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Former U.K. P.M. Tony Blair Visits Manila

Inquirer.net, News Report, Volt Contreras/Philippine Daily Inquirer Posted: Mar 28, 2009

MANILA, Philippines -- Britains former Prime Minister Tony Blair won over audiences in Manila sharing what he described to be the primary lessons he had applied in international peace-building and in prodding societies to embrace change.

And his message appeared to take on unexpected colorsgreen and bluewhen he spoke at two different venues in which two elite rival universities found a common champion in the visiting world leader.

Blair first spoke in the morning at the Ateneo de Manila University in Quezon City, where crowds erupted in cheers, especially when he donned the Blue Eagle jacket onstage.

Later in the day, change did come, at least in his wardrobe, at an afternoon conference whose sponsors included ADMU rival, De La Salle University.

Apparently not to be outdone, DLSU executives had him don the schools Green Archer jacket during a brief awarding ceremony at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza Hotel in Pasay City, where Blair was main speaker in The Leadership ConferenceSeries 2.

If I eat some more adobo, I may not be able to fit into this, Blair quipped as he slipped into the green jacket, referring to a local dish his hosts served him in his first visit to the Philippines.

Blair visibly enjoyed the light-hearted moments before delivering a talk on the otherwise serious matters of global conflict resolution and the mind-set leaders need to have to navigate the emergent era of low predictability in the worlds economy and politics.

If you want to understand the world, then you have to analyze it as it actually is, not as you like it be, he said.


He said the world had become so interconnected, interdependent in ways that have never been seen before, that an economic crisis that starts with lack of [business] confidence in one country could easily spread across the world.

An era of low predictability has begun, he said. This is the time in which it is hard to predict [what will happen] not only in economy but in politics.

Blair predicted that in the 21st Century, power is shifting to the East with the rise of China and perhaps later, India.

This shift is profound and its consequences are hard for us in the West to comprehend and come to terms with.

By the end of this century, there will be more than one superpower, he said.

For his advice on leadership and conflict-resolution, Blair said becoming unpopular because of tough decisions naturally comes with the job.

Unforgivable Not To Try

What is forgivable is to fail, what is unforgivable is not to try, he stressed.

Leaders should also remember that there will always be attacks from both sides attempting to offset whatever progress has been made in the peace process. The worst terrorist attacks in Northern Ireland, for example, came after the signing of the Good Friday agreement, he said.

And leaders, no matter how long they are in the position, will always have their day and should find it in themselves to relinquish power.

Blair recalled how he texted hello to a friend using a new mobile phone on the day he stepped down as prime minister after 10 years in office.

The clueless friend replied who are you? This was because Blair, out of his technical ignorance, forgot to indicate his name on the message. But what struck him was its only been 24 hours since he ceased to be the PM and he had virtually become an unknown.

Be Humble

Learn a little humility as a leader, he said.

In the open forum, Blair politely declinedreminding everyone that he is now also a diplomatwhen asked how Philippine leaders are doing or the country is managing its population, he being a converted Catholic.

De la Salle University conferred on Blair the Sign of Merit (Signum Meriti) medal and plaque for his work on international conflict resolution, with the DLSU president, Br. Armin Luistro FSC, describing Blairs work as based on Gods holy will.

Earlier, with Blair still out of the venue, retired Supreme Court Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban, the first of the three Leadership speakers, delivered a scathing assessment of the Arroyo administration over mounting human rights violations and for earning the Philippines an international notoriety for corruption.

Panganiban cited, among others, a recent Pulse Asia survey that had President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo being perceived as the most corrupt Philippine leader since the downfall of Ferdinand Marcos, with a rating worse than that of the deposed dictator.

Most Corrupt In East Asia

He also recalled a Social Weather Stations survey which found that up to 71 percent of 412 businessmen surveyed reported being asked for bribes in transacting with the government.

And in a World Bank report, the Philippines had already edged out Indonesia as the most corrupt country in East Asia, he noted.

What has been the response of our leaders and policy makers? Panganiban asked. Im afraid ... mostly rhetoric, evasiveness, finger-pointing.

He said administration officials had even called the corruption watchdog Transparency International biased, suggesting it had been bought by the opposition.

For too long our people have waited for vindication for honest-to-goodness prosecution of grafters and human rights violators. Many in civil society have lamented the alleged inaction of the office of the Ombudsman, Panganiban said.

Cecilio K. Pedro, president and CEO of Lamoiyan Corp., moved away from politics and delivered a talk on different types of negotiations as mainly applied by business leaders.

Well-applauded for repeatedly stressing that Filipinos are world-class, Pedro, whose company has produced a local toothpaste brand competing with multinationals, earned generous applause for repeatedly stressing how Filipinos can be world-class in whatever fields they choose.

There is hope in this country. I studied, I worked, I intend to die in this country, he said. And for this country to move forward, it has to start somewhere, start in you and me, now.

Lets stop blaming the government, lets stop blaming somebody else, he added.

Related Articles:


Phil. President Enlists Aid of Sweden, U.K. for Peace Negotiations

U.S. Ambassador to Manila Lauds Phils.' Antiterrorist Efforts

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