Saturday, March 22, 2014

Asean Centrality

ASEAN-April-2013(Resorting to the so-called ASEAN centrality in resolving our territorial dispute with China is a pipe dream. There just isn’t any centrality of interests among the members on the issue. As VERA Files reported, the latest to break ranks is Brunei when she opted out of a recent meeting in Manila of other ASEAN claimants to forge a united stand vs. China.)
President Noynoy Aquino said that the fisherman who was driven out of the Panatag Shoal by a Chinese coast guard vessel through the use of a water cannon on his boat has executed an affidavit saying that the Chinese actually used only a water hose, not a cannon.
Be that as it may, it is still harassment and bullying on the part of China in an area that is ours under all norms of international law, including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
How long are we going to allow ourselves to be bullied by China? Clearly, we cannot go on reacting to Chinese provocations simply by protesting through diplomatic notes indefinitely. There has to be a point when our response should be one worthy of a nation with any degree of self-respect.
Our coast guard has been saying they are ready to be deployed to Panatag as soon as Noynoy gives the signal. What’s keeping him from doing so? That would not be a provocative act. There is nothing wrong with sending our coast guard to an area that is ours. By allowing the Chinese to remain there unchallenged is tantamount to giving up what is ours by default.
And, even if the ITLOS Arbitral Tribunal declares that it is ours, does Noynoy think China will vacate the place? That would be naïve.
Are we now resigned to allowing ourselves to be intimidated by China’s armed might without fighting, to the death if need be, for what is rightfully ours? That would be cowardice.
Surely, Noynoy is not entertaining any thoughts about us attaining a credible defense posture that would be sufficient to match the Chinese might. That is not going to happen during his lifetime or even that of his nephew Bimby.
Resorting to the so-called ASEAN centrality in resolving our territorial dispute with China is a pipe dream. It’s not going to happen either, in the foreseeable future at least. There just isn’t any centrality of interests among the members on the issue. As VERA Files reported, the latest to break ranks is Brunei when she opted out of a recent meeting in Manila of other ASEAN claimants to forge a united stand vs. China. And some members have very close ties with China that it would be unrealistic to expect them to even think about turning their backs on her, again in the foreseeable future.
It is also sheer folly to even think that we could rely on so-called friends to promote and protect our interests. They too have their own selfish interests to pursue that do not coincide with ours.
Take the United States, for instance. We put so much premium on our so- called mutual defense treaty with her. But in reality, that treaty will only be resorted to when her interests are directly threatened, no more, no less. She does not even recognize our sovereignty over Panatag. She’s neutral on our territorial dispute with China, remember?
Make no mistake about it, the US wants to have increased presence on our shores to protect her interests, not ours. We are only incidental in that our cooperation would be essential to serve her purpose.
Oh sure, she has spoken often enough that her interest mainly has to do with freedom of navigation and unimpeded flow of commerce in the South China Sea. Hasn’t China already guaranteed her that? She has!
So what could be the US’ other interest in the area?
China’s Xinhua news agency reported that on 28 January 2014, the first scientific ocean drilling expedition led and sponsored by China sailed from Hong Kong to the South China Sea.
Thirty-one geologists were to drill at three sites for sediment and rock cores during the 62-day international expedition aboard, hold your breath, the American scientific drill ship Joides Resolution. Among the scientists on board the ship, again hold your breath, are nine Americans, thirteen Chinese and one Taiwanese.
The Xinhua report further states:  “The ship will pass through and drill in the regions claimed variously by China, the Philippines and Vietnam. Operated by the National Science Foundation, the ship (Joides Resolution) has received permission from Manila and Beijing but is awaiting a response from Hanoi to drill at a site in the southwest of the South China Sea. The expedition may have to opt for an alternative site, said Divins. (David Divins, director of the ocean drilling program of the 2013-2023 International Ocean Discovery Program, an international scientific research effort established by the US in the 1960s.)
The Philippines has sent an observer scientist to the expedition, according to Xinhua.
Could this possibly be the reason Noynoy has been ah, what’s the term… ah yes… “noynoying”, i.e., biding his time before taking a more decisive action, on the South China Sea/West Philippine Sea territorial dispute?
Is he taking his cue from the Americans?
If that is the case, then why is the US so hot on increasing her military presence in the Philippines?
As I said in a previous column, one only has to remember what Steve Chabot, Republican chair of the US House of Representatives’ subcommittee overseeing US policy toward the region said to understand the raison d’etre for Washington’s “pivot” to this region:
“The Asia-Pacific region is the future. It’s the driver of the global economy and will make or break our geopolitical role in the world.”
So there… Any question?
According to Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, the issue of jurisdiction on erring US soldiers under the proposed agreement for their increased presence in the Philippines is still unresolved.
