Sunday, June 30, 2013

Industrialization and Overpopulation

By Eduardo “Danding” Gimenez
Overpopulation.1Philippine agriculture is in such a dismal state because of overpopulation and because of the fact it is an archipelago frequently buffeted by typhoons.
This is just a surface statement that has a whole universe underneath it. Philippine land usage for agriculture and animal husbandry is nearly maxed-out. In fact creeping salinization is eroding arable land, and repeated flooding is washing away top soil. Much of the forest stands have been over-logged or burned for subsistence farming.
The Philippines now imports 3 million tons of rice a year. It is the world’s largest importer of rice… at a time when grain prices are rising because of competition between food and energy for so much of the world’s grain harvest. At its present rate of growth there will not be enough available exportable rice to feed the Philippines.
The Philippines grows around 16 million tons of rice a year. This has been relatively constant over decades. What varies is how much rice is imported. It’s at 3 million tons and will be at 10 million tons before too long. This is an unsustainable number given the rising cost. It can no longer grow miracle rice because of soil impoverishment, except in a few farms where the farmer can afford expensive fertilizers.
No matter where one looks in the Philippine scene, it is hard to find bright spots anywhere in any horizon. Global warming and rising sea levels will make things much worse. The fact it is an archipelago provides another important problem. Whenever there is civil strife, borders provide a relief valve where people can cross and flee to safety. The Philippines doesn’t have that relief valve and any such strife must be contained within its small confined area and will have the potential to go into immense savagery.
In fact the only real solution for the Philippines is for it to follow China’s 1-child per woman rule. Of course this will never happen.
For those who think finding oil is the answer, think again. I was on a flight to London last week and my seatmate was a 3-star Nigerian General. He related how much of a curse finding oil has been to his country. It’s now a fracturing nation, and powerful interests from the developed countries are overwhelming all the internal power-brokers with their control games for rights to steal the oil. Very little of that wealth filters to the populace. “We were a much better nation before oil”.
Keep Philippine money in the Philippines and force it to invest in industry. Shoot anyone who salts dollars abroad. The Koreans did that with great success. That is the second part to the solution. The third part is tax the church and strictly enforce a separation between church and state.

Tweaking the dragon? US, PH set Panatag drills

Subic-BayPHILIPPINE and US forces will hold next week a naval exercise near Scarborough or Panatag Shoal, some 124 nautical miles from Zambales, which is now under virtual control by China after a standoff in April last year.
Navy spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Gerald Fabic said the exercise, dubbed Cooperation Afloat Readiness Training or CARAT, will commence on June 27 at the former US naval base in Subic and will last until July 2.
Fabic said the exercise is projected to enhance the capabilities of the two navies in communications, naval surface operations, counter-terrorism, maritime security operations, disaster response and even humanitarian missions.
“This is meant to increase the level of interoperability between Philippine Navy and US Navy in the conduct of combined naval operations,” said Fabic of CARAT, one of several military trainings that are conducted by the two countries annually.
Ensign Bernard Sabado, spokesman of the Naval Forces Northern Luzon, said the Philippine Navy has earmarked a ship and 500 personnel for the exercise while the US has four ships and 500 men.
Fabic said the Philippine and US navies will also be deploying unspecified number of aircraft for the exercise.
Also, Fabic said the Philippine Coast Guard had been invited to join the actual training and will be sending a ship, aircraft and a special operations team.
He said the sea exercise will be conducted between Zambales and Scarborough Shoal. “It’s going to be 60 nautical miles east of Scarborough Shoal,” said Fabic.
In April last year, the Philippine Navy ship BRP Gregorio del Pilar tried to apprehend several Chinese fishing boats caught fishing at the shoal. However, the Navy ship was prevented by two Chinese maritime surveillance ships, leading to a standoff.
The Navy ship withdrew days after and was replaced by a Coast Guard ship and a Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources vessel. The Chinese fishermen escaped as the standoff dragged on.
However, the two Philippine vessels also withdrew less than two months later due to inclement weather, leaving the Chinese in virtual control of the shoal which used to be a rich fishing ground for Filipino fishermen.
Fabic said the exercise has nothing to do with the events that transpired in Scarborough Shoal, adding that the training was finalized by Filipino and American officials as early as 2010.
“It’s a five-year planned exercise, this was planned a long time ago…The exercise was planned before this (Scarborough Shoal) issue took place, since 2011 up to 2015….It’s only incidental (to the incident),” Fabic said.
Last year’s CARAT exercise was held within the area of the Naval Forces Eastern Mindanao based in Davao. The CARAT exercise next year and in 2015 will be held in the area of Naval Forces West in Palawan and Naval Forces Central in Cebu, respectively.

