Journal de quarantaine: confinement et desinfection

Desinfection de la plage.

Jour 8 – et j’en ai deja marre. Seul point positif, ayant ressorti mon routeur wifi j’ai enfin acces a Messenger – mais c’est tout. Messenger est gratuit et le plus souvent accessible ici, tout comme Whatsapp et evidemment Facebook. Rien d’autre ne passe. Mais au moins je peux communiquer avec mes co-detenus.

Depuis quelques jours, on sait officiellement que le virus est parmi nous. Un touriste australien de 23 a ete confirme positif. La gestion du cas a ete, comme on pouvait s’y attendre, magistrale de rigueur et d’efficacite. Le type a ete severement malade trois jours durant dans sa chambre d’hotel de Port Barton, avec tous les symptomes (fievre, toux, diarrhee). Transporte a l’hopital de Puerto, celui-ci a envoye les prelevements a Manille pour analyse… et laisse partir le type dans l’intervalle. Celui-ci a pris un hotel et s’est balade librement pendant deux jours avant de prendre l’avion et de rentrer chez lui via Angeles, tranquillou. Trois jours plus tard, les resultats sont arrives.

Heureusement, apres ce fiasco, les autorites competentes ont su prendre la seule decision qui s’imposait: desinfecter le sable de la plage de Port Barton Je ne plaisante pas. Ils ont fait asperger le sable de la plage par des Ghostbusters. Peu importe que le virus ne survive que quelques heures a l’air libre, il s’agit d’etre proactif et de justifier l’envoi de ces equipements par Manille. On se sent tout de suite rassure, notre sante est en de bonnes mains. Esperons qu’ils ont pense a donner un coup de spray sur l’ocean aussi, a defaut de pouvoir changer l’eau tous les deux jours.

Les Philippines sont deja en temps normal un pays profondement chaotique, fragmente, desorganise, ou les choses fonctionnent a peu pres, tout juste, ou pas du tout. Ou rien ne semble vraiment avoir de sens. En temps normal, on s’en accomode. Avec les evenements a venir, on ne peut que craindre que les choses atteignent tres vite un niveau de bordel, d’inefficacite et d’absurdite effrayant.

Journal de quarantaine: State of Calamity

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Le President Duterte a declare l’”Etat de calamite” pour l’ensemble des Philippines et pour six mois. Ce plan est prevu pour etre declenche localement pour les tremblements de terre ou les eruptions volcaniques, jamais a cette echelle. Je ne sais pas ce qu’il implique exactement, mais ca semble signifier qu’on fonce vers une grosse catastrophe sanitaire, et peut-etre a terme la Loi martiale ou a peu pres.

Ce virus etant maintenant global, il ne va pas disparaitre. Les mesures de confinement, les fermetures, tout ca ne fait au mieux qu’inflechir un peu la courbe des infections pour reduire la pression sur les hopitaux (en pensee avec les infirmieres et infirmiers de partout qui vont etre les poilus dans les tranchees de cette sale guerre). Je ne suis pas virologue mais je ne crois pas que cette courbe va redescendre avant un mois, donc tres probablement les mesures vont etre prolongees, le controle des citoyens renforce (via des lois liberticides “exceptionnelles” qui evidemment resteront en place indefiniment). Et a supposer que dans 3-4 mois ou plus la courbe commence effectivement a redescendre – des que les mesures seront relachees elle repartira inevitablement a la hausse. Jusqu’a ce qu’une majorite de la population mondiale ait ete infectee et ait developpe une immunite (ou qu’on trouve un vaccin). C’est la seule issue possible il me semble. Ca signifie des centaines de millions de morts, inevitablement. J’espere me tromper.

En toute honnetete, je ne sais que faire. Rentrer tant que je le peux? Mais rentrer vers quoi? Qu’est-ce que je pourrais faire en Suisse maintenant? Peut-etre juste tenter de subsister dans un pays civilise (encore que…)

Rester ici? Mais combien de temps? Et comment survivre, en attendant quoi? Le retour a la normale, le retour des touristes? En 2022, peut-etre? Et pendant deux ans, manger des bananes et pecher? Il va de soi que si le pire devait arriver et que l’un de mes parents tombait malade je rentrerais tout de suite – mais si c’est impossible, si tous les vols sont suspendus?

Et meme une fois que tout cela sera termine, combien de compagnies aeriennes auront survecu? La libre concurrence, les vols bon marche, le tourisme global, tout cela est probablement termine. On assiste a la fin d’un monde… ma situation est certes anxiogene, mais elle l’est ou le sera bientot sans doute pour (presque) tout le monde. Et au moins je suis ou j’ai choisi d’etre.

