foreign relations

“Na-Edca-Han Na Naman Tayo”

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Many Filipinos are wondering, why is it that the signing of a very important pact as the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) which is actually the centerpiece of US President Barack Obama’s visit was not signed by the US and PH presidents? Instead was signed by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and US Ambassador Phillip Goldberg hours before the arrival of Pres. Barack Obama. To think, the signing was not even witnessed by the two presidents.

Some pundits believe that the EDCA was not signed by the two heads of state, because US does not want to hurt China in the process. So it is quite obvious that every time the issue of how far Uncle Sam will help the country in times of trouble with China (and/or other aggressor) the safe answer of the big brother – “We are not doing this because of China. We are doing this because we have a longstanding alliance partner [the Philippines]. They are interested in stepping up our military-to-military,”  and “we (US) just want a peaceful and safe navigation in the South China Sea”. All rhetoric, but can we fault them in protecting their interests!

We really never learned from the past agreements that we had with the US, always lopsided, favoring the US more and in the end we are shortchanged (again). So the doublespeak of PNoy’s people of not allowing the Filipinos to be shortchanged in the latest pact are all double talk.

Like what the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) and other organizations observed – they have been unimpressed, seeing the EDCA as an open invitation to a molester to offer protection against a touted bully. “The oft repeated rationale,” explained Bayan’s secretary Renato M. Reyes, Jr. is that we need this agreement with the US to protect ourselves from Chinese incursions. So what Aquino is basically saying is, to protect Filipinos from the neighborhood bully, we’re inviting a rapist inside our house to do as he pleases.” (by Binoy Kampmark)

Just like what I have been saying for so long now in my writings and daily radio program – this is rape with consent. Again, no thanks to our leaders.

Furthermore, in this EDCA, the so-called camp sharing operation will make the whole country as Uncle Sam’s military base. So the ‘chubibo’ of not going to build new US military bases here is true because through camp sharing scheme, US will not pay any rent and all the AFP’s camps from north to south of the archipelago will be the US ‘military base’, free of charge, translation – ‘rape with consent’. Need we say more?

And remember, back in August 2009, in her affidavit, Navy officer Nancy Gadian accused the US military of building permanent structures in different military camps in the country. She said US forces have established “permanent” and “continuous” presence in Zamboanga, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi in the south.

She added that the Philippine military has no access to the camps built by the US soldiers in these areas since they are “fenced off by barbed wires and guarded by US Marines.”

Gadian likewise said these structures are indications the US troops had no intention of leaving the country, which is a violation of the Philippine Constitution.

For over a decade now, we are actually being ‘screwed’ with the willingness of past and present administrations in the guise of being part of the coalition of the willing to fight the global war on terror of then President George ‘Dubya” Bush Jr.

And like what former senator Joker Arroyo said “What did the Philippines get out of the Obama visit? Zero.”

Especially on the part of our Filipino war veterans that was tackled by a former ambassador Jose Zaide, a pro- American historian turned patriot in his article (April 28 at the Manila Bulletin) “the more than 250,000 Filipinos who fought for USA in WW2 and shared the same foxholes with US troops were promised equal treatment. But the US Congress 1946 Rescission Act denied Filipino war vets, making a dishonest man of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

The Filipino WW2 vets were only collateral damage (add-on) to the Recission Act, which was passed principally for the purpose of controlling excessive claims of US war supplies providers.

In 2009, US Congress threw small bones granting one-time payments of $15,000 to Filipino vets in the USA and $9,000 to those in PH.  More crumbs promised to Filipino vets helped swing trusting Pinoys in USA to vote for re-election of Barack Obama.

Our problem is that the GPH representing the Filipino WW2 vets has one eye cocked at its own shopping list (for hand-me-down armaments and surplus and other USAID).

US Congress, which passed the Recission law, would not reverse itself.  (No constituency in support of granting monies to historical allies.)

On hindsight, Filipino WW2 vets should do their own pleading, i.e., sue the US government at the US Supreme Court, which will be no less noble than the French Court de Cessation and the British High Court.”

