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The Philippines' Dangerous Love Affair With Guns

Why do so many Filipinos own and carry weapons? One theory points to the influence of former American colonial rulers.

Filipinos at a gun show to promote responsible ownership in Mandaluyong
Filipinos at a gun show to promote responsible ownership in Mandaluyong
Jason Strother

MANILA — Inside this shooting range, located in the basement of a Manila shopping mall, pistols are loaded, triggers are cocked and shots are fired at paper targets 10 meters away.

The Philippines has one of the highest rates of gun ownership in Asia.

Around 1.5 million Filipinos are licensed firearm carriers. But a high rate of violent crime indicates that many illegal weapons fall into the wrong hands. There are more than 8,000 homicides each year in the country, according to recent statistics from the United Nations.

But many Filipinos see gun ownership as a cultural and historical right. "It's widespread, and it's national," says Reynaldo Pacheco. "Everyone will tell you that. Every Tom, Dick and Harry can buy a gun. You can get one easily."

Pacheco, who goes by his nickname Nandy, is perhaps the country's most outspoken critic of the Philippine gun culture. Very few activists have tried to take on the arms industry and the pro-gun culture and government.

He invited me to his countryside home just outside the capital. Walking past the flock of chickens by the front door, I enter his spacious dining room. There's a statue of the Virgin Mary in the corner, and atop the upright piano is a picture of Nandy, his wife and their four grown children.

After a long career as a lawyer and working for the United Nations, he founded the advocacy group Gunless Society 25 years ago. In 1998, he was a vice presidential candidate who ran on a gun-reform platform but lost.

Today, at 82, he's not slowing down, and is eager to recount for me one of his earliest memories of gun violence. It was 1942 and the Japanese military had just invaded the Philippines. He, his family, his neighbors, as well as American and local soldiers were forced at gunpoint to leave their homes in what became known as the Bataan Death March.

"On the left side of the road were the soldiers, the Americans and the Filipinos," he recalls. "On the right side were the civilians. The Filipino soldier would make a sign to us, prepare the civilian clothes, and they would transfer to our side. Some succeeded, but others when they were seen by a Japanese solider, the soldier shot him."

A Yankee legacy

Pacheco says that experience may have been what inspired him to hate guns. But to know why so many other Filipinos love their weapons, he says all you have to do is look at one of his country's former colonial rulers.

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Economy

The Bogus Concept Of "Carbon-Neutral" Oil

The Colombian president recently said that the country had exported one million barrels of carbon-neutral or offset oil. But in an unregulated carbon market, such a claim is pure greenwashing.

People walk in the streets of Bogotá

María Mónica Monsalve Sánchez

-OpEd-

BOGOTÁ - In March this year, various national and corporate leaders met in Houston, Texas, for CERAWeek, an annual conference to discuss the world's energy challenges. Colombia's President Iván Duque took the opportunity to remind participants that his country produced just 0.6% of the world's carbon emissions even as it had raised crude production to one million barrels a day.

He said oil should not be seen as an enemy, since the fight was really against greenhouse gas emissions. He also revealed at the event that the country's national oil firm, Ecopetrol, had sold the Asian market its first million barrels of carbon-neutral or offset crude, consisting of the entire extraction, production and exportation chain.

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