organized more workers as multinationals grew and expanded. In a way, the people had been given some form of leverage in policy negotiations.

This led to governments and financial creditors defaulting from their obligations, resulting to the Great Depression of the 1930s. This had severely limited most governments’ capacity to stay on the Gold Standard which offered no way out but through austerity measures. In 1933, the US left the Gold Standard, following UK, France and Germany, among others. US generally withdrew from international cooperation from 1920’s until late 1930s. Frieden pointed that the results of the crisis were autarky, trade protection, capital controls and inconvertible currency.

Nonetheless, recognizing the need for mutual cooperation and a more “reliable” way of doing global trade without sacrificing national interests, the US and the Great Britain pushed for the adoption of another international trade agreement after the World War II (1939 – 1945), now focused on the dollar – the Bretton Woods System. Frieden notes that Bretton Woods “provided stability that lacked in the interwar era and flexibility that lacked in the classical era.”

Thanks to the Bretton Woods system, international government bodies now ensure that global cooperation is sustained despite and throughout any crisis. For example, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) helps mitigate the effect of any financial crisis in so much as preventing countries and banks from defaulting from their obligations. Bordo, Eichengreen, and Irwin (1999) similarly said that the World Trade Organization and the IMF, while far from being perfect, serve their purpose by providing global governance to trade, in so much as pushing countries to adopt free trade friendly policies, and in ensuring that States faithfully attend to their financial duties.

Bordo, Eichengreen, and Irwin (1999) also explained that better auditing and accounting systems today also support the expansion and further integration of global trade. Moreover, they added that part of the tools of globalization and liberal trade policies is contingent protection which according to them “sustains a critical mass of political support for open markets.” The difficulty in assuming obligation for bad investments of banks is that rescue funds needed for such bail outs usually hurt the ordinary citizens the hardest. The cost once a government or a big bank fails to meet its financial commitments nowadays is usually catastrophic. The 2008 US Financial Crisis cost the taxpayers trillions of dollars.

Another example is the current European crisis which involves debt straddled nations like Greece cannot emphasize more the level of financial integration of the world today. Bad investments of European banks have placed the Euro, the currency used by the 27-European Union member countries at risk.

Lastly, the rise of regional production networks also show how inevitably linked global production is at present compared to the 19th century. Disruption in the chain can cause problems for all members of the network located in different parts of the world.

b.     Technology and Information

Prior to the industrial revolution and to the establishment of the Gold Standard, trade was limited to colonizers and their colonies. But as technology increasingly made it possible for people and markets to connect in ways never imagined in the Mercantilist era, barriers to trade were slowly relaxed.

Transportation and communication costs were greatly reduced thanks to advances in land and sea travel and to the invention of the telegraph (Frieden n.d.).  For example wheat in Chicago was 60% more expensive than in Liverpool in 1870. Come 1912, the price difference was only 15% (Bordo, Eichengreen and Irwin 1999). O’Rouke and Williamson (1999) even argued that global integration post – 1860 was due to technological development more than on liberal trade policies.

   II.            Conclusion:

Globalization, fundamentally, is still the same today as it was yesterday, only more aggressive and determined. The consequences are bigger and more serious because of the level of integration that it has achieved throughout the years. One can look at Europe and how it struggles to stabilize its union, the Asian Crisis in 1997/98 or the US Housing Crisis in 2008 for reference.

Globalization should push for innovation and creativity in production of goods and services but at the same time it should also foster synchronized and complementing activities between and among nations without sacrificing national interests and sovereignty.  This, however, is idealistic.

The only way to protect one’s self is to build the local economy. If the domestic market is not ready to compete globally, it may lose more than gain anything in the process. However, it also has to be noted that globalization today has made business strategies like offshoring possible. Moreover, capitalist system’s the price mechanism will always ensure that buyers will have myriad of options. Thus, while, globalization will push some industries/groups out of business, it will and can similarly enable new ones to emerge. For instance, globalization has killed the shoe industry in the Philippines, but has similarly created jobs in the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry in the recent years.

Unfortunately, globalization is always about tradeoffs. States expose themselves to the volatility of the international market once they open up their economies. This has been the case in the 19th century, and is still true now.

Excesses in the capital system that leads to devastating economic outcomes is reflective of greed, and globalization is no exception.

States must be equipped to respond to possible financial crises in the future because these will not go away. As the Institute for Labor Studies of the Department of Labor and Employment in the Philippines put it, the best social protection that any government can provide to its citizens at the minimum will always be decent and stable jobs. Unfortunately, this is one of the many things that globalization affects.

Works Cited

Al Jazeera. News / Europe. May 09, 2012. (accessed July 15, 2012).

Bordo, Michael D., Barry Eichengreen, and Douglas Irwin. “Is Globalization Today Really Different Than Globalization a Hundred Years Ago?” Brookings Trade Policy Forum on “Governing in a Global Economy”. Washington D.C., 1999. 16.

