Tuesday, April 30, 2013

China slams Philippines over disputed islands

Source: Channel News Asia (Singapore)
Pagasa Island in the Spratly archipelago
Pagasa Island in the Spratly archipelago
BEIJING – China on Friday hit out at the Philippines’ attempt to seek an international verdict on a territorial dispute over islands in the South China Sea, repeating that it would never give up its claims.
Manila is seeking a United Nations ruling on the validity of Chinese claims to the resource-rich sea, with a possible unfavourable verdict for China seen as a test of its willingness to yield over territorial disputes.
China’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement posted on its website that the Philippines was attempting to “cover in a cloak of ‘legality’ its illegal occupation of China’s islands and reefs”.
It called on the Philippines to withdraw all personnel and facilities from the islands that it said Manila was occupying. “The position outlined by China will not change,” it added.
The statement came a day after leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) called for urgent talks with China to seek a resolution to the increasingly tense territorial disputes.
ASEAN members the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei also claim parts of the sea, as does Taiwan. The competing claims have for decades made the area one of Asia’s potential powder kegs.
The Philippines accused China of occupying a shoal close to its main island last year, and has sought to unite with other ASEAN countries to dispute China’s claims.
China has consistently rejected multilateral negotiations over the disputes, stating that discussions should occur through direct talks between countries.
China and other countries with claims in the South China Sea have boosted naval spending in recent years, while others including the Philippines have sought closer diplomatic and military ties with the United States.
- AFP/ir

ASEAN, Chinese foreign ministers to discuss territorial disputes

JAKARTA - ASEAN Secretary-General Le Luong Minh on Monday said that foreign ministers of ASEAN member countries will have a meeting with their Chinese counterpart in Beijing to further discuss the peaceful settlement on territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

"The meeting between ASEAN foreign affairs ministers and the Chinese foreign affairs minister has been scheduled in August or September this year in Beijing," Minh told Xinhua at the sidelines of a media briefing on the results of the recent high-profile ASEAN Summit held in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei.

He said that during the summit, all ASEAN members agreed to assign their foreign ministries to continue to work actively with China on the way forward for early conclusion of a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC) on the basis of consensus.

In his briefing, Minh said that ASEAN leaders reaffirmed the importance of peace, stability, and maritime security in the region. They also underscored the importance of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), ASEAN's six-point Principles on the South China Sea and the Joint Statement of the 10th anniversary of the DOC.

"In this regard, we reaffirmed the collective commitments under the DOC to ensuring the peaceful resolution of dispute in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea without resorting to the threat or use of force, while exercising self-restraint in the conduct of activities," Minh said in the briefing.

He added that ASEAN is looking forward to continued engagement with China in implementing the DOC in a full and effective manner, including through mutually agreed joint cooperative activities and projects.

ASEAN groups together Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Philippines: A Jewish refuge from the Holocaust

