Thursday, June 27, 2013

Smile NAIA



Photo from Yahoo! News/Kenneth Cobonpue's facebook page
By Chester B Cabalza

Blogger's Notes:
Commentary of an Academic (Copyright @ 2013 by Chester B Cabalza. All Rights Reserved).

This is good news!

The country’s oldest main gateway will soon face a rehabilitation. The 30-year-old Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), touted among the “world’s worst airports” is scheduled a makeover to look like a boutique airport from the hands of internationally renowned Cebuano interior designer Kenneth Cobonpue and architect Leandro Locsin’s renowned architectural firm and Associates.

What is laudable about this hyped project, the love of country is sowed by equally competent designer Budji Layug and architect Royal Pineda together with Cobonque who will man the interior designs. They are doing this great stuff for pro bono. It’s a free service (wow!) to overhaul interiors of the aging and unattractive NAIA terminal one.

It’s so great that while driving off to my office, I hear over from my fave FM radio staton, disc jockeys candidly discussing the cool people behind this recent finest ventures of architects and interior designers.  This only shows how immensely we want all this to happen!

Of course, this is an added marketing strategy about the “who’s who” behind NAIA’s upcoming facelift. Based from their respective portfolio, Cobonpue has top clients like Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie while Locsin has notable masterpieces including the iconic Cultural Center of the Philippines and remarkable edifices at the University of the Philippines. The latter is also the son of Leandro V Locsin, national artist for architecture. 

This selfless service by interior designers must be emulated and hailed by all of us. Not all professionals will do the same thing, especially for tycoons or ambitious young business entrepreneurs, who only want profits.

The much needed renovation is a refreshing news feed after series of debates by government and the business community to transfer our international terminal airport to more spacious location in the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport at Clark in Pampanga inside the vast Clark Freeport Zone. That airport in Clark has also been tapped as the promise land for our planned premiere hub. Another feature of this special economic zone, is where Disneyland Philippines, reportedly rumored to rise soon – another pet project to watch.

It’s never too late

The Philippines is preparing for great and exciting things to come in succeeding years. We will host the World Economic Forum (WEF) in East Asia in 2014, the 27th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in 2015, a possible papal visit in Cebu on 2016, and optimistically lots of other big time international gatherings.

On the other hand, despite volatile rise and fall showings of our stock market, which we have seen in previous months, tremendous mood swing of ‘hot moneys’ hastily pouring in and pulling out in the stocks, after the US market rebounded solidly. Our stock market remains the largest in Southeast Asia. Hopefully, our country will continuously bolster good projects and cleanse our country’s image as a top darling of foreign investments in the region.  

The more than one-billion renovation budget of NAIA One has been a pity when compared to well-funded and beautifully manicured airports of Asia. Best airports are now rising in this part of the world as good economic opportunities apparently shift to the East.  

I have seen personally and enjoyed my infinitely plush stroll in ultra modern airports in Dubai, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Hongkong, Beijing, and recently New Delhi. Amazingly wondered how they designed and invested much in firmly building their hub airports.

Leaders of progressive countries will seriously think about the strategic value of their flagship airports as each visitor is assured to arrive comfortably and leave safely in their marbled and carpeted gateways. Embedded also in the construction of airports are the rich culture innate in every ambiance and services inside expansive and stylish airdromes.

The above mentioned award-winning airports abroad distinctly raised the bar and defines what a world-class airport should be. Envied and loved by all sorts of travelers around the world. Definitely first impression lasts as people from different walks of life takes refuge for a few hours in airports with great impressions.

The scents, ambiance, discounted products bought in duty free, free cyber connectivity, entertainment, and sometimes free sumptuous food in classy restaurants, advanced technology and monorails, and superb services – all in all, is definitely a total experience in itself!   

We lack a sense of vision. I deem great visions will bear good fruits. Add with strong political will and successful economic plan, all positive things will turn out great, as well. I know we were left behind economically; perhaps intimidated by sustained economic growth of our neighbors. As a best option, successful countries first beautified their magnificent airports which awed the rest of the world.

But again, it’s never too late for us to emulate this good deeds!

Taking off

Philippine President Aquino sees that our country can take pride of our economic achievements sustained by good governance under his administration. This affirmative message is a sign that we can participate in the world stage and not feeling embarrassed of our basic infrastructures.