As a whole, all the excitement and fanfare that the Obama visit has created in the country are all ‘chubibo’ and sadly, the current administration welcomed the EDCA with open legs. Carol P. Araullo of Businessworld  said the EDCA is a negotiated surrender of our sovereignty.

“Na-EDCA-han na naman tayo”

 

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Diplomacy

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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.

( http://musingsbyroy.wordpress.com | 09186449517 | @rqonald8roy | #musingsbyroy)

Ties That Bind

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Ex-Im Bank provides a variety of financing mechanisms, including working-capital guarantees, export-credit insurance and financing to help foreign buyers purchase U.S. goods and services.

In what could be a landmark deal, the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank) has signed a US$1 billion energy-based memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Philippines’ Department of Energy (DOE).

Specifically, the MOU targets renewable-energy and liquefied natural gas projects in hopes of upgrading and expanding the Philippine energy supply as part of US-Philippines bilateral cooperation.

“The arrangement is a win-win for both our nations and evidences our deep ties and cooperation on numerous economic fronts,” Ex-Im Bank Chairman and President Fred P. Hochberg said in a statement released by the US embassy in Manila.

The MOU was signed recently in Washington, DC by Ex-Im Bank board director Patricia Loui and DOE undersecretary Raul B. Aguilos.

Under the MOU, Ex-Im Bank and the DOE will exchange information with an eye to matching development needs in the Philippines with innovative goods and services offered by American exporters.

Financing Mechanism

Since 1993, Ex-Im Bank provided US$1.3 billion in energy-sector finance to the Philippines.

“We aim to outdo ourselves and target another billion with this memorandum of understanding,” Loui said.

“Our expertise can contribute both to the renovation of current energy-production facilities and the construction of new ones,” she added.

In 1994, Ex-Im Bank financed the first project-finance transactions in the Philippines for geothermal energy – the Cebu geothermal, US$170 million; and the Mahanagdong geothermal project, also in Cebu, US$211 million.

Ex-Im Bank is an independent federal agency that creates and maintains U.S. jobs by filling gaps in private export financing at no cost to American taxpayers.

The Bank provides a variety of financing mechanisms, including working-capital guarantees, export-credit insurance and financing to help foreign buyers purchase U.S. goods and services.

Guarantees

In the past fiscal year alone, Ex-Im Bank earned for U.S. taxpayers more than US$1 billion above the cost of operations.

In FY 2013, Ex-Im Bank approved more than US$27 billion in total authorizations to support an estimated $37.4 billion in U.S. export sales and approximately 205,000 American jobs in communities across the country.

This year, the Bank approved a record 3,413 transactions– or 89 percent–for small-businesses.

The Ex-Im DOE deal is in line with the U.S.-Philippines Partnership for Growth (PPG), program.

The highly innovative program, which resulted from US President Obama’s September 2010 policy directive on global development, is a high-level initiative focused on economic growth in countries committed to good governance.

In the Philippines, the PPG aligns with policy reform areas outlined by President Aquino in the Philippine Development Plan.

Beyond Traditional

Under the plan, the US has committed to placing the Philippines on a path to sustained and more inclusive economic growth, and elevating it to the ranks of other high-performing emerging economies.

As envisioned, the US-backed PPG takes a comprehensive approach to development that reaches beyond traditional foreign assistance.

It also aims to address the most significant constraints to growth and to stimulate inclusive economic expansion. A joint analysis identified governance and inability to capture revenue as the top constraints to growth in the Philippines.

The PPG leverages the resources and tools of partners, especially the private sector, to increase the effectiveness of policies and institutions necessary for development.

USAID and Millennium Challenge Corporation provides more than US$800 million funding over five years to support PPG projects.

The U.S.-Philippines five-year Joint Country Action Plan prioritized the creation of a more transparent, predictable, and consistent legal and regulatory regime.

Similarly, it seeks to foster a more open and competitive business environment, strengthen the rule of law and support fiscal stability through better revenue and expenditure management.

The U.S. government has committed to a sustained inter-agency engagement in support of the PPG’s goal and objectives.

Since2011, the Philippine government has made significant progress in implementing policy and institutional reforms.

