Wednesday, May 24, 2017

China's Double Talk by Erick San Juan

China's Double Talk by Erick San Juan

We are living in very exciting times of war threats and countries being dragged on the brink of actual shooting war. There is the ever threatening North Korea with its stubborn leader and the bully in the region that is making the neighborhood nervous.

In the midst of ‘warm friendly talks’, President Rodrigo Duterte said that China’s Xi Jinping threatened the country of a war if we insist of oil drilling in our territories in the South China Sea. Below is our leader's version of what transpired between Him and President Xi :

“I said, Mr. Xi Jinping, I will insist that it is ours and we will drill oil,” Duterte said in a speech in Davao City.

“Sinabi ko talaga harap-harapan, that is ours and we intend to drill oil there. My view is I can drill the oil. Ang sagot sa akin, ‘Well we are friends. We don’t want to quarrel with you. We want to maintain warm relationship, but if you force the issue we will go to war.’ Ano pa bang sabihin ko?”

The mere fact that this incident came from the President himself, still some people ‘clarified’ the incident as not true or it is not what it was meant to be.

Speaking in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying sought to make light of Duterte's comments, noting he and Xi had agreed to "strengthen communication" on important bilateral issues.

"During the meeting, leaders of the two countries exchanged views in depth on future development of China-Philippines relations and relevant issues. Both sides agree to strengthen communication on important issues related to the development of bilateral relations, and to proceed in a healthy, stable and correct path of good neighborly relations and cooperation," Hua said.

"In the future, China is willing to make joint efforts with the Philippines to implement important consensus reached by both heads of state, to properly handle disputes between the two countries through peaceful, friendly and cooperative (methods), to continuously deepen and expand pragmatic cooperation in various fields and to push forward a healthy and stable development of China-Philippines relations," Hua added.

According to some reports, even our very own Ambassador to China denied Beijing’s bullying. Philippine Ambassador to China Chito Sta. Romana, who joined the first Bilateral Consultation Mechanism (BCM) between Manila and Beijing last week, said there was no threat from the Chinese side during the talks.

But pundits believe that as our Philippine ambassador to China, Chito should have waited for China's ambassador to speak to clarify the incident. "Parang sya ang mouthpiece of China"
"But by own experience in the bilateral talks, [there were] no threats, no bullying, everything was frank but friendly, candid but productive," he told ANC.
"The whole idea...therefore that China was bullying us and threatening us just doesn’t pass," Sta. Romana added.

Although the above-mentioned statements clarified that there was no threat, still we have to be wary in dealing with China because Beijing said time and again that they will not honor the ruling from the Permanent Court of Arbitration and that they will settle any disputes only through bilateral talks.
Again, the politicians and the ordinary Filipinos are divided on how to deal with this development in the Manila-Beijing relations. Actually, if we will going to base on the Filipino culture’s view on friendship, it is a big no-no that friends treat each other wrongly like giving threats when they feel that their interest is at stake.
On the other hand, it's not only PRRD but some nationalists have already doubts that the US will come to our rescue if China will attack us.
Some pundits believe that China’s war threat is baseless due to the fact that China just launched its Belt and Road Initiative and going to war or just merely a war threat is not in their immediate agenda. Peace for development is their top priority for now.
But war or no war threat, the reality is China with its soft power using the One Belt One Road op is actually building an empire to export its surplus, giving soft loans and in the process creating the debt trap. And for those who cannot pay in cash will pay in kind like some land and rich mineral resources. Translation- possibly making the indebted Philippines a province of China without firing a single shot. Be vigilant!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Who Do We Believe? By Erick San Juan

Tightening the Belt on a Bumpy Road? Who do we believe?

The recently concluded Belt and Road Forum as initiated by and held in Beijing, China promised a lot to boost economies of countries included in the modern silk road. But many economic and political analysts believe that in the long run it is China that will benefit the most in such a huge endeavor.

