China and its ‘magic island-maker’ dredging vessel

 

The Tiankun dredger: China’s massive island-maker.

What am I talking about here and what is its significance?

Well, amid ongoing territorial disputes in the South China Sea and the controversial island-building frenzy China has been undertaking thereat, it has been reported lately that this economic giant of a nation continues to flex its maritime muscles, this time with the launching of an equally giant island-building vessel considered to be the most powerful vessel of its type in Asia.

Named the Tiankun, the vessel, more aptly described as “a magic island maker”, is the best of its kind in Asia, according to the ship’s designer, the Marine Design and Research Institute in Shanghai, and “can be used to conduct coastal/channel dredging and land reclamation operations even in bad weather at sea.”

The vessel, with a deck as long as five basketball courts, 140 meters, and a full displacement of 17,000 metric tons, can smash underwater rocks and then suck out sand, water, and mud, and transfer the substance up to 15 kilometers away. It can dredge up to 6,000 cubic meters (around two and half Olympic swimming pools) an hour from a depth of up to 35 meters.

The Tiankun is the same kind of vessel as its sister, the Tianjin, the largest currently operating dredger used to create several China-held militarized islets in the disputed seas including those close to our shores in the West Philippine Sea.

The fortification of these Chinese-made islands with military-grade airfields and weapons systems was referred to later as China’s “great wall of sand,” by U.S. Pacific Command chief Adm. Harry Harris in 2015.

The Philippines government is said to be wary about the giant dredger especially that international security observers have expressed alarm that it might be deployed to the region again, this time to reclaim Scarborough Shoal.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said that government is monitoring the dredger especially in the light of the statement issued by Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque, saying, “The President recognizes the principle of good faith in international relations. China has told the President they do not intend to reclaim Scarborough and we leave it at that.”

But who are we really to stop what China has already began in what it claims as their territory historically?

Good faith?

As the poor, aggrieved country we can only rely on our faith. The question, however, is: Will China give in to faith as it extends its influence in Asia and across the globe?

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Dog ‘fired’ for refusing to sniff explosives

Because we see dogs of all types in public places sniffing whatever it is they are trained to detect, we immediately suppose that all dogs are the same. Right?

Wrong!

Man’s best friend, like his master can be choosy, too, and for a reason.

The reality is that some people are not cut out to be assigned in a high-pressure or demanding work environment, and this realism seems to apply to some dogs, too.

Take the case of Lulu, a black Labrador, whose handler had high hopes that she would emerge as CIA’s latest bomb-sniffing talent.

High hopes turned to surprise for the handler, however, when a few weeks into training Lulu began to show signs she simply “wasn’t interested in detecting explosive odors”.

For Lulu, enthusiasm turned to indifference.

No amount of motivation, either in food or time playing, could bring back the dog to focus on sniffing bombs. She simply was not enjoying herself any more is the way her handler described her predicament.

Apparently the mental and physical well being of the sniffer dogs is the CIA’s priority, so they “made the extremely difficult decision to do what’s best for Lulu and drop her from the program”.

But it is not all bad news, as handlers have the option to adopt dogs who are dropped or ‘fired’.

Lulu now has a new home, and spends her days chasing rabbits and squirrels in the garden. Just to show that she had something else in her mind – having fun and easy life!

Of exemplary leaders and Trump’s absurdity

US President Donald Trump

It is both interesting and daunting times in the US, and the world in general, as the greatest country on Earth is slowly losing its grip in world leadership because of the absurdity of its leader, President Donald Trump.

It is in this light that I am sharing with you this enlightening article written by Allan S.B. Batuhan under the Business Section of Cebu Sunstar Daily, dated October 23, 2017.

The new normal

Leaders of men used to be looked up to by their constituents as agents of inspiration. In the darkness of moments when there seems to be no hope, they manage to lift up the spirits of their people.

 IT IS for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work, which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. (Quote 1)

 Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning. Henceforth Hitler’s Nazis will meet equally well armed, and perhaps better armed troops. Hence forth they will have to face in many theatres of war that superiority in the air which they have so often used without mercy against other, of which they boasted all round the world, and which they intended to use as an instrument for convincing all other peoples that all resistance to them was hopeless…. (Quote 2)

 And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you–ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man. Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us here the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own. (Quote 3)

You know that this could happen when you signed up for it … but it still hurts. (Quote 4)

It is almost too easy to guess which one of the quotes above does not belong with the others. Because while the first three inspire, and move the audience to greater passion, the last one unfortunately causes nothing but despair. The first three are the noble language of leadership, the last the crass pronouncement of the rogue.

But believe it or not, all three quotes come from leaders of men. The first one, of course, is from President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. The second is from Prime Minister Winston’s address to the people of the United Kingdom, following the fall of Dunkirk. And the third is excerpted from President John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address. And the fourth, well that is what President Donald Trump is supposed to have said in his call to the mother of Sgt. La David Johnson, who was killed in Niger by Islamist militants this month. Four leaders, three of whom lived to unite, and one of whom who rules to divide.

