Tuesday, June 30, 2015

TPP: What's In It for Us? By Erick San Juan

TPP: What's In It for Us? By Erick San Juan

The Philippines is definitely joining the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) bloc once presented the opportunity, Trade Secretary Gregory L. Domingo announced at an investment forum.

"The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) – a global corporate noose around U.S. local, state, and national sovereignty – narrowly passed a major procedural hurdle in the Congress by gaining “fast track” status. This term “fast track” is a euphemism for your members of Congress – senators and representatives – handcuffing themselves, so as to prevent any amendments or adequate debate before the final vote on the Trans-Pacific Partnership – another euphemism that is used to avoid the word “treaty,” which would require ratification by two-thirds of the Senate."

"Make no mistake. If this was only a trade treaty – reducing tariffs, quotas, and the like – it would not be so controversial. Yet, the corporate-indentured politicians keep calling this gigantic treaty with thirty chapters, of which only five relate to traditional trade issues, a trade agreement instead of a treaty. The other twenty-four chapters, if passed as they are, will have serious impacts on your livelihoods as workers and consumers, as well as your air, water, food, and medicines." (King Obama, His Royal Court, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) by Ralph Nader, 6/26/2015)

The United States is economically ailing, and the TPP – Wall Street’s wet dream and Washington’s answer to its own dwindling economic performance – is designed to allow US big business a greater stake in the emerging Pacific region by imposing an exploitative economic model on signatory nations that exempt multinationals and private investors from any form of public accountability. The TPP’s origins go back to the second Bush administration, and it still remains in the negotiating phases under Obama’s second administration. The overwhelming lack of transparency surrounding the talks lends credence to what is known already – that the contents of this trade agreement serve the interests of those on the top of the economic food chain while the rest of us stagnate on the menu. (Source: Nile Bowie)

Sections of the TPP published by Wikileaks have revealed the treaty’s vast influence over multiple areas including individual rights, internet freedom and even the rule of law itself. Unelected corporate boards and the President can now wield unprecedented control over almost every aspect of human activity.

“If you read, write, publish, think, listen, dance, sing or invent; if you farm or consume food; if you’re ill now or might one day be ill, the TPP has you in its crosshairs,” Wikileaks’ Julian Assange wrote.

Secret TPP chapters regarding immigration also grant President Obama an even greater ability to erode the country’s Southern border.

The TPP, which covers 12 countries and more than 40% of the world’s economy, will place North America under the same global government structure as the European Union, where laws are increasingly crafted outside of public influence. (Source: http://www.redflagnews.com/headlines-2015/tpp-passes-obama-now-a-dictator)

The present administration should be very careful before committing our country (again) to another ‘agreement/partnership’ with Uncle Sam given the reality that American patriots themselves are against the TPP. I myself will go for it if the deal is fair and square. And why the sudden rush to join the said partnership? Are we being pressured to join?

Remember VFA (Visiting Forces Agreement) and EDCA (Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement)? The play of words here – instead of using the word treaty, they use ‘agreement’ in order to avoid the scrutiny of our Congress, both Senate and House of Representatives in ratifying the said document. Although VFA did passed the Congress but the US counterpart treated it as an executive agreement.

Same is true with this TPP, posed as a partnership and not as a treaty, if ever our country will enter into such agreement, it should be cleared as to what kind of ‘partnership’ this administration is dragging the whole country into. We had our share of stupid legislators and politicians’ (pulpolitiko) decisions of putting the Filipinos in a very dangerous situation by turning the whole archipelago into a giant magnet attracting Uncle Sam’s enemies via the VFA and EDCA. We should have learned our lessons by now.

And the so many attempts of changing the so-called economic provisions in our Constitution by another bunch of pulpolitiko, don’t be too greedy because this nation’s history will never forgive thick-faced and greedy ‘public servants’.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Who Do We Trust? By Erick San Juan

Who Do We Trust? By Erick San Juan

"In the course of our country’s history when the timing of some major events is suspected for something else… there really is something else."

One recent example was the article posted at http://www.wantchinatimes.com/, Did Beijing concede to US by calling off South China Sea land reclamation? (June 20), “China's foreign ministry suddenly announced this week that it is suspending land reclamation efforts on islands and reefs in the disputed South China Sea."

The official media line on the suspension is that it is because the projects are "complete," however other media outlets have framed the decision as a compromise reached between Beijing and Washington, according to Duowei News, a media outlet run by overseas Chinese.

"China and the United States have insisted on their respective positions in the dispute over the South China Sea, from the Chinese military asking US jets conducting patrol duties in the area to leave, to China's issuing of a defense white paper to show its concern over its maritime interests and the 2015 Shangri-La Dialogue held in Singapore where representatives from the two countries defended their respective positions.”