It has also achieved remarkable improvements in economic growth, competitiveness, tax revenues, and sovereign debt ranking to ensure that the growth generated is inclusive and sustainable.

Building Green: An LGU Imperative

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[Speech by Sen. Loren Legarda’s Speech

Forum on Green Building Initiative

23 April 2014 – Dusit Thani Hotel, Makati ]

 

The future communities in the Philippines will vastly differ from the ones we live in today. As we witness the 21st century unfold, our nation faces a new set of technological, socioeconomic and global challenges that are more complex than any of us have ever experienced in our shared history. They dramatically alter the way we live in our communities, and at stake is the quality of life, not only of ours, but of our progeny.

It is the responsibility of the government, especially local government units, to understand these challenges and to take proactive measures that will optimize our nation’s future — to plan, build and support sustainable communities.

The U.N. World Commission on Environment and Development described sustainability as a development that ‘meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.’ A sustainable community is an end goal: the government and the people share a common vision,  engage each other in the intricacies, and together bring it to fruition.

The first step towards building a sustainable community is to correct one of the biggest misconceptions about the environment—that natural resources are infinite. Clearly, Earth’s resources are not limitless. We are now witnessing the rapid decline of our forest cover, water supply, air quality and the demise of our biodiversity.

In order to build a sustainable society, it cannot be business as usual. We need to stop consuming more than we need and start making sacrifices, including cuts in our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The Asian Development Bank’s Key Indicators for Asia and the Pacific 2012 noted that the increase in carbon dioxide emissions could rise to 10.2 metric tons per capita by 2050 if interventions to reverse the trend are not introduced.

A cursory look now proves that the 4-degree Celsius world, which may have seemed impossible 20 years ago, is not far off today.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 4th Assessment Report suggested that a 1.5 to 2.5 degrees Celsius increase in global mean temperatures from pre-industrial levels threatens extinction of 30 percent of all species.

Climate change, according to reports, threatens food security as crop yields are estimated to decline by 19 percent in Asia towards the end of the century. Rice yield in the Philippines is projected to decline by 75 percent.  A 4-degree scenario doubles these impacts.

A hotter global temperature will result in damaging sea levels, extreme weather and food insecurity. Flood, droughts and hunger are already issues we are dealing with today. The more frequent and stronger storms we are experiencing have been affecting our economic development as well.

For instance, losses due to Typhoon Yolanda are estimated at 571 billion pesos, which represents close to five percent of the Philippines’ annual GDP. Meanwhile, losses due to typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng in 2009 were equivalent to 2.7% of the country’s GDP.

Indeed, climate change has changed the magnitude and frequency of extreme weather and climate events.

What has brought about the state we are in today?

Key findings of the IPCC 2012 Special Report on Extreme Events revealed that climate change is “unequivocal” and that there is 95 percent likelihood that human activity is the cause of global warming.

Human activity released 545 gigatons of carbon dioxide—the main greenhouse gas from 1750 to 2011.

The Philippines is a minor emitter of GHG. But even as we are taking steps to demand the world’s biggest polluters to reduce their carbon usage for the sake of the planet, we cannot just wait for other parties to turn their commitment into action.

We need to take care of our own backyard so to speak, and in this case we need to make that first step in controlling the levels of anthropogenic pollution. We can cut our carbon emissions, improve our environment and create sustainable communities if we build green.

This is why we are all here today in a triumphant mood. The Climate Change Commission Resolution No. 5, which has been endorsed by President Benigno Aquino, is an important piece in that blueprint towards creating a more sustainable and liveable nation.

When we build green we help reduce our global carbon footprint, we cut down costs and we improve our citizens’ overall way of life. The implementation of the National Climate Change Action Plan by LGUs makes sure that building green not only looks good on paper but also for the planet.

We must also promote community resilience. LGUs could prioritize resilience as part of their political and sustainable development agenda and make reducing disaster risk their legacy opportunity. Paying attention to protection will improve environmental, social and economic conditions, including combating the future variables of climate change.  It will also make the communities more prosperous and secure than before. Initiatives could include making schools, hospitals, and other critical public infrastructure resilient against disasters.

As a fundamental development strategy, building resilience would help our government sustain the country’s socio-economic gains, and make a significant difference in poverty reduction.