Our largest airport reflects the state of our economy. If we say that our economy is taking off courtesy of good governance – then this should firmly reflect the ambiance and physical state of NAIA terminals. This is a way of presenting constructively our synergies as a people.

The NAIA terminal can become a symbolic infrastructure of our country's turn around.  This we must maximize to hopefully awestruck foreign visitors and balikbayan in showcasing our economic strides so far. Don’t construe it as pathetic, given our many other developmental programs that must be looked at seriously, rather look at it as a good sign of boosting our own confidence that we are actually taking off, economically.  

The planned rehabilitation will also upgrade our airports which suffered European Union’s (EU) ire in blacklisting our country back in March 2010. The EU issued orders that placed our country’s airlines on its watch list as a precautionary measure to impose operating ban to our flag carriers. However, our downgrade has already been seriously addressed by the Civil Aviation Authority in the Philippines (CAAP).

As our historical NAIA terminal will be transformed in the coming years, along with that work-in-progress physical transformation - I also wish terminal employees, immigration officers, and top administrators working in the soon to be overhauled beautiful airport will internally be transformed, too. By writing this, I mean competence in service and a culture of good service to passengers and greeters will be well-received.

Our legendary smiles, personal touch of service, and hospitality with much anticipation must be indented or shall forever reign in us. By the way, good practices must be carried in by everyone for good.  

We have seen constructions of Terminals II and III beside NAIA I in recent years, although with lagging legal battles and weak substandard structures. Still, spaces are cramped and runways can be imperiled. We hope the projected boutique-style terminal of NAIA will solve our bad image as one of the world’s worst airports.

Through the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), hopefully our flag carriers and foreign-own commercial planes will see a different and refreshing edgy look of NAIA, considered once an ugly-duckling airport. Let’s wait and see, though.  

Now I am looking forward to fly in a better-looking NAIA…soon!

Surely, it’s gonna be more fun in NAIA!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Ugly Labor Attaché

By Chester B Cabalza

Blogger's Notes:
Commentary of an Academic (Copyright @ 2013 by Chester B Cabalza. All Rights Reserved). Photo taken from philStar.com

After the expose of Akbayan’s Representative Walden Bello of alleged abuses by a number of officials in Philippine embassies in the Middle East reportedly due to sex-for-repatriation scheme among distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFWS). Finally secretary of foreign affairs begins to summon investigation to bring justice to victims.

Who is the culprit?

One of the assailants of probable administrative, civil, and criminal cases is Assistant Labor Attaché Antonio Villafuerte of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and two other unnamed labor officials. Victims accounted that the first used his position to provide tickets and documents in exchange for sexual favors.

Secretary Albert Del Rosario of foreign affairs has recalled Philippine ambassadors of eight Middle Eastern countries to return home to Manila and discuss the delicate matter.

Why it took so long to uncover the scandal?

Foreign affairs continued to become blind despite alleged horrific stories of sexual harassment of overseas workers in their own backyard until a principled whistleblower congressman bared their mess on Philippine national television and encouraged alleged victims to speak up and come forward.

Some of them already rendered their sworn statements. Others are still worried to come out for fear of being castigated by fellow OFWS. Or perhaps avoiding embarrassment to tell their stories as their families will become the butt-of-jokes.  

Philippine legal procedures will make the pace of investigations sluggish to establish facts of the case. Although if found guilty and there are culpability on the part of the offenders at the end of the investigation, officials and personnel in Philippine embassy shall be held liable. 

They should be fired from their juicy jobs!

How come higher officials or embassy personnel sexually corrupt fellow Filipinos?

That obscene question sounds demonic to me. I wonder why Filipino ambassadors, believed to represent our president and the government, and who should also be responsible for boosting morality as heads in our embassies abroad become blind and deaf of the troubles among their attaches in their own backyards. They should also be held liable of the moral damages incurred by victims since they acted as incident commanders during the crisis.

The alarming scandal is a double jeopardy for distressed Filipinas of the devious sex-for-flight scheme after suffering abuses from their Arab employers and subsequently by officials of our own embassies in the Middle East whose primary duty is to protect the welfare of our OFWs.

What should be done?

Shame them all!

