Saturday, June 30, 2012

One warship – enough to win a global war?

June 23, 2012

By Volkhonsky Boris
The Voice of Russia 
Photo: EPA
On Wednesday, as reported by Reuters, the U.S. Navy announced that the first of a new class of coastal warships will be sent to Singapore next spring for a roughly 10-month deployment.
The proposed move may seem insignificant in terms of the total capacity of only one warship, but it definitely highlights a strategic pivot in U.S. policies in Asia Pacific, and the determination to engage regional powers with one sole purpose of containing China.
Recent months have witnessed a growing tension in the maritime area of South China Sea between China on the one hand, and Vietnam, the Philippines and several other littoral countries on the other. China claims that most of the islands in the South China Sea fall under its territory – a claim other littoral countries are not ready to agree with. In April, China and the Philippines narrowly escaped the option of a maritime dispute turning into a military standoff, when China deployed warships in order to protect fishing vessels fishing in the disputed waters and threatened to be arrested by the Philippine navy. Similar incidents happened throughout March and April between China and Vietnam.
The territorial disputes have attracted attention of other important players from outside the region, namely the U.S. and India, both trying to expand cooperation with China’s rivals.
The new U.S. strategic pivot was announced last year, when President Obama ordered stepped-up emphasis on the Asia-Pacific region in a “rebalancing” of U.S. national security planning. Since then, several important developments have taken place, including the posting of 1,500 U.S. marines in Australia, and maritime drills with the Philippines in the South China Sea.
Now, what’s so special about Singapore. The fact is that this tiny state is strategically located on the southernmost tip of the Malay Peninsula, and thus creates a convenient stronghold for the control of a strategically important choke point in the narrowest part of the Strait of Malacca.
It should be noted that the Strait of Malacca is one of the most important global trading thoroughfares with almost 40 percent of world trade flowing through it. That amount includes the overwhelming portion of oil supplies transported to China from the Persian Gulf and Africa. Imagine that the current standoff between China and any of its neighbors turns into an open warfare. In that case, one warship would be basically sufficient to completely block the bottleneck of the Strait of Malacca which at its narrowest point does not exceed 2.8 km (1.5 nautical miles). Deprived of oil, China would not last long in a military standoff even with much weaker rivals.
In recent years, China has been extensively building up its strategy called “the string of pearls” consisting in creating port, road and pipeline infrastructure in the littoral countries of the Indian Ocean basin (namely, Pakistan and Myanmar), which would enable it to bypass the narrow Strait of Malacca. But the strategy has not yielded its fruit, and the Strait of Malacca remains the only gateway for the goods to enter Chinese waters.
Deployment of U.S. warships in Singapore, accompanied by the marines in Australia, and Indian and U.S. navies regularly penetrating into the South China Sea dramatically alters the whole strategic situation in the region. In fact, China appears to be surrounded by its geopolitical rivals, having no allies in East and South East Asia, except North Korea, and no reliable allies whatsoever.
So, the move of one U.S. warship to Singapore should not be underestimated. This is only a first step, and the U.S. is definitely going to pump up its military presence in the region by establishing permanent stations in Southeast Asia.
The whole situation leaves only one question unanswered. The Strait of Malacca is famous not only as an important trading thoroughfare, but, along with the African Horn, also as one of the two maritime areas most seriously affected by pirates. If blocking the Strait for cargo ships and oil tankers seems to be an easy task that may be accomplished by a few warships, then why would the U.S. not pay greater attention to anti-piracy struggle. Indeed, that would be a much more helpful use of military power than trying to isolate China.
Boris Volkhonsky, senior research fellow, Russian Institute for Strategic Studies

