Strengthening international relations

INTROSPECTIVE By Tony Katigbak

ASEAN Week is upon us and as world leaders trickle into the Philippines, we cross our fingers and watch with bated breath as the leaders of all the powerful nations in Asia and beyond come together to discuss relationships, best practices, and plans for the future. If all goes well, we will be entering a new era of partnerships, which could define how we approach international relations moving forward.

It’s no secret that our relationships with neighboring countries have been up and down since President Duterte was elected. Fiercely loyal to the Philippines the president has often been known to be brash against the country’s traditional allies like the United States favoring instead relationships with China and Russia. While some people have lauded his desire to be more independent, many others have criticized the president for speaking without thinking of the repercussions.

Personally I have always felt that we should give due importance to our relationships with countries that have always supported us in the past. And I don’t mean we have to rely on them for everything of course, but that we need to be diplomatic in terms of how we deal with those that want to help us. I don’t think it’s prudent for our leaders to be overly sensitive when other nations question things like the war on drugs or extrajudicial killings and jump the gun saying we no longer need them. Everyone is entitled to an opinion and naturally when people are dying in the streets it’s not a stretch that other world leaders may wonder if this is the proper approach to take in terms of handling the country’s drug problems.

In the end we have to realize that we are not alone in the world. I hope that during these important meetings, our president remembers that he has so much to gain and lose depending on how he approaches other world leaders. Though uncharacteristic for him, I hope he chooses diplomacy to get the best possible outcomes for the Philippines. After all, the economy has taken some heavy blows and the value of the peso has suffered quite dramatically in the past year. We need to begin making better strides in order to restore confidence in our business economy moving forward.

However, I do also see the president’s side when he says he wants to find ways to make the Philippines more independent of Western aide and dependence. I also wouldn’t want him to enter any lopsided agreements that aren’t for the benefit of the country. I believe that nations can all work together and find a win/win agreement. Here’s hoping that this summit begins opening the right doors and highlighting the right opportunities for the Philippines and helps build a stronger foundation for economic improvement in 2018 and beyond.

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And speaking of ASEAN, if you don’t have to leave your homes stay put! World leaders have begun trickling in since Sunday and the roads have been packed! I was listening to some friends and acquaintances sharing stories of “carmageddon” over the weekend and taking hours and hours to get to their destinations. While I understand that it’s impractical and a bit of a hassle, as I said in my previous piece it’s a small price to pay for this important event to go safely and smoothly.

And speaking of safely and smoothly, I think it’s important that we all do our part of follow the rules this week and do the best we can to make things easier on the security team handling the heavy task of securing all of our international guests. “Getting away” with circumventing the rules shouldn’t be something we are proud of and should never be something we brag about on social media.

I understand as much as everyone how much of a hassle it is to be caught in traffic for hours on end and how unproductive it is to sit in your car with your foot on the pedal for the entire afternoon, but we all knew this was probably going to happen this week and it would have been prudent for everyone to find potential work from home solutions. I hope this is something companies have taken into consideration as well. After all, we did have ample warning.

I read the story of actress Maria Isabel Lopez the other day and was startled by how brazenly she shared the fact that she broke the rules and “got away with it.” The actress ranted on her social media about the horrible traffic situation and shared how she removed the plastic barriers to designate the ASEAN lane and proceeded to drive down the delegate lane pretending to be a delegate and zipping through traffic. She even accompanied her post with videos to boot.

It’s bad enough that she thought to do that all – considering the safety and security implications – but that she thought to share it on social media really boggles my mind. It’s never a good time to share that you broke the rules and brag that you got away with it. The actress was quoted as saying that she was happy that the MMDA believed she was an actual delegate and seemed to revel in being “pasaway” even saying #belikemaria.

Unfortunately since Lopez shared her story on her social media account it soon got traction and the authorities caught wind of it and are now considering the consequences. The MMDA and the LTFRB are telling the LTO to consider suspending or revoking her license due to her violation and serious security breach and I don’t think they’d be too far off. While Lopez may not have meant any harm by her actions her blatant disregard for the rules shouldn’t be ignored. We all need to hold ourselves to a higher standard, especially when the eyes of the world are on us. An additional moral of the story – kids if you break the rules, don’t brag about it online.

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