Frieden, Jeffry. “The Modern Capitalist World Economy.”

Rattner, Steven. “Let’s Admit It: Globalization Has Losers.” The New York Times Sunday Review. October 15, 2011.

Thomas, Ken. Yahoo News. June 26, 2012. (accessed July 15, 2012).


Before Midnight: Very True Romance

The best movie review I’ve read!


Director Richard Linklater’s first two Before movies represented the types of romantic scenarios you dream of when you’re young—meeting the right person at an unexpected-but-perfect time and falling in love (Before Sunrise, 1995) and then encountering them again nine years later (Before Sunset, 2004), only to find that everything you felt before was not just genuine but was still alive; a fire that somehow burned through nine years of nights, stoked only by memories.

The third movie in Linklater’s series, the less joyous but even more incisive Before Midnight, exposes the underbelly of romance and not just the kind of idealized pairing that involves walks through the moonlight in Vienna and sunsets in Paris, but something more universal. It’s the counterpoint of reality to those earlier cinematic dreams. Picking up nearly a decade after the teasingly ambitious end of SunsetMidnight takes on the resentments…

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By Paula Bianca Lapuz

Philippines losing the battle against HIV/AIDS

News Commentary by Paula Bianca Lapuz

Consistent with the upward trend of the past months, with males having recorded the most number of cases, the latest government reports on HIV incidence in the Philippines raise red flags and demand greater support for prevention programs (Tubeza 2012).

photo from

According to the Department of Health, HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) cases in the Philippines have surged by as much as 90% between November 2010 and November 2011. Majority of inflicted individuals acquired the virus through sexual contact (MSM/Men having Sex with Men) and sharing of needles. Mother-to-child transmission rates remain to be negligible (Tubeza 2012).

The Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS or UNAIDS has noted that while elsewhere HIV/AIDS growth rates have declined, the Philippines and Bangladesh have posted at least 25% increase from 2001 to 2009 (UNAIDS 2011). This is why, UNAIDS Manila Head Teresita Marie Bagasao pressed the government for immediate and decisive actions to address the further spread of the disease, blaming severe underfunding for the unabated growth.[1]

The Philippine HIV and AIDS Registry under the Department of Health (DOH) National Epidemiology Center reports that from 1984 to 2011[2] there have been 940 AIDS cases, 682 of which were males (Philippine HIV and AIDS Registry 2011).

DOH runs an HIV/STI (Sexually Transmitted Infection) Prevention program which aims to empower communities and individuals through proper sanitary education and adequate health care services. However, this has obviously fallen short of its targets.

What went wrong?


The government has evidently failed in assessing the gravity of the situation among homosexuals and drug users as HIV transmission among these groups become more rampant than among female sex workers (Macaraig 2011). Apparently, focus on prostituted women encouraged social workers and advocates to find ways to introduce “innovative practices” in sex work which later proved helpful in radically decreasing possible new infections in areas like Angeles City, Pampanga (ABS-CBN News 2011).


The budget for the prevention program is meager. Bagasao mentioned that almost 80% of the funds came from different multilateral agencies. DOH notes that it can only make ends meet by trying to maximize available resources – just a little over half of the needed funds (Macaraig 2011).


The government will most likely have to stretch the budget even more. Bagasao states that the government should decide which to prioritize: prevention or treatment? But as DOH Assistant Secretary Eric Tayag puts it, “It is a race against time because the more cases there are; the more different kinds of financial support are needed in the long run.”

Although the proportion of individuals diagnosed with HIV/AIDS (7,884) is relatively small compared to the total population of the country (94 million), the fact remains that Philippines is among the few countries whose HIV rates have steadily gone up in the last two decades (Macaraig 2011).

With this in mind, there is a need to identify more mechanisms to address the worsening status of HIV/AIDS in the Philippines, which is listed as part of the Millennium Development Goals. The government has to create aggressive and dynamic information-education programs that can be integrated with the high school and college curricula. This way, more people will be aware of preventive practices.

Indeed, the issue also brings to the fore the need for a reliable and effective sex education program which is part of the Reproductive Health bill pending before the congress. In particular, it will be challenging to reach out to drug users and homosexuals, since they have not been the target market of the past programs.

Other line agencies and local government units must scale up their efforts to contribute to the DOH initiatives as well. Truly, for the HIV/STI prevention program to succeed, the approach must be holistic, strategic, and pro-active.#

Works cited:

ABS-CBN News. ABS-CBN Lifestyle. January 23, 2011. (accessed January 02, 2012).

Macaraig, Mynardo. ABS-CBN Lifestyle. December 23, 2011. (accessed January 02, 2012).

Philippine HIV and AIDS Registry . Newly Diagnosed HIV Cases in the Philippines.Update, Department of Health , 2011.

Tubeza, Philip C. Philippine daily Inquirer/Latest Stories. January 02, 2012. (accessed January 02, 2012).

