On the Philippines-Taiwan row Part II: moving forward

Yin and yang. Good and bad. This is life in the real world. The flip side of the bad which is the good gives us reason to hope and the heart to rise and try again. It is why we can say life despite dealing us its sometimes shit is good and worth it.

The incidence with Taiwan, unfortunate as it is, brings to fore relational issues that have been overlooked and that now are getting the attention these deserve by both nations. The fact that the two governments are moving forward in their intention to do something about these issues hence improve their relationship gives their citizens hope and cause for good cheer.

First issue, if I may, has something to do with the challenges faced by the fishing industry in specific and the food industry in general relative to changes in the climate. Anyone can read this up in climate change reports (here’s a good one from FAO). Locally, fisher folks, from conversations I had with them, have noted and are anxious about the change in their fish catch. Accordingly, fishes are going further and further away and fisher folks now have to catch them far away from the usual fishing ground or area. This changing pattern is noted not only as regards to edible fish but also for big fish like the Butanding of Donsol in the Bicol Province. What this phenomenon means for the industry is fisheries agreements between or among nations need to be revisited or if not yet made the changing pattern of fish catch or location of fishing grounds (meaning, food security) have to be seriously discussed. Climate change, its effects and impacts cannot be the responsibility of one nation alone. This means, solutions to the changing pattern in the search for food need to be discussed at the inter-country level, regional, and among nations. It’s good that Taiwan has initiated a fisheries agreement with the Philippines, because now is the best time to talk about factoring in climate change scenarios impacting on the two nations’ fishing industry. (In fact, a better agreement should be made at the region or ASEAN level considering that Filipino fisher folks have also wandered and apprehended by its neighboring countries.)

Second issue, on the Philippines side, has to do with freedom of information. I’m all out for freedom of information. But as in all or most things I believe there must be a clear demarcation line to signal that one or the other is stepping into sensitive waters. I’m a Filipino and I get it that culturally we treat everyone as family, meaning we treat private and public information as sharing the same sphere and boundaries. Perhaps because of certain values ingrained in me by others in my childhood, I am always inwardly shocked (un-Filipino-ish I know and which I’m not particularly liked, I’m acutely aware of), offended even depending on who is asking, when anybody I meet feels he or she has immediate access to my age, home address, relationships, salary (not just the range but the exact amount!), and such, things very personal and very private, at least to me. But I understand that these things to the native Filipino are topics for public information and no bad faith is meant when these are asked (or offered even without the other asking and even on the first meeting). It’s just who we are culturally, how we view ‘community’. But beyond the individual-to-individual exchange, say, at the national, such a view presents a real conundrum. My general stand is, for sensitive matters (e.g. national security, court proceedings of ongoing and undecided cases) information to the general public need not be about the whole story but rather a brief of facts will suffice. Quality is as important as freedom. In fact, poor quality is a violation of freedom. The filter test, to my mind, is akin to the Rotary’s Four-Way Test: Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build goodwill and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

The matter of when and who to tell or not tell the truth is in itself difficult to navigate. Sometimes one tells the truth because one wants the audience to think about alternatives, think critically. Sometimes one withholds it because it is not for one to say it and that it may be damaging rather than helping. I guess circumstance, prudence, common sense, and a good feel of who and how the audience will be affected by the information are effective guiding posts. (Incidentally, The Invention of Lying is an apt movie which invites critically thinking truth telling and lying.) In light of the Taiwan and past experiences, such protocol or rules of engagement vis-a-vis the Filipino’s culture of communicating and sense of community building should be considered in the drafting of the FOI Bill.

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