(Pictures taken by PPCO Director Ariel Ramos.) Click thumbnails above to view bigger photos.
It is the last day of summer, but the weather is unseasonably warm and sunny at 27 degrees centigrade.
Inside the Filipino Centre Toronto (FCT) building in Scarborough, Ontario, a modest room was reserved for PPCO’s Political Forum.
The Philippine Press Club Ontario hosted another successful Political Forum, a continuing PPCO and community event on Sunday, September 22, 2019.
The guest speaker is Atty. Rogelio Wong, a practicing lawyer in the Philippines, journalist, and a former university professor in Manila. He is a former President of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), Manila IV chapter and currently a Commissioner on Bar Discipline and Chairman of the Legislation Committee. He is a writer and contributor of various publications on legal matters.
Ms. Rose Tijam, PPCO President, started the event by welcoming and thanking the participants setting the tone of the event, followed by the introduction of the guest speaker by Fred Yuson, PPCO Vice-President.
Atty. Rogelio Wong speech was divided into two segments: first he spoke about what was happening in the Philippines under the current Duterte administration. Afterwards, there was an open forum where the audience asked legal questions.
WE CAN AGREE TO DISAGREE, BUT WE DON’T NEED TO BE DISAGREEABLE – John Wooden
Atty. Rogelio Wong praised the high satisfactory ratings of President Duterte of 80 to 82% based on the recent survey of SWS and Pulse Asia in the Philippines.
“Nakapagtataka”, he said. Then he cited various infrastructure projects of the current administration as one of the reasons behind the excellent satisfactory rating. One project being mentioned was the P735B construction of the new Manila International Airport in Bulacan which is projected to open in about 5 years. The developer is San Miguel Corporation, and it will be built without cost on the part of the government, but the question is, at what cost to the environment?
We know that this reclamation project has environmentalists up in arms, even calling on the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to cancel the reclamation clearance given to the developer. The environmental advocacy group are worried about the adverse impact on Manila Bay’s ecosystem, fishermen’s livelihood, and food security as the airport will be constructed at the 2,500 hectare waters of Manila Bay in Bulakan, Bulacan.
Switching to another issue, Atty. Rogelio Wong questioned the Philippine filing of an arbitration case also known as the South China Sea Arbitration where the UN Permanent Court of Arbitration eventually ruled in favour of the Philippines. He asked why Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and other Asian countries did not do it.
He also touched on the high power cost in the Philippines, the highest in the Asean region, and our internet the slowest, yet most expensive in Asia. “The “regulators” become the regulated,” he said.
Atty. Rogelio Wong praised the strong political will of President Duterte. He mentioned about his own place in Manila as now being quiet and peaceful, free from “tambays” when someone joked from the audience, “pinatay na lahat?” to which it generated laughter.
But, seriously, did the murder rate in Manila really go down?
The engaged audience was clearly divided politically, but remained diplomatic and even having fun.
LIVELY DISCUSSIONS, SEEMINGLY UNENDING QUESTIONS
Snacks and drinks were provided and the much-awaited open forum ensued.
Atty. Rogelio Wong answered questions that related mostly to Philippine Immigration laws, Family Law, Property Law, Taxation, and Dual Citizenship.
As my former Philippine CPA law reviewer would say, lawyers like to argue even if they attended to the same school, listened to the same teacher and read the same books. And there were two or three other “compadres” in the audience, one is Justice of the Peace Delano Europa who sometimes “interpellated” the speaker or gave further explanation to the issue, and the other one I know is Sir Dante Mercado of the Order of the Knights Rizal.
Not one question asked during the forum was considered theoretical: they were real legal concerns.
One issue raised was about squatting of the property and why was it prevalent in the Philippines. “Squatting was decriminalized years ago”, Atty. Wong said.
Another question was about double taxation for dual Canadian citizens. Tax professionals know that double taxation is a myth. You could claim tax credits when you file your Canadian tax return here so there is really no double taxation.
There were a lot of other questions, i.e. buying real estate in the Philippines, estate tax, and others. Atty. Rogie Wong, a former university professor in the Philippines, seemed to enjoy answering them.
The last question was about problems encountered in buying a condo in the Philippines. Atty. Rogelio Wong mentioned the Maceda Law in the Philippines. Maceda Law is covered under Republic Act 6552 also known as the Realty Installment Buyer Protection Act.
The forum ended and PPCO Director Ariel Ramos stood up to thank the speaker.
PPCO President Rose Tijam, then gave Atty. Rogelio Wong a small token of appreciation.
It was a highly informative forum for our “ kababayans”, and the whole event lasted for 4 hours (2PM to 6PM).