LGUs are responsible for building sustainable societies where building green will be a way of life. Thus, I urge our LGUs to support this with passion and commitment. I hope that there will be no extensive bureaucratic entanglements because there is no time to lose.

I congratulate the Philippine Green Building Initiative, International Finance Corporation and Climate Change Commission for this initiative and I look forward to the success of this program so that finally all buildings and structures will be built with safety and resilience as the primary foundations. Thank you.

Ph Fastest Rice Producer In Asia

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Despite strong typhoons that ravaged agricultural lands last year, Department of Agriculture Secretary Alcala told about 1,500 farmers that they had produced 18.44 million metric tons of rice, enlisting the Philippines as the fastest growing rice production country in Asia.

Alcala lauded the Central Luzon farmers for helping achieve the highest rice harvest in the Philippine history during the Farmers` Lakbay Palay hosted by the Philippine Rice Research Institute in Science City of Muñoz, Nueva Ecija, April 1-4.

The production also made the country 97-percent rice self-sufficient in 2013. Although three-percent short of the 100 percent target, the country, however, registered a 16-percent increase within three years. The country was only 81-percent rice self-sufficient in 2010.

With the rice sector`s performance last year, the agriculture secretary discouraged the public from focusing on the deficit in the 100-percent rice self-sufficiency target.

“We have tried hard. Nawa`y [mapahalagan] natin, lalo na sa mga nasa Manila, ang pagpupunyagi nating mga magsasaka.  Hindi ho tayo titigil sa 97 percent. Magpupursige pa din tayo para ang isasaing ni Juan dela Cruz, dito ipupunla, dito itatanim, dito aanihin (May we, especially the city dwellers, value the efforts of the farmers. We’ll not stop at 97 percent. We’ll work harder so that the rice that we’ll serve on our table will be planted and harvested in the country),” Alcala said.

Alcala, who also unveiled the latest rice technologies, urged the farmers to be receptive of new farming practices as this may help them reduce production cost and make the price of rice more competitive in the market.

“We can`t solve problems such as rice smuggling in an instant. We still have a long way to go to stop rice smuggling. As long as our production cost is high, rice smuggling will always be around,” he said in Filipino.

He said that rice smuggling persists in the country because domestic rice prices are uncompetitive to Southeast Asian countries such as Vietnam.“Production cost in the Philippines is [about P11 a kilo] while in Vietnam, it`s around P6,” he said.

Alcala said that if farmers can peg production cost even at P8, rice smuggling will be minimized.At present, PhilRice is on its second season of implementing Palayabangan: 10-5 challenge, a nationwide farming competition that aims to produce 10 tons/ha yield at only P5 input cost per kilogram of palay.

Paper Tiger!

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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.

The Rise of a New Subic

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Prostitution, which has gained notoriety at the height of US military presence in Subic and Clark, is likely to rise anew as the presence of American servicemen would serve as a magnet for the resurgence of girlie bars and other night spots.

MANILA – Some 600 kms southwest of Manila, workers are building a 21-km access road linking mainland Luzon to Oyster Bay in Palawan province facing the internationally disputed west Philippine sea.

Though Palawan is a major tourist destination, the project is not meant to woo more visitors, but to transform the bay into what officials described as a “mini Subic.”

Like Subic, once the site of the United States’ biggest military facility in the Far East, the scenic cove boasts a deep natural harbor, capable of hosting large vessels, including warships.

The groundwork has already cost the government some 500 million pesos and it is expected to rise as more facilities such as piers, dry-docks and ship repair yards are to be built. Construction of the new naval port, part of the military’s modernization drive, is slated to be completed by 2016 when President Aquino’s six-year term ends.

Subic: Too crowded

Aquino has launched a US$1.8-billion military modernization program and revived plans to build new air and naval bases at Subic Bay. The budget excludes the annual defense aid of the US.

Use of the cove as a port loomed as the Philippines is beefing up its external defense capability in the face of unabated tensions with China over conflicting territorial claims.

Moreover, the Philippines is also readying itself to host an expected surge in the number of American security forces to be redeployed under the US’s pivot policy.

