Sunday, July 31, 2011

Abu Sayyaf, Here We Go Again by Erick San Juan

Abu Sayyaf, Here We Go Again by Erick San Juan

I was bombarded by several emails and text messages from concerned citizens and bloggers like Ferdie Pasion, Walter Siy, Architect Ben Yu, Victor Yam,etc. Their mails and messages are really fiery and thought provoking. The issue is all about the helplessness of our military being set up and killed by a small group of scalawags in the south.

This week, seven Philippine marines were killed and 21 were wounded in Patikul, Sulu. There were allegedly 300 Abu Sayyafs who ambushed our soldiers. We never learned from our past mistakes. What happened to our intelligence operation on the ground?

Architect Ben Yu said," I still believe that the Abu Sayyaf's are supported by foreign groups especially by the U.S. intel, to justify the extended stay of the 'Balikatan' military exercises....which function is to secure the Exxon-Mobil oil operation in the Sulu Seas.... For Malaysia, that's a waste of money supporting the ASG”.

From activist-nationalist Ferdie Pasion, he's calling the attention of our government and asking the Armed Forces of the Philippines for an all out war against the Abu Sayyaf's. He believes that this is the only answer to banditry and atrocities.

Victor Yam added that the real tragedy of this incident is not the defeat of the Philippine Marines, but the continued existence of the Abu Sayyaf group despite the years of presence of thousands of U.S. military personnels stationed and actually based in Minsupala with their aircraft carriers docked nearby.

I have written so many articles about the Abu Sayyaf Group (please see my blog, www.ericksanjuan and one of my books, Conspiracies and Controversies). Methinks that Abu Sayyaf is a state sponsored terror group created by some puppets in uniform and manipulated by foreign vested interests through a clique of corrupt local government functionaries as weapon for their illicit fund raising and political control.

Most of the remnants of ASG are 'ABU SHABU', meaning many are drug users, reason they are so violent and fearless. They are good copy for terror and trepidation. If the local government units can't weed out the bandits, let's try putting a military government there. A pocket martial law is the answer. Command responsibility is a must. Terror infested communities should be put in such a situation to ferret out and eliminate the culprits, their cohorts and masters.

But, what if the creator and protector and of these Frankensteins are our enemies from within? Can our government do something? Do they know something but really helpless to act?

Beware of the real bandits!

Monday, July 25, 2011

ARF and the ARP - “Asian Resident Power”

ARF and the ARP - “Asian Resident Power”
By Erick San Juan

The recently concluded 18th ASEAN Regional Forum in Indonesia with its 27 participants for this year has proven another milestone in keeping the world, particularly the region, at peace. Although some view the forum as “…the ARF’s perceived ineffectiveness in managing the region’s security has indubitably risen in recent years. The ARF — ‘Avoiding Regional Flashpoints’, if you will — has garnered a reputation for keeping hard security challenges off its agenda, and doing little when such issues happen to force their way in.” (Source: ASEAN Regional Forum at 18: Dealing with regional flashpoints by See Seng Tan, NTU 7/22/2011)

Was there really an avoidance in taking up the region’s flashpoints? From the reports I gathered, Uncle Sam through Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has aired their concern to the growing tensions in the disputed areas in the region involving several ASEAN members with China. They even reiterated their “national interest” in the region as vital in keeping one of the world’s busiest sea lanes peaceful.

During the post ARF meetings, at the sidelines, Sec. Clinton addressed the need to resolve the relations between the two Koreas, particularly North Korea’s return to multi-nation nuclear disarmament talks.

Declaring the United States a “resident power” with vital strategic interests throughout the Asia-Pacific, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said North Korea must do more to improve ties with the South before Washington will consider resuming six-party talks aimed at getting Pyongyang to abandon nuclear weapons in return for concessions. (Source: Associated Press 7/23/11)

It is very clear that Uncle Sam has to establish its presence in the Asia-Pacific region through support from its allies. And, the Philippines through this present administration has shown its continuing cooperation with the US and was perceived as kowtowing to Washington’s every whim and caprice.