Telltale Signs
By Rodel Rodis
Jewish-refugees-from-the-HolocaustThe 1993 Best Picture movie, Schindler’s List, informed the world about Austrian industrialist Oskar Schindler and how he saved 1,100 Polish Jews during WWII by hiring them as workers in his factory. A new documentary, Rescue in the Philippines: Refuge From the Holocaust, being shown this month in hundreds of PBS stations throughout the US, will now inform the world about Philippine Commonwealth President Manuel L. Quezon and the role he played in helping German Jews escape Nazi persecution in 1939 by providing them with visas and safe shelter in the Philippines.
The significance of Quezon’s actions can be appreciated in the context provided by another Hollywood movie, the 1976 film, Voyage of the Damned, based on the true story of the 1939 saga of the luxury liner MS St. Louis, which left Hamburg, Germany with 937 Jewish passengers bound for Cuba. When the ship landed in Havana, the Jews were refused entry, as the Nazi authorities expected. The ship then headed for Florida where the US government also refused to allow the Jews to disembark. After the ship was refused entry in other ports, it returned to Germany where its Jewish passengers were forcibly removed and dispatched to concentration camps for extermination. A Nazi official in the film declares: “When the whole world has refused to accept them as refugees, no country can blame Germany for the fate of the Jews.”
But at least one country can. In the year when the MS St. Louis was rejected by all the countries where it sought refuge, the Philippine Commonwealth accepted 1,300 Jews and was willing to accept as much as 10,000 more if the US State Department had allowed its commonwealth to do so.
The Washington Times reported on December 5, 1938 (“Quezon Urges Jews’ Haven”) that “the possibility of a haven for Jewish refugees from Germany was broached today by Pres. Manuel Quezon” who said “I am willing to facilitate entrance of such numbers of Jewish people as we could absorb…I favor large scale immigration to Mindanao, if well financed.”
The untold story of the Philippine rescue of Jews was first prominently recounted by Frank Ephraim in his book, “Escape to Manila: From Nazi Tyranny to Japanese Terror” (University of Illinois Press, 2003), which was based mostly on his own eyewitness account as a child who was one of 1300 Jewish refugees who arrived in Manila in 1939.
According to Ephraim, the history of the rescue begins with the decision of the Frieder brothers in 1918 to relocate its two-for-a-nickel cigar business from Manhattan to Manila, where production would be cheaper. Alex, Philip, Herbert and Morris Frieder took turns overseeing the business in the Philippines for two years each joining a community that had fewer than 200 Jews. At its height, the Frieder brothers’ tobacco company in Manila produced 250 million cigars in a year.
The idea for the Jewish exodus to the Philippines came in 1937, when 28 German Jews who had earlier fled Germany for Shanghai were evacuated by the Germans to Manila after fierce fighting erupted between Chinese and Japanese troops. The Jewish Refugee Committee in Manila, headed by Philip Frieder, was formed to help them settle in the Philippines. From these refugees, the Frieders heard first-hand accounts of the Nazi atrocities in Germany and the uncertain fate of the 17,000 Jews still stranded in Shanghai.
The Frieders decided to seek the help of their poker buddies to get the Philippines to become a haven for the fleeing Jews. But these were no ordinary poker buddies. One was Paul V. McNutt, the American High Commissioner for the Philippines; another was a young officer named Col. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the aide of Gen. Douglas MacArthur, then Field Marshall of the Philippines; and then there was Manuel L. Quezon, the president of the Philippine Commonwealth.
In their late night poker sessions, as Ephraim recounts it, the buddies hatched a plan for the Philippines to accept as many as 100,000 Jews to save them from persecution in Germany.
McNutt had served as National Commander of the American Legion and as governor of Indiana (1933-37) before Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt tapped him to be the High Commissioner of the Philippines in 1937.
McNutt’s task was to convince the US State Department to grant visas for Jews to enter Manila.
Col. Eisenhower’s task was to organize a plan to bring Jews to settle in Mindanao. In the Rescue in the Philippines documentary,Susan Eisenhower, President Dwight Eisenhower’s granddaughter, reflects on his involvement: “It’s one thing to sit around a card table and talk about a worrisome situation—even a dire situation. It’s quite another to actually take some action, and I think that’s why this is a story for all time.”
Pres. Quezon faced the formidable task of winning over the anti-Semitic members of his own cabinet as well as those in the political opposition led by Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo who viewed Jews as “Communists and schemers” bent on “controlling the world”. In a letter written in August of 1939, Alex Frieder wrote of Mr. Quezon’s response: “He assured us that big or little, he raised hell with every one of those persons. He made them ashamed of themselves for being a victim of propaganda intended to further victimize an already persecuted people.”
To the members of his own Catholic Church who were prejudiced against Jews, Quezon asked: “How can we turn our backs on the race that produced Jesus Christ?”
In the Rescue film, Manuel L. Quezon III ponders his grandfather’s reason for helping the Jewish people: “I think for my grandfather, it was perhaps that simple. You have a country. You have a little authority. You have an opportunity. Someone has asked for refuge—which is the most basic humanitarian appeal anyone can make. You answer it.”
At the April 23, 1940 dedication of Marikina Hall, a housing facility for Jewish refugees that was built on land that he personally donated, Quezon said: “It is my hope and, indeed, my expectation that the people of the Philippines will have in the future every reason to be glad that when the time of need came, their country was willing to extend a hand of welcome.”
Quezon’s expectation of how future generations of Filipinos will feel about the rescue of the Jews during their time of peril had one flaw: the future generations never learned of the country’s noble deed. After the Rescue documentary was shown at its April 7, 2013 San Francisco premiere, a question and answer forum followed. One Filipina from Vallejo stood up and identified herself as having been a public school teacher in the Philippines before immigrating to the US. “How is it possible that I never heard of this Jewish rescue when I was a student in the Philippines, when I was a teacher there, all the way until I watched this film tonight?” she asked.
The answers provided by other Filipinos in the audience (“because it was not taught in Philippine history books”) begged the question of why this significant event in Philippine history was omitted from the Philippine history books.
I went to elementary school at Letran College in Intramuros, Manila. Every day, for the 8 years I was there from kindergarten to 7th grade, I passed by the imposing bronze statue of Manuel L. Quezon, the school’s most distinguished alumnus. I thought I knew everything there was to know about Quezon until I stumbled on Frank Ephraim’s book in 2005 and learned for the first time about Quezon’s role as a “righteous gentile” and wrote about it then.
Why was this heroic episode hidden from the Filipino people? Why was it not included in Philippine history books? Strangely enough, what is recounted in the history books is that on November 29,1947, the Philippines was the only Asian nation to support the partition resolution at the United Nations creating a Jewish State in Palestine.
On June 21,2009, a monument to Manuel L. Quezon was unveiled at the 65-hectare Holocaust Memorial Park in Rishon LeZion, Israel’s 4th largest city located south of Tel Aviv. The monument designed by Filipino artist Junyee is called “Open Doors”. It is a geometric, seven-meter-high sculpture rendered mainly in steel and set on a base of marble tiles shipped from Romblon, showing three doors of ascending heights.
Speaking at the dedication ceremonies on behalf of the Philippine government, Tourism Secretary Joseph Durano said: “the monument celebrates the Filipino heart, a heart that touches others with compassion, a heart that makes one a blessing to the world.”
But that Filipino heart desperately needs to be informed about the noble act that made it a blessing to the world.
The education of that Filipino heart has begun in earnest with the release of Rescue in the Philippines: Refuge From the Holocaust and its public airing TV stations throughout the US and soon in the Philippines. This will be followed by another documentary, “An Open Door: Jewish Rescue in the Philippines”, which is being produced and directed by a Washington DC-based filmmaker, Noel “Sonny” Izon.
In his film, Izon seeks to “explore the rare confluence of the Pacific and European theaters. It juxtaposes momentous events in history such as the passage of the Nuremberg Laws on September 15, 1935 and, exactly two months later, the inauguration of the Philippines as a Commonwealth of the United States. One door closes and another opens…the story of a deep and improbable, international friendship borne of common adversity and intense love for freedom. Together, Filipinos and Jews struggled, endured and ultimately prevailed against overwhelming odds.”
Izon has a personal reason for making his film. He was born in Manila in 1946, the year after his “deathly ill” father was saved at a Manila hospital by Dr. Otto Zelezny, one of twelve physicians among the 1300 Jews who found safe haven in the Philippines. This film is his chance to thank the good doctor from Berlin who “made my life possible”.