I don’t know why Filipino officials deployed in the Middle East are mistreating our OFWs who should be treated as “the boss” dubbed by President Aquino himself and the “modern day heroes” of Philippine economy because of their dollar remittances to our country.

I presume Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), as an attached agency of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), is responsive and responsible enough as a welfare institution that serves the interest and welfare of our bayani ng bayan – the OFWs.

But where is the credibility of this agency when higher officials that could represent them are perceived as alleged predators of sexual abuses?

This is totally disgusting!

I think there are many besetting security issues amidst tensions in that region which the embassy personnel and officials should have acted upon, or even try to resolve in protecting the welfare of hardworking and distressed Filipinos.

I wonder why some officers in Philippine embassies in the Middle East have the luxury of time to think and act maliciously.

Have they thought seriously of the dignity of women OFWS?

Malacanan Palace is considering now of deploying female labor attaches in the Middle East to cater to the needs of female overseas workers. Abusive male officials corrupted themselves and feasted on the vulnerabilities of their female prey. Irresponsible labor officials are gross violators of human rights. This is one of the highest forms of deviance performed by any officer considered a public official through a public office. It breached public office as a public trust.

The psychological traumas experienced by victims are irreparable. It violates the sworn duty of the officers to protect the welfare of fellow Filipinos who are in dire need of help.

What policy considerations about this problem can be drawn from?

In the long run, the Philippine government should doubly accelerate its economic fundamentals to offer jobs to its people, create a visible middle class, and translate economic fruits and gains into developmental programs that should be experienced by all sectors in the society – even professionals, the masa and poorest of the poor to avoid brain drain and massive influx of labor force abroad. Now almost 20 percent of the country’s population is deployed abroad and working in different parts of the world.

The OWWA was originally set up as a temporary agency to cater the needs of international labor. It was not seen as a permanent office of the government or intended to prolong its lifeline.  However, due to our country’s economic woes and struggling people, succeeding administrations of elected presidents since Marcos has institutionalized its existence.

The ideal outlook of labor force presents a scenario where there should be no OFWs around the world. Filipinos should be productive and working in our own backyard. Or working abroad should be an option and not a must. Therefore, there should be neither labor posts nor abusive labor officials abroad in that case.

However, that is not the real scenario!

Unfortunately today, our human resource or OFWs have become our country’s saving grace. They suffered exodus from the Philippines to seeking greener pasture in foreign lands. Some has become lucky while most has turned out to be unlucky. The saddest part about their ordeal is when our own countrymen and officials in some diplomatic posts are mistreating them. 

Recently, reports say that DOLE and DFA have launched separate investigations into the issue and encouraged more victims to come forward and file complaints before the authorities.

However, it should be highlighted again that it is unacceptable for any official duty-bound to help and protect distressed OFWS from abuses of foreign employers in exchange of sexual favors. This should not be happening!

As a responsible government, we should not take for granted our modern day heroes. They truly deserve respect and proper care. The Philippine diplomatic corps should be vigilant of the abuses of their own members. They are not posted abroad for family vacation and engage in wanderlust. The interest of our OFWs should be their primordial responsibility or canonized duty to secure them from harm and abuses! 

China's Economic Lead Doubted



Photo taken in Shanghai, China in 2011.
By Chester B Cabalza

Blogger's Notes:
Commentary of an Academic (Copyright @ 2013 by Chester B Cabalza. All Rights Reserved).


Everybody is watching China’s economy at the moment as the manufacturing activity shrank again in June, according to HSBC, hitting a 9-month low. The index tracks manufacturing activity in China's factories and workshops is a closely watched barometer on the health of the economy. 

The data follows another batch of weak economic indicators last month that showed industrial output, fixed asset investment, exports and imports all weakened. Concerns have grown over the outlook for China's economy, which grew 7.8% in 2012, its worst performance in 13 years.

The World Bank has slashed its growth forecast for China's economy this year to 7.7% from 8.4%, warning of a potential "sharp" slowdown triggered by a fall in investment. The International Monetary Fund on May 29, cut its growth forecast for China in 2013 to "around 7.75%," down from its earlier forecast of 8%, citing a sluggish global recovery which hurt exports.

The main question that may arises is, will China sustain its economic growth ahead against economic woes in the world as Xi Jinping now leads the second largest economy with his vision of the Chinese dream? 
  
