Saturday, August 31, 2013

China Won’t Barter Away Territorial Interest, Chang Says

By Gopal Ratnam  
Aug. 19 (Bloomberg) — U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and China Defense Minister Chang Wanquan, speak at a news conference at the Pentagon about military ties between the U.S. and China, security in Asia and the crisis in Egypt. (Source: Bloomberg)
China is prepared to defend its interests and won’t trade away its territorial claims in the Asia-Pacific region, General Chang Wanquan, the country’s Defense Minister, said during a visit to the Pentagon.
While China prefers to solve disputes in the region through “dialogue and negotiation, no one should fantasize that China would barter away our core interests,” Chang said at a news conference yesterday in Washington alongside U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. “No one should underestimate our will and determination in defending our territorial sovereignty and maritime rights.”
The U.S. strategy of rebalancing toward the Asia-Pacific region has tended to focus on military aspects even as it’s billed as involving engagement as well, Chang said.
“We also notice that the frequency and intensity of joint military exercises are increasing,” Chang said. “To a certain degree, this kind of intensified military activity further complicates the situation in the region.”
China has been engaged in disputes with Japan and the Philippines over islands in the East and South China seas. China has cut the cables of survey ships working for Vietnam, and its dispute with the Philippines has led to several standoffs between Chinese and Philippine vessels. China claims “indisputable sovereignty” over more than 100 islets, atolls and reefs that form the Paracel and Spratly Islands as well as jurisdiction over the seabed and subsoil.
In discussions yesterday with Chang, Hagel said he emphasized the longstanding U.S. position that it doesn’t take sides and that the disputes must be resolved without coercion.
Build Trust
Chang, on his first visit to the Pentagon since becoming defense minister last year, proposed ways that the two countries’ militaries can notify each other of their activities as well as rules of behavior for their armed forces, Hagel said. Pentagon officials are studying the proposals, Hagel said.
Asked how the two militaries can build trust when Chinese hackers, backed by the military, continue attacking U.S. military and civilian computers, Chang said the People’s Liberation Army “has never supported any kind of hacker activity.”
Chang said China opposed “double standards” on computer attacks and said his country was also a victim of such attacks.

