Sunday, October 31, 2010

VFA or MBA (Mutually Beneficial Agreement)?

VFA or MBA (Mutually Beneficial Agreement)?

By Erick San Juan

The review of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) by the Presidential Commission on the VFA headed by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. has started and with the commitment to have a “thorough review of the VFA so that refinements could be introduced to ensure that the country would get maximum benefits from the bilateral agreement.”

Someone might ask, why the Executive Secretary and not the Senate to do the said “review”? According to the Executive Secretary, the commission (Presidential Commission on the VFA) was created in 2000 under the Office of the President “to ensure that visiting US troops will respect Philippine laws, policies, public morals, customs and traditions.” But, did the commission did its best to attain that respect for our laws, policies, public morals, customs and traditions in the Subic rape case?

Then last Oct. 1, President Noynoy Aquino issued Executive Order No.9, which amended EO 67 released in January 2002. This EO 9 reorganized the Presidential Commission on VFA and named the Executive Secretary as chair of the commission with Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin as co-chairs. The other members of the commission are the secretaries of the Department of Justice and the Social Welfare and Development, the executive director of the commission, and a private sector representative to be appointed by the President.

With the reorganized commission in place, PNoy should be clear of what he meant by “refinements” to the agreement. As what Senator Francis Escudero the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Justice said that the term “visiting” must be clarified. “Where in the world can you find a visit that lasts for 365 days? That’s no longer called a visit. Either change the name or follow the definition of a ‘visit’,” he concluded.

Sen. Escudero is for renegotiation but the Senate should be involve in the review and for him, termination of the VFA could be the last option. He still thinks that the VFA is useful because of the $60 to $80 million in US annual military aid to our country.

Methinks that this must be changed and opt for that “maximum benefits” that the commission promised to achieve. Let us not settle for less, we have been shortchanged for a long time. If the agreement has to be mutually beneficial, our share of the benefits should be equally given or more.

Remember that our country is Uncle Sam’s lightning rod in this part of the globe, whether we like it or not. And the confluence of events clearly signifies that Uncle Sam needs us more than ever. So, why not demand what's due us that has been put off in the past by the previous leaders.

The moment is now to be a demanding ally and a long-time friend, the fact that Washington is very keen on the developments in the South China Sea particularly the claimants’ stand in relation to Beijing’s “core interest” in the region.

The Filipinos must stand united behind our leaders to get what must be given to us by Uncle Sam,to truly achieve a mutually beneficial treaty and not MAD (mutually assured destruction) in the process.

God bless the Philippines......

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

RP : “Asia’s Lightning Rod”

RP : “Asia’s Lightning Rod”

By Erick San Juan

It would be five years now since that fateful day in November, 2005 when “Nicole” accused US Marine Lance Corporal Daniel Smith of raping her as his three companions cheered inside a moving van. In April last year, the Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the Makati court and ordered Smith’s immediate release, saying “a careful and judicious perusal of the evidence on record does not convince the prudent mind about the moral certainty of the guilt of the accused, hence, we must acquit.”

This time around we refuse to say “the rest is history” line because the case of “Nicole” (whatever life she has chosen) is beyond the issue at hand that has affected (and will affect) the Filipino nation. The 2005 Subic rape case by a US Marine has triggered several sectors in our society to review and/or terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) that was used by the US government and gave them the custody of the said Marine soldier through their embassy here.

As we write this piece, Senator Miriam Santiago is again, calling for the termination of the VFA even though PNoy has already told the US government through the good Ambassador, Harry Thomas Jr. that the agreement needs to be “refined”. And PNoy appointed his Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. as head of the Presidential Commission on the VFA. Ochoa will only discuss the possible modifications in the agreement with US officials. Aside from this, the Department of Foreign Affairs has started reviewing the VFA for the past weeks and a DFA official said that the abrogation of the agreement is too extreme.

The militant groups see this "safe" stand by our government on the VFA question as a possible side effect of the $434 million US grant which the Millennium Challenge Corporation gave to PNoy in the U.S.

In the midst of all these, we should be wary and heed the call of Senator Santiago because what is happening now, just right in our backyard is a brewing regional conflict. As the good Senator has put it – our country is “acting as a lightning rod for the enemies of the US.” Translation – through the VFA, we cannot do anything but to follow the dictates of Uncle Sam, be the shock absorber and fight a war that we never wanted.

Sad to say that such things are possible considering the glaring truth of the US troops presence in the south for over a decade now. Do we call that “just visiting”?

The urgency for the termination of the VFA is only fair, as Sen. Santiago has kept on saying that presidential action is not necessary in terminating the VFA because Congress has the power to revoke laws.