Leaders of men used to be looked up to by their constituents as agents of inspiration. In the darkest of moments when there seems to be no hope, they manage to lift up the spirits of their people, and allow them to dream – if only for a brief moment – that better times are ahead. Gandhi, Mandela, Martin Luther King – along with the three quoted above – these were leaders whose lives were like beacons of hope, whose every public word was awaited with baited breath, because they were always measured, and calculated to arouse only the noblest of emotions in their people.

Today, it seems, this tradition of inspiration is no more. Voted into power by the people of the United States, President Trump has defied all manner of definition, in terms of what a leader should be. When once they were expected to lift and inspire their people, today, sinking them to the depths of despair seems to be the new normal.

 

Duterte’s first year in office

 

I have lived long enough to see presidents come and go in this country but I have never seen the likes of President Rodrigo Duterte who hit the ground running at a considerable speed upon assumption of office.

While Duterte may have been ready with his administration’s 10-point socio-economic agenda that included among other things the implementation of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law to enable especially poor couples to make informed choices and family planning, he, however, entrusted the execution of all these to his social and economic mangers while he took it upon himself to lead his much vaunted campaign promise to fight the proliferation of illegal drugs , corruption and criminality.

As an unconventional politician whose approach to solving problem has been described as ‘out-of-the-box’, not to mention the colorful language he uses especially when piqued, is what has endeared him to the Filipinos which is why he was overwhelmingly voted to the presidency.

I am not going to discuss here Duterte’s defining moments individually which includes among other things his running after and eventually putting Sen. Leila de Lima in police custody for using drug money to finance her senatorial bid, his alleged killings and human rights violation stemming from his bloody war on drugs that has been harshly criticize here and abroad by international human rights agencies and advocates, his antagonistic stance towards the U.S., his shift from a U.S. dictated foreign policy to an independent foreign policy, his open arms policy towards China despite the latter’s incursion and militarization of the West Philippine Sea, his diplomatic sortie to Russia, and last but not least of his controversial decisions is the declaration of martial law in Mindanao.

For me what is important in Duterte’s 365 days in office is putting into context how the country and the Filipino people are today having Duterte as our president.

I do not know about you, but it makes me wonder, if not guessing, how it would have been for the Philippines and the Filipinos had we had Roxas, Poe or Binay as the president.

Knowing what we know now about the wide-ranging prevalence and gravity of illegal drug use in the country, could any of the other presidential aspirants, had they won, had the political will or the gumption to declare war against it, as Duterte has done, knowing that you are up against ruffians and monsters?

Could they have had the guts to discover and say that we are now a narco-political country?

Would talking to just the MILF, passing the Bangsamoro Basic Law and establishing a new autonomous political entity known as the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, prevented the Islamic State-inspired Maute group from storming and creating havoc in Marawi City.

Would they have the potency to declare martial law?

Perhaps Divine Providence determined the course that Duterte be president, warts and all, for he has what it takes to lead and fight for the Filipinos in preserving the integrity of the country and having it respected.

This in essence is what is Duterte’s presidency about one year after and in the next 5 years, God willing.

 

A “bully” is an apt description of China in the SCS

 

U.S. Senator John McCain (photo by Reuters)

It surprises me no end hearing highly respected Republican U.S. Senator John McCain describing China as behaving like a “bully” with its militarization of islands in the South China Sea.

Of course that is what it is or it won’t be called and acknowledged the second most powerful nation on Earth today, and fast catching up to surpass the U.S.

What I am saying is that when China started getting economically strong and used it in building its military might to be able to do what it wanted with impunity, like claiming most of the resource-rich South China Sea, it was simply making a statement not only to the other claimant nations in the region, but more so to the western world, especially the U.S., that it is there to stay and not even an international body like the United Nations (UN) could drive it out.

Like the rest of our neighbor-nations we also knew what we were up against when China started reclaiming and converting atolls and reefs into militarily equipped islands.

But what was even worse was when it included in their build-up the country’s exclusive economic zone, a sea zone prescribed by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) that stretches from the baseline out to 200 nautical miles and over which the country has special rights to explore and exploit its marine resources in the water and beneath.

Thus, China, which does not respect the UNCLOS, prevented our own fishermen from catching fish in our own territorial waters.

If this is not bullying in the real sense of the word, I do not know what is.

By claiming almost the entire of SCS China was already bullying the world and if only the U.S. reacted to this claim sooner and challenged China’s hegemony in the area it would have not gotten to a point where the SCS, through which about US$5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year, could be a potential flash point.

Now to counter the perceived Chinese aggression in the area, the U.S. has been conducting so-called freedom-of-navigation exercises, the most recent of which was conducted by a U.S navy warship near Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands.

