Friday, May 31, 2013

Chinese behaving badly

As international travel rises, so do complaints about conduct of ‘uncivilized’ Chinese tourists abroad
By Jonathan Manthorpe
Vancouver Sun
A Chinese tourist uses his mobile phone to show his friend a picture of a portrait in progress drawn by a street artist in Hong Kong. One official in Beijing has lamented the rude behaviour of many Chinese tourists, which has 'damaged the image of Chinese people and caused vicious impact.' Among the transgressions are spitting, not flushing tourists and queue jumping. (Photograph by: Anthony Wallace, AFP, Getty Images , Vancouver Sun)
A Chinese tourist uses his mobile phone to show his friend a picture of a portrait in progress drawn by a street artist in Hong Kong. One official in Beijing has lamented the rude behaviour of many Chinese tourists, which has ‘damaged the image of Chinese people and caused vicious impact.’ Among the transgressions are spitting, not flushing tourists and queue jumping. (Photograph by: Anthony Wallace, AFP, Getty Images , Vancouver Sun)
As the number of Chinese tourists has soared from almost nil a few years ago to a world-leading 83 million last year, so has their reputation for rudeness and objectionable behaviour.
Their image is so bad that hotels from Thailand to Paris will not accept Chinese tourists, and the Beijing government is planning to introduce in October a law to regulate travellers’ behaviour.
At a recent national conference on the coming tourism law, one of China’s four vice-premiers, Wang Yang, lamented the “uncivilized behaviour” of some Chinese tourists.
Their displays of lack of “quality and breeding” have “damaged the image of Chinese people and caused vicious impact,” Wang said in a report published by the government-run People’s Daily newspaper.
“Improving the civilized quality of the citizens and building a good image of Chinese tourists are the obligations of governments at all levels and relevant agencies and companies,” said Wang.
It’s unclear how the Chinese law can be applied to tourists abroad. But a state-controlled newspaper, Global Times, quoted a tour operator as saying “It would be helpful to have legal grounds when communicating with clients about their behaviour in the future, giving us some power to restrain them.”
Wang, a former Communist party boss of Guangdong province bordering Hong Kong, said the main complaints against Chinese tourists are “talking loudly in public places, jaywalking, spitting and wilfully carving characters in scenic zones.”
People around the world who have contact with Chinese tourists report many other pieces of unseemly behaviour including not flushing toilets, ignoring no smoking signs, flouting traffic laws, littering, elbowing their way to the front of lineups, and allowing children to urinate or defecate in public.
But this is all undoubtedly a passing phase that stems from China’s rapid growth from being a largely peasant society to the world’s second largest economy by some measurements.
It is not as though it is a unique phenomenon.
When the United States’ postwar economic boom allowed middle class Americans to go globe-trotting, their behaviour quickly became the object of anger and derision.
The Ugly American tourist became a caricature who only travelled to reinforce his or her suspicion that the rest of the world was a dirty and threatening place.
The only safe way for an American to travel, so the generalization went, was within five minutes drive of the nearest Hilton hotel.
For the most part this clichéd national image has faded with the Americans’ years of experience of foreign travel.
But the Chinese are just at the beginning of this cycle.
Chinese tourists spent an estimated $102 billion last year, but some of these nouveau riche lack any sophistication to cushion the impact of their wealth.
They have become used to their money getting them what they want and can become loud and angry if thwarted.
In this, their behaviour abroad is the same as their behaviour at home.
At a more benign level, some apparently rude behaviour by Chinese tourists is simply from ignorance of local customs rather than arrogant self-regard.
There are, for example, reports of tourists in theatres in Europe and North America angering fellow members of the audience by fiddling with their glowing iPads during the performance. But often these people are simply following the plot of the performance in Chinese, something that is acceptable at home.
Many Chinese tour companies now give their clients briefings on local customs and behavioural dos and don’ts in the destination countries to try to avoid such culture clashes and the inevitable stain on the national image that follows.
This cannot obscure the fact that some activities by Chinese tourists are purposeful.
Resort hotels in the Indian Ocean nation of idyllic tropical islands, the Maldives, are a favourite honeymoon destination. But competition is stiff from other equally alluring places such as the Seychelles and Mauritius.
So hotels in the Maldives often offer special incentives to honeymooners such as bottles of champagne in the room, free spa visits and romantic sunset dinners.
But a Hong Kong newspaper has reported that some Chinese travel agencies are supplying their clients with fake new wedding certificates in order to take advantage of these freebies.
Genuine honeymooners report their romantic experience being debased by the company of loud elderly “honeymooners” with equally loud grown-up children and even same-sex newlyweds, even though such unions are not legal in China.
And it is probably better to draw a veil over exactly why all brothels in Tokyo’s famous Yoshiwara red light district are imposing a blanket ban on Chinese customers because of “cultural differences.”

