Fernando “Ronnie” S. Penarroyo specializes in Energy and Resources Law, Project Finance and Business Development.
He may be contacted at email@example.com for any matters or inquiries in relation to the Philippine resources industry.
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In the morning of 04 December 2018, I received numerous text and viber messages from friends and colleagues from the tight-knit geoscience community informing me that Edwin Domingo, former Department of Environment and Natural Resources (“DENR”) Asst. Secretary, urgently wanted to get in touch with me. I thought that it might be a client referral. I was able to call Edwin and indeed he has a case for me. To my surprise, it was about Rolly Peña. A few days before, the community was abuzz with the news of Rolly’s tragic death from an accident involving a passing Grab motorcycle along a dark spot in Quezon Avenue. Edwin asked if I could volunteer to serve as legal counsel for Rolly’s daughter, Sybil Jade, in her forthcoming meeting with Grab. Edwin said that Dr. Manoling Ramos, a close friend and fraternity brother of Rolly, would be coordinating with me as Sybil, who was based in Germany as a doctor working for Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), has yet to arrived in Manila for her father’s funeral services.
I whole-heartedly took on the opportunity to assist pro bono as my humble contribution to Rolly’s enduring legacy to the geoscience community. I have worked with him professionally on several occasions and considered him a stalwart in the resources industry. As fate would have it, I personally knew a high ranking executive in Grab and called him immediately. My friend in Grab was fully aware of the accident and he mentioned that his company was at that time trying to reach out to the nearest family member of Rolly. I disclosed that I was legally representing Rolly’s daughter and we discussed Grab’s offer of financial assistance.
I made arrangements for Sybil and I to meet with the Grab representative during the necrological service for Rolly at the National Institute of Geological Sciences (“NIGS”) in the afternoon of 06 December 2018. The meeting between Sybil and the Grab representative was initially frosty because while Sybil was obviously mourning the lost of her father, the Grab representative appeared to her as perfunctory in the discussions. To ease the tension, everybody decided to continue with the discourse after the memorial services.
When we continued our meeting, the Grab representative upon witnessing and hearing the eulogies given by Rolly’s friends, comrades, and colleagues, broke down into inconsolable tears. She was given a perspective on who Rolly was from the testimonials, his contribution to science and heroic struggle to fight for the oppressed. The parties finally came to an agreement and Sybil decided that she would use the assistance as seed money to preserve her father’s legacy.
Fast forward a year after, I attended the Christmas party of the University of the Philippines Geology Alumni Association held at the NIGS. I again saw Sybil and this time she was signing dedications on books. The book was a memoir of her father detailing his experiences in the Philippine communist revolutionary movement as an activist, guerrilla and political exile in China during the Martial Law years. It also contained poignant letters that Rolly wrote to Sybil when he resurfaced to the mainstream after leaving the underground movement. The last part includes a compilation of eulogies given during the necrological rites, newspaper editorials by colleagues, and articles written by people whose lives were touched by Rolly.
“Crossings - Portrait of a Revolutionary”
In the book, Rolando (“Rolly” or “Rol" to his close friends) Peña was variously described as a friend, mentor, comrade, linguist fluent in French and Mandarin, leftist propagandist, art and film lover, walking dictionary and encyclopedia, audiophile, bibliophile, poetry aficionado, rare book collector, lover of women, and supporter of women’s rights. Most of all, he was an affectionate father to Sybil despite growing up in Rolly’s absence.
After graduating with a geology degree from the UP College of Arts and Science in 1962 and placing third in the board exams, he worked as a geologist at the then Bureau of Mines. He juggled work and political activism, and put up newsletters for the underground left as an alternative to government-sanctioned newspapers. He was instrumental in setting up the “Liberation”, the propaganda mouthpiece of the communist movement.
Rolly finally joined the armed struggle and was tasked by Jose Maria Sison, founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines (“CPP”) and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (“NPA”), to do an important mission. At that time, China was exporting its proletarian revolution and sending arms to Third World countries that embraced the leftist ideology. Rolly, who was presumed to know navigation as he was a geologist, was entrusted to lay the course for the MV Karagatan, a wooden hulled boat consigned to smuggle arms from Fukien, China to the Philippines in 1972. However, the arms landing was intercepted by the Philippine military in Palanan, Isabela and Rolly became a fugitive.