Yes, McCain is right in describing China as a “bully”, but he and the rest of the American politicians could have prevented China from becoming one in the SCS had they decidedly choose to confront China much, much earlier.

Yes to martial law in Mindanao – Part II

 

Former President Fidel Ramos

It boggles my mind why of all people Fidel Ramos, the military’s second most powerful official after General Fabian Ver during the dark years of the Marcos martial law era, and who later became president of the country, is stepping out front and disparaging at President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration putting the whole of Mindanao under martial law.

Ramos’ main fear and contention is that abuses of any manner, shape and form will destroy the nation once more, the way it happened during the Marcos years.

I think Ramos knows whereof he speaks because under Martial Law and the EDSA Revolution, Wikipedia has this to say about him: Ramos headed the Philippine Constabulary, then a major service branch of the Armed Forces, that acted as the country’s national police until 1972, when Ferdinand Marcos imposed Martial Law. Ramos is held responsible by for human rights abuses committed under Martial Law as head of the Philippine Constabulary chief; the unit responsible in the arrest tortures of civilians.

It is in this light that people should start reminding Ramos that the only similarity Duterte has with Marcos as a leader is in their ability to lead the country with an iron hand.

With Marcos’ corrupted wife and cronies, martial law was declared because of an ulterior motive to benefit themselves and that is what they did when the plundered the nation dry after committing the utmost human rights abuses.

Duterte, however, is putting the whole of Mindanao under martial because he is seeing Mindanao as becoming the hotbed of an emerging jihadist militant group belonging to the notorious ISIS that is known for spreading hatred, beheading victims on camera and instigating deadly terrorist attacks.

What is even bad, which justifies Duterte’s martial law in Mindanao, is that the government has discovered that foreigners have joined the Maute group in battling the military forces in Marawi City.

“What is happening in Mindanao is no longer a rebellion of Filipino citizens. It has transmogrified into an invasion by foreign fighters,” Solicitor General Jose Calida, the government’s chief lawyer, told reporters in the southern city of Davao.

He said Malaysians, Indonesians, Singaporeans and “other foreign jihadists” were fighting in Marawi, one of the biggest Muslim cities in the mainly Catholic Philippines with about 200,000 residents.

Marawi looks like a ghost city now and if it is of any consolation to the terrified residents who are fleeing to Iligan City, Ramos will be doing the country a favor if he should instead urged Filipinos to rally behind Duterte and his administration’s drive to have lasting peace in Mindanao, improve the plight of all Filipinos and move the country forward.

(In the same breath let me invite you to this link which I saw three days after I posted this blog so you will know why I felt aghast at Ramos’ tirade against Duterte: http://www.dailytopmedia.com/2017/05/canadian-political-scientist-tells-fvr.html — Quierosaber).

 

War with China not an option

 

President Rodrigo Duterte with China President Xi Jinping

Much have been said about whether or not China’s leader, President Xi Jinping, had really warned the Philippine government not to rock the boat over the country’s maritime dispute with them at the West Philippine Sea (WPS) or else  there will be war.

Some politicians and political pundits are saying this is bullying in its highest form to keep us silent, and the best remedy, as they suggested, is to bring the matter up again to the UN tribunal, the same body that declared China’s build-up in the WPS as illegal.

Again I have to ask: what for?

Even Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said the Chinese leader’s threat, if true, is a gross violation of the United Nations (UN) charter. Then he cited Article 2, Section 4 of the UN Charter that states “all members shall refrain in their institutional relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity of any State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purpose of the United Nations.”

While this may serve as basis for another related complaint we will be raising against China before the UN tribunal, what good will it do the country if China do not give a hoot about what the arbitral court says?

Like I said many times before, what China has claimed at the South China Sea is China’s and what belongs to the Philippines at the WPS is still China’s and if the most powerful nation on Earth, the US, was not able to prevent China from its military build-up in the area and the UN tribunal’s decision favoring the Philippine’s claim of its own territory just brazenly and utterly disregarded and disrespected by China, then who are we to think, much less believe, that elevating the war threat against us by China will stop China from doing what they are there for – militarizing the area.

President Rodrigo Duterte knows very well that war with China is not an option, but he is intelligent enough to understand that if he plays his cards well he can make the most out for the country and the Filipino people.

We are in a new geopolitical situation forced upon a third world country and we just have to be thankful that Duterte is one leader who thinks out of the box, has political will and has the support of the people to make things happen for the interest of the country.

Duterte is left with no other alternative but to make deals and pacts with China to benefit the country, like when sought closer ties with Beijing to win billions of dollars of Chinese investments and loans.

Duterte is doing the same thing with Russia now finally putting into practice his serious shift in foreign policy that all these years have been dictated and dominated by the US government.