Sep 152016

London, U.K. — I understand the president has clarified the Philippines will remain committed to its treaty obligations. The issue of US troops leaving Mindanao was overblown. My sources say that US withdrawal started last year. Moreover, there are less than a hundred left. Even this matter has been given a different spin by our officials, stating it was the president’s concern for their safety that made him say what he said. Even presidential spokesman Abella joined the chorus by saying that the President was misunderstood and there was no need to fret as no timetable was given.

For clarification, the presence of US special forces in Mindanao does not arise from EDCA, but from a UN resolution calling on all countries to combat global terrorism. As far as I am concerned, the president is committed to its treaty obligations. Do not confuse the Mindanao issue with EDCA.

Once again, the Palace spinmasters have failed to consolidate matters with all concerned. Result is a halo-halo of explanations. As I have said before, “message discipline” is needed and “one messenger.”

The president’s impromptu announcements, laced with impolite statements, confounds all of us.  He really should forewarn his staff before any major speech. Russian Vladimir Putin once said: “When one crosses the borders of good manners, it is a manifestation of one’s weakness, not their strength.” Many of us have expressed the hope that former presidents like FVR should tactfully volunteer guidance on foreign policy matters. Digong was not elected because of his diplomatic expertise.

Comments from The Economist

On Wednesday, The Economist published a commentary saying business leaders in the Philippines and around the world are becoming increasingly concerned President Duterte’s domestic and foreign policies might impact the country’s current economic gains.

On military defence, international media reported President Duterte said in a televised speech on Tuesday that China and Russia had agreed to give the Philippines a 25-year soft loan to buy military equipment. Additionally, there are also reports President Duterte said the Philippines would stop patrolling the South China Sea alongside the US Navy and would focus on combating drugs and terrorism instead.

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“In other words, Mr Duterte is not just crass and brutal; he is alarmingly volatile.”

Senior citizens travelling abroad

As a 77-year old going to London, I believe I should forewarn others the experience is not the same as with younger people. In my case, I have need for oxygen due to my lung condition and I have need for a wheelchair. Advance reservations were made for my flights to Hong Kong and our connection to London via Cathay Pacific. Medical forms were duly signed by my doctor specifying my inflight oxygen requirements. Cathay was impressive with their response and personalized service by the flight attendants. Cathay provides oxygen free of charge unlike their rival regional airline which charges around 150 percent of the cost of a one-way ticket, which they place on another seat.  Philippine Airlines suggests you bring your own oxygen.

Our flight from Manila to Hongkong had excellent food. Regrettably, their food on the London leg although plentiful, left much to be desired and often not edible. Again, the personalized service of the flight crew was commendable.

Upon arrival in London Heathrow Airport Terminal 3, we experienced challenges which I never had in the past. The reserved wheelchair was not available immediately. Moreover, they forgot the second wheelchair for my wife. Finally, one appeared but the second wheelchair lacked an attendant. We were then transferred to a buggy with three other passengers. The buggy took us to another waiting area where we were told to wait for attendants who would take us on wheelchairs to immigration and the luggage carousel. After 20 minutes, we gave up and walked to immigration. Fortunately, I had my own portable oxygen machine, but even with this, my oxygen level dropped below 80 percent, 98-99 percent is the normal rate for the average person. From landing in Heathrow to getting in the car, it was a harrowing experience for me because I was forced to walk long distances which is not good for my condition.  

Despite advance and careful planning, one will always experience discomfort and inconvenience in navigating large airports. This may thrill our airport officials but I have to say that Terminal 3 in Heathrow was worse, than NAIA 3, primarily attributable to personnel who were totally indifferent to passengers’ needs. Overall, being in Terminal 3 was like being in a developing country. I would suggest that Heathrow, at least Terminal 3 is a national embarrassment.

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