Days of Shame: August 21, 1971 and 1983

The Manila Times
August 21 is the most significant date in our post-war history, when two historic, connected events happened, the consequences of which make up our messy present.
First: The Plaza Miranda bombing on August 21, 1971. Four grenades were hurled at the stage of the Liberal Party’ grand miting de avance, killing nine and wounding 95 others. Many of the Party’s leaders and senatorial candidates were seriously injured.
The bombing was blamed on President Ferdinand Marcos, and public opinion believed so. As a result, most of his senatorial and congressional candidates lost in the elections that year, drastically weakening his political strength.
Kept secret for decades, but now believed to be true by most in the Communist Party, the bombing was ordered by its chairman then, Jose Ma. Sison, and executed by his most inner circle, called the party’s Executive Committee of the Political Bureau (See, among other accounts, Gregg Jones’ “Red Revolution: Inside the Philippine Guerrilla Movement” and the more recent “Secrets of the Eighteen Mansions by Mario Miclat”).
The motive: In the words used by communist party documents at that time, “to intensify the split within the ruling class” in order to create another “revolutionary flow.” In ordinary language, the bombing would push the opposition Liberal Party and their ruling-class supporters to strike back, even violently, at Marcos. The country would plunge into civil war in which the communist party as a very organized and armed force could take advantage of to capture power.
August 21: Left in 1971, right before the grenade attack; right in 1983, right after a soldier shot Ninoy point -blank in the head.
August 21: Left in 1971, right before the grenade attack; right in 1983, right after a soldier shot Ninoy point -blank in the head.
Few believed the most commonsensical question then: Why would Marcos, whom even his enemies credited as a brilliant strategist, undertake such an attack which obviously would be blamed on him?
Second, the assassination of opposition leader Benigno Aquino, Jr. on August 21, 1983. The political instability triggered by that event combined with the economic downturn at that time, due to the global debt crisis, led to the country’s worst recession ever. With GDP contracting by seven percent each for 1984 and 1985, Marcos’ political death in 1986 became well neigh inevitable, although it was obviously the aborted coup attempt against him and the massing of a hundreds of thousands of Filipinos at EDSA to defend the military rebels that plunged the dagger into the regime’s heart.
One event on August 21, 1971 triggered events that led to the imposition of martial law and the start of Marcos 13-year dictatorship. Another, on the same date twelve years later in 1983 triggered events that led to the fall of that dictatorship.
Why did the Plaza Miranda bombing lead to martial law?
Marcos believed that Aquino himself planned or at least was involved, in conspiracy with the communists, in the Plaza Miranda attack. With such a brazen use of violence, Marcos could but conclude that he would be killed, outrightly or through a death sentence by a court for that alleged deed, when he steps down from power in 1973. Imposing martial law and becoming a dictator, was his survival plan—with the perks of course of absolute power and unlimited wealth.
Marcos had good reasons to suspect Aquino. The opposition leader Aquino had supported the then rag-tag New People’s Arm, by giving them refuge and supplies in the vast Hacienda Luisita owned by this wife’s family.
Most importantly, Aquino— the unrivaled star of the Liberal Party—wasn’t at Plaza Miranda when it was attacked. He claimed later, according to one report that he was with the Laurels in a nearby restaurant who were having a birthday celebration. He said he was delayed in going to Plaza Miranda since he was waiting for Cocoy Laurel’s singing number to end.
There have been rumors though that NPA Commander Pusa, a Tarlac-based hit man known to be close to Aquino, warned him to delay his arrival at Plaza Miranda for reasons the guerilla however did not disclose. A leftist leader at that time, now US-based Fluellen Ortigas, reportedly was with Aquino just before the attack. He allegedly had told his close friends that he always wondered why Aquino seemed to be dally-dallying on the way to the most important political event of the year.
It was Plaza Miranda that prodded Marcos to declare the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus a month after the attack. It was the timid response of the elite to this suspension of civil liberties that convinced Marcos that he could pull off martial law a year later.
Sison calculated that the Plaza Miranda bombing blamed on Marcos would intensify the split within the ruling class and therefore bring about a revolutionary flow. He miscalculated. The attack helped Marcos to set up his dictatorship, which would nearly decimate the NPA and the party in the mid-70s that Sison himself was captured in 1977 —to be released by Corazon Aquino in 1986.
Except for a tiny faction of the elite that Marcos cleverly limited his attack on, mainly the politico-economic elite clan of the Lopezes, the Philippine ruling class either believed that the Plaza Miranda bombing was the communists and Aquino’s plot, or that whoever was responsible, it created an unstable political situation that risked a communist take-over.
Who wouldn’t fear a communist take-over at that time when right after the grenade attack the communists tried to smuggle into the Isabela hinterlands 2,000 M-14s, courtesy of Mao Tse Tsung himself? Former ranking communists would later claim that the two events were connected. Sison estimated that without the “revolutionary flow” the bombing would create, there wouldn’t be enough activists to recruit into the NPA to use those rifles.
Why wouldn’t the ruling class support Marcos’ dictatorship? In 1973, right after martial was declared, GDP surged to 8.9 percent, the highest growth rate ever recorded for our country, and from 1972 to 1979, it averaged a high 6 percent yearly.
But August 21, 1971 is a day of the shame for the party supposedly of the poor.
Because of the Plaza Miranda bombing its leadership ordered, the communist party had lost its moral grounding, exposed to be as ruthless and Machiavellian as Stalinist and Maoist parties are all over the world. It fooled thousands of our idealistic young men and women to devote and even sacrifice their lives to fight a dictatorship which the communist leadership in effect helped install by bombing Plaza Miranda.
August 21, 1971 is a day of shame for one party of the ruling class. The Liberal Party, the target of the attack, opportunistically joined the frenzy of communist-led propaganda that it was Marcos who was its brains—just to win the 1971 elections.
Even after the dictator’s fall, the Liberal Party didn’t bother to find out who really was responsible for the single most important event in its history. Shamelessly, it even distanced itself from the conviction of Jovito Salonga, one of its revered leaders whose wounds from the attack disfigured his face and severely weakened his health: that it wasn’t Marcos who ordered the attack but the communists under Sison.
With the suspicion that Aquino was part of the Plaza Miranda plot, or at least didn’t warn his colleagues of the attack, his wife President Corazon Aquino and his family with their vast power and wealth could have left no stone unturned to settle who was responsible for this key event in our history.
They didn’t bother, since that would weaken the image they wanted of Marcos—evil personified.
A similar nonchalance also makes August 21, 1983 a day of shame for our nation.
Despite their vast political and economic powers, especially when Corazon Aquino was president 1986 to 1992, the Aquinos and Cojuangcos didn’t bother to unmask the murder’s brains. Some 16 officers and soldiers were convicted by the Sandiganbayan for the murder and given life sentences in 1990. All of the assassination’s details have been uncovered, except who the mastermind was. (The full text of the decision posted at
Why didn’t then President Cory Aquino offer them pardon —and maybe even money to live in security abroad—in exchange for identifying the brains of the murder that shaped our history?
There is another question that bothers me a lot. Was it just sheer coincidence that two historic events occurred on the same date?
I wonder. In what would be his death voyage, Aquino arrived in Taipei August 19, 1983. But he booked his flight to Manila August 21. Was the date of his return to the country a secret message to the dictator, one that only he and Marcos would understand? and www.