Billions of dollars in infrastructure will reportedly be given as soft loans under the guise of soft power op to gain confidence among leaders from Europe to Africa and Asia. The much needed materials for infrastructure are already in excess capacity of construction materials from China. Projects outside China are very much needed for these materials and investing on the Belt and Road initiative will favor China’s goods to reach the countries in the silk road.

Although reality check, problems may arise in the modern silk road. Unlike before, everything was smooth sailing so to speak. But now several factors have to be considered like terrorism plus the age-old piracy and of course geopolitical aspect as what is happening in the East and South China Sea.

Some other points have to be considered as what was pointed out by Bloomberg’s editorial – “The risk, for China no less than participating countries, is that vaulting ambitions could doom the project’s chances of success. What’s held back infrastructure development in Asia isn’t so much a lack of funding but a dearth of viable projects. Inevitably, as it has within China, politically motivated lending will produce more white elephants, burdening host countries with unsustainable debt burdens."

"Strategists might rationalize these losses as the price for support and stability along China’s periphery. But the costs may not be so easy to sustain. Fitch Ratings has already warned of the risk to banks’ balance sheets as loans sour. Exporting China’s investment-heavy development model will also ease pressure on inefficient state-owned enterprises to reform and slash overcapacity. And with China blocking capital outflows and holding onto reserves in order to bolster the yuan, there’s simply less money to waste on bad projects.

Nor is there any reason to think that building more roads and pipelines will in itself achieve China’s larger stated goals: to promote economic growth and hence political stability. Pouring money into development projects could just as easily encourage graft in countries along the route, fuel anti-Chinese fervor and encourage sabotage attacks. China’s historic preference for dealing with authoritarian governments—and raising few questions about their governance—can breed resentment among ordinary citizens, risking future problems.

China’s experience with the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, one of the main Belt-and-Road funders, is instructive. The institution’s flashy launch in 2014 inspired fears that Chinese leaders were seeking to overturn the global financial order. These fears were misplaced. Run by a cadre of international professionals and adhering to high standards, the AIIB is, according to one estimate, unlikely to lend much more than $2 billion annually for its first five years. That will limit its influence, but also its losses.

China needs to apply the same rigor to Belt-and-Road projects, which should be scrutinized not only for their headline numbers but their long-term viability. Lenders need to be transparent about financing terms and considerate of borrowers’ ability to repay. Project officers should consult with local farmers, merchants and NGOs, not just bureaucrats, or worse, corrupt leaders; environmental concerns should be aired and addressed. And along with infrastructure, China should be promoting greater openness in economies along the route."

"Most of all, China needs to treat the Belt and Road with care and a clear-eyed appreciation of risk. That will likely result in fewer, less high-profile projects. But they—and China—will be the stronger for it.”

Some pundits also fear the debt trap that developing countries may fall into in order to go with the flow of building huge projects in the process. Like in our case there is so much to loose if we will find out one day that our debt to China is so big that we will be compelled under China’s conditions especially in our sovereign territories.

Even DLSU Professor Richard Heydarian warned of getting loans from China. also warned that the projected Philippine debt of $167 billion to help finance ambitious programs under Dutertenomics could baloon to $452 billion in 10 years and could lead to debt bondage to China.

Remember the China's Northrail project during PGMA's watch, it balooned to P1 billion despite the project was scrapped.

When China’s political clout and 'soft touch op' will be used as leverage, are we really ready to thread the bumpy silk road when China will tighten the belt for us to pay our debts?

Just asking.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Philippines Will Soon be a Province of China? By Erick San Juan

Philippines Will Soon be a Province of China? By Erick San Juan

The Duterte administration has gone a long way in its nine months in office traveling and has already visited 16 countries and garnered around $34 billion in ‘pledges’ which are combined aid and investments from China and Japan alone. These travels had cost us $5.5 million or about PhP270 million  according to Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III. That is supposedly a small investment with big return value. (Source: PCIJ)

The bulk of the pledged investment loans came from China which is in line with China’s President Xi Jinping’s One Belt, One Road Initiative that will take place in May 14 and 15 in Beijing. Pres. Rody Duterte will attend the meeting after his visit in Cambodia and Hongkong. What is this initiative all about?