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

Rule, Britannia? UK ‘shadow military’ may return to Gulf over instability fears

The British destroyer HMS Diamond sails through the Suez Canal (AFP Photo)
The British destroyer HMS Diamond sails through the Suez Canal (AFP Photo)
The UK army is planning to build up a strong “shadow presence” in the Gulf, marking a return to the seat of its old imperial power, a UK think tank said. The Arab Spring and security fears over a nuclear Iran are among the reasons for the move.
The Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) published a report titled ‘A Return to East of Suez? UK Military Deployment to the Gulf’ on Monday morning, analyzing a shift in UK policy that is driven by a “fear of what is happening in the Middle East.”
The report stressed that on the surface, the increased military presence would not mirror the imperial foothold Britain once held in the region.
The military intends to build up a strong shadow presence around the Gulf; not an evident imperial-style footprint, but a smart presence with facilities, defense agreements, rotation of training, transit and jumping-off points,” the report said.
The British withdrew troops from the Gulf region following the East of Suez decision in 1971; the drawdown of Britain’s imperial military influence allowed many Gulf nations to declare their independence.
RUSI maintains that the UK government has no intention of “deploying” military might into the region anytime soon, but emphasizes that an increased presence would be wise due to the “swirling social storms across the region in the wake of the ‘Arab Awakening.’”
Royal Marines practice their drill using a Browning heavy machine gun on the deck of HMS Ocean as it travels through the Persian Gulf. (AFP Photo)
Royal Marines practice their drill using a Browning heavy machine gun on the deck of HMS Ocean as it travels through the Persian Gulf. (AFP Photo)
The report outlines the primary motivations behind the UK’s policy shifts as security-based, citing the alleged nuclear threat of Iran as a predominant factor.
“Clearly, the immediate security concern to the entire Gulf region is the future direction of Iran’s nuclear program,” the document notes. “The international community, and especially Israel and the Arab Gulf states, remain fearful of Iranian nuclear ambitions. Iran, too, is entering a volatile period in the run-up to national elections.”
The paper also identifies embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad as a significant factor in regional instability.
The Institute based its conclusions on analysis of recent government policy, which “appears to be approaching a decision point where a significant strategic reorientation of its defense and security towards the Gulf is both plausible and logical.”
With regard to the practical applications of a return of military presence to the Gulf, the report said it is more cost-effective to transfer UK military equipment from Afghanistan into the Gulf than back to Britain. Referencing the strategic advantages of a military presence in Oman, the report calls country “terrain ideally suited to the training of military units in the skills of desert warfare.” In 2001, Oman played host to the largest UK military drills in recent history.
A British Royal Navy Sea King helicopter lands on the HMS Illustrious aircraft carrier off Oman's rugged coastline (AFP Photo)
A British Royal Navy Sea King helicopter lands on the HMS Illustrious aircraft carrier off Oman’s rugged coastline (AFP Photo)
Important trade links with the United Arab Emirates, worth some £14 billion ($21.7 billion), will also influence the return of the UK military to the region. The UK struck a massive deal with the UEA and other Gulf nations to sell 100 Typhoon fighter jets last year, and has pledged “joint collaboration” with the UEA.
Dr. Saul Kelly, the author of the briefing paper, told RT that Britain’s increased presence in the Gulf would be done via a combination of a formal, physical return to bases as well as intensified cooperation with Gulf States, albeit “on a low scale.”
Kelly argues that as the British military presence has grown throughout the region, “particularly over the last decade or so,” financial incentives coupled with broader strategic goals will ensure that the UK’s long-standing practice of defense cooperation in the region will continue.
“One of the latest defense packages has to deal with the sale of Typhoon jets to various Gulf Arab countries, and that ties in with these continuing defense agreements with local governments. And in an age of austerity in Europe, these defense contracts are important to the British economy, and that is certainly an element of it. But there are [also] long-standing strategic interests that Britain, as a member of the Western Alliance, has in the Gulf area.”

Imperial hangover

In a briefing accompanying the RUSI report, Director General Michael Clarke stressed the importance of the UK solidifying friendships in the region. “It would make sense for the British to have more of a capacity to cooperate with the Americans” whose policy is rapidly changing in the region, he said.
“The Americans will not leave the Middle East, of course they won’t. But they will express their power differently in the Middle East,” Clarke said.
He warned that the press may seek to brand the plans as linked to an “imperial notion of grandeur.” However, he insisted that this was not the case, and that the UK was merely following “sensible aspirations.”