UNAIDS. HIV in Asia and the Pacific: GETTING TO ZERO. Update, UNAIDS, 2011.

First posted in Asia Society for Social Improvement and Sustainable Transformation(ASSIST) 

News Commentary: Inequality and Gender-based Violence Mark the Plight of South Asian Women


by Paula Bianca Lapuz

South Asia is notorious for gender-based violence (Population Council 2004). Not even those who migrate abroad can escape such a destiny (Warsi 2011). These issues can be considered detrimental to national progress if women, who have great potential to contribute economically and politically, are constrained by various social norms (International Labour Office 2004).

In Afghanistan, Gulnaz, a young unmarried woman sentenced to 12 years of imprisonment after being raped by her cousin’s husband, was freed but not vindicated (Walsh and Basu 2011). In fact, she still faces threats to her life. Tremendous pressure from the international community elicited by a European Union-funded video containing Gulnaz’s story forced the government to pardon her.

Two years ago, instead of garnering sympathy, Gulnaz incurred the ire of her family and of the conservative Afghan society. She was accused of maligning her family’s honor and for bringing this fate upon herself. To complicate the situation, Gulnaz bore her perpetrator a child.

To regain her honor, she agreed to marry her abuser. While this serves towards her release, this does not guarantee her safety, as honor killing is permitted in communities in Afghanistan. Authorities say that there are hundreds of similar cases in the country (Walsh and Basu 2011).

Nearby, Pakistani women also face issues on gender inequality. Family planning is a taboo in Pakistan, where families with ten or more children are not unusual according to the Washington Post. Today, it is the sixth most populous country in the world.

In addition, women’s opinions are hardly ever considered by their husbands and his family, who live with them. Marginal improvements in fertility rates were recorded in recent years, but these still do not meet the annual targets towards a 2.2 children per woman ratio by 2020 (Brulliard 2011).

In India, around 500,000 female babies are aborted each year – almost the same number of babies born in the United Kingdom annually. This reflects how many in the Indian society still regard a girl offspring as inconsequential to achieving a better socio-economic status for the family (The Guardian 2011) (Boseley 2011).


The world is just four years away from the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Deadline, the world blueprint for development, agreed upon by all member states and institutions of the United Nations. On women and children’s rights in particular, MDG hopes that by 2015, the child mortality rate is halved, women are empowered, gender equality is achieved, and maternal health is improved.

A recent study named India as among the top 20 countries that have made progress in areas of poverty/child mortality reduction and maternal health improvement (United Nations Millennium Campaign 2011) However, data also show that at least 37% of India’s population live below the national poverty line and 41.8% of its rural population are poor (UNDP n.d.).

These numbers are still high and women are especially vulnerable in this situation. And though efforts to prevent selective abortion have been in place for years, its continued occurrence exposes the need for a more effective approach.

If the government should succeed in its MDG targets by 2015, it must strengthen its education-information campaign on women’s rights. Punishing some people for child-slaughter without educating the society cannot alter well-entrenched cultural beliefs . Thus, education is still the long-term solution for this social ill.

Moving to Afghanistan and Pakistan, extreme conservatism and sectarian beliefs make it even more difficult for women to rise from their predicament. Although incremental efforts are being launched by the government to tackle women’s rights violations, drastic changes need to be seen.

In both countries, leaders need to address not only questions of national security, but moreso, issues of vulnerable groups. Their governments should to step up in their initiatives to close gaps on gender equality because inaction can only mean worse suffering for the marginalized.

Works cited

Boseley, Sarah. The Guardian/News/World News/India. May 24, 2011. (accessed December 15, 2011).

Brulliard, Karin. The Washington Post. December 15, 2011. (accessed December 15, 2011).

International Labour Office. Global Employment Trends for Women. Evaluation, International Labour Office, 2004.

Population Council. “Population Council.” Population Council. June 2004. (accessed December 15, 2011).

The Guardian. The Guardian/News/Global Development/Poverty Matters Blog. 2011. (accessed December 15, 2011).

UNDP. United Nations Development Programme/Poverty Reduction. (accessed December 15, 2011).

United Nations Millenium Campaign. End Poverty: 2015 Millenium Campaign. June 22, 2011. (accessed December 16, 2011).

Walsh, Nick Paton, and Moni Basu. CNN/ASIA. December 15, 2011. (accessed December 15, 2011).

Warsi, Sayeeda. The Guardian. December 14, 2011. (accessed December 15, 2011).

NEWS COMMENTARY: Philippine Media Innovations: Programming Towards Informed Citizenry

Representatives of media establishments, top businesses and advertising groups, and students in the country convened last November 16 to 19 for the biennial Philippine Ad Congress (PAC). This year, its theme was “Changing the Game,” pointing to the evolution of media in the digital age (Escandor Jr., 2011).

At the congress, ABS-CBN President Eugenio Lopez III said  that the oldest and [biggest] media outfit will still concentrate on improving their television programs, while boosting investments on technology that will scale up their delivery of public service (Sunio-Granali, 2011).