"Previously known as “One Belt, One Road”, the initiative is being spearheaded by the Chinese government to improve trade and economic integration across Asia, Europe, and Africa. The strategy uses free-trade agreements and infrastructure projects – including roads, ports and railways – to create a modern Silk Road spanning some 65 countries, which have a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of US$21 trillion. It includes both an economic land “belt” through Eurasia, and a maritime “road” to connect coastal Chinese cities to Africa and the Mediterranean."

Through China’s ‘initiative’ countries from different continents can be linked via massive infrastructure projects like high speed trains by land or sea. But according to former National Security Adviser Roilo Golez, it is not as simple as it may seem for those countries that will join the Belt Road Initiative.

“Methinks PRRD will make the Philippines a part of China’s ‘Belt and Road’ plan, make the Philippines its Southeast terminus. This would make the Philippines potentially a part of China's economic orbit which would generate immense economic benefits to the Philippines but would have serious geopolitical and security implications for the country. The overall effect on the country's well being must be carefully studied by the country's economic, security, defense, political, geopolitical and geostrategic braintrust and not decided by only a limited group."

"Should such membership in China's economic orbit come to pass, it would have deep geopolitical and security implications as well as impact on our Exclusive Economic Zone claims especially our one million square kilometer West Philippine Sea, 90% of which China claims, and even extend China's influence on the development and protection of our huge 13 million hectare Benham Rise."

"Such economic engagement would have serious implications on China's achieving its Strategic Triangle Goal and China's geo-strategic move to break out of the First Island Chain towards the Second Island Chain and consequently control of the Western Pacific. This would prejudice the security and geopolitical position of our treaty ally United States and its allies Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand and of course Taiwan."

"Considering the Belt and Road Plan's impact on the Indo Pacific and global balance of power, especially on the status of the US as the hegemon,  I do not expect the US to simply sit out and watch the economic and geopolitical consequences to unfold without talking counteraction.” (Golez)

Blinded by the economic gains that one country can get from joining the B&RI, that they overlooked the geopolitical implications in the long run. This is what I have been saying all along as a warning that we are the planned future province of China.

Another analysis taken from the article of Malou Mangahas of PCIJ - "Trojan-horse trap?" These days, the Duterte administration is willing to bet that China can turn around its dismal record of projects in the Philippines. But some Filipino scholars on China say the Philippines should be more cautious when dealing with its giant neighbor.

“These are people, companies that felt that just because they have political connections, they can bribe, they can bring all their hanky-panky in our country,” commented U.P. political science assistant professor Jaime Naval. “Huwag naman tayo pagisa sa sarili nating bansa (We shouldn’t let ourselves be taken advantage of in our own country).”

China is “also very astute like the West and we have to be as astute as them,” said Naval, a China and ASEAN specialist. “They’re not giving because they love us, they’re giving because they take something back.”

He recalled reading a study that asserted that “for every one renminbi that China gives as ODA, it gets back six renminbi.” Said Naval: “It’s a political tool. It’s a given. I accept that. But we should not be naive that China is benevolent, that it hasn’t wrung us dry.”

“There’s a big difference between ODA coming from China and ODA coming from Europe, and U.S., and Japan,” Naval continued. He said that while “ODA from these developed countries are normally on health and education and certain advocacies that have something to do with the politics of the land and democracy…when it’s an ODA from China, it is extractive. There will be digging for minerals, they will get lumber, they will be harvesting natural resources.”

Dr. Renato de Castro, who holds the Charles Lui Chi Keung Professorial Chair in China Studies at De la Salle University, for his part observed, “With Chinese deals,‘yung binigay ng mga Greeks, sabi nga…’beware of the Greeks giving gifts, it’s a trap.’ You become dependent on Chinese aid. You become dependent on Chinese market. That’s why we become strategically and politically vulnerable to Chinese agenda.”