Are Chinese the Jews of Asia?

The five wealthiest business moguls of the Philippines
Any listing of the country’s wealthiest men and women will show almost exclusively Chinese last names. Chinese-Filipinos form both an ethnic community and a separate economic class.

To say that China is a growing concern in the Philippines is an understatement.

Let’s start with the sovereignty dispute over the West Philippines Sea / South China Sea. That whole area, of the highest economical and strategical value, has been recognized by a decision of the United Nations’ Permanent Court of Arbitration as belonging to the Philippines, but China couldn’t care less and has stealthily militarized several atoll and is using its militia, disguised as fishermen, to keep actual Filipino fishermen out by any means necessary, including harpooning their boats and sinking them.

The balance of power is so overwhelmingly unfavorable to the Philippines that the Duterte administration has been accused of defeatism and of collaborationism by Philippine nationalists – a situation reminding me of my native Switzerland, where the government has been increasingly bending over backwards to abide to every new requirement and threat coming from the European Union rulers.

Then there are the colossal Chinese investments in the Philippines, both from private companies and from State agencies (essentially one and the same): billions and billions in loans and infrastructures that will never possibly be paid back and whose interests could forever submit the Philippines to China’s grip, effectively undermining the country independence and siphoning its wealth away.

I should mention also the estimated 150,000 illegal Chinese workers in the Philippines, most notably in the oversea online gambling business, which is extremely popular but illegal in China. These weren’t very popular even before the coronavirus pandemic outbreak, which obviously didn’t help.

And last but not least, there is the Chinese Filipinos problem.

The definition of Chinese Filipinos according to Wikipedia seems somewhat blurry. Strictly speaking, only 2% of Philippine nationals have one Chinese parent, but as much as one out of four have more distant Chinese ancestry. Descendants of Chinese who migrated during the 19th Century onward through intermarriage still retains much of Chinese culture, customs, and work ethics, and are nowadays in complete control of about 70% of the Philippines’ economy, owning own all the largest shopping malls, supermarkets, hotels and fast food chains, in addition to every major bank, media, construction and real estate company.

Any listing of the country’s wealthiest men and women will show almost exclusively Chinese last names. Chinese-Filipinos form both an ethnic community and a separate economic class, the wealthy commercial elite dominating the poorer Filipino working and underclass. Most posh, walled-off enclaves in major cities are populated in majority by ethnic Chinese.

“Chinoys” moguls often create joint ventures with mainland Chinese companies and are accused of  reinvesting in China most of what they make in the Philippines, contributing to a money hemorrhage. And in the current context of increasing military tension with China, the loyalty of Chinese-Filipinos is very much questioned, as they are more and more seen as infiltrators and double agents, working for the enemy from the inside.

Unsurprizingly, this reality is nurturing a strong feeling of resentment and exploitation among indigenous Filipinos.

Doesn’t this all seem uncomfortably familiar? Though on a different scale, European Jews have had to face essentially the same accusations and suspicion for centuries, and are nowadays unquestionably over-represented among the wealthy and the powerful. On the other hand, Israel’s total lack of concern over UN resolutions and international laws, and its colonizing of occupied territories could be seen as somewhat similar to the attitude of China. Now if we imagine Israel having not 8 millions, but 1,5 billion citizens… that is the situation that the whole South-East Asia (and, to a lesser extent, the whole world) is facing.

Different, but same-same

En passant

After I read this article’s conclusion, listing the main problems plaguing Philippines politics right now, I thought of the situation in Switzerland. Radically different for sure (we don’t have extrajudicial killings), yet feeling just as gloomy. The Swiss list could go something like this:

The seething resentment of the poor over the booming price of healthcare, the simmering anger over the administration blind obeisance to the EU, the anguish over the continuous flood of illegal African migrants, the betrayal engendered by the government and the courts refusal to apply democratic decisions, the growing fury created by the totalitarian racket of traffic laws, and the gloom caused by the pension funds coming bankruptcy.

Different continents, same dark clouds.

The Ati-atihan Festival in Port Barton

 
The Ati-Atihan Festival, held annually in January in honor of the Santo Niño (Infant Jesus), originated in the island of Panay, Philippines. The name Ati-Atihan means “to be like Atis” or “to make believe Atis”, the local name for the Aeta aborigines who first settled in several parts of the archipelago. It was originally an animist festival, but Spanish missionaries gradually added a Christian meaning. Today, the Ati-Atihan celebrates the religious conversion of the Atis to catholicism.
 
