By Raïssa Robles
Sorry, I haven’t been able to blog.
I’ve been busy chasing so many deadlines, so many forums, briefings and interviews.
A case of information and coverage overload.
Yesterday, especially, my schedule was INSANE.
I had to get up before dawn to get to Resorts World across NAIA Terminal 3. No, not to gamble in , but to stalk Tony Kwok, Hong Kong’s former chief graft-buster. It was my first time to see him. He was very slightly built. Mousy even.
And yet he was able to clean up one of the most corrupt places on earth. He was there to give a speech at the first ever Integrity Summit in Manila – where corporations came together for the first time to promise altogether not to bribe and do under-the-able deals to get business done with government.
Security was especially tight because President Benigno Aquino III was due to arrive before noon to deliver the keynote address.
I had to give Aquino a miss, so I could listen to Chinese Ambassador Liu Jianchao address the Mining Conference at Sofitel Philippine Plaza by the bay. I was banking on the fact that Aquino would later have his speech up on his website while that would probably not be the case with Ambassador Liu.
Did you know that President Aquino SKIPPED the Mining Conference in order to address the Integrity Summit?
Tells you what his priorities are. However, Aquino did have Chamber of Mines president Philip Romualdez and other mining executives in tow in his recent visit to China. So I guess that sends a signal to the industry that he cares.
Ambassador Liu even cracked a joke during his speech. He said that to give Aquino a breather during his Beijing trip, he accompanied him to the Great Wall of China. There, he heard Aquino tell Public Works Secretary Gabriel Singson – I want you to build that for me when we get home.
I personally agree. And Spratlys would be a good place to start building.
To lighten the mood of the miners after Chile’s ambassador Roberto Mayorga regaled the crowd how his country now obtains nearly half its taxes from mines, Chamber of Mines president Philip Romualdez said,
I’m almost tempted to move to Chile…we can go shopping in Chile…
Romualdez enviously pointed out that Chile exports US$60 billion worth of minerals, compared to the US$3 billion the Philippines exports.
Then Philip Romualdez, who is married to Philippine Daily Inquirer president Sandy Prieto, added:
The girls are pretty there, too. Joking lang. Inquirer reporters, don’t print that.
I could not stay for what I knew would be a delicious lunch.
I was running late for a third appointment – lunch with Irish parliamentarian Dominic Hannigan in Makati. I wanted to meet him and listen to him because, well, for several reasons. He is today the chief implementor of the Good Friday Agreement which stopped the centuries-old conflict in Northern Ireland. Second, the Good Friday Agreement was often being cited as a good agreement by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front negotiators. And okey, third, I wanted to see with my own eyes whether Dominic Hannigan was really drop-dead handsome as his photos and YouTube videos showed him to be.
I wasn’t disappointed in all three. But more about Hannigan later.
The fourth event I wanted to attend was a Mindanao peace forum sponsored by the NGO volunteer group VSO Bahaginan, where Hannigan was the main speaker and one of the reactors was an MILF negotiator, Aboud Syed Lingga.
It was the oddest forum I had ever attended – but odd in a good way.
You see, all in one room at the Asian Institute of Management was a rebel negotiator (actually two because Abdulla Camlian was also there); a head of a Christian civil society group based in Iligan City whose members did not appreciate the deadly rampage of some MILF commanders in 2009; and a military general whose mission until recently was to fight the MILF.
It was the first time I saw Major General Carlos Holganza up close. The man was built like a tank.
But yesterday, flowers were coming out of his mouth. He told the gathered crowd that the military was slowly changing in its attitude but it was still a struggle. It was a total mind reset to focus on the people instead of the enemy in battle.
Holganza is the new head of the Armed Forces National Development Support Command – the unit that tries to win over the hearts and minds of the people away from the rebels.
Later, to explain his mission, Holganza whipped out an I Pad containing photos of his Command’s latest projects.
This must be progress, I thought.
To have all of them in one room talking civilly with one another and not ending up with a bloodbath. Instead, we were eating pasta, breaded fish fillet and cream puffs together.