In de Castro’s view, “you don’t allow someone whom you have a territorial dispute (with) to dominate… this is very dangerous kasi we still have territorial disputes with China so that will give China a leverage in resolving those disputes. That would favor China (and) solve those disputes on Chinese terms, because China has economic leverage.”  (With research and reporting by Karol Ilagan, PCIJ, May 2017)

That’s what make it too complicated in our case (and with the other claimants in the disputed area in the SCS) because we have something that might be taken away from us because we became ‘too friendly’ with China. In giving too much attention with our economic gains, we overlooked the shortfalls like giving up our territories.

Wake up guys!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

War Bells Are Ringing by Erick San Juan

War Bells Are Ringing by Erick San Juan

Mobilization of military hardwares and preparation being done by soldiers are signs that there is an impending war and in the words of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi – “If war breaks out, the consequences would be unimaginable.”

The reason for the ringing of alarm bells of a coming war is that major players are on the war games and the world is nervously waiting on who will hit the button and implement the “first strike policy” or will do a preemptive strike on the stubborn leader of North Korea.

The "extraordinary" mobilization of bomber aircraft was reportedly acknowledged by China's foreign ministry, giving no further details.

The general assumption is that China is taking a defensive position in case the US administration of President Donald Trump follows through on its repeated threats of carrying out pre-emptive strikes on North Korea's nuclear facilities.

Traditionally, an ally of the communist government in Pyongyang, Beijing is widely assumed to be protecting its junior partner by flexing a deterrence force against the US. China has openly urged the US not to take unilateral military action against North Korea over the latter's controversial nuclear program.

Beijing has been calling for a diplomatic solution to the crisis on the Korean Peninsula, a crisis which seems to be intensifying following a dire warning this week from US Vice President Mike Pence that the "sword is ready," which was met with reciprocal threats from North Korea that it would "reduce the US to ashes."

Despite calls for diplomacy from China, it is also clear that Beijing is becoming exasperated with North Korea, known formally as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. China is perplexed by what it sees as the North Korean regime of Kim Jong-Un forming an "epicenter of instability" on its borders.

Earlier this month, there was even an editorial carried by Chinese state-run media warning that China might be forced to launch its own military strikes on North Korea if it comes down to the "bottom line" of preserving stability and security in the region. (Source: Finian Cunningham, Would China Strike North Korea?)

So is it going to be China against North Korea or China versus the US? Just asking.

And the tension among the key players in this war game was intensified in the exchange of words at the UN Security Council meeting wherein China always wanted to resolve the NoKor issue about nuclear missile production and testing through dialogue between US and NoKor thus stopping the US and South Korea military exercises near the Korean Peninsula in the process to ease the tension further. The use of force is not necessary when they can solve the matter through a dialogue.
As reported by Reuters that US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was dismayed by Wang Yi’s tough words is confirmed by his response – “We will not negotiate our way back to the negotiating table with North Korea, we will not reward their violations of past resolutions, we will not reward their bad behavior with talks.”

Wang Yi however received strong support from his Russian ally, with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov reported by Reuters to have addressed the UN Security Council as follows – “Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov cautioned on Friday that the use of force would be “completely unacceptable.”

“The combative rhetoric coupled with reckless muscle-flexing has led to a situation where the whole world seriously is now wondering whether there’s going to be a war or not,” he told the council. “One ill thought out or misinterpreted step could lead to the most frightening and lamentable consequences.”

Gatilov said North Korea felt threatened by regular joint U.S. and South Korean military exercises and the deployment of a U.S. aircraft carrier group to waters off the Korean peninsula.
Both China and Russia also repeated their opposition to the deployment of a U.S. anti-missile system in South Korea. Gatilov described it as a “destabilizing effort,” while Wang said it damaged trust among the parties on the North Korea issue.