JDV’s global rainbow coalition

Making life worth living
By Ellen Tordesillas
JDV at Makassar conference
JDV at Makassar conference
Just because he no longer bangs the gavel in the House of Representatives, it doesn’t mean that former House Speaker Jose de Venecia has stopped doing what he does best: gathering people of different political colors and persuasions for a common cause.
He is still into forming rainbow coalitions. This time, on the global stage.
JDV and a group of statesmen from Asia, Latin America and South Africa formed the Centrist Asia Pacific Democrats International (CAPDI) which is designed, in his own words, “to primarily bridge the classical gap between orthodox political parties and civil society groups working for peace, reform and development in Asia’s emerging democracies.”
CAPDI, he said in a speech during the 2nd General Assembly in the port city of Makassar in South Sulawesi, Indonesia, “is perhaps the only organization in the Asia Pacific which brings together political parties and civil society under one roof in a common house.”
CAPDI traces its beginnings to the alliance with Christian Democrats International. In 1992, then presidential aspirant Fidel Ramos and De Venecia, then Pangasinan representative formed Lakas ng Tao political party. It formed a merger with National Union of Christian Democrats headed by former senator and Foreign Affairs Secretary Raul Manglapus. LAKAS-TAO-NUCD became Ramos’ vehicle to the presidency.
The party underwent several transformations as it tried to include other groups including the Union of Muslim Democrats of the Philippines and Gloria Arroyo’s Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino.
When JDV fell out of Gloria Arroyo’s grace , he left the group. It is now Lakas-CMD headed by Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez and Sen. Ramon “ Bong” Revilla. Former President Ramos is also out of the party that he helped found.
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, former Indonesia Vice President Kalla, former President Fidel V. Ramos
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, former Indonesia Vice President Kalla, former President Fidel V. Ramos
Both JDV and FVR are now active with CAPDI which gathers international leaders regularly trying to solve the problems of the world. For this year’s conference in Makassar, they focused on Peace and Reconciliation and Climate Change.
Only Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen was the sitting leader who made it to the assembly. Vice President Jejomar Binay was represented by former Sen. Francisco “Kit” Tatad.
Aside from Ramos, other former heads of government who attended the conference were former Prime Minister of Nepal Madhav Kumar Nepal, former President of Seychelles James Mancham, former vice president of Indonesia Jusuf Kalla.
JDV urged CAPDI members who come from different parts the world (Asia, Latin America, Africa) and from different sectors including business, academe, and think-tanks to consider the East Timor-Indonesian and Cambodian models of peace and reconciliation.
“In Cambodia, Prime Minister Hun Sen, our CPDI Chairman Emeritus, skillfully and courageously achieved the impossible: with the support from the late legendary King Norodum Sihanouk, Prime Minister Hun Sen integrated Cambodia’s four warring armies in the now united Cambodian Armed Forces , including the integration of the Khmer Rouge which was responsible for the genocide killings of more than two million Cambodians,” JDV said.
He continued: “Hun Sen also brought together opposing political parties in a Cambodian government of national unity, while Cambodia continues to prosecute those responsible for war crimes in partnership with the U.N. Tribunal.”
“Yes, peace and reconciliation with justice!,” he declared.
JDV brought up the issue of amnesty as a most effective tool in peace-making. “Amnesty – a wide ranging official pardon, which exterminates the offense, approved by the legislature, for the peoples who have been charged with or convicted of political offenses, except for genocide and other horrendous crimes in any peace process, and is most effective tool in peace making, with generally lasting results.”
There were some CAPDI delegate, those who are in democratically -developed countries who were not so sold on the idea of amnesty saying that it could just encourage more coup d’etats.
De Venecia said amnesty is an important tool for newly restored democracies in transition to “heal society’s wounds and lay the basis for political, economic and social reforms that will endure.”
JDV knows whereof he speaks because he played a major role in the granting by President Ramos of amnesty to military officers who staged several coups against the President Cory Aquino. One of those included in the amnesty was Sen. Gregorio Honasan.
President Benigno Aquino III also granted amnesty to military officers who rebelled against Gloria Arroyo, the most prominent among them is the newly re-elected senator Antonio Trillanes IV.
JDVB said CAPDI is recommending amnesty for peace and reconciliation in Thailand.

