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.

 

Trillanes, de Lima and Lascañas

 

Senators Trillanes and de Lima.

Senators Trillanes and de Lima.

Senators Antonio Trillanes and Leila de Lima have been hogging the limelight lately for the obvious reason that both want President Rodrigo Duterte out of the presidency.

Like mad dogs both Trillanes and de Lima are going after Duterte with the former alleging that the president has hidden bank accounts, together with his family, that runs in billions of pesos and the latter calling the president murderer and sociopathic serial killer.

The noises that both senators are making are in the hope that their anger against Duterte will rub off on the Filipino people so that an uprising would ensue that could be the start of the president’s downfall.

But what is outrageous and sickening about the Trillanes and de Lima scheme is that both are also hinging their success on the come-backing, now retired police officer SPO3 Arthur Lascañas, who on October 3, 2016 appeared in the Senate that was investigating the alleged existence of the so-called Davao Death Squad (DDS) and, under oath, swore that he was never connected with the heinous organization because in the first place it never existed.

Self-confessed members of the DDS: Edgar Matobato and Arthur Lascañas.

Self-confessed members of the DDS: Edgar Matobato and Arthur Lascañas.

This time, however, Lascañas resurfaced singing a different tune, to the delight of Trillanes and de Lima no doubt, and flanked by well known human right lawyers from the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) claimed, nay, confirmed that the DDS indeed existed under Duterte’s term as mayor of Davao City and confessing further that Duterte paid them between P20,000 to P100,000 for each kill.

Needless to say that, like Edgar Matobato who was Trillanes’ and de Lima’s ward, Lascañas has now joined his comrade in arms in accusing Duterte as the mastermind behind the killings in Davao.

But what does this make of Lascañas really?

And what does this speak of Trillanes and de Lima who are now coddling a retired policeman who has not only admitted having killed people but who has breached the sanctity of the Senate by lying after having been sworn to tell the truth?

Wasn’t Lascañas’ behavior an affront to the institution that its members were taken for a ride by a felon?

And yet we have now Trillanes and de Lima approving and defending Lascañas’ reappearance and confession simply because it provides something that both think will strengthen their cases in ousting Duterte from the presidency.

But how wrong can they be.

Even with Matobato and Lacañas as their aces against Duterte, Trillanes and de Lima don’t have a Chinaman’s chance in ousting the latter for it is not just about Duterte ordering/doing the killings, but it is more about proving that Duterte did the ordering/killing.

Worse still is that Trillanes and de Lima do not have the Filipino people behind them.

Duterte hits back hard at Trillanes

You can consider this a sequel to what I wrote yesterday which you can read at: https://quierosaber.wordpress.com/2017/02/16/dutertes-must-prove-trillanes-wrong-in-corruption-allegation-claims/.

I am glad that President Duterte himself came out disputing Sen. Trillanes’ malicious allegations of corruption and, likewise, took the cudgel for the family who were also included in the latter’s vicious tirade.

Without mincing words and being brutally frank he hit back hard at Trillanes calling him names that exactly describes truly who the senator is as a person and as a politician.

This should put the windbag and puffed-up senator in his right place, after all it is not for Duterte to prove that he has amassed the wealth allegedly exposed by Trillanes but, rather, it is the latter’s job to validate his allegations.

 

Presidential emergency powers needed to speed up infra projects

 

President Rodrigo Duterte with Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua

President Rodrigo Duterte with Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua

There never has been such a propitious time to embark on a challenging and costly infrastructure projects that will benefit the country and its people, most specifically in solving the traffic crisis in the country, than it is today.

We should all realize that the country’s population is getting bigger by the year and we can also say that the economy is getting better, but the downside of all these is that the cities’ main thoroughfares are clogging up with private and public transport vehicles, not to mention the continued existence of the ubiquitous jeepneys, and these pathetic sights all over the country are making the people, from students to employees, more stressful and less productive.

Understandably, there have been government projects geared towards improving the flow and plight of people but, sadly, it always ended up in failures because of incompetence, corruption and the scandalous one of all, politics.

I say it is propitious time now because not only do we have an incorruptible leader who wants to see the country move forward, but we also have China that believes in President Rodrigo Duterte’s hard-nosed style of governance and whom it could trust to put into good use the billions of dollars of loan that the giant country is helping us with for the various infrastructure projects needed.

But for these projects to be expeditiously realized Congress must grant Duterte emergency powers, which the latter actually requested in his SONA last July 2016, to solve the traffic dilemma the country is experiencing today.

No less than Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua expressed support for the granting of emergency powers to Duterte, saying, “There is as very strong sense of urgency. As you know, infrastructure projects cannot be done overnight. They usually take years to finish, and given the fact that the presidential term is only six years, so we must hurry. We have to get it done within the presidential term. We are quite afraid of taking up projects that go beyond the presidential term because that would mean a lot of challenges and uncertainties.”

“I hope President Duterte can get his emergency power as soon as possible. Without the emergency power, I think the big infrastructure projects — the process is going to be very slow, particularly with regard to the rehabilitation or the land issue, so we might be stuck there,” he added.

What the Chinese ambassador actually meant are the facilitation of the right-of-way disputes and other hindrances that may be contentious and detrimental to the proposed projects.

In the process we could not discount questions coming from skeptics asking whether or not the Chinese-funded infrastructure projects in the country is a reward for Duterte not making a big fuss over China’s island building and militarization of the South China Sea (SCS), despite a favorable decision by an international tribunal negating China’s nine-dash-line claim.

Well, you tell me, what else could be done with China, now established in the area?  Who are we to be confrontational with China when the most powerful country in the world could not even prevent China from expanding in the SCS?

Beggars cannot be choosy and if having China for a neighbor is the fastest way to develop the country, then so be it. Better this way than to find ourselves in their cross-hair.

