Benham Rise to Philippine Rise: what is in a name?

It really blows my mind why we have to change the name Benham Rise to Philippine Rise if all these years we know that it is undeniably ours?

Would the 13 million-hectare underwater region, which is deemed to be rich in mineral, oil and gas resources and confirmed by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) as part of the country’s continental shelf and territory, be more ours by renaming it to Philippine Rise?

What is in a name, anyway, if the same gives inspiration and hope for a better future for the country and the next generation of Filipinos while respectfully remembering and extolling the memory of an American admiral and geologist, Andrew Benham, who made history by discovering it and by some twist of fate made the Philippines its rightful owner? (http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2016/05/18/1584439/benham-rise-philippiness-new-territory).

We owe it to the man and I don’t see therefore the importance or significance of changing names now or at any other time in the future. Benham Rise is already part of our history and we could not be more fortunate that it belongs to the Philippines.

If changing Benham Rise to Philippine Rise is “to emphasize Philippine sovereignty rights and jurisdiction over the area”, as claimed, how much absurd can we get!

Is the Duterte government directing this stand against China, as if warning the hegemonic giant country to stay away from his part of the country’s territory facing the Pacific Ocean as it has no right whatsoever claiming this part of our sovereignty, as it blatantly did at the South China Sea side of the Philippines?

That is really wishful thinking and that is what I mean.

Whether it is Benham Rise or Philippine Rise, to China it is the same banana for their picking.

China is so deep inside us now both in land and maritime affairs that driving them out of the country and its maritime territorial limits is next to impossible. Doing this can be interpreted as declaring war and this to us can be likened to a suicidal act which we don’t really want to happened.

It’s the familiar sense of déjà vu we are seeing and feeling at Benham Rise.

In the same manner that China showed no respect at UNCLOS when it made reefs into militarized islands even at our own backyards at the South China Sea, this time at Benham Rise, China also showed nothing but insolence even as UNCLOS approved the submission of the Philippines in 2009 with respect to the limits of its continental shelf in the Benham Rise region, saying, “But it does not mean that the Philippines can take it as its own territory”. End of controversy.

It is hard to imagine now the Philippines exploring and developing its own natural resources in and under the sea without China having a part, nay, a greater part of it.

It is bad enough that we are poor and powerless, but it is even worse that President Duterte seemed to have consigned ours and the country’s future and fate to China.

What a lamentable prospect!

 

Duterte’s soaring influence in the world

 

President Rodrigo Duterte

One has to be a Filipino to understand fully what President Rodrigo Duterte stands for as a leader of this country in this day and age.

We have seen presidents come and go in the past but there never has been one who caught the fancy of the Filipinos for the transformation he did to once lawless Davao City as mayor into a safe and livable place so that when the opportunity arose that he was being considered a presidential timber, the majority of the people simply embraced him warts and all and the rest is history.

The popularity of Duterte among Filipinos is not about who he is, but rather about what he has to offer as a leader – not beholden to anybody but the Filipino people.

It is therefore Duterte’s unorthodox and unconventional style of leadership which exudes political will that has endeared him to the people and has influenced many to rally behind him despite criticisms aired against him here and abroad for his bloody war against illegal drugs.

Past presidents also had their share of fighting illegal drugs, corruption and criminality but it simply lacked the conviction and the resolve to do it relentlessly because of political self-preservation.

Needless to say that while the past presidents were more concern about their own political future, Duterte on the other hand has made his war on illegal drugs, corruption and criminality the linchpin of his administration to help sustain the development of the country and ensure better life for the Filipinos.

Duterte’s out-of-the-box leadership is making such a positive impact to the Filipinos that the hope for a better and brighter future has never been this high and promising as it is now.

Unfortunately articles are being published and videos are being shown that are critical of Duterte’s administration and this does not surely sit well with the people.