From opera to exercises, U.S. and China deepen military ties

“Some discussions have been remarkably blunt – with Chinese officialssometimes telling U.S. counterparts that Washington should quit the entire western Pacific and cede influence there to Beijing.”
By Peter Apps, Political Risk Correspondent
Musicians from the military bands of China's People's Liberation Army and the U.S. Army take photos during a rehearsal for their joint concert at the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing, in this October 29, 2012 file photo. (REUTERS/China Daily/Files)
Musicians from the military bands of China’s People’s Liberation Army and the U.S. Army take photos during a rehearsal for their joint concert at the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing, in this October 29, 2012 file photo. (REUTERS/China Daily/Files)
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Even as the United States accuses China of military espionage and worries about Beijing’s more strident posture in the Asia-Pacific region, the ties between the armed forces of the two nations have been getting closer.
Direct contact between China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and some of its potential adversaries has increased dramatically in the last two years.
The first major public sign of the thaw was a joint concert by the U.S. Army band and its Chinese counterpart in 2011 at Washington’s Kennedy Center where a female U.S. sergeant and a well-known male Chinese singer in a PLA uniform belted out a duet in Italian from the opera La Traviata.
On a more serious note, China hosted U.S. officers in the city of Nanjing this month to discuss countering pirates, and the United States has invited China to attend the Rim of the Pacific major naval exercises next year.
The increased contact aims to lessen the risk of accidental conflict between nuclear powers as their militaries each learn how the other works and cooperate on uncontroversial issues like disaster prevention and disease control.
The amiable spirit in these areas does not mean China and the United States are any less wary of each other on thorny subjects like allegations of Chinese cyber-spying, the possibility of an arms race in space, and the U.S. military’s “pivot” to Asia with a build-up of its forces in the Pacific.
Some discussions have been remarkably blunt – with Chinese officials sometimes telling U.S. counterparts that Washington should quit the entire western Pacific and cede influence there to Beijing
Still, U.S. Air Force Major General Michael Keltz has seen a big change. When he first met with senior Chinese officials in late 2011, the atmosphere was stilted at best. Keltz says they stuck firmly to their prearranged “talking points”, sometimes literally reading from pieces of paper.
“There has been a considerable improvement in both volume and quantity (of meetings and exchanges),” says Keltz, head of policy and planning for the U.S. Pacific Command – a role that includes explaining U.S. military thinking to Chinese officials.
Now, Chinese officers are less likely to stall routine conversations with their American opposite numbers by berating them for what they see as anti-China policies such as U.S. support for Taiwan.
After decades of relative isolation, greater military engagement with the outside world is at the heart of Beijing’s increasingly assertive military strategy. China’s military budget has grown by double digits almost every year for the past decade and it now fields its own aircraft carrier and is testing Stealth fighters.
China has become the largest contributor of U.N. peacekeepers of any of the permanent five Security Council members.
“The Chinese army is now getting much more involved globally,” PLA Major-General Chao Liu, China’s former defense attaché to India and now commander of U.N. peacekeepers in Cyprus, told Reuters earlier this year. “The differences (with the rest of the world) will become less, I think.”
For the United States, there are clear advantages to learning more about a possible foe while at the same time drawing China further into the global system.
Increased contact with China’s military gives the United States a chance to explain its new strategic focus on Asia which Beijing fears is a containment strategy to check China’s economic and military rise.
The U.S. Pacific Command alone has some 40 exchanges with China planned for this year including talks on military medicine – particularly preparedness for a pandemic outbreak of a disease – and planning for joint maritime search and rescue operations.
And it goes beyond the U.S. to its Western allies. Australia has conducted its own joint exercises with China and is discussing more. European states are stepping up their own links and visits and NATO is considering much closer liaison, perhaps over areas such as peacekeeping in Africa.
While some Western officials complain that Chinese warships operating alongside international forces in anti-piracy patrols off Somalia have spent at least as much time spying on foreign warships as hunting pirates, their presence there is broadly welcomed.
More informal links are increasingly embraced. Retired Western officers in particular are setting up loose networks and visits, sometimes bringing along serving personnel.
Communication is helped by the increasing value the Chinese military puts on Western experience and English language skills. Zhang Zheng, the commander of China’s first aircraft carrier, speaks perfect English and studied at Britain’s Joint Command and Staff College.
Officers and diplomats say Chinese officials are more willing to share personal email addresses and indulge in private conversations in ways unthinkable only a decade ago.
“We have more tools for contact and cooperation than ever before,” says Air Vice Marshal Michael Harwood, British defense attaché to Washington until 2012. “If I was advising a young officer today, I would tell him or her to learn as much about Chinese culture and make as many contacts there as they can.”
None of this, though, has diminished military tensions on some major points of disagreement.
U.S. officials say they believe China is preparing a missile test to build its capability to knock down U.S. satellites. And last year, a series of maritime border disputes brought friction between China and U.S. allies such as Japan and the Philippines.
The most persistent bone of contention is cybersecurity.
The Pentagon earlier this month charged China with widespread espionage to acquire technology to fuel its military modernization, accusing Beijing for the first time of trying to break into U.S. defense computer networks. China issued a firm denial.
Espionage is a major concern for the West. Before allowing Chinese personnel access to any facility in the recent exchanges, the United States and others generally conduct a “risk assessment” and security experts will often sweep afterwards for bugs.
Foreign powers are also wary of giving Chinese officers too much access to their training schools and military colleges, complaining Beijing almost never reciprocates by allowing Western nations access to its elite establishments.
While U.S. law specifically prohibits providing China some forms of direct military training, European nations have fewer restrictions and, some officials say, must be careful.
“We don’t want to be training China in carrier strike (operations),” said one Western official on condition of anonymity. “I think we can agree on that.”
Foreign experts say some elements in the PLA, having pulled out of many of their industrial interests in the last decade, have found stealing and selling intellectual property to be a lucrative earner.
“Stopping it is going to be difficult because it means them stopping something that makes them money,” said James Lewis, a former U.S. foreign service officer now a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies heavily involved in cyber talks with China.
After years of officially sanctioned discussions on cybersecurity between U.S. and Chinese think tanks, the door to more serious talks may also be quietly opening. For the first time this year, the two countries will officially discuss cybersecurity as part of a wider formal strategic dialogue.
In a shift toward cooperation with China, the top U.S. general in charge of cybersecurity, General Keith Alexander, told the Reuters Cybersecurity Summit in Washington last week that he or his successor would be willing to meet his Chinese counterpart when the time was right.
Sometimes, though, the United States prefers publicly challenging China to quiet diplomacy.
U.S. Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert said Washington took a decision to complain more in public this year about hacking by China after crossing what he called “the threshold of frustration”.
Since doing so, some current and former officials say the level of Chinese hacking has declined slightly.
Some discussions between the two countries’ militaries can be tense, particularly around U.S. “strategic rebalancing” plans such as strengthening military ties to countries like Japan and Australia and eventually increasing to 60 percent the number of its Navy ships devoted to the Pacific.
U.S. Pacific Command’s Keltz says Chinese officials told him the Pacific should simply be divided in two, with America dominating one half and China the other.
“That is fundamentally not what the United States is going to do and it’s not what most of the other countries in the region want us to do,” he said. “I think (Chinese officials) are beginning to understand that.”
(Additional reporting By David Alexander; Editing by Alistair Bell and Claudia Parsons)

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Xi Jinping’s Maze with No Exit

