Political Science sophomore Billy Chang rose from his seat while putting on his back pack and thanking me for the hour-long tête-à-tête we had shared. The young Chinese national strode out of the burger restaurant to catch his class, happily looking forward to sharing with his teacher and classmates some ideas he had just acquired. I had of course made him promise not to identify me as the source of those ideas, and to describe them as mere opinions from a lawyer. Hereunder is a discussion of those opinions.
I find it a bit unfortunate, though not unexpected, that Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago has assailed the EDCA (Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement) as having been forged in “bad faith” by and between US Pres. Barack Obama and PH Pres. BS Aquino lll. Well, make no mistake about this: The lady who is the Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is among the sharpest lawyers in the upper chamber, but she’s still human, given as she is to AGD (attention getting device) antics at moments least expected. With all due respect, I differ from her opinion for the following reasons.
1) The two EDCA signatories, National Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and US Ambassador Philip Goldberg, were no ornery “subalterns”, or subordinates who were unclothed with authority as suggested by MDS, but “alter egos” (other selves) who had been authorized by their respective presidents to act on the document in their behalf;
2) A sensitive examination of the two presidents’ demeanor, their words and manner of speaking and body language, particularly Obama’s, demonstrates a level of diplomacy that is associated with good faith; and
3) In the absence of any palpable indicia of bad faith — and there appears to be none in the premises — the universal principle of “presumption of good faith” shall prevail.
EDCA is an agreement that partakes of the nature of a treaty and, as such, should have been brought to the senate for approval, consistent with the upper house’s constitutional role in treaty making. It isn’t too late, and there should be no problem in that regard because a comfortable majority of the senators are P-Noy’s allies. Until then, EDCA remains open to question before the Supreme Court, although I believe the treaty will ultimately hold sway under its scrutiny.
And as for other EDCA-related issues that have loomed as grounds for attacking the agreement as unconstitutional, the high tribunal will hopefully see those anti-EDCA petitions as exercises in futility, given our people’s widespread pro-American culture and an exigent imperative for a counterbalance against saber-rattling China. The Court may well take judicial notice of our people’s ingrained stars-and-stripes second nature, and recognize it as its wellspring of vitality and direction in the discharge of its office. After all, the judiciary is ordained to serve, like the rest of government, the interests of its creator: the sovereign citizens.
With respect to those Maoists and other Communist-leaning militants who made a lot of infernal racket during Obama’s two-day-one-night state visit, my comment on Billy’s worry is: these Reds mouth nationalism and patriotism, but power is all they want. There is no way they can win the hearts and minds of nearly a hundred million compatriots who oppose them. Let us recall that when Martial Law enforcers hunted them down, many fled the country for Uncle Sam’s protection. During Obama’s state visit, they burned effigies of Uncle Sam. In fact, they have never denounced China’s bullying tactics!! AGD syndrome?!
Incidentally, many seriously question the quality of the United States’ commitment to defend the Philippines under the terms of the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty, as modified by EDCA. In this respect, I hold the view that because at that time we had not yet officially defined our West Philippine Sea territory, much less declared an adverse claim to it against the whole world, the “vagueness” of Obama’s commitment to lend us military support in case of external aggression is understandable.
However, this vagueness shouldn’t discourage us from believing that the black US President, whose great rhetoric twice brought him to the White House, used the same verbal finesse not to hoodwink us but to pledge — in the most diplomatic manner possible — America’s willingness to shed her blood in defense of her Filipino brothers in times of war.
Let Mr. Barack Obama’s ironclad pledge continue to peal in the air, in which are couched his delicate reassurances — “…Our goal is not to conquer China; our goal is not to contain China…(but) to make sure that international rules and norms are respected, and that includes in the area of maritime disputes. We don’t go around sending ships and threatening folks.”
If “actions speak louder than words”, diplomacy may again prove more forceful than bullets.
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Nothing much can be expected from US President Barack Obama in his April 28-29 official visit in Manila.While he is likely to reassure the Philippines of Americans’ commitment to defend the Philippines in its raging territorial dispute with China, it will not make a difference, given how the US has been badly treating its Asia-Pacific ally over the past decades.
