A Pangasinense and other Filipino-Americans in the Biden administration; a tribute to German leader Angela Merkel

Published January 31, 2021, 12:12 AM

by Former House Speaker Jose C. De Venecia Jr.


Jose de Venecia Jr.
Former Speaker of the House

We, Dagupeños, are proud of the appointment by US President Joe Biden of Filipina-American Camille Calimlim-Touton as deputy commissioner of the US Bureau of Reclamation.

Calimlim-Touton’s parents, Carl Calimlim and Marlene Bangsal, are from Barangay Tebeng in Dagupan City, our beloved hometown.

The Bureau of Reclamation overseas dams, canals, and hydroelectric plants across the Western United States, composed of the states of Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. This is also referred to as the American West.

Calimlim-Touton’s will reportedly be in charge of water policy and the problems associated with the threats of climate change and drought cycles.

Speaking of climate change, we are delighted by the decision of President Biden to rejoin the US into the historic Paris Climate Agreement, a global pact forged five years ago among some 200 countries to combat climate change.

A resolution commending Calimlim-Touton on her appointment was filed in the House of Representatives by our son, Rep. Christopher de Venecia of the fourth district of Pangasinan.

We also applaud the appointment of two other Filipino-Americans to US government posts – Jason Tengco, as White House liaison officer of the US federal Office of Personnel Management (OPM), and Gloria Dino-Steele, as acting administrator of the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel bade farewell to the German people as she is stepping down later this year after leading her country for 15 years and her party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), for 18 years.

The Christian Democratic Union is a democratic and conservative political party in Germany which produced great post-war leaders like Konrad Adenauer, Helmut Kohl, and Merkel herself.

Considered by many as the de facto leader of Europe, Merkel, a physicist, is the first woman chancellor of Germany and the first woman and first non-Catholic to lead CDU.

She is much-admired for steering her country and Europe from the European financial crisis in 2008. Merkel is also widely recognized for her leadership and toughness in the face of enormous challenges and for her ability to build consensus and strike a balance among divergent views.

Merkel was first elected to public office in 1990, at the Bundestag, or the Lower House of parliament, following the reunification of East and West Germany that year. She was appointed minister for women and youth in 1991 by then Chancellor Helmut Kohl, a towering figure in German politics and the first leader of a reunified Germany, who became our friend and supportive of close political and economic relations with Asia.

Germany has a special place in our heart as it is where our vision of establishing an organization of political parties in Asia was born.

Our uncle Policronio de Venecia studied medicine in Berlin and married a German lady, Erna, and they later settled in our hometown, Dagupan City. Their cousin Gualberto de Venecia finished medicine in Japan. Policronio’s daughter Gretchen was later married to Albert del Rosario, who later became secretary of foreign affairs.

It was in the beautiful city of Sankt Augustin in 1998 where we spoke at a forum organized by the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (Foundation), which is affiliated with the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), where we first espoused the idea of an “Asian Dialogue” and which would engage the mainstream political parties of our continent on matters of peace, security, and development.

Two years later in the year 2000, we launched the International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP) here in Manila, which has now all of the political parties of Asia as members, active in promoting peace and economic development. We later transferred its headquarters from Manila to Seoul in hopes of contributing to peace in the Korean peninsula, which unfortunately, has not happened up to now.

This was followed by the International Association of Parliamentarians for Peace (IAPP), which has a global membership, also active in peace and reconciliation.

We are hopeful that even with the uncertain future, with no indicative, predictable initiatives for peace, there are no forceable perils today of nuclear conflict, which is obviously a no-no in the 21st century.