He was joined by the top executives of rival networks TV5 and GMA 7, whose CEO Atty. Felipe Gozon, said that the television is still the “medium to beat.” He believes that Filipinos will still turn to the television for entertainment for many years to come, and that the battle will go from simple content to high quality content (Sunio-Granali, 2011).

For TV5’s Manny Pangilinan, technology has completely altered the way people consume media products. He said that TV5 will strive to become the number one provider of digital content to the Filipino people (Sunio-Granali, 2011).


PAC is a celebration of the Philippine free media and the creativity of the minds behind it. But aside from visions of the future, the PAC also discussed serious topics on advertising, among them the performance-based payment, as raised by Zenith Optimedia’s CEO Venus Navalta. In this scheme now used by TV5, one determines a reasonable fixed price for each rating point that a program gets.

It provides media buyers (companies placing ads on television and on other forms of media) the option to purchase ad spots in programs with the same number of viewers as others but which has lower ratings and lower production costs. This way, they can still reach the same audience for a smaller price. This spells value-for-money for media buyers and some form of regulation for media sellers.

The Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas sets a minimum of 18 commercial minutes per program hour. However, Reyes notes that while networks try to follow this rule, demand for ad spots in high-rating television shows often prevails. If implemented by all networks, Reyes argues that this could keep other good programs on air, by having enough commercial loads (Reyes 2011). The advertising industry (in broadcast and print media) is valued at 226 billion pesos annually as of 2010 (Reyes. Jr., 2011).

This development tells us that, as TV host Boy Abunda concludes in his master’s thesis and shares in his program Bottomline, “The kind of media that we have reflects the kind of public that we have.” In large part indeed, media groups simply respond to the needs and wants of their audience.

But it also makes us realize that innovation in the business of media buying and selling can help improve the quality of the programs that we have on television.

If the performance-based payment scheme will be start of a string of innovations for the advertising industry, then the media can greatly improve towards being more responsive to the need of their audience. They can focus on creating content that will promote critical thinking instead of just giving the public the same kind of shows over and over again simply because they need not always succumb to the sponsors’ preferences.

Especially during primetime which gathers the viewers more and is marked by greater news and current affairs content, innovation in advertising can allow the networks to support more educational programs.

Works cited

Escandor Jr., Juan. The Philippine Daily Inquirer. November 19, 2011. (accessed November 24, 2011).

Reyes, Resti Jr. The Lobbyist/Mind Wars. November 20, 2011. (accessed December 08, 2011).

Reyes. Jr., Resti. The Lobbyist. May 10, 2011. (accessed November 24, 2011).

Sunio-Granali, Demai G. Philippine Entertainment Portal. November 21, 2011. (accessed November 24, 2011).

—. Philippine Entertainment Portal. November 19, 2011. (accessed November 24, 2011).

—. Philippine Entertainment Portal. November 21, 2011. (accessed November 24, 2011).

Remembering the (un)Forgotten: A Commentary on the Maguindanao Massacre

News Commentary from the Asia Society for Social Improvement and Sustainable Transformation (ASSIST) Research and Knowledge Management (RKM) Team

by Paula Bianca Lapuz

This year marks the second anniversary of the Ampatuan Massacre which resulted in 58 deaths, 32 of whom were media members and 26 others were civilians. Worldwide, November 23, the date of the bloodbath, has become the International Day to End Impunity (Malig 2011).

The Philippines has been tagged in the recent years as the most dangerous place for journalists (Gonzaga 2010 and Papa 2009). A study published in 2008 noted that half of the 77 media killings since 1986 were committed from 2001 to 2008 alone (Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility 2008). Indeed, the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibilityargues that while the Philippine press enjoys the freedom of expression as with any other democratic society, killing of journalists persists especially in rural areas (CMFR 2008).

The Ampatuan massacre demonstrates the power and vulnerability of the media. Journalists were not killed in Ampatuan, Maguindanao by chance. Thinking that a media convoy can shield them, the kin of then aspirant for governorship Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu faced the odds to submit the certificate for candidacy. In what is now an infamous massacre, they were all killed on their way.

Mangudadatu has since burned bridges with the Ampatuan clan, the ruling family in the province. The Ampatuans are being tried, but the murder remains unresolved. Families of the victims still bear the torment of injustice.

Ampatuan province is part of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, an area ceded to the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), the former rebel organization that sought its creation, in 1992.


More than anything else, the one glaring message of the Ampatuan massacre is that democracy has failed in ARMM. In fact, ARMM is a failed project altogether.

The media is said to be the watchdog of the society. This is why in every attempt at declaring a martial rule, the first enterprises and institutions to be seized by the State are the media establishments.

Information is power, and it is the media that provides information. And because a free press is one of the measures of a mature democracy, the Ampatuan massacre is the ultimate proof that our national government has failed in ensuring the emergence of a democratic local government in the ARMM.