By Gordon G. Chang
World Affairs
Xi-Jinping.33This week, Michael Sheridan of the Sunday Times revealed that China’s Communist Party is internally circulating an anti-Western screed, “Minutes of the 2013 National Conference of Propaganda Chiefs: Briefing on the Ideological Situation at the Present Time.” Among other things, the document tells officials they must “completely understand the harm of viewpoints and theories propagated by the West.” Moreover, officials are exhorted to “use battlefield tactics” to defeat China’s own liberals. The party must “stand up” to Western nations.
Hong Kong’s Apple Daily, a democratic-leaning newspaper, calls the “Minutes” “the definitive version of Xi Jinping’s theories now that he is in power.” In power, Xi, the party’s new general secretary, has proven to be a disappointment to many. In the glow of last year, he was portrayed as a modern reformer, someone who would lead China forward. Yet his elevation to the country’s top leadership position was followed by his worrying turn to the “left,” which in the Chinese context means Maoism.
Analysts tell us not to worry. Robert Lawrence Kuhn, for instance, believes that Xi must persuade hard-liners that he will not jeopardize the position of the party as he advances needed economic reforms. “It’s not an irrational combination in the Chinese system,” says the noted follower of Beijing politics. “My guess is that some of the talk is designed to consolidate a position so that he’s not attacked by the extreme left.”
Yet the problem is more serious than that. Xi has two irreconcilable goals. He is, as Claremont McKenna College’s Minxin Pei explains, trying to maintain Communist Party rule while substantially reforming the economy. The dilemma is that all structural economic restructuring reduces the role of the party in society.
This is most neatly highlighted by the fact that while Xi hopes to implement seven areas of economic reform, his government has reportedly issued a circular listing the “Seven Don’t Mentions.” In China today, things that cannot be mentioned—the “seven evil subjects”— are universal values, press freedom, civil society, civic rights, the party’s historical mistakes, crony networks, and judicial independence.
Xi, unfortunately for him, is in a maze with no exit. Today, there is a growing recognition that fundamental economic change in China cannot occur unless there is also far-reaching political reform to remove entrenched interests. Yet meaningful political reform is completely off the table, as China’s lurch to the left makes clear.
The truth is, we do not know what Xi Jinping really wants. Yet even if he is a reformer, he is part of a collective political system, and as important as he is, he does not make decisions on his own. The Politburo Standing Committee, the apex of political power, is dominated by the so-called “conservatives,” hard-line anti-reformers who control at least four and perhaps five of the seven seats on the committee. So even if he is trying to change China for the better, he must bargain with interest blocks that could have much more sway than he possesses.
People say that Xi became general secretary because he was the figure most acceptable to the party’s squabbling factions. He is said to be the leader of the “princelings,” which is made up of descendents of former leaders of the People’s Republic. Yet the princelings are by no means a cohesive group. This ultimately means that in a political system dominated by coalitions, he is a leader without a substantial power base of his own.
Therefore, we should not be surprised that Xi, with his Maoist, anti-West, regressive line, may be playing to strong blocs in the party. We have to wonder about a political system where progress is only possible if one adopts the language of the Cultural Revolution and imposes crackdowns on all things liberal.

Noynoying unified China, Taiwan

The Daily Tribune
Noynoying-unified-China-TaiwanNoynoy had achieved something historic as a result of his inability to make a stand on the inadvertent shooting of the Taiwanese fisherman by the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).
It took him more than one week to finally decide on issuing a half-hearted apology and even using the name of the Filipino people, which was of course rejected by the Taiwanese government, over the incident.
By being indecisive, Noynoy welded long feuding China and Taiwan together.
From the day of the incident, Noynoy was vacillating between standing his ground on the PCG’s insistence that it was the Taiwanese fishing boat to blame since it did not stop when it was flagged down in Philippine waters, and issuing a face-saving apology.
Apparently, the Chinese found an opening in the conflict that would achieve for it the proverbial two birds with one stone in winning brownie points with the Taiwanese public and pushing its diplomatic offensive against the Philippines further.
The diplomatic tussle with Taiwan would have been avoided had Noynoy responded quickly by asserting that there was a territorial breach and that the shooting of the Taiwanese was unintentional while at the same time issuing the government’s regret over the incident through emissaries.
It took more than a week for Noynoy to make a decisive move over the issue and sending the Manila Economic Cooperation Office (MECO) chairman Amadeo Perez to intercede in behalf of the country.
The move was deemed too late since Taiwan was already demanding that a more official form of apology is issued and handed to the Taiwanese government.
This is where China found a good vantage point to put increased pressure on Noynoy. China knew that Noynoy cannot officially issue a public apology to Taiwan lest he violates the one China policy and risk a bigger diplomatic friction.
China then exploited Noynoy’s dilemma by adding fuel to the fire issuing statements, in behalf of what it considered its province, to brand the shooting incident as barbaric.
In a sense, China is now asking Noynoy to also issue an apology to the People’s Republic of China over the death of the Taiwanese fisherman, who it considers as its own subject which further complicated the situation for Noynoy.
While it seems that China and Taiwan are speaking with one voice over the incident, diplomatic complexities point to Noynoy offending one or the other in issuing an apology to either.
It would be absurd for Noynoy for make a public apology to China since it would certainly offend the Taiwanese government and its people who are already ganging up against Filipinos working in Taiwan.
A direct apology to the Taiwanese government becomes further diplomatically appropriate since China had joined the fray and it is now speaking in behalf of Taiwan.
The diplomatic labyrinth, however, can be resolved only through a credible personal or private emissary of Noynoy who is connected with government.
During a similar gaffe with Taiwan in which Noynoy’s bungling officials in the Justice Department repatriated 14 Taiwanese suspected of running a telephone fraud scheme victimizing Chinese in Beijing, which also resulted in Taiwan’s suspension of the hiring of Filipino workers, Noynoy was able to send Mar Roxas who was still cooling his heels as a result of the appointments ban after an election.
The problem now with Noynoy is that all of his allies, friends, relatives and shooting buddies are now in government thus the dilemma of not having anybody who would satisfy the qualification of a private emissary.
Well if all things fail, Noynoy can send her sister Kris to do the apologies.

