Duterte orders occupation of SCS islands belonging to the Philippines

 

President Rodrigo Duterte

It was reported that President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to occupy all islands of the Philippines in the South China Sea (SCS) to strengthen the country’s claims to the area.

I would presume these are the islands, reefs, shoals, and other features within the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) over which, according to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the state has special rights regarding the exploration and use of marine resources, including energy production from water and wind. The EEZ stretches from the baseline out to 200 nautical miles (370 km) from its coast.

Whether or not this is the new code of conduct for the SCS among claimant nations in the region vis-à-vis China, which has laid claim to almost all of SCS simply because it bears its name, one can only surmise that, indeed, this must have the blessing of China leadership.

Obviously China does not want to appear as a despotic neighbor for as long as the small claimant nations let them be where they are now and whatever else it is going to do in the future.

This seems to be a nascent ‘modus vivendi’ approach of China towards some members of the ASEAN, like the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam, now that they are well entrenched in the area with their seven man-made militarized islands.

What else can the Philippines do except to take advantage of the ‘benevolent act’ of China giving us the situation and occasion to lay emphatic claim of our own with the following statements by Duterte:

“We tried to be friends with everybody but we have to maintain our jurisdiction now, at least the areas under our control. And I have ordered the armed forces to occupy all these.”

“It looks like everybody is making a grab for the islands there, so we better live on those that are still vacant. At least, let us get what is ours now and make a strong point there that it is ours.”

China knows that it has gotten us by the “cojones” (balls) already. Our subservience to them cannot be denied and this was manifested when Duterte hinted that going to war against China is nothing but a suicidal act. It is simply a classic case of the saying: “if you cannot beat them, join them.” And that is what we are doing with China.

But ours in not the first case of having islands, reefs, shoals and other features occupied.

I am sharing with you this link for better appreciation of the subject:

http://thediplomat.com/2016/05/south-china-sea-who-claims-what-in-the-spratlys/.

Duterte continues to dominate news

 

President Rodrigo Duterte

President Rodrigo Duterte

Being an unorthodox or an unconventional president when compared to past leaders, Rodrigo Duterte has been and will always be an extraordinary fodder for news.

And to think that Duterte is just in his seventh month of his four year presidential term!

Whether Duterte’s words or deeds project a good or bad image for the country really depends on who you are or where you find yourself in today.

For one who has made the war on illegal drugs, corruption and criminality as cornerstone of his presidency, Duterte has not only showed his unique style of leadership but has also served notice to the world that under his leadership the sovereign state, that is the Philippines, has to be respected.

This is what makes Duterte stand up head and shoulder over the past presidents – his humanity, his determination and his political will to apply unconventional ways if only to eliminate the scourges responsible for hindering the growth and development of the country, establish lasting peace all throughout the archipelago and once and for all improve the quality of lives of poor Filipinos.

Obviously, some sectors like the members of the Catholic Church and human rights advocates and some political adversaries are making so much noise and blaming Duterte for the killings and this is what is making news abroad, too, but fortunately or unfortunately this is apparently how it goes as Duterte has proven it in making Davao City a peaceful and progressive place.

But what really has the country and the whole world talking about Duterte are his overtures towards China and Russia while in the process of letting go the coattails of the U.S., which the Philippines has always been pictured to be hanging to.

Duterte’s promotion and upholding of his independent foreign policy stand is how he was able to earn the respect of the other leaders of the Association of South East Asian Nation (ASEAN) and with the Philippine strongman now fully committed to the organization, ASEAN could be a force to reckon with in years to come.

No wonder, therefore, that China’s magazine, the equivalent of America’s Time magazine, has named Duterte as the “Person of the Year”.

What seems to be a certainty in the future, too, is that the Philippines will no longer be conducting joint military exercises with the U.S., but rather with Russia and China, and in such a controversial place like the South China Sea, which no doubt is part of China’s domain now.