It is still arguably deemed today that China is at the epicenter of Asian development. Prior to its ascent as the world’s darling of investments, China’s success story is also seen as a story of Asian development today. 

As China continues to skyrocket conservatively, shown by apparent socio-economic performances it has projected since 1978, beginning when the world’s plausible economic superpower opened its closed economy. 

China’s multi-faceted picture of social and economic successes can be translated in various prisms of development. The shift of fulcrum in global economy from Anglo-Saxon’s dwindling yet still relevant political power to Asia-Pacific’s influences on major trades are relatively seen nowadays because of China’s resurgence supported by other Asian powers in the continent. 

Comparing China’s condition at the beginning of the twenty-first century with that of a century ago, no one could deny that China has undergone profound changes. The tremendous transformation that has been experienced by China following its economic reform far outweighs that experienced by the Asian Dragons, which renders it necessary to reexamine the relationship between tradition and modernity (Chu-hwa 2010, 28). 

Indeed, China’s bold moves have created a magnificent effect in the process of economic revival, thus absorbing the inflow of capital from all corners of the world which succumbed in the gradual integration of its production and consumption into the global economic system.

With continuous massive development and unprecedented progress, China has used its social and economic turn-around story as a window to simultaneously craft intelligent economic and strategic policies in attracting investments and developments among and within its region.  

As China progresses rapid socio-economic development excellently witnessed by its East Asian neighbors. Prominently written by Jacques (2012, 286), it is in China’s own backyard that the reverberations of its rise are already being felt most dramatically and in the most far-reaching ways. 

If we want to understand China’s rise and what it might mean for the world, then this should be our starting point. The way in which China handles its rise and exercises its growing power in the East Asian region will be a very important indicator of how it is likely to behave as a global power. 

In the case of China, it took a visionary and charismatic leader to turn-around the social and economic developments of China. From Mao Zedong’s political success obtained from Russia’s Leninist Marxist thought to institute communism to Deng Xiaoping’s pragmatic economic brilliance to translate into reality Mao’s socialist ideals. Certainly, Deng Xiaoping worked even harder to promote economic reform.  

China is a microcosm of Asia’s current development. It fluencies the growth of the region’s other national economies through both opening new opportunities and posing new challenges (Tselichtchev and Debroux 2009, 36-37). 

In the study of Wei Longbao’s (2009:12) macroeconomic look at China, by progressively tackling China’s economic vitality and potential in his study, there remains some positivistic and lucrative attitude. 
  
Since its reform and opening up, China’s economy had kept an average annual growth rate of more than nine percent. During 1998 to 2008, China’s gross domestic growth (GDP) rate has been maintained for more than seven percent, and in several years, even exceeded ten percent. Also by 2008, the market-oriented reform and state-owned enterprise (SOE) reform has shift the focus from strategic issues to practical issues.  

But why the economy is consecutively shrinking now? 

Zhang and Xu (2011) are still worried of spatial inequalities within China, as they deem that, behind China's progressively booming national economy in the last two decades, regional disparity remains a pressing concern. A majority of its regions are lagging behind the national average of per capita GDP, where about 76 percent of a population of over a total population of 1.3 billion live. 

Above all, in can also be construed that, over the last century and a half, efforts to turn China into a cohesive nation and a powerful state have led down many twisting paths. Whether consumerist patriotism can serve as a binding ideology, and how ordinary people are to claim rights as citizens, are not, of course questions that only Chinese face today. 

Another empirical data would suggest that the 2007 China Modernization Report predicts that on the basis of China’s rate of growth between 1980 and 2004, another eight years will pass before it realizes its first stage of modernization. This means that by 2015 China will have modernized to the level of developed nations in 1960. By 2005 China had realized 87 percent of its goals for the first stage of modernization, one percentage point higher than the previous year (Mahbubani 2008, 22). 

Fast forward today, Asian development can also be felt based from the achievements of two of its developing giant yet getting richer countries (China and India) with emerging markets on one side like Turkey, Indonesia, and the Philippines (TIP).  

Asia’s future luster as an economic superpower, despite its mixture of developing and developed economies prove that it remains bullish and dynamic as shown in the rapid social and economic performances of China and other Asian economies in the region.  