Despite the refusal of Deng Xiao Ping to fund further arms shipment to the Philippines, Chinese leader Mao Zedong approved a second arms landing in 1974, this time aboard the ship MV Andrea. The ship, again helmed by Rolly, hit the Pratas reef somewhere between Hong Kong and Taiwan. After the beleaguered crew was rescued, the Filipinos including Rolly, were brought to Hong Kong, spent some time in jail, and ultimately sought political asylum in China.
Rolly called his group of asylum seekers as the “Dirty Dozen.” During their sojourn in China, the group engaged in a wide array of military training and political indoctrination laid out by the Chinese communist party leaders. Their activities included naval warfare, revolutionary historical site visits, political studies in the Marx-Lenin-Mao thought, medicine involving surgery and acupuncture, Chinese language studies, fishing, integration with the peasants in state farms and communes, infrastructure, and factory work. Rolly was also able to get the approval of the Chinese government to work as a geologist in the Shinjiang oilfields to hone his scientific knowledge while in exile. Interestingly, Rolly already wrote about the brewing rift among the political exiles because of their disparate opinions on the leadership of the revolutionary movement they left behind. Amidst this internal strife, Rolly did his best to remain neutral. He was sent back to the Philippines in 1981 to continue his work in the armed struggle.
Back to the Mainstream
Rolly left the underground revolutionary movement in 1992. On his decision to leave the armed struggle, he wrote:
“Anyway, by 1992, I was feeling that I had no sense of achievement, and I decided to come out and get into something that was intellectually stimulating, where I could still learn something and apply a little learning to some ‘earthly’ problems.”
It was the late Dr. Raymundo Punongbayan, former director of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology who was responsible for his return to the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (“MGB”). He went back to the same job and position that he left when he joined the NPA, and wrote that he “still go to the mountains but to do fieldwork and research”.
He was seconded by the MGB in 1995 to work as a Technical Assistant on Mining Matters to DENR Secretary Victor O. Ramos. It was during this time that I met Rolly when I was working then as a newbie lawyer for Western Mining Corporation’s Tampakan Copper Project (“WMC”). WMC was a Melbourne-based Australian major mining house, which held a Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement granted by the Philippine government. Rolly was our go-to guy and liaison at the DENR when we wanted to set an important meeting with either the DENR Secretary or the MGB Director. In fact my former boss at WMC, Project President Terence Gardner, fondly referred to Rolly as “the ghost who walks” because he was like a specter lurking in the shadows in our dealings with the DENR/MGB. He was a quiet presence but surely a strong influence in the mining bureaucracy.
Following the Marcopper mine accident in 1995, the DENR to address the growing public opposition to mining, decided to review and revised the implementing rules of the Mining Act of 1995. Representing WMC’s interests, I got involved in the process and attended the country-wide public consultations on the proposed Revised Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Mining Act. In August and September of 1996, I joined Rolly and other DENR/MGB officials in stakeholder meetings in Baguio City, Cebu City, Davao City, and Manila.
Despite Rolly’s background, he was a staunch advocate of the Mining Act. However he wrote in his book that he was torn between his advocacy for responsible mining as a bureaucrat and the leftist ideology that was against the so called “development aggression” and exploitation of resource companies particularly the foreign mining firms. He narrated an event that I myself witnessed during a public consultation held at the UP College of Law:
“The leftist groups (Bayan and affiliates) were there but did not stay. They had placards, streamers and blistering statements for the repeal of the Mining Act. What we set out to do was to make it more responsive to the community and the environment. They don’t realize that if the Mining Act is repealed, we will go back to the old laws which are so worse.”