Indeed, it is interesting to see how this will be viewed by the incoming U.S. President Donald Trump.

Talking about unceasing news on Duterte’s presidency.

PH-China relations more important than sea row ruling by international tribunal

 

President Rodrigo Duterte

President Rodrigo Duterte

If anybody is still wondering why President Rodrigo Duterte was included among the 74 most powerful people in the world, one has only to read this piece and see how his decision to “set aside” an international ruling which concluded that China has no legal basis to claim historic rights to the bulk of the South China Sea is impacting the world community.

It ruffled the feathers of some world leaders that the Duterte cozied up with China despite the favorable ruling the country got, but declaring now that he would not press Beijing to honor the ruling even if factual new satellite images released by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington reveal weapons emplacements for the first time on their man-made islands, is tantamount to defying the powers that be.

What this simply means is that Duterte is, indeed, putting a premium on the PH-China relationship rather than upholding the tribunal decision that  China doesn’t have the right to resources within its “nine-dash line,” which extends hundreds of miles to the south and east of its island province of Hainan and covers some 90% of the disputed waters.

Besides, how could one really justify the implementation of the international tribunal’s ruling when, in the first place, China has not only boycotted the proceeding but also does not acknowledge the decision, and, second, that being the case, what else could the international community do when China has already reclaimed and have created harbors, runways and reinforced hangars big enough for military aircraft on the islands?

America should not blame Duterte if the latter’s statements and pronouncements run counter to their interest in the country and in the region.

Why did America allow China to build up islands in the South China Sea and turn it into military installations when they know what is going on in the world with all their imaging satellites in place?

What else could Duterte do really, if you think about it, but have a pact with the devil for as long as the country benefits from it?

Apparently, the one appearing to be the devil in Duterte’s eyes are the Americans, the way he is now imposing his independent foreign policy.

It looks like the leaders of the ASEAN are all recognizing and acknowledging Duterte’s out of the box leadership and this is what matters most to him because now he is considered as one of them who don’t feel comfortable being America’s lap dog.

The Duterte phenomenon

 

President Rodrigo Duterte

President Rodrigo Duterte

As if winning the presidency was not phenomenal enough for one coming from Mindanao and a former mayor of Davao City, what is adding more to Rodrigo Duterte’s wonder in the country’s political world today are the dimensions by which he has been able to captivate the trust of the Filipinos and sustain his popularity in what he does for the country and its people.

What I am simply saying is that Duterte and his men cannot seem to do any wrong even as drug scum are dying in the government’s pursuit to stop or at least minimize the proliferation of illegal drugs.

There are a few calls for investigation from some people who think human rights have been violated, but compared to those who are at awe at how widespread illegal drugs have been pushed and pervasively used based on what is being reported daily, there is just no way that one can stop the majority of Filipinos from supporting the determined effort of the government to fight drugs – regardless of who and how many are killed.

This is the kind of leader we had been waiting for who, despite his uncouth manners and disgracious language before, is effecting change that he promised and giving hope to many struggling Filipinos.

Even those seemingly cultured and influential people in the financial and business sector of society who were skeptical of Duterte and strongly dissuaded others, orally and in writing, not to vote for him are now singing hosannas for him.

That every political party in the country today are coalescing with Duterte’s PDP-Laban giving it the power and making it a super-majority in both Houses of Congress only proves of their recognition, high esteem and unconditional support of the president’s leadership.

I do not know if there will ever be a credible minority in both Houses. If this is not a phenomenon, I don’t know what is for this bizarre situation never existed before. Imagine the leaders in the executive and legislative branches of government are all coming from Mindanao.

Suddenly the southern part of the country is thrust into the limelight as an exhibit for implementing reforms and development. Indeed, this is a welcome occurrence for if positive change can happen in a war torn region, how easily could progress come to pass in Luzon and the Visayas islands!