When authority is perverse, abuse is rife

By Fr. Shay Cullen
PREDA Foundation
Walden Bello
Walden Bello
It’s all about power and fear. Several impoverished, abused, cheated and beaten Filipino female workers taking shelter in Middle Eastern Philippine embassies have been allegedly sexually assaulted and prostituted by some corrupt and depraved embassy officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs, according to Walden Bello, the sociologist turned Congressman in a press conference in Manila recently. He named two of the officials and gave the nick-name of a third. Yet many more have been involved in this despicable and criminal activity and dozens of young women have been violated.
They are vulnerable, lonely, isolated in a foreign country, and victims of physical and sexual abuse by their foreign employers. They escaped and ran for help and shelter to the Philippine embassies in Jordan, Syria and Kuwait. These young women, overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), are totally dependent on the Embassy officials when they take them into the embassy shelter with promises that the Philippine Government would protect and repatriate them.
Instead of being helped, many of them were subjected to humiliating and shameful sexual exploitation by corrupt and depraved officials themselves. Not only were they forced to perform sexual acts with some officials, but they were sold into sexual slavery in the city from which the embassy officials earned a lot of money.
Representative Walden Bello told a news conference that his source is a high official of the Department of Foreign affairs and he named names. The young victims were too scared and helpless to resist the power of the government officials. Just imagine what most likely went on in the embassy shelters to coerce and threaten them into submission and docility. They likely received threats of dire punishment if they told anyone about it.
Imagine it might have happened like this to a fictional young woman named Rosa.
Embassy Official in a closed embassy room: “Rosa, I will help you get home to the Philippines, you can earn some money, just let’s have a little fun first.”
Rosa tries to resist: “No, no, please don’t touch me, leave me alone, that’s what the evil employer did to me; he raped me, don’t, don’t.”
Official, pulling an angry stern face: “You are here under my power, if you don’t do as I say, I will send you back out to your employer and the authorities, you will be on the street without documents or passport, do you understand? You will be arrested and jailed.”
Rosa: “Please sir, don’t do that, I want to go home I have not seen my family for years, I have nothing, no money, no job, no food. I have been cheated, robbed and raped, please don’t cancel my air ticket”.
She was by now crying and howling, tears streaming down her face but the official seemed to be aroused by her distress and moved to sexually exploit her.
Most of the Embassy employees had to know about it, but remained silent or worse, may have been involved too. Why did they not blow the whistle and come to the rescue of the women? Their silence can only be understood as approval, or they were silenced by threats and fear. A culture of fear of higher authority can overpower the moral values of even a strongest and most spiritual person. Courage and belief in human dignity and rights and know how to get help is what is needed.
The young women are silent also, fear has a paralyzing power to subjugate and render people unable to resist or speak against the exploiter or abuser. Some government authority figures have an arrogant sense of superiority; they tend to trivialize sexual crimes.
The worst part of all this is that the suffering victims are treated as if they are an enemy, a hostile ungrateful beneficiary out to hurt the man. We can imagine an arrogant rapist official scolding his abused victim.
“You are an ungrateful brat, no better than a prostitute, you should feel honored that I, an important official and your superior, would lower myself to have sex with the likes of you, an impoverished non-person. You should be grateful for the help we have for you here instead of protesting and complaining”.
Such depravity and criminality leaves the normal person breathless, angry and bewildered. But for those in positions of power and ascendency whether it be government, church or in the family, the abuse of power by threats of dire punishment against the weak and helpless creates deeply held fear.
The poor know the rich and powerful can murder and rape with impunity. For the powerful, it seems an entitlement, a privilege of power. The senior Philippine embassy officials in Jordan, Syria and Kuwait have been recalled to answer the complaints. Not before their time.
E-mail, letters send to: St. Columban’s, Widney Manor road, Solihull, B93 9AB, UK.
(Fr. Shay’s columns are published in The Universe, The Manila Times, in publications in Ireland, the UK, Hong Kong, and on-line.)

The Unwanted

By Jose Ma. Montelibano
Photo credit: Chris Rusanowsky
Photo credit: Chris Rusanowsky
The rains are here, and so are the floods. There are reasons why many believe that climate change is causing such a disruption in our weather patterns. It matters less if these are really new patterns or a natural part of an old pattern that we just never knew before. What is important is that at least three generations of living Filipinos know there are dramatic changes in our weather today versus remembered yesteryears.
Who is right and who is wrong among scientific views does not make it less miserable for Filipinos deeply affected by the emerging climate changes. And I am not talking about the inconvenienced by heavy traffic in flooded streets, I am talking about life-and-death circumstances for millions. I am talking about poor Filipinos, the poorest 5 million families and presumably another 2 or 3 million almost as poor families. Yes, let’s talk about them.
Many who read my articles do not see and relate to the poor in the provinces and rural areas. These same many, though, see and hear about the poor in the urban areas, especially Metro Manila. This is simply because the Internet is better in the cities than they are in most municipalities, and because media more regularly covers highly urbanized areas more than less populated rural areas. Until a Sendong or a Pablo comes along to kill hundreds or thousands.
Manila shantytown (Photo credit: Chris Rusanowsky)
Manila shantytown (Photo credit: Chris Rusanowsky)
For those who are aware of the caste system of India, they know there is a group at the very bottom called the “Untouchables”. For those less aware, let me quote a short description from national Geographic:
“To be born a Hindu in India is to enter the caste system, one of the world’s longest surviving forms of social stratification. Embedded in Indian culture for the past 1,500 years, the caste system follows a basic precept: All men are created unequal. The ranks in Hindu society come from a legend in which the main groupings, or varnas,emerge from a primordial being. From the mouth come the Brahmans—the priests and teachers. From the arms come the Kshatriyas—the rulers and soldiers. From the thighs come the Vaisyas—merchants and traders. From the feet come the Sudras—laborers. Each varna in turn contains hundreds of hereditary castes and subcastes with their own pecking orders.
A fifth group describes the people who are achuta, or untouchable. The primordial being does not claim them. Untouchables are outcasts—people considered too impure, too polluted, to rank as worthy beings. Prejudice defines their lives, particularly in the rural areas, where nearly three-quarters of India’s people live.Untouchables are shunned, insulted, banned from temples and higher caste homes, made to eat and drink from separate utensils in public places, and, in extreme but not uncommon cases, are raped, burned, lynched, and gunned down.”
It is a sad reality that we have our “Untouchables” in the Philippines. I will call them the “Unwanted” to avoid confusion with the Indian term, and also because they are truly unwanted. That is why they have remained the way they are from the beginning of the poverty they fell into during the Spanish regime – because no one cared. That devaluation they suffered from a society that preferred not to deal with them, except on temporary basis when their brawns become necessary for harvest purposes, has not been reversed for most of them.
Half of Filipinos are self-rated poor, with at least one fourth dirt poor. That is a percentage higher than the Untouchables of India. It is scandalous how this can happen when a dominant Christian religion is anchored on love and bringing glad tidings to the poor. But the truth is the truth, and no religious hypocrisy can change that. Christians can only move out of hypocrisy, especially the leadership of the Catholic Church to whom Catholics look to for modeling. I choose not to speak about the minority Muslims, knowing as I do that among the poorest in the Philippines are Muslim areas in Mindanao. Definitely, their own poor cannot be blamed.
The highlight is suddenly on the Unwanted today. Attention is focused on them when the rest of Filipinos are either inconvenienced or politicians threatened with public ire. But I notice that the attention given the Unwanted is not softened by sympathy; rather, it is laced with official frustration. After all, the Unwanted are blamed for the garbage in the esteros and rivers where there are colonies of them piled on top of one another. After all, the Unwanted are blamed for everything, as though their misery is their choice over the blessings of the more fortunate. If they are not deemed too lazy, they are called too stupid to vote for the good candidates.
As if good candidates over 100 years have amounted to anything for the Unwanted, almost 19 million of them having experienced hunger in the 1st quarter of 2013. If 19% of our poor can grow hungry and many millions more threatened by hunger everyday, do we believe they will clean their garbage, or clean our garbage for us? Do we expect them to live in subdivisions instead of river banks or esteros so they can be close to water, no matter how polluted? If we do not want them, why will they want us?
We have choices, the Unwanted do not. We can stoop down, they cannot reach up enough to reach us. The gap is too big. We can sympathize and empathize, we can afford to. They are too busy trying to survive and cannot even think of joining a revolution to get rid of us.
When we look at the Unwanted as the problem, we cannot solve anything. Because we are the problem, not them. They are the Unwanted, unwanted by us. Their only dream to have a little of what we have, including being wanted. If our Christianity is too cold to care, maybe the Filipino in us can be the spark to make us brave enough to care.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