Furthermore, political stability is a pre-condition for economic growth. Unless political issues are addressed, it is certain that ARMM will not see better days ahead. In fact, it remains to be among the poorest regions in the country, slipping to the second spot in 2009, following the CARAGA region (Macabalang, 2011).

It has been two years since the massacre,  but no one has been punished for the atrocity. For a very high-profile case committed in broad daylight, how hard can it get to arrive at the truth? The Philippine justice system has been disappointing time and again, and one can only hope that before the year ends, significant progress should have been made on the investigation.

Works cited:

Macabalang, A. G. (2011, July 13). Main News. Retrieved December 08, 2011, from Manila Bulletin:

Malig, J. (2011, November 23). ABS-CBN News. Retrieved November 24, 2011, from

Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility. Philippine Press Freedom Report 2008.Assessment, Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, 2008.

Gonzaga, Robert. The Philippine Daily Inquirer. November 24, 2010. (accessed November 24, 2011).

Papa, Alcuin. The Philippine Daily Inquirer. November 25, 2009. (accessed November 24, 2011).

News Commentary: What’s next for Egypt?

by Paula Bianca Lapuz

More than a month ago, the world witnessed the first democratic exercise in the course of the Arab Spring revolt after some four million Tunisians voted for a constituent assembly to draft their country’s new charter.

Weeks later, the second nation in the Arab league to succeed in ousting a dictator followed suit. Egypt conducted its parliamentary elections on November 28, 2011, after tremendous pressure from angry protesters who felt that the transition to democracywas too slow (Al Jazeera 2011) (Kirkpatrick 2011).

Violence escalated once more in the Tahrir Square as demonstrators demanded the resignation of the generals heading the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF), Egypt’s group of senior military officers that formed the military junta following Hosni Mubarak’s political demise in February (BBC 2011). Members of Egypt’s interim government, operating under the auspices of SCAF, had likewise submitted their resignation last week amid growing dissent over the army rule (Al Jazeera 2011).

SCAF, however, reassured the public that the military will relinquish power to a civilian government once elections for the parliament and the President are over by June 2012 (BBC 2011).

What do analysts say?

Al Jazeera sought the expert opinion of various scholars and diplomats on the issue, all of whom recognized the importance of the first elections as crucial to efforts at nation-building.

University of Georgia Professor Carrie Wickham noted that the only obvious disadvantage of holding elections sooner rather than later is the insufficient time for contending political parties to build up platforms and convince voters. Further, former Egyptian Ambassador to the United States Dean of American University in Cairo Nabil Fahmy said that he would have preferred to draft a constitution before electing a new government. But just the same, he acknowledged that elections will address one of the demands of the Egyptian populace: to be involved in their country’s political processes (Horesh and Bollier 2011).

Aside from political issues, Ilan Berman said that more importantly, measures must be taken to save Egypt’s ailing economy, pointing to a huge budget deficit nearing 9% of its Gross Domestic Product and an external debt amounting to $35 billion. Apparently, foreign aid has been slow in reaching the country’s coffers. Without this support, Egypt faces a possible bankruptcy according to its Minister for Manpower and Immigration, Ahmed al-Borai (Berman 2011). And with the political and economic problems hounding the nation, the next leaders will have to act quickly.


This election will determine not only Egypt’s political stability, but its economic recovery as well. SCAF leader Hussein Tantawi is wary of further disputes in their country, saying that Egypt is “at a crossroad” where all stakeholders must make a choice between surviving and facing grave consequences (BBC 2011).

If we are to speculate, donors might be reluctant to pour in aid as quickly as they should precisely because of Egypt’s political instability. There are always trade-offs in international relations, and unless the political climate in Egypt becomes predictable, then aid could probably come in trickles. This can only result into further economic woes and into more political unrest.

SCAF, on the other hand, blames “foreign hands” for the recent chaos. Tantawi said that they will not let “troublemakers meddle in the elections (Al Jazeera 2011).”  Tantawi was Mubarak’s defense minister for 20 years, making it somehow understandable that many people doubt him. As is usually the case in any political scenario after a revolution, members of the “difficult past” refusing to let go of their positions of power usually have no added value to reform and reconciliatory initiatives.

If SCAF will step down to allow other equally worthy leaders to stir the government of Egypt while the charter is being drafted, then it could probably spur not only nation-building, but healing and reconciliation as well. For example, Mohamed ElBaradei, former United Nations Nuclear Agency head has offered to forego his presidential bid, if SCAF will allow him to lead as Prime Minister in the interim (Al Jazeera 2011).

What Egypt needs at the moment is a leadership with moral ascendancy to lay the foundation for the transition to democracy. If no room is made for actual reforms to take place, then the world cannot expect genuine change that the Arab Spring revolution aimed for.

Works cited

Al Jazeera. Al Jazeera Middle East. November 27, 2011. (accessed November 28, 2011).

BBC. BBC Middle East. November 28, 2011. (accessed November 28, 2011).

