Friday, 16 December 2016

Bridge of Dreams for UK and Philippines?

The interesting article by Bobit S. Avila in The Philippines Star struck a chord with me, and it coming hard on the heels of a Great British View article on UK-Philippines activity by the UK’s dynamic Ambassador Asif Ahmad.

A bridge between Cebu and Bohol could surely kick into a higher gear the tourism industries in those islands, rather than Philippines relying on the same old faces of Boracay and Bataan?

The Chocolate Hills a tasty treat along with the taisirs that could extend Ceboom’s growth.

But wouldn't it form the structural support for wider UK-Pinoy cooperation on infrastructure? San Juanico is already leading the way across ASEAN for megaprojects.
7,107 islands shouldn't mean Bridges to Nowhere everywhere across the Philippines, certainly we've reached peak cement in the age of Climate Change, but UK and Philippines working together could leverage AIIB and ADB funding for further vital projects such as hispeed rail to knit together the islands and towns of the Philippines.

And that certainly should help loosen the traffic jams of Metro Manila.

My Meiji Kent campaign to “Stop the Pollution. Stop the Corruption. Stop the Construction” for Kent KCC leader in 2017 and MP in 2020 is focused on expanding trade and cultural links in ASEAN.

I'm a keen follower of the Red Cross Philippines - here in East Kent I'm urging Ramsgate as the UK's first Official Red Cross Town with DEC campaigns, First Aid training in schools, paramedic police etc - to help coordinate support and activity needed from Haiyan. And Resilience preparations for the next ASEAN disasters that happen almost like clockwork and can be relegated for the latest crisis such as Yemen.

And certainly greater Met Office cooperation with weather satellites etc could help limit such damaging events - the BBC's Rico Hizon reporting from a ruined building during Haiyan providing eloquent testimony to the dangers facing the islands of Philippines.

With 60% of Climate Change disasters in Asia-Pacific (and 60% of global casualties) the need is certainly there with typhoons and tsunamis, landslides, floods and earthquakes and volcanos reaping a bitter harvest with Philippines now a net importer of rice, after the technological great leap forward of Banaue's rice terraces.

And Climate Change is providing a visible recent reminder of its impact with five Solomon Islands disappearing below the waves in recent months.

While I don't subscribe to the dangerous idea of Philippines nurses and doctors propping up the UK NHS at the expense of the Philippines, there are 9% of NHS medical posts vacant, and there is broader potential as with CCU University here in Kent supporting DaNang University in Vietnam. The latter is the largest UK education investment in Asia.

And shouldn't the Pinoy nurses in the NHS be expanded not exploited, with say a specific 2 year training programme with Philippines, before returning home and cementing that learning into the healthcare systems of Bohol or Bicol?

Any injured Brits whether in Manchester or Manila could appreciate such skills, or closer Pandemic prevention programmes such as the Stanford swab metro activity in New York.

It's an outrageous failure of the NHS that it lacks formal exchange programmes with countries in the Commonwealth, or work such as Operation Smile for cleft palate surgery in ASEAN, as well as nations such as Philippines who support the smooth-running of the service.

The 55,000 NHS workers, out of the 1.2M staff in the UK’s largest employer, aren't the only ones threatened with uncertainty from the Brexit silliness. That daughter of the Philippines and UK, Myleene Klass has spoken movingly for BBCTV of her mum's work in the Norfolk NHS recently.

In Kent, the latest breast cancer treatments, cyberknife keyhole surgery and TB and AMR research at Discovery Park – one of the latest pharma science parks in UK and Europe - are being developed. Why shouldn't Philippines develop common ground with UK on those and other projects? It may be more fun in the Philippines but it wouldn’t it be even more fun working with UK for a healthier and wealthier population?

And with the Magellan Anniversaries from 2019-21 wouldn't UK and Philippines cooperation be pushing against an open church door? Archbishop of Dover, Trevor Willmott gave up part of his Easter message to Anglicans this year to call for greater cooperation with Buddhism and Canterbury Cathedral, the Baclayon of East Kent if you will.

And isn’t Xmas ideal for that hand of friendship from the Church of England to extend across the water to the Catholic churches of Philippines beyond 2021?

Surely every support is needed not just on bridges of dreams but preventing a sea of heartbreak in the South China Sea given the weaponisation of all the Spratlys Islands (named by UK in the distant past) now – Chinese bombers just a few miles from Puerto Princesa and Manila, an repeated Russian overflights of Guam , and the North Sea.

The schools and universities of Bohol need no lessons in helping the next generation improve their English or STEM work, or protect against TB and HIV. And UK could learn much from the Philippines’ momentum in developing the UNSDG30 goals - the UK still with no formal public sector programmes.

And the Philippines schoolkids of tomorrow could even lose their American English accent and take up Shakespeare rather than Big Macs with the help of UK Education and the British Council cultural work? Already in advance of the 50th Anniversary of ASEAN next year, the UK has stepped forward and tripled ASEAN Chevening scholarships in ASEAN and Philippines.

And as with the UK's 24-7 Economy programmes with Moneypenny call centres in NZ, shouldn't the Philippines Digital Economy fast forward faster with UK as well as USA input?

Surely these cultural and economic points are no bridge of dreams, just stepping stones to a greater 21st century for UK and Philippines.

Tim Garbutt is director of Sincerity Advertising and PR, Founder of Surin School Charity building schools in ASEAN: the first school built in Thailand and standing for East Kent MP in 2020 for better links with ASEAN.

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