Friday, June 29, 2012

A Plea for Justice

By Jose Ma. Montelibano

Volunteers building Gawad Kalinga homes
After one long month visiting the United States and Canada, it is so good to be home. No doubt, there are modernities and opportunities that only developed countries can give. No doubt, traveling in countries with vast lands, with lakes where the whole Philippines can fit, can be quite alluring. And staying in cities like San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and Toronto can dazzle a Filipino. North America is super rich, not just pound for pound, but in volume, too. It is no wonder that different peoples around the world want to migrate to the US and Canada.
At the same time, being in a work like Gawad Kalinga (GK) gives me the privilege of traveling to countries where GK either finds support or gives support. The movement to lift our people out of poverty by stimulating both love for the poor and patriotism in hearts of others who can help, with particular development modalities that are finding success like no other in the world, needs the kind of coordination that require me and a few others to keep in close touch. The achievements of Gawad Kalinga are not lost in the big world of anti-poverty and social entrepreneurship. Winning the Ramon Magsaysay Award was just the beginning, and bagging the Skoll Foundation Award (Jeff Skoll is the founder and CEO of the giant eBay corporation) a few months ago is but the latest of recognition that a native Filipino initiative is meriting globally.
Promoting GK even to Filipinos abroad can be back-breaking. Poverty is a global reality and ours does not especially stand out as the worst. Africa has the top priority with a poverty that has strong shades of AIDS or violence. Then, serious disasters like what hit Haiti can temporarily put that country at the top of the list for aid or philanthropy. The plight of the poor in the Philippines must be the prime concern of Filipinos because developed countries will not place the Filipino poor above others in the world. Furthermore, poverty in the Philippines, in the minds of Filipinos abroad, is intimately related to corruption. I cannot blame them. Poverty is a direct consequence of corruption in a country that is blessed beyond belief. It is the bitter fruit of a lack of concern for the other, it is the curse of a people whose rich and powerful suffer from historical amnesia and whose need to have more prevent them from correcting that historical anomaly.
Poverty in the Philippines is not a natural calamity, it is a criminal reality. Poverty in the Philippines began when a foreign master grabbed the lands of a thriving people who had never know hunger or destitution. I do not wish to romanticize a past just to emphasize a point, but there is no archaelogical finding of any sort that points to significant incidences of hunger or violence. In contrast, scientific findings all point to a past that is colorful, prayerful and abundant. Poverty began when the Filipino was forcibly separated from control of his land. In the 16th and 17th centuries when this wholesale land grab happened, it was not land that was confiscated from natives of our islands, it was business, it was enterprise, it was wealth, it was freedom and creativity. The succeeding centuries simply saw the intelligent humanity of the Filipino reduced to intelligent animal-hood.
In 1946, independence from foreign rule was granted by the last foreign master, the United States. The land that was grabbed by the first foreign master and passed on to their successors finally found their way back to Filipino hands. But a lack of appreciation of the historical past, or a lack of motivation to correct a historical wrong, prevented the newly-installed Filipino rulers from remembering that they lands they were in control of, land called public, was never the government’s in the first place. When the lands were grabbed by Spain, there was no national government to steal them from. The lands belonged to the natives, the lands were stolen from the natives. We are now in the 21st century and those with power and authority wallow in amnesia, real or contrived.
There are a few exceptions, a minority who never forgot about their own lands. They are the Muslims of Mindanao, the same Muslims who have tried to fight for what was theirs but branded as separatists or terrorists. They are only Filipinos who have not forgotten, and who have had the courage to die for their own sense of justice. The only mistake that Muslims have made is to blame Christians. Because those who ruled were Christians, Muslims blamed all Christians. They did not realize that Christians are the most victimized, and worst so because fellow Christians stole their lands. The truth is that all natives lost their lands to foreign masters. The truth is that massive poverty is but a consequence of grabbed lands, of grabbed wealth, of grabbed opportunities, of grabbed entrepreneurship.
The way back to dignity as natives of our beautiful country is security of tenure. Filipinos cannot be born squatters. Filipinos cannot be punished generation after generation for a crime that a foreigner committed. The natural and divine relationship of man and land must be honored. And if the present dispensation and the decision-makers of our society will rediscover the historical truth, I am sure that their conscience will move them to stop the inhumanity committed against the poor who have been unable to climb out of the hole they were forced into.
The way of Gawad Kalinga is inspirational, not confrontational. The way of Gawad Kalinga is kindness, not rebellion. The way of Gawad Kalinga is developmental, not violent. It will always be that way or it will not be Gawad Kalinga anymore. But in the heart of this one GK advocate, this one GK worker, I can only plead and pray for justice. And I do so now because there is a new ambience for truth, a new ambience for justice, and a new generation that will lead us to the promised land.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

SC stops Zambales mountains’ levelling, seaport construction

June 22, 2012

Source: Philippine Star
MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC) en banc on Tuesday issued a writ of kalikasan stopping the leveling of a mountain in Zambales and the building of a seaport to be used in shipping mountain soil rich in chromite and other minerals to China.
The residents earlier complained to Agham party-list Rep. Angelo Palmones and Laguna Rep. Danilo Fernandez, chairman of the committee on ecology of the House of Representatives, which prompted the two congressmen to conduct on-site inspection last April.
Upon arriving in the area, the two solons were confronted by heavily armed men.
After inspecting the area, Fernandez’s panel recommended to Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon Paje the issuance of a cease and desist order (CDO) against the “irresponsible mining firm.”
Palmones, for his part, went to the Supreme Court to seek the Writ of Kalikasan.
He submitted a 12-page petition to the High Court and attached 60 pages of annexes containing photos of the site before and after the leveling of the mountain, with the soil pushed towards and reclaiming the sea destroying the corals and natural habitat of the fishes, and affidavits of complaining residents.
Worse, Palmones said, LNL Archipelago Minerals Inc. (LAMI) started to flatten a mountain in Barangay Bolitoc, Sta. Cruz, Zambales, which serve as natural protective barriers of the residents of Sta. Cruz, Zambales and the residents of some of the adjacent towns of Pangasinan from typhoons and floods.
He said the residents signed a single or common affidavit, lamenting that they were never consulted before LAMI began its operations.
They demanded that the natural resources be preserved, restored to its original shape and protected.
Instead of appeasing the angered residents, LAMI officials, with heavily armed men in tow, faced the residents and flaunted that they were authorized by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and PPA to flatten the mountain, the residents said in their affidavit.
Palmones said the permit to construct issued by PPA in favor of LAMI does not authorize it to cut mountain trees, much less flatten a mountain, for its port construction.
The DENR, for its part, issued an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) but it was only a “planning tool” and not a permit.
The ECC requires LAMI to “diligently secure pertinent permit and clearances from all concerned government agencies, which LAMI failed to comply with,” said Palmones.
The Agham party-list solon said he had included Paje and other government officials as respondents “because they failed to act on the complaint despite undisputed evidence presented to them and with no less than Fernandez, as chairman of the House committee on ecology, recommending that the DENR issued a cease and desist order, to no avail.”
As of June 4, or more than a month after the two lawmakers raised the alarming destruction of environment to Paje, PPA and the police, LAMI’s backhoes were still doing earth-moving activities, Palmones said in his petition.
“Respondent LAMI is destroying and continues to destroy the environment by cutting mountain trees and leveling a mountain to the damage and detriment of the residents of Zambales and of the nearby towns of Pangasinan, without any of the concerned government agencies and officials stopping such illegal actions and or worse, condoning the same,” he said.
Palmones said the residents wished the remaining mountains that were found to be rich in mineral resources would be left unharmed.
He said the raw soil mined from the mountains were being shipped to China for processing because the LAMI did not have the capacity to process the ores.
“The LAMI needed the seaport to cut on travel time and cost as ships could bring in more mountain soils and rocks for export than shipping them by land because trucks can only carry limited tons of raw soil and rocks,” he said.
“The mountain trees and the mountain being destroyed by respondent LAMI serve as natural protective barriers of the residents of Zambales and of the residents of some nearby towns of Pangasinan from typhoon and floods. Once these natural resources are damaged, the residents of these two provinces will be defenseless against typhoons and floods and their life, health and properties will be at the constant risk of being lost,” he noted.
In a resolution, the SC en banc issued a Writ of Kalikasan against Paje, LAMI president Lawrence Lenio and general manager Philip Floria, Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) general manager Juan Sta. Ana, and Zambales Police provincial director Superintendent Francisco Santiago Jr.
Paje and the others were given a “non-extendible 10 days” and ordered to make a “verified return” of the writ for hearing, reception of evidence and rendition of judgment.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Joke for the Day: The Two Young Woman