“But then I realized that they just have to take a hard stance, make denunciations, without really thinking of the consequences. But the NGOs which want a better deal for the community, for the indigenous peoples, the environment, did make proposals, many of which we have adopted. For some proposals, we just had to arrive at a middle ground since the mining industry would balk at them. Being in the government agency concerned with this matter, I find myself caught between the industry and NGOs. Still the demands of NGOs (except the extremists”) are easier to address than industry, especially foreign companies who count their dollars and want everything opened to them. This time, we are asking the industry to get the informed consent of the concerned indigenous people and communities before a permit is granted.”
It must have been extremely difficult for Rolly to transition from an anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist ideologue to a government bureaucrat promoting investments in natural resources extraction to both local and foreign companies. Rolly did perform well in the bureaucracy and was eventually promoted to MGB Regional Director in 1999, a position he held till his retirement in 2006. In the meantime, Rolly finished his Master of Science in Geology degree from UP NIGS in 1998, a course he started way back in 1966 that was abruptly discontinued when he went underground.
Despite his prominent and active role in the mining industry, Rolly maintained friendly ties with his former comrades who were deeply divided into two hostile factions - the “Rejectionists” and the “Reaffirmists.” The division among the leftists groups happened in 1993 when Armando Liwanag — believed to be the nom de guerre of CPP founder Jose Maria Sison — issued a document in 1991 called “Reaffirm Our Basic Principles and Carry the Revolution Forward!”. The document sought to return the CPP to its founding principles of characterizing Philippine society as “semi-colonial and semi-feudal” and the waging of a protracted people’s war in the countryside to topple the government in accordance with the Marxist-Leninist-Mao Zedong thought.
Those who supported the document were called “Reaffirmists” while those who refused to accept it were called the “Rejectionists”, who advocated for less ideological rigidity and more openness towards other forms of political struggle, such as legal and parliamentary participation thus relegating the armed struggle to the backdrop. Many “Rejectionists” civil society activists joined the non governmental organization (“NGO”) sector, which expanded in the early 1990s due to both the massive influx of foreign funding and the readiness of successive post-Marcos governments to accommodate more moderate and reformist civil society groups.
The NGO sector was prominent in its opposition to the promotion of the mining industry as a development strategy by the Philippine government. They either actively opposed the Mining Act of 1995, clamored for strict provisions in the implementing rules and regulations making it difficult for companies to work under the present legal and administrative framework, or lobbied for a more “nationalistic” mining legislation devoid of large-scale mining and foreign capital. They also actively pushed for the implementation of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997 and encouraged local government units to veto mining and energy projects within their jurisdictions.
Contribution to Geoscience
After serving as regional director, Rolly returned to UP, which provided him a laboratory at NIGS where he resumed research work and generously made himself available for consultation to the private industry and students of geology. It was at this stage in his life that he made an enormous contribution to geoscience.
During his stint in the private sector, Rolly made two great contributions to the study of geology. He wrote the Lexicon of Philippine Stratigraphy (2008) and edited “The Geology and Mineral Resources of the Philippines” Volumes 1 & 2, Second Edition (2004). The Committee on Stratigraphic Nomenclature of which Rolly was Chairman, formed under the auspices of the Geological Society of the Philippines (“GSP”) helped Rolly finalize the Philippine Stratigraphic Guide while a committee of MGB geologists helped Rolly complete the Geology of the Philippines Volumes 1 & 2, Second Edition. The literatures became a bible of sorts for professionals and students of geology.
Noe Caagusan, a good friend of Rolly since their UP days, fraternity brother, and fellow geologist, in a fitting tribute wrote a scholastic review:
“While the compilers of the Geology of the Philippines (1981) succeeded in accounting for every bibliographer report, they also have unleashed a self-generative device that liberally established variant names of rock units, or even invalid nomenclatures that cluttered the stratigraphic column.”
“Rolly sensed these superfluities, as he knew personally many of those who had written the geological reports where the Geology of the Philippines were culled. He was familiar with the parochial bias of many writers and their penchant for “updating’ formational definitions and appending a new name as well.”