Needless to say that this phenomenon does not only apply to mainstream political leaders but even strikingly to those with different religious and ideological beliefs.

But the most phenomenal of all is the transformation that one has seen in Duterte as a person, now that he is president. The metamorphosis he promised will happen once he starts serving as president has indeed happen and this is what has endeared him to the people. What you see is what you get. Not only does he talks the talk but also walks the talk. What a proficient and polished politician he has become although the urge to kill is still very much in his blood!

This is the Duterte phenomenon that is getting to be noticed not only by ASEAN but also by the western world.

Indeed, Duterte is one president to be reckoned with by world leaders as the phenomenon he is creating continues and endures.

Bureaucratic delays a bane to nation’s aspiration

 

President Benigno Aquino

President Benigno Aquino’s (PNoy) mantra of following the “Daang Matuwid (Straight Path)” has been noticed by the world as a worthy slogan that is taking shape for the good of the country. It is a clarion call for transparency, good governance and accountability.

The fact that PNoy has run after former Chief Justice Renato Corona and succeeded in ousting him from his Supreme Court seat and the show of his administration’s determination in going after former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and her cohorts for their corrupt practices has boasted the nation’s status and has gain adherents from the international community.

Most of all it has opened the eyes of local and foreign investors that the country is now a potential place for business.

However, being a potential or promising place for business is one thing, and making it come to reality is another.

The reality is that despite PNoy’s genuine sincerity about his Daang Matuwid slogan, investors continue to shy away from the country. In fact the country’s competitiveness in creating a favorable investment climate has gone down further according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report.

The reason: bureaucratic red tape.

While procedures in conducting business in Asia had greatly improved, according to the report, the contrary has been happening in the Philippines where processes have either stagnated or worsened.

“We are killing business with red tape,” said National Competitiveness Council co-chairman Guillermo Luz.

Luz noted that the Philippines have 16 steps needed to do a business and about 36 days’ wait for approval. Compared with Malaysia, it requires just three steps and six days’ waiting time. Luz said that if the Philippines cuts 13 procedures and 30 days from the application of a business permit, this would move the country’s ranking up 19 slots for that one indicator.

While many have noted the presence of one-stop shops that streamlines the process of applying for business licenses, Luz said this is only second in the list of best practices. He said the most popular business practice that businessmen consider is making these applications available online, which he said is being done in Singapore and Hong Kong.

He also demonstrated that if the Philippines improved in just 10 out of 111 indicators, it could lead the Philippines to rank 13th in the survey in the future, if all other economies do not improve. Surrounding the Philippines in the 136th spot in the Ease of Doing Business are countries like Sudan, Sierra Leone, the West Bank and Gaza. “We need to get out of this neighborhood. This is not a good place to be in,” he said.

Luz lamented that the country’s economy is vibrant and has a large workforce, but is not taking advantage of it. We have many good qualities in place. But this is the slowest, most difficult, inhospitable environment in Asean all because of red tape,” he said.

What Luz is simply trying to say here is that creating favorable investment climate is not all about prosecuting the bad guys and serving them their sentences. It is not just about policing every government official to follow the straight path. It is more about reviewing and implementing reforms on existing government regulations to make it more investment and business friendly.

Sticking to rigid rules and regulations will definitely not make for a good business climate. It will only defeat the nation’s competitive aspirations.

 

Old Phl bases for US military use again

 

The way the world is shaping up today, especially in the ASEAN region that includes Brunei Darussalam, Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam, which is perceived by world leaders as the upcoming global game changer, the need for a peaceful, stable and secured region to sustain its economic growth cannot be overemphasized.

With an estimated combined gross domestic product (GDP) of $2.1 trillion and a combined population of about 609 million people, ASEAN is a regional economic force that is quickly becoming the free trade hub of Asia.

The region is an increasingly important global value chain player and a preferred production base for many multinational companies exporting to East Asia, North America, and Europe. It is also an important air and sea transportation gateway and a critical access point to China.