Two young women were out walking in the country on a hot summer’s day when they saw a beautiful lake close to the road.

‘It’s so hot! Let’s go for a swim in that lake to cool down!’ suggested the first woman.

‘But we haven’t got any swimming things to put on,’ said the other, ‘ We can’t swim naked!’

‘Oh, don’t worry about that!’ reassured the first woman, ‘ There’s nobody here to see us.’

So they took off all their clothes and got into the lovely cool water for a swim.

After only a few minutes they noticed a farmer walking towards the lake carrying a large bucket.

‘Are you here to ask us to get out of the lake?’ the first woman asked.

‘I think he’s here to look at us!’ said the second woman.

The old farmer frowned and held up the bucket for them to see.

‘No, I’m not here to tell you to get out of the lake and I didn’t come here to watch you ladies 
swim naked.’ he replied. ‘I’m just here to feed the alligator.

Are we losing the Karburo War?

June 20, 2012 

by Perry Diaz
Filipino fishermen wave from a fishing boat bound to fish near Scarborough Shoal in Masinloc, Zambales (Credit: REUTERS/Erik de Castro)
After more than two months of standoff between the Philippines and China in the disputed Scarborough Shoal, President Benigno “P-Noy” Aquino III ordered the pullout of two Philippine ships from the area because of Typhoon “Butchoy.”  This was after the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the Philippines and China had agreed last June 5 to pull out their ships from the area.
But according to the latest DFA update, China claimed that it never committed to pull out its vessels from Scarborough Shoal, which China refers to as Huangyan Island.  In response, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said, “Chinese side will continue to maintain administration and vigilance over Huangyan Island waters.”
The Chinese spokesman warned the Philippines to refrain from “giving further statements and behaviors that may further strain relations.”  Then he added, “We wonder where the so-called commitment the Philippine side mentioned on ‘China’s withdrawal of vessels’ came from. We hope the Philippine side can restrain their words and behaviors, and do more things conducive to the development of the bilateral relations.”
Karburo War
A member of China’s ocean expedition team raises the Chinese flag while another holds a survey rod on Scarborough Shoal (Source: Chinese Embassy website)
It seems that China is winning the “Karburo War,” a war of words for control and possession of the Scarborough Shoal or “Karburo,” as the fishermen of Zambales call it.  With Philippine fishing boats prevented from entering the lagoon, China has now exclusive control and de facto possession of the Scarborough Shoal.  And the Philippines was helplessly immobile to deter the intrusion with just a single naval vessel at her disposal, a disarmed U.S. Coast Guard cutter purchased by the Philippine government several months ago.  Indeed, China – without firing a single shot – had successfully bullied the Philippines into abandoning her territory.
But what else could the Philippines do under these circumstances?  Without warships and warplanes, the Philippines is at the mercy of China who is claiming the entire South China Sea (West Philippine Sea), East China Sea, and Yellow Sea as an extension of her continental shelf.  If nobody challenges her wholesale claim to these three contiguous bodies of water that extend from the southern tip of Japan all the way to Indonesia, China could choke the shipping lanes in the region; thus, preventing vessels from other countries from passing through her “territorial waters.”
If and when China would make that bold step depends largely on how the United States would react to any attempt the block the shipping lanes in the South China Sea-East China Sea-Yellow Sea corridor.  However, the U.S. had warned China to keep the shipping lanes open to international navigation.
Ghost from the past 
How did the Philippines get herself into this situation?  What happened in the past two months was the culmination of a series of events that began two decades ago.  On September 16, 1991, the Philippine Senate voted to pass a motion rejecting a new treaty with the United States that would allow her to continue the operation of military bases in the country.
But the actual closure did not occur until a year later.  The administration of President Cory Aquino – P-Noy’s mother – tried to salvage the bases but the two sides were unable to work out their differences.  On November 24, 1992, the last American forces left.
In spite of the departure of U.S. military forces, the 1952 U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) remained in force.  But many wondered, “How could the U.S. come to the defense of the Philippines without any permanent military bases to operate from?”
In1998, then President Fidel V. Ramos successfully negotiated the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the U.S.  The VFA provides for future military cooperation between the two allies including joint military exercises.  But critics said that the VFA would be used to get around the 1987 Constitution’s prohibition of foreign military bases on Philippine soil.
Indeed, the ghost from the past continues to haunt U.S.-Philippine relations.  The leftists are quick to react whenever they see a shadow of American military presence.  Last May 14, 2012, when a U.S. nuclear submarine – the USS North Carolina – docked at the Subic Bay Freeport to replenish her supplies, members of the Kilusang para sa Pambansang Demokrasya (LPD) staged a lighting protest at the gate of the former American naval base, which was converted to civilian use after its closure.
