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Bernardo M. Villegas

Strong foundations of PH-US relations (Part 1)

The laudable efforts of the Duterte Administration to foster stronger relations (economic, political, social and cultural) with China should in no way diminish our resolve to continue building on the strong foundations built by former Administrations in PH-US relations.  Former President Fidel Ramos, who has recently publicly criticized PDu30’s anti-American tirades, incarnates the very healthy attitude of being friendly to all countries that can contribute positively to the objective of Philippines sustainable and inclusive development. As a West Point graduate and subsequently President of the Philippine Republic, he did much in strengthening  economic, political and military ties between the two countries. At the same time, he is highly appreciated by the Chinese Government for leading the initiative to establish  the Boao Forum which has put China in the forefront of …

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Batangas as virtual federal state

As I have written in previous columns, a possible move into a federal form of government in the intermediate future will be greatly facilitated if we can pilot the structure of a federal state in some of the provinces with enlightened, proactive and dynamic leaders.  In a recent briefing for existing and potential investors held in the Capitol of Batangas Province by Governor Hermilando Mandanas, I was convinced that his province can hit the ground running and be the first province to already act as a federal state by implementing fully the Local Government Code of 1991 which can enable a local government unit to partner with the private sector to build the needed infrastructures to implement its development plan.  I know very few LGU heads who can match the …

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The dangers of live-in arrangements

I have a friend who is the CEO of a large factory manufacturing high-value components of computers in an industrial zone in Sta. Rosa, Laguna.  He is a Malaysian of Indian descent and is a non-Christian.  When he realized a good number of his workers, most of whom are Catholics, had not been married in Church and were just “living in”, he went out of his way to consult a Catholic priest about how to convince these couples who were cohabitating to be formally married in their faith.  Just using his common sense, he was convinced that people in live-in conditions could pose a danger to his workforce and can affect the productivity of his workers.  True enough, his instincts are supported by social science research.  A summary of these …

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More certainties than alleged uncertainties

The colorful, mercurial and impulsive style of President Rody Duterte has prompted credit rating agencies and some foreign chambers of commerce to raise the alarm flag about the investment climate in the Philippines.  It is possible we may not get any credit upgrade for the coming months or even years.  It is possible that some US and European investors may cancel or at least postpone their investment decisions in the Philippines until PDu30 can modify his harsh language and/or issue more consistent policy statements. Knowing how ingrained some of his linguistic outbursts and biases against the US are, it may take some time before the cloud of uncertainties can be removed from the horizon of the Philippine economy. Investors would have no other alternative but to take chances, which after …

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Addressing environmental sustainability for business (Part III)

Environmental PR can evoke two opposite reactions.  Activists often draw a distinction between the messaging done by firms that they perceive to be genuine and those simply paying lip service to the issue in their communications. The latter practice is often referred to as “greenwashing,” playing on the term whitewash.  Kevin Tuerff, a pioneer in green marketing based in Austin, Texas defines greenwashing as “when a company or organization spends more time and money claiming to be ‘green’ through advertising and marketing than actually implementing business practices that minimize environmental impact.”  Only self-reflection and sincerity with the public can a company draw the line between being transparent about its activities and merely engaging in a public relations campaign, although the two are not mutually exclusive. Then there is engagement, which is …

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Addressing environmental sustainability for business (Part 2)

The modes of response described here will not be set out in terms of good and bad but rather in terms of the environmental engagement of senior management.  The purpose is not to criticize specific types of behavior or to moralize but to look at the various options in the hope of gaining insight for the future. A first level of response by some firms is refusal to accept that a problem exists, because to do so would be to call into question the basic idea of what a company, or even an industry is all about.  In the Philippines, this has happened in some cases in the mining industry, power plants and chemical firms.  We can call this reaction “denial.”  An example cited by Professor Rosenberg was the famous case …

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Nurturing leaders for federal states (Part I)

Except for the so-called “oligarchs” based in the National Capital Region, I am positive that most Filipinos agree with President Rody Duterte that it is about time that we decapitate imperial Manila. Too many decisions about the welfare of the regions are being made by Manila-based politicians and government officials who are oftentimes ignorant of the real circumstances being faced by the masses outside the NCR, especially in the predominantly rural territories. This concentration of political and economic power in the hands of Manila-based decision makers explains to a great extent the paucity of farm-to-market roads, irrigation systems, post-harvest facilities, and other rural infrastructures which have been denied the small farmers and rural workers for decades. Infrastructure spending in the past has been concentrated in the urban districts, especially in …

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Addressing environmental sustainability for business (Part I)

The appointment by President Duterte of Gina Lopez, a well-known advocate of environmental sustainability, as Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources, should be taken as an opportunity by business people to take a hard and close look at their ability to incorporate the protection of the environment into the very core of their corporate strategy.  Protection of the environment should no longer be an after thought or worse, just a PR ploy of companies operating in the Philippines and for that matter in the entire ASEAN region in which there are many challenges to environmental sustainability, especially in mining, agribusiness, and power plants. What should be a must reading for top executives in the ASEAN is a book entitled Strategy and Sustainability (A Hard Nosed and Clear-Eye Approach to Environmental …

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Get married and be happy (Part III)

Marriage benefits children in myriad ways: Children reared in intact, married homes are significantly more likely to be involved in literacy activities such as being read to by adults or learning to recognize letters as preschool children, and to score higher in reading comprehension as fourth graders. School-aged children are approximately 30 percent less likely to cut class, be tardy, or miss school altogether. The cumulative effect of family structure on children’s educational performance is most evident in high school graduation rates. Children reared in intact, married households are about twice as likely to graduate from high school, compared to children reared in single-parent or step-families. One study found that 37 percent of children born outside marriage and 31 percent of children with divorced parents dropped out of high school, …

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China’s slowdown and PH growth (Part III)

With more amicable relations with China under the Duterte Administration, we may attract more Chinese companies to participate in our massive infrastructure projects in the coming six years.  In more than 20 years of building the most modern infrastructures  in the world today, Chinese companies have accumulated a great deal of expertise in building airports, tollways, bullet trains, dams, and other infrastructure. Some of them can participate in the Swiss challenges that will be highly encouraged by the Duterte administration.  Also, we may obtain substantial financing from the China Infrastructure Bank that was recently established, in which the Philippines is a participating member.  The slowdown in China may actually benefit us in that their infrastructure companies will be aggressively looking for business opportunities in the ASEAN economic community. In fact, the …

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