“Peña’s Lexicon identifies the geologic formations of various places in the Philippines based on layers (stratification) of rocks, their ages, evolution, and geologic events in hundreds of millions of years. Its deep data, both ancient and new, give historic numbers to corals, mountains, rock formations, seas, and volcanoes that tourists often describe as awesome, beautiful and unusual. It seeks to end the rampant and erroneous updating and renaming of Philippine rocks.”
“The GOP Second Edition Peña edited is about rocks in the Philippines, their names, classification, genesis, histories and geochemistry or mineral contents. The first edition of the GOP Volumes 1 and 2 was based on work done by earlier generations of foreign and local geologists which Peña read when he worked as a petrologist in fieldworks that lasted six to eleven months a year, from the ‘60s to the ‘70s.”
Rolly worked and collaborated with a team of scientists from UP NIGS when the Republic of the Philippines filed its claim for Benham Rise in 2008 in compliance with the requirements of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Rolly was with a team that gathered hydrographic, geological, and geophysical data that showed that Benham Rise was part of the 350 mile-continental shelf that extended from the baseline of northeastern Philippines.
The Philippine Government based its claim on Republic Act No. 9522, also known as the Archipelagic Baselines Law (2009), and asserted that on the basis of seismic and magnetic data and other geological features, the region is an extension of the Philippines’ continental shelf. This culminated in the full adoption of the Philippines’ submission for an extended continental shelf in the Benham Rise Region by the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf of the United Nations on 12 April 2012.
Rolly also conducted the study and research needed to jump start the heritage interest in the Masungi geological formation resulting in the establishment of the Masungi Georeserve, a conservation area situated in the Southern Sierra Madre range, in Baras, Rizal. The Masungi Georeserve is a nature reserve characterized by rugged limestone karst peaks, steep slopes, and surrounding lush montane rainforests. The georeserve received multiple international awards from the United Nations Biodiversity Program, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and the United Nations World Tourism Organization. Rolly’s contribution not only involved lending his geologic expertise but also engaging with park rangers, the local community, schools, landscape architects, biologists, government representatives, and other stakeholders, which elevated Masungi as a global best case practice.
Professional Interaction with Rolly
It was during my presidency of the Geological Society of the Philippines (“GSP”) in 2017 when I had the chance to work closely with Rolly. At that time, Rolly was the Chair of the Board of Geology of the Professional Regulatory Commission, a positioned he assumed in 2015. During my term as GSP President, we were able to obtain the registration of GSP as the accredited integrated professional organization for geologists through the able assistance and endorsement of Rolly and the other members of the Board of Geology.
I and my fellow officers and board members at GSP were amazed at the energy exhibited by Rolly in his many roles in GSP. Rolly was the editor of the scientific Journal of the GSP. In addition to being JGSP editor, Rolly also held several key positions such as Chair of the Geo-Heritage Committee and member of the Continuing Professional Development Council of the Board of Geology. He was also a qualified “competent person” for mineral exploration under the Philippine Mineral Reporting Code. We can always count on him in attending all the regular and special board meetings of GSP and consult with him on policy matters affecting the geology profession.
Rolly was also the GSP’s permanent representative to the Regional Congress on Geology, Minerals, and Energy Resources of Southeast Asia (“GEOSEA”). GEOSEA aims to foster an exchange of ideas, experiences, results, information and cooperation in geology, minerals and energy resources in Southeast Asia, bringing together the experts from academia and industry all over the world.
During my stint as GSP President, the Philippines applied and was chosen to host and organize the 2020 GEOSEA Congress in Manila. Rolly, who diligently attended the secretariat meetings, was instrumental in getting the nod of the geology associations from the other ASEAN member countries. The GEOSEA Congress, conducted every two years, is the “SEA games” of the ASEAN geoscientific community. The Philippines last hosted the GEOSEA Congress way back in 1995.
The official Philippine delegation attended in full force the GEOSEA Congress in Hanoi, Vietnam in 2018 for the turn-over ceremonies. Representing the Philippines were our chief of delegation, Department of Science and Technology Undersecretary and Phivolcs Officer-in-charge, Renato Solidum with selected officers of GSP including myself and Rolly. During that congress, I was a witness on how Rolly was treated with respect and high esteem by our counterpart foreign experts.
