By Alex P. Vidal
“Only a strong economy can create higher asset values and sustainably good returns for savers.”—Ben Bernanke
MAGNIFICENT things can happen when Ilonggo leaders shun politics, collect their talents and resources together, collaborate with business specialists, and barnstorm the country’s capital city to share the vision and mission of the region, and promote Iloilo and Guimaras as investment and, to some extent, ecotourism hubs.
Most of the resource speakers may be political personalities, but their agenda, visions, and sentiments are geared toward economic boom and prosperity for Iloilo and Guimaras.
Nothing more. Nothing less.
We’re referring to the forthcoming Metro Iloilo-Guimaras Investment Forum on Nov. 20, 2023 at the Conrad Hotel in Manila.
In holding the first forum of such magnitude outside Western Visayas, Iloilo and Guimaras leaders hope to achieve a giant leap with a crisp battlecry: Invest. Grow. Expand.
With a consolidated land area of 1,124 square kilometers, Metro Iloilo-Guimaras is composed of Iloilo City, the island province of Guimaras and the municipalities of Cabatuan, Sta. Barbara, Pavia, Leganes, Oton and San Miguel.
The areas are blessed with a rich pool of human resources in its population of 1.007 million, with competencies in a wide range of academic, scientific, and technical skills.
The event had been conceptualized in the past by previous business and political leaders in the region, but when it comes to panoramic impact and consolidation, nothing could come closer to the Metro Iloilo-Guimaras Investment Forum which will be unwrapped for the first time in a wider and systematic scale.
Iloilo City and the surrounding municipalities are interconnected by excellent roads, among them the 15 kilometer, 4-lane President Corazon Aquino Avenue, commonly referred to as the Circumferential Road, which has not only eased traffic congestion but has opened new areas for development.
The economic and investment conclave will be spearheaded by the Metro Iloilo- Guimaras Economic Development Council (MIGEDC), which is in partnership with the Iloilo Economic Development Foundation, Inc. (ILED).
Interestingly, despite his retirement from public service, former senator Franklin Drilon will be one of the keynote speakers along with Iloilo city Mayor Geronimo “Jerry” Trenas, Iloilo Governor Arthur “Toto” Defensor Jr., Guimaras Governor JC Rahman Nava, and Ryan Washburn, mission director of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Will the Filipinos be alarmed by the apparent sweetheart undertone that attended the recent meeting in the APEC Summit between Chinese leader Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden in San Franciso?
Daniel Ten Kate of Bloomberg’s Balance of Power has stressed that in a room full of business executives, Xi Jinping didn’t shy away from addressing a concern that has increasingly absorbed companies, governments and military strategists: Are the US and China headed for war?
The answer, according to the Chinese president, is a resounding no—at least if it’s up to him. Beijing just wants to be friends with the US, he said yesterday, and “has no intention to challenge the United States or to unseat it.”
Underscoring the point, Xi said: “China does not seek spheres of influence and will not fight a cold war or a hot war with anyone.”
The “hot war” reference appeared as a bid to lower tensions over Taiwan, the biggest long-term flashpoint between the world’s largest economies, and other places like the South China Sea.
Kate said while Xi has used the term previously, it’s the first time since then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan prompted China to respond with unprecedented military exercises surrounding the island, which the Chinese leader has vowed to take back by force if necessary.
Xi didn’t stop there: He also spoke about his time in Iowa, even mentioning the address where he stayed in his younger years, speaking about all the ways Americans and Chinese were similar. And he announced that pandas are heading back to American zoos — fully leveraging one of the most potent manifestations of Chinese soft (and cuddly) power.
Kate added: “It’s no accident Xi is trying to play nice. China’s economy is struggling to regain its footing after the Communist Party’s Covid controls took a toll. And foreign investors are looking elsewhere, as talk of war, export controls, corruption probes and executives being arrested all paint a grim picture.
“To be sure, it’s going to take more than a speech for Xi to reverse the downward slide in US-China ties.”
The fragility of the relationship was underscored by US President Joe Biden’s impromptu remark to reporters calling Xi a “dictator” — a word that stole the headlines and generated concern the atmosphere could sour yet again.
But for now, at least, Xi is back to playing peacemaker.
This developed as the Philippine Government nixed China’s demand to give them prior notice about resupply missions in the Filipinos’ own territory in the South China Sea.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has insisted the operations, including the “upkeep” of a grounded navy ship, are legitimate and called on China to remove all “illegal structures” it built within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ), cease reclamation in those areas and be accountable for the damage the activities caused.
China has repeatedly accused the Philippines of illegally entering its waters without its permission during its missions to transport food and water to Filipino soldiers living aboard a navy ship that Manila grounded at the disputed Second Thomas Shoal. The atoll is called Ayungin by the Philippines and Renai Reef by China.
“We are being asked to give prior notification each time we conduct a resupply mission to Ayungin Shoal. We will not do so,” DFA spokesperson Teresita Daza said in a statement.
China claims sovereignty over nearly the entire South China Sea, pointing to a line on its maps that cuts into the EEZs of Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia. Taiwan, which China also claims as part of its territory, has said it does not accept Beijing’s maps.
The Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2016 said the line on China’s maps had no legal basis, which Beijing rejects.
The Second Thomas Shoal lies 190 km (118 miles) off the island of Palawan, well within the Manila’s EEZ.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two daily newspapers in Iloilo.—Ed)