The South China Sea is an important world energy trade route

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration

Map of South China Sea trade routes, as explained in the article text Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Map of South China Sea trade routes, as explained in the article text
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Stretching from Singapore and the Strait of Malacca chokepoint in the southwest to the Strait of Taiwan in the northeast, the South China Sea is one of the most important energy trade routes in the world. Almost a third of global crude oil and over half of global liquefied natural gas (LNG) passes through the South China Sea each year.
The Strait of Malacca is the shortest sea route between African and Persian Gulf suppliers and Asian consumers. The strait is a critical transit chokepoint and has become increasingly important over the last two decades. In 1993, about 7 million barrels per day (bbl/d) of oil and petroleum products (20% of world seaborne oil trade) passed through the Strait of Malacca, according to the Center for Naval Analysis. EIA estimates that by the end of 2011, trade through Malacca was greater than 15 million bbl/d, or about one-third of all seaborne oil. In comparison, the world’s most important chokepoint for maritime transit, the Strait of Hormuz between the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea, had an oil flow of about 17 million bbl/d in 2011 (see World Oil Transit Chokepoints). Average daily oil consumption worldwide in 2011 was about 88.3 million bbl/d.
A significant amount of crude oil arriving in the Strait of Malacca (1.4 million bbl/d) goes to terminals in Singapore and Malaysia instead of continuing on to the South China Sea. After processing, this crude oil is shipped out again to Asian markets through the South China Sea as refined petroleum products, such as motor gasoline and jet fuel. The rest of the crude oil passes through the South China Sea to China and Japan, the two largest energy consumers in Asia. Finally, about 15% of crude oil moving through the South China Sea goes on to the East China Sea, mostly to South Korea.
Crude oil flow in the South China Sea also comes from intraregional trade, particularly from Malaysian, Indonesian, and Australian crude oil exports. Intraregional trade is distributed evenly among Singapore, South Korea, Japan, and China, with smaller amounts going to other Southeast Asia countries.
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration
The South China Sea is also a major destination for LNG exports. About 6 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of liquefied natural gas, or more than half of global LNG trade, passed through the South China Sea in 2011. Half of this amount continued on to Japan, with the rest of it going to South Korea, China, Taiwan, and other regional countries. Almost 75% of all LNG exports to the region came from Qatar, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Australia.
With growing demand for natural gas in East Asia, the South China Sea’s share of global LNG trade will likely increase in the coming years. Moreover, Japan has increased its LNG imports to replace the energy lost from nuclear power outages following the Fukushima crisis. Much of the new supply will come through the Strait of Malacca, although some countries like Indonesia are investing in their own LNG export capacity.
Finally, large quantities of coal from Australia and Indonesia, the world’s two largest coal exporters, pass through the South China Sea to markets around the world, especially to China, Japan, and India. These coal shipments include both steam coal used for generating electricity and process heat as well as metallurgical coal that is a key ingredient in primary steel production.
For more information, see the South China Sea Regional Analysis Brief.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Philippines accuses China of ‘de facto occupation’

Source: AFP
Scarborough Shoal
Scarborough Shoal
MANILA — The Philippines on Friday accused Beijing of engaging in the “de facto occupation” of a disputed shoal in the South China Sea, following a face-off that began last year.
Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said three Chinese government ships remained in the vicinity of the Scarborough Shoal, scaring off local fishermen.
“The Chinese have tried to establish a de facto occupation,” he told reporters.
The Philippines says the shoal is well within its 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone, as recognised by international law.
However China insists the shoal is Chinese territory as part of its claim to almost all of the South China Sea — including waters up to the coasts of other countries.
A face-off between the two countries began last year when China dispatched government vessels to stop the Philippines from arresting Chinese poachers in the area.
He said the Philippines tried to settle the matter through talks but when this failed, it was forced to ask a UN tribunal to strike down China’s claims.
Del Rosario also said the Philippines had put off granting oil exploration contracts in disputed waters in the South China Sea due to the “sensitivity of the situation” with China.
“We have given this significant thought and decided what is best for the country. We also don’t want to put (private companies) in a compromising situation,” he added.
The Philippines has accused China of using intimidation to press its claims in the South China Sea, which are believed to encompass vast mineral resources and also include vital shipping lanes.
Taiwan, Brunei, Vietnam and Malaysia also claim parts of the South China Sea.
The rival claims have for decades made the waters one of Asia’s potential military flashpoints.