Since both countries forged their so-called Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) in 1951, the US hardly cared about the poor state of the Philippines’ military capability.
Calls by Manila for increase in American military aid usually fell on deaf ears among policy makers in Washington. Whatever the Americans gave were nothing more than second-hand hardware – either of World War II vintage or their leftovers in the Vietnam war era.
Now that the geo-political situation has vastly changed, it’s time for both strategic allies to redraw their treaty or risk overtaken by new and bold challenges.
From what was once dubbed the “sleeping giant,” China has suddenly awaken, emerging as the biggest threat to the Philippines’ security interests as both have interlocking claims to the oil-rich Spratlys islands.
With superior naval assets patrolling the disputed chain of islands, China has bullied the Philippines, long perceived as militarily weak.
In the face of China’s aggressiveness in asserting its sovereign claims to the Sprawls, also referred to as the west Philippine sea, Manila in not a few times wanted to invoke the MDT which many politicians label as a mere paper tiger.
But thanks to cooler heads, the MDT remains as a last resort mechanism to avoid what’s likely to be a bigger problem – war.
Hopefully, Obama will use his two-day visit to assess the Philippines’ defense needs, especially in light that the two countries will enter into a new security alliance under the banner of the so-called enhanced defense security agreement.
An offshoot of months of hard bargaining, Filipino negotiators were hard put as they had to reckon with the Constitutional ban on the presence of foreign bases on Philippine soil.
In the end, they had to compromise as Manila agreed to allow US forces the use of Philippines-builtmilitary installations.
For both countries, it’s a win-win situation as they usher in a paradigm shift in their strategic ties, given China’s surging aggression in the hotly contested Spratlys.For the US, Manila’s nod to a new pact gives the Americans the leeway needed as they reposition their defense forces from theMiddle East to Asia.
Under Barack’s pivot policy, the Philippines plays a crucial role because of its strategic location in keeping peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.
But more than the much-needed military materiel, the Philippines badly requires America’s political succor as its row with China has assumed complex dimensions.Neither has China eased up in its flexing its military muscle in the high seas nor has it showed signs of flexibility in its diplomatic rapport with the Philippines.
As the world’s policeman, the US is in the best position to cool the tensions between Manila and Beijing for the sake of regional peace and stability.
It is said that while the passing away of a person leaves a void that no one can fill, and a heartache no one can heal – it is love however that leaves a memory no one can steal.
Atty. Susan Dumlao-Vargas popularly known as Ching Vargas, former Deputy Executive Secretary of Administration and Finance, Corazon Aquino, Fidel Ramos and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, passed away on March 29, 2014 at 6:45 p.m. after battling the Big C for almost two years, a battle she fought courageously that she hoped she would win – but was not afraid to lose either – as she knew that her journey to the after-life would lead to her blissful meeting with her Creator who gave her life.
Ching Vargas left behind four finely-molded children and loved ones, good-looking Vanesa or Bunny, the eldest, who succeeds her as the Madre de familia of the Vargas family, Allan Unlayao , Bunny’s husband, and their kids, Vincent, Victoria, Yong and Vittorio; the second daughter, pretty and charming Veronica or Caron, whose lovely features and winsome demeanor take from her mom, Caron’s husband Erick Cruz, and their children, Camille and Cali. Ching’s third child is Alfred or Alfie, the handsome movie actor and now Congressman of the 5th District of Quezon City, his with beautiful Yasmine or “Yash” Espiritu, and their three (3) daughters, Alexandra, Ching-Ching and Aryana, and Ching’s last son, debonair businessman, Patrick Michael or PM – his fiancée, statuesque Christine or Krissy.
Ching’s husband Alfredo Vargas, Jr., who hailed from Sta. Maria, Bulacan predeceased Ching three years ago.
