Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Epicenter of War by Erick San Juan

Epicenter of War by Erick San Juan

So many issues are now being thrown at the present administration’s ability to handle matters of great concern specifically of drugs and corruption. Campaign promises that has to be curtailed in order to achieve a better life to every Filipino. Are these just lip service after one year in office and there seems to be no major accomplishment?

Yes, these two problems are deeply rooted to the core of the society’s socio-political life. Admittedly, past administrations seemed oblivious that such problems existed and the current leadership is painstakingly trying very hard to diminish the effects of such menace.

The entry of huge amount of shabu at the Bureau of Customs vis-Ă -vis the age-old corruption in the Bureau seems to disregard the marching order of Pres. Rodrigo Duterte to clean this country of drugs and corruption. Accepting the fact that the BOC needs a total overhaul right at its roots to clean the bureau of the mafia within to avoid illegal shipments of contraband.  But what about the problem emanating from without?

Pres. Duterte should have realized that transnational shipment of illegal drugs is much harder to curtail than the ones circulating in the country through corrupt politicians and scalawags in uniform. The mere fact that most oppositions (sometimes even pro-PRRD) have been criticizing the present leadership on its soft dealing with China when it comes to the illegal entry of illegal drugs. Obviously most key personalities involved in the illegal trade are Chinese. And so much for all the “palusot” from the Chinese customs on how on earth that hundreds of kilos of smuggled shabu are coming in our ports without their knowledge. Is the Chinese leadership too lax in solving their own drug problem that they also want to export these illegal drugs to us in their favor, economically?

That was my question i asked last saturday at the meeting of Philippine Council for Foreign Relations at Romulo's Restaurant in Bel Air, Makati City from one of the mainland VIP's who attended our meeting as speaker for the China's Council for Foreign Relations. I reiterated to the CCFR group that I know that China's custom is very strict especially with illegal drugs but how come that billions of pesos worth of shabu passes and cleared thru their port and out of the blue, when it entered the Philippine port and delivered, their customs personnel tipped off our customs bureau which led to a bungled operation and non-coordination with our own anti-illegal drugs unit, the PDEA. The rest was history that pressured Commissioner Nick Faeldon to resign.

The Duterte administration should be wary because problems emanating from illegal drugs are going overboard and oppositions are finding ways to use these to destroy and humiliate him. From EJK and human rights violations to police brutality and corruption among “friends” dealing with illegal drugs are easy target to justify a call for a regime change. Even PRD's son is now being dragged into the fray.

Another issue of grave importance is our sovereign rights to our territories that is being challenged again by the Chinese government. The one exposed by Congressman Gary Alejano on the Pag-asa islands.

News reports came out that last week, a Philippine lawmaker, Congressman Gary Alejano, released images showing Chinese coast guard, naval, and civilian vessels within a stone’s throw of Pag-asa, or Thitu Island — a significant Philippine possession in the disputed Spratly group of islands. Pag-asa, which is administered as part of Kalayaan municipality, an archipelagic cluster in the South China Sea.

Shortly after their release, Alejano’s allegations regarding the presence of Chinese vessels were independently verified by Gregory Poling of the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI). AMTI’s perusal of satellite imagery acquired on August 13 showed multiple Chinese vessels in the area, including “nine Chinese fishing ships and two naval/law enforcement vessels.” A Philippine fishing boat was also docked at a nearby unoccupied sandbar.

The incident remains highly murky, with neither Chinese authorities nor the Philippine government having officially commented on the claims levied by Alejano. Philippine Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio described the events underway near Pag-asa as an “invasion of Philippine territory” on Saturday, calling on Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Cayetano and President Rodrigo Duterte to step in.

One of the features under question in the area is the Sandy Cay. Carpio noted that Sandy Cay, an unoccupied sand bar, “is a Philippine land territory that is being seized (to put it mildly), or being invaded (to put it frankly), by China.” (Sandy Cay should not be conflated with the Vietnam-occupied Sand Cay, another feature in the Spratly group.)

Aside from the relatively short list of facts concerning current events — that there are Chinese vessels near Pag-asa Island and both the Philippine and Chinese governments are rather silent about the whole affair — there is little else to be said conclusively at this point. Regardless, whatever is happening, there appears to be a potentially significant change to the status quo in the South China Sea in 2017. We won the arbitration case at the International Court at the Hague but now China is grabbing our islands with consent in the process.

The context of the ongoing Chinese naval and coast guard activity is crucial. First, the Philippines, along with nine other Association of Southeast Asian Nations member states, has just concluded a draft framework on a Code of Conduct for the South China Sea.

Second, it has been less than a year since Duterte visited Beijing, concluding a range of agreements and broadly lowering the geopolitical tensions between Manila and Beijing in the South China Sea — tensions that appeared to have reached their apotheosis last year as a Hague-based arbitral tribunal ruled almost completely in the Philippines’ favor in a major case concerning maritime entitlements and other issues in the Spratly group.

Beyond the context and the facts, however, analysts are left mostly to speculate about possible Chinese intentions and the factors governing the Philippine government’s remarkable silence about an unusually broad Chinese presence near Pag-asa.

 Instead, Duterte has said that the Chinese are there to “patrol” since “we are friends.”

“China assured me that they will not build anything there. I called the Ambassador, I said, when I read – (They said) ‘We will assure you that we are not building anywhere there,'” the Philippine president added. The assurances were reportedly delivered by Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua and the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

Duterte’s remarks on Monday raised more questions than answer. If there was an existing understanding, why did neither the foreign secretary nor the minister of defense issue clarifications early last week? Second, did Duterte order Philippine Navy vessels to stand down from the area and allow the Chinese Coast Guard and People’s Liberation Army-Navy access to the waters near Pag-asa and Thitu Island? Finally, how does the president explain reports of Philippine fishing vessels being denied access to the waters if these are indeed friendly patrols?

Given the legal stakes involving Sandy Cay highlighted above, the Duterte government’s nonchalance about ongoing Chinese activities at Pag-asa remains unconvincing. Perhaps the Philippine government will soon offer a more compelling rationale for the ongoing activities, before it’s too late. (Source: Ankit Panda, August 22, 2017)

I hope that Pres. Duterte will soon realize that he's being perceived by critics as a 'China doll' willing to be a governor-general of Philippine Islands, Province of China. As the saying goes, 'Only fools don't change their mind.'  PRD was believed to be a socialist bit his change of heart with the left could also happen despite China's ongoing salamization of our country. He has to act fast before we become the epicenter of a looming war between the US and China.

Leave a living legacy Mr, President!

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