The protesters accused the U.S. of sending the submarine to provoke China whose gunboats and fishing vessels are in Scarborough Shoal, just 125 miles away.  They said that they don’t need the U.S. to defend our territory.  Were they joking?  How could they defend our territory without warplanes and warships?   War is not a joking matter.
MDT with U.S.
And this brings to the fore the nagging question: Would the United States come to the defense of the Philippines if China attacked the country?
During P-Noy’s recent visit to the United States at the invitation of President Barack Obama, there was no explicit commitment from Obama that the U.S. would honor the Mutual Defense Treaty if China attacked us.  And the reason is that Obama’s “evolving” foreign policy is to avoid committing American military forces in foreign wars.  However, it would be different if American military forces were already stationed – permanently – in a country where the U.S. has a defense treaty like Japan, South Korea, and Australia.  If China attacked any of these countries, the American forces stationed in that country would be drawn into the conflict.  In essence, the presence of American military forces is an effective deterrent against invasion.
Such was the case with the Philippines for almost 100 years.  After World War II, no foreign country dared to attack the Philippines even during the Chinese communist adventurism in the 1950s through 1970s.  With the presence of American military bases in t the Philippines, our borders were safe from foreign invasion.  Not anymore.
MDT with China
Recently, it was reported in the news that Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson had cautioned the Department of National Defense against allowing American troops to use their former naval and air facilities in Subic, Zambales and Clark Field in Pampanga. He pointed out that under the VFA, there is a clear provision that U.S. forces cannot have permanent or semi-permanent basing privileges in the country.
However, Lacson said that he has an “open mind” on the possibility of having a Mutual Defense Treaty with China.  “Why not?” he said.  “Why don’t we take the initiative to forge a mutual defense treaty with China? After all, they are our neighbors in Asia.”  He then explained, “It would be better if the Philippines enjoys the support of the world’s top superpowers – the U.S. and China.  It would be beneficial to us to have two big brothers on our side instead of one. This is to avoid any animosity and controversies. If allowed, I think China will welcome the idea to have MDT with them.”
However, the problem would be if these two “big brothers” attacked each other.  Who would the Philippines defend – the U.S. or China?  Or if North Korea attacked the Philippines, would China attack North Korea?
But Lacson brought up his outlandish idea before the “Karburo War” erupted.  Now, that China reneged on her commitment to withdraw from the Scarborough Shoal, can Lacson trust China that she would honor a Mutual Defense Treaty if it was not to her advantage?
Please don’t be naïve, Mr. Senator.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

US carrier to take part in exercises with Korean, Japanese navies

June 15, 2012

By Jon Rabiroff
Stars and Stripes
U.S. and Japanese ships steam in formation during a photo exercise with USS George Washington in this file photo. Adam K. Thomas/Courtesy U.S. Navy
SEOUL – The USS George Washington aircraft carrier is scheduled to return to the waters off South Korea this month, a move that in recent years has upset Chinese and North Korean officials.
The U.S., South Korea and Japan will conduct a two-day, trilateral naval exercise June 21-22 in the waters south of the Korean peninsula, the Pentagon announced Thursday. The exercise will focus on improving relations and communications among the three navies, the announcement said.
The Pentagon added, “The three navies will conduct this exercise beyond the territorial waters of any coastal nation.”
Following that, the U.S. and South Korean navies will conduct “a routine carrier operation” in the Yellow Sea, west of South Korea, from June 23-25.
There were no immediate reactions from North Korea or China to news of the two upcoming naval exercises.
The George Washington Carrier Striker Group will make a port call in Busan, on the southern tip of the peninsula, following its participation in the two exercises. In the wake of North Korea’s 2010 sinking of the Cheonan warship — which killed 46 South Korean sailors — the George Washington took part in a four-day naval and sea exercise in the Sea of Japan, or East Sea as it is known in the South.
That exercise, U.S. and South Korean officials said at the time, was “designed to send a clear message to North Korea that its aggressive behavior must stop.”
Then, after North Korea shelled Yeonpyeong Island on Nov. 23, 2010, killing four people on the tiny South Korean island near the disputed maritime border between the two Koreas, the George Washington was dispatched to the Yellow Sea.
Jeffrey Bader — the president’s former senior director for Asian affairs on the National Security Council — wrote in his book, “Obama and China’s Rise: An Insider’s Account of America’s Asia Strategy,” that sending the carrier was done with a purpose.
“The deployments culminating in the Yellow Sea exercise sent an important message to Beijing: North Korean provocations would induce U.S. and South Korean responses not at all to their liking.
“Washington hopes this would encourage China to restrain North Korea in the future,” he wrote.