My Impression of Rolly
Rolly shared some unmistaken similarities with a quirky law school professor. Behind the unassuming facade and quiet demeanor, he held a treasure trove of accumulated knowledge and street-smart experience, you could only unravel if you dared to ask the right questions and gained his familiarity through personal interaction. I’ve heard about his radical past but I only got to know his fascinating life story after I have read his book.
From a generation not born of entitlement, Rolly possessed a patriotism that directed him to the only viable option for him to attain his ideals, the path of armed struggle. His road to revolution was the culmination of social unrests prevalent at that time, a fulmination of protests and mass actions whose catalyst was youth movements heightened by political consciousness in the early ‘60s. He took a storied route, initially joining underground cells while staying put in government service as part of the resistance, and ultimately embarking on the crucial decision of participating in the armed struggle.
Perhaps the same innate courage and patriotism that brought him to the movement made him return to the mainstream. His idealism and aspiration to gratify his need for more scientific knowledge not for personal aggrandizement but for the common good, which for obvious reasons he was unable to pursue underground, finally made him resurface and join the government he sought to overthrow.
Rolly was first and foremost, a geologist and a scientist, trained in critical inquiry in the rich tradition of creative, open-minded, empirical inquiry and evidence-based probing of nature’s secrets. Unfortunately in today’s settings, findings of science are now under siege from a variety of economic and political forces. These forces selectively dismiss, deny, and distort legitimate results of scientific research when such run counter to their vested interests. Political expediency has even denigrated the scientific process as mere “opinions” of scientists who are not “gods”.
I think more than anything else, the lesson we must take to heart in Rolly’s life is that science must be devoid of any political and ideological agenda. Rolly’s higher calling was to bring to the public the best available scientific knowledge in the hope that it nurtures and inspires the future generation of scientists.
The Philippines is currently facing one of the greatest challenges to its economy with the implementation of containment measures brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic. The enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) imposed by President Duterte was extended to May 15 on areas deemed still at high risk that includes the National Capital Region and nearby provinces in central and southern Luzon, considered the major business hubs of the country. There is no definite date in sight yet for the lifting of the lockdown and opening up the economy, as the government focuses on containing the virus and bringing the infection rate to lower levels. Premature lifting of the lockdown may have dire consequences as a second wave of infections could lead to a bigger toll on the economy.
THE ASEAN+3 Macroeconomic Research Office slashed its 2020 gross domestic product growth forecast for the Philippines to 0.2%, warning that containing the virus should be the country’s top priority. Meanwhile, the National Economic and Development Agency said they are still “calculating” the economic impact of the 15-day lockdown-extension for high risk areas.
Oil Markets in Turmoil
The outbreak also threw the oil market into turmoil and sent the sector into free fall. Wood Mackenzie reported that strategies to contain the spread of Covid-19, such as limiting people's movement, have directly lowered oil demand. Compounding these challenging conditions, the OPEC+ group, made up of OPEC and its leading allies including Russia, failed to agree on a concerted action to cut oil production to stabilize prices. Crude oil's recent collapse into negative prices was a clear indication of the scarcity of storage space for oil and the market's way of warning producers to stop pumping. Meanwhile, oil demand is set to fall even further as additional measures are put in place to limit the spread of Covid-19 putting strong downward pressure on prices. Major consumers like the shipping. aviation, and manufacturing industries are also facing challenges on their own contributing to the dampening demand for oil. Revenues and cash flow will collapse for oil-producing companies and countries including Russia and many Middle East countries,. If low prices are sustained, high-cost producers will exit the market and one of them is the US shale oil industry. Less money will be available for investments and companies will delay new projects and cut expenditures at existing operations. While the Philippines may benefit from low oil prices because it is a major importer, upstream activities will see a downtrend because of high capital cost particularly exploration and development in the West Philippine Sea. Nevertheless, now is the best time to negotiate gas supply agreements for natural gas-fired power plants.