PCGG keeps Imee’s account report secret

By Kris Bayos
Manila Bulletin 
PCGG-logoManila, Philippines — The Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) has decided to keep the preliminary report about Ilocos Sur Governor Maria Imelda “Imee” Marcos-Manotoc’s alleged offshore trust account “confidential” and instead launched a joint investigation with the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Office of the Ombudsman.
In a statement released yesterday, the PCGG confirmed that the internal task force created to conduct initial investigation of Manotoc’s offshore trust account in the British Virgin Islands has already submitted its preliminary report.
“The PCGG evaluation team which looked into the alleged offshore account of Gov. Imee Marcos-Manotoc has submitted a 12-page preliminary report to the Commission en banc,” the agency said.
“(But) at this time, the preliminary report will be kept confidential given the sensitive nature of the matter and until certain legal and factual issues are verified and resolved,” the PCGG said.
The PCGG en banc likewise decided it will furnish the DOJ and the Office of the Ombudsman of the preliminary report compiled by the internal task force, led by PCGG Commissioner for Research Maita Chan-Gonzaga and Commissioner for Litigation Vicente Gengos.
“The Commission will furnish the DOJ and the Office of the Ombudsman of the said preliminary report once finalized. The Commission is closely coordinating with these offices for a joint investigation,” the PCGG said.
It was recalled that the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) has named Imee as one of the world’s elite-holders of anonymous wealth stashed in tax havens overseas.
The ICIJ’s “naming project” discovered that Imee is one of the beneficiaries of the Sintra Trust, which was formed in June 2002 in the BVI. Other beneficiaries include Imee’s sons Ferdinand Richard Michael Marcos Manotoc, Matthew Joseph Marcos Manotoc, and Fernando Martin Marcos Manotoc.
Citing the ICIJ investigative report, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) said scores of documents, the latest of which are dated 2010, “show that Imee was a financial advisor for the Sintra Trust; a company in which the Sintra Trust was a beneficial shareholder called ComCentre Corporation, which was formed in January 2002 in the BVI and still in operation; and a ‘master client’ for the M Trust, formed July 1997 in Labuan, Malaysia, but had closed in July 2009.”
Imee is already facing pending forfeiture cases together with her mother, former First Lady Imelda Marcos and siblings Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Irene Marcos over an undetermined worth of wealth they illegally amassed during the term of President Marcos.
Imee was named in the ICIJ report alongside France’s Jean-Jacques Augier, François Hollande’s 2012 election campaign co-treasurer; Mongolia’s former finance minister, Bayartsogt Sangajav; the wife of Russia’s deputy prime minister Olga Shuvalova; a senator’s husband in Canada, lawyer Tony Merchant; Spain’s wealthiest art collector, Baroness Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza; and the ex-wife of notorious oil trader, Denise Rich.