It is on this premise, coupled with the despicable military muscle flexing and bullying tactics of China brazenly displayed upon the Filipinos and the Vietnamese in their earlier respective territorial disputes with the Chinese, that many Filipinos feel that allowing the US military to use again the former Subic Bay naval base and the Clark Air base is not only timely, but necessary as well.

More than keeping peace and order in the region, the US military presence in the area reassures the countries having disputes with China on territorial claims, that never again will tensions be felt as it did to us earlier this year, when our poorly equipped vessels and superior Chinese ships were locked in a stand-off at a disputed shoal in the South China Sea.

The Philippines has repeatedly expressed concern about a perceived more aggressive Chinese presence in the South China Sea. In the Spratly group of islands alone, massive structures have been built and continue to be built.

China claims virtually all of the South China Sea, even waters close to the coasts of the Philippines and other Asian countries.

The build up of Chinese military structures in the South China Sea is a prelude to what they want to happen in the future – hegemony over the region and the sea lanes.

No matter how one looks at it, especially if you are a Filipino, the plan of the US military to bolster forces in the Asia-Pacific region to protect the surrounding areas and to ensure that commerce and trade through commercial shipping will go unhampered, is the best thing that could happen to us, as President Aquino’s government is charting a progressive future.

While we recognized our soured differences with the Americans during their stint at Subic and Clark, still we would rather opt to stay on the safe side of the Americans, who we know more about, than be on the risky side of the Chinese, who we know less about and yet has the arrogance and impudence to bully us with impunity.

Sometimes, I wonder why, if HongKong Chinese citizens have the audacity to criticize and show animosity at their Chinese brothers in the mainland, for one reason or another, why can’t the Philippine Chinese community show their displeasure and denounce the overbearing and abusive behavior shown by the Chinese military against the Philippine government?

Has this question ever cross your mind?

 

Euro crisis spilling over globally

 

It is good and encouraging to know that within the ASEAN, the Philippines’ economic performance has done so well in the first quarter of the year, creating 1.1 million jobs and making it Asia’s second fastest-growing economy after China.

The country’s 6.4 per cent economic growth was above the region’s average of 3.7 percent, growing faster than Indonesia (6.3 percent), Vietnam (4 percent), Singapore (1.6 percent) and Thailand (0.3 percent).

We can only hope that our fiscal and economic managers will be able to sustain this growth, even as fears over the global economy is intensifying as the escalating crisis in the eurozone is spilling over globally.

Governments, corporations and people are now blaming the European continent’s economic crisis for their own financial troubles.

Even the U.S. is no exception, when Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner declared that: “The ongoing European crisis presents the biggest risk to our economy.”

Euro crisis

And with the European Union (EU) accounting for one-fifth of all American exports, the belt-tightening in Europe is hurting many American corporations. Both Ford and Apple, for example, have blamed Europe for their poor recent results.

Chris Williamson, chief economist at research group Markit, said: ‘The US recovery has slowed. Much of this can be attributed to the eurozone debt crisis, which is clearly having a growing impact on business sentiment around the world.’

The impact can be shown as just 80,000 jobs were created in the US last month, far fewer than expected – leaving unemployment at 8.2 per cent of the American workforce.

Who would think that Germany, which has been spearheading rescue packages for financially troubled nations, like, Greece, Italy and Spain, is getting clobbered, too, by the crisis. Its Federal Statistical Office reported a decline in exports. The decline in exports is largely due to a reduction in demand for German goods by European countries heavily affected by the euro crisis.

The director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Christine Lagarde, said: ‘The outlook has, regrettably, become more worrisome. Many indicators of economic activity – investment, employment, manufacturing – have deteriorated. And not just in Europe or the United States. Also in key emerging markets: Brazil, China, India. For make no mistake: this is a global crisis. This crisis does not recognize borders. This crisis is knocking at all our doors. No one is immune.”