Berman, Ilan. CNN Global Public Square. November 21, 2011. (accessed November 28, 2011).

Horesh, Roxanne, and Sam Bollier. Al Jazeera Features. November 20, 2011. (accessed November 28, 2011).

Kirkpatrick, David D. The Washington Post Middle East. November 28, 2011. (accessed November 2011, 29).

NEWS COMMENTARY: Energy Policy Reform: Indispensable in Climate Change Strategies

Australia has passed into law a policy that will tax companies for every carbon emission that they will make starting next year at a fixed price of $23.7 per ton for three years. That is, until 2015, when rates become flexible (Knight 2011). This is another milestone for the worldwide consensus to reduce Green House Gas (GHG) emissions.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) provides the necessary support for this international effort. UNFCC was a result of a global agreement forged in 1992 which aimed to reduce GHG emissions to keep the earth’s temperature at safe levels (UNFCC n.d.).

However, to make UNFCC legally binding, an international treaty was needed. This will later come in the form of the Kyoto Protocol which was adopted by majority of UN member countries in 1997, excluding the United States. The Kyoto Protocol pushes developed countries to achieve GHG emission reduction targets by 2020. The Guardian reports that globally, emissions have increased by almost 40% from 1990 to 2009 (The Guardian 2011).

Currently, a deadlock exists between developing and developed countries with regard to the amount of reductions as well as the parties to take on the prescribed measures. Developing countries have demanded financial assistance from the big players (US, European Union, India, China, etc.) for the development and expansion of renewable energy sources in their territories. At the same time, they also want to see the plans for GHG emission reduction of the developed countries.

Developed countries on the other hand, want to be assured of the developing countries’ commitment to make the huge cuts in their GHG emissions. The reliability of measurements to be used to assess the progress of each country also remains a point of contention (Harvey 2011).

In the Copenhagen summit of 2009, developed countries have promised to produce the money needed for the global energy sector reform but have not been delivering, with many of the concerned parties blaming the current economic crises in the EU and in the US  (Goldenberg 2010) (Harvey 2011).

Nonetheless, European countries claim the ability to reach their target levels by 2012, the deadline for the Protocol’s first commitment. For its part, Germany has recently launched a grant facility dedicated “to strengthen its bilateral cooperation with developing, newly industrializing and transition countries in the field of climate protection”.  Further, it had expressed its support for “a comprehensive global climate agreement” under the UNFCC (Federal Ministry for the Enivironment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety 2011).

Similarly, China has made significant leaps forward, becoming the lead player in the clean energy technology industry (The Guardian 2011) (Harvey 2011).

But the World Resources Institute revealed that developing countries are leading the pack in adopting renewable energy policies (MANIEGO and WEISCHER 2011).

For instance, the Philippines, bereft of fossil fuel resources but fortunately having abundant renewable energy supply, already derives 30% of its energy requirements from the likes of geothermal, hydro, solar, and wind power electricity facilities. It is said to be the second largest producer of geothermal power worldwide and the first in Southeast Asia to use large-scale wind and solar technologies. Policy-wise, the country has adopted the Renewable Energy (RE) Act in 2008, which guarantees a fixed price for 12 years for energy sourced from renewable sources. This is just one of its attractive incentives for consumers and possible investors (Pérez 2009) (MANIEGO and WEISCHER 2011).

The United Nations Environment Programme even commented that the Philippines’ RE law could serve as the region’s blueprint form renewable energy policy (Pérez 2009).

Thus, policies in this context play a major role in advancing international agreements at the local level.


Moving forward, the challenge becomes more daunting and costly. The past decade has shown us how diplomacy and economic interests can derail the massive task of reducing GHG emissions. It takes a great amount of political will to enforce policies at the local level that can improve existing renewable energy sources and force industries to shift to more sustainable energy use and management.

A study entitled the “Implication of Population Growth and Urbanization for Climate Change” explains that the number of consumers and their growing levels of consumption prove to be the “driving force” in the increasing rates of GHG emissions, more than the production processes. Hence, aside from the production perspective, the paper seeks to establish the contributions of households to GHG emissions and encourages further study on the matter (SATTERTHWAITE 2009).

This tells us that States should also discourage its citizens from engaging in wasteful consumption.  More importantly, at the heart of all initiatives toward the development of renewable energy sources is the quest for energy security. While the full utilization of renewable energy can be more cost-efficient in the long run especially for non-fossil fuel producing nations, the shift will be expensive, especially for countries that are heavily reliant on them. But what is being communicated by the UNFCC is that, whether nations admit it or not, we are all in the same sinking boat. And unless we all do our share to save the ship, the consequences will be irreversible and tragic.

All eyes are now set towards 2020, by which time another protocol will be drafted, the goals of which would greatly depend on the success or failure of the current international treaty. For the Philippines, it gives us a sense of hope because we have the most expensive electricity in Asia (Manila Bulletin 2011), and finding alternative sources for electricity would also mean attaining self-sufficiency in terms of energy.