Long-term Shifts in Global Supply Chains
From national lockdowns to closed airspace and borders, Covid-19 has resulted in unprecedented disruption to the mechanics of most economies. Oxford Business Group said the erection of these barriers has placed a major strain on the world’s supply chains, including essential linkages relating to food and medicines.
While shocks may result in short-term changes to supply chains, some evidence points to the likelihood that the current pandemic may lead to more long-lasting structural shifts. China could lose its central position in many global supply networks because of the pandemic shutdown and US-China trade war, to Brazil, Mexico and certain emerging markets in Southeast Asia. Oxford Business reported that Covid-19 has accelerated the trend of US companies looking to realign supply chains closer to home in countries such as Mexico, while also diversifying them to reduce future exposure risk by relocating to ASEAN states like Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia. Japanese companies are also reported to be relocating their supply chains to southeast Asia. However, the Philippines is way below the list of preference because the of infrastructure issues and the high prices of utilities.
Cash Remittances Expected to Decline
Cash remittances are expected to decline this year, as Filipinos living and working abroad face massive layoffs due to the global economic slowdown caused by Covid-19. Filipino workers particularly from Europe, USA and the Middle East are expected to remit less if not return home because of the economic downturn in the countries where they are employed. Also Filipino seafarers working in transportation and cruise ships will also have limited employment opportunities because of the downturn in the transshipment of goods and travel. Nomura Global Research said that the Philippines, the world’s fourth largest remittance recipient in 2018 according to World Bank data, is likely to suffer the most among remittance markets.
Remittance inflows to the Philippines accounted for 9.9% of GDP in 2019. Historically, remittances had withstood previous economic crises and has continued to record growth despite challenging situations. Analysts have flagged that a drop in remittances could have a spillover effect on consumption, a key segment of the Philippine economy, accounting for 70% of its gross domestic product.
Build Build Build to Continue
As the government imposed a Luzon-wide ECQ, construction activities were also put to a halt. Originally, the government plans to spend over ₱1 trillion this year on various infrastructure construction projects to fill the country's needs for longer and wider roads, convenient train systems, and bigger airports and seaports. That plan may now be needed to be scaled down. President Duterte is open to dropping infrastructure projects scheduled this year to free up funds for Covid-19 response. Duterte is also thinking of selling government assets to generate more cash.
However, Finance Secretary Dominguez remarked that the Duterte administration’s “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program will push through despite the reallocation of around ₱30 billion of its budget towards COVID-19 facilities. He said that the program — which includes 100 big-ticket priority projects — will not be downgraded as it is being counted on as the "fuel" for the local economy to bounce back. On his part, Sec. Mark Villar is confident that the Department of Public Works and Highways will still be able to complete its infrastructure projects despite the lockdown. Meanwhile, Department of Transportation (DOTr) Secretary Arthur Tugade said that construction will resume for the railway projects. Tugade explained that the Inter-Agency Task Force tasked to implement the ECQ has allowed the DOTr to continue work on several railway projects. He acknowledged, however that some airport, seaport, and terminal projects may be postponed or delayed, as the government has diverted funds to fight the Covid-19 threat.
The State of Real Estate
The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation has suspended the operations of all Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) due to the ECQ imposed in Luzon. According to Colliers, the suspension of POGO operations and the imposition of travel restrictions on workers to and from China will likely result in delayed expansion among these companies and put a dent in office space take-up. Colliers however believes that the traditional and outsourcing firms could bridge the demand gap left by POGOs once market sentiment improves in the second half of 2020. According to Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, the government is currently evaluating a proposal to allow POGOs to resume operations. However, the expansion of POGOs from 2020 to 2021 hinges also on the lifting of travel restrictions.