The meeting of high-ranking officials from China and the United States that is taking place June 22 and 23 in Washington DC for the seventh China-US Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) and the sixth China-US High-Level Consultation on People-to-People Exchange (CPE), discussing issues ranging from security to the economy and people-to-people exchanges. Prior to President Xi Jinping of China’s plan to visit the US in September, China and the US are set to engage in more economic cooperation.

So there could be no compromise on the territorial disputes unless coming major events/meetings are actually the real reason for such decision.

Another major event – the 2015 Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercise series that kicked off (June 22) in an opening ceremony in Puerto Princesa that will last until June 26.

CARAT Philippines will take place on the ground in Puerto Princesa and in the waters and airspace of the Sulu Sea. The exercise will focus on combined operations at sea, mobile dive and salvage training, coastal and river operations, plus maritime patrol and reconnaissance. It will feature the inaugural participation of littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth (LCS 3) along with rescue and salvage ship USNS Safeguard (T-ARS-50) and forward-deployed P-3 Orion aircraft.

"CARAT is the US premier naval engagement in South and Southeast Asia. The bilateral and multilateral exercises provide a regional venue to develop strong maritime partnerships that contribute to the greater peace and stability of the region participated in by Members of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps along with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) counterpart."

Following CARAT Philippines, additional bilateral phases of CARAT will occur from July through November 2015 with Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Timor-Leste.

Now that the Japanese navy also joined in a separate naval exercises with our country, generally these events are crucial to the “activities” that China has been doing in the South China Sea (SCS).

We have to be wary because we really don’t know who is our ally and our enemy. Pundits are suspicious that the saber rattling among party of interest could lead to something else.

Who do we trust?

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Ph-Japan VFA by Erick San Juan

Ph-Japan VFA by Erick San Juan

After the recently concluded state visit to Japan by President Benigno Aquino III, reports of a possible VFA (Visiting Forces Agreement) with Japan is brewing on the basis of stronger security relationship of the two countries.

As reported at the manilastandardtoday.com - There was no mention of the VFA in the joint communiqué Aquino and Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe released after their bilateral talks, but Aquino said the matter was discussed.

“It was discussed during our summit meeting with the Prime Minister that the relevant entities will start discussions, leading up to a Visiting Forces Agreement,” he said. “The Visiting Forces Agreement will have to be passed and approved by our Senate and we will be starting discussions.”

“We welcome this development. We have only two strategic partners, the US and Japan; and again, as I have stated previously, it does not behoove a good partnership or relationship if you are not able to work at the inoperability with the other,” Aquino added.

Aquino also noted that a VFA with Japan will have to be finalized before a more advanced version, like the EDCA, is considered.

“We have a Visiting Forces Agreement with America and with Australia, but we don’t have the same with Japan. That has first to be worked out before we can talk about training exercises in the Philippines, especially for [Japan’s] Self-Defense Forces,” he said.

Well, at least the mention of “the VFA (with Japan) will have to be passed and approved by our Senate” is a welcome idea unlike the EDCA (Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement) with the US, which is still pending at the Supreme Court, the Senate has been demanding that the said treaty should have the approval of the Senators.

Like Japan, we also have territorial dispute with China which is why PNoy had to ink a treaty with Japan on security issues in the region.

Aquino’s four day visit to Tokyo clearly gave the strategic partnership a further boost. Both sides issued a joint declaration praising their ‘strengthened strategic partnership’ and issued an action plan to further it still. Advances on the security side of the relationship were focused on maritime security, which is no surprise considering common concerns about Chinese assertiveness at sea. Japan pledged to enhance the capacity of the Philippine Coast Guard, and the signing of a contract during Aquino’s visit between the Philippine government and the Japan Marine United Corporation for the acquisition of patrol vessels was evidence of progress in this regard. I hope that the 'other matters' discussed with Emperor Akihito was also fruitful.

More broadly, both countries also vowed to strengthen their security cooperation by concluding an agreement on the transfer of defense equipment and technology and expanding bilateral and multilateral trainings and exercises. The agreement on defense equipment is particularly notable since sources have suggested that P-3C patrol aircraft and other radar-related equipment could feature among potential export items in the future. This is also the second such pact that Tokyo has signed with a Southeast Asian state following one with Malaysia last month. (by Prashanth Parameswaran, June 05, 2015)

The mere fact that PNoy had an audience with the top officials in Japan, at the least he could have mentioned the issue on ‘comfort women’ where our country’s women together with South Korea and China, were victims during the Second World War.