The landmark legislation in Australia is another victory for renewable energy advocates. More developed countries should seriously take their share of the burden as more developing countries strive to develop their renewable energy sources. Only then can we move forward.

This is not a new message. But it appears that there is more need to push the developed countries to act. It is indeed ridiculous to know that the US bailed out banks for 800 billion dollars, yet refuses to spend a considerable amount for its climate change program.

Resources are there; the question is how fast the countries can move to make broad and structural impacts.

Works cited

Federal Ministry for the Enivironment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety.International Climate Initiative. October 2011. (accessed November 14, 2011).

Goldenberg, Suzanne. The Guardian. December 07, 2010. (accessed November 14, 2011).

Harvey, Fiona. The Guardian. November 03, 2011. (accessed November 13, 2011).

Knight, Matthew. CNN Asia. November 08, 2011. (accessed November 11, 2011).

MANIEGO, PETE, and LUTZ WEISCHER. Manila Bulletin. July 04, 2011. (accessed November 14, 2011).

Manila Bulletin. Manila Bulletin. February 23, 2011. (accessed November 14, 2011).

Pérez, Vincent S. “ADB Documents.” Asian Development Bank. 2009. (accessed November 14, 2011).

SATTERTHWAITE, DAVID. “The implications of population growth and urbanization for climate change.” Expert Group Meeting on Population Dynamics and Climate Change, UNFPA, IIED and UN–HABITAT. London, June 24–25, 2009.

The Guardian. March 11, 2011. (accessed November 13, 2011).

UNFCC. United Nations Framework on Climate Change. (accessed November 13, 2011).

On the Anti-Epal Bill: towards promoting ethics in governance

NEWS COMMENTARY by Paula Bianca Lapuz

Among the first steps taken by President Noynoy Aquino is to have all signage bearing his name and face removed. He likewise directed his cabinet secretaries to instruct offices to refrain from crediting themselves for publicly funded projects (Manila Bulletin 2010) (Official Gazette of the Office of the President 2010).

Sen. Miriam Santiago follows through on this move by introducing Senate Bill 1967 or the “Anti-Signage of Public Works Act”, now tagged by the media as the “Anti-Epal Bill.” The bill seeks to penalize public officials who include their names and faces in billboards of projects financed through taxpayers’ money.

While the bill prohibits public officials from blatantly taking “undue” credit for projects and services which they ought to accomplish and deliver, it still allows the inclusion of government agencies’ logos and names in the signage.

Both Malacañang and the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines expressed their support for Santiago’s bill (Poblete 2011) (Uy 2011). CBCP noted that the bill adheres to Bible teachings which tell us to be discreet about our good deeds, for it is God, who shall reward us. The palace similarly lauds the proposal, which complements the earlier directive of President Aquino.


The Senator is spot on in saying that putting politicians’ names and faces on signage are unethical and gratuitous, as it reinforces the culture of patron-client relationships, especially in the rural areas where poverty rates are high.

The bill, however, is limited to signage of public works projects. It is a good initiative, but what is the added value? The Local Government Code, Chapter 2, Section 13-D prevents government officers from naming any public infrastructure and/or street after any living person. But this has been constantly violated, and many public hospitals, schools and other structures are still named after politicians. In the end, what is the difference when their names can still be attached to the said projects long after they are gone?

What if instead of using signage, politicians would resort to flyers and other materials for promoting “their” projects along with their names and faces? The bill is commendable, but its loopholes should be thoroughly reviewed so that no one can circumvent the law. Efforts like this can be amusing to the public, but perhaps people get away with rules precisely because the public thinks that they are nothing but amusing. #

Works cited:

Manila Bulletin. Manila Bulletin. August 13, 2010. (accessed November 08, 2011).

Official Gazette of the Office of the President. August 08, 2010. (accessed November 08, 2011).

Poblete, J. P. D. Business World. November 06, 2011. (accessed November 09, 2011).

Uy, Jocelyn R. Philippine Daily Inquirer. November 08, 2011. (accessed November 09, 2011).

Rethinking the All-Out-War Strategy in Mindanao

photo from:


News Commentary by Paula Bianca Lapuz

You know that things have taken a turn for the better when your president decides against proclaiming an “all-out-war” strategy to resolve an incident like the bloodbath in Al-Barka, Basilan, last October 18, at least from a peace advocate’s perspective.

The Philippine Military’s Special Forces sustained 19 casualties after that encounter with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Reports stated that the MILF fired in response to what they believed was a clear attempt at an assault by the military. The military had vehemently denied the accusation and said that it was the MILF who violated the ceasefire agreement, as the members of the Special Forces were well out of the designated “area of temporary stay” when the MILF attacked them (Alipala 2011).

Five days after the Basilan episode, seven more soldiers were killed in what was again suspected as an MILF attack (Alipala, et al. 2011).