Rapid road to demographic suicide

By Bernardo M. Villegas
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Whatever happens to the RH Law, our leaders in the next five to 10 years must make sure that no program to aggressively promote a contraceptive mentality among the poor will be part of the implementing rules and regulations. We cannot make the same mistakes of China and Thailand, which are now on an irreversible road to demographic suicide because of the birth control programs their governments pursued just 20 to 30 years ago.
Total Fertility Rate (TFR) in the Philippines was six babies per fertile woman in 1975. Without any aggressive program for birth control over the last 30 years, that rate has fallen to 3.1 babies today through such natural trends as later marriages, education of women, urbanization and industrialization. In another 30 years, that rate will fall below replacement of 2.1 babies per fertile woman. The birth controllers say that there is nothing to worry about because even at below replacement, the population will continue to grow because of a “growth momentum” that can last for decades. What the RH proponents do not tell us is that any growth in population that occurs after the TFR drops below fertility rate will be in the number of those over 65—i.e., people will be living longer and longer. The labor force, however, will start to shrink, with the consequent financial burden on an economy that has to support more and more retired people with less and less productive workers.
The cases of Thailand and China are very instructive. Both countries still have growing populations but are already suffering from serious labor shortages because of aging. Both are far from being developed countries but are undergoing the demographic pains of such highly developed countries as Japan and Singapore. A recent report from Digital Media (May 25, 2013) estimates that Thailand is already lacking 1.6 million workers despite having a population of 65 million. The following was datelined Bangkok: “Thailand’s current labor shortage will become more severe with two government mega projects needing at least 530,000 more workers, a senior Thai official said today. Pravit Khingpol, Department of Employment director general, said the country will be short by 1.6 million persons in the labor force and foreign workers will have to be hired. The planned Bt 2 trillion in infrastructure development projects will need at least 450,00 workers and the Bt 350 billion water management project another 80,000 laborers, he said.”
In over just one generation of aggressive birth control programs, Thailand is suffering from labor shortages. It is clear that the so-called growth momentum does not exist, and it would be against sustainable development for the Philippines to aggressively promote birth control, especially among the low-income households who are the only ones still not affected by a contraceptive mentality. The same thing can be affirmed of China, which implemented, sometimes brutally, a one-child policy. In no time at all (again no growth momentum), China’s youth labor supply has started to decline.
A report published by Silk Road Associates, titled “The End of Made in China,” describes the labor shortage in that country: “It was once popular to talk of China’s endless supply of cheap labor. Not anymore. Labor supply has shrunk dramatically over the past decade. China’s youth demographic is expected to decline by 44 million over the next 10 years, according to the United Nations’ population projection division. Indeed, the average Chinese national is 35 years old, compared to the average Cambodian (23 years) and average Bangladeshi (24 years). [The equivalent figure in the Philippines is 23 years.] The result is massive labor shortages. Officials in the southern Pearl River Delta, for instance, estimate the region suffers a shortfall of 600,000 workers.”
Needless to say these labor shortages in Thailand and China have pushed their wages upward. Average monthly wages in China, according to the International Labor Organization (March 2012), are now at $656, while those in Thailand are at $489, as compared to $279 in the Philippines and $295 in India. No wonder there is an upsurge of Japanese and Korean manufacturing enterprises moving to the Philippines, as reported by Director General Lilia de Lima of the Philippine Export Processing Zone. China is no longer the preferred site of labor-intensive manufacturing operations. These trends should be a warning to our government to either repeal the RH Law or at least slow down its aggressive implementation.
The Philippine Constitution refers again and again to sustainable development. Obviously, the RH Law will not promote sustainable development. In that sense, it is unconstitutional. There is no need to push the TFR below replacement level at too rapid a pace. We cannot solve the problems of today by harming the economic welfare of future generations who will surely suffer labor shortages if we follow the examples of China and Thailand. There are numerous positive ways of addressing the problem of mass poverty without endangering future generations, as the Chinese and the Thais have already done.
Bernardo M. Villegas ( is senior vice president of the University of Asia and the Pacific.

Friday, August 30, 2013

VIDEO | How to fix the pork barrel system, according to then-Candidate Noynoy Aquino
The online news portal of TV5

Just a few months before he was elected President in 2010, then-candidate Benigno Aquino III was asked: What can you do to fix the pork barrel system? He had some very clear and concrete suggestions.

Specifically, Mr. Aquino suggested limiting projects that can be supported by Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) to initiatives where outputs are tangible and therefore easier to monitor.

In an interview with the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) - see the video below, starting at around the 7:16 mark - he proposed instituting a "menu coinciding with national priorities", and which prioritizes "hard" projects over "soft" - for example, infrastructure projects over the types of livelihood, education, and training programs that the Commission on Audit now says, in a special audit report on PDAF projects from 2007-2009, have been hard to measure - and have therefore bred inefficiencies and outright corruption.

Mr. Aquino said perhaps limiting the options of congressmen on what their respective pork barrel funds can support would better align efforts towards what the national government feels is important, while at the same time help the executive's monitoring agencies track performance and accountability.

His sentiments as a presidential candidate resonate once again, three years into his incumbency as President, as they echo some of the key points raised by the COA last week. COA Chairman Grace Pulido-Tan, presenting the special audit report, said legislators seem to have a predeliction for "soft" projects, and for identifying projects from an open-ended scheme. The tracking of these projects, not coincidentally, are now proving to be nightmarish, in many cases showing little proof - or even any standard measure - of success, failure, or even existence.

Then-candidate Aquino did not seem to categorically be on the side of scrapping the pork barrel system altogether - the proposition of some civil society groups and private citizens now mobilizing for an protest rally this August 26. Indeed, he pointed out that the PDAF is an important means by which congressmen outside of major cities like Metro Manila can fund "the needs and wants" of their constituents. But he was clearly for reforming the system.

Hear what Candidate Noynoy had to say in February 2010. He speaks about the pork barrel system at around the 7:16 mark.