Remember that it only took 10 years for this dragon power to double its economic power, besting the two Atlantic superpowers as Britain developed for 58 years while its successor United States progressed for 47 years. China speedily developed than Japan which built-up its economy for 33 years. Obviously, China defied all the odds and gauged its power as the world’s factory.  

With continuous massive development and unprecedented progress, China has used its social and economic turn-around story as a window to simultaneously craft its intelligent economic and strategic policies in attracting investments and developments among and within its region. 

Ultimately, the pillars of Chinese development will always have a bearing on the Chinese approach as well illustrated by Deng’s comment: ‘Observe developments soberly, maintain our position, meet challenges calmly, hide our capacities and bide our time, remain free of ambition, never claim leadership’ (Jacques 2012, 361).

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Callao Man – Oldest Human Fossil in the Philippines

By Chester B Cabalza

Blogger's Notes:
Commentary of an Academic (Copyright @ 2013 by Chester B Cabalza. All Rights Reserved).

This is a scientific fact – the Callao man (still unknown whether a man or a woman), dated early as a 67,000-year-old human fossil based from the discovery of a human third metatarsal from the touristic first chamber of the Callao cave in northern Luzon.

However, the minimum age remains transitory as further scientific examinations and theoretical analysis are ongoing since the prime discoverer, Filipino archaeologist Armand Mijares and his competent team will soon release updated findings to the international scientific community.

Since the first publication of this paleontological and archaeological discovery in the Philippines in the highly esteemed Journal of Human Evolution (2010), Mijares et al placed our country again in the world scientific map which impacts on how we see our country’s and world prehistory.

Hopefully further archaeological research on other samples will help us rethink and rewrite our origins as this will push back our timeline for earliest human settlement and the oldest human fossil found in the Philippines since Robert Fox’s Tabon man (recent evidence shows it as a woman) in Palawan dated 42,000 years ago.

According to Mijares (2010), direct dating of the specimen using U-series ablation has provided a minimum age estimated 67,000 years ago. Its morphological features, as well as size and shape characteristics, indicate that the Callao metatarsal definitely belong to the genus Homo.

As an anthropologist myself, some important questions that can be probed from this discovery could be the possibility of Homo erectus in the Philippines that will impact waves of migration and peopling in the Philippines. So far in Asia, the Peking man from China and Java man in Indonesia are considered to belong in the genus Homo erectus.

Another “buzz” lately was the discovery of Homo floresiensis on the island of Flores in eastern Indonesia that has highlighted the possibilities of identifying new hominin species on the islands of the region. Interestingly, the recently unearthed fossils in Indonesia are touted as “the hobbit” for its midget sizes, perhaps caused by dwarfism and isolationism. Could this be probabale also in the case of the Callao man as he may also have suffered a genetic drift during the migration process?

Well, let’s find out later on what will the competent team of Mijares say on this as they are preparing for new findings about the Callao man. Let’s wait until the newest publication will be released in due time.

Just as when the academic community in the country felt in awe of the real score of the discovery, I was also mesmerized of the oldest human fossil excavated in my home province in Cagayan and being a staunch advocate of informed Philippine prehistory.

In 2011, when the National Defense College of the Philippines (NDCP) boldly reformed the composition of the Academic Board from consultant academics to permanent faculty members, being a newly tenured faculty of the College, I handled the Socio-Cultural Dimension of National Security.

In my view, given the maximum academic freedom to design my own module, I asked the Academic Board to include Philippine prehistory in my course, in my mission to dispel distorted views about our origins supported by scientific and archaeological discoveries to be interpreted later on by anthropologists and historians to immerse our graduate students to the importance of the past.

This is for elite military officers, senior government officials, and captains of the ship from private firms to critically know and understand better of our pre-historical facts in the context of my intense advocacy to reconstruct our strong identity as Filipinos and confidently pave our way to infrastructures of stronger nationhood. 

I immediately thought of inviting Dr Armand Mijares to lecture in my module because of his scientific breakthrough discovery. If Tabon man was discovered by an American archaeologist Robert Fox, Callao man is ably associated with Filipino archaeologist Armand Mijares, currently the director of the UP Archaeological Studies Program.