Legislators lambasted the rebel group for its inability to police its rank (Yamsuan 2011). Fuming, Senator Miriam Santiago declared her disappointment over the recent Ceasefire Agreement provision on “areas of temporary stay” which, in her view, severely limited the capacity of the Philippine government to respond to unexpected events, such as the October 18 bloodbath. She also noted that if MILF leaders claim that the assaults were carried out by renegade members, then it would be futile to negotiate with them (Press Release 2011).

Further complicating the issue is the news circulated shortly after the atrocities in Basilan of the government purportedly releasing five million pesos worth of grant to the MILF during the August peace talks, for the Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute (BLMI).

The government admitted that there was indeed a check made for the BLMI and said that such agreements were made during the previous administration and that President Aquino merely honored former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s promise (CALONZO 2011).

All these issues put Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles in the hot seat. Senator Chiz Escudero asks the government to hold Deles accountable, saying that she was and is responsible for the negotiated grant to the MILF because she served the Arroyo administration as well. He also said that there was no proof that the MILF spent the money for its intended purpose (Cruz 2011). Deles, however, explained that the government usually required liquidation of funds only after six or 12 months, following the release of the money.

Former President and retired army general, Fidel V. Ramos agrees with President Aquino against declaring a war in Mindanao. He said that the Mindanao situation should not be likened to a movie because peoples’ lives are at stake. He emphasized that the military is only “carrying out government instructions” to achieve “enduring peace and sustainable development,” and that people should remember this. He likewise mentioned that the all out war launched by ousted president and former action star, Joseph Ejercito Estrada against the MILF in 2000 only displaced at least one million civilians and left families of slain soldiers in grief (Dizon 2011).

On the contrary, Estrada once more defended his decision in several interviews, saying that his action was merely prompted by the rebels’ repeated violation of agreements while peace talks were ongoing during his time.  He also reckons that the present administration should do the same, noting that four decades of peace talks has not contributed at all to the resolution of the conflict in Mindanao. He firmly believes that the Philippine government cannot and should not grant the request of the MILF for a “sub-state” (Dizon, ABS-CBN 2011) (Cheng and Hernandez 2011) (Tan 2011).

New developments, on the other hand, suggest that MILF leaders are hesitant to surrender their members who are allegedly responsible for the attacks (Pasaylo 2011).


“If war is your answer, then you probably asked the wrong question,” says the Generation Peace for its “One Million Voices for Peace” campaign which ASSIST took part in. The campaign was launched on September 21, in commemoration of the International Day of Peace.  Generation Peace urges the government to follow the United Nations declaration by dedicating the same day annually as a day of “non-violence and ceasefire (Manila Bulletin 2011).”

Weeks after the celebration, however, the Basilan chaos happened. And it all the more showed that there is no perfect formula for peace. Peace and diplomacy can sometimes make it difficult to reach an agreement, but they are the only means we have under our democracy. Guns and violence, after all, are not in any way synonymous to freedom, love or equality.

What is important is that President Aquino is probably using the right framework for his administration’s response. His government’s strategy is on the safe side. It sends out a strong message to the rebels: we will talk, but we should respect agreements.

He has since directed his officials to implement an “all-out-justice” strategy which meant that MILF rogue members will be brought to justice, whatever may be the cost, but peace talks will go as planned (Bordadora, 2011).

While it is important to have an uninterrupted peace process, the way to achieve this can be really challenging, tricky and may even mean damage on both sides. Being outsiders, we can only speculate. We can only hope for a non-violent resolution to the conflict in Mindanao, and not abandon our support for the peace process.  After all, wars can only result into deaths and losses to the country and to its people.

Works cited:

Alipala, Julie. Inquirer. October 20, 2011. (accessed November 02, 2011).

Alipala, Julie S., Jeoffrey Maitem, Hernan dela Cruz, Dona Z. Pazzibugan, AFP, and AP.Inquirer. October 24, 2011. (accessed November 02, 2011).

Bordadora, Norman. Inquirer. October 30, 2011. (accessed November 02, 2011).

CALONZO, ANDREO C. GMA News. October 27, 2011. (accessed November 02, 2011).

Cheng, Willard, and Zen Hernandez. ABS-CBN. October 21, 2011. (accessed November 11, 2011).

Cruz, RG. ABS-CBN. October 27, 2011. (accessed November 02, 2011).

Dizon, David. ABS-CBN. October 21, 2011. (accessed November 11, 2011).

ABS-CBN News. October 24, 2011. (accessed November 11, 2011).

Manila Bulletin. Manila Bulletin Editorial. September 20, 2011. (accessed November 11, 2011).

Pasaylo, Jun. The Philippine Star. November 02, 2011. (accessed November 02, 2011).

Press Release. Senate Website. November 01, 2011. (accessed November 02, 2011).

Tan, Kimberly Jane. GMA News. October 21, 2011. (accessed November 11, 2011).

Yamsuan, Cathy. Inquirer. October 24, 2011. (accessed November 02, 2011).