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Clinton lauds PH lead in geothermal power

November 11, 2010 02:33:00
Cathy C. Yamsuan
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—Filipinos have to make a united and conscious effort to move forward and focus on education, health care and the environment if they want to live fully in the 21st century, former US President Bill Clinton said Wednesday.

For starters, Clinton advised government leaders to explore more ways to develop geothermal and wind energy which produce less greenhouse gasses to make energy production more sustainable and environment friendly.

He mentioned the Philippines’ geothermal resource potential three times in his talk “Embracing Our Common Humanity” at the Manila Hotel.

“Based on personal experience, about 97 percent of the world’s climate scientists are saying that global warming and climate change are real. And that the whole economic model could crumble unless we figure ways to sustain the growth of wind and geothermal resources,” Clinton said.

“That’s why I’m predicting that in the next 10 years, the Philippines will be flooded by people studying geothermal resources. So you have to try to speed up power and keep it going,” he added to cheerful applause.

The mood was one of quiet anticipation as the audience waited for Clinton who arrived late for the 4 p.m. forum that also had Bantay Kalikasan founder Regina Lopez and Echo Store founder Pacita Juan as speakers.

Hours before the forum, guests seen killing time at the hotel lobby included Robina Gokongwei-Pe, former first lady Amelita “Ming” Ramos and Cavite Rep. Lani Mercado.

The section for special VIPs filled very quickly when the doors of the “tent city” where the forum was held opened at 3 p.m. Clinton’s speech at 5 p.m. and the question and answer portion lasted a little more than an hour.

Seen mingling in the crowd were an assortment of expats and diplomatic officials, entrepreneurs and politicians, including former first lady Imelda Marcos, former Sen. Richard Gordon and former Ambassador Ernesto Maceda.

A waiter who regularly served journalists in the hotel’s weekly Monday Kapihan noted that former Presidents Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Fidel Ramos were sighted along with Vice President Jejomar Binay at the holding area where Clinton was to wait before his appearance.

Attitude of hope

“You need to develop an attitude of hope and aspiration. Haiti used the crushing blow of the disaster (brought about by the January) earthquake to build sustainable systems in education, energy and government transparency from next to nothing,” Clinton noted.

“Attempt to get everybody in school. There is so much debate about population growth but I have seen that through all societies, regardless of religion, that if all the girls are in school and get equal access to universities and the job markets, the growth rate of the economy tends to rise. Education institutions are important,” he said.

At one point, moderator Maria Ressa asked Clinton why the Philippines had not fulfilled its potential as a country despite people power and its rich history.

After a long pause, Clinton said: “On the whole, it wasn’t a big advantage of the nation to have been colonized if you will by Spain and the United States… It makes it too easy to maintain the ties that bind. It has been great for America, all the Filipinos who serve in the (US) Armed Forces. It’s been great for the families who (receive) the remittances back home but it takes you very quickly to a level that makes life bearable. But it doesn’t necessarily create the mind-set let’s say, that exists in Rwanda.”

Clinton then recalled how the conflict between the Hutus and Tutsis in 1994 resulted in genocide that wiped out 10 percent of its population.

Rwanda rebuilt

Despite that, however, the Rwandans were able to rebuild their country with pride.

“Keep in mind that their per capita income before the genocide was about $263 a year, less than one dollar a day. They quadrupled their income in less than 10 years and they were able to do it because of a relentless focus on the future. They developed a tremendous capacity to abandon grievance … they were able to let go of things other people don’t have the capacity to. They were able to move forward. Rwanda even now has a film industry,” he said.

Clinton suggested that leaders invite overseas Filipinos back home to join the effort to move things forward.

Dawn of new age

“Filipinos have done great all around the world. And I think that if (there’s) an economic model that was really good for Filipinos and families, I think you should try to get more Filipinos to come here, create a climate…We all need certain things to remind us of the big mental and emotional factors that determine a country’s greatness,” he said.

“One of the things you know for sure, you’re smart enough to do it. You have a huge population which is a positive, and you have massive natural resources. So I have the feeling that you’re at the dawn of a whole new age of your history and the fact it took you longer than Singapore shouldn’t surprise you because (they’re) a smaller country. The fact that it might take you a little longer to get in high gear than China shouldn’t surprise you because they’re a much more authoritarian country,” he explained.

“I wouldn’t worry about why you haven’t gotten there. I would worry about what kind of basic ideas that would be driven home to get you where you wanna go because you can do that. There’s no doubt in my mind about that,” Clinton said.

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