Monday, June 25, 2012

A Future Full of Hope

June 15, 2012

By Jose Ma.Montelibano
It is difficult not to be optimistic about the future of our country. In fact, one would have to be totally blind, totally prejudiced, totally compromised, or simply too emotionally constipated not to be optimistic. Optimism does not remove the problems, but makes it easier to do so. Optimism does not paint a bright future but makes it attractive to have one. Yes, optimism looks at the glass half full instead of half empty, but it has good reason to do so – like realizing the water is coming in and not going out.
For nine months, financial institutions and international rating agencies have consistently upgraded their forecasts on the Philippines. I am amazed at how all of them, yes, all of them, are so bullish about the Philippines. And like a self-fulfilling prophecy, their optimism has been affirmed when the Philippines posted an outstanding 6.4% growth in GNP for the first quarter of 2012. By achieving a growth that is the highest among ASEAN countries and second only to China for the whole of Asia, the Philippines proved that the positive ratings had solid foundations.
What is interesting is that the optimism of the world’s financial institutions and rating agencies coincided with the arrest of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and the impeachment of now deposed Chief Justice Renato Corona. What his political opponents tried to downplay, even disparage, now has President Noynoy Aquino on the right side of history. When he placed absolute priority on the fight against corruption as his campaign promise, and now his governance, P-Noy accepted that the pain of reform and the challenge of transformation were necessary ingredients to the change that Filipinos clamored for.
It takes courage to demand justice and begin from the top. It takes courage to demand that the former president must face the music from inside the Philippines and now safely outside the arms of Philippine laws and justice. It takes courage to confront a TRO from the Supreme Court which would have allowed Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to leave the country in a fastbreak manner. It takes courage to tell Renato Corona to his face in a public setting that the Chief Justice was protecting the one who appointed him in the dead of night and worked out Supreme Court decisions with great partiality. It takes courage to inspire the impeachment of the Chief Justice despite all the warnings about a Constitutional crisis.
I am on my last leg of a month-long journey to visit Filipinos in the United States and Canada. In the nation-building advocacy of Gawad Kalinga which I always try to contribute to, I have found it crucial that Filipinos abroad, especially Filipinos in America,must be an active player in the change and prosperity of the motherland. I have also realized that the fractiousness, and, sometimes, outright divisiveness of community leaders, have to take their own reform and then movement towards solidarity The enormous financial power of Filipinos in America plus their influence on the families they support back home cannot be undervalued.If they find reasonable convergence in transcendent causes, the money and influence of Filipinos in America can bring more financial and political benefit than the World Bank or the IMF combined.
Overseas Filipino Workers, popularly known as OFWs, send more money to their families in the Philippines than Filipinos in America, but they cannot send much more than what they are already sending. OFWs already send the bulk of their wages every month. On the other hand, Filipinos in America can till increase dramatically what they remit to the Philippines if they are properly motivated or inspired. They can send annually more billions of US and Canadian dollars than what the World Bank and the IMF has historically provided the Philippines as loans. And the funds that Filipinos in America can additionally remit to the Philippines, even as investments to long-term development, will most probably stay in the Philippines permanently.
Credibility. Confidence. Optimism. A crab mentality is born from a sour outlook. Divisiveness is born from an acidic attitude. Most bad news are not real – they are stories from spin masters who take one bad news and multiplies it until it dominates the rest of reality which carries good news as well. Most bad news flow from a history of Filipinos ready to believe the worst of ourselves even when the best of ourselves is what it takes to build the future we long for but can never have with negativism as the primary driver. Revolutions have been known to destroy but only hard work with positive motivation builds a nation with a brighter future.
There is a new generation of Filipinos who do not carry the baggage of divisiveness and pessimism. They have long rejected the gloomy or the contentious which are great dampers to the creative spirit and expression of modern technology. Those who will build our nation are not chained to conflict, they are wired to change. Those who cannot see and say anything contributory to the kind of future they want are simply neglected, not even worth contending with. This is the future.
In the United States and Canada, Filipinos are beginning to feel that new optimism about the great possibility of change. In no small measure did the impeachment, conviction and removal of Rene Corona as Chief Justice contribute to the general feeling of pride in being Filipino, in being part of people able to demand honesty and justice. I believe, though, that the new optimism in the air is from a deeper faith that we can do it, that we have what it takes to do it, and that change is possible because we want it more strongly than ever.
I believe, too, that the fresh air of the young, the idealism that naturally springs from their soul, will lead us to a togetherness that will defy the bondage of history, dismantle our divisions, confront and defeat the greed and apathy that perpetuate poverty. I believe that those who will build a future full of hope have arrived at last.
“There is always a philosophy for lack of courage.” Albert Camus

