Carlo's Think Pieces

Reflections of a Filipino in the Netherlands

Archive for June, 2009

One State Solution?

Posted by butalidnl on 25 June 2009

There is supposedly a world-wide consensus on the need to have a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian problem. Lately, even Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has grudgingly accepted a two-state solution – although this is with “killer” conditions that the Palestinians will probably not accept.  The prospect of working to establish two separate states – one for the Israelis, and another for the Palestinians, seeems like a logical aim. But is this the only good solution to the problem?

I think that the two-state solution may not be achieved, especially as the result of the work of radicals in both sides. At a certain point of the stalemate, perhaps people will start to realize that the more workable solution is to have just one state to include both Israelis and Palestinians. This could be a federal state, with two entitites.  Or it could be a unitary state.

The biggest problems with the two-state solution are: the Israeli settlements on the West Bank, and the right of return of Palestinian refugees (to Israel proper i.e.).  With a one-state solution, both issues are easily resolved – since both the West Bank and Israel proper will belong to one state, Israeli settlers could settle anywhere in the new state, and Palestinian refugees could return (with some help with resettlement costs) anywhere in the new state also.

The present stalemate in the peace process (which is supposed to lead to a two-state solution) is breeding the conditions for the birth of the one-state idea. Obviously, it will not be initiated from the Israeli side. But the Palestinians, being denied of their own state for so long, will sooner or later realize that they are de-facto second-class citizens in a big Israel-dominated state.  Their situation is similar to the Bantustans under the Apartheid regime of South Africa. And apartheid was resolved eventually when the blacks demanded “one person, one vote” – full democratic rights in the single state of South Africa.  What is to keep the Palestinians from similarly demanding “one person, one vote” in the de-facto state of Israel and the West Bank?

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Mall?

Posted by butalidnl on 2 June 2009

In the Philippines, with its many malls scattered all throughout the country, the construction of a mall is almost routine. It is uncontroversial. But, in city where I live (Tilburg, the Netherlands), the plan to build a mall is so controversial that the city council has put the question to a vote. This coming Thursday, 4 June, we will be having a referendum on whether or not to put up a mall in the city.

Why all the fuss? Well, for one thing, malls are not common in the Netherlands. Actually, we do have a couple of shopping centers here that Filipinos could call malls, but the people here don’t call them that.

Issues
The opposition to the mall centers on two issues. The first issue is the competition that the mall will pose to existing shops. The shop owners in the central shopping district of Tilburg fear that their sales will suffer as a result of the mall. Then, the shop-owners in neighboring cities – through their elected officials, are also objecting quite vigorously. They fear that shoppers will be attracted to Tilburg, and shun their shops.

And then comes the issue of the environment. The mall is supposed to attract people from outside the city in order to be profitable. While the government will be setting up bus service from the train station to the mall, the bulk of the shoppers is expected to come by car. The mall will thus mean a lot of car trips, and thus increase pollution.
The construction and operation of the mall is claimed to harm the environment. The trees in the designated area will be cut down, and the mall itself will use up electricity, etc.  In response to these kinds of criticism, the mall builders say that they are going to use environment-friendly techniques in the construction and operation of the mall.  The parking area will even have recharging sites for electric cars.

Those in favor of the mall say that it will create jobs and increase the overall economic activity of the city.  Tilburg, with its history as a working-class textile city, has left it with a drab image. With the mall and other developments, the city hopes to “brighten” Tilburg’s image.  And many people, especially the younger generation, want the mall since it would be a nice place to go to.

Thoughts for the Philippines
Initially, I did not think much of the mall debate or referendum. But in the course of all the discussions, I think that I am getting the sense of why this is such a heated issue. And with this realization, I would like to reflect on the situation with malls in the Philippines.

Yes, malls are a nice place to go to, especially for the youth who want to have a place to hang out with friends. But what about the issues of the environment and the competition with other shops.  In terms of competition with shops, I think the Philippine malls have learned to coopt the shopkeepers. There are even places provided for really small shops. It has become a complete experience, with shops, food, public shows, even religious services.

But the environmental impact of Philippine malls is much more destructive that that of the prospective mall in Tilburg. In the Philippines, the main environmental damage is in the operation of the mall itself – as a whole big enclosed air-conditioned space. This uses enormous amounts of electricity. And to think that this is not really necessary.  It is possible for a mall to be designed in such a way as to use much less electricity. Think of heat exchangers which would recirculate the coolness, while using fresh air. Or, more plants and fountains. Or even lowering the cooling temperature a bit, so that it is merely comfortable and not cold.

With all these in mind, perhaps it would not be a bad idea to discuss the economic, environmental and social issues before a mall is set up anywhere in the Philippines. Perhaps even a local referendum would then make sense.

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