Opening A Closet of Skeletons

By Jose Ma. Montelibano
Skeleton-in-the-closetIt is almost amusing to monitor all the ranting and raving about the reported 10 billion scam. The information being downloaded by the whistleblowers are all so juicy, real or not. It makes for a good teleserya, actually. Now, another chapter is adding itself to the drama – the warrant of arrest just issued against Janet Lim-Napoles and her brother. As of this hour, I do not know if Napoles has already been arrested.
Assuming that the allegations are true instead of assuming innocent until proven guilty, there is more than enough reported wrongdoing to justify public outrage. What I find amusing is that the justification for public outrage has been there for a long time, except the public was not outraged. After all, the whistleblowers’ story starts from the late 90’s and established the scam formula throughout the whole Gloria and Mike Arroyo regime.
Before the advent of whistleblowers, which Chavit began against Joseph Estrada and which Jun Lozada courageously picked up with his ZTE revelations, the dirt about the pork barrel had been an open chismis subject until people tired of hearing about it. The railings against the pork barrel must be as old as a senior citizen by now.
It may be that the Erap Resign movement did trigger enough focus on corruption, and an objectionable immoral lifestyle, to end in the unwilling removal of a sitting president. It may be that this process of almost four months of unrest became a partial vent for deep-seated frustrations. With reduced internal pressure because of EDSA Dos, the public again took a very tolerant stance against corruption. Not funny, but public perception of corruption immediately rose in the first three months of the Gloria and Mike tandem that it overtook the worst level that Estrada reached.
Now, what can one expect from a government considered corrupt, or from a string of governments judged to be corrupt? It means corruption finds way to roll itself out. It does not stay in the chismis mode, it always applies itself into action. And because it had been doing so for decades, the application has become systemic and the culture endemic.
What makes us more shocked today than yesterday? We may think it is the alleged 10 billion scam but that cannot be so. After all, if we go back just 10 years, what has been stolen by corrupt officials and their cohorts in the private sector can be well over a trillion pesos. Many had estimated corruption to have eaten up 30% or more of government projects. Even operating costs including the largest, salaries and wages for government personnel, had been stained with ghost employees. The one trillion I speak about could have been reached just in the nine years of Gloria and Mike.
So, if it is not about a shocking 10 billion story of a scam, why are we, the Filipino public, more agitated now?
I believe the first reason is that P-Noy made Matuwid na Daan a personal vision, that a Philippine President has made fighting corruption a personal challenge and has put his entire administration on the alert against it. This bold public stance prioritizing an anti-corruption attitude does not eliminate corruption but it begins a sincere and sustained effort to do so. All his Cabinet Secretaries know that P-Noy will not hesitate to fire them if he has reasonable proof, and not even beyond reasonable doubt. Now, can you imagine reporting dishonest government officials to Gloria and Mike – and believe they will act against the thieves?
I believe the second reason is that there are now enough young Filipinos who are not yet influenced by the corruption of older generations, that idealism and nobility are finding young heroes and heroines who refuse to inherit a dirty lifestyle. I have witnessed a second generation of elected officials whose family names may not have been exempted from the perception of being trapos but are more influenced by the higher standards of ethics and performance.
I believe, thirdly, that there are more among Filipino citizens who are now connecting the dots, that corruption, indeed, stunts national progress and does aggravate historical poverty. Even with reports of more massive vote-buying at higher rates than before, politicians cannot simply assume that they can buy votes cheaply. And they are not as able to monitor and determine if the voter is really voting for the vote-buyer.
I believe the fourth reason is a growing kindness and concern for the poor by the non-poor, by a growing number of pro-poor programs by corporations, civic organizations, schools and volunteer groups. I believe that this emerging spirit of pro-active sympathy for the poor, especially victims of disasters, understand why corruption is not only so immoral but also so wasteful in the face of great and urgent need.
I believe, as a fifth reason, that the Catholic Church is also starting its own recovery program against its own corrupt, albeit that this corruption is against the wealth of the faith more than the money of the institution. The advent of Pope Francis with his simplicity, his sincerity, and his compassion for the poor will overwhelm the acrimonious noise of high-profile bishops, and young Cardinal Tagle will represent that posture more than the CBCP. The appeal for love, forgiveness and mercy by Pope Francis will find more support and may redefine the face and voice of the Catholic Church in the Philippines.
I believe that the sixth reason is technology, a special kind whose nature is speed and transparency, which is not driven by morality but by an almost insatiable need to have data and to share that data. This sixth reason, combine with the five reasons mentioned above, will literally rock the boat in ways we have not yet imagined.
What is clear is that many skeletons are rattling, or are rattled. They sense the closet door will soon be opened, and the light will set them free. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, though, way beyond government. Many more will talk and point to each other. Because in the end, corruption could not have taken over if we did not allow it.

Beijing’s Campaign to Spread ‘China Dream’ Overseas May Fall Flat

Source: Radio Free Asia
Xi Jinping walks to his seat ahead of his election as China's new president in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 14, 2013. AFP
Xi Jinping walks to his seat ahead of his election as China’s new president in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 14, 2013. AFP
A new campaign by the ruling Chinese Communist Party to promote President Xi Jinping’s new slogan, “the China dream,” around the world is unlikely to succeed, analysts said on Friday.
China’s deputy propaganda minister Cai Mingzhao recently called on propaganda officials at all levels to “deeply understand the weighty meaning of the strategic thinking around the Chinese dream, and to…do everything in their power to preserve its values.”
He said the officials should extol and explain the idea across a number of forums, so as to “strengthen the impact and acceptance of the Chinese dream in the international community,” official media reported.
But the campaign by the Party’s powerful and secretive propaganda ministry to spread Xi’s rhetoric overseas will likely fall on deaf ears, according to professor Xie Tian of the University of South Carolina.
“The China dream as propounded by the Chinese Communist Party isn’t actually the dream of the Chinese people,” Xie said. “It’s closer to a sort of nationalistic dream.”
“It’s similar to the dreams of Japan and Germany at the time of World War II.”
U.S.-based political columnist Zhang Tianliang agreed.
“This is the dream of the dictatorship of the Chinese Communist Party,” he said. “From the point of view of ordinary Chinese people, they would rather like to be able to live in dignity, to keep their beliefs, freedom of expression and basic rights.”
“Only then will they feel a sense of dignity and security,” he said. “Their rights need to be guaranteed by the system.”
Aims of China Dream
The China Dream, according ot reports, aims to achieve the “Two 100s” — the material goal of China becoming a “moderately well-off society” by about 2020, the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party, and the modernization goal of China becoming a fully developed nation by about 2049, the nation’s 100th anniversary.
It is said to have four parts: Strong China (economically, politically, diplomatically, scientifically, militarily); Civilized China (equity and fairness, rich culture, high morals); Harmonious China (amity among social classes); Beautiful China (healthy environment, low pollution).
Cai said the main aim of the campaign was to boost recognition of the China dream internationally, in a targeted campaign that sought to “expound, and authoritatively decode” the slogan, which was first employed by President Xi after a once-in-a-decade leadership transition last November.
The China dream should be allowed to “enrich the people of the world,” Cai said.
But Xie said the campaign was unlikely to have much of an impact.
“These top-down propaganda campaigns always yield terrible results,” he said. “It doesn’t matter whether it’s international or what.”
“People are sick to death of all that Chinese Communist Party propaganda stuff, so it won’t be any use.”
‘Soft power’
China’s “soft power” public diplomacy movement, exemplified in global Confucius Institutes which teach Mandarin in overseas schools, has yielded considerable benefits for Beijing, politicians have said.
Beijing has also invested in the education of overseas Chinese in their cultural heritage, including language schools for those who otherwise might not write
However, official media reports didn’t specify exactly who would be targeted by Cai’s China dream campaign.
According to Zhang, Beijing spends around 40 billion yuan (U.S.$5 billion) annually on building its image overseas.
“But in spite of the fact that they spend so much money, even a relatively low-key event, like PM2.5 particulate matter pollution going off the scale, is enough to tear the dream into tiny pieces,” he said, referring to some of worst-ever air pollution readings in northern China since the beginning of this year.
And according to Xie, the recent onslaught of political opinion pieces against calls for constitutional politics revealed a huge gulf between the Party’s thinking and that of more democratic countries.
“The ruling Chinese Communist Party daren’t recognize the universal values of the international community,” he said.
“That’s why they keep peddling this highly ideological stuff; but no-one’s going to accept it.”
Reported by Shi Shan for RFA’s Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