Anti-dynasty? 19 senators have relatives in gov’t

By Christina Mendez 
The Philippine Star 
Philippine-SenateMANILA, Philippines – Only four out of the country’s 23 senators in the 15th Congress have no relatives serving in elective posts or working as government employees.
Despite calls for the abolition of political dynasties, statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) for 2012 showed that a majority of the senators have at least one or more close relatives in public office.
Only Senators Joker Arroyo, Gregorio Honasan, Loren Legarda and Francis Pangilinan have no relatives in government.
President Aquino recently criticized abusive political dynasties, but said there are good and bad dynasties.
Aquino’s cousin Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV has won a Senate seat.
Under the SALN law, each government employee is also asked to identify his relatives up to the fourth degree of consanguinity or affinity in the government service.
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile’s son, Jack, ran but lost in the midterm polls.
Meanwhile, Senate President Pro-Tempore Jinggoy Estrada will now be joined by his half-brother, JV Ejercito in the Senate. Their father, former President Joseph Estrada, has been elected mayor of Manila.
Jinggoy’s daughter has been elected as councilor of San Juan, joining another relative in local politics.
The senator’s cousin, Emilio Ramon “ER” Ejecito, has been re-elected governor of Laguna.
Sen. Franklin Drilon, said to be a contender for the top Senate post, listed five relatives in government service, including a cousin, Jed Patrick Mabilog, who is a mayor of Iloilo City; and son, Patrick Drilon, who is assigned at the Senate.
Drilon’s brother Julius is the regional hospital chief of Corazon Montelibano Medical Center while his sister, Eleonor Gregorio, is a director at the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) office in Iloilo.
His sister-in-law, Carol Drilon, is a resident physician at the Philippine Heart Center.
Sen. Manny Villar’s son, Mark, has been re-elected as congressman of Las Piñas, where his (Sen. Villar’s) brother-in-law, Vergel Aguilar is the city mayor and a nephew, Carlo Aguilar, is a councilor.
Villar’s two brothers-in-law, Felimon Aguilar and Leopoldo Benedicto, are also serving political positions as barangay captain and councilor in Las Piñas, respectively. Another sister-in-law, Elizabeth Masangkay, is the barangay captain of Putatan, Muntinulpa City.
Villar is on his last term but his wife, Cynthia, succeeded in her senatorial bid and will be joining the new batch of senators – now with a full complement of 24 – this July.
Senators Alan and Pia Cayetano’s younger brother, Lino, is barangay chairman of Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City where Alan’s wife, Laarni, recently got re-elected as mayor.
Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos’ political clout is well-entrenched in Ilocos Norte where his mother, former first lady Imelda Marcos, is a congresswoman and his sister, Imee, is the governor.
Marcos has two first cousins, Mariano Marcos and Angelo Marcos Barba, occupying a seat as provincial board member and as vice governor, respectively.
Marcos’ wife, Louise Araneta-Marcos, is a part-time lecturer at the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila.
Sen. Ralph Recto’s wife, Rosavilma Santos-Recto, has been re-elected as Batangas governor.
The senator’s sister-in-law, Emelyn Santis, is executive assistant V at the provincial capitol of Batangas, while two other relatives also serve as employees at the capitol.
Recto’s cousin-in-law and a nephew-in-law are also employed in the Senate.
Senate majority leader Vicente Sotto’s son, Gian Carlo, won a new mandate as councilor in the third district of Quezon City while another son is also a councilor in Parañaque.
Sotto’s daughters, Romina Frances and Ciara Anna Sotto, are also part of his Senate staff.
Sen. Ramon Revilla’s son, Jolo, is now the new vice governor of Cavite while his brother Strike was re-elected as Bacoor mayor.
The senator’s brother-in-law, former Rizal governor Casimiro Ynares III, was elected as Antipolo mayor.
Sen. Francis Escudero’s mother, Evelina, won as representative of Sorsogon, taking over the post left by his father, Salvador Escudero III, who died of cancer last year.
Escudero also has two paternal uncles in elective posts in Sorsogon.
Sen. Lito Lapid has a son, Mark, assigned as chief operating officer of the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA), while his daughter, Ma-an Krista Lapid, is an immigration officer at the Bureau of Immigration (BI) in Clark.
Lapid has no relatives in elective posts.
Sen. Edgardo Angara, also on his last term, likewise has relatives in elective posts in Aurora province. Angara will be replaced by his son, Juan Edgardo Angara, as senator in the next Congress after the latter won in the midterm polls.
Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago has employed her son, Narciso Santiago III, as her chief of staff (political) at the Senate.
The senator’s sister, Nenalyn Defensor, is a commissioner at the Commission on Higher Education while her brother, Benjamin Defensor, is a director of SMC-HK.
Santiago is also a cousin of Arthur Defensor, governor of Iloilo. A cousin, Horacio Suansing, is a deputy commissioner of the Bureau of Customs.
Sen. Sergio Osmeña III listed in his SALN that he has a brother in public service, Rep. Tomas Osmeña, who is representative of the second district of Cebu.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson declared that his nephew is a councilor in Imus, Cavite. His son, Jay, lost to Revilla’s son in Cavite.
Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV’s brother, Antonio Trillanes III, is a member of his staff at the Senate.
He said he has no other relatives in elective position or working with the government.
Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III has six relatives in government, including his first cousins, Henry Yusingo and Anthony Louis Idhaw, both assigned at the office of the senator. Another first cousin, lawyer Himerio Garcia, is assigned as a committee secretary also at the Senate.
Sen. Teofisto Guingona III’s mother, Ruth, is the outgoing city mayor of Gingoog who will be replaced by her daughter.
In his 2012 SALN, Guingona also said he has a cousin, Benjamin Guingona III, who is a city councilor in Zamboanga City.