The Information Technology and Business Process Association of the Philippines has advised outsourcing companies to implement flexible work arrangements to prevent the further spread of Covid-19. Meanwhile, the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) has allowed information technology enterprises to adopt work-from-home arrangements without prior approval from PEZA. Alternative work arrangements would embolden traditional and outsourcing companies to accelerate adoption of technology and further explore implementing flex-and-core strategies that comprise a mix of traditional office and flexible workspace. Colliers advised that firms should effectively communicate cloud computing strategies to their employees to minimize disruptions from the abrupt switch to remote working. Colliers also sees residential demand in Metro Manila softening in 2020. If the virus is contained in the first half, we may see market sentiment improving starting the third quarter and a recovery in demand and supply in 2021. Among the major concerns for the residential sector are unemployment, business and consumer confidence, and OFW remittance inflows. On the supply side, the work stoppage due to ECQ will delay project completions. Colliers also believes that social distancing will likely be part of the “new normal”. A significant number of retail shops are still likely to be closed by the time the ECQ is lifted but these brick-and-mortar retailers may tap the demand by expanding their online presence. Retailers may create their own e-commerce sites, utilize existing sites of major mall operators, or use popular social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. Consumers may prefer to buy online than go to the mall.
Living in the “New Normal”
In an online seminar, Ateneo Center for Economic Research and Development Director Alvin P. Ang said that even with the lifting of the ECQ, the following “new normal” will continue to be observed: no gathering of more than 10 people, physical distancing, wearing protective accessories like masks and gloves when going out, waiting time in public places, and working from home. Financial, power, water, and Internet services will be in high demand. Basic mobility and online delivery services will also be needed to ensure that Filipinos will be able to get their basic food and non-food needs. Businesses that will boom post Covid-19 include digital marketing services such as website development and social-media presence, apps development, business-process outsourcing, video conferencing, digital consultation platforms, and basic skills and do-it-yourself learning services and webinars offered online. Online platforms for gaming and entertainment will also thrive. The pandemic has expedited the arrival of the app economy especially for online banking and money transfers. The World Health Organization, however, warned that hackers and cyber scammers are taking advantage of the Covid-19 pandemic by sending fraudulent emails and WhatsApp messages that attempt to trick people into clicking on malicious links or opening attachments.
The moment we realized the full catastrophic implications of the Covid-19 pandemic was the time our individual world stopped. We will not see the light at the end of the tunnel unless a vaccine is formulated. But even then, we may have to brace ourselves for another lethal viral outbreak. The good news is that while we are in the midst of our quarantine, there are dramatic changes in online technology developing at breakneck speed. We can adapt to and even flourish under the new normal if we can work out the right experience and business model. There is no turning back now.
Last 05 April 2020, former Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Fulgencio “Jun” Factoran, Jr. died from a lingering illness at the age of 76. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in Humanities (cum laude) and Bachelor of Laws from the University of the Philippines (valedictorian, 1967), and his Master of Laws degree from the Harvard Law School. He was a bar topnotcher and a member of the Sigma Rho fraternity, the same UP Law-based fraternity I belong to.
Because of his impeccable academic credentials, Senior Brod Jun was recruited for membership in what was then known as the "Salas Boys” - bright, idealistic young men who worked for the government under the tutelage of Rafael Montinola Salas. Salas served as executive secretary to President Ferdinand Marcos prior to Martial Law until a falling-out on policy differences prompted Salas’ resignation from the Marcos government. Salas then became the first head of the United Nations Population Fund when the agency was created in 1969. The “Salas Boys” imbibed the idealism, honesty, integrity, and spirit of public service that Salas was known for.
Senior Brod Jun was active during the Martial Law years as a human rights lawyer and co-founder of Mabini, or the Movement of Attorneys for Brotherhood, Integrity, and Nationalism Inc. With the fall of the Marcos government, Factoran served as deputy executive secretary under President Corazon Aquino from 1986 to 1987. He subsequently became DENR Secretary from 1987 to 1992.
I first met Senior Brod Jun Factoran when I started in the mining industry as a young lawyer working for an Australian company. At that time he already left government service and set up his law firm, Factoran and Associates, and environmental consultancy firm, Gaia South, which our company retained. We connected immediately as we were fraternity brothers. I always look forward going to his office to have our regular meetings. My Australian colleagues have had high regards for Senior Brod Jun as he was well-versed not only in mining and environmental law but in other branches of resources law as well. He patiently mentored me in Philippine resources law explaining to me in great detail the nooks and crannies of various DENR administrative orders and issuances on mining, environment, forestry and protected areas. I will fondly remember on the day before I was to leave for secondment to our head office in Melbourne, he sent one big bilaoof pancit (fried rice noodles) to the office as a sort of despedida, which was happily shared by all the office staff. It was a simple gesture but you know that he did it with all sincerity.