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Varyag to enter service with China’s North Sea Fleet: Duowei

June 15, 2012

Staff Reporter
Want China Times 
The destroyer Harbin, the current flagship of the North Sea Fleet, takes part in a joint exercise with the Russian navy on Apr. 26. (Photo/CNS)
Sources from the PLA Navy have told Duowei News, a website operated by overseas Chinese, that China’s first aircraft carrier will enter service with the North Sea Fleet.
Based in Qingdao on the Shandong peninsula, the mission of the North Sea Fleet is to protect the country’s coastline between Lianyungang in Jiangsu province and Bohai Bay, including defending Beijing from attacks launched from the sea. Two other ports used by the fleet are Huludao and Lushun, both in the northeastern province of Liaoning. Unlike the East Sea Fleet and South Sea Fleet, the North Sea Fleet has yet to see combat experience.
The Harbin, a Luhu-class destroyer, is the current flagship of the fleet. It has a destroyer division equipped with two Luzhou-class, two Luhu-class and four Luda-class vessels, a frigate division with one Jianghu-class and three Jianghu-II class frigates, as well as a submarine division with four Han-class and one Xia-class nuclear submarines. The fleet also has about 15 to 20 diesel-electric submarines.
Preparing for the commissioning of the country’s first aircraft carrier, the North Sea Fleet has two fighter divisions and one bomber division which it hopes to deploy aboard the former Soviet aircraft carrier which China purchased from Ukraine. A carrier-based helicopter group has also recently been established. The PLA Navy Air Force is now training its pilots to take off and land on the deck of the carrier.
“France had spent a decade to develop its own carrier strike group,” said Yin Zhou, a retired rear admiral. “Will China take that long to have our own carrier group? It is still a question that has yet to be answered.”
Though the South Sea Fleet is seen as the fleet with the greatest potential to engage in a combat situation due to territorial disputes over the South China Sea, it is considered unwise for the Chinese navy to deploy its aircraft carrier in southern waters as this would risk escalating the chances of conflict between China and nations of Southeast Asia.
It is seen as a better option to deploy the Varyag with the North Sea Fleet as it has the capability to provide support to the East Sea Fleet against the a potential intervention of the US Navy in a contingency involving Taiwan. The North Sea Fleet has also been ordered to pay close attention to the development of US naval bases at Sasebo and Okinawa in Japan. The North Sea Fleet would play an important role in an anti-access and area denial campaign against the US Pacific Fleet.

