UK Scholarship Program to Allow More Pinoys

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NOW, more Filipinos can have the chance to be admitted in a United Kingdom flagship scholarship program as additional slots will be opened to Filipinos in the Chevening Scholarships program for the academic year 2015 to 2016.

In a statement, the British Embassy in Manila announced that the number of Filipino scholars in the program will double in the following year due to an additional investment of PhP2.4 billion to the program globally.

The amount will be invested over a period of two years to ensure an additional 1,000 scholarships will be available globally, the embassy said.

“We want to receive more and more varied applications from all across the Philippines,” said British Ambassador Asif Ahmad.

“We are encouraging people who can be leaders in a wide range of areas from governance to economics, from peace building to trade, from justice to climate change and energy,” he added.

Applications for the academic year 2014-2015 have already closed, but the program will open once more to potential scholars on August 1 for Academic Year 2015-2016.

Philippine sponsors for the program this year include the Bank of the Philippine Islands, GlaxoSmithKline Philippines Inc., First Pacific Leadership Academy and San Miguel Corporation.

For Academic Year 2013-2014, a total of 11 Filipino scholars were chosen to pursue studies in finance and economics, environment and sustainability, trade, health and law in the UK.

The Chevening Program is a prestigious scholarship program that allows students outside the UK to pursue any one-year masters degree courses at any of the universities in the UK.

A special feature of Chevening in the Philippines this year will be ensuring it contributes to the UK’s support of the Mindanao peace process.

According to the statement, the aim is to identify at least five scholars in the 2015-2016 batch “who can make a positive difference to realizing the vision of the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro.”

The Suharto Dictatorship and The Salim Group

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The following are excerpts from Chopping The Global Tentacles of The Suharto Oligarchy by Dr. George J. Aditjondro. This article was presented at the conference Towards Democracy in Indonesia, at the University of Auckland, 2000 April 1. The author is a sociologist and a well-known critic of the Suharto dictatorship.

“…Suharto must have intentionally involved so many of his civilian and military co-workers in his family businesses, and thereby created an oligarchy, where most of his closest confidants were also tainted with various forms of corruption…”

“Even family members of Ret. General Benny Murdani, who was sacked from his post as armed forces commander in the early 1990s for criticizing the president’s children’s business appetite has three brothers involved companies close to the Suharto family. One of them, Harry Murdani, is a co-shareholder in the integrated crocodile farm-piggery-and-orchid farm of PT Sinar Culindo Perkasa on Bulan Island near Singapore, with Anthony Salim, Tommy Suharto, and Timmy Habibie. Two other brothers, Henricus Sandy Murdani and Ir. A. Mudjono Murdani, are involved in PT Kodeco Batulicin Plywood in South Kalimantan. This Indo-Korean joint venture has formed a cement factory with the Salim Group to supply power to the plywood factory. Furthermore, Mudjono Murdani is also involved in PT Cipta Teknik Abadi, a palm oil exporter which is co-owned by the family of Ret. General Yoga Sugama, former intelligence chief whose wife is related to the late Mrs. Tien Suharto.”

“Thus we see how systematically Suharto formed his oligarchy during his 32-years of tenure as Indonesia’s president, which eventually functioned as his ‘insurance’ after his political downfall. Too many heads may roll, if Suharto is taken to court, and he definitely knows that…”

“In the second decade of Suharto’s power, Suharto relatives and cronies began to set up overseas-based companies, where they could invest the capital accumulated domestically. The largest of these companies is the First Pacific Group, which was set up in Hong Kong by Liem Sioe Liong in 1991 but listed in Liberia. The Suharto family is represented in this group by Sudwikatmono, Suharto’s cousin and half-brother, who also represents the Suharto family interests in the Salim Group, the domestic business enterprise of Liem Sioe Liong and the Suharto family…”

“Later, after the First Pacific Group had evolved into an international conglomerate, with total assets of US$ 11.38 billion profits after taxation of US$ 427.5 million in 1998, the Suharto children themselves began to set up their overseas business empires in oil and gas marketing (Bambang & Tommy), as well as toll roads (Tutut).”

Paje: An Hour of Voluntary Darkness to Tame Climate Change

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Environment Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje has urged Filipinos to join millions around the world in marking Earth Hour by switching off the lights in support of a global campaign to combat climate change, which has been cited as possible culprit behind mega-storms like Yolanda.

Paje said the country’s experience with Yolanda gives every citizen more reason to take part in the observance of Earth Hour on March 29 from 8:30 to 9:30 in the evening.

“The overwhelming devastation wrought by super typhoon Yolanda serves to remind us that climate change is a serious issue that we can’t simply ignore and a global event such as Earth Hour is a valuable tool to raise awareness of climate change and environmental issues,” Paje said.

Dubbed as the single, largest, symbolic mass participation event in the world, Earth Hour is held every last Saturday of March on the initiative of the Washington-based environmental group World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF).  Those participating in Earth Hour will shut off all lights and used appliances and electronics in support of efforts to solve the problems related to climate change and global warming.