After my one year secondment in Australia, I returned to the Philippines and my first order of battle was the constitutional challenge filed by Marvic Leonen against the 100% foreign-owned Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement of my company (La Bugal-B’laan Tribal Assn. vs. Ramos). Senior Brod Jun was engaged to spearhead the defense. He assembled a battery of some of the best constitutional law experts of the country. He called on former 1986 Constitutional Commission member Fely Arroyo and former Acting Executive Secretary and Court of Appeals Justice Magdangal Elma. The litigation teams of Sycip Salazar and Quisumbing Torres were also on board the defense team. I saw firsthand how Senior Brod Jun managed to coordinate and handle the high-profile lawyers and prepare the defense like a maestro adeptly conducting an orchestra.
Much has been said about Senior Brod Jun’s human rights advocacy. But to my mind, his greatest contribution is in the field of indigenous peoples’ rights. During his stint as DENR Secretary, he worked for its recognition which culminated in IP rights to be more explicitly acknowledged in 1993, with the issuance of the (DENR) Administrative Order No. 2 (DAO 2). DAO 2 allowed for the delineation of ancestral domains and the issuance to indigenous communities of Certificates of Ancestral Domain Claims and Certificates of Ancestral Land Claims. DAO 2 ultimately paved the way for the eventual passage of the Indigenous Peoples Rights of 1997. Now IPs must give their free and prior informed consent on any projects in their ancestral domain and are entitled to royalties from the revenue of resources companies.
Forestry was another of Senior Brod Jun’s advocacy. He contributed to the promotion of the ideals of community-based resource management through the rules and regulations pertinent to Community-Based Forest Management (CBFM) issued under his authority. CBFM is a program of the government to encourage reforestation and sustainable management of forests. Under a CBFM agreement, a community is entitled to develop and use a forest area and its resources for twenty (25) years.
Senior Brod Jun, in his capacity as DENR Secretary was named as respondent in the case of Oposa vs. Factoran (1993), a landmark decision of the Philippine Supreme Court, which recognizes the doctrine of intergenerational responsibility and a contributor to the development of international environmental law. He encouraged the petitioners, through their parents, to enjoin the DENR Secretary from issuing timber licenses, invoking their right to a healthy environment pursuant to Sections 15 and 16 of Article II of the 1987 Constitution. Intergenerational equity in economic, psychological, and sociological contexts, is the concept or idea of fairness or justice between generations currently living and generations yet to be born. After the case was decided, it paved the way for the Philippine government to create an inventory of the remnant old growth forests and restricted logging in those areas.
Because of his standing in the civil society movement and his experience as environment secretary, Senior Brod Jun was appointed as an independent director in mining firms such as Atlas Consolidated Mining and Nickel Asia. He also brought his management skills and legal experience to government corporations and entities like the National Electrification Administration, Philippine National Oil Company, Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, Development Academy of the Philippines, and Government Service Insurance System.
The last time I saw Senior Brod Jun was during the launching of Senior Brod Rick Ricamora’s (2016) documentary portfolio Blood, Sweat, Hope and Quiapo at the Ayala Museum. He personally introduced me to another senior brod in attendance, the distinguished mining tycoon, Manny Zamora, Chairman of Nickel Asia Corporation. We talked mostly about the mining and energy industry. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a souvenir photo for posterity with two captains of industry.
I will surely miss Senior Brod Jun. It’s rather unfortunate that he passed away at this time of Covid-19 pandemic, we could have given the man the accolades due him. Whatever his political inclination was, I hope that this humble tribute will enshrine his memory in the halls of national statesmen. He was certainly one of Sigma Rho’s greatest gifts to the country.