The so-called military support of Uncle Sam in the “modernization” of the Armed Forces of the Philippines was actually seen by patriotic Filipinos as another “praise release” by the Obama administration. In truth, our country will be spending several billions in this undertaking, as what this report shows :

The military is "just using the South China Sea (locally referred to as the West Philippine Sea) dispute as an excuse for AFP fattening and corruption while the country's poor are wanting and in dire need of resources. Our conflict with China and other claimant countries in the Spratlys can be resolved peacefully," Bayan Muna Representative Teddy Casiño said in a statement.

During the deliberations of the Development Budget Coordination Committee, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad disclosed that the Aquino administration will spend P40 billion from 2012 to 2016 (P8 billion annually) to "catch up" with the AFP modernization program. (Kathrina Alvarez/Sunnex 6/20/11)

Added to this, is the expansion of the Coast Watch South towards western seaboard, and even further north of the country. The Department of Energy has earmarked the budget for the said program which will be drawn from the Malampaya fund. The Department of National Defense is expecting the implementation of the expansion within the next two to three years. This writer has written (in the past) about the existing Coast Watch South in the southern part of the country, along the Celebes Sea. Such existing maritime security is perceived by several pundits as listening post and conveniently located in the T3 – “terrorists transit triangle.”

Translation – our government is spending so much for military modernization and probably being used as a pawn in the proxy war between the “two elephants” in the process. After realizing this, there is no other way for PNoy’s administration but to strongly assert our role in the region vis-à-vis our relation with Washington and what is rightfully due us.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

China’s Synthetic “Peaceful Rise and Soft Power”

China’s Synthetic “Peaceful Rise and Soft Power”
By Erick San Juan

It is not new to many of us, every time we hear this line from China’s government officials, that they are committed to the “path of peaceful development, upholds the defense policy that is defensive in nature and commits itself to actively developing friendship and cooperation with countries around the world, especially neighboring countries.”

Although this statement seems to be a template conveniently used by Beijing to relieve tensions in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), ASEAN members particularly claimants in the disputed Spratly Islands and non-ASEAN countries can’t help but attach names to China’s actions in asserting its indisputable claim over the whole SCS.

One such example is from an Indonesian security expert, Andi Widjajanto, a professor at the Department on International Relations Studies at the Universitas Indonesia based in Depok. He said, China would become a “ruthless monster” and “China will rule over the region and the world and its financial and military dominance will ignite resistance and militaristic reaction from member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.” (Source: Jeffrey M. Tupas and Ryan D. Rosauro, Inquirer Mindanao 7/15/11)

There are other “name tags” that needs no elaboration as we witness the strain growing as days passed in the hotly contested area in the world – the SCS. Pundits wonder, experts and ordinary people alike are watching the possible confluence of events. Is Beijing’s “peaceful rise” and the so-called “soft power” approach are mere synthetic?

It is very clear from the warning of the Indon security expert that China plans “to become a hegemonic power” by 2020. But from the speech of China’s Defense Minister at the Shangri-la Dialogue in Singapore that I attended, he reiterated that China has no plan of becoming a superpower.

Do we hear another doublespeak?

In this kind of situation where we are all in at the moment, when a possible regional conflict is in the offing, we just can’t afford to have another dose of rhetoric and deceit.

Our country has experienced enough “bullying” from our neighbor and only to find out this report that : “… the $892 million deepwater semi-submersible drilling platform (Ocean Petroleum 981) that China Daily reported as having left Shanghai on May 24, 2011 bound for the South China Sea. According to the China press, this is “the world’s most advanced super oil rig” capable of operating at a water depth of 3,000 meters and drilling depth of 12,000 meters, with nine power generators on the platform that can provide electricity for nearly 200,000 people. It took China three years to build this rig which is set to start operating in August.”