Palace on poverty: Figures to improve

By Delon Porcalla 
The Philippine Star 
Poverty.5MANILA, Philippines – Poverty figures released the other day were only up to the first semester of 2012, and the situation is getting better, Malacañang said yesterday.
Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda emphasized, however, that improvements will not happen overnight and the executive needs the support of Congress for poverty alleviation.
“These are all historical data. The press conference on the poverty incidence was on the first semester of 2012,” Lacierda said.
He was referring to the National Statistics Coordination Board (NSCB)’s press briefing last Tuesday wherein it announced the release of its “2012 first semester state of poverty in the Philippines” report.
“These are 2012 numbers, these are not current numbers. The survey that was conducted by the NSCB was for the first semester of 2012, which means the first half of 2012,” Lacierda stressed. “Are we confident that poverty numbers by the second semester of 2012 will improve? …The answer is yes, it will improve.”
He said the government is bent on giving more attention to three sectors: agriculture, tourism and infrastructure.
“Let me state that this is not an overnight thing. This is a work in progress,” Lacierda said. “For that reason, we also need support from both houses of Congress.”
He noted that growth in agriculture is slow and the government is addressing this. Lacierda said a Cabinet cluster is reviewing areas where jobs can be created and which crops can be enhanced. Farm-to-market roads are in place but farmers need more access to technology and credit, he said.
Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman said the NSCB report should encourage government agencies to step up efforts to address poverty. “We would like to assure that the DSWD is doing its best to implement programs and projects that will contribute to the poverty alleviation efforts of the government,” Soliman said.
Jobless growth
Sen. Sergio Osmena III said poverty has been a serious problem for years “not only in our country but in many countries, even first world nations.”
He said the country is experiencing “jobless growth” in which automation increases profits for corporations but hardly expands the worker base.
The question is what to do to create more jobs. But thatTs a long discussion, ask the trained economists,s Osmeña said in a text message to reporters.
For Sen. Panfilo Lacson, scenes of poverty around the country including Metro Manila are a validation of the NSCB report.
“I can actually validate that survey result on poverty situation when I go around and see for myself poverty at its worst,” he said.
He said he had seen a number of communities “very close to (the National Capital Region), if not within NCR itself, where one cannot imagine how the residents can last a day under the conditions they are in.”
Sen. Ralph Recto said the NSCB report indicates that the rich are getting richer and the poor, poorer.
“The gap between the rich and poor is wider,” he said.
Recto, chairman of the Senate committee on ways and means, noted that the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program is “helpful but not enough” in addressing poverty.
He batted for more “more investments to educate the poor families so they can help themselves.” He said the government must also invest more in infrastructure and make health care more accessible to the poor.
The NSCB survey only confirmed what we already know. Nothing substantial is being done to address poverty,T said Makabayan senatorial candidate Teddy Casiño.
Casiño also lashed out at the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) and other concerned agencies for not doing their jobs. We might as well abolish NAPC,W he said.
“Artificially increasing the income of people does not work,” he said, referring to the CCT program. “What the government should do is to strengthen agriculture and industries and grant higher wages. That way, we are not only uplifting the lives of the people, we are also boosting the economy since higher incomes result in increased demand for local products and services,” he said.
Growth not inclusive
Casiño said the growth being trumpeted by the administration does not appear to have any impact on the common people.
“If the President is really concerned with inclusive growth, then his administration should look into improving the lives of our farmers and workers,” he said.
“The point is, the poverty survey is the only survey that really matters. Unfortunately, the President seems more concerned with non-inclusive economic ratings such as the Fitch Ratings and his Liberal Party’s senatorial survey standing,” he said.
He also said the NSCB report failed to capture the true extent of poverty in the country.
“It is preposterous to think that a family of five needs only P7,821 per month to stay above the poverty threshold when the estimated family living wage is already at P1,022 per day to cover food, shelter and clothing,” he said.
Opposition senatorial candidates, meanwhile, took turns lambasting the administration for the poverty figures.
United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) campaign manager Toby Tiangco said the poverty figures were a rejection of the administration’s glowing economic claims. He said economic growth under the Aquino administration had a “faint impact” on employment and poverty alleviation.
“What happened? Didn’t they tell us the economy is improving?”Tiangco asked. “If we are serious in improving the lives of Filipinos, government must take concrete and practical steps for everyone to feel the impact down to the grassroots level.”
Sharing his observation was another UNA senatorial candidate, Zambales Rep. Mitos Magsaysay.