Saturday, June 23, 2012


June 15, 2012

Calling A Spade…
Solita Collas-Monsod
There is universal outrage that Manny Pacquiao was robbed of his boxing championship. Even his opponent reportedly expressed surprise when he was declared the winner of the match. The promotor of the match, who apparently manages both Pacquiao and Bradley, wants the decision investigated by the Nevada Attorney General, just to make sure there was no hanky panky as far as the judges were concerned. US Senator Harry Reid also is backing an investigation (although it is not clear whether he is referring to the US Senate or to Nevada). The only (tiny) consolation in the whole episode was that at least it was a split, rather than a unanimous decision of the three judges.
Well, I’ve got news for you, folks. The Filipino people have just been robbed of something on the order of P200 billion, with not even the consolation of a split decision by the Sandiganbayan’s Fifth Division, headed by Justice Roland Jurado. Jurado and his colleagues Teresita Diaz-Baldos and Alex Quiroz threw out the more than 20-year-old case — Civil Case 0005 — against Lucio Tan, et al (the et al including 28 individuals and 40 corporations and including the heirs of Ferdinand Marcos). On what grounds? Lack of evidence.
Which means that Lucio Tan acquired what is now Allied Bank, as well as husbanded several other corporations to great financial success without any help from Ferdinand Marcos, or at least there is no evidence showing the connection between the two.
Lack of evidence, my sainted foot. The Sandiganbayan must be deaf, dumb and blind to have ignored the following:
• The claim of Imelda Marcos in 2001 (“Amended Answer with Counterclaim and Compulsory Cross Claim”) where she went into the details of the extent of the Marcos holdings in the Tan companies;
• Certified copies of blank deeds of assignment and deeds of sale executed by the nominal owners of 60% of the Tan holding companies as presented by Bongbong Marcos to the Sandiganbayan (Bongbong was a hostile witness for the prosecution). In other words, the written and oral testimony of Imelda and Bongbong Marcos was to the effect that Ferdinand Marcos owned 60% of Tan’s companies.
3. It gets better, with documentary evidence showing the really close relationship between Tan and Marcos:
a) A letter, dated March 26, 1977 (a Saturday), from Tan to FM, regarding the purchase of General Bank and Trust Co (now Allied Bank). In it, Tan asks for FM to “persuade” the PNB to commit to issue a P310-million standby letter of credit in favor of the Central Bank (CB) as required by the latter as part of the bid requirements for GenBank. The bids for GenBank were to be opened the following Monday, and without that issuance, Tan would be disqualified. It is noteworthy that in that letter, Tan also mentioned how much his bid would be (whatever for, unless FM was part of it?). It is also noteworthy that on Monday, March 28, PNB president P. O. Domingo sent a letter to the CB signifying that PNB was prepared to issue the letter of credit in favor of the CB to secure Tan’s commitment. A P310-million decision (present-day equivalent: P6 billion) made by the PNB in less than one-half of a working day. It casts the alleged Bobby Ongpin-DBP deal in the shade.
b) Then there is a letter to FM on Jan. 4, 1982,asking for exemption from duty and taxes for the importation of 100 million bottles by Asia Brewery, endorsed by FM to then Trade Minister Bobby Ongpin; and a letter the following week directly to Ongpin (this time for 60 million bottles), with a marginal note from FM addressed to CB Governor Jaime Laya and Customs chief Ramon Farolan, to the effect that the request could be approved.
c) And how about a letter dated May 9, 1984 (when the Philippines was in debt crisis) from Allied Bank, asking that the CB deposit $50 million with it, so that it could pay its Middle Eastern creditors. The letter has a notation from FM on May 10 addressed to CB Governor Jobo Fernandez — “I believe the proposal is acceptable.”
4. Further there is the memorandum to then Central Bank Governor Gregorio Licaros — signed by all his deputies (including Jimmy Laya and Gabby Singson)and every member of his senior staff — which in effect lists down the irregularities attendant to the bidding for what is now Allied Bank. These included the fact that not only was PNB’s commitment to issue the P310-million letter of credit in favor of Tan beyond its limit, but also that the requirements for such issuance were not even met by Tan. How was this resolved? The CB monetary board later — after Tan won the bid for what is now Allied Bank — waived all these requirements.
5. Add to that the testimony of Rolando Gapud, the financial counselor of Ferdinand Marcos, who made the categorical statement that, indeed, Lucio Tan was FM’s (junior) partner, who regularly paid into FM accounts what presumably were his dividends, and even tried to reduce the sharing system from 60-40 in favor of FM to 50-50 (Gapud recounts that he told Tan to take the matter up with FM himself).
So let’s sum it up: The heirs of Ferdinand Marcos (co-accused of Tan) have averred that Marcos and Tan had a business relationship. The letters from Tan to Marcos with regard to business acquisitions and or accommodations corroborate what Imelda and Bongbong alleged. Documents from Central Bank further corroborate the favored treatment that Tan got. With Tan’s financial counselor again giving specific details about the financial relationship and the payments.
And the Sandiganbayan says there is lack of evidence. One guesses that the only way they will rule against Tan is if Ferdinand Marcos comes back from the dead and testifies. And maybe not even then.
If we are outraged about Pacquiao being cheated of victory, if we are outraged about Corona having a $2.4-million and P80-million bank deposit, where is our — and the President’s — outrage at the Sandiganbayan’s robbing us of at least P200 billion?