Asean to ‘speak with one voice’ on sea disputes

By Nirmal Ghosh, The Straits Times/ANN, Hua Hin, Thailand  
Jakarta Post
ASEAN-flagsThe Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) foreign ministers have agreed “to speak with one voice” on territorial disputes in the South China Sea, and are looking for an “early conclusion” to negotiations with China over a binding code of conduct for the competing claims.
Tension in the South China Sea, one of the world’s most important waterways, has surged in recent years as a resource-hungry China asserts its vast claims over the area rich in oil and gas deposits much more forcefully.
Four Asean states, including Vietnam and the Philippines, have overlapping claims with China.
“Asean must speak with one voice. When we say one voice, it does not mean one voice against anyone, it means… unity in Asean,” senior Thai Foreign Ministry official Sihasak Phuangketkeow told reporters after an Asean Foreign Ministers’ retreat yesterday morning.
He said the aim of the code of conduct is to “enhance mutual trust and confidence, and prevent untoward incidents from occurring”. Indonesia has proposed setting up a hotline between China and Asean states.
China has agreed to hold talks with Asean next month on the proposed code of conduct.
But wary of concessions that might weaken its territorial claims, Beijing has insisted it is in no rush to sign such a code.
Meanwhile, officials from Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore held a trilateral meeting on the sidelines of the Asean retreat to discuss the haze problem.
They renewed their commitment to combating the haze, but the issue of access to official land concession maps continued to be a sticking point.
The maps, when used with satellite technology, are seen as crucial in efforts to pinpoint the culprits behind haze-causing forest fires in Sumatra.
Indonesia and Malaysia have cited legal concerns about making such maps public. But in a compromise, Asean environment ministers agreed in July that these maps would be shared between governments and on a “case-by- case basis”.
In an interview after the hour- long trilateral meeting with his two counterparts, Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam said concerns over the maps have not been fully resolved.
“Our haze-monitoring system is based on satellite imaging. You overlay that with a map of the concessions, who owns what area, and you know precisely what is happening,” he said.
“The only difficulty is the concession maps we have are based on the Internet and what people have been able to find. The official concession maps will be with Indonesia and that is something we will have to work through.”
Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, speaking to reporters, sidestepped a question on whether Indonesia would provide concession maps, saying that these are “a means to an end”.
“The basic approach is building on national efforts… All the national (monitoring) systems must be synergised and brought together under the Asean framework.”
The three foreign ministers were also given a presentation on a joint haze-monitoring system developed by Singapore.
The system is undergoing trials in the three countries. Asean leaders meeting in Brunei in October will decide whether to adopt the system region-wide.

China’s Crossing the Line

China’s aggressive posture in Asia is triggering an alliance against itself as well as an Asian arms race.
By James Luko
Nolan Chart
MissilesChina is picking a fight with South Korea, Japan and the Philippines. This is a mistake and is “crossing a line in several ways.”
First, China’s aggressive posture has become serious enough to “accelerate” America’s “pivot” to Asia, i.e. U.S. Now rapidly negotiating schedules through Philippines to host American military hardware, logistical supply support and a constant air and naval combat presence via rotation (must be in rotation due to national laws prohibiting the permanent basing of foreign forces on Philippines soil). In addition America will be opening a base in Darwin Australia as well as the significant American forces already present in Japan and South Korea.
Second- recent Chinese aggression has triggered Japan, South Korea, Philippines and the United States to create common ground and realize that as an alliance- coordinating- their forces and military capabilities far outstrip that of the Chinese. (The US-Australia-NZ ,ANZUS, alliance exists but there is limited cooperation between the US and New Zealand due to issues over nuclear weapons, but full coordination continues between the US and Australia- while the US maintains bilateral military treaties with South Korea, Japan and Philippines separately.)
Third- China’s decision to turn to military bullying instead of diplomatic or economic pressure, has convinced Japan that it’s time to modernize and build up their littoral defense capabilities as well as the Philippines who have recently gone on a buying binge of naval combat ships. Although the Philippines puny defense budget would preclude it from buying any substantial military assets, if Japan breaks their one percent defense budget limit- Japan would potentially have many billions more to spend in a rapid and massive military build-up. China’s recent aggression against Japan over disputed islands might just be enough for Japan’s parliament to allow temporarily “rearmament” which is prohibited by Japan’s constitution, although Japan since 1986 is no longer observing the defense spending limit of one percent and is now spending about three percent on defense.
While China can now pose a credible threat to Taiwan, in a conflict it would not be able to support its projection of power against Japan because of its lack of an aircraft carrier which China is only now putting to sea trials an ex-Ukrainian vessel. In addition, it would not be able to provide substantial air support in operations against the Philippines either- let alone stand against vastly superior capabilities of the United States Pacific fleet. In this case then, one can readily conclude that China’s actions are indeed- bullying tactics to force its adversaries to the negotiating table in a bilateral mode only where it would have the advantage one-on-one.
The point of this article is to illustrate that China’s continued and ever increasing aggressiveness- despite its militarily benign intent is “crossing” a line in which Japan, South Korea and the Philippines no longer feel comfortable in ignoring.
In fact, when looking at alternative options to warn China against its use of aggression, it’s really the American alliance which has economic push- not China. The combined economies, excluding the USA, of South Korea, Japan and the Philippines almost match that of China- 7.5 trillion vs. China’s 8.2 trillion (current dollars) and including the United States- the combined total stands at 23.5 trillion dollars towering over China’s GNP.
In this case, the proper response to a neighbourhood bully is to indeed, stand up to them and show no fear which is why the countries aforementioned seem on the brink of igniting a full blown arms race in the Pacific. This is why, “China’s crossing the line” will in fact, bring consequences which will either force China to back down- or- further entice China to even greater and more rapid build up of its own armed forces which already seems on a fast track to modernization, power projection and increased capabilities.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Ninoy Aquino: Destined to be a Hero?