The endless stream of people from a cross-section of our society that trooped to the Sta. Maria Della Strada Parish in Katipunan Avenue, Quezon City to view Ching’s remains, and to condole with her loved ones during the wake, as well as in the last funeral rites at the Our Lady of Pentecost Parish in Xavierville, Quezon City, gave a glimpse of how Ching Vargas was viewed with love, respect and admiration by these who paid homage to her on her last days on earth.
Ching Vargas was a classic beauty and brains individual. She graduated Valedictorian in her high school class at the San Nicolas College in Surigao City, where she grew up like every typical probinsiyana lass fond of movie actors and actresses, and even collected pictures of them, dutifully and fondly brought to her by her sister, Miren Dumlao-Santos, a Ph.D in molecular biology. She was a candidate for Binibining Pilipinas in the late sixties.
Her 1972 classmates, First Gentleman Mike Arroyo, former Ombudsman Mercy Gutierrez, Atty. Teddy Cruz, among others from the Ateneo Law School, from where she finished her Bachelor of Laws degree, recall that Ching was the classmate with beautiful face that had a captivating smile, who was a bubbly and kind student who had a talent for singing, guitar-playing and dancing. It is no wonder that daughters Bunny and Caron had exceptional singing voices, who together with Ching’s grandchildren, who apparently got the same genes, gave an excellent performance at her wake.
Ching Vargas had also a talent for oil painting as evidenced by four (4) of her oil paintings of various beautiful flowers. Ching’s law classmates, who called themselves Barangay ’72, also dished out a song for their dear departed friend. Basil Valdez, the singing sensation of the seventies and eighties also did live renditions of beautifully crafted songs that contributed to the solemnity of the occasion, flooding back memories with beautiful and unforgettable moments with the person lying in state.
Likewise, the famed violinist John Lesaca played the favorite songs of Ching. Speakers after speakers at the necrological rites eulogized Ching, from her dorm-mate at the UP Diliman, Carmen Roa-Africa, her law classmates, former First Gentleman Mike Arroyo, former Ombudsman Mercy Gutierrez, Atty. Teddy Cruz. Even retired Supreme Court Justice Flerida Ruth-Romero, who was incidentally my law professor in the UP College of Law, paid tribute to her and so with many others as well as this writer.
They were all one in saying that Ching Vargas was the epitome of grace, kindness, competence, honesty, caring and thoughtfulness. Her thoughtfulness as a friend is legendary. She always remember to greet her friends on their birthdays, on Father’s Day, on Mother’s Day, in every special occasions – gifting them with all kinds of souvenirs that she brought from her travels abroad.
Ching Vargas was a loving person, a principled wife, a caring mother, a doting grandmother, a very thoughtful friend. Ching Vargas not only was a public servant, par excellence – but one with solid rock integrity, unsullied and unchallenged. In sum, Ching Vargas was a walking testament of a caring, generous, and compassionate human being. She was the quintessential mother, friend and public servant – that is to say, she is the perfect example of a class or quality.
I met Ching in the UP College of Law when she was freshman in the Ateneo Law School though a mutual friend, Freddie Alday, who is also a lawyer. Freddie Alday describes Ching as an “extra-ordinary person” and “super kind”, who accommodated every referral he made for her assistance, regardless of their status in life or political beliefs.
Ching Vargas touched and moved many lives. Her wholesome persona, her humble ways, her accommodating demeanor, and her limitless extension of her helping hand to those who sought her assistance won her the hearts of those who had the golden chance to cross her path – and they were legions – which was apparent from the continuous flow of people who went to her wake from day 1, to pay their last respects and say their prayers for her.
She spoke highly and proudly of her children, Bunny, Caron, Alfred or Alfie, and PM whom she showered with undying love, endless tenderness and unyielding devotion as a single parent for twenty (20) years. That she molded her children to her admirable image is quiet evident by the boundless charming traits they have exhibited to those who came to share in their grief.
Ching Vargas reared her children under circumstances not exactly comfortable and ideal, yet her innate goodness and fierce mother instinct moved her to raise them into fine individuals. That she deserves admiration from those who look for a role model of a mother, in unquestionable.