Kapares Restaurant sponsored the “tribu” that won the dancing competition of the last edition.

In the Philippines, Facebook IS internet

Internet neutrality is slowly disappearing everywhere, but in the Philippines it is already dead and gone, it probably never even existed. There are only two telecom companies, Globe and Smart, resulting in a bad duopoly situation. For no reason, I am with Globe, but I am pretty sure Smart is just as bad. In Port Barton, coverage is so poor it is impossible to go online for most of day time – except, strangely, Facebook. Facebook is nearly always accessible. Basically, Facebook IS internet for Filipinos in rural areas, that is all there is to see online. Why? The only explanation I can come up with: Facebook has secured a priority deal with the telecom duopoly, that enables it to be the only site millions of Filipinos can see on their phones every day. Also, when you buy a “load” (ie, buy data for surfing and/or phone credit – in a place like Port Barton, where there are no landlines, prepayment is universal, I have never met anyone having a phone subscribtion), you are sometimes offered a “freebie” of 1 extra GB – but only with a very limited choice what you can use this data for: it’s either Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, Twitter, Viber, or some games like Pokemon. Choose one and that’s it. Freedom of choice? No, that one is not available, sorry.

I wrote this about 2 months ago for my blog, but never finished and published it. Today I stumble upon this interesting (though very biased) article, that confirms and explains what I had noted. Wether President Duterte can, or can’t, be considered a “dictator” is another matter entirely, but let’s say that even though I think it excessive to say the least, since I am no longer in Port Barton and therefore have daily access to newspapers and wikipedia, my own views have naturally become more nuanced – which kind of proves the article’s main point.

 

Knocked down, but getting up again

FINALLY I am able to leave the nightmare that Kapares had become behind me. It was a good lesson, though a pretty expensive one, and I learned a lot. First of all, I learned that you really, REALLY should be careful who you associate yourself with. My former associate’s real passions (and I’m sure he will keep pursuing them for the rest of his life them now that he is finally free from that evil foreigner who tried to make him actually DO stuff) are sleeping (mostly), drinking, hanging out with his broadened family, and bossing around these poor boys he gives shelter to. Out of all these activities, only the last one was of any use to Kapares, though I was never comfortable with it. He is easily the laziest person I ever met (and I’m far from being a stakhanovist) – I once saw him literally stomp and cry because he had to do some work (he was drunk of course). He hates Puerto, never went to El Nido, never left Palawan; he will never try anything new, or different, or change anything. His only loyalty is to his family.I wonder if Fililpinos like him, with this attitude, aren’t at least a part of why the Philippines have been left behind economically these last decades. Luckily, I also think this “small town, small mind” mentality will soon be a thing of the past here.

That guy was an extremely unlucky choice of a partner for sure, but I am guilty too, of course. Of taking what seemed the easier and cheaper (ha, big mistake) way at the time. Of deciding at first to trust and not get too involved in the daily operations (biggest mistake ever). Of wanting to believe that a proper partnership involved mutual respect and honesty. All this naive, egalitarian bullshit.

I learned that if you pay, you call the shot. Keep an eye on everything. Have everything properly documented (having all receipts to my name and religiously keeping them was probably my only smart move). Don’t be too nice. Don’t trust anyone without knowing them well – and even then.

That means also, do not buy anything yourself, you will pay twice as much as a Filipino. When dealing with contractors, remember that a set date, an appointment, a deadline don’t mean anything. “Yes, tomorrow morning” can mean “maybe one of those days”, or “no, never”. On the administrative front, having all clearances, permits and registrations doesn’t mean that your business won’t be declared illegal at some point. Conversely, not having any of these doesn’t mean that your business will be closed either… It’s might still be about who you know, and possibly what you pay, though this seems to be changing/ The days of “build / open first, ask permits after” seem well and truly over with the closing of Boracay and partial destruction of El Nido beachfront. I don’t know anymore, actually. Maybe it’s just that everything is always in a transitory state here.

The more you stay here, the less much of what is happening makes sense, the more troubled times seem to be. Trying to set up a business is not easy, particularly when you have zero experience, in a totally foreign and different country, with laws to prevent foreigner to set up businesses on their own. But I console myself remembering that setting up a business in Switzerland would have been forever out of my reach. And that I’ll be much smarter (though poorer) next time. Onward! 

It could have worked out though…