Military self-reliance

By Babe Romualdez
The Philippine Star 
The rising tension over the recent incursions in areas considered as Philippine territory – the latest of which is in Ayungin Shoal with a Chinese military frigate spotted – heightens the debate once again about our country’s military and defense capability. While President Aquino’s resounding declaration that “what is ours is ours” and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin’s courageous statement that our troops will defend our territory “up to the last soldier standing” strike a proud chord with many Filipinos, there is that lingering question about our capability to defend ourselves from external threats, exacerbated by the perception that we have one of the weakest armed forces in Southeast Asia.
While it may be true that we can rely on mutual defense pacts with allies like the United States should push come to shove, at the end of the day, we must and should not be totally dependent on the US. After all, they, too, have their own budgetary problems, and it can happen that their objectives might not be in confluence with what would be most advantageous for us. Which is why the move to revive the Self-Reliant Defense Posture (SRDP) program by the Department of National Defense as part of our military’s capability upgrade program is more necessary than ever. After all, if we really want to establish a minimum credible defense posture, we must first show that we can be self-reliant as far as equipping our military is concerned.
Not many know that as far back as the early 1970s, the Philippines already initiated the SRDP program to develop our domestic defense industry that, in the long run, would be able to provide support to the AFP in terms of weapons, platforms and equipment. Those supportive of the SRDP also say that an indigenous defense industry would not only cut costs but also provide much needed employment.
The program achieved a modicum of success in its early years but lost track along the way due to several impediments including budget constraints. In a policy guidance memo issued during the time of Gen. Hermogenes Esperon in 2006, the AFP noted the need for the SRDP to be revitalized but the earlier successes (local production of the M-1 rifle, the mini cruiser and tactical communications requirements) were not sustained because of “failed strategies, lack of focus, mismanagement… the SRDP Program… lost pre-eminence and bearing as a vital component in the development of the local defense industry.”
Indeed, out of the 15 or so defense companies involved earlier in supplying military hardware, only a handful are reliable – like Arms Corporation of the Philippines (Armscor) – which industrialist Don Celso Tuason bought from its American owners and turned into a totally Filipino-owned enterprise 71 years ago. At the recent signing of a memorandum of agreement between Armscor and the Armed Forces (wherein the local manufacturer would provide discounts on firearms to retired and active military personnel), AFP chief Gen. Emmanuel Bautista recognized Armscor’s support, saying the AFP’s ability to protect the people and the state depends on the quality of equipment, acknowledging the savings in buying locally made firearms of excellent quality.
Foreign Policy Research Institute’s Francis Chang pointed out in his paper, “Transforming the Philippines’ Defense Architecture,” that the AFP was among the best-equipped in Southeast Asia during the early 1960s owing to transfers of surplus American weaponry. However, the Philippines became overly reliant on its mutual defense treaty with the US to guarantee its external defense. The dependence on military assistance and logistical support by the US bases also hindered the Philippines from investing sufficient resources on its own infrastructure.
Obviously, the strategic landscape has since shifted, with the recent territorial disputes highlighting the need for enhanced external defense capabilities. It would take a lot of resources to equip our military in a manner that would enable them to adequately protect our sovereignty and maritime claims – something the President is keenly aware of when he allocated P75 billion for the extension of the modernization program to 15 more years last December. Unfortunately, the first modernization program from 1996 to December 2011 fell short, without any significant progress mainly because of funding delays.
Funding was a major reason for the creation of the Bases Conversion Development Authority that would oversee the sale or disposition of military camps. Perceptions continue however that the money was never fully remitted, with amounts turned over for the modernization program (P56.65 billion from 1993 to December 2012) not sufficient (P23.43 billion).
The proposed sale of Camp Aguinaldo (and Camp Crame) may be opportune – that is, if government could go around the “no sale” clause for the lands donated by the Ortigases. Leasing the Navy headquarters is also being mulled, along with the sale of assets in Fort Magsaysay, Camp Peralta and other camps in Bukidnon, Tarlac and Zambales to generate more resources. Insiders say the strategic relocation of Camp Aguinaldo away from the heart of the metropolis would take away the threat of terrorist extremists from civilians.
The central issue for the Philippines is how to exert enough air-sea control in the South China Sea and develop a strategy built around new technologies for lower maintenance costs. A less costly alternative for external defense can be unmanned aerial vehicles or remotely controlled drones that eliminate risks for flight personnel. In this day and age, technology and modern warfare plus land-based anti-ship cruise missiles (aided by sufficient jungle cover) could help repel enemy firepower, Chang posits.
Clearly, military self-reliance is an absolute priority for the Philippines. If we don’t do it now, we may soon find ourselves treading the road to perdition.
* * *

