Wednesday, December 08, 2004

For Belmont Club members

In his blogpost of December 5, 2004 Wretchard talked about the mudslides and flashflood that devastated the eastern coast of Luzon. I posted a comment (mine was the fourth). When I checked back there was a flurry of back-and-forth comments mostly from a handful of posters. Judging from the time lag between comments, that particular posting of Wretchard became almost a live chat room. Since I couldn't answer real time because I am only using dial-up connection I decided to answer some of the comments here.

This is the particular paragraph from Wretchard that made me post a comment:
The Philippines is so corrupt that swidden farmers, town mayors, the country's armed forces and rebel groups of all stripes outdo each other to strip the archipelago of any remaining merchantable timber. When the US left the country in 1945, most of its mountains were covered with thick and sometimes primary forest. Today it is on its way to overtaking Haiti in its degree of denudation.
I posted this comment:
Hello wretchard, I am from Cebu. As far as I can remember Cebu was already without any forest. Records show that this was so even before the second world war. Perhaps it's true that the Spaniards used up all the timber for their galleons. I also know that Weyerhauser had extensive logging operations in the Philippines. As a teenager I used to visit my uncle in Kolambugan. And Finlay Millar had a big lumber yard there and got their timber from the forests of Lanao. So I think much of the trees were also cut down for export to America. Which is why lauan is widely known in the USA. Remember that even after WWII, we still operated under the Laurel-Langley agreement that gave USA the same rights to exploit our natural resources. But that's another story.

BTW, whatever happened to our friend Dean Jorge? He just vanished into thin air. So is he on a mission in Iraq :-)
Dean Jorge used to be one of my favorite bloggers. He suddenly vanished after the election during which time he rooted with gusto for FPJ. I have the feeling that he and Wretchard know each other.

The next comment confirmed my contention about lauan:
Rank,
"Which is why lauan is widely known in the USA."
esp
Hawaii, USA!
# posted by Doug : 12:58 PM
By 6:34PM Vercingtorix posted this:
Rank Merida, Cebu City? I've been there twice...it's a beautiful city...I don't remember it but I assume I had alot of fun. Maybe you can help me out, because I'm going to shoot my mouth off a bit and some of the things I'm going to say are simply book knowledge (and not neccessarily life experience, always a bad case).

I've been to the Phillipines 5 times, I've worked with their Air Force and their Marines. I have friends who moved down there, friends who came from there, and friends I still keep in touch with down there.
The rest of his long post were factual comments on the basic problems of the Third World. To Vercingtorix: thanks for remembering Cebu City as beautiful. Like any city, it has its seamy side, squalor, and beauty. All depends on your attitude.

By 6:55PM Lab Rat posted:
A colleague of mine who is Filipino has said that the Phillipines should have petitioned for US statehood. Any comments?
Suddenly Buddy Larsen suddenly turned on the heat:
Lab Rat, let's hear some apologies for the crappy way they booted us out of Subic Bay, when we were Vietnam demoralized and needed a friend in that neighborhood, first.
Actually, Buddy, we did not boot you out of Subic Bay. Even Wretchard can straighten you out on that. The term of the bases agreement had expired. The Philippine Senate decided not to extend the agreement. An extension would have meant the continuation of colony-colonizer relationship. We desired to be treated as a friend and equal. The continuation would have meant for us to continue to depend on the US for everything. Surely even the Americans wouldn't like that.

Just the same, the US took its sweet time to move out. The Philippines simply did not have the power to kick the US troops out even if it had wanted to. It was left for Mt. Pinatubo to force the Americans to move out pronto. Clark Air Base and Subic were inundated by volcanic ash. At least it was a graceful exit, not an acrimonious event. And the American military shipped everything out that was not bolted to the ground but left their toxic waste. I am sure Vietnam was not anymore a problem by that time so nobody was deserting a friend.

Verc did not rise to Buddy's bait when he posted:
Puerto Rico has a sweet deal right now, all the benefits, none of the responsibilities of a state.
The Phillipines would have made an excellent state before the Phillipinos...(sighs) well one can dream.
A man with enough dignity would want to be independent and be brave enough to face his responsibilities. I'd still prefer to be a Filipino and visit the US every now and then and to offer hospitality to Americans visiting my country. Do you know why I can't visit America even if I can find the means? It's because I would not want to be subjected to the impertinent interview with the US consuls who think every visa applicant is a potential illegal immigrant. And do you know why a US consul thinks so? It's precisely because of those who dreamed of becoming brown Americans who would do everything for the American dream. Anyway, thanks for your vote Verc. I now make you an honorary Cebuano. :-)

Finally Wretchard answered at 8:40 PM:
Most of the logging was performed on concession to local politicians. If you want to know where the forests went, look at Makati. They became buildings. The Madrigals and the Sorianos, for example, were big loggers in the postwar world. Ditto the Floirendos, Ablans, etc. Next time you pass the Madrigal building on Ayala avenue, think of how many logs were cut to pay for it. People like Weyerhauser were employed as technical contractors for Filipino loggers and especially for value added milling, which took the place of raw log exports. That stopped rather early on. Most of the timber was sold in the 60s to the burgeoning market of Japan and Southeast Asia. I hate to point this out, but shipping timber cross Pacific to the USA makes no sense. The South America is much closer to Gulf Ports than Cebu will ever be.

The amazing thing is how this myth that the "Americans stole Philippine logs" got started. There have been no "white faces" in the uplands for a long, long time. But plenty of NPA though and lots of AFP.
Nobody in this thread was accusing that "Americans stole Philippine logs". But in an indirect manner they allowed the crime. Remember the Americans governed the country for about 50 years. The politicians he named and many others were already the local elites during the American administration. How was it that the American administration was unable to reeducate them so that they would not be the rapacious loggers of the post-American period? And why were the American occupation forces unable to push through a meaningful land reform program? Isn't it true that the landlords were groovy-groovy with the American governors-general? Gen. McArthur was successful in instituting land and other reforms during the brief American administration of Japan. Yet they couldn't break up the haciendas of Central Luzon because the father of Gen. McArthur was on very friendly terms with the leading landlords. So the American troops instead made war on the Hukbalahap who was only pursuing land reform in the sugarlands.

Enlighten me Wretchard on this because I admit you have better access to information than I do. And yes, you still have not answered where our friend Dean Jorge is.