And, “China is already counting on the future oil to be drawn from the Spratlys to fuel China’s massive energy needs and it is deploying its lone aircraft carrier, newly-purchased from Russia, to the West Philippine Sea to protect it.” (Source: Telltale Signs: The Dragon and the Mosquito by Rodel Rodis posted @Fil-AmForum)

Now, we ask, what will happen now to the commitment of Beijing as “advocate to safeguard regional peace and stability and enhance mutual trust,” among nations in the region?

Can the aircraft carrier safeguard regional peace or just increase tension because obviously its purpose is to secure their super oil rig. And by next month, the world’s most advanced super oil rig by China will start to operate. How can this move “enhance mutual trust?”

Sadly, it only points to one thing, all our questions and maybe, the sentiment of all patriotic Filipinos that there’s no such thing as China’s claim of peaceful development and soft power. I hope that the persistent rumor of a sell out in 2005 is not true. Was there really a secret bilateral agreement duly signed in China and witnessed by our consulate to explore the Reed Bank? This contract was reportedly different from the tripartite deal of JMSU with China and Vietnam.

It is up to us and the rest of the region’s country claimants to be ever vigilant in order to avoid a regional conflict and share the bounty which is God given black gold....

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Fish in Troubled Waters

Fish in Troubled Waters
By Erick San Juan

The three-day visit of our Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario to Beijing is said to be fruitful because the two countries reaffirmed their commitment to respect and abide by the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea signed by China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in 2002.

In a joint statement, DFA Sec. del Rosario and Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi “agreed to further strengthen the bonds and friendship and cooperation between the two countries and to fully implement the Joint Action Plan.” (Aurea Calica, Phil. Star 7/10/11)

This is a welcome development amidst the growing tensions in the South China Sea/West Philippine Sea and a positive sign before the state visit of PNoy to China sometime in August or early September. Actually, it is the main intention of Sec. del Rosario’s visit to China – to resolve the Spratly issue.

The Philippines, through the efforts of PNoy’s administration, adheres to peaceful means of finding solutions to the SCS’ disputes that will be beneficial to all.

But then again, pundits and observers from different camps are trying to find ways of reaching the attention of PNoy, specifically Uncle Sam’s “intervention” in solving the SCS disputes.

To quote, at the 113th anniversary of the Department of Foreign Affairs as reported by Johanna Paola D. Poblete - “However, the President clarified that foreign policy for the Philippines -- even in accepting or providing help to treaty ally United States -- is still geared towards what is advantageous to the Philippines."

“We chart our own foreign policy. It so happen that in this particular case, there was a convergence between the Americans and ours with regard to the West Philippine Sea. There’s a convergence of objectives by both sovereign countries."

“So it does not sit well with me when somebody says that we closely align, meaning we abrogate our charting of our own foreign policies to that of another country. That is not permissible. Now we will chart our foreign policy based on the interest of the Philippines,” said President Aquino.

Very well said but action is better than mere words or rhetoric, Mr. President.

This country needs concrete actions geared towards what is beneficial to all of us as a sovereign nation. We can never be called an independent country if we are always perceived to be just another “loyal ally” in the region.

PNoy’s administration has to prove once and for all that we don’t just kowtow to the “big brother’s whim”. Precious lives are at stake here. When it comes to foreign policy, we have to play our cards well. Yes, we admit the fact that US is our long-term partner and in any partnership, but it should be a two-way street – no more, no less. We must be persistent to remind our “partner” that they should give what is due us. Historically, we have come a long way in this “international partnership” and must be wary this time not to be shortchange, again.

If US President Barack Obama is true to his words in describing “the Philippines as a key voice in the region that is well-positioned to lead efforts to address such challenges as climate change, global pandemics, and non-proliferation," and that ----

“The Philippines has a vital role in “ensuring that the region’s evolving architecture advances peace, security, and economic opportunity." (This message was relayed to Philippine Ambassador to the US, Jose Cuisia Jr., who presented his credentials to the US President at the White House last Friday as reported by JE and GMA News.) It is but proper for the US government to treat us well and be consistent in their commitment to support us in times that we need them.

