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Death in the House; Rainbow Coalition and BOT; bases to cities

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PEACE-MAKER

By FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE JOSE C. DE VENECIA, JR.

Jose C. De Venecia Jr.

Jose C. De Venecia Jr.

A few days ago, with wife Gina, we joined the Albano family of Isabela, friends and colleagues in paying our last tributes to an old friend, Congressman Rodolfo Albano Jr., who passed away last week. He was 85.

Rudy Albano, a veteran legislator, served as congressman for some 30 years, succeeding his distinguished father Rodolfo Sr., one of the pioneering leaders in the Cagayan Valley. Rudy and we both first became congressmen in 1969, during the 7th Congress, and served until 1972 when martial law was declared. We were then in our early 30s.

Some of our colleagues in the pre-martial law House of Representatives were the veteran Cornelio Villareal of Capiz, Jose B. Laurel Jr. of Batangas, Nicanor Yniguez of Leyte, and Ramon Mitra, Jr. of Palawan, who all became speakers of the House; Jose Zulueta of Iloilo, Neptali Gonzales of Rizal, who both became Senate president; Roque Ablan of Ilocos Norte, Floro Crisologo of Ilocos Sur, and parliamentary expert Raul Daza and industrialist Danding Cojuangco of Samar and Tarlac, respectively, who are now in their mid-80’s and are still fit and healthy.

When we formed the historic Rainbow Coalition in the House in 1992, at the start of the Fidel Ramos presidency, Rudy Albano was our indefatigable assistant majority leader and became majority leader during our second term as speaker of the House from 1995 to 1998, and helped enable us to be elected speaker five times. “Manong” Rudy’s commitment to public service is being continued by his distinguished sons, Rep. Antonio Albano and Gov. Rodolfo Albano III.

In the historical, political, and economic context, the House of Representatives in 1992 was still in the midst of a difficult transition. Thereafter followed the positive successful terms of Speakers Manuel Villar, Arnulfo Fuentebella, Prospero Nograles, Feliciano Belmonte, Jr., Pantaleon Alvarez, and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who earlier was president of the republic.

We also had to initiate reforms on multiple fronts. Many problems claimed high priority — zero economic growth, widespread unemployment and underemployment, prolonged brownouts, a frightening three-pronged insurgency threat from the Communist CPP-NPA, the Islamic secession-threatening Muslim National Liberation Front (MNLF) in Mindanao, and the pressing right-wing military RAM-YOU-SFP mutiny.

Our historic Rainbow Coalition passed 228 reform laws in legislative-executive partnership that led to a modest economic miracle for the Philippines in the mid-1990s. Observers wrote that so significant was the reform package that GNP growth reached above 6 percent by 1997, up from one-half of one percent when the Rainbow Coalition began.

Among the landmark, game-changing initiatives that the Rainbow Coalition passed was the creation of the Executive-Legislative Development Advisory Council (LEDAC), which set the stage for the sustained executive-legislative cooperation, Special Economic Zones, and the new Central Bank.

In between, we created the International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP), now representing 352 ruling, opposition, and independent political parties in Asia, and co-founded the Tehran-based Asian Parliamentary Assembly (APA), composed of 40 parliaments in Asia, and the Asian Peace and Reconciliation Council (APRC), based in Bangkok.

They are active parliamentary or political organizations, while APRC, is composed of former heads of government, leaders of parliament, and foreign policy specialists, led by former Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai of Thailand.

We also passed the landmark B-O-T (Build-Operate-Transfer) Law, which became a model for many other developing countries and the formula for “Public-Private Partnerships.” In the Philippines, the law has made possible private investments and public-private partnerships in infrastructure projects valued in excess of $30 billion as early as the mid-1990’s.

We authored and initiated as well the game-changing Military Bases Conversion Law, which turned the former American military bases on Luzon island — the biggest of them being Clark Air Field and Subic Naval Base, including Baguio’s Camp John Hay, La Union’s Camp Wallace and Poro Point, Bataan’s Mariveles Free Trade Zone, and Cebu’s Mactan — into thriving export zones, free ports, or industrial parks.

The wide-ranging law also converted the Filipino military camps Fort Bonifacio into the now booming satellite city in Metro Manila and the Resorts World in the old Nichols Air Base, also in Metro Manila, helping contribute to the modest Philippine economic miracle and encouraged other Asian cities to create similar special economic zones (SEZs) and major industrial parks.

In a very real sense, the Philippine bases conversions into cities or metropolitan centers in the 1950’s and beyond, as in Clark, Subic, Sangley in Cavite, and Mactan in Cebu, were adopted by other large Asian, Middle Eastern, and African townships which converted into cities from their more rural origins as migration and industries enlarged and diversified and as the US and European military bases largely disengaged and withdrew back to their American and European homelands with the lessening in the US-Russian tensions and in the Cold War.

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