By George M. Hizon
The Filipino is worth dying for!
The Filipino is worth dying for!
The late great writer Nick Joaquin once said “character is destiny”. If character is destiny, might it also be possible to say that Ninoy Aquino’s fate was his heroic death? Benigno Servillano “Ninoy” Aquino was born on November 27, 1932 to a prominent family in Concepcion, Tarlac. His father was the former Speaker Benigno Aquino Sr. and his mother, Dona Aurora Aquino. His grandfather was Katipunan General Servillano Aquino, a national hero. He was described as a very smart boy but they say he only showed this incredible talent after he graduated from College. He took his primary schooling at the Ateneo de Manila College. He took his first 2 years of High School at La Salle College and his last two years at the San Beda College where he graduated with fair grades. He took College at the Ateneo de Manila College but was not able to finish because of his work at the Manila Times Publishing Co. He was a journalist assigned to cover the Korean War in 1953. Later, he was able to finish College and, took up Law at the University of the Philippines. Again, he was not able to finish Law because he took up another course, Journalism.
The Reluctant Student
In an article, “Ninoy, the Reluctant Student”, from the book “Tales from Edsa stories of the revolution”, the author Neni Sta. Romana recounted the time when Ninoy was posthumously awarded the most outstanding alumnus of San Beda College. Receiving the award was Ballsy Cruz, Ninoy’s eldest daughter. She recalls how Ninoy impressed on his children the value of reading but admits only recently that she discovered that he himself did not have a keen interest in his studies. But Ballsy was still awed and said “although he had nothing spectacular to show as a student and earned no honors, look at how he turned out to be”.
But he was always the youngest
At the age of 17, Ninoy became the youngest correspondent to cover the Korean War for the newspaper, The Manila Times. At 18, he was given the Legion of Honor Award by President Elpidio Quirino for his journalistic feats while covering the Korean War. At 21, he was appointed by President Magsaysay to act as his personal emissary to Luis Taruc, the leader of an insurgent group, Hukbalahap. Taruc surrendered after 4 months of negotiations. At the age of 22, became the country’s youngest mayor when he was elected for that position in Concepcion, Tarlac. At 27, he became the youngest vice-governor, also in Tarlac. At 29, he became the youngest governor and at the age of 34, he made history when he was elected as the youngest Filipino senator in 1967. At the age of 39, Ninoy would have been the youngest elected Philippine president had not been for Martial Law.
Martial Law
President Marcos, after ruling the country for two terms, and wishing to remain in office beyond the two term limit set by the Constitution, declared Martial Law in 1972. Ninoy was one of those who vehemently opposed Martial Law, a defiance that would land him in jail for 7 years and 7 months. 6 months into confinement, he would endure a more cruel form of punishment- solitary confinement. On March 12, 1973, Ninoy, together with Jose “Pepe” Diokno, were transferred from their cell in Fort Bonifacio to Fort Magsaysay in Laur, Nueva Ecija. They were kept in separate rooms and stripped of their personal belongings like eyeglasses, watches, wallets and clothes. In his own words, Ninoy describes his stay “I have waited and waited, till the seconds turned into minutes, till the minutes turned into hours, till the hours turned into days, till the days turned into weeks and till the weeks turned into months. This cell is like a living tomb, where even saints are forced to cry because angels grow horns”. Solitary confinement was probably a tactic meant to break Ninoy’s spirit and make him accede to Martial Law. But, it was also Marcos’ way of retaliating for an article leaked from prison and later published by the Bangkok Post. The article contained scathing denunciations of Martial Law authored by Ninoy Aquino. 3 months after, Ninoy and Diokno were flown back to Fort Bonifacio when influential foreign governments intervened. Ninoy would languish in jail for another 6 years until, he suffered near fatal heart attack. Eager to avoid another international incident, Marcos allowed Ninoy to go to the U.S. for surgery on May 20, 1980. In 1981, Martial Law was subsequently lifted.
Heroic Death
By the summer of 1983 Aquino had received word that Marcos was severely ill, perhaps dying, from lupus erythematosus, a disease of the immune system that had already seriously damaged his kidneys. Fearing that a “power vacuum” might occur if Marcos dies unexpectedly, Ninoy decided to go back to the Philippines. While on a short stopover in Malaysia, a “Sultan” friend offered him a safe “backdoor” entry via Mindanao to avoid a possible assassination attempt on his life. Ninoy politely declined the offer saying “it would be cowardice of me not to face up to Marcos”. On August 21, 1983, while he was embarking from his plane at the tarmac of the then Manila International Airport, shots were heard. Two men lay dead and one of them was Ninoy Aquino!
 The death of Ninoy Aquino. 8/21/1983. Photo courtesy of Franco Rodrigo Sevilla.
The death of Ninoy Aquino. 8/21/1983. Photo courtesy of Franco Rodrigo Sevilla.
That Day on August, 1983
The month of August was usually a rainy one but during that faithful day when Ninoy was shot, there was no rain. It was also a Sunday, a rest day. Was this the relative calm before the storm? In a few days, the church bells would ring every noon, at 12 o’ clock p.m. and every afternoon, at about 6 o’ clock p.m. This would last up to a month. Was this a sign of greater things to come? Yes, it was. Ninoy Aquino’s death in 1983 signalled the beginning of the end for the Marcos regime. While Marcos might have achieved successes with his Martial Law during its early years, his stay in office was too long; some of his men’s actions were already far excessive. He had to be removed. After 21 years, Marcos was finally ousted by the forces loyal to Cory Aquino, Ninoy’s widow. The date was February 25, 1986. Did all these events (from 1983-86) happen for a reason? Was this a destiny fulfilled for Ninoy Aquino? I think we all know his favorite saying, “the Filipino is worth dying for”!