10 cautions for the GOP

By Jennifer Rubin
The Washington Post
Republicans are pleased with themselves these days. The president is mired in scandals while the public does not believe they have overreached. A bunch of veteran Senate Democrats have retired, making possible a flip in Senate control. And the GOP’s strongest leaders (such as Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie) are riding high in the polls. They have stymied the president’s spending ambitions and allowed only a tiny slice of the Bush tax cuts to expire.
Ted Cruz
Sen. Ted Cruz (right) and Sen. Lindsey Graham to the rear. (Jim Lo Scalzo / EPA)
Yet overconfidence is dangerous, and there are grounds for concern:
1. Immigration reform fails: Failure goes beyond a defeat for Rubio (a potential presidential candidate), beyond another round of blame-the-Republicans and beyond yet another opportunity to broaden the party’s appeal. It would be the triumph of Malthusians (more people = scarcity) over the optimistic, pro-growth vision that has propelled the party for the last 30 years.
2. Crackpottery prevails on national security: Between ludicrous misrepresentations (e.g. the government is listening to your phone calls, the National Security Agency  programs lacked oversight) and a refusal to recognize that our success in connecting the dots is the most important prevention technique we have, otherwise thoughtful Republicans sound like Sarah Palin (we’re “becoming a totalitarian surveillance state”). Stop. Think. Make sure you’ve got the facts. Before opining on the Fourth Amendment,  learn what it covers and what it doesn’t.
3. They run only on scandals: Sure, the GOP might pick up a few seats in the House and Senate here and there (mostly because Democrats are down in the dumps) in 2014, but it probably won’t be enough to take the Senate and it surely won’t give Republicans a mandate or a chance to explain to the voters what they are for, not merely that the Obama folk are up to no good.
4. They remain fixated on the budget and tax reform: How do I put this? It isn’t happening. Move on. The president has made clear the price for everything is a tax hike,  which is horrid for the anemic economy and a political non-starter. There is plenty out there to move onto that can play to the GOP strengths — energy development, an Obamacare alternative, real school reform, regulatory reform (to lessen the burdens on small and mid-sized businesses) etc.
5. They become paranoid grouches: Between the “NSA is reading your e-mails” to thundering at fellow conservatives who understand immigration is the lifeblood of America, they are displaying few happy warriors these days. Yes, things are rotten (from their perspective because of Obama policies), but they can be better.
6. They choose poor candidates again in 2014: Enough said.
7.  They run to the left of President Obama on foreign policy: Our half-hearted effort on Syria, Iran’s progress on nuclear weapons and China’s cyberterrorism are arguments for decisive, early action by the United States to help allies (or potential allies) and keep foes in check.
8.  They neglect to spell out what plan they’d substitute for Obamacare: If they run on the impending disaster that awaits (and has already occurred) with the implementation of Obamacare, they will need to assure the public there is an alternative — one that provides better health care and lives up to the “affordable” promise of the Affordable Care Act.
9.  They savage and undermine House Speaker John Boehner: When they have cut the legs out from under him, they’ve wound up with worse legislation (the Budget Control Act, voting against Plan B in the fiscal-cliff debate). When they have been united (such as  on the sequester) they have been effective.
10. They pay more attention to right-wing pundits and fear-mongers than to voters: Even Republican voters are more flexible and want more effective government than you’d think from reading right-wing blogs or listening to the loudest talk-show hosts. Lawmakers who are guided by such voices wind up out of sync with their constituents. Turn off the radio, get off Twitter and go talk to lots and lots of constituents. Lawmakers have better electoral success and will legislate more intelligently.