Friday, June 22, 2012

Jueteng ‘collector’: 2 PNP generals getting payola

June 14, 2012

By Jing Villamente Reporter and Anthony Vargas, Correspondent
Manila Times
NATIONAL Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) chief Director Alan Purisima and Region 4-A (Calabarzon) Police director James Melad were named as among top Philippine National Police (PNP) officials who are allegedly on the payroll of jueteng operators.
A certain Molly Acuña made the disclosure in an e mail sent to Camp Crame reporters. He also denied allegations that he is collecting protection money from illegal gambling operations for his bosses.
The Manila Times found out that Acuña is a civilian personnel of the PNP-Intelligence Group under Chief Supt. Charles Calima. In his letter, Acuña denied newspaper reports about his involvement in jueteng. Instead, he said that an IG official, Supt. Erwin Robles, was behind the “black propaganda” against him.
“I am certain that those behind this black propaganda [led by] Col. Erwin Robles of the [IG] who is the one in charge of collecting [protection money] from all illegal activities in Metro Manila. Col. Robles wants to take all profits from his chief, Charles Calima],” Acuña said in his purported email.
He went on to accuse Robles and his wife, Belle, of involvement in other illegal transactions than illegal gambling, “especially during the time of then PNP chief Jesus Versoza.”
“It is time to dig up their hidden wealth,” Acuña stressed in his e-mail written in Filipino and addressed to “PNP PRESS CORPS.”
The Times tried to reach Robles but all calls were either unanswered or dropped.
For his part, PNP spokesman Senior Supt. Generoso Cerbo Jr. said he could not comment on the matter because “they never received a copy of the said e-mail.”
Demolition job
Calima denied the allegations that they are collecting jueteng protection money from jueteng operators and other illegal activities.
In a telephone interview, the IG head said that he does not know Acuna and that he is saddened to hear of his accusations. He lamented that the accomplishments of the PNP-IG are not even mentioned in news reports.
“It is in our mandate to go after illegal activities that sometimes were not even reported in news programs or newspapers. But we continue to do our job. Di ko na binibigyan pahalaga ang mga ganyan kasi sa dami ng aming nasasagasaan, marami din ang maaring magalit sa IG (I do not give importance to such allegations because many people must be angry at us because of our operations),” Calima said.
He cited recent incident in Cebu City wherein some unscrupulous people claimed to be operatives of the PNP-IG and collected protection money from vice and gambling lords in the province.
“Me lead na kami [We have lead] and we are hunting them. Wala po kaming mga agent agent dito [We do not have agents here]. Puro [Only] uniformed personnel. This is just a demolition job,” Calima said.
He added that Col. Robles is the counter intelligence officer of the Group and that the official is tasked to penetrate even the operatives of IG’s movement in trying to apprehend people in illegal activities.
“Maraming nagsasabi na bakit daw kami sumasali sa mga operation against illegal gambling. Ito po ay dahil ang IG ay member ng task force on illegal gambling maging sa task force on anti-terrorism kasali rin ang IG, bukod pa sa talagang trabaho nito. Ilang taon na ko sa serbisyo at ilang taon na lang din ang ilalagi ko dito dudungisan ko pa ba ang aking pangalan? (Many are questioning why we are involved in anti-gambling operations. This is because IG is a member of the task force on illegal gambling, also the task force on anti-terrorism. I have been in the service for many years and I will be retiring in just a few year, will I besmirched my name?” Calima said.
In the Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon) Region, it was alleged that a certain “Col. Rene Pamuspusan” is acting as Melad’s “bagman.” In the NCR, on the other hand, a certain Bebit Aguas reportedly collects for Purisima.
On Sunday, retired Lingayen Dagupan Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz claimed that jueteng continues to flourish because of the government’s lack of interest in eradicating it.
The former bishop revealed that jueteng operators no longer conduct their own draws since the winning numbers are based on the results of draws held by small town lotteries under the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office.
He also cited the government’s lack of interest in addressing the issue.
“Jueteng did not just boom. The operation is much stronger now. That’s because jueteng is exempted on the President’s ‘matuwid na daan.’ (straight path). When he (President Benigno Aquino 3rd) assumed position, I asked how come jueteng can’t be stopped? He said it’s not his priority,” the bishop said.
“There are three things that are exempted in the president’s ‘matuwid na daan’: Jueteng, Hacienda Luisita and the KKK.”
Cerbo maintained on Monday that the police campaign against illegal gambling, particularly jueteng, has not waned.
“Our operations against illegal gambling… it didn’t stop. Our operations against, our campaign
against jueteng did not stop,” Cerbo, one of the alternate spokesmen for the PNP, said.
“It is one of the sensitive issues that the PNP is focusing into… we didn’t stop our nationwide campaign against jueteng… and we do still have many accomplishments against illegal gambling,” he added.
The PNP spokesman said that their operations against illegal gambling is still ongoing in several regions in Luzon and in Metro Manila and have resulted in the arrest of many persons.
Cerbo also confirmed that they have received reports that some “operators” using STL draws, some being run by local government units, to cover for their own operations.
“There are reports of that came which out before and the police are looking into that… the PNP can still find out if [STL] operations are legal or illegal and we can see it on the ground,” Cerbo said.
Jueteng’s operations reached its peak in 2000 during the impeachment trial of former President Joseph Estrada who was eventually found guilty of plunder in September 2007.
Another political scandal erupted in June 2005 involving allegations that relatives of then President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo received payoffs from jueteng operators.
In 2010, some politicians such as Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Senator Jinggoy Estrada proposed that jueteng be legalized and taxed so that government can legally profit from it.
But the administration of President Benigno Aquino 3rd rejected the proposal to legalize jueteng and instead, he directed the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to formulate a comprehensive plan to combat and to stop jueteng operations, a mission that has yet to be accomplished to this day.
Sources said that there are presently two jueteng “kingdoms.” One group is controlled by Rodolfo “Bong” Pineda of Pampanga province who has long been suspected pf being a “jueteng lord.” The other clique is said to be under Estrada’s former friend and gambling buddy, Atong Ang, who now runs a jai-alai fronton using his company Meridien Vista Gaming Corp. (MVGC).
“Not only are policemen on the take. It has been known that money from jueteng even reach as high as the Palace,” the source said, alluding to the seat of power.
Insiders said this is the reason why even the DILG could not totally wipe out the illegal numbers game.
Ang had served jail term and was deported from the United States where he fled following after Estrada’s ouster. He is now back as head of the MVGC which, according to him and his lawyers, is under the supervision of the Games and Amusement Board.
But when the DILG and the police sensed that MVGC jai-alai betting was being used also as a cover for jueteng, they pounced on Ang.
Ang fought back by suing the DILG and PNP for illegally busting his jai-alai operation as it was only sanctioned by GAB, being the only authority that covers the operations of jai-alai and basketball leagues, among others.
“They have cases against us (DILG) and the Department of Justice, which were all dismissed [for lack of merit],” DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo told The Times.
Robredo said that the DILG ordered raids on MVGC betting stations as far as Cagayan and Maragondon, Cavite province but was questioned by Ang who invoked GAB’s authority over his firm.
“Until now GAB has not given authority to DILG or the PNP to close down Atong’s MVGC,” another source said.
Robredo added that Ang and Pineda are still “at it” but he strongly denied that the two big-time gambling lords have already linked up with him or any DILG official for better protection.
“I’m sure not with the DILG. We did operations in Maragondon and Cavite against the MVGC. DILG will continue to operate against jueteng,” Robredo said.