Even the US with South Korea and China are awaiting the speech of Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in August on the 70th Anniversary on the end of World War II.

Former Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama, who authored Japan's landmark 1995 apology on the 50th anniversary of the end of the war, said Abe should "honestly spell out" the country's wartime actions to address growing international concern that he may revise history.

Yohei Kono, who as chief Cabinet secretary in 1993 apologized to victims of Japan's wartime military sexual exploitation, said he wondered whether a new statement by Abe is even necessary. He said a statement to mark the 70th anniversary, if issued, should not backpedal from any of the apologies that Abe promised to inherit from nearly a dozen past leaders.

"The international community is watching what (Abe) is really thinking," Murayama told reporters during a rare joint appearance with Kono at the Japan National Press Club in Tokyo.

"It is important to clear any doubts that he has raised overseas," Murayama said.

The historic statements by both men were highly regarded internationally as signs Japan had come to terms with its wartime past and they improved relations with its Asian neighbors. However, both statements have become unpopular among Japanese conservatives who say Japan should stop focusing on negative history to restore national pride.

Kono warned that any attempt to whitewash historical facts "hurts the Japanese people's reputation." (Source: Associated Press by Mari Yamaguchi, June 9, 2015)

If Japan is truly for making stronger ties with its neighbours, its leaders should begin by making amends of the ghosts of the past.

Monday, June 8, 2015

The Economics of War

The Economics of War
By Erick San Juan

Politics begin and end in economics. Everybody thought all the while that economic data being leaked to the press by big powers are all real. But reality check will confirm that their economies are overheating. Especially China, where information is very limited due to their adherence to secrecy and strict control of media. The worst, they are creating a MAD – Mutually Assured Destruction by making new economic and political alliances like BRICS, creating banks like AIIB and NDB to counter WB, IMF, etc.

While the west invented the BLICS(Belgium, Luxemburg, Ireland, Cayman and Swiss) to reportedly purchase huge tracts of US Treasury bonds, using dollar swap funds on behalf of the US Federal Reserve to counter the BRICS economic cooperation.(www.gold-eagle.com)
 The pattern of history is in place. Prepare for the worst when these superpowers are already overheating in producing military hardware in the global arena, what is it like in their own backyard?

The rising tensions in the disputed areas in the South China Sea has created the arms race where claimants blindly follow the trend of accumulating more arms even if it is disadvantageous on the part of their citizenry.

Based on the article by Thomas J. Christensen posted at Bloomberg.net – “These disputes are fuelled by historical victimhood narratives and postcolonial nationalism. For the countries involved, defending sovereignty claims and recovering allegedly stolen territories are core missions. China is no exception.

Since the 2008 financial crisis, China has been more confident abroad and more afraid at home. The country's elite and its citizens feel that its power position on the international stage has improved drastically. But the foundations of its export-led and investment-fuelled growth model were shaken at the same time. Top leaders worry about rising social discontent. It isn't a good time for Chinese leaders to look weak on defense.”
This is what I have been writing all along that an outside enemy is needed or a war is necessary in order to unite their people away from the rising discontent in the domestic front due to economic factors overshadowed by too much defense spending. Plus the stone throwing between several factions of the chinese Politburo on the issue of graft and corruption. Reason why China's President Xi Jinping was forced to jail even some of his trusted lieutenants. Translation, it all boils down to economics no matter how they cook their books, truth will come out and thanks to the internet.

Another view by Zhang Jun in his article - China’s pursuit of a new world economic order, he writes : Economists are increasingly divided over China’s economic future. Optimists emphasize its capacity for learning and rapid accumulation of human capital. Pessimists focus on the rapid decline of its demographic dividend, its high debt-to-GDP ratio, the contraction of its export markets and its industrial overcapacity. But both groups neglect a more fundamental determinant of China’s economic prospects: the world order.
The question is simple: Can China sustain rapid GDP growth within the confines of the current global order, including its trade rules, or must the current U.S.-dominated order change drastically to accommodate China’s continued economic rise? The answer, however, remains unclear.

One way that China is attempting to find out is by pushing to have the renminbi added to the basket of currencies that determine the value of the International Monetary Fund’s reserve asset, the Special Drawing Right (SDR). As it stands, that basket comprises the euro, the yen, the pound and the dollar.

The SDR issue was the audience’s main concern when IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde spoke in Shanghai in April. Her stance — that it is just a matter of time before the renminbi is added to the basket — garnered considerable media attention. (Regrettably, however, the media read too much into her statement.)
From China’s perspective, sustained domestic economic growth seems unlikely within the existing global system — a challenge that Japan and the other East Asian economies did not encounter during their economic rise. Indeed, the only country that has encountered it is the U.S., when it replaced the United Kingdom as the world’s dominant economic and financial power before World War II; fortunately, that precedent is one of accommodation and a peaceful transition.

