The Heat Is On
By Erick San Juan
In the midst of the official declaration of our local weather bureau PAG-ASA that the rainy season is on, in the South China Sea, it’s the opposite. In the said region, the heat is on. We had experiences of being “harassed” and “buzzed” recently by our neighbor – China, one of the claimants in the disputed area in the South China Sea.
Such situation led to the statement of President Aquino III that : “When there’s an arms race, the potential for conflict is also heightened. Who will benefit from that?”
This nagging question from President Aquino III as he sees the possibility of such conflict to escalate as the claimants in the hottest contested area in the world has started upgrading their military capabilities.
It is very clear that China has every reason to increase its military spending this year because, “many Chinese analysts have deep-rooted suspicions and even apprehensions of American policy in the South China Sea. They believe that America's intention is to check China's rise and drive a wedge between China and South-east Asian claimant countries.” (Navigating a sea of conflicting claims by Zhang Mingliang & Yang Fang July 28, 2010)
But such show of force by Beijing has actually created an atmosphere of tension among the claimants and to the rest of the region as well, thus the possibility of an arms race in the process.
What concerns me most is the fact that the purchase of almost "junk" military equipments from the US and the reality of being Uncle Sam’s ally in this region are actually creating more problems than solutions to the growing tensions in the area.
I have written several articles in the past on how we are gradually being converted into a huge magnet in the region, attracting more enemies than friends. Also from the words of Sen. Miriam Santiago - we are like a lightning rod in Asia.
This dire situation we are in for quite some time now was aggravated with the existence of this agreement we entered into with Uncle Sam – the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).
Last May 27 (Friday), the SCRAP VFA! Movement has reiterated their firm stand to scrap/terminate the VFA through a forum, entitled: Twelve Years of the VFA: Boon or Bane? The speakers in the said forum were all for the termination of the VFA. They are Cong. Walden Bello (for Cong. Erin Tanada), former Senator Aquilino Pimentel, Atty. Evalyn Ursua (lawyer of Nicole in the Subic rape case) and the representative of Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Atty. Archimedes Gonzales.
It was announced in the forum that the Presidential Commission on the VFA declined the Movement’s invitation through the office of Exec. Sec. Paquito Ochoa. And when the invitation was forwarded to the VFA Commission through the office of Exec. Director Adan, it was again rejected. In short, no representative from the government.
This only shows that since the “comprehensive review” of the VFA by the two government commissions started sometime in October 2010, the public is still at a lost on the development of the said review. Why the secrecy? Are these two bodies doing their jobs?
I even invited Ms. Rebecca Thompson of the US Embassy to be a resource speaker at my Hotel Rembrandt Balitaan twice but she emailed that she has earlier commitments for the week. She gave the US Embassy website for anyone to see their activities and contribution to the government and the Filipinos. But cause-oriented groups, peoples organizations and other multi-sectoral groups like the SCRAP VFA! Movement will reportedly multiply to make their demand for the termination of the VFA, if this administration will not address the public’s cry to come up with an agreement that is more pro-Filipinos than pro-Americans.
We had enough of rhetoric and deceit from the past administrations. Too much secrecy only benefits the few who are more dealers than leaders.
The US as our long-term ally will not treat us badly if we will show them that we have self - respect as a sovereign nation. In the field of diplomacy and foreign relations, this administration still at a lost and as if nobody is minding the store.
We have to gather our acts together before the heat will reach its boiling point.