Kris Aquino and the Sultan of Johor

Making life worth living
By Ellen Tordesillas
Sultan of Johor shows Kris Aquino his car collection
Sultan of Johor shows Kris Aquino his car collection
It was insensitive of Kris Aquino to feature the Sultan of Johor at the time when the wounds of the February-March Sabah bloodfight have not healed and the root of the problem has not been addressed.
Tuesday’s feature of Kris TV was the Sultan of Johor, Ibrahim Ismail, a close friend of the Aquino’s.
Kris related that her family’s closeness with the Sultan of Johor, Ibrahim Ismail, dates back to their Boston stay in the mid’80s. The Sultan was a student in the United States at that time. Internet search showed that he received military training in the US–at Fort Benning, Georgia and later at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Kris said the image that she had of the Sultan during their Boston meetings was Ibrahim driving a Rolls Royce.
The Sultan showed off his collection of expensive cars, numbering 300. It is reported that the Johor Sultan and President Aquino share a passion for luxury cars.
Kris excitedly quipped while she was touring the Sultan’s air-conditioned garage, “I’ll show Noy the video and he’ll come.”
The Lahad Datu siege in March this year, which was precipitated by the decision of the Sultan of Sulu Jamalul Kiram III to press their ownership of a large part of Sabah, now one of the 13 states of Malaysia despite the claim of the Philippines over the oil and mineral rich territory , some three-fourths of it was given by the Sultan of Brunei to the Sultan of Sulu in 1704 as a reward for the latter’s help in suppressing a rebellion.
Early February, some 80 to 100 men led by Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram, brother of Jamalul Kiram III, arrived in the coastal village of Lahad Datu in Sabah and resisted attempts by Malaysian authorities to expel them. The fighting spread to the town of Semporna. One of the Malaysian policemen killed was L/Kpl Mohd Azrol Tukiran, a close friend of the Johor prince, Tuanku Laksamana Tunku Abdul Jalil, who is also a member of the Malaysian police.
A Malaysian newspaper reported that the Sultan of Johor wept over the policeman’s death saying the victim and his son” close friends and even slept next to each other during their police special forces training in Ulu Kinta in Perak.”
The Star quoted Sultan Ibrahim as saying “losing a close friend had affected the prince.”
Innocent civilians, mostly Filipinos, were caught in the conflict. President Aquino never condemned the atrocities. He even blamed Kiram for starting the trouble and threatened him and his men with legal actions.
It was a civil society groups that filed a complaint against Malaysia for maltreatment of Filipinos before the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.
Many wondered who was advising Aquino in his pro-Malaysian position in the Sabah conflict. Jacel Kiram, granddaughter of Jamalul Kiram III, said they have information that the Sultan of Johor was in touch with Aquino.
The position of Sultan of Johor, the 5th largest state by land area and 2nd most populous state in Malaysia, is ceremonial. The power is exercised by the chief minister.
In power plays, even figureheads have their uses. Apparently, Malaysia knows how to use them.
And the Philippines? Kris TV.