For the first time the NDCP welcomed an archaeologist in its august classroom. Some colleagues of mine were asking me what does an archaeologist doing in the premiere academic institution for defense and security. Definitely I convinced them of my good intent. The military students even tried to grill professor Mijares’s theoretical assumptions and archaeological fieldwork but in the end were awestruck with his discovery.

“He’s the Filipino Indiana Jones!” some of my senior graduate students from the government sector said after listening to his lecture. He already lectured twice in my module for two regular classes and hopefully he will do the same lectures for future regular classes upon my invitation.

In my initiative to get a wider audience for his discovery and return the full knowledge to my home province where the metatarsal was found, I thought of inviting again Mandy, as some would call Dr Mijares, to lecture his Callao man in front of Honorable Vice President Jejomar Binay at Coconut Palace in a forum set up.

As a Board of Trustee and Head of Research of the Ibanag Heritage Foundation Incorporated (IHFI) with VP Binay as our Chairman, I asked Commodore Artemio Arugay, the Executive Director of our said foundation to consider a talk on the Callao man.

In our brainstorming during one of our board meetings, we decided to include a slot for Dr Mijares, to present his latest findings (with limited facts because of a secrecy contract he signed with the influential science magazine), as we launched the first Council of Elders meeting of the foundation on December 27, 2012 which was also attended by Honorable Senator Juan Ponce Enrile.

After that, it was made known to us that indeed the oldest man in the country is found in Cagayan Valley. That made it so exciting for myriad of peoples in my region since VP Binay, a prominent Ibanag himself and has a soft heart for education and scientific discoveries is expected to help us in propagating this knowledge.

I remember Commodore Arugay texting me one time to ask for the contact number of Mandy. The Department of Tourism Region II through Director Blessida Diwa would want to mount an exhibit that will highlight the Callao man for a national tourism fair at SMX in Pasay City.

I thought that this is the beginning of spreading the good tidings. In most of my conversations with Commodore Arugay and some trustees of the board in IHFI, we are trying to convince the provincial board members in Cagayan and even the Congress through our progressive Honorable Representative Randy Ting to craft a board resolution or a bill that will legitimize the recognition of the Callao man as the oldest human fossil in the country.

I know there are more things to be done. As an academic and a board of trustee of our Ibanag heritage foundation, this is what I can do most to articulate a strong study on our country’s prehistory and gain national consciousness of our great ancestors.

In one of my papers, I have argued that the discovery of earliest hominid in the country showcases that we have much older beginnings and culture compared to some of our neighbors in the region. It also elucidates our concept of our national identity as a Filipino people. Our ancestors etched the path of our earliest beliefs, philosophies, and way of life. As recourse Philippine history should be rewritten in pursuit of a stronger national character and higher morale.

Friday, June 21, 2013

India Reopens Main Door

By Chester B Cabalza

Blogger's Notes:
Commentary of an Academic (Copyright @ 2013 by Chester B Cabalza. All Rights Reserved.) 


The jam packed public talk of India’s retired major general Vinod Saighal on India’ expanding maritime interests in Southeast Asia last June 18 (Wednesday) at UP Asian Center highlights Indian pivot to the East of the Malacca Straits; moving from its Look East policy to an Indo-Pacific projection based from the paper’s abstract.

The relevant RTD poses a question of can India provide balanced multipolarity in East (Northeast) and Southeast Asia? Pockets of communities from the academe, defense and diplomatic corps attended the said forum.

The solid ground of general Saighal’s paper attempts to discuss India’s plausible role as a multipolar balancer in the region. Obviously and consciously, the speaker and selected discussants magnified on the bigger chunk of China’s exposure to its smaller neighbors, whether in good or bad faith, as the latter continuously asserts its territorial reconfiguration and economic prowess in the region.

Highlights of the talk focused on India’s economic interests in the region; India-Pakistan relations; India’s partnership with major powers in the Indo-Pacific region such as Japan, Russia, Australia, and the US; India-ASEAN partnerships, and Philippines-India defense and maritime relations.

Some important questions covered specific issues on Philippines-India relations that slightly tackled ICTs and our country’s economic competitiveness, and people to people engagement of the two dynamic Asian democratic countries in Asia. The RTD ended after a genial comment of the current Indian ambassador to the Philippines expressing his message of strengthening our bilateral relations during the open forum. 

