Wednesday, April 15, 2015


By REY O. ARCILLA  on APRIL 14, 2015

(Has the US now shed its neutral stance on the SCS/WPS dispute?)
The Defense Department spokesman said China’s massive reclamation activities in the disputed Spratly Islands in the West Philippine Sea that are within our Exclusive Economic Zone are of “grave concern and a great threat to our national security”.

“If not immediately stopped and dismantled, they will cause a major shift in   regional peace and security… will have impact on multiple dimensions of national security today and in the long term,” he said.

“Will have impact on multiple dimensions of national security today and in the long term”…  that’s pretty serious.

So what is the government going to do now?  File another protest that China will only throw to the wastebasket?  Surely, there must be a better way of registering our protest. 

How about the Vietnamese way?

It will be recalled that last year, China placed an oil rig in an area in the South China Sea (SCS) that is within Vietnam’s Exclusive Economic Zone.  Vietnam sent two or three fishing boats to the area to protest the Chinese intrusion.  The Chinese started ramming the Vietnamese boats with their coast guard ships and also bombarding them with water canons.  The Vietnamese stood their ground. 

Eventually, the Chinese left with their oil rig.  Later, China sent a high ranking foreign ministry official to Hanoi for talks.  Still later, the two countries held talks in Beijing. 

The Chinese have not intruded into Vietnamese-claimed areas in the SCS since.  Nor have they intruded in areas claimed by Brunei, Malaysia or Taiwan.  Doesn’t that say a lot about the way we have been pursuing our claim? 

Instead of discouraging China from occupying territories in the disputed areas, our protest filed with the UNCLOS International Tribunal and the rather egregious manner with which we hurriedly left Bajo de Masinloc a couple of years ago merely encouraged her to occupy more reefs where she now undertakes reclamation work to establish military garrisons and fortifications, even airstrips.

Clearly, we have to re-think our strategy and approach to the issue, given the fact that China is not disposed to abiding by international norms and rules on the issue. 

And who will stop her from doing what she is and has been doing?  The US?  The alleged growing support we are getting from the “international community”?  Dream on.

The DFA says it will continue to work with Asean for the full implementation of the 2002 Asean-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and the adoption of a binding Code of Conduct in the disputed areas.  Well, it has been tried numerous times in the past and it didn’t work.

I have said it before and I’ll say it again… it ain’t gonna happen… unless  the pro-Chinese members in the Association, namely, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar change their minds.  The Association, unfortunately, decides by consensus.  The lukewarm attitude or, shall we say, cautious approach or even doublespeak of the other Asean members towards any move that they perceive might jeopardize their relations with China is an aspect that Noynoy and Del Rosario should also not overlook.
Back to the Vietnamese way of dealing with the issue… there is, of course, the likelihood that China will ram the coast guard vessels and unarmed fishing boats we send to the reclamation areas and possibly killing some of the crew members, but that is a risk we have to take, a risk that any nation worth its name must take.  Our gallant men and women in uniform have, in fact, time and again said they are ready to make the supreme sacrifice to protect the country’s sovereignty and national interest.

Come to think of it, with the most recent assurance of support given by President Barack Hussain Obama of the most powerful state in the world to help us in time of need, why should we worry?

Obama said that “just because the Philippines or Vietnam are not as large as China doesn’t mean that they can just be elbowed aside”.

Does this mean, the US has now shed its neutral stance on the SCS/WPS dispute?  If so, does it mean she will now take the necessary steps to stop China from doing what she is doing?

If not, as one wise pundit once said, “words without swords are but words”. 

More to the point, can we now rely on the US to help us in case China becomes reckless and destroy the vessels we send to the Spratlys? 

Let’s ask the US!  Make her put her money where her mouth is!

In the meantime, the only statement that has so far emanated from the government on this issue that made sense was the one by deputy presidential spokesman Abigail Valte.

Valte said it would be up to the Department of National Defense and the Armed Forces of the Philippines to study proposals for increased presence of US and Philippine troops in the West Philippine Sea to protect the country’s sovereignty.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said that the involvement of US forces in Oplan Exodus that led to the massacre of the 44SAF commandos by the MILF/BIFF rebels last January 25 did not violate the Constitution or any law.

According to her, what would be unconstitutional are the establishment of foreign military bases without concurrence of the Senate, presence of nuclear weapons within the country’s territory and intervention by foreign governments in the affairs of the state.

People should remember De Lima said this when the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the US comes under the scrutiny of the Senate and the Supreme Court.  Sometimes the fish is really caught by its mouth.

Ah, but President Noynoy Aquino’s fellow Amboys in government, especially his Super Amboy aka Giant Smiley of a foreign secretary Albert del Rosario, as well as the cockeyed US lapdogs in the private sector and the media, will say that EDCA does not call for the putting up of military bases in the country.  They will also say that the increased number of US troops in the country will be on a rotational basis.

Oh yeah?  When foreign troops are based in any country, that makes the area where they are based a foreign military base, no matter how you look at it.  Maski na pagbali-baligtarin mo pa ‘yan!

Rotational basis?  US troops, regardless of the number, are assigned abroad for a fixed number of years that may be extended if they so request.

Nuclear weapons?  Who can guarantee that the US pre-positioned military equipment and armaments in the country as stipulated in EDCA will not include weapons of mass destruction?  The Americans?  Yeah, right!

So there.  Any question?

The MILF peace panel head, what’s-his-name, said he will only reveal his true identity when the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is passed by Congress.  The nerve!

In defense of what’s-his-name, Malacanang said the government has always known the true names of the MILF negotiators except, it appears, peace adviser Teresita Deles who admitted it was only during the House hearing on the Mamasapano Massacre when she found out that what’s-his-name is not his real name.

Here, I am reminded of what’s-his-name’s earlier statement that “there will be war” if the BBL is not passed, echoed by one of his masters in Kuala Lumpur, Defense Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein.

Philippine peace panel head Miriam Ferrer who sound like an MILF spokesperson also said there will be a “bloody war” if the BBL is not passed.  Of course, she was merely toeing the line of Noynoy who said “we will be counting body bags” if the BBL fails to hurdle Congress.

This cavalier and threatening attitude of the MILF rebels, not without help from the government, is what grates many Filipinos.
Although there has not been a formal announcement of his reported appointment as head of the Civil Service Commission, I’d like to congratulate my friend Sonny Coloma, Jr. just the same and wish him all the best in his new job. 

Sonny has done an excellent job as chief presidential spokesman.  I only wish he hadn’t made that statement that the dramatic decline in Noynoy’s satisfaction rating is mostly “media related”.

Sorry to say but, in my view, that was the only stupid statement ever made by Sonny as Palace spokesman.
The Reminders (for Noynoy) portion of this column will be published next week.

Today is the 349th day of the eighth year of Jonas Burgos’ disappearance.

I dread to think of how many more years it will take before Jonas’ disappearance is finally resolved.  It is beginning to look like it will not be during Noynoy’s daang matuwid watch.

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