Saturday, March 18, 2006

Alternative to Gloria to be chosen by the US?

Situation alarming, says US think tank

AN American think tank finds the political situation "alarming" and expects it to worsen if Gloria Arroyo continues to hold on to power.

In a roundtable assessment of the situation in Southeast Asia organized by BrooksBowerAsia held in Washington D.C. yesterday, Ernie Z. Bower said if he were to advise Arroyo, he would tell her that at this point, "she has to take care of her legacy and how she will be remembered in history," a source who attended the meeting said.

Bower, former president of the US-Asean Business Council, is a partner of BrooksBowerAsia, a top advisory firm for multinational companies in the United States.

The source, who asked not to be named, said the US is watching closely the Philippines and Thailand. Bower’s assessment, the source said, is that Thailand has a stabilizing element in the Thai monarchy.

"The assessment on the Philippines that I got was that the situation in Manila is much more volatile. They feel that Arroyo has nowhere to go. She is finished but they expect her to dig in. That’s why they are alarmed because things could get bloody," the source said.

Bowers’ "alarming" assessment is a departure from his July 2005 reading of the Philippines when the "Hello Garci" controversy was just beginning. Apparently sympathetic to the Arroyo administration, Bowers then said the Philippines "risks scaring off foreign investors, not just American investors, if it continues to question its elections after the fact."

"For the near term, it’s fair to say following the constitutional process should be the top priority in Philippine competitiveness," Bower said then.

The source said the problem of a viable alternative to Arroyo was also raised during the discussion. He said the name of Sen. Mar Roxas was mentioned.

Last March 3, Arroyo lifted her week-old declaration of the state of national emergency following a visit by Christopher Hill, assistant secretary for Asian and Pacific Affairs in the US State Department. – Ellen Tordesillas/Manila Times

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