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)
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.
Reds Condemn China And US Bullying
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.”
What Is China Doing?
WHAT seems evident is that China is taking small but provocative steps to assert her sovereignty over what we call the West Philippine Sea by shooing away the fishermen and some of our naval vessels who were sent to resupply some of our troops. She knows that we are no match for her much more modern and fully equipped naval vessels and so when she pushed, we backed away. She is obviously testing the waters by escalating her control over the shoals and the sea.
It would seem that what we will likely see over the next several months will be more provocative actions from China but actions carefully calibrated not to produce a reaction from the US. China in all likelihood feels, and correctly, that the US for all of the rhetoric is not eager to engage China in these waters, what with the Crimean problem the US is also facing.
In this latter case, Crimea is at the border of Russia and it was easy for Russia to mobilize forces apart from the fact that it would seem there is much Crimean sympathy to reconnect with Russia. Of course, historically, Crimea was part of Russia until her recent collapse and dismemberment.
I frankly don’t believe Russia will give in at all for all the sanction threats and other actions that Obama might threaten Russia with from 10,000 miles away. But for the US to take military action seems far-fetched. Maybe many condemning speeches at the UN. But they can’t even pass a resolution at the UN Security Council because Russia is a permanent member who will veto any such resolution.
So the carefully controlled actions of China in the South Asian seas will use minimum force, or no force at all, just threats and bluffs and sneaky moves which she has been doing anyway from quite a few years back. It will be more of simply establishing her presence because we are incapable of doing the same or resisting such efforts and our getting used to it.
Troops in small islets or shoals are ineffective if unable to move or realistically defend themselves when push comes to shove. All of these moves gain for China the dominion of the seas and the islets and shoals even if not overt total control which they have as an objective. This is the pragmatic element of China’s moves in the area. While the US appetite for confrontation is weak, China realizes that militarily they are still behind the US in rather important ways.
Furthermore, more military actions at this time can hasten the establishment of US forces here in the Far East which would make China’s objective, total South Asian hegemony a much more difficult objective. In sum, the conclusion for the moment seems to be one little step at a time while it is not yet easily quantifiable what the consequences of reckless action on China’s part might trigger. In other words, presently China has more to lose should a shooting war break out. But that will not always be the case. By 2020 or even a little earlier, the equation might be truly different. The Chinese economy will likely overtake the US by or before then, and the military equation might well be tipped more in China’s favor as the US downsizes her forces and China keeps on aggressively expanding her capabilities.
Can technology make up for a smaller military size so that the US can stay significantly ahead of China? Some Israeli senior cabinet member, obviously with the PM’s blessing said that the US is showing a weak posture to the world and many people are questioning the value of US commitments overseas.
Pres. Obama is supposed to come to our shores soon and we are shortly supposed to have some agreement about co-sharing our military bases with her. I am not sure exactly what it means. Co-sharing the bases is rather impractical to begin with and it would be very hard for our AFP to retain control of our military bases when used by two sovereign nations and one is much more competent and better equipped than the other.
Will the US flag fly under the Philippine flag or will the flags fly together? Will the situation be like in corporations, there will be two co-equal heads? It looks like a situation looking for trouble. Of course, others might argue and say what choice do we really have? We can’t play ball with China, she wants to eat us up. All the rhetoric about mutual respect and friendship is just that, rhetoric! Well, the outcome seems not too difficult to predict. The US will not risk a bloody confrontation with China.
I wish that cooler heads handled this problem with China without handing the seas to China without a whimper from the start and did not add to the heat of the day with ill considered if not bravado statements. If both sides end up boxed in a tight corner, everyone’s guess about the outcome will be just as good as any other! But I suggest this is time for some contingency planning on a rather wide level. We cannot see the problem as something only affecting the seas. We will see a few other areas regarding our domestic economy that need to truly plan ahead with wisdom and determination.
Turnover of Japan-Funded Disaster-Prevention Equipment in Cagayan de Oro
Minister Akio Isomata, Embassy of Japan’s Minister for Economic Affairs turned over fishing nets and dredging machines to the Department of Agriculture (DA) and Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) in a ceremony last March 14 for the Japan-funded Non-Project Grant Aid for the Restoration and Disaster Prevention in Cagayan de Oro, Misamis Oriental. The ceremony was also attended by Cagayan de Oro Mayor Oscar Moreno and Congressman Rufus Rodriquez.
The assistance, signed two years ago, provided 600 million yen (approximately 315 million pesos) for the purchase of necessary products for the recovery and disaster prevention of Typhoon Sendong affected areas. Aside from the fishing nets and dredgers, housing materials will also be provided under this project to assist the victims in the restoration and rebuilding of their homes. This assistance comes on top of the 25 million yen (approximately 14 million pesos) emergency relief, composed of water tanks, tents and other relief items, and the 2 million US dollar emergency grant through international humanitarian agencies.
In his speech during the ceremony, Minister Isomata referred to the importance of proactive involvement of local communities in enhancing disaster preparedness and said, “Japan, being also a disaster-prone country, is committed to assist the Philippines in enhancing its ability for disaster risk reduction and management, and have worked together with the Philippines in this field for many years through various ODA projects. But, there is one thing we always have to bear in mind in implementing any kind of disaster-related efforts. That is, we need a heightened awareness of local communities for the prevention of natural disasters even at normal times.”
Japan, as the top donor of ODA to the Philippines as well as a disaster-prone country itself, has supported the Philippines’ disaster mitigation and management efforts by sharing its experiences and lessons learned from the past natural disasters. Recently, the Government of Japan provided assistance for the victims of Typhoon Pablo in 2012, the Bohol Earthquake and Typhoon Yolanda in 2013. Moreover, a 50 billion yen Post-Disaster Standby Loan was signed last December 2013, when President Aquino visited Tokyo, to further assist in the restoration and recovery of disaster stricken areas. These projects reaffirm the continued commitment of Japan to extend cooperation in minimizing threats and impacts of disasters.