Talking about charting our own destiny!

Mitigating flooding during heavy rainfall

 

President Rodrigo Duterte and Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol.

President Rodrigo Duterte and Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol.

Dredging silted rivers may not be the absolute solution for flooding communities across the country every time it rains for days during weather disturbances.

But certainly clearing up and digging up the sediments composed of fine clay and sand, and in some cases stones, rocks, boulders, and other debris in the river, which are deposited by cascading waters from the mountains, will help mitigate the impact of possible overflowing of the river causing flooding and destruction of properties and lives.

We have seen these disastrous events happening for years all over the country, and getting worse, during rainy and typhoon seasons and people have gotten used to it, even accepting it as normal occurrences.

But, could displacement and destruction of lives and properties brought about by a long and seemingly incessant downpour continue to be that – normal occurrences?

We can only be thankful that during these trying times we have concerned government officials in the persons of Agricultural Secretary Manny Piñol and President Rodrigo Duterte who have shown determination and resolve to do something, at least, to one main contributory factor to flooding and that is the dredging of the major rivers across the country.

Upon the recommendation of Piñol, the president has reportedly approved the dredging of the following major rivers:

  • Agusan river, considered the third longest river in the country, that drains into the Butuan Bay at its mouth in Butuan City.
  • Rio Grande deMindanao, also known as the Mindanao river and considered the largest river system in the country, begins near Butuan City and empties into the Moro gulf through Cotabato City.
  • Pampanga river traverses the provinces of Pampanga, Bulacan and Nueva Ecija until it drains into Manila Bay.
  • Cagayan river, also known as Rio Grande de Cagayan, is the longest and 2nd largest river in the country, flows through the provinces of Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino, Isabela and Cagayan until it reaches its mouth at the Babuyan Channel.

Indeed, this is a very welcomed development.

 

Duterte orders total log ban

 

President Rodrigo Duterte

President Rodrigo Duterte

It is very encouraging and reassuring to know that President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered a Tri-Partite Convergence Committee that will formulate guidelines and other details of total log ban implementation in the country.

Knowing who Duterte is and his earnest concern for the country and the Filipino people it should be relieving to all that the government’s log ban policy will be forcefully and finally implemented for good.

I am saying this because it is not that the policy of a total log ban has not been mulled over and studied in the past by past administrations. The long and short of it is because past presidents and past Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) officials just did not have the backbone to implement it vigorously.

Proofs to this are the pieces I wrote in 2012 and 2013 which can be read at these links:  https://quierosaber.wordpress.com/tag/illegal-loggers/ and https://quierosaber.wordpress.com/tag/logging-ban/.

Reportedly, the committee will be composed of the DENR, Department of Agriculture (DA) and Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).

What adds to the favorable action of Duterte is the presence of two supportive and dependable Cabinet stalwarts, namely, DA Secretary Manny Piñol and DENR Secretary Gina Lopez.

In fact what prompted Duterte to issue the directive for the formation of the committee is the apprehension raised by Piñol, during the Climate Change Commission (CCC) En Banc and Advisory Board Meeting in Malacañang, about the massive floods in various river basins in Mindanao due to denuded mountains.

In the same venue Lopez told Duterte that despite the total log ban, several companies were given licenses to cut down trees under the Integrated Forest Management Agreement (IFMA) and the Community-Based Forest Management (CBFM) contracts.

With Duterte’s order to stop all logging operations with no exemptions we can expect the greening of the mountains again and the mitigation of landslides and flash floods.

But this will take time for so much destruction has been done to the nation’s water sheds. In the meantime the agencies tasked to implement the order should continually be in the look- out for the unscrupulous loggers.

Duterte changes tack on war on illegal drugs

 

 

President Rodrigo Duterte

President Rodrigo Duterte

It looks like the kidnapping, in the guise of anti-drug war, that led to the brutal murder of Korean businessman Jee Ick-joon and eventually the disappearance of his ashes, which was reportedly flushed in one of the toilets in the crematorium, has made President Rodrigo Duterte realize that his war on drugs, violent that it has become, is not going anywhere and far from being a success.

It will be noted that Duterte promised the Filipino people that he will eradicate illegal drugs in the country in six months of his presidency.

Well, it was not as if Duterte did not make a difference in his war against drug, but it has dawned on him now that the enormity and monstrosity of the problem made worse by the complicity of rogue and corrupt members of the police force in all ranks of the hierarchy is making his efforts futile at best, and at worst an avenue for political and public condemnation.

“You policemen are the most corrupt. You are corrupt to the core. It’s in your system,” the enraged Duterte said.

This being the dismal picture of police scalawags sustaining the drug proliferation instead of preventing it from becoming a plague in our society, it is only fitting and proper that Duterte has to change tact in his war against drug by declaring war first against police criminals existing in the Philippine National Police (PNP) organization.

PNP chief Ronald dela Rosa echoed Duterte’s sentiments when he issued the following statement to his people, saying: “We have to focus our efforts towards internal cleansing … and by the time we have cleansed the PNP, the President will determine that and instruct us to go back (to) the war on drugs.”

Needless to say that the existence of illegal drugs and the presence of corrupt policemen is a recipe for failure if one has to wage war against the former.

Hopefully Duterte’s change of tact on his war against illegal drugs also changes his perception about giving support and protection to cops involved in the killings believing them to be truthful, like in the case of the murder of Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. in his cell at the Baybay Sub-Provincial Jail, which has been thought by many as a rubout, but which Duterte assured the operatives involved that they won’t go to jail.

It is not too late to change tack. In fact it is a welcome move, a humbling move on the part of Duterte, to recognize and acknowledge that there is another direction to take and a better way to carry on the war on drug to success without generating much controversy.