Population and Climate Change

‘India’s population is expected to surpass China’s around 2028 when both countries will have populations of around 1.45 billion.’
Population-problemTHE world’s population could reach 11 billion by the year 2100, from slightly less than 8 billion today.
The United Nations reported that the population hit 7 billion in October 2011, an amazing increase from the 5 million people who lived on the planet in 8000 B.C. or the 1 billion who were alive in 1805.
Right now, Africa’s population stands at 1.1 billion, but that is expected to increase to 4.2 billion, by 2100.
The rest of the world is unlikely to see big changes from the past estimate. Europe may see a slight dip in population, because it continues to have a below-replacement birth rate, meaning more people are dying than being born.
The population will likely reach between 9 billion and 13 billion by 2100.
India’s population is expected to surpass China’s around 2028 when both countries will have populations of around 1.45 billion.
While India’s population is forecast to grow to around 1.6 billion and then slowly decline to 1.5 billion in 2100, China’s is expected to start decreasing after 2030, possibly falling to 1.1 billion in 2100.
The report found global fertility rates falling rapidly, though not nearly fast enough to avoid a significant population jump over the next decades. In fact, the UN revised its population projection upward since its last report two years ago, mostly due to higher fertility projections in the countries with the most children per women. The previous projection had the global population reaching 9.3 billion people in 2050.
Among the fastest-growing countries is Nigeria, whose population is expected to surpass the US population before the middle of the century and could start to rival China as the second-most populous country in the world by the end of the century, according to the report.
By 2050, Nigeria’s population is expected to reach more than 440 million people, compared to about 400 million for the US The oil-rich African country’s population is forecast to be nearly 914 million by 2100.
The report found that most countries with very high levels of fertility – more than 5 children per women – are on the UN list of least-developed countries. Most are in Africa, but they also include Afghanistan and East Timor.
The average number of children per woman has swiftly declined in several large countries, including China, India, Indonesia, Iran, Brazil and South Africa, leading to a reduction in population growth rates in much of the developing world.
In contrast, many European and eastern Asia countries have very low fertility levels.
Still, population growth until 2050 is all but inevitable.
Among the notable findings in the report:
• The population in developing regions is projected to increase from 5.9 billion in 2013 to 8.2 billion in 2050. In contrast, the population of developed countries is expected to remain largely unchanged during that period, at around 1.3 billion people.
• The number of children in less-developed regions is at all time high at 1.7 billion. In those regions, children under age 15 account for 26% of the population. In the poorest countries, children constitute 40% of their populations, posing huge challenges for providing education and employment.
• In wealthier regions, by contrast, children account for 16% of the population. In developed countries as a whole, the number of older people has already surpassed the number of children, and by 2050 the number of older people will be nearly twice the number of children.
• Low-fertility countries now include all of Europe except Iceland plus 19 countries in Asia, 17 in the Americas, two in Africa and one in Oceania• The populations of several countries are expected to decline by more than 15% by 2050, including Belarus, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cuba, Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russia Serbia, and Ukraine.
• Life expectancy at birth for the world as a whole rose from 47 years in 1950-55 to 69 years in 2005-2010 and is projected to reach 76 years in 2045-2050 and 82 years in 2095-2100.
Then, there is Climate Change. What do we need to do?
Cities and coastal areas across the globe are already building or planning defenses to protect from storm surges and other effects of global warming.
Some are planning cities that will simply adapt to more water.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s $20 billion plan to build floodwalls, levees and other defenses against rising seas.
A sampling of cities around the world and what they are doing to prepare for the climatic forces that scientists say are being unleashed by global warming:
In the Netherlands, a country where two-thirds of the population lives below sea level, the battle against the sea has been a matter of life and death for centuries.
The Dutch government devotes roughly one percent of its annual budget to its intricate system of dikes, dunes and sea walls. Improvements to cope just with the effects of climate change have been carried out since 2003.
Current techniques embrace a philosophy of “living with water:” Floods are inevitable, and it’s better to prepare for them than to build ever-higher dikes that may fail catastrophically.
Sea level rise is a particular concern for Venice. It’s in the process of realizing an expensive and oft-delayed system of underwater barriers that would be raised in the event of flooding over 43 inches (110 centimeters), higher than the 31-inch (80-centimeter) level that floods the famed St. Mark’s Square.
Venice, a system of islands built into a shallow lagoon, is extremely vulnerable to rising seas because the sea floor is also sinking.
The constant flooding puts the city’s considerable architectural treasures at risk. Venice has experienced 10 events over 4 feet 7 inches (140 centimeters) since 1950, including a devastating 1966 flood. Plans for the new so-called Moses barriers will cost more than 4 billion euros. The first of these have been moved into place in recent days. Many Venetians remain skeptical of the project due to the high costs and concerns over environmental risks.
The low-lying capital of a perpetually soggy country, London has long been vulnerable to flooding – particularly when powerful storms send seawater racing up the River Thames. But Londoners already have a powerful flood defense: the 570-yard-long (half-a-kilometer-long) Thames Barrier, composed of 10 massive steel gates, each five stories high when raised against high water.
Meanwhile, environmentally conscious Londoners have made plans to battle some of the other predicted effects of global warming by promoting better water management, expanding the city’s Victorian sewage network, and “urban greening” – the planting of trees and rooftop gardens to help manage the urban heat island effect.
There are many more examples of cities preparing for floods. In fact, many of the cities of the world are prone to flooding. What is different between these and our Manila is that our Manila mayors have always relied on the National government to resolve their flooding problems. Here’s hoping that incoming Mayor Erap will have a workable plan that both the national government and the LGU can do together to rid Manila of its floods.
London, New York, Miami and other famous cities would have Manila-size floods too, if their mayors never did anything about it. It’s about time that we have a City Hall that worked for Manila.
(A report from the Associated Press was the basis for this column.)
Readers who missed a column can access This is updated daily. Your reactions are welcome at or you can send me a message through Twitter @diretsahan.