Check this link and see if it is doing justice to the country:

http://nyti.ms/2nYjDfO

Like I said at the onset, one has to be a Filipino and has to live in the country to appreciate what the Duterte government is doing. To write and show a video of something that the authors themselves have not seen, fact checked or experience history is simply doing an injustice to most Filipinos that are aspiring for a better place and life to live.

That Duterte has been considered an influential person in the world today is definitely an honor.

Panatag Shoal: from fishing ground to solid military ground

 

We all have heard of Panatag Shoal or most commonly known as Scarborough Shoal at the height of the South China Sea (SCS) territorial dispute when China unequivocally closed off the shoal from Filipino fishermen in 2012.

The shoal off the coast of Zambales lies within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and as such fishermen from this coastal region consider the shoal their fishing ground since time immemorial.

The shoal became even determinedly for the Filipinos when the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) ruled the granting of 200 nautical miles (approximately 370 km) EEZ for island nations, which in reality exceeds the distance compared to where Panatag Shoal is which is only 119 nautical miles (approximately 220 km) west of Zambales.

With the ascendancy , however, of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte to the presidency, and especially after he made a state visit to China’s President Xi Jinping in October 2016, the strained relationship between the two countries got better and the Filipino fishermen were allowed access to the rich fishing ground again.

We were hoping that this kind of access to the fishing ground was granted for good and for humanitarian reason especially that Duterte did not and has not in any way agreed or concurred with the international arbitral tribunal ruling favoring the Philippines in its maritime case against China.

Suffice to say that Duterte, like the leadership of China, ignored the arbitral ruling and, in fact, supported China’s continued island building and militarization of the area even as it was being built at our own backyard already.

Seemingly doing China a favor Duterte made it known that he wanted China’s patronage in return to jump-start the development of the country, thus, the pouring in of cash from China today.

But what is disheartening now, if not alarming, is that China has decided to convert Panatag Shoal, yes, the rich fishing ground belonging to the Philippines, into a solid military ground, just like the others, where it plans to build environmental monitoring stations, whatever that means.

If this is not a classic case of ‘giving them a hand and they will take an arm’ or ‘giving them an inch and they will take a mile’, I don’t know what is.

But what is worse is that the military build-up, for how else would one describe it, can be found at our turf!

I had been supportive of Duterte and even in his stand that if the most powerful country in the world was not able to stop China from militarizing the SCS, who are we to halt them?

I hope Duterte this time realizes that our generosity, if not our naivete, is being taken advantaged to the hilt by his more calculating, wily and farsighted Chinese counterpart.

What is disturbing and frightening is that when push comes to shove between two powerful contending nations having a stake in this part of the globe, the Philippines is right there included in the cross-hair of China’s enemy.

There is definitely no if and buts about it.

Benham Rise issue – Part III

 

I have no choice but to designate this article as Part III since I have already written about Benham Rise twice some years back which you can read at this links:

https://quierosaber.wordpress.com/2011/08/16/philippines-pin-hopes-on-benham-rise/

https://quierosaber.wordpress.com/2012/08/15/thank-god-for-benham-rise-part-ii/

Never had I anticipated writing about it again until I heard the recent alarming and disturbing news that a Chinese survey ship was spotted at the Benham Rise location.

“We are concerned about the presence of a Chinese ship in Benham Rise, which has been recognized by the United Nations as part of the Philippines,” said Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella in a statement on Friday, March 10.

“The Department of National Defense has already notified the Department of Foreign Affairs regarding this matter as we continue to assert our sovereignty over our territory,” he added.

Of course we should, forcefully and explicitly!

The Benham Rise area definitely does not have any stupid Chinese historical claim of any sort like they had been asserting they have at the West Philippine Sea just because it is part of the larger body of water bearing the name South China Sea (SCS).

On the pretext that China was “looking for a place to put submarine”, as Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said was the info he got, the most likely reason would be that they have chosen the area for their oceanographic research because they just want to confirm if indeed the unimaginable wealth and extent in mineral resources and gas deposits found underneath Benham Rise truly exist.