These arguments between Tillerson, Wang Yi and Gatilov in the UN Security Council, and the toughly worded commentary in the People’s Daily, illustrate the folly of the confrontational course the Trump administration has followed towards North Korea over the last few weeks.

Instead of isolating North Korea from China, and getting China to impose tougher sanctions on North Korea, China – exactly as I predicted – is blaming the US as much as North Korea for creating the crisis, and is not only resisting US demands for further sanctions, but is actually increasing its support for North Korea.” (Source: Alexander Mercouris Editor-in-Chief at The Duran newsletter online)
The North Korea dilemma for the UN and the rest of the world is still in the process of who will be strong enough to hold its reign so as not to start a stronger provocation that may lead us all to another world war.

Although there was an analysis in the past that the next global war will start in the Korean Peninsula aggravated by alliances of the major world powers, methinks that as long as cooler heads treat the situation with utmost diplomacy and reason, humanity can still enjoy a peaceful world... for the meantime.

But many in the know are worried about the global military industrial complex top secret agenda of the war cycle. I was told that "if the program is on, sometimes you can delay it but nobody can stop it."

God forbid!

Duterte's Art of War by Erick San Juan

Duterte's Art of War by Erick San Juan

In October of last year President Duterte told the Americans that there will no longer be any joint military exercises with them. The cancellation of several joint military exercises with the US, namely the US-Philippine Amphibious Landing Exercise (Phiblex) and Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training Exercise (Carat) and stopping the US from using Philippine ports for freedom of navigation operations and refusal to allow the US to develop the strategic Bautista Airbase on the island province of Palawan are just among the factors that China are not comfortable with.

Even the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague was not tackled by the present leadership when they went to China. Also the decision that our fishermen can fish in the waters inside our economic zone/territorial waters is in the hands of China’s leadership, and several other conditions that are favorable to China. So, Mr. President is this what you call ‘independent foreign policy’?

And the most recent one when our top defense officials visited our fellow Filipinos in the Kalayaan island group or Spratly, China was quick in saying that we have to ask for permission first from them or we will face the consequences.

I hope that PRRD's 'One step forward, two steps backward' strategy will prosper.

As what was cited in detail by Prof. Richard Javad Heydarian in his latest article Duterte's 'China honeymoon comes to a close – “Weeks earlier, Beijing was openly vexed when Duterte announced with bravado that he will visit and plant the Philippine flag in the hotly-disputed Thitu Island (Pag-asa to Filipinos), the second largest naturally-formed land feature in the Spratlys. The island, which hosts an airstrip and civilian and military populations, has been under Manila’s administration since the 1970s. He also ordered troops to occupy and protect Philippine-claimed land features in the area.
Duterte later cancelled his plan to visit the features, in a convoluted nod towards Beijing’s displeasure. “China sent word, ‘Please do not do that,’ Well, in the meantime, just do not go there. Please?'”

Duterte said in explaining his decision to walk back his decision. “So, because of our friendship with China, and because we value your friendship, I will not go there to raise the Philippine flag. Maybe I’ll send my son.”

Soon thereafter Duterte gave the go-ahead to defense minister Delfin Lorenzana and armed forces chief of staff Eduardo Año to visit the disputed land feature, which China also considers part of its national territory under its wide-reaching nine-dash map. It was the first time in years that top Filipino defense officials traveled to the features. Lorenzana later described the trip as routine.”

“We hope that the Philippine side could cherish the hard-won sound momentum of development [in] bilateral relations [we] are experiencing,” said Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang in response to last week’s visit by top Filipino defense officials to disputed Spratly island features. “[China is] gravely concerned about and dissatisfied with this, [and] has lodged representations with the Philippine side.”

The ministry also cautioned Manila to “faithfully follow the consensus” reached between the two national leaders in October last year.

Sec. Ernesto Abella, Duterte’s spokesman, fired back by saying that the trip was “part of efforts to improve the safety, welfare, [and] livelihood of Filipinos residing and living in the municipality of Kalayaan,” using the Philippines’ preferred word for the Spratlys.