“The NSCB is a government office. Yet it could not deny the fact that President Aquino has failed to improve the lives of the poor during the first three years of his term,” she said.
“Something must not be working in the strategies they have employed. Rather than point fingers on who is to blame, perhaps the President should order his people to find better means to address the issues that factor in the country’s poverty problem,” she said.
“Great effort must be made by the current administration to improve the living conditions of the people,” she added. “Give them the tools to make them succeed – education, skills training. Help the people maximize their potentials.”
Former senator Ernesto Maceda said the government must come up with a program that would create at least three million jobs.
“More tax incentives must be given to businessmen and investors to put up new businesses or expand their workforce,” Maceda said in a statement.
Cagayan Rep. Jack Enrile Jr., another UNA candidate, called the NSCB report “alarming and unacceptable.” He urged the government to launch a comprehensive food production program to satisfy the needs especially of Filipinos living below the poverty line.
“It means that virtually one in every three Filipinos lives in extreme poverty. Primarily it means that at least one-third of 90 million Filipinos are undernourished for lack of food,” he said.
Enrile is the principal author of House Bill 4626 or Filipinos for Food First. The bill seeks to develop the capability of each region and province to produce enough food for its constituents and sell surplus to the rest of the country.
“We are forced to import food, costing billions of pesos annually, when we can produce this food ourselves and thus increase the income of millions of farmers and their families,” Enrile said.
He urged the government and the public to “subsidize our own farmers by buying their produce at reasonable prices, and providing the infrastructure for the transportation and distribution of food countrywide.”
He said the billions of pesos saved from the importation of food should be used to develop other key industries including agriculture. – With Paolo Romero, Christina Mendez, Alexis Romero, Jose Rodel Clapano, Rainier Allan Ronda

Ignore China at your peril

By Peter E. Greene
The Windsor Star
Rockets are launched from the Thunderbolt 2000, a Taiwan-made multi-rocket launcher system, during a military drill in western Penghu islands on April 17, 2013. Taiwan's defence ministry on April 17 staged its biggest live-fire military exercise since 2008, aimed at reviewing the island's defence capability against a simulated Chinese invasion. (Sam YehSAM YEH/AFP/Getty Images)Rockets are launched from the Thunderbolt 2000, a Taiwan-made multi-rocket launcher system, during a military drill in western Penghu islands on April 17, 2013. Taiwan's defence ministry on April 17 staged its biggest live-fire military exercise since 2008, aimed at reviewing the island's defence capability against a simulated Chinese invasion. (Sam YehSAM YEH/AFP/Getty Images)
Rockets are launched from the Thunderbolt 2000, a Taiwan-made multi-rocket launcher system, during a military drill in western Penghu islands on April 17, 2013. Taiwan’s defence ministry on April 17 staged its biggest live-fire military exercise since 2008, aimed at reviewing the island’s defence capability against a simulated Chinese invasion. (Sam YehSAM YEH/AFP/Getty Images)Rockets are launched from the Thunderbolt 2000, a Taiwan-made multi-rocket launcher system, during a military drill in western Penghu islands on April 17, 2013. Taiwan’s defence ministry on April 17 staged its biggest live-fire military exercise since 2008, aimed at reviewing the island’s defence capability against a simulated Chinese invasion. (Sam YehSAM YEH/AFP/Getty Images)
It was interesting to read Tom Phillips’ opinion column on China’s expanding military might.
The article mentions a report by Xinhua, a Chinese state-run news agency that states China’s commitment to a doctrine of peaceful development and that China will never seek hegemony or behave in a hegemonic manner, nor engage in military expansion.
Those countries that believe this statement and are lulled into a sense of security and ignore China’s military expansion do so at their peril.
History has shown us that China has always sought hegemony. In 1951, China invaded the peaceful and pastoral country of Tibet and claimed it as its own. In 1962, China invaded India and captured land in India’s northeast region.
China still claims that the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh belongs to China. This invasion happened just after Chinese leaders had visited India and signed a treaty of peace, friendship and co-operation.
China has built up extensive road, rail and airfield infrastructure on the Tibet India border. The Chinese Air Force can deploy 21 fighter squadrons based at eight airfields in Tibet and other airfields to their north.
China has also built a strategic “String of pearls”, which refers to the Chinese Naval sea lines of communication, which extend from the Chinese mainland to Port Sudan. These sea lines run through major choke points such as the straits of Mandebs, Malacca, Hormuz and Lombok.
China has also built strategic maritime centres with deep sea ports in Gwadar, in Pakistan, Hambantota in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Maldives and Somalia.
The string of pearls is symbolic of China’s rising geopolitical influence with increased access to ports and airfields, development of diplomatic relationships and modernized military forces from the South China Sea to the Persian Gulf.
China talks peace but its actions show otherwise. The U. S. and other countries will do well to keep this in mind.
The Middle Kingdom is no longer confined to the middle.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Moody’s, the poor, and Tubbataha