“An hour of voluntary darkness will help us tame climate change,” Paje said.

Since it first joined the event in 2009, the Philippines has consistently registered the most number of participating towns and cities, earning the distinction as an “Earth Hour Hero Country.”

This year, the country was chosen as one of the beneficiaries of the first ever “Earth Hour Blue,” an international crowd-funding and crowd-sourcing effort initiated by the WWF that aims to provide bancas for Yolanda victims.

Under the project, coastal communities affected by the super typhoon would be provided with resources to build new and efficient non-motorized boats with fiberglass-reinforced plastic hulls.  The construction of the first 60 boats is expected to be completed by mid-April.

Paje lauded the project for using a technology that is earth-friendly as it eliminates the need to use wood sourced from forests.

“The project will leave no carbon footprint and will encourage fisherfolk to engage in sustainable small-scale fishing,” he said.

Earth Hour started in 2007 in Sydney, Australia when 2.2 million residents switch off the lights of their homes and offices in order to pledge their support to saving the environment. The trend soon caught on and several other countries participated across the globe in the initiative. At present, there are more than 150 countries that actively observe Earth Hour every year.

What Is China Doing?

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WHAT seems evident is that China is taking small but provocative steps to assert her sovereignty over what we call the West Philippine Sea by shooing away the fishermen and some of our naval vessels who were sent to resupply some of our troops. She knows that we are no match for her much more modern and fully equipped naval vessels and so when she pushed, we backed away. She is obviously testing the waters by escalating her control over the shoals and the sea.

It would seem that what we will likely see over the next several months will be more provocative actions from China but actions carefully calibrated not to produce a reaction from the US. China in all likelihood feels, and correctly, that the US for all of the rhetoric is not eager to engage China in these waters, what with the Crimean problem the US is also facing.

In this latter case, Crimea is at the border of Russia and it was easy for Russia to mobilize forces apart from the fact that it would seem there is much Crimean sympathy to reconnect with Russia. Of course, historically, Crimea was part of Russia until her recent collapse and dismemberment.

I frankly don’t believe Russia will give in at all for all the sanction threats and other actions that Obama might threaten Russia with from 10,000 miles away. But for the US to take military action seems far-fetched. Maybe many condemning speeches at the UN.  But they can’t even pass a resolution at the UN Security Council because Russia is a permanent member who will veto any such resolution.

So the carefully controlled actions of China in the South Asian seas will use minimum force, or no force at all, just threats and bluffs and sneaky moves which she has been doing anyway from quite a few years back. It will be more of simply establishing her presence because we are incapable of doing the same or resisting such efforts and our getting used to it.

Troops in small islets or shoals are ineffective if unable to move or realistically defend themselves when push comes to shove. All of these moves gain for China the dominion of the seas and the islets and shoals even if not overt total control which they have as an objective. This is the pragmatic element of China’s moves in the area. While the US appetite for confrontation is weak, China realizes that militarily they are still behind the US in rather important ways.

Furthermore, more military actions at this time can hasten the establishment of US forces here in the Far East which would make China’s objective, total South Asian hegemony a much more difficult objective. In sum, the conclusion for the moment seems to be one little step at a time while it is not yet easily quantifiable what the consequences of reckless action on China’s part might trigger. In other words, presently China has more to lose should a shooting war break out. But that will not always be the case. By 2020 or even a little earlier, the equation might be truly different. The Chinese economy will likely overtake the US by or before then, and the military equation might well be tipped more in China’s favor as the US downsizes her forces and China keeps on aggressively expanding her capabilities.

Can technology make up for a smaller military size so that the US can stay significantly ahead of China? Some Israeli senior cabinet member, obviously with the PM’s blessing said that the US is showing a weak posture to the world and many people are questioning the value of US commitments overseas.

Pres. Obama is supposed to come to our shores soon and we are shortly supposed to have some agreement about co-sharing our military bases with her. I am not sure exactly what it means. Co-sharing the bases is rather impractical to begin with and it would be very hard for our AFP to retain control of our military bases when used by two sovereign nations and one is much more competent and better equipped than the other.

Will the US flag fly under the Philippine flag or will the flags fly together? Will the situation be like in corporations, there will be two co-equal heads? It looks like a situation looking for trouble. Of course, others might argue and say what choice do we really have? We can’t play ball with China, she wants to eat us up. All the rhetoric about mutual respect and friendship is just that, rhetoric! Well, the outcome seems not too difficult to predict. The US will not risk a bloody confrontation with China.

I wish that cooler heads handled this problem with China without handing the seas to China without a whimper from the start and did not add to the heat of the day with ill considered if not bravado statements. If both sides end up boxed in a tight corner, everyone’s guess about the outcome will be just as good as any other! But I suggest this is time for some contingency planning on a rather wide level. We cannot see the problem as something only affecting the seas. We will see a few other areas regarding our domestic economy that need to truly plan ahead with wisdom and determination.