In her death bed, Ching Vargas asked her children to strictly live by the highest standard of ethics, of which she herself lived, of which qualities are apprehended to her name: integrity, competence, compassion and honesty.
On July 16, 2013, 10:07 a.m., apparently hearing from the news that I have been engaged by Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte to handle the case of Davao policemen charged of murdering the kidnappers of a Chinese businesswoman while she was in captivity, I received the following message from Ching:
“Good evening Sal! Hurrah, you are the Davao cops’ lawyer. My heart bleeds for the police. Warms regards to you and Mayor Duterte. Hope he remembers me.”
Her compassion for the policemen despite adverse public perception on men on uniform could not be hidden.
Of course, the popular and controversial Mayor Rodrigo Duterte of Davao City remembers Ching Vargas. Despite Mayor Duterte’s hectic and back-breaking schedule, coming from Kuala Lumpur, as an official guest of the Department of Tourism of Malaysia, he went to pay his last respects to her personal friend at her wake on April 2, 2014, at about 2:00 p.m. before he flew back to Davao.
Merci Gutierrez, the former Ombudsman, one of her closest and dearest friends, she is a wedding Godmother to Caron, while Ching was the baptism Godmother of Mercy’s daughter, lawyer Marge Gutierrez, Ching, and I had dined together at a fine dining place in Ortigas Center sometime before she fell ill – and in our exchange of text messages – we planned to have a three-some dinner as soon as Ching got well. Of course, we had hoped she would lick the big C – but as faith would have it, we finally have that dinner at the wake on April 2, 2014 – with Ching in our midst but in the spiritual plane.
Farewell our dearest friend Ching Vargas, we will miss your abundant charming ways, your unparalleled thoughtfulness, your beautiful face and endearing smile.
Your children will miss your boundless love, your everlasting caring, and your unending tenderness – but the sweet memories you left behind shall be in our hearts and minds forever – and as we look up above the galaxy of stars – we will remember you as we see the brightest of stars – because among the mortals that walked amongst us – you were the brightest, the kindest and the most loving. We love you Ching Vargas.
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In a statement released by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP),the insurgent group condemns both the US and Chinese governments for “acting like bullies in their effort to fortify their military foothold in the South China Sea to the detriment of the Filipino people’s sovereignty claims over the islands and land formations and territorial waters within the country’s 200-mile exclusive economic zone.”
The CPP denounced both the Chinese and US governments for carrying out maneuvers and counter-maneuvers last March 29, while a Philippine boat delivered supplies to the Philippine outpost ship BRP Sierra Madre, stationed at the Ayungin Shoal since 1999. News reports indicate that the Chinese Coast Guard attempted to prevent the Philippine supply boat from reaching the Ayungin shoal.The group also criticized the US military for reportedly carrying out fly-bys to project and assert its power and control of the area.
The CPP further denounced the Aquino regime for playing to the US hegemonist plan to establish its permanent presence in the South China Sea by invoking US military support, seeking increased US military financing and protection. The group says that the fly-by of US jets over the Ayungin shoals last March 29 was carried out with the permission of the Philippine armed forces, although AFP officials feigned ignorance. Malacañang also pretended to be unaware of the US fly-bys when it declared that the Philippine supply boat just “somehow managed” to reach the outpost ship despite the presence of the Chinese Coast Guard ship.
The CPP claims that it has long supported the demand of the Filipino people to assert Philippine sovereignty over the small islands and land formations in the South China Sea within the country’s 200-mile economic zone. It also asserted that the group has long called for a peaceful resolution of the conflicts through diplomatic negotiations and international arbitration.
“The US imperialists have long been the biggest violators of Philippine sovereignty,” the group insists in their public statement. They said that the United States’ historical record of aggression and colonization of the Philippines is “incomparable to that of China, which has never deployed its military in the Philippines, prior to sailing its coast guard boats in Philippine territorial waters.”
The CPP notes, “The US has further entrenched itself in the Philippines. It has further strengthened its foothold by maintaining a permanent military presence in the Philippines.”
