Sunday, February 3, 2013

From Pearl Harbor to Pearl of the Orient

From Pearl Harbor to Pearl of the Orient
By Erick San Juan

It was on December 11, 1993, when Tubbataha Reefs was inscribed in the prestigious list of the World Heritage Site of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for its outstanding universal value to humankind.  In 2006, the size of the Park was expanded thrice its original size from 33,200 to 97,030 hectares through Presidential Proclamation 1126. This has caused for the re-nomination of the Tubbataha Reefs in the World Heritage List in 2009 to include the Jessie Beazley Reef, an adjacent reef located northwest of the original two atolls. The Tubbataha Protected Area Management Board (TPAMB), the sole policy-making body of Tubbataha, salutes the brave men and women who have generously shared their lives to keep Tubbataha a living heritage for the present generations and to come. ( This is just one of the so many wonders of nature that God has given to the ‘Pearl of the Orient’ (Philippines) to protect and conserve for all humanity. Unfortunately on its twentieth year as one of the world’s protected areas, an ‘accident’ happened that up to this time major news network has been following its development.

Since January 17, when the USS Guardian ran aground in the Sulu Sea specifically in the Tubbataha Reef, several options were given and considered to remove the minesweeper with lesser damage to the reefs. And finally, Navy engineers decided their only option is to destroy the 225-foot ship by cutting it up and hauling it away on a barge, instead of trying to drag it off the reef or lifting it as what were previously considered. ( )

Now that the salvaging has started and apologies were given and accepted by both parties, the question remains – why is the said USS Guardian minesweeper in the area in the first place? I am pretty sure that I and the rest of the Filipino nation including UNESCO and the true environmentalists deserve an honest-to-goodness answer.

Unlike the recent visit of some representatives from the ICC - International Conservation Caucus, some pundits and observers alike thought that the good solons will help in resolving the Tubbataha disaster, namely, US Representatives Gregory Meeks, Vern Buchanan and  Eliot Engel, members of the so-called influential ICC.

The above-mentioned US Congressmen together with Matthew James Salmon and Thomas Anthony Marino and headed by US Congress Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Ed Royce had an hour meeting with Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, Energy Secretary Carlos Petilla and Environment Secretary Ramon Paje last January 29 at the DFA office.

What could be the agenda of the six US solons of the Congress Foreign Affairs  Committee that they did not discuss even a bit the Tubbataha issue? The mere fact that one of the ICC’s thrusts is to protect the world’s ecosystems, the lack of concern on the Tubbataha Reef protected ecosystem is really a big puzzle to many. Or, there are other more important issues that they tackled that the rest of us are not allowed to know.

With such lack of transparency of what’s going on, the public can’t help but speculate.  We thought that the present administration will not allow the Filipinos to be in the dark when matters of great importance are being carried out by the people that we voted into power. With the delay in salvaging the US minesweeper in Tubbataha is actually a good copy that there is more to what meets the eye. Is the hacking of the USS Guardian will give enough time to also haul some war loots that were buried in the area? And the ‘timely visit’ of Japan’s Foreign Minister in the country is suspect for something else. Are the war loots more important than saving hundreds of meters of protected reefs? Treasure hunters are asking.

The port visit (February 2) of the USS Cheyenne, a nuclear attack submarine belonging to the US Pacific Fleet, on Subic Bay in Zambales, the former US naval base is another recent ‘incident’ that can be considered by some pundits as laying the predicate towards a possible untoward incident in the South China Sea or any part of the region.

Beijing did not approve (for the nth time) any arbitration or multilateral solution to the territorial disputes in the SCS, so the move of PH to seek the mediation of the United Nations is a big no-no. In the midst of the growing tension between Manila and Beijing and the port visit of US nuclear attack submarine is something to consider by foreign policy experts (is there one?) in the Palace.

Like a broken record, this writer wants to help the government by considering this: that the continuing saber-rattling of G2 (China and the US) here in the region, using us as their pawn is a masterpiece that some of our high ranking officials has failed to see. That in order to avoid conflict in their own backyard (in China and in the US), they will create an outside enemy and will force their citizenry to unite against this ‘virtual aggressor’. Presto, civil war in China will be avoided and so is a possible second revolution in the US. We have to remember that both nations US and China are like twin brothers wherein their economies are intertwined that when one collapsed, the other followed.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

Julio Amador III in his article "What our China problem Really Means" said: China can just ignore our arbitral proceedings through the United Nations UNCLOS. Such is the nature of an anarchic international system, which knows no master beyond the nation-state. Dating back to ancient Greece, the dictum that the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must is still a key point in the study of international relations. We could be the epicenter of conflict in Asia if our leaders will not learn how to read between the lines and just follow the dictates of a perceived master.                                 

"Kawawa naman tayo."


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