Manila’s zeroing in on Oyster Bay as an alternative naval port has loomed as Subic has become “too crowded” as more and more American battleships drop anchors at its piers.

Officials say that since last January, the number of visiting US battleships and other types of vessel at Subic has risen from 50 to nearly 90 and more are expected to make port calls as Manila and Washington ramp up their defense ties.

Bilateral talks had been going on, both in Manila and Washington, for expanded defense cooperation in line with their 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty and the 2001 Visiting Forces Agreement.

Just recently the Philippines opened tenders for brand-new frigates worth 18 billion pesos (US$4439 million).

Where to park?

To be armed with missiles and torpedoes, both will reinforce the two second-hand warships the US had earlier turned over to the Philippines now patrolling the west Philippine Sea.

Presided over by the defense department, the bidding has drawn interest of 11 prospective suppliers from Italy, France, South Korea and India.The Philippines is also buying five patrol boats from France for about 90 million Euros ($116 million) and some multi-role vessels from South Korea.

They will be in addition to ten state-of-the-art patrol vessels, each weighing 1,000 tons, Japan has committed to bolster the Philippines’ maritime capability.In addition, the Philippines is keen in buying a submarine to enable its naval forces to patrol the country’s maritime territory undetected — if funds permit.

“When you have a submarine, we will be able to track those violating our maritime laws without them noticing us,” Philippine Navy spokesman Lt. Rommel Rodriguez said in a statement.

Where to park the new naval assets has become a problem as Subic‘s maritime traffic has increased over the past months.

Toxic wastes

The rise of Oyster Bay as a new naval port is also likely spark tensions with China which has laid claims to the west Philippine Sea.

Last year, U.S. and Philippine commandos staged a mock amphibious assault near Oyster Bay as part of their annual military exercises. Oyster Bay is about 160 km (100 miles) from the west Philippine Sea where Chinese naval vessels patrol.

Environmentalists, however, opposed the rise of a naval port in mangrove-fringed Oyster Bay, fearing pollution and destruction of its marine sanctuaries.

Last  year, US Navy minesweeper USS Guardian ran aground near Palawan’s Tubbataha Reef, a Unesco world heritage site, destroying 2,345.67 sq ms of 10-meter-high coral reefs.

Until today, the US has yet to pay the 60 million pesos fine imposed by the Philippine government, an amount labeled by critics as just a pittance in that the incident caused least US$342 million in damage to coral reefs.

“The impending construction of a base on Oyster Bay, which is within a marine protected area, seems to be the next crime the US is intent on pushing through with,” the Kalikasan-People’s Network for the Environment” says.It says the US has yet to clean up the toxic wastes and rehabilitate its former military bases Subic and Clark which were shuttered in 1992.

Constitutional ban

A leftist group also assailed the rise of a new Subic, saying it violates the Philippine Constitution banning foreign military installations in the country.In a statement, Pamalakaya says a US military base in Palawan is not only meant to check China’s aggressive expansion into the West Philippine Sea, but also to maintain the military hegemony of Washington in the region.

“We will contest this grand mockery of Philippine sovereignty in the parliament of the streets, in any appropriate court or forum, and in the court of public opinion,” it says.

Militants fear that the people of Palawan will wake up one day to find that the entire island province is transformed into a virtual US military base similar to the one in Okinawa, Japan.

Geo-political interests

Plans are also afoot to station 50 to 60 US marines in Palawan as an advance detachment at the South China Sea.The US also wants to convert the 246-hectare Philippine Marine Corps reservation in Palawan, particularly the Brooke’s Point, and nearby areas into joint US-Philippines marine operational command posts.

Part of the cooperation is the installation of high-powered radar systems in strategic areas from north to south of Palawan facing the potentially oil-rich West Philippine Sea.The new radars, meant to monitor China’s naval activities, form part of the Philippines’ plans to give American forces, ships and aircraft access to more of the country’s military camps and facilities.

Although Philippine laws prohibit permanent foreign military bases in the country, the Americans have somehow found a loophole – embed themselves in the Philippines’ own camps and facilities to skirt the ban and advance their geo-political interests in the Asia-Pacific region.