In these very interesting times, we can never be sure of what will happen next. Despite the efforts of our neighbors in the region to avoid an impending regional conflict, there are rhetorics and irritants which could lead to a shooting war. At the Manila Conference on the South China Sea organized by the DFA, NDCP, Foreign Service Institute and the DA of Vietnam, Dr. Shen Hong Fang reiterated the warning of Chinese vice Foreign Minister Cui Tian-kai that the "U.S. is not the South China Sea claim sovereign country, so it has to stay away from these disputes and don't play with fire." We must all be wary and vigilant for a possible clash between two elephants because we could possibly be “a fish in troubled waters” in the process.

Monday, July 4, 2011

SCS : Too Risky to Tread?

SCS : Too Risky to Tread?
By Erick San Juan

In the history of maritime navigation, particularly on the British imperial navigational charts, most parts of the South China Sea with all its small islands, rocks, reefs and low-tide elevations was once considered as hazards to ships and other marine vessels . It was actually called the “Dangerous Grounds” and perceived as very risky for sea navigation. (Source : Is the South China Sea a new ‘Dangerous Ground’ for US-China rivalry? By Chengxin Pan, Deakin University)

It still holds true today but in a different perspective.

It is still perceived as the “Dangerous Grounds” but now it is different, it is now man-made, the area was transformed into a garrison. Claimants on the SCS’ disputed areas had put up or reinforced their military presence that made the region as the most contested area in the world. Fears of a brewing regional conflict intensified as the United States shifted its naval forces in the said area and renewed its support to some of its allies.

As an observer of events, this building up of tensions in the region can be associated to the economic realities being experienced by the key players – US and China.

To quote from - “Is the Chinese Economy Sputtering for the Same Reasons as the American Economy?” by Washington's Blog :

And Charles Hugh Smith argues:

Despite their many differences, the economies of China and the U.S. share a number of key traits: both are corrupt, rigged, crony-capitalist, rely on phony statistics and propaganda and operate with two sets of rules: one for the elites and another for the masses.

Lou Jiwei - the chairman of China’s sovereign wealth fund, recently told a forum organized by the Brookings Institution and the Chinese Economists 50 Forum, a Beijing think-tank that:

Both China and America are addressing bubbles by creating more bubbles and we’re just taking advantage of that. While Americans are focused on the bursting of the American housing bubble, the bubble in residential and commercial real estate was global, including China.

And ….

As Northwestern University's Victor Shih points out, the Chinese government will slowly reveal more and more of the true ratio of bad loans to good loans, and raise its figures for local government debt. Shih says that recapitalizing Chinese banks to cover losses for the bad loans will eat up more and more of China's reserves.

The Telegraph noted last June:

China's chief auditor has warned that high levels of local government debt could derail the country's economy, with some observers suggesting that a number of Chinese provinces are even more fiscally-troubled than Greece. (Ibid)

The abovementioned 'quotable quotes' are just some reports that world economies are failing to see especially US and even China. Such situation could possibly push them to look for an outside enemy and create war in the process.

The world had experienced wars of great magnitude in contemporary history and for sure if such world war will happen now, God forbid, it would be a mutually assured destruction (MAD) due to nuclear armaments.

Currently, word wars coming from the claimants in the SCS are actually not helping to ease the tensions. Added to this is the “show of force” by all camps near the contested area and the never-ending naval military exercises aggravated by the presence of the US.

Sadly, our country seems to be taken for a ride here by Uncle Sam, promising military assistance and full support while in reality we are paying for these military junks and for the training of our soldiers using possibly the royalties we get from Malampaya.

Our nation is gradually falling for the trap and we are giving way for another conflict not of our choosing. The worst, even the media is being manipulated to release the photos and information about the war capability of the US in preparation for the so called "Balikatan" military exercises. The chinese, both our local and from China, whether we like it or not are intrigued and agitated. We never learn our lessons from history and worst we tend to repeat it.