The CPP contends that further strengthening the US’ military foothold in the Philippines does not help the Philippine cause to advance sovereign claims over the South China Sea islands, formations and territorial waters. Heightening US military presence, according to them, counters the Philippines’ efforts to strengthen its sovereignty claims as it puts the Philippines under the dominance of the US military.
The group further adds, “In asserting Philippine claims while invoking US military support, the Aquino regime is actually seeking to become a protectorate of the US government, subjecting the entire country, including the international trade routes in the South China Sea, to US control. To be ‘protected’ by a bigger bully who claims to be a friend to fend off another bully is to forever be under the sway of that bigger bully.”
MANILA– The Philippines’ biggest port operator has begun constructing a container terminal at the Port of Buenaventura in Colombia to cash in on that country’s burgeoning trade and logistics demand.
Estimated to cost US$180 million, the terminal is a joint project of the Manila-listed International Container Terminal Service, Inc. (ICTSI) and the Port of Singapore Authority (PSA).
Through their subsidiaries, the ICTSI and PSA recently signed an agreement to jointly develop, construct and operate a terminal and ancillary facilities in Aguadulce, Buenaventura, Colombia.
Based in Manila, ICTSI is involved in the operations and development of 27 marine terminals and port projects in 19 countries worldwide.
PSA is one of the leading global port groups with port projects across Asia, Europe and the Americas and flagship operations in Singapore.
The agreement involves PSA’s investment, through unit PSA International Pte. Ltd., in Sociedad Puerto Industrial Aguadulce S.A. (SPIA), an indirect subsidiary of ICTSI.
SPIA holds a 30-year concession for the Aguadulce Port Project granted by the Agencia Nacional de Infraestructura of Colombia. It also owns 225 hectares of land in Aguadulce.
Under the terms of the agreement, ICTSI’s wholly-owned subsidiaries Kinston Enterprises Corporation and Future Water S.A. agreed to the purchase by PSA Colombia Pacific Pte. Ltd., a wholly-owned subsidiary of PSA, of SPIA shares representing 45.64 percent of SPIA’s issued and outstanding share capital.
Upon completion of the agreement, ICTSI and PSA, through their respective subsidiaries, will jointly own 91.28 percent of issued and outstanding share capital of SPIA.
ICTSI and PSA also agreed to work jointly towards the success of the Aguadulce Port Project.The new container terminal will have an annual capacity of 700,000 TEUs (twenty foot equivalent unit).
The construction, which started last November, will be completed in 18 to 24 months. The new container terminal, which is expected address Colombia’s expanding trade, will have its own access road to ease congestion at the port.
“We are excited about the prospect of working with PSA to develop a terminal that we know will be key to Colombia’s trade growth,” says Enrique K. Razon Jr., ICTSI chairman and president.
He adds PSA and ICTSI share the same aspirations for the Aguadulce Port, adding both are confident and look forward to the success of this important collaboration.
An ICTSI statement also quoted Tan Chong Meng, PSA Group CEO, as saying: “We are delighted to partner with ICTSI and co-invest in the Aguadulce Port Project.”
He noted that ICTSI and PSA will bring their complementary strengths to ensure that this greenfield terminal will support the growing demand for trade and logistics in Colombia amidst the improving business environment in the region.
ICTSI also operates container terminals in Poland, Brazil, Madagascar, Indonesia, Syria and Japan, and recently signed contracts to operate container terminals at the Port of Guayaquil in Ecuador.
The United States Embassy Manila, in partnership with the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute and the U.S. Potato Board, hosted an event showcasing food, wine, and beverages from the American Pacific Northwest region.
The event is one in a series designed by the Embassy’s Foreign Agricultural Service to promote theuse of quality U.S. Food and beverage products in the Philippines.
Agricultural Counselor Philip Shull underlined the importance of agricultural trade between both countries:
“U.S. food and beverage exports to the Philippines grew 15 percent in 2013, and reached the US$1 billion milestone.
The Philippines is the number one market in South East Asia and the tenth largest market in the world for U.S. food and beverage products.
$1 billion in food and beverage exports is roughly 25,000 container trucks stretching more than 300 kilometers.