I cannot blame President Rodrigo Duterte for pussyfooting with the Chinese in the West Philippine Sea issue, where even the country’s territorial integrity has been breached with China’s nine- dash line claim.

If the most powerful country and the acclaimed top ‘policeman’ in the world- the US, and the UN, through its agency the UNCLOS, were not able to stop China from expanding and militarizing the SCS, who are we to prevent China’s hegemony of the contested areas?

But what I am just saying here is that we had been hearing Duterte declaring time and again that he will die defending the country and the Filipino people from the enemies that will try to destroy them.

Well this is it!

There has not been and there will never be a greater challenge such as this one in Duterte’s presidency that needs more of his grit, determination and resolve to stand up for his country and people.

Duterte could not afford anymore to be complacent the way he has been pleased and gratified at the financial and technical help China has promised to give for many infrastructure projects for the country.

China may have bamboozled us in the SCS and there was nothing that we can do. In that part of the globe what is China’s is China’s and what is ours is still China’s.

Duterte and those that will follow him should be reminded that at Benham Rise what legally belongs to the Philippines is for the Filipinos and for the generations of Filipinos to come and not to China or any other exploitative country that intends to not only hold us by the balls, but stick it to us as well.

 

Much ado about Duterte declaring martial law

 

President Rodrigo Duterte

President Rodrigo Duterte

Let me just ask these questions to those making a big fuss about President Rodrigo Duterte’s emphatic admission that he has no qualms whatsoever of declaring martial law, if the need for it arises.

Why, what do you think Duterte has been doing? Isn’t it that what you hear and see all these seven months that the former Davao City mayor has been president are manifestations of martial law – Duterte style?

Political opposition and detractors seem to forget that Duterte is known for who he is precisely because of the iron hand and dictator-like rule he implemented in Davao City, which was never duplicated by any other mayor in the country today.

Nobody can take away the bragging rights he has when he tells all and sundry anywhere he goes how he tamed wild and lawless Davao City into a peaceful and livable place recognized and acknowledged by every Filipino.

As if you haven’t heard of then Commissioner of Human Rights (CHR), then Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary, and now Sen. Leila de Lima, harping here and abroad about Duterte’s impunity of human rights violation.

Isn’t this what martial law is partly all about?

Now that Duterte is president he is simply trying to reproduce for the whole country the success he had in Davao City, and for a good measure of obvious reasons.

Illegal drugs, criminality and corruption are the battle fronts that Duterte and his police and military forces are fighting against in trying to preserve the dignity, the sovereignty and the existence of the country as a whole.

These are the scourges that the country is facing. These are the same plagues that have hindered the nation from growing and developing. These are the crosses borne by Filipinos and made heavier each time by unscrupulous people, including leaders and politicians, who take advantage of their power and influence to satisfy their own selfish interest and forgetting that of the country and its people they have been sworn to serve.

“You know, I have to protect the Filipino people. It’s my duty. And I tell you now, if I have to declare martial law, I will declare it. Not about invasion, insurrection, not about danger. I will declare martial law to preserve my nation, period,” Duterte said.

This is very far from what the dictator Marcos had in his evil mind for the country and Filipino people, thus, to make much ado about Duterte declaring martial law is not only useless but baseless as well. Duterte does not even have an ambitious and rapacious wife to think about, thank goodness!

What I am just trying to say here is that every time Duterte threatens to declare martial law, take it with a grain of salt. Not that you doubt his resolve, but for all intents and purposes it is there already, like an installed screw, and all he does every time he talks about declaring martial law is turn the screw tighter and deeper, which is his way of showing that what he wants is happening – only in a very ingenious way.

 

Duterte and martial law

 

President Rodrigo Duterte

President Rodrigo Duterte

For the life of me, I cannot understand why some people are resorting to evil machinations against President Rodrigo Duterte purporting that, because of what is going on relative to the latter’s continuing bloody war on drugs, bomb threats from extremists and the recent military offensive undertaken by the government against the Maute group in Lanao del Sur, who are trying to impress the leaders of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) by terrorizing residents and flying  its most recognizable black and white flag adorned with Arabic lettering, he will declare martial law.