Maximum restraint vowed in sea row

By Aurea Calica and Jaime Laude
The Philippine Star 
South-China-Sea.7MANILA, Philippines – Despite China’s latest incursion into Philippine waters and other acts of provocation, Manila is exercising maximum restraint and is sticking to diplomacy in addressing the situation, Malacañang said yesterday.
“Of course, we view it (China’s provocation) with grave concern, which is why we have chosen the path that we did – we are for the diplomatic (solution),” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said over state-run radio dzRB.
A Chinese fishing flotilla – accompanied by armed naval ships – recently swarmed into Ayungin Shoal in the Spratlys. Manila’s diplomatic protests to Beijing over the incident remain unanswered.
“We’ve not changed our stance, if you notice in the maritime disputes that we’ve had in the past years, and it’s deliberate,” Valte said.
“We’ve chosen not to respond to provocative statements and provocative actions that may not be productive for the path that we’ve chosen to take. So our choices are deliberate, that we will go through peaceful means,” she said.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has warned that the current maritime tensions could lead to armed hostilities in the disputed areas, particularly with the armed patrols being conducted by China.
The Department of National Defense, for its part, said it is ready to defend the country’s territory up to the last soldier.
Valte said DFA Secretary Albert del Rosario was right in his assessment that the West Philippine Sea is a potential flashpoint and that extreme care should be taken in dealing with the issue.
“Which is why we have taken the approach that we have,” she said.
“If you notice, when it comes to maritime disputes, we have only one approach – that we need to resort to the diplomatic solution, we adhere to the rules-based approach, and our policy is to find the best way to have a resolution,” Valte pointed out.
But she stressed the government is not underestimating the readiness and determination of our soldiers to defend the country.
Asked if President Aquino would convene the National Security Council or call for a full Cabinet meeting like what he did when Chinese vessels first swamped Panatag Shoal, Valte said the Chief Executive had made clear that “given the capacity, our capabilities at hand and our limitations, we will continue to deal with the problem in the way that we have dealt with the others, meaning through resources that are available to us.”
“And he said so far, we’re dealing with it on the level that is effective for us,” Valte said.
She also said the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) is looking into reports that more local fishermen in Masinloc in Zambales have lost their livelihood due to Chinese incursion at Panatag Shoal.
There are reports that some fishermen who used to earn up to P500,000 a month had to give up their businesses due to Chinese encroachment in the shoal.
Valte said some Masinloc residents had to abandon fishing and focus on other means of livelihood.
“And BFAR assured us that first, they are helping find other areas to fish and secondly, the payao (fish enclosure) set up is still existing. They are near the shore so they don’t need to go far out to the sea,” Valte said. Asked if there is a need to increase patrols to protect endangered species as well, Valte said, “If you’re asking for a specific area, if this is in reference to Ayungin again, I’ll just repeat it: It’s deliberate… We’ve chosen not to respond.”
“It’s very deliberate on the part of the Philippine government. We’ve chosen not to respond to provocative actions or statements that may tend to escalate the situation. But I can assure you that the patrols continue in other parts of the country,” Valte said.
Defiant fishermen
In Ayungin Shoal, meanwhile, Filipino fishermen were braving harassment from Chinese vessels now brazenly operating in the area, which is within the country’s 200-mile exclusive economic zone.
Kalayaan Mayor Eugenio Bito-onon said Chinese maritime vessels have become very aggressive in driving away local fishermen around Ayungin Shoal.
“But they’re unsuccessful because they’re up against Filipino sea hustlers who’ve been fishing in that area for decades. Our fishermen have full knowledge of the sea in the entire Spratlys, unlike the Chinese who are just new to the area,” Bito-onon.
Over the past two weeks, Chinese naval and maritime ships have taken positions near Ayungin Shoal as Beijing continues to flex its muscle and assert its territorial claim to almost the entire South China Sea and West Philippine Sea.
China reportedly has two surveillance ships and a frigate in the vicinity of Ayungin Shoal, an area being guarded by a handful of Filipino troops stationed on a grounded Philippine Navy logistic ship, BRP Sierra Madre.
Ayungin Shoal is part of the Philippines’ regime of islands in the hotly contested Spratlys group, to which four other countries – Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei – have claims.
After establishing positions in the waters near Malaysia, Chinese vessels are now trying to dislodge Filipino troops from Ayungin by blocking their supply route, the military said.
Bito-onon said “our hustler-fishermen can easily do the job” of re-supplying the small Filipino garrison in Ayungin.
Aside from acting as escorts to Chinese fishing boats in the area, large Chinese vessels are also engaged in naval operations in the vicinity – apparently aimed at intimidating local fishermen and the coast guard.
One of these Chinese ships recently chased and harassed MT Queen Seagull, a utility boat of Kalayaan town, while it was sailing from Pag-Asa Island to mainland Palawan with more than 100 civilian passengers.
The Kalayaan mayor proposed that the government quickly set into motion its development plan for seven islets and two reefs occupied by Filipinos in the Spratlys – specifically by building a safe and well equipped harbor in Pag-Asa Island, the seat of the island municipality.
“Development of infrastructure in the country’s regime of islands should also coincide with the ongoing modernization and capability upgrade program of our Armed Forces,” Bito-onon said, adding that it’s only the Philippines that is observing a status quo in infrastructure development in the Spratlys region.
“China and Vietnam are continuously constructing military outposts,” he said.