Napoles NGOs among dubious recipients of P6-B in public funds — COA chief

GMA News 
COA chief Tan: Over P6B went to dubious NGOs . COA chairperson Maria Gracia Pulido-Tan shows media the 2007-2009 special audit report on the Priority Developement Assistance Fund (PDAF) and Various Infrastructure including Local Projects (VILP) during a press conference at their head office in Quezon City on Friday, August 16. Tan said over P6B went to mostly dubious NGOs. Asti Flores
COA chief Tan: Over P6B went to dubious NGOs . COA chairperson Maria Gracia Pulido-Tan shows media the 2007-2009 special audit report on the Priority Developement Assistance Fund (PDAF) and Various Infrastructure including Local Projects (VILP) during a press conference at their head office in Quezon City on Friday, August 16. Tan said over P6B went to mostly dubious NGOs. Asti Flores
(Updated 9:10 p.m.) Some P6.156-billion pork barrel from close to 200 lawmakers went to 82 mostly dubious non-government organizations (NGOs) from 2007 to 2009, including 10 linked to controversial businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, the head of the Commission on Audit (COA) bared Friday.
At a press conference, COA chief Maria Gracia Pulido-Tan said many of these NGOs had dubious addresses, with some traced to shanties or were actually home addresses of some members.
The NGOs linked to Napoles received pork barrel funds amounting to P2.157 billion, the COA report said.
The report said the intended beneficiaries of the funds had denied receiving the goods. It also said some NGOs’ list of beneficiaries showed names of board passers. The same names were also said to have attended different trainings supposedly funded by the pork barrel.
These NGOs spent the pork barrel funds allotted by the implementing agency without an appropriating law or ordinance, in violation of procurement rules. According to a Government Procurement Police Board’s resolution, implementing agency may only give funds to NGOs upon the passage of an appropriating law or ordinance.
The NGOs also did not undergo competitive public bidding, in violation of a COA circular. The COA noted too that “(t)here were no proof that these NGOs exercised due diligence in ensuring that the lowest price for their procurements were obtained,” violating the procurement law.
Some NGOs were managed by the same persons serving as incorporator.
Pork barrel whistleblower Benhur Luy was also found to have managed two questionable foundations.
Tan also said that based on the special audit conducted by the commission in 2010 covering the years from 2007 to 2009, 74 lawmakers received pork barrel beyond their respective allocations of P70 million per year. She said the excess funds ranged from P71 million to P3 billion.
Ironically, based on the COA report, the largest allocation — P3 billion — went to then-Davao del Norte Rep. Manuel Zamora, a lawmaker known for regularly commuting to the Batasan Pambansa using his bike.
Zamora, now vice governor of Compostela Valley, denied this in an interview on GMA News’ “24 Oras.”
Among the senators, Edgardo Angara received the largest excess pork funds, including both soft and hard projects, worth P384.375 million, followed by Jinggoy Estrada with P402.15 million, Juan Ponce Enrile with P347.5 million, Bong Revilla with P269 million, Miriam Defensor-Santiago with P26.51 million, and Lito Lapid with P13.6 million.
The COA report also said eight lawmakers were found to have allocated pork barrel funds outside their constituency. These were Zamora, who poured P3 billion to the DPWH for nationwide use; Cebu Rep. Antonio Cuenco, who allocated P3.88 million to Cebu province; and Lanao del Sur Rep. Faysah Dumarpa, who gave P6 million to Iligan City, Misamis Occidental;
Meanwhile, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman gave P60.5 million to 28 barangays in Quezon City, and P25.5 million to Nueva Ecija and Pampanga; while Davao City Rep. Prospero Nograles spent P74 million for Taguig and Mandaluyong, P20 million for Bataan, P55 million for Sorsogon and Masbate, P135 million for Davao del Norte, Davao Oriental, Davao Del Sur, and Compostela Valley, as well as P780 million for various local government units.
Tarlac Rep. Monica Louise Prieto-Teodoro spent P1 million for Manila, while Las Piñas Rep. and now Senator Cynthia Villar spent P1.322 million for nationwide use.
The COA also found out that the funds for various infrastructures including local projects (VILP), or the “hard projects,” amounted to P101.608 billion for the three-year period, which exceeded the allotted VLIP release of P50.874 billion by almost 100 percent or P50.734 billion.
Meanwhile, one non-lawmaker, identified as “Luis Abalos,” received P20 million pork barrel, which no government agency could explain, Tan said, citing the COA report.
Lack of monitoring
The COA also noted the lack of monitoring on the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) on the fund releases. It said the DBM failed to provide COA the schedule of releases per legislator. For the audit, the COA only audited releases to regions III, V, XI, and NCR, and certain implementing agencies such as the Department of Agriculture, Department of Public Works and Highways, and Department of Social Welfare and Development.
Citing the contents of the report, Tan said the legislators and the government agencies that released funds to the NGOs did not bother to check on the capability of the NGO to implement a project.
“Yung mga ahensiya, they simply turned around… binigay sa NGO yung livelihood project. They simply turned around and transferred the funds to the NGOs identified or selected by the legislator,” she said, adding this runs contrary to a resolution of the Government Procurement and Policy Board.
The briefing was held amid the controversy involving the alleged misuse of pork barrel funds that centers on Napoles, who is currently in hiding after she and her brother were ordered arrested for a serious illegal detention case.
Napoles was accused of diverting some P10 billion government funds to her account through her NGOs. Two of her former employees, Benhur Luy and Merlina Suñas, had implicated her in the supposed scam.
Luy, who claimed he was in the employ of Napoles for 10 years, alleged in a sworn affidavit that the modus operandi includes a 70-30 sharing scheme, with the legislator getting 70 percent while she keeps 30 percent.
Napoles has denied the accusation. – KBK/RSJ/HS, GMA News
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‘I don’t know what pork barrel is’ — Janet Lim-Napoles