I presume the opposition, the opportunists and the unscrupulous simply does not want Duterte to succeed.

Why would Duterte do it when everything is under control and he gets things done accordingly and the way he sees fit with the support not only of majority of Filipinos , but most specifically by the business sector and by the  members of Congress?

By support I mean that most Filipinos trust him and his courage and political will simply stands out for he is seen to be doing the things he wants done because it is for the good of every Filipino, regardless of belief and ideology, and for the interest of the country.

Actually one cannot separate Duterte from martial law or to distinguish Duterte apart from martial law for what he is doing in this country today, imposing his will, is a moderate or a measured martial law.

The iron-fist rule and the no-nonsense governance Duterte was practicing in Davao, that turned the big city into a safe and livable place, is simply being replicated in a much bigger scale now and if he is succeeding, where no other past presidents achieved in less than a year of his assumption to office, one can only give credit to the person for who he is and his conviction of what and how a president should serve the Filipino people.

The good thing is that Duterte knows his law and the prohibitions and consequences of declaring martial law, though I seriously believed that he erred in his indifference and not giving a damn to the feelings and sentiments of the martial law victims still crying for justice to this day when he granted the Marcoses permission to have the dictator buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (LNMB).

Thus, Duterte was right when he chided the scaremongers, saying, he did not need martial law despite ongoing security threats in Mindanao.

“Martial law for what? Killing people? I would rather empower every mayor,” said Duterte, adding that it would work as long as local executives didn’t abuse their power.

That is leadership and his faith in the Filipino people that things can be done lawfully when everyone is incorruptible.

 

Diokno resignation mars Duterte’s administration

 

Ms. Maria Serena Diokno

Ms. Maria Serena Diokno

I am actually referring to National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) Chairperson Maria Serena Diokno who resigned from the Duterte administration in protest over President Rodrigo Duterte’s order allowing the remains of President Ferdinand Marcos to be interred at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (LNMB).

The daughter may be a far cry from her more illustrious father, the late Jose “Pepe” Diokno, a noted Filipino nationalist who became a Senator of the Philippines, a Secretary of Justice, a founding chair of the Commission on Human Rights, and founder of the Free Legal assistance Group.

Not to be forgotten, however, is that Diokno, bar and CPA board topnotcher, went against the dictator Marcos by leading street protests when the latter suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus and later arrested when martial law was declared, spending nearly two years in detention.

Of his situation and predicament Diokno made this famous quote: “Law in the land died. I grieve for it but I do not despair over it. I know, with a certainty no argument can turn, no wind can shake, that from its dust will rise a new and better law: more just, more human, and more humane. When that will happen, I know not. That it will happen, I know.”

There is no wonder, therefore, that Maria Serena gave up the NHCP chairmanship. The same flood flows in her and she is still her father’s daughter – principled, conscientious and incorruptible.

Duterte may be unmoved or unfazed by his decision to allow the burial of the dictator Marcos at the LNMB, saying he was trained as a lawyer to make judgments based on law and not on sentiment.

To some extent I agree, but more than law this is history, and history at its worst, mind you, where families are still seeking the truth about the disappearance of their love ones. It is bad enough that the Supreme Court dismissed petitions questioning the legality of Duterte’s decision and ruled that the tyrant could be interred at the LNMB as a former soldier and president since no law would prohibit it, but it is even unnerving that Duterte rammed it down the throat of the Filipinos thinking that it would suffice and put closure to this perverse issue.

But what made this perverse issue more revolting than ever is when the Marcoses use their power, influence and their scandalous money in government to hastily and surreptitiously allow the family to have the burial at the LNMB.

I salute Ms. Diokno for her bold stand and the relevance and conviction of her statements when she wrote History Lives, which I am reprinting below.

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