U.S. President Donald Trump is correct in rejecting the option to engage in war with Iran and to instead pursue the peaceful diplomatic route. He met with Swiss President Ueli Maurer whose nation has served as liaison between the U.S. and Iran which do not have diplomatic relations.
Apparently ignoring some of his White House advisers pushing for outright conflict with Iran, he has opened the door fornegotiations with Tehran, after his apparent earlier mistake of withdrawing the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal in 2015 that in hindsight had at least kept the peace until now.
We are reminded of Trump’s recent efforts towards peace in Northeast Asia and his meeting in Singapore with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un which at least broke ground and is now paving the way for a likely but still most difficult long-drawn peaceful settlement in the Korean peninsula.
We have been to the Middle East on both sides of the Persian (Arab) Gulf in the last year, long after undertaking several economic development projects in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as a pioneering entrepreneur in the 1970s, operating the ports of Jeddah and Jubail as a prime contractor on both sides of the Arabian peninsula, drilling for oil in Ajman in the UAE, hospital projects, roads and housing in Iraq and Kuwait, that led to the employment of millions of Filipinos in the Middle East up to today.
We must congratulate President Trump for not heeding some of the advisers urging military conflict with Iran and instead indicating he is open to talks with the Iranian leadership.
As we have pointed out repeatedly a full-scale war on both sides of the Persian (Arab) Gulf involving Iran, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait,Yemen, Iraq, Syria, and most likely including Israel in a wide-ranging Middle East conflict would be disastrous and wreck much of the great economic and industrial gains in the region, painfully achieved over the years.
We wish to congratulate the winners of our recently-concluded May 13 Philippine elections. To those who won and others who did not make it, may we quote the late U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy when he lost the 1976 Democratic Party’s presidential nomination to Jimmy Carter, the “Peanut Farmer from Georgia,”whobecame a great president. Kennedy said “For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.”
Indeed, when one throws his hat into the political ring, he should be prepared to lose, as ultimately, it is the people who decide a politician’s fate in the elections.
As a politician for many years, having won the Speakership five times, the first in Asia, indeed we have fought many political battles, where we won some and lost some, including the Presidency in 1998, where we came out second in the field of ten.
As a public servant, we have eye-witnessed, even taken part, in ephocal events in our country’s life. We have known up-close, men and women who have shaped our country’s destiny for good or ill.
We also initiated laws and programs that have become landmarks and game-changers in our country’s economic history.
We are most proud of our historic Dollar Remittance Program that killed the dollar black market and that now earns the Philippines some $30-billion a year; the Bases Conversion Law; and the Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) Law.
The game-changer Bases Conversion Law has turned the former American military bases on Luzon Island—the biggest of them being Clark Airfield and Subic Naval Base, Baguio’s Camp John Hay and La Union’s Camp Wallace and Poro Point—into thriving export zones and free ports with extensive employment potential.
Under one composite legislation, the initiative also converted the Filipino military camp Fort Bonifacio into the now booming satellite city, Bonifacio Global City (BGC), and the old Nichols Air Base into the now Resorts World Manila.
We were also privileged with others to author the landmark B-O-T (Build-Operate-Transfer) Law, which has become a model for the other developing countries and the formula for “Private-Public Partnerships.” In the Philippines the law has made possible private investments and public-private partnerships in infrastructure projectsvalued in excess of $30 billion as early as the mid-1990’s.
Now at age 82, we are also proud that as a 30-year-old Minister and Economic and Press Counselor at the Philippine Embassy in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City), Vietnam during the Vietnam War, we conceived of, designed, and implemented the historic Dollar Remittance Program for the Philippine overseas workers, which now raises more than $35-billion a year for the Philippines, continuously saving the Philippine economy during recurrent crises, from the major 1970 devaluation through the dark years of Martial Law, through the Asian financial crisis, and the impeachment and coup attempts during the Estrada and Arroyo years, and which program has become a modelfor many Third World countries.
We are most grateful to our beloved constituents in Pangasinan, my colleagues in the House of Representatives and counterparts in the Senate, and the Filipino people for giving us the privilege to serve our country as Congressman in the 7th and 8th Congresses, then as Speaker of the House of Representatives five-times, during the 9th, 10th, 12th, 13th, and 14th Congresses. My wife Gina, who also served for two terms, and we are proud of our son Congressman Christopher who won a second congressional term last week.
Our International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP), which we founded and launched in Manila in September 2000, is postponing to a later date this year the Special Workshop on Media which we initially scheduled on June 13-15, 2019 in Vladivostok, Russia.
We received a letter recently from Sen. Andrey Klimov, Vice Chairman of ICAPP and Deputy Secretary General for International Relations of the ruling United Russia Party, requesting us to postpone the ICAPP media conference as Moscow has scheduled an urgent meeting of the General Council of the United Russia Party to be presided by its Chairman, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.
The ICAPP Special Workshop on Media, which was supposed to be hosted by Sen. Klimov and United Russia Party in the Russian Far East, is under the auspices of the ICAPP Media Forum, one of our subsidiary groups in ICAPP.
We are happy to note that the current Co-Chairman of the ICAPP Media Forum is the Philippines’ Roger Oriel, a veteran journalist and publisher of the Asian Journal, which is circulated in various cities in the U.S. including separate editions in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and New York. He is also the publisher of Balikbayan magazine.
We are also proud that the former Co-Chair of the ICAPP Media Forum is also a Filipino, the respected writer and Philippine Star columnist Carmen Pedrosa, whose late husband Alberto Pedrosa was our Ambassador to Belgium and Luxembourg.
Besides the ICAPP Media Forum, the other subsidiary groups of ICAPP are the ICAPP Youth Wing, ICAPP Women’s Wing, ICAPP-COPPPAL (Asian-Latin American) Business Council, ICAPP Program for Disasters Assistance (IPDA), Asia-Europe Political Forum (AEPF), and the Asian Cultural Council (ACC). The AEPF just met in Colombo, Sri Lanka last month and ACC was launched in Siem Reap, Cambodia last January.
We also have a working partnership with the Latin American and Caribbean political parties under COPPPAL or Association of Political Parties of Latin America and the Caribbean; African political partiesunder CAPP (Council of African Political Parties); and a number of European political parties.
We in ICAPP are initiating a working partnership with the U.S. political parties, the Democratic Party and Republican Party, which we hope will eventually lead to a globalorganization of political parties.
The ICAPP has offices in Manila and Seoul, where the Secretariat is based, now led by Secretary General Park Ro-byug, formerly Korean Ambassador to Moscow, who succeeded Chung Eui-yong, now the able South Korean National Security Adviser under President Moon Jae-in who has been active recently in promoting talks with North Korea.
The ICAPP represents some 350 ruling, opposition, and independent political parties from 52 countries in Asia.
This columnist is the Founding Chairman and Chairman of its 39-member Standing Committee since 2000 and we are scheduling ICAPP’s 20th Anniversary in Manila in November 2020.