‘(O)ne can only hope that the electorate has learned that the PNoy way is the way to go and thus, the voter would prefer another in the same mold in 2016.’
EVEN as Moody’s Investors Service sees the Philippines as a “rising star” in a gloomy world economy that could grow by as much as 8 percent by 2016, there are those who will find whatever good that does as not benefitting the poorest of the poor.
Well, isn’t it somewhere in the Bible that God himself (as man) is quoted as saying that the poor will always be with us?
Philippine economic growth could register between 6.5 percent and 7 percent this year and the next, hitting government targets for both years, according to Moody’s Analytics senior economist Glenn Levine.
“The Philippines has been among the brightest parts of a generally gloomy global picture,” Levine says.
“Some low-hanging fruit has already been picked, but if development and reform continue near their current pace, the Philippines’ potential rate of growth will rise towards 8 percent by 2016,” he explains.
Add to that a low inflation environment. This allows the government – the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) — to borrow at lower interest rates.
The Aquino administration’s “greatest achievement,” however, has been containing the budget deficit which gave us our first-ever investment grade rating from Fitch Ratings.
“The Philippines’ recent performance against a weak global backdrop shows that good governance is far and away the most important driver of growth in emerging markets,” Levine says.
“The crackdown on corruption and (the) encouragement of local and foreign investment, in particular, have worked well.”
Now, one can only hope that the electorate has learned that the PNoy way is the way to go and thus, the voter would prefer another in the same mold as our no-nonsense, daang matuwid leader come 2016. Sometimes, one has doubts that idea of a non-nonsense leader has already set in.
Five in 10 Filipino families still consider themselves “mahirap” or poor, according to a recent survey by the Social Weather Stations (SWS). In this survey, the people are asked to rate themselves whether or not they are “mahirap.”
One would expect Pinoys to mostly regard themselves as poor. I have heard billionaires regard themselves publicly as such, without batting an eyelash.
Yet, the survey also showed that self-rated poverty declined from 54 percent (10.9 million families) in December to 52 percent (10.6 million families) in March.
Then, they are also asked whether they are food-poor.
The number of families rating themselves food-poor dropped by five points in March from 44 percent (8.9 million households) to 39 percent (7.9 million families).
This was specially true in Mindanao, where self-rated poverty dropped by 19 points to 53 percent and self-rated food poverty fell by 20 points to 43 percent.
Poverty rose by seven points to 50 percent in balance Luzon, while food poverty rose by two points to 36 percent.
Poverty also rose by three points to 65 percent in the Visayas, while food poverty fell by eight points to 46 percent.
According to a government agency, there has been no improvement in our national poverty levels since 2006. Ok, but at least, going by the SWS findings, the people themselves feel less poor and believe they are eating better.
The North Luzon Urban Beltway seems the next investment destination of the country due to its infrastructure developments, pushing manufacturing to Clark Freeport Zone (CFZ) and Subic Bay Freeport Zone (SBPZ) and business process outsourcing in Metro Clark.
This is according to the CBRE Central Luzon Urban report.
The property consultancy firm sees renewed demand for manufacturing, BPO and residential sites in Central Luzon as the economy of the region continues to grow.
The continuous infrastructure developments between Clark and Subic has opened up new areas of investment for the manufacturing industry as these foreign firms realize the country’s high investment potential.
This is good for Tarlac. whose electorate seems bent on re-electing Governor Vic Yap. He is way ahead in the surveys taking for himself as much as 80 percent of the vote. This is actually a good thing for Tarlac since Governor Vic has big plans for his province based on his own observation of investor interest in Central Luzon.
Governor Vic Yap will be selling Tarlac not only to investors but also to tourists in his last term as governor.
Apparently, despite all of the furor that has been raised over the compensation (not enough, not cash, etc.) that the US Navy is willing (or unwilling) to pay for its USS Guardian’s plowing into Tubbataha Reef, destroying a potion of the World Heritage Site, Lt. Anthony Falvo, spokesperson of the US Pacific Fleet in Hawaii, says that Manila and Washington haven’t yet reached a final agreement on the extent of the damages on the reef.
The amount of compensation will be determined only after the final agreement has been sealed.
“Once an agreement is reached, an appropriate award will generally be limited to reasonable compensation for the damage or loss only and does not extend to payment of punitive damages, interest, costs, attorneys’ fees, or any other such charges, regardless of whether they are allowed by local laws, standards, or customs.”
So, where did that story come from that the US was not willing to pay in cash but would give us a second-hand warship? The two party-listers whence this story came, objected to the non-existent warship, perhaps not realizing that one such warship such as the USS Guardian is worth much, much more than what we could possibly receive in damages.
Others wanted to see the crew of the Guardian in our jail.
We advise every one to back off.
A joint US-Philippines reef damage survey has been conducted. The results of the survey will determine the amount of damages done to the reef.
The survey team was made up of marine biologists who used “multiple techniques and methods to fully map the affected reef area.”
Before proper compensation is provided, the Philippine government must first file a damage claim under the Foreign Claims Act (FCA).
Let’s leave it at that and wait for things to happen. The American-haters amongst us want to blow up the Tubbataha incident into a virtual Act of War. Let’s not play that game!
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‘Now we know it’s a two-way street’

