This is not about the movie, it’s about how several senators recently visited France right after presentations were made and offered to the Philippines to buy French-made submarines. It is not publicly known who arranged and paid for the trip, but people in the know were wondering who among the senators knew anything about submarines? Maybe how to torpedo political enemies perhaps, but not subs.
The trip was overshadowed by the Percy Lapid contract killing and the saga of suspended Bucor chief Gerald Bantag, which is why everything stayed under the radar. The question is: Who’s next on the trip list from the Navy or the AFP perhaps? Star-studded generals or technical experts? Is this practice of “fam tours” a.k.a junkets now so casually allowed, given how former military and police officers in the past were bashed, accused or charged with wrongdoing for joining factory sponsored trips.
One thing I’m sure of is that South Korean companies and authorities are very careful about “fam tours” or factory-sponsored visits after numerous investigations and court cases that have been filed against lobbyists and corrupt Korean executives through the years.
Immediately after the submarine tours, we heard from no less than President Bongbong Marcos on the possibility of tapping the French Connection to put up nuclear power plants in the Philippines because they have extensive knowledge and use of nuclear plants. Clearly, the vision of having nuclear power plants is still on the table for the Marcoses. But who among them will be invited to visit a French nuclear plant and who foots the bill for the next “fam tour?”
While the French Connection continues to bake, the government may have overlooked or forgotten the many and continuing offers from South Korean companies that have offered to provide the Philippines with both nuclear power plant technology, as well as submarines that have also been produced and are in operation patrolling nautical territories of South Korea. In fact, there is serious concerns among some interested parties that the visit of Philippine senators to France and the open endorsement of PBBM for French nuclear technology may have slammed the door in the face of other countries and companies interested in making offers and bids for such projects, such as the US government, which is working out legal impediments for the transfer of technology from the US to the Philippines for nuclear power and energy.
Diplomatic charm campaigns aside, the Philippines must get the best quality, highest safety record and money’s worth for submarines and nuclear power plants without fear or favor and fam tours for politicians. Meanwhile, may we request Senate President Migz Zubiri to inform the public: Who among the senators went on the trip? Who paid for their travel and accommodations, and what was the legislative basis and purpose of their visit to France so that we, the people, know what’s in it for us?
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It’s been a while since I last flew on a plane and last Friday turned out to be a positive experience as we flew to Davao via Cebu Pacific. For starters, the self-check in system was simple, easy to use and quick. In about two minutes flat the machine printed out our boarding passes and we breezed through security with only our hand carry bags in tow.
NAIA3 was quite crowded but I noticed that boarding of flights was faster and the Cebu Pacific ground staff really made sure that senior citizens, pregnant women, PWDs and children were first to board. In spite of impatient passengers trying to get ahead, the staff were almost stern about the boarding priorities. I just hope the NAIA3 manager looks into seats for senior citizens which seemed to be invisible or out of sight.
What was very different now than from my pre-COVID flights was that timelines or schedules were observed on the average. As I walked towards my assigned seat, I mentally prepared myself to spend an hour and a half with my knee pressed into the seat in front of me, but lo and behold! There was sufficient leg room for me and my wife. It seems that seat space has been adjusted by Cebu Pacific, at least on our departure and return flights. They were even able to accommodate our request for a vegetarian friendly meal!
Having been to Davao several times, I was not sure about enjoying the trip, especially now that my favorite hotel in the city, Marco Polo, remained closed after the COVID pandemic. The good news is that the owners are set to reopen the iconic hotel now that restrictions and tourism have opened up. If I heard right, they are going over all the engineering and safety inspections as part of pre-opening requirements.
For those of you who may be considering traveling to Davao, let me tell you that their many seafood restaurants remain great and well stocked as ever and even my usually restrained wife totally enjoyed the different variety of fresh fish and seafoods. What we often fail to enjoy while in Davao is the wide selection of fresh fruits: pomelos, durian, long-kong, banana, mangosteen, etc. Don’t wait until the last day and buy them as pasalubong. Eat them during your stay!
Whatever your itinerary is, make sure to make time to visit the Philippine Eagle Center. Everyone in our group was all praises for the facility and the people who built and support the center, which is a world class facility that has successfully protected and bred back the majestic Philippine Eagle.
After an awe inspiring experience surrounded by so many different eagles, drive to the nearby Malagos Chocolate Museum and literally get an education about the history of chocolates in the Philippines and around the world. When you exit, go around the Malagos Garden Resort as well as the Puentespina Orchidarium, all in the same area. There’s so much more to see in Davao! Enjoy!
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