Source: GMA News
Janet Lim-Napoles faces Malou Mangahas. Controversial businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged brains behind the P10-billion pork barrel scam, sits down with GMA News's Malou Mangahas for a one-on-one interview. GMA News TV/Investigative Documentaries
Janet Lim-Napoles faces Malou Mangahas. Controversial businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged brains behind the P10-billion pork barrel scam, sits down with GMA News’s Malou Mangahas for a one-on-one interview. GMA News TV/Investigative Documentaries
Janet Lim-Napoles, the businesswoman portrayed as so savvy with money that she created a complex network of channels for embezzled public funds, has claimed that she does not know what pork barrel is.
“Unang-una, hindi ako mambabatas, so hindi ko alam kung ano ‘yun,” Napoles told Malou Mangahas in an interview for GMA News TV program “Investigative Documentaries.”
At the time the interview was done, the Makati Regional Trial Court had not yet issued the arrest warrant for Napoles, who, together with her brother, Reynald Lim, is accused of causing the serious illegal detention of their cousin, Benhur Luy.
Luy has become a whistle-blower, and has accused Napoles of channeling monies from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of several senators and congressmen to her own accounts and the bank accounts of some legislators through various foundations.
As of Thursday evening, the arrest warrants have not yet been served because law enforcers have been unable to find Napoles and her brother.
“70 – 30″
Napoles said in the “Investigative Documentaries” interview that the only foundation she was involved with is the Magdalena Luy Lim Foundation
“Ang meron po kami, ‘yung sa mommy ko,” Napoles said. She denied being involved with 20 or 30 non-government organizations (NGOs), as reported in a daily newspaper.
Two former employees of JLN Corp. – Benhur Luy and Merlina Suñas – implicated Napoles in the PDAF Scam.
Luy, who claimed he was in the employ of Napoles for 10 years, alleged in a sworn affidavit that Napoles’ modus operandi includes a 70-30 sharing scheme, with the legislator getting 70 percent while she keeps 30 percent.
“Iyan ho ay pawang kasinungalingan. Sinasabi niya yan, eh dapat siya ho ang magpatunay. Bigyan nila ng papers, kausapin nila yung, kasi ho madaling magsabi eh, ‘di ba?” she said.
Suñas has alleged that pork barrel funds did not go to the foundations she helped establish for Napoles, but went only to the businesswoman.
Gertrudes and Arturo Luy, the parents of Benhur, said in a sworn affidavit that Napoles organized the Pangkabuhayan Foundation Inc. which got P195 million in pork barrel funds in 2009 and 2010, according to various reports of the Commission on Audit.
The Luys said Napoles also set up other entities, including the Social Development Foundation Program for Farmers Foundation, Inc., which they said received pork barrel funds from five Members of the House of Representatives.
It was also reported in the “Investigative Documentaries” that Napoles was on the receiving end of pork barrel funds from Senator Jinggoy Estrada, Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla, and Rep. Michael Velarde.
But Napoles maintained that her family’s wealth came about when her husband was invited by an Indonesian friend to invest in coal. Napoles said they also invested in developing a subdivision village in Indonesia.
 She said those investments in Indonesia exist until now.
Law enforcers are on the lookout for 30 cars that are linked to a firm of the Janet Lim-Napoles.
22 companies, 30 cars
Records from the Securities and Exchange Commission show that members of the Napoles family are involved in at least 22 companies registered with the SEC.
Eight of these firms submitted an affidavit of non-operation in 2012. Two have closed down, while six were registered as non-profit organizations or foundations.
Meanwhile, the Land Transportation Office said eight motor vehicles are registered in the names of Janet Lim-Napoles and her husband, retired Philippine Marines Major Jaime Napoles.
However, the Department of Justice came out with a list of 30 motor vehicles belonging to the JLN Corporation.
Atty. Lorna Kapunan, the legal counsel of Napoles, said the allegations against her client were meant to steer public attention away from other people who are stealing pork barrel funds.
“To conveniently point everything to Mrs. Napoles, anong tawag diyan? Smokescreen. Ang tawag diyan eh to divert, to divert the attention of this people,” Kapunan said.
“Meron talagang nagnanakaw ng PDAF funds. Ang sinasabi namin, hindi yun si Mrs. Napoles. By all means, please investigate.” Kapunan added.  Rouchelle Dinglasan/ELR/CM, GMA News