China needs to undo its pseudo-history

By Jarius Bondoc
The Philippine Star 
Nine-dash-line.2It will take years to set up anti-flooding infrastructures in Manila. But only a few moments are needed to start unclogging waterways. Here and now government should:
(1) Stop calling squatters “informal settlers,” which romanticizes the crime of land grabbing, the syndicates posing as civic-religious NGOs, and their abettors;
(2) Be ashamed of itself for freeloading on private do-gooders like Gina Lopez who conscientiously relocate squatters from esteros;
(3) Jail politicos who let squatters proliferate — again — during the election campaign; and
(4) Arrest on sight street gangsters who stuff sewers with plastic bags when it rains, to make a quick buck ferrying trapped pedestrians across rising waters.
* * *
The Chinese are taught from grade school that the entire South China Sea is theirs. Textbooks carry an “ancient map” with nine dashes in a U-shape denoting the outer limits of the sea, skirting the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, some islands of Indonesia, and Vietnam. Thirteenth-century-old, the Chinese map purportedly proves that “we were there first.” Therefore, China owns the 1.35 million square miles of sea and all its rocks, reefs, and sandbars.
Those among the grade-schoolers who later take up anthropology invariably discover they were fed pseudo-history and jumbled geology. For then they learn about indigenous peoples of the outlying archipelagos and Indochinese peninsula. Those inhabitants were from the Malayo-Polynesian branch of the Austronesians, the same roots of aboriginal Taiwanese. Given their island geography, the Malayo-Polynesians could only have been seafarers. In fact, from written mainland accounts, the Chinese first traveled by sea to Sumatra and onto Sri Lanka on Malay ships.
A “Chinese voyager” supposedly drew the 13th-century “nine-dash” map. That’s historical nonsense. China at the time was under Mongol invasion that forbade maritime activities, then by a dynasty that did likewise. Admiral Zheng He would not embark on his famed explorations till another 200 years, to kick off trade with the islanders. Only in another 200 years would the Chinese begin trekking to Taiwan.
Meanwhile, there already was brisk trade among the islanders. For a time, until expelled by the Indochinese, the Malay realm was based in Cham, in what is now Vietnam. Natives sailing due east to the Philippine islands, and those in the latter sailing due west to Cham, could only have known of and passed through the Spratly and Paracel islets in between.
The millennium earlier, Malay empire-builders crossed 4,000 miles of the treacherous Indian Ocean to conquer the world’s third biggest island, Madagascar. The Malagasy language and half of the native genes are of Malay origin; the island is the only part of Africa that has carabaos (water buffaloes), banana varieties, and rice paddy agriculture common in Southeast Asia.
China’s “nine-dash” map assigns Chinese island names to about 200 shoals, banks, and rock formations in the South China Sea. Except for a dozen or so islets — held by Taiwan, Vietnam, and the Philippines — all are uninhabitable because submerged at high tide. They are misnomers under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea definition of “island.”
But China says that since it declared its “nine-dash” claim in 1932, it predates and so is unbound by the UNCLOS. That line can backfire on China. Vietnam is in possession of an earlier 1904 map, printed by the Shanghai Publishing House, setting Hainan island-province as China’s southernmost territory, and the Spratlys and Paracels as part of Vietnam.
Older maps also show Scarborough Shoal, which China grabbed last year, to belong to the Philippines. The Carte Hydrographica y Chorographica de las Islas Filipinas, dating back to 1734, calls Scarborough the Panacot Shoal. A subsequent map published in Madrid in 1808, of the 1792 Malaspina expedition, includes it in Philippine territory as Bajo de Masinloc. Yet another topographic map drawn in 1820 shows Bajo Scarburo as part of the province of Sambalez (Zambales). Two other maps, the Mapa General, Islas Filipinas, Observatorio de Manila of the 1910s, and the US Coast and Geodetic Survey of the 1920s, place it within the Philippines as Baju de Masinloc.
Chinese scholars have begun to doubt the defensibility of the “nine-dash” claim. Some of them, through letters and blogs, are pressing Beijing to review its legality and avert a huge national embarrassment.
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“Tarzan, The Musical” is a good way to introduce your youngster to theater. It’s got all the ingredients for a memorable watch: adventure, action, drama, music, humor, romance, costumes, and fine acting.
Your kids surely are familiar with Edgar Rice Burrough’s “Tarzan of the Apes” and the 1999 Disney animation. The play retells an infant’s orphaning in the jungles of Africa and adoption by a band of gorillas. The growing boy strives for the acceptance of the ape-father, then learns the truth of their difference when a human expedition enters their realm.
Featuring Broadway and Glee star Dan Domenech, with Rachel Ann Go, Calvin Millado, and Ima Castro. Directed by Chari Arespacochaga for Viva Atlantis Theatricals.
Runs Fridays to Sundays till June 29 at 8 p.m., with matinees at 2 p.m. on Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays, at the Meralco Theater, Pasig City. For tickets: call (02) 8937078, 8401187, 6875853 (loc. 661 or 673); or TicketWorld 8919999; or at the box office.
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Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).

Friday, June 28, 2013

No Chinese interference as AFP rotates troops in Ayungin shoal

BRP-Sierra-Madre.1THE military has completed the rotation and provisioning of its troops at Ayungin Shoal in the disputed Spratly Islands without any interference from China whose ships continued to stay in the area, Armed Forces chief Gen. Emmanuel Bautista said yesterday.
“We have rotated (and delivered supplies). We do that periodically, including rotation. We are re-supplying them (troops) and rotating…We do that on a regular basis…We just completed it this month,” Bautista said.
A Navy ship is usually utilized in the re-provisioning and rotation of troops in the Spratly Islands.
Asked if the military was blocked by China, Bautista said, “There’s none, there is no interference.”
Bautista said at least two Chinese government ships are still in the vicinity of the Philippine-occupied shoal, which is about 120 nautical miles from Rizal, Palawan.
Bautista said the military has no problem with the continued Chinese presence in the shoal as long as the Chinese are not hampering freedom of navigation. So far, he said, China has not made any “aggressive moves.”
“How concerned are we? As far as we are concerned, we are non-confrontational. As long are there is no hampering of our movements, they allow freedom of navigation, that’s not a problem to us,” he said.
“Ours is to show the flag in our territory, ours is to protect our interest,” added Bautista.
Last month, the Department of Foreign Affairs filed a diplomatic protest against China after monitoring 30 Chinese fishing boats, escorted by a Chinese Navy frigate and two maritime surveillance ships.
There have been fears that China would not allow Philippine troops to be provisioned in Ayungin Shoal so that they would be forced to leave and the Chinese ships could take over the shoal.
Meanwhile, Manuel Pangilinan, chairman of Philex Petroleum, told reporters in Camp Aguinaldo that talks with China for joint oil explorations at Recto Bank in the West Philippine Sea are still in the “very preliminary” stage.
Asked how the territorial dispute is affecting the exploration talks, Pangilinan said, “I think it’s fair to state that we are just dealing with purely business issues with CNOOC (China National Offshore Oil Corp.”
Philex was supposed to conduct oil exploration at the Recto Bank in October last year when its ship was harassed by two Chinese ships. The Chinese told the oil explorers to leave, claiming Recto is part of China.
“We’re neither authorized nor qualified to talk about government issues. We made it very clear to CNOOC that we are not authorized to talk about government issues, so that’s why the talks are very preliminary at this stage,” said Pangilinan.

China Dream or Nightmare?