“Because treaties are considered as part of the laws of the land, Congress can abrogate the treaty on its own. The Constitution states that the country adopts the generally accepted principles of international law as part of the law of the land. it is within the powers of Congress to unilaterally terminate the VFA through a joint resolution, and that the executive’s role is to give notice of termination to the United States, although the decision itself is one for Congress to make. In the case of the U.S. government, there should be no problem because it does not recognize the VFA as a treaty. The US Congress never gave its advice and consent to it”.

Therefore, she said the VFA is not valid and constitutional because it is not recognized as a treaty by the US on the account of its own Constitution and law.

We are not against the U.S. government but we have to get what's due us.Need we say more?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Let's Make a Beneficial Deal

Let's Make a Beneficial Deal

By Erick San Juan

This week, from October 21 to 24 is the Philippine Russian Business Forum and Exhibition to be held at the Cebu International Conventional Center. This year’s event will highlight products and services related to tourism and wellness, trade promotion and development; mining and energy; education and culture; labor, placement services and outsourcing; retirement facilities and real estate development. Russia is the country’s largest trading partner in Eastern Europe. It is the country’s 23rd trading partner at a global scale with a total trade value of $389.736 million. The country’s export to Russia increased by 15.21 percent reaching $39.086 million last year from $33.93 million recorded a year ago.

I was amazed to know that even last year’s business forum was joined by about 170 local and 30 Russian delegates. Its key achievement was the signing of the Air Service Agreement between Philippines and Russia.

This will be the second forum and according to Panay News report, this will go on for the benefit of both countries. They will allegedly be transparent as possible in their partnership.

Another old partner and neighbor – China, also expressed its support for PNoy’s public-private partnership (PPP) projects for infrastructure particularly in the country’s railway system and also for renewable energy. This is a very promising show of support after what we have gone through since that fateful August 23 incident. The PPP projects that China will invest in are the ones that we need badly, like in our railway system.

Actually, RP has used only one-third of the $1.8 billion loan facility from China’s Export-Import Bank and we can tap this loan anytime for the said projects.

The undertakings of both Russia and China to help boost our economy are the concrete actions that we are hoping this administration will prioritize so that all us will mutually benefit in the process.

We must not be taken for a ride by the rhetorics of some western investors’ pledges that had gone with the wind as PNoy rode the plane back from his recent reported “fruitful” trip. What we need are tangible results and not mere lip service which all Filipinos had too much of it in the past.

According to a statement by IBON Philippines Foundation - the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) signed during Aquino’s US visit “is biased against Philippine national interest and gives way for more erroneous policies that have eroded the local economy”.

The MCA’s US$434-million compact grant agreement of the US government’s Millennium Challenge Corp. (MCC) requires the Philippines to meet certain indicators such as open trade, economic freedom, good governance, adherence to human rights, etc. to continue receiving the aid.

We can’t help not to ignore the fact that strings are attached when it comes to Uncle Sam’s aid or grant. They have even enumerated the projects that this fund will go to. Still we must see beyond the rhetorics. Will it benefit the Pinoys more than the US? Or is it the other way around?

The investments in the fields of education and health seems to be not in tune with what this administration had adopted to attain its promise to eradicate poverty. A big section of our population is not agreeable to the additional years in basic education, and now the ever controversial use of contraceptives. We can’t help but ask, are these the instruments towards depopulation? Will this really benefit our people or the globalists’ through the IMF,World Bank,etc?

At the Daily Tribune's Sunday Editorial(Nov. 17,2010), it unmasked the truth about a cabinet secretary of President Noynoy. Despite his being in the president's loop handling a very sensitive post, he remains the governor of World Bank group,ADB and an alternate governor for the IMF for the Philippines. He allegedly facilitated the $434 million Millenium Challenge Corporation grant for "PNoy's anti-poverty program. We were not told that such funds, if it will really be given to this administration will be managed by an appointed IMF resident adviser at the BIR whose stay and payroll will be paid through that grant. The "embedded" IMF team would be reporting directly to the MCC-IMF..So expect more taxes. Our Asian neighbors like China are always there to help us. Even Russia now seems interested in doing business with us. Opportunity knocks only once. PNoy should not look farther away and put his heart for the good of the Filipino people. Now is the time to show greatness and political will.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sino-American relations in the Sovereign Region

Sino-American relations in the Sovereign Region

By Erick San Juan

It is beginning to be a constant worry for countries in this part of the Asian continent where China always finds itself to be in conflict with a disputed territory among its neighbors. Just recently, China and Japan had settled (for the meantime) the Minjinyu 5179 incident that happened in the disputed islands of Diaoyu/Senkaku in the middle of the ocean between the said countries. The dispute has lingered for decades over the political and economic regional balance of power and could well take a few more decades to settle. No matter what the consequences are, the conflict was peacefully settled and the perceived bigger dispute was put off, sans Uncle Sam’s intervention.