To be sure, China still needs to undertake important domestic reforms, especially in the financial sector, in order to eliminate distortions in resource allocation and stem the economy’s slowdown. But the refusal by China’s leaders to pursue export-boosting currency depreciation, even in the face of decelerating growth, suggests that they are willing to make the needed sacrifices to secure the renminbi’s international role and, with it, long-term economic growth and prosperity.”

Overheated economies of leading countries will in turn affect the world economy whether we like it or not. And in turn, in order to save their economies, it will be the smaller countries like ours will save them by staging a war and will use us as one of their cannon fodders.

What will be the pretext this time? Be ever vigilant!

Monday, June 1, 2015

Real War or Rhetorics by Erick San Juan

Remember, it was in April last year when Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) was signed hours before the arrival of US President Barack Obama. And guess what, from the observation of Mr. Ernest Bower, Senior Adviser and Sumitro Chair for Southeast Asia Studies at CSIS, “Filipinos have become increasingly concerned about China’s continuing reclamation in the disputed waters of the Spratly Islands and the threats those actions pose to the Philippines’ sovereign interests. Still, many have not connected the dots on the urgent need to move ahead with the EDCA, preferably before Obama visits the Philippines to attend this year’s Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Summit in November”.

Again, the urgency to pass the EDCA which is still pending at the Supreme Court for a year now. Hopefully this June, the Supreme Court will come out with its ruling after some former senators and progressive groups and other sectors questioned the constitutionality of EDCA.

And what if the Supreme Court will not vote in favor of EDCA or still undecided before Obama’s visit in November?

However, if the Supreme Court does not move expeditiously on the EDCA and the agreement is not in place before Obama’s visit, “the White House will have to ask whether the Philippines is serious about implementing its treaty alliance with the United States,” said Bower.

“Obama will also be more constrained in his ability to talk about potential US investments in the Philippines’ defense modernization efforts, thereby sending signals to Beijing of Manila’s uncertainty even as Filipinos will be preparing to head into a national transition that will elect a new president to replace Aquino in May 2016,” he added. (Source: Manila Bulletin online by Elena L. Aben May 31,2015)

Whatever happened to President Obama’s commitment in supporting the country in times of attack? It was also last year when he declared an ‘ironclad’ commitment to the Philippines.

The ironclad policy is perceived by coffee shop pundits as rhetorics which could be music to the ears of the unlearned. We have to wake up to the reality that without US Congress approval to go to war, it’s plain play of words.

As what US Defense Secretary Ash Carter's tough talks on China’s reclamation projects in the South China Sea, it's just talks. It did not hold any real strategy against Chinese aggression in the South China Sea. The region is left to wonder whether Washington intends to back up its words.

“There should be an immediate and lasting halt to land reclamation by all claimants” in the South China Sea, Carter told the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. “We also oppose any further militarization of disputed features. We all know there is no military solution to the South China Sea disputes. Right now, at this critical juncture, is the time for renewed diplomacy, focused on finding a lasting solution that protects the rights and interests of all.”

Senior Colonel Xiaozhuo Zhao, an official in the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, confronted Sec. Carter at the conference Saturday. Zhao completely rejected Carter’s premise and called his remarks about the South China Sea inaccurate and not constructive.

“Freedom of navigation in the South China Sea is not at all an issue because the freedom has never been affected,” he said. “Also, it is wrong to criticize China for affecting regional peace and stability through its construction activities, since China has never taken any proactive measures.”

Zhao called China’s activities, which now include placing military hardware on reclaimed reefs in the Spratly Islands, “legitimate, reasonable, and justified.” He said U.S. criticism of China and other U.S. activities such as reconnaissance flights over disputed islands were hurting the prospects for peaceful resolution. The harsh words bode poorly for Carter’s call for diplomacy. (Source: Ash Carter Talks Tough on China, But It's Just Talk by Josh Rogin)

Even Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore, in his keynote address at the IISS Shangrila Security Dialogue said that US and China are engaged in a competitive dynamic which is reportedly expected from superpowers. He added that the disputes should be contained before it lead to more tensions and bad outcomes. "Resolution is necessary and Asians stand to lose if regional security and stability are threatened."

In these exciting times, when the drums of war are getting louder and louder and the scenario that we have been saying all these times that the next battleground is going to be in the Philippines is coming true.

God forbid!