By Erick San Juan
Xi-Jinping-and-Chinese-flag“We must make persistent efforts, press ahead with indomitable will, continue to push forward the great cause of socialism with Chinese characteristics, and strive to achieve the Chinese dream of great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. To realize the Chinese road, we must spread the Chinese spirit, which combines the spirit of the nation with patriotism as the core and the spirit of the time with reform and innovation as the core.” – Chinese President Xi Jinping
This is how President Xi Jinping described his China Dream and he made his first reference to it in November 2012, when he was promoted to the top Communist Party post.
The propaganda storm began in earnest after he became president in 2013. He used the term numerous times in his first address to the nation as head of state on March 17, 2013. (From the Economist online 5/4/2013)
There is nothing wrong to have a dream especially if it’s for the good of one’s country. But it is very important to have some sort of a roadmap to achieve such dream or goal. In the case of China dream, some observers believed that Mr. Xi has been short on specifics and on how to put the dream into practice.
“Others are not so optimistic about the China Dream. They see it as a propaganda campaign by the ruling Communist Party to win public affection. It certainly comes as problems mount for China’s leaders.
The economy is slowing and more university graduates are now struggling to find jobs. There is also growing anger over official corruption and pollution.” (Ibid)
Sounds familiar? Any government leader dreaming of a better life for its countrymen will be frustrated if there will be no effort in addressing the perennial problems confronting the daily lives of the populace.
Some analysts are quick to notice the decline in China’s economy, and where else does this significant decline will go but the collapse of a dream that in the process may turn into a nightmare.
From the Wealth Daily’s Special Report (June 12, 2013 | Opinion page) stated that – China has the world’s largest population and second largest economy. In the last few years, it’s seen an outstanding economic growth rate, averaging 9 to 10%. The fact that China is now the world’s largest trading country makes this pretty significant.
But in the second half of 2012, this fell short… Growth was 7.6%, a three-year low.
Another red flag appeared towards the end of the summer when the Purchasing Managers’ Index, which measures manufacturing activity, fell to a nine-month low — dropping from 53.1 to 52.0. The 50-point mark separates expansion from contraction, and though China’s number was still above that line, it was hovering dangerously close.
One thing after another has had analysts turning a suspicious eye to China, a quickly-developing nation that, until now, had inspiring economic growth. And one after another, these analysts are all asking the same question: Is China’s economy on the brink of decline?
One factor that has contributed to its decline could be the “government corruption has been the link behind all of the slowing sectors in China. High-ranking officials and their self-interest have perpetuated the economic bubbles and pushed many sectors to the current point of instability. And it’s these officials that will continue to push them past the point of no return.
Past Chinese leaders did not address this perennial problem of corruption that it snowballed into something really big that is pushing the Chinese economy down the slope. Scandal after scandal has been the talk of the town, so to speak.
One of the biggest scandals that lit up the news recently was that of former Chinese politician Bo Xilai’s wife, Gu Kailai, who was tried and convicted for the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood. The murder took place after an alleged dispute between Heywood and Gu Kailai, during which Heywood was said to have threatened the woman’s son.
But this trial, which repeatedly made international headlines, is just the tip of the iceberg for Chinese government corruption…
Other instances are much less public, lack hard evidence, and are therefore all the more treacherous to the economy.
In March the son of senior party official Ling Jihua was killed in a car accident. It wasn’t the tragic death that struck suspicion, but the circumstances surrounding the event: Ling Jihua’s son was driving a Ferrari when he crashed, a car worth $270,000. His father, meanwhile, makes a reported annual salary of $15,000. The car was worth 18x his father’s annual pay. (Ibid)
There are other cases of corruption among the high-ranking Chinese officials that tops the list of the Chinese populace long list of grievances. Other problems that besets China are – strong production, weak demand, housing bubble, bad loans, precarious balance, among others.
Li Zuojun, deputy director at the Development Research Center of the State Council, wrote in a paper detailing the specific ways China must overcome its economic challenges:
“If the government uses a superb macro-control technique, lets the air out of the bubbles little by little without triggering an economic crisis or social unrest, and timely cultivates new economic growth and new competitive advantages so that businesses are restructured and upgraded…the bubbles would not burst. However, in 2013 there will be unprecedented pressure, which will warrant a high degree of vigilance and attention.
But if government corruption continues to overshadow this “vigilance and attention” to economic growth, China’s situation will get worse… to the point that thirty years of growth will implode.” (Ibid)
Such situation is not farfetched and could it be that the China Dream that President Xi Jinping wanted to happen will become a nightmare? Or the China Dream is the prelude to hard times ahead?
Let’s hope that the pattern of world wars will not happen this time….

