Geopolitics

A Filipino Trump? "Duterte Harry" Eyes Presidency

A tough-talking mayor leads the polls in the Philippines, which will elect a new president in May. Rodrigo Duterte's message is simple: stop crime and corruption. But some question his methods.

Duterte soon after he announced his candidacy in November
Duterte soon after he announced his candidacy in November
Jofelle Tesorio and Ariel Carlos

MANILA â€" When Rodrigo Duterte addresses a rally called "Mad For Change," the crowd goes wild and chants his name. "I can't promise heaven, but I will promise you a comfortable life," the tough-talking mayor of Davao City, the fourth largest city in the Philippines, tells the crowd. "Corruption has to stop. Criminality has to stop."

His no-more-funny-business message has made him the talk of the town and a serious contender in the country's presidential race, which he didn't formally join until November. The election takes place May 9.

Popular figures such as Senator Grace Poe (who was disqualified in December), Vice-President Jejomar Binay and Mar Roxas, a former interior secretary, had dominated the polls. But many voters see Duterte's brand of politics as refreshing, different from the other candidates, who hail from the ranks of the political elite.

While his numbers slipped last month, a November survey by Pulse Asia Research estimated support for Duterte at 34%, eight percentage points higher than his closest rival.

"Being an attorney and being a prosecutor at that, and with all the stories about how he deals with criminals, instead of eroding his charisma, it has enhanced it even more," political analyst Jose Fernandez explains. "Filipinos think maybe we need this kind of president."

Too tough on crime?

Duterte has been mayor of Davao, a city of 2 million people, for 22 years, and has also served as a congressman. He is credited for making Davao the safest city in the country, albeit by controversial means. Human rights groups accuse him of supporting a group of vigilantes who execute criminals and drug pushers. There have been some 1,000 extra-judicial killings of suspected criminals during Duterte's tenure as mayor.

One of the candidate's closest friends, Butch Chase, claims the accusations are all heresay. "He never told me that he ordered the killing of any criminal," says Chase. "There are only small things, like he would say, "If this criminal won’t listen to me, I’ll warn him and if not, he should fear for his life.""

Many see Duterte’s popularity as a product of a breakdown of law and order, and endemic corruption. The mayor's style of swift justice even earned him a telling nickname: Duterte Harry.

During a rally, Duterte says he simply hates criminals. "If you are a criminal, a car-napper a kidnapper, and you are on bail because the evidence against you isn't strong enough, I will also abduct you. I will do whatever you did to your victim," he says.

More recently, some have also begun to refer to him as the "Donald Trump of the Philippines" for his blunt language, and also because he admits to being a womanizer and has a penchant for using expletives in public.

Desperate for change

Duterte’s image resonates. The common Filipino voter is desperate for someone who will represent them, says civil society activist and environmentalist Gerthie Anda. "I’d like to echo what a taxi driver told me: "I would rather vote for a guy whose mouth is dirty because he speaks dirty but he has no corruption charges whatsoever, rather than vote for a candidate who goes to church and speaks politely but is linked with corruption,"" Anda explains. "In a sense, he represents the general public."

Unlike other candidates, Duterte also has an image of being incorruptible. Anda says the common Filipino just wants to be safe from crime and live in a corruption-free society, precisely what the Duterte brand offers.

"For them, the crimes, the womanizing, the badmouthing, killings… that can be forgotten as long as basic services are actually implemented," she explains. "The priorities now are basic services. As long as there is no corruption, poverty can be addressed. To them that is enough.”

Jaren Atrero, a young professional, plans to vote for Duterte. He believes the mayor can deliver on his promises. "He is a concrete example of true change," says Atrero. "Filipinos are craving for change. He is not a traditional politician. He is really different. If you can see his platforms, very simple… and that’s very attainable. I believe he is the one."

But not everyone is impressed. "I don’t want him to become president because he has a lot of characteristics that don’t fit a true leader," says voter Ken Chan. “I don’t like his leadership style that uses force."

Gerthie Anda also sees some red flags, and warns Filipinos against buying into the hype. "On enforcement, that is his strength. But there are still blind areas," she says. "What is good governance for him? How will he address social justice issues or agrarian reform? The land issue is still dominant in this country. What about the use of natural resources? How will he deal with corruption?"

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Green

In Argentina, A Visit To World's Highest Solar Energy Park

With loans and solar panels from China, the massive solar park has been opened a year and is already powering the surrounding areas. Now the Chinese supplier is pushing for an expansion.

960,000 solar panels have been installed at the Cauchari park

Silvia Naishtat

CAUCHARI — Driving across the border with Chile into the northwest Argentine department of Susques, you may spot what looks like a black mass in the distance. Arriving at a 4,000-meter altitude in the municipality of Cauchari, what comes into view instead is an assembly of 960,000 solar panels. It is the world's highest photovoltaic (PV) park, which is also the second biggest solar energy facility in Latin America, after Mexico's Aguascalientes plant.

Spread over 800 hectares in an arid landscape, the Cauchari park has been operating for a year, and has so far turned sunshine into 315 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the local provincial capital of Jujuy through the national grid.


It has also generated some $50 million for the province, which Governor Gerardo Morales has allocated to building 239 schools.

Abundant sunshine, low temperatures

The physicist Martín Albornoz says Cauchari, which means "link to the sun," is exposed to the best solar radiation anywhere. The area has 260 days of sunshine, with no smog and relatively low temperatures, which helps keep the panels in optimal conditions.

Its construction began with a loan of more than $331 million from China's Eximbank, which allowed the purchase of panels made in Shanghai. They arrived in Buenos Aires in 2,500 containers and were later trucked a considerable distance to the site in Cauchari . This was a titanic project that required 1,200 builders and 10-ton cranes, but will save some 780,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.

It is now run by 60 technicians. Its panels, with a 25-year guarantee, follow the sun's path and are cleaned twice a year. The plant is expected to have a service life of 40 years. Its choice of location was based on power lines traced in the 1990s to export power to Chile, now fed by the park.

Chinese engineers working in an office at the Cauchari park

Xinhua/ZUMA

Chinese want to expand

The plant belongs to the public-sector firm Jemse (Jujuy Energía y Minería), created in 2011 by the province's then governor Eduardo Fellner. Jemse's president, Felipe Albornoz, says that once Chinese credits are repaid in 20 years, Cauchari will earn the province $600 million.

The Argentine Energy ministry must now decide on the park's proposed expansion. The Chinese would pay in $200 million, which will help install 400,000 additional panels and generate enough power for the entire province of Jujuy.

The park's CEO, Guillermo Hoerth, observes that state policies are key to turning Jujuy into a green province. "We must change the production model. The world is rapidly cutting fossil fuel emissions. This is a great opportunity," Hoerth says.

The province's energy chief, Mario Pizarro, says in turn that Susques and three other provincial districts are already self-sufficient with clean energy, and three other districts would soon follow.

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