“But our guidance to our team is this: there will be no repetition of the mistake in the Visiting Forces Agreement. The provisions should always be in accordance with the Constitution, and not violative. And we should also be sensitive to the concerns of our people,” Gazmin added.
That’s good. But we, the people, would also like to know what we will get in return for the US’ increased presence here, e.g., how much rental, full settlement of what the US owes Filipino WWII veterans, no nuclear weapons in the country, equal access to facilities where US troops will be located, the duration of the agreement, etc.
Gazmin said the government is not imposing a deadline on the negotiations for the military access pact.
“I hope it will be signed by April but we are not giving them a timeline. What is important is for both sides to tackle all issues and that everyone will leave the negotiating table smiling,” Gazmin said.
That sounds like there is no pressure on our panel to finish the negotiations in time for the signing of the agreement when US President Barack Hussain Obama comes next month.
If Obama’s visit has been made contingent on the signing of the agreement, then he should just stay home.
Senator Miriam Santiago has urged Filipinos to shun politicians who have remained silent on the pork barrel (PDAF) and the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).
Quite conspicuous in their silence and/or absence during the Senate hearings on the matter are the honorable Franklin Drilon, Loren Legarda, Lito Lapid, Gregorio Honasan and Pia Cayetano.
Reminders (for Noynoy):
1) Filing of charges against officials of the National Food Authority (NFA) during Arroyo’s illegitimate regime. Noynoy himself said on several occasions that there is documentary evidence to prove the venalities in the past in that agency;
2) Investigation of reported anomalies in the GSIS during the watch of Winston Garcia and order his successor, Robert “Pretty Boy” Vergara, to file the proper charges, if warranted, against the former;
Noynoy should also order Vergara to report to him on COA’s findings that:
(a) He received the obscenely excessive compensation of P16.36 million in 2012 making him the highest paid government servant then, as well as how much received in 2013; and
(b) That, as of eight or nine months ago, at least P4.13 billion in contributions and loan payments made by 12 government offices to the GSIS had not been credited to the offices as of Dec. 31, 2011.
COA also said at the time that the amount of unrecorded remittances could go much higher because only 36 agencies have so far responded out of the 186 that were sent confirmation requests by government auditors. Of the 36, 27 confirmed “discrepancies” in their premium and loan payments ledgers when compared with those of the GSIS.
There are three questions being raised when remittances, or parts thereof, of government agencies are not recorded by the GSIS on time: a) Where are these huge sums “parked” in the meantime?; b) Do they earn interest?; and c) To where (whom?) does the interest, if any, go?
Pray tell, Mr. Vergara, what is the present status of these funds, including those that may have been remitted since and not yet recorded by the GSIS?
Incidentally, employees of various GOCCs/GFIs, including GSIS, have decided to wear red shirt nationwide for 4 consecutive Fridays starting last March 7 in protest against Noynoy’s alleged inaction on the Compensation and Position Classification System (CPCS). They claim that the delay in the approval of the CPCS “is prolonging the agony of the employees whose compensation and benefits were put on hold with the creation of the Governance Commission for GOCCs”.
Today is the 296th day of the seventh year of Jonas Burgos’ disappearance.
Last week, during a mass officiated by him, Manila Archbishop Jose Antonio Cardinal Tagle had this to say:
“I call on those who still have Jonas and the many others who are missing and are still being sought by their mothers, fathers, siblings… face God. Those who have been committing evil acts might elude justice now but would definitely be answerable to God.”
Jonas’ mother, Edita, who was at the mass, acknowledged Noynoy’s ordering a “focused, dedicated and exhaustive” probe on her son’s case.
“Yes, he has done something but he could do more. Remember he is the commander in chief. He has already ordered the investigation, but maybe he could ask the Armed Forces of the Philippines to surface Jonas. He should order them. Isn’t he the commander in chief? If he orders it, they would follow,” she said.
Edita also revealed that threats to her and her family have intensified after she submitted to the Supreme Court new evidence against those allegedly responsible for Jonas’ disappearance. She said she would soon discuss with the authorities concerned to provide her and her family adequate security.
President Noynoy, Sir?
From an internet friend:
A woman and man get into a car accident. Both of their cars are totally demolished, but amazingly neither one of them is hurt.
After they crawl out of the wreckage, the woman says, “Wow, look at our cars — there’s nothing left! This must be a sign from Him that we should be friends and not try to pin the blame on each other.”
The man replies, “Oh yes, I agree with you completely.”
The woman points to a bottle on the ground and says, “Somehow this bottle of Scotch from my back seat didn’t break. Surely God wants us to drink this Scotch and celebrate our good fortune.”
She hands the bottle to the man. The man nods his head in agreement, opens it, and chugs about a third of the bottle to calm his nerves. The woman takes the bottle, immediately puts the cap back on, and hands it back to the man.
The man asks, “Aren’t you having any?”
The woman replies, “No. I think I’ll just wait for the police.”
****** 11 March 2014

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