Arms race in the Indo-Pacific region

By Perry Diaz
China's devil tongue
China’s devil tongue
With the increasingly aggressive behavior of China in claiming 80% of South China Sea and part of East China Sea, China’s neighbors are arming themselves and banding together to deter Chinese expansionism. China began grabbing islands in 1974 when she attacked Vietnamese naval forces in the Paracel Islands (called Xisha Islands by China) on January 19, 1974. On that fateful day, China’s superior naval forces defeated the Vietnamese forces and the Paracel Islands have since been under Chinese control.
Fast forward… In 2012, China had made a quantum leap in grabbing islands – piece by piece — in the South China Sea. That year, China tricked the Philippines into withdrawing a naval vessel and several fishing boats from Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal with the promise that she would withdraw her own forces, too. But as soon as the Philippine vessels were withdrawn, China cordoned off the only opening to the shoal.
Following the de facto occupation of the Scarborough Shoal, China claimed another Philippine territory, Macclesfield Bank. And then a few weeks ago, China was poised to grab Ayungin Shoal in the Spratly archipelago.
With China increasing her military budget from US$106.4 billion in 2012 to US$219 billion in 2013, an arms race is triggered in the Indo-Pacific region. Indeed, the specter of a shooting war with China sends a shudder down the spines of the leaders of several Asian countries.
Arms race
Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands
Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands
Japan – Although the U.S.-Japan Treaty binds the U.S. to come to the aid of Japan in the event of an external aggression, Japan is not taking any chances. Despite Japan’s pacifist constitution, Japan has built one of the strongest navies in the world. In recent years, she increased her military spending due to her territorial dispute with China over sovereignty of the Senkaku islands (Diaoyu to China), which Japan administers. China’s constant intrusion into the waters around the eight uninhabited islands and islets is worrisome.
Taiwan — Under constant threat from Chinese invasion, Taiwan is armed to the hilt. In 2010, the U.S. completed a $6.4-billion weapons deal with Taiwan that included 200 advanced Patriot anti-ballistic missiles. Recently, the U.S. also provided Taiwan with eight frigates equipped with the Aegis Combat system, which has the capacity to launch ship-based interceptor missiles. In addition, Taiwan has a network of 22 missile sites around the country.
Currently, Taiwan has four World War II-era submarines. In 2001, the U.S. approved the sale of eight conventional submarines to Taiwan. However, the U.S. had stopped building conventional submarines since the 1960s. Recently, Taiwan announced a plan to study the construction of indigenous submarines to deal with the delay.
Last June 14, it was reported in the news that U.S. Rep. Robert Andrews – a strong Taiwan supporter – wrote a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel asking “the administration to find ways to support Taiwan’s acquisition of diesel electric submarines, including export control considerations for technical assistance and other export licensing in support of a Taiwan submarine program.”  Taiwan’s defense budget this year is US$10.5 billion.
Artist's rendition of future Cam Ranh Naval Base
Artist’s rendition of future Cam Ranh Naval Base
Vietnam – With recent incidents in the South China Sea about Chinese warships harassing or firing at Vietnamese fishing boats, Vietnam is busy building her navy. Recently, it was announced that Vietnam is acquiring two submarines from Russia. The two diesel-electric Kilo-class submarines will be turned over to Vietnam in September under Vietnam’s $2-billion Project 635.
Singapore – With Singapore strategically located at the narrowest point of the 500-mile Strait of Malacca; she is in a position to control
the traffic in the strait. Singapore has 98 American-made F-15 and
USS Freedom
USS Freedom
F-16 fighters armed with the latest Sidewinder air-to-air missiles.
Singapore’s navy consists of six frigates, six corvettes, six submarines, 24 patrol boats, and numerous types of support vessels. Recently, the U.S. deployed the USS Freedom — the first of a new class of warships called Littoral Combat Ship — to Singapore’s Changi Naval Base, which is situated at the 1.7-mile wide chokepoint at the south end of the Strait of Malacca going to the South China Sea.

India – Sharing a long border with China, India is wary of Chinese intrusion into Indian territory. With the sighting of more than 20 Chinese submarines in the Indian Ocean in the past year, India is rapidly expanding her navy to deal with China’s increasing presence in the Indian Ocean. Currently, she has one aircraft carrier that she purchased from the United Kingdom. She also bought a refurbished Russian aircraft carrier, which will be delivered in December. And she is also building two indigenous aircraft carriers.
India needs at least 24 conventional submarines to deter China on her east coast and Pakistan on her west coast. She has currently 14 conventional submarines; however, only half are available for deployment. Six submarines have been ordered and will be delivered in 2016.
Strategic alliances
Manmohan Singh and Shinzo Abe
Manmohan Singh and Shinzo Abe
In 2012, the defense ministers of the U.S., Australia, and Japan met at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. Their joint statement said that they agreed to “develop and implement an action plan that promotes a strong, dynamic and flexible trilateral defense relationship over the remainder of this decade to enhance the security and prosperity of the region.” The Trilateral Security and Defense Cooperation Forum began at senior officials level in 2002 and progressed to ministerial levels in 2007.
Recently, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Japan bore fruit. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and he signed several major infrastructure and defense-technology deals, and agreed to speed up dialogue on nuclear cooperation and conduct more joint naval exercises.
A week later, Indian Defense Minister A.K. Antony and his Australian counterpart, Stephen Smith, met in Canberra where they agreed to strengthen their military ties and also to conduct joint naval exercises.
Indian Navy Eastern Fleet
Indian Navy Eastern Fleet
At about the same time, India deployed a fleet of four warships to the South China Sea where they visited Malaysia and Vietnam. The fleet’s next stop – the Philippines.
India’s strategic importance to maintaining the balance of power in the Indo-Pacific region cannot be ignored now that the U.S. is rebalancing her interests from Europe and the Middle East toward Asia. Simply said, the U.S. needs nuclear-armed India to play a key role in the Indo-Pacific region.
Add to the equation the alliances that the U.S. has with Japan, South Korea, Australia, Singapore, Philippines, and to some extent, Vietnam, it would create a formidable force that would make China think twice before embarking on a land-grabbing expedition.
With the arms race in the Indo-Pacific region going on, a de facto Cold War exists. But like the old Cold War, the new Cold War keeps the balance of power and prevents erratic behavior by any country that nurtures expansionist dreams.
As the popular saying goes, “The best defense is a good offense.” It prevented a nuclear war between the U.S. and the Soviet Union from erupting during the Cold War. Would an arms race prevent war between China and the U.S. and her allies in the Indo-Pacific region or would it fuel the engine of war?