In response to reports that a nearby Chinese military detachment at Subi Reef tried to drive away the plane that carried Filipino defense officials, including Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, the president’s office said “The Philippines has long been undertaking customary and routine maritime patrol and overflight in the West Philippine Sea,” and that they “are lawful activities under international law.”

With the budget of 1.6 billion pesos for the refurbishment and upgrade of Filipino facilities in the Spratlys, is a clear sign that Duterte administration is seriously saying to China that we will never just give up our territories because of ‘friendship’ and ‘economics’.

The president should be wary in dealing with big nations like China, US and Russia. He has to calculate his statements which could be music to the ears of some leaders or noise to few that cannot forget.

The Program is On: It's War by Erick San Juan

The Program is On: It's War by Erick San Juan

Through the years in all my writings and radio broadcasts I closely monitored China’s moves either by soft or hard power, influencing countries like ours due to our alliance with the US. Even before the advent of the internet, I have written the imminent war betwen US – China and if that happens all their allies could be dragged into a global war just like in our case. Like what I always say as a reminder that when the program is on, it can be delayed but it will push through just like this war. Unfortunately, the drums of war is getting louder this time and the fear of many is just one button away from a nuclear war.

This is the reason why I never get tired reminding our government and the past administrations that China’s goal of making Luzon their province will soon happen if we allow it. I am with former National Security Adviser Roilo Golez in his detailed article – “The Philippines faces a very serious security challenge in two fronts and how it plays out could critically affect the balance of power in the Asia Pacific Region and beyond” referring to the Scarborough Shoal and Benham Rise.
"Golez said of the Chinese activities: “I do not believe the survey ship conducted harmless scientific research contrary to what the Chinese officially announced. I believe it conducted what it is capable of doing to promote China’s interest and prejudice Philippine interest.”

A former Navy captain, Golez said China had two objectives:

“(1) Oceanographic survey – to determine the characteristics of the undersea, study the thermocline patterns; data on thermoclines are very important for identifying possible submarine hiding areas, which are of critical importance in future submarine warfare in China’s so-called First and Second Island Defense Chains;

“(2) Hydrographic seismic survey – to study what could be under the seabed, to determine through sound reflection and refraction possible oil and gas. Considering the vastness of Benham Rise, the likelihood of such deposits is very strong, many times larger than at Malampaya (westside, in Palawan).”

I believe China is interested in Benham Rise because of two strategic reasons:

Oceanographic data for use in future attack and ballistic submarine deployment.

Data on strategic natural resources like: fish (China’s food supply is getting very critical) and energy (oil, gas, methane etc. they need alternate supplies to support their rapid industrialization and help ease their Malacca dilemma wherein around 80% of their oil supply can be interdicted or blockaded in the Malacca Strait or even the Indian Ocean)

China’s long range plans for sure include soft targets they can seize using hard power or using soft power and skillful diplomacy and alliance building to secure their geopolitical objectives and strategic food and energy resources.

I submit that Benham Rise is one of them. It's a big, strategic objective.

A master of diplomacy like China would certainly aspire to make the Philippines a part of its orbit in the same manner that it is building alliances in the Indian Ocean, far Africa and South America using their soft power.

Why would the Philippines and Benham Rise be of strategic interest to China?

It’s because of the geo-strategic concept of The First Island Chain and The Second Island Chain.”
In China’s goal of securing these two island chains, the Philippines is in the middle and the only way to achieve their goal is to annex our country just like their plan with Taiwan.

Benham Rise as I wrote before could be the next Pearl Harbor as we see the confluence of events and the present leadership must be very wary in dealing with China and not believe China hook, line and sinker.

China lied many times before regarding the status of the contested area in the South China Sea, all for civilian use but now it’s a military fortress. And God forbid that they will do that again in Benham Rise. Be very wary Mr. President.