Sunday, August 29, 2010

2 RM awardees cancel trip

THE ANNUAL Ramon Magsaysay Awards rites have become another unfortunate casualty of the botched hostage-rescue fiasco.
Two of the three Chinese recipients of the Ramon Magsaysay Awards for 2010, both government bureaucrats, will not be coming to receive the honors on Aug. 31.
But the third Chinese awardee, photojournalist Huo Daishan, is already in the country and is participating in the series of lectures and meetings that have been arranged by the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation.

The Inquirer was scheduled to interview yesterday the two awardees—Fu Qiping, a farmer and village chief in China’s Zhejiang province, and Pan Yue, a vice minister in the Ministry of Environmental Protection—but was told by an RMAF official that the two would not be coming.

The RMAF source said one of the Chinese awardees “might have taken ill,” and did not give a reason for the second one’s nonappearance.

There are speculations that their absence may have something to do with the diplomatic tension between Beijing and Hong Kong on one hand and the Philippines on the other caused by the Aug. 23 hostage crisis in Manila that ended in the killing of eight Hong Kong tourists.

Fu, 62, reportedly sent an urgent letter to the RMAF on Aug. 25, saying that he had “suddenly taken ill” and could not come to Manila to receive the Magsaysay Award.

RMAF officials had to cancel all the planned activities for Fu, including the customary public lecture and a forum with the Asian Institute of Management and the Galing Pook Foundation.

Shera Tanjutco, the RMAF communication officer, denied that Fu’s decision not to come to Manila had anything to do with the hostage tragedy that drew furious reactions from Chinese people, particularly those in Hong Kong.

“No, he just suddenly got sick,” she said.

The Fu cancellation came two days after the Chinese embassy informed the Makati Business Club that the visit to the Philippines of Vice Premier Li Keqiang, scheduled for Sept. 7, had been “postponed indefinitely due to urgent official tasks at home.”

The MBC was one of the organizers of the China-Philippine Trade, Investment and Economic Forum on Sept. 7 in which Li was to be the special guest.

Tanjutco said Pan has yet to send word on whether he will be present at the formal awarding ceremonies on Tuesday.

“We have not heard from him since Aug. 1. He did not say if he was coming or not,” Tanjutco said in a phone interview.

Not the first time

There have been a number of times in the past that several Magsaysay awardees from China were not able to attend the awarding ceremonies because of the sensitive nature of their work that could put their government in a bad light.

But last year, two awardees from China, both environmental advocates, came to receive their awards, delivered public lectures and visited several places in Metro Manila.

The Inquirer was able to obtain a copy of a letter dated Aug. 26 that RMAF president Carmencita Abella had written to Juan Miguel Luz, associate dean of the AIM Center for Development Management, which was organizing Fu’s lecture for Sept. 1.

“We regret to inform you that Mr. Fu Qiping sent us an urgent message yesterday afternoon (Wednesday, August 25) that he (had) suddenly taken ill, and thus (could not) push through with his planned trip to Manila to receive the Magsaysay Award,” Abella wrote.

Abella informed Luz that Fu had opted “to send a representative just for the awards presentation ceremonies on Aug. 31.”

“We have no recourse but to cancel all the planned activities for Mr. Fu, including the awardee’s public lecture,” she wrote.

Exemplary public servants

Fu and Pan were cited by the Ramon Magsaysay Awards for “their exemplary vision and zeal as public servants at two levels of the state bureaucracy, in advocating the inseparability of development and the environment in uplifting the lives of the Chinese people.”

Fu is credited with turning his small village in China’s Zhejiang province into a model community that is both environmentally healthy and economically secure. Tengtou, now known worldwide as a “miracle village,” is home to 830 residents.

“Collectively organized as an economic enterprise, [Tengtou] has built a base in agriculture and ecotourism, operates business companies and hosts some 60 investors engaged in textile, food processing and other activities,” reads the profile on Fu at the RMAF website

It said that all this was made possible in large part by the innovative leadership of Fu.

Pan, 50, is a key figure in the Chinese government’s efforts to protect the environment. As an environment official, he has been given credit for “proactively” enforcing environmental laws, taking on some of China’s biggest industries.

The Ramon Magsaysay Awards cited Pan for “his bold pursuit of a national environmental program, insisting on state and private accountability, encouraging state-citizen dialogue and raising the environment as an issue of urgent national concern.”