‘What Goldbeck was in effect saying was that PH-US relations have hitherto been a one-way street – our way. Well, I have news for him…’
Noynoy-TIME-100-Most-InfluentialPRESIDENT Noynoy Aquino has been named by TIME magazine as one of the 100 most influential world leaders for “stabilizing and invigorating” the Philippine economy and his “courage” in pushing for the Reproductive Health law.
Noynoy was also cited by TIME for his “courage” in asserting Philippine sovereignty over areas in the West Philippine Sea which we legitimately own and which are wrongfully claimed by China. I do not agree.
To begin with, did he have any choice other than to defend what is rightfully ours? What kind of a leader would he be if he hadn’t? Also, I do not think it was “courageous” not to have sent back our ships to Panatag Shoal after vowing to do so on several occasions and after our Navy and Coast Guard had said they were ready to make the supreme sacrifice. He had in effect given up Panatag by default to China which now occupies it.
The reason Noynoy didn’t send our ships back to Panatag has been the subject of speculations, one of which is that he was discouraged by the US from doing so. To have done so could have possibly resulted in an armed confrontation between China and the US if our ships were attacked by the Chinese. The US did not want to be faced with a situation where she would be constrained to take sides, our side, by virtue of our Mutual Defense Treaty with her. The US had declared herself “neutral” on the territorial dispute, remember?
Moreover, and our leaders would be well-advised to bear this in mind, on the weighing scale, US-China relations these days far outweigh PH-US relations for economic, political and military reasons. I wish our leaders could get that into their thick heads and learn from the way our neighbors deal with the big powers.
After Foreign Secretary Albert “Amboy” del Rosario foolishly said we would welcome more US troops into the country and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said military bases could be hosted by us again should North Korea attack the US (both were later rebuffed by Malacañang), the American deputy chief of mission Brian Goldbeck gushed and said, “Now we know it’s a two-way street… we know you would come to our aid as well.”
What Goldbeck was in effect saying was that PH-US relations have hitherto been a one-way street – our way. Well, I have news for him…
Below are excerpts of what I said about PH-US relations during a lecture at the Philippine Futuristics Center some months back:
“There is nothing complex about our relations with the United States. They are plainly and simply lopsided in their favor from day one – the parity rights; the huge military bases in Subic and Clark for which they were paying nothing until 1976 when they started giving, if memory serves, the piddling sum of $120 million a year; the rather ‘ambiguous’ provisions of the Mutual Defense Treaty, at least compared to the North Atlantic Treaty; the onerous provisions, to us, of the Visiting Forces Agreement which is, to begin with, an agreement that is against Section 25, Article XVIII of the Constitution.
“The so-called ‘special’ relations we have with them are also, well, special for them, maybe because we were once their colony until they gave us back our political independence on 4 July 1946. Americans enjoyed special privileges in this country by virtue of the parity rights inflicted upon us.
“These lopsided and ‘special’ relations with the US are best illustrated by our present territorial dispute with China over certain areas in the West Philippine Sea over which we have legally tight claims under international law, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea in particular, of which China and the Philippines are signatories.
“One day, we woke up to find the Chinese violating our territorial integrity and sovereignty over the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal. Several Chinese vessels were caught fishing in the Shoal’s lagoon and one of them was boarded by our Coast Guard.
“China responded with a show of force by sending several naval and maritime ships and blocking ours to prevent them from apprehending the Chinese fishing vessels.
“As a result of Chinese aggressive behavior and considering that we are no match to them in more ways than one, our national leadership turned to the US for military and diplomatic support.
“Washington responded by saying that the U.S. is ‘neutral’ on our territorial dispute with China and instead urged all parties concerned to settle peacefully through the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS) which the U.S. has not even ratified.
“We also asked for US assurance that they will retaliate instantly against possible Chinese military attack and all we got was that she will stand by the provisions of the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT). Unlike the North Atlantic Treaty, there is no instant retaliation clause in the MDT.
“We asked the US to help us attain a “minimum credible defense posture” and got nothing! Instead, they boasted about selling – not gifting or granting – us two antiquated coast guard cutters stripped of their armaments. President Benigno Aquino III asked for a squadron of F-16 jet fighter-bombers. Nada.
“On the other hand, we have dutifully agreed to an ‘expanded’ – I guess you can still call that ‘special’ – relations with us which include frequent regular visits by their warships and aircraft to our ports and airfields and more U.S. troops on our soil for ‘rotational’ stationing here. Yet, the US and our own government insist there will be no permanent US bases here for these troops and war materiel. The Subic naval base and the Clark Field air base may be no more, but the ‘expanded’ arrangement is the same as basing their troops and war materiel in our territory. That is against our Constitution!
“Washington and Manila say this new arrangement is anchored on the Visiting Forces Agreement. That Agreement violates our Constitution.
“What did we get in return for these expanded relations with the US? Nothing anywhere near the US$3 billion I have been suggesting we should get. It is not much of a price to pay considering what Washington has been giving to Pakistan, Egypt and Israel, for instance, all these years!
“Let us not forget that the US ‘pivot’ to the Asia-Pacific region is to protect and promote her own national interests in view of China ’s emergence as an economic power and her increased military expansion, covert computer technology development and continuous search for energy and special metals for her industrialization push.
“So, what did we get? The US publicly announced the Philippines will receive US$30 million additional military aid this year which Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile scoffed at as insulting. It will not even buy us one jet fighter! They also agreed to help us improve our coastal watch system and increase the number of Peace Corps volunteer workers here. We are not even getting what we want from the Save Industries Act, i.e., ten-year tariff free entry into the US of our garments made of American fabric. The U.S. Congress would agree to five years only!”
So there… I hope Goldbeck is now enlightened.
Noynoy reportedly expressed sympathy to President Barack Hussain Obama for the Boston bombing that killed three people and wounded some 180.
I was just wondering if he did the same to the heads of state of Iraq where some 70 people were killed and about 300 wounded due to a series of suicide bombings that coincided with the one in Boston; of Iran where scores of people perished and hundreds injured due to an earthquake; and most recently, of China where some 180 people died in Sichuan also due to an earthquake. Not only do we have diplomatic relations with these countries… they also host thousands of our countrymen.
Has “Amboy” del Rosario been sleeping on the job again? Just asking.
The Chinese ship that ran aground in Tubbatha Reef two weeks ago was finally extricated from the World Heritage site.
Aside from reports that the crew of 12 are now in detention and have been charged with illegal entry, poaching and bribery, there has been no mention at all of the extent of the damage that the vessel had caused to the Reef and whether or not the Chinese will be made liable to pay for the damage and fines prescribed by law.
How come?
Beleaguered Elections chairman Sixto Brillantes, Jr. was reported to be considering resigning and asking Noynoy for an ambassadorial post in “Eastern Europe, like Romania, Slovakia or Hungary”. (For his information, we no longer have an embassy in Romania and never had one in Slovakia. We also have an envoy in Hungary now.)
When asked why Eastern Europe, he said he wanted to “rest” as “there are few Filipinos” there.
I can imagine how the career officers in the DFA must feel about Brillantes’ remarks. It was bad enough that his brother was once a political ambassador (now a DFA undersecretary). Now him too? And merely to rest?
Reminders (for Noynoy’s action):
1) Filing of charges against officials of the National Food Authority (NFA) during Arroyo’s illegitimate regime. Noynoy himself said on several occasions that there is documentary evidence to prove the venalities in the past in that agency.
2) Investigation of reported anomalies in the GSIS during the watch of Winston Garcia and ordering his successor, Robert Vergara, to file the proper charges, if warranted, against the former.
Noynoy should also order Vergara to report to him on COA’s findings that at least P4.13 billion in contributions and loan payments made by 12 government offices to the GSIS had not been credited to the offices as of Dec. 31, 2011. COA also said the amount of unrecorded remittances could go much higher because only 36 agencies have so far responded out of the 186 that were sent confirmation requests by government auditors. Of the 36, 27 confirmed “discrepancies” in their premium and loan payments ledgers when compared with those of the GSIS.
There are three questions being raised when remittances, or parts thereof, of government agencies are not recorded by the GSIS on time: a) Where are these huge sums “parked” in the meantime?; b) Do they earn interest?; and c) To where (whom?) does the interest, if any, go?
3) Facilitating the investigation of rampant corruption in the military and police establishments.
4) Expeditious action by the AFP on the case of Jonas Burgos.
Today is the 361st day of the sixth year of Jonas Burgos’ disappearance.
From an internet friend:
A senior golfer came home early. His wife asked, “How come you are early?”
He said, “I don’t wanna play golf anymore! I can’t see where my ball goes.”
His wife said, “Why don’t you bring my brother along?”, to which he replied, “What are you talking about? He’s older than me.”
“Yes, but his eyesight is still quite good,” she said. He said, “Okay”.
So, one day, the senior golfer brought his brother-in-law along. He hit his first drive. It was a good hit. He turns to his brother-in-law and asks, “Did you see where it went?”
“Ah… er… I forgot…”