Listening to the talk if one is quite familiar to the dynamics in the pan monsoon Asia region only affirms one’s knowledge on the area of study. However, what is more intriguing is the fact that one’s previous assumptions of India’s maritime strengths, especially when shared to the public, may become a reality as India consciously intends to cement her strong presence in the most talked-about and vigorous region to date.

I am a staunch believer that the Philippines must engage seriously with India. Our relations with dynastic and imperial India predate our pre-colonial period. A lot of pre-historical archaeological findings excavated in our country geared towards Hindustic culture with primordial pieces of evidence suggesting influences of maritime Indianized kingdoms in Southeast Asia dated during the Indianization process in the region beginning from early anno domino. Linguistically, most Austronesian words in the Philippines are Sanskrit in origin. The baranganic political system led by rajah in our early communities could be a modified form of refined Indian political structures in the past.         

Past forward early this year, I received an email from an Indian copy desk editor of the Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Diplomatist magazine from New Delhi. I was not totally surprised that an Indian wrote me but rather on how they tap or recognized my research interest on India to get my nod in contributing to their prestigious magazine distributed mostly to circles of the diplomatic corps.

They assigned a topic for me on Philippines-India: Making Impressive Strides in Strengthening Ties. The contents of my1500 worded short essay contain current views on our defense relations and military exchange, robust economic and technological cooperation, strategic partnership, and strengthened ties with India as a way forward. (NDCP reprinted my article. It can be accessed at http://www.ndcp.edu.ph/publications/7%20CABALZA%20on%20PH-India.pdf)

In time of the magazine’s publication in April 2013, I also had the chance to visit India for the first time through the National Defense College of the Philippines Regional Security and Development Studies (NDCP-RSDS) that same month.

As a member of NDCP’s in-house or tenured faculty, we chose India primarily because of its strategic importance to our country. We visited key defense and security organizations and institutions in New Delhi (capital city), Mumbai (financial district), and Bangalore (India’s Silicon Valley). Subsequent socio-cultural tours to Agra (Taj Mahal) and Rajasthan (princely state of Jaipur) also followed.

The RSDS is done through rapid assessment, key informant interviews and secondary data gathering and analyses. We inculcate in our graduate students the fact that national security depends on the accurate perception of realities within the country itself and its various regional countries and the ability to develop and effectively pursue a strategy that meets the demands of these realities.

Thus, our renewed friendship was commemorated last October 2009 in celebration of the 60th anniversary of Philippines-India relations. This amicable gesture cemented the 57 year old Treaty of Friendship signed in Manila on July 11, 1952 between the two countries. It is but fitting to continuously  foster our relations as both countries become natural allies as we share together common democratic values - the Philippines being the first democracy in Asia while India is considered the largest democracy in the world.

However, beyond treatises and good relations, there are still rooms for improvement that the two countries can learn from each other. Given the economic momentum gained by the Philippines recently in the current Aquino administration, it has to doubly accelerate trade with India, an emerging economic superpower encapsulated in the formation of BRICS. In ASEAN, the Philippines seems to lag behind with its neighbors, apparently, signing less economic and trade agreements with India.

Forging our defense relations and military exchange with India is seen positively. A significant aspect of the bilateral relationship is the regular visit of the Indian Navy and coast guard ships to the Philippines.  We also have seen greater interaction in the areas of trade, investment, tourism, and education.

In the field of education, a pool of Indian alumni, if not the largest foreign graduates, holds MBA degrees from the Philippines Asian Institute of Management (AIM) and Indian pilots get competent trainings from our premier aviation schools. We also see continuous exchanges of military students in our respective defense colleges to reinforce camaraderie and intellectual exchange through security and military scholarships.

There are more interesting things to share in my blog about Philippines-India and/or India in general. As I teach strategic importance of India to the Philippines to my graduate students in NDCP comprising mostly of military officers, government officials, and CEOs from the private sector. Also, Asian traditions emphasizing greater India’s cultural and political importance in my graduate class at UP’s College of Social Sciences and Philosophy (CSSP), I came to realize that the Philippines and India should hand in hand and equally engage with each other at several fronts.

Given all the confidence and potentials each country has, both countries must strategically continue to seek assistance and learn from each other in the fields of defense infrastructure, industry development, business process outsourcing, life sciences, research technology,  medicine, tourism, and higher education.