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Reveille

Be wary of loud and shrill voices

/ 05:20 AM February 12, 2018

First a few thoughts on the aborted helicopter deal with Canada.

President Duterte is absolutely correct in ordering the cancellation of the P12-billion ($223-million) helicopter deal that was recently signed between Canada and the Philippines. No self-respecting nation would think of spending such a huge amount with conditionalities imposed by the seller pertaining to the use of the helicopters.

A day after Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana signed the deal with Canadian Commercial Corporation, the Canadian government announced that it would not allow the sale to Manila pending a review by Ottawa because of human rights concerns and fears that the aircraft could be used “to kill other Filipinos.” According to Canadian Trade Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne, an understanding in 2012 (presumably with the Aquino administration) was that the helicopters would be used for search and rescue missions. We do not know the exact nature of that understanding if there was one. But when you spend P12 billion for the purchase of equipment like helicopters, it would be the height of folly to accept restrictions on its use. Perhaps, defense officials of the Aquino administration could enlighten us regarding the supposed “understanding.”

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We have meager resources. We need to be able to maximize the use of all available equipment that will serve our purposes. If the helicopters are used for search and rescue missions, fine. But if we also need them for offensive actions against Filipino rebels who are engaged in a violent attempt to overthrow the government or are desiring to set up an independent state of their own within the national territory, then our efforts should not be hampered by restrictions imposed by other governments.

President Duterte has canceled the whole deal. Now Canada has all the time to review the aborted sale and perhaps to explain to Canadian businessmen why they had to forego a substantial profit from the sale because of conditions imposed by their own government.

It is also time for us to look elsewhere for the weaponry needed to fight internal security threats, as well as to engage in search and rescue, and disaster relief missions. For too long we have depended on Western friends for our defense needs. We only have to open our minds, our eyes and to look around to know that there are other arrangements available for us, perhaps even more advantageous and without conditionalities.

Sometime in November 2016, the United States refused to sell us M-4 assault rifles because of human rights concerns, even as they continue to supply Egypt with military hardwarwe in spite of a poor record on the same issue. Well, we got the assault rifles from China and in fact President Duterte announced that a Chinese sniper rifle was used in the killing of Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon who was in cahoots with Maute terrorists during the battle of Marawi City. We also received 5,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles from Russia, and on both occasions there were no conditionalities imposed by the two countries. There are other sources for our military defense requirements, such as helicopters. The important thing is to break our historic dependence on Western sources that impose all kinds of restrictions on equipment that we may wish to purchase.

* * *

In the beginning, I did not pay much attention to the Dengvaxia controversy and looked on it as basically a medical problem that needed sorting out. Lately, I have come to realize that it is an issue that requires a better understanding and appreciation by all of us. It involves the  peace of mind and happiness of millions of parents and the health and welfare of their children.

My only experience with the medical profession has been that of a patient and whenever I had health problems, I always consulted and relied on the experts in a particular field of medicine.

When I experienced shortness of breath, I sought the opinion of cardiologists, the heart specialists. And this eventually led to a triple bypass operation.

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When I had prostate problems, I consulted with several uro-logists. They are the experts in this field.

When I experienced kidney malfunction, I went to nephrologists and sought their opinion and advice.

And I have been fortunate to have had at my side, Filipino doctors who are among the best in the world.

One of the important issues in the current Dengvaxia controversy is the need to determine the cause of death of several children who were part of the dengue vaccination program of the Department of Health. This work must be done in a professional manner by experts in the field of forensic pathology. We cannot rely on self-styled “experts” who have an eye on TV cameras and are prepared to feed the public with instant conclusions on their findings. We have some of the finest forensic pathologists in the world who can do the work properly. There is no need to bring in foreign experts.

There are also loud and shrill voices that demonize those who differ in their opinions, and threaten them with all kinds of charges. We must be wary of these types because the noise that they create only results in fear and confusion among our people.

The Dengvaxia controversy has, to my mind, turned into something more like a witch hunt. People seem more concerned with determining who are the “guilty” parties rather than in making sure that our children are protected from life-threatening diseases. This can only be done with the support of their parents and therefore, we must exert greater efforts to reach out to them and explain the importance of continuing vaccination programs among our people.

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TAGS: Canada helicpter deal, Canadian Commercial Corp., Delfin Lorenzana, dengue vaccine, Dengvaxia, Ramon Farolan, Reveille, Rodrigo Duterte
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