Wednesday, July 30, 2008

SIFE sows hope, unlike FSGO

Political Tidbits
SIFE sows hope, unlike FSGO
By Belinda Olivares-Cunanan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:39:00 07/29/2008

As I wrote this column, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s State of the Nation (SONA) still had to be delivered but it was already anticipated in a most adverse way by her critics. A survey showed that less than half of the people believed that the programs in various Arroyo SONAs had been fulfilled.

There’s also the group of former senior officials of various administrations, including Ms Arroyo’s, who formed the Former Senior Government Officials (FSGO). The FSGO termed the Arroyo administration a “stolen, not a strong republic” and accused it of “seven curses” including “robbing the nation of dignity, unity, hope and future.” The grim picture critics paint stems obviously from the SWS survey showing that President Arroyo has the lowest acceptance rating of all presidents since the 1986 EDSA People Power uprising.

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On the accusation of the “stolen” Arroyo presidency, the President’s election lawyer Romulo Macalintal asserts that this is a baseless accusation. He said the Supreme Court put the “ultimate end” to it when it dismissed Sen. Loren Legarda’s election protest against Vice President Noli de Castro. The ballots studied in the Legarda protest case were the very same ballots used in the Fernando Poe Jr.-Gloria Arroyo presidential contest, but “not a single ballot had been shown to prove that a vote for FPJ was counted for President Arroyo,” Macalintal said.

But if the FSGO won’t believe Macalintal, they should ask the bishops, some of whom are with them in the anti-Arroyo campaign, about a study the bishops undertook three years ago on the results of the 2004 election. The three high-profile oppositionist bishops who made that study came to the conclusion that Ms Arroyo really won that election, though not by the million-vote margin she claims, but by about 600,000. The bishops’ top-secret study was circulated selectively, but the FSGO can get a copy—if it wants to.

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Increased hunger is not hard to appreciate as inflation has shot up with the skyrocketing of oil and rice prices, from about 3 percent at the start of this year to 11.5 percent. Prices of commodities have increased, and the reality is that some Filipinos are experiencing more hunger now, which is why those whom God has given more should reach out to the poor. But as to the feeling of despair and hopelessness that the prophets of doom constantly drum into people’s minds, I don’t see it. For one thing, so many public and private infrastructures are going up around the country, which means more jobs. In the Global City in Fort Bonifacio alone, two five-star hotels are going up. Around the country, the government is completing so many ports, international airports, highway networks, etc. If 170 congressmen are supporting Ms Arroyo, one big reason may be that they know all the projects going on in their localities.

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Cecile Alvarez and I got a ringside view of countryside progress last Sunday when we interviewed on our dzRH radio program former congressman and now Cagayan de Oro City Mayor Constantino Jaraula, my friend from our days at the University of the Philippines (UP). He called me up during his brief visit to Manila to say he agrees with my views on the bishops’ stand against artificial family planning, and we immediately “hostaged” him for a situationer on Northwestern Mindanao.

Jaraula talked about his projects to revive the Cagayan de Oro center, including putting up a “Golden Mile” walkway along the riverbank all the way to Gaston Park. He also spoke of the building boom in the city and environs, with a new 22-story hotel rising in the Lim Khet Khai commercial center and another hotel operated by the Koreans near the airport, plus several huge commercial complexes/subdivisions, one of which sells 1,000-1,500 sq m lots for “executive farming” at the foot of Mt. Kitanlad.

One of the most dynamic mixed land-use projects is run by my UP colleagues Walter and Anabelle Brown. Jaraula also noted how passengers and high-value crops from Misamis are ferried daily aboard roll-on, roll-off vessels from Cagayan de Oro all the way to Leyte and Samar along the Pacific maritime highway and to Manila and Luzon.

Obviously the folks there and in other regions don’t have time to brood over the “despair and hopelessness” peddled by jobless former Cabinet members. They are too busy with their own lives and working.

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Another sign of hope is the Filipinas SIFE National Exposition this Saturday, Aug. 2, at the Dusit Thani Hotel in Makati City where 20 schools will vie for the honor to represent the country in the annual SIFE World Cup in Singapore on Oct. 1-3, 2008.

SIFE, which stands for Students in Free Enterprise, was founded by the US-based National Leadership Institute. The local chapter was organized only last February, but it’s already working with over 50 schools around the country.

SIFE students teach entrepreneurship, financial literacy, business ethics, success skills and market economics, to improve the lives of their communities. According to my nephew, Rick Olivares, SIFE executive director, the students’ stories “are nothing short of inspiring.” For instance, students of Baliuag University in Pulilan, Bulacan, have been helping community housewives with their education and to start small income-generating businesses.

The SIFE team of Lorma Colleges in San Fernando City, La Union, has been helping the Wallace Poro Sea Urchin Cooperators Association make the most of their business, aside from teaching them basic accounting skills and on-line business. At Mariano Marcos State University, Engineered Kawayan Technology is helping local businesses improve the quality of their bamboo-based products through superior finishing and design.

SIFE chair Joey Leviste Jr. stressed that what attracted him to it is its capacity to mobilize college students in entrepreneurship while helping their local communities. SIFE schools compete for the best social entrepreneurship program and the national champions of 47 countries compete for the annual SIFE World Cup.

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