As one renowned Singaporean analyst of global affairs observed, Kishore Mahbubani in his essay ("Smart Power, Chinese Style", 2008), praised China for the "competence" of its diplomacy. He contrasted China's "deft geopolitical instincts" with American "incompetence" and "arrogance." He noted admiringly Beijing's fealty to ancient principles of Chinese statecraft once summarized by Deng Xiaoping, including admonitions to observe and analyze calmly, deal with changes patiently, and avoid the limelight.

Unlike the self-absorbed Americans, in Kishore's view, the Chinese had "developed a remarkable capacity to understand the voices of others around the globe." Compared with Washington's record of "geopolitical fumbles" abroad, China had evinced superior "geopolitical acumen and better professional diplomacy." He illustrated China's ostensible respect for the sovereignty of other countries with an item in the official China Daily stating that China had offered "no-strings-attached" aid to Africa.

This so-called “soft power” approach of China seems to be the threat to the Americans, as Beijing established economic allies in the process, instead of enemies regardless of territorial matters existing among its neighbors. The established economic ties was strengthened furthermore by the inauguration this year of the ASEAN-China Free Trade Agreement, which will lower or eliminate tariffs.

The following quote from a high-ranking official in an ASEAN country as told to Donald K. Emmerson in his article China's 'Frown Diplomacy' in Southeast Asia : "Remember, for us in Asia, the US is geopolitical, but China is geographical." In other words: Faraway friends are welcome and helpful, but the local landscape is a permanent fact. One has to adapt to it - and to the seascape - to survive. Translation – Asia is a sovereign region with independent countries trying hard to work out in an atmosphere of peace and interdependence among its citizens. Anything that will stir the calmness in the region through media hype via the mouthpiece of the globalists, could create a regional conflict in the process.

The aborted clash between China and Japan is just one of the hurdles that this Asian region had to overcome for there are still many perceived disputes, if not handled correctly may lead to a broader conflict. All of us will be drag to a war that we never wanted.

As for our “faraway friend” and his commitment to ASEAN, the South China Sea issue will be discussed again (with other crucial issues like economic and finance) before the year ends. US President Barack Obama and his two officials – US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary for Defense Robert Gates will be in Asia to attend summits to further discuss the regional security and its national interests here. What's in it for us? I hope that our citizenry will be vigilant enough and our president,PNoy should not be cowed, pressured nor tow the line of the globalists.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

PNoy and the Legacy of Subservience

PNoy and the Legacy of Subservience

By Erick San Juan

Some Pinoys think that the working visit of President Aquino III in the US was successful for he brought the bacon (and the hotdog?) home. We are referring to the $434-million Millennium Challenge Corporation “grant” that will be spread out in five years which is around $87 million per year that will reportedly fight poverty and corruption, and some alleged other pledges for investments.

Although one sector in our society who is not happy with the outcome of the President’s trip is the Catholic Church particularly on the issue of using contraceptives to curb the growing population. PNoy stressed that it should be the couple’s choice in the end as to what method of family planning that they will use. But the hype on the birth control issue persisted as word war continues. The Palace defended PNoy saying that he is just being consistent in his stand on the matter since the election campaign.

Unfortunately, the one important concern that PNoy must be constant in his position is the issue on the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) which he did not mention in his US visit to President Barack Obama or even to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Maybe PNoy was in a very tight situation during his visit as the coordinator of the second ASEAN-US summit that he was not able to bring the VFA matter up. Or the situation was just right for the RP President to discuss the issue because the ASEAN leaders, especially the claimants on the group of islands in the South China Sea , tackled the peace and security in the region,

The joint US-ASEAN statement came after a luncheon between US President Barack Obama and leaders of ASEAN member states on the sidelines of the United Nations' General Assembly meeting in New York, which stated - "We reaffirmed the importance of regional peace and stability, maritime security, unimpeded commerce, freedom of navigation, in accordance with relevant universally agreed principles of international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and other international maritime law, and the peaceful settlement of disputes." A White House version released the same day notably added the phrase "including in the South China Sea ."

Such interference of Washington in the South China Sea is not and will always be a threat to Beijing as the encirclement of China (and possibly including Russia and North Korea ) build up through the help of Uncle Sam’s allies. PNoy just have to follow orders from a perceived master. So, in the end, what the Palace said about PNoy as not an American lapdog seems to be a lie? Will PNoy continue the legacy of subservience that might put this country into a battleground for the next regional conflict?

Unfortunately, Pinoys are being taken for a ride in all the propaganda (and lies) that confronts our nation today which are actually non-issue. We must be vigilant at all times because intended or not, the inverted Philippine flag at the UN General Assembly could be ominous as to where our country will be if this leadership will continue “that legacy” that might bring us all to a war that we never choose.