Use P15B for new Senate building to defend PH sovereignty

IT is so hypocritical for senators like Panfilo Lacson, Risa Hontiveros and Franklin Drilon to be flag-waving hysterically over the Julian Felipe (Whitsun) Reef incident and condemning the Duterte government for, as the former put it, “resorting to acquiescence bordering on implied derogation of our sovereignty.”

If they just bother to study the territorial disputes in the South China Sea – and I would gladly send them the internet links to my two dozen columns on this – they would realize the following two realities.

First, the occupation of features in the Spratly archipelago by three countries and Taiwan is a fait accompli. These are:

PRIORITIES: Top, illustration of P15 billion new Senate building; middle, our ‘installation’ at Ayungin Shoal; bottom, Chinese installation at Mischief Reef.
PRIORITIES: Top, illustration of P15 billion new Senate building; middle, our ‘installation’ at Ayungin Shoal; bottom, Chinese installation at Mischief Reef.
  • Those occupied by China, seven since 1988 plus Scarborough Shoal that President Aquino 3rd lost to China in 2012 because of his and his foreign secretary Albert del Rosario’s colossal bungling;
  • Those occupied by China, seven since 1988 plus Scarborough Shoal that President Aquino 3rd lost to China in 2012 because of his and his foreign secretary Albert del Rosario’s colossal bungling;
  • Those occupied by China, seven since 1988 plus Scarborough Shoal that President Aquino 3rd lost to China in 2012 because of his and his foreign secretary Albert del Rosario’s colossal bungling;
  • Those occupied by China, seven since 1988 plus Scarborough Shoal that President Aquino 3rd lost to China in 2012 because of his and his foreign secretary Albert del Rosario’s colossal bungling;
  • Those occupied by China, seven since 1988 plus Scarborough Shoal that President Aquino 3rd lost to China in 2012 because of his and his foreign secretary Albert del Rosario’s colossal bungling;

The arbitration suit, for which the Aquino government spent P1 billion,  didn’t resolve this dispute. It even turned the Spratlys into a tinderbox as it provoked China to build artificial islands, and US warships have and will be sailing near these islands for their so-called “freedom of navigation” operations. 

No court can resolve sovereignty disputes. A mutual agreement by claimant countries to ask a third party to decide which has the legitimate claim won’t ever happen. Live with that reality.  

Second. the only thing we can do about this disputes and strengthen our sovereignty in the area , as all other claimants except us have done,  is to develop the features we occupy, especially the four islands, into modern installations, complete with ports, airports, communication equipment, and housing both for civilians and soldiers. It is pathetic for us to beg the mighty US military to defend our sovereignty. They never will.

Billion pesos

The Israelis  invented a new term for this old tactic in territorial disputes: “Establishing facts on the ground,” as they did when they built Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip that they grabbed after defeating the Arabs in the Six-Day War of 1976, to make it almost impossible for Egypt and Syria to reclaim them.

While we spent a billion pesos for the expensive American lawyers’ fees and those for the five-man panel in the totally useless arbitration suit against China filed in 2013, the Chinese and the Vietnamese used their money to improve the features they occupied. From having zero dry land before the arbitration, China by reclaiming land from the sea now has 1,300 hectares. In our case,  our dry land of about 50 hectares is even being reduced, as the ocean eats up the ends of the airstrip on Pag-Asa Island.

With these two realities staring us in the face, our most important policy to address the South China Sea dispute is to develop the six islands and four reefs we have occupied in the Spratlys since the 1970s, at least on the scale the Vietnamese have done for their islands.

It is a tragedy, and a cause for national shame that one justification for the 1995 sale of the 240-hectare Fort Bonifacio for P6 billion to the Indonesian Salim group (which subsequently sold it to the Ayalas in 2002) was to raise funds to build facilities in our four islands in the Spratlys. 

Contractors

This did not happen. One source claimed that the funds for our islands in the KIG were pocketed by generals and contractors. “Those places are too far to inspect anyway. A contractor would report that this combination facility was built there; a general would confirm it was. What COA auditor dared inspect it?” 

President Ramos told reporters in mid-2000 that the question where the P6 billion is should be directed at his successor Joseph Estrada. By January 2001, Estrada was ousted, with the core group of plotters known to be Ramos’ former officials.

The “installation” Estrada put up in the Spratlys in 1999 was a grounded, rusted World War 2 landing ship in Ayungin Shoal, where a platoon of marines are stationed, to maintain our sovereign claims in that area. China and Vietnam are laughing at us, while US propagandists use that pathetic image to hail us as a heroic David fighting the Goliath.

But we don’t have the billions of pesos needed to develop our KIG islands as China and Vietnam have done. Really?

But the Senate could afford Senator Lacson’s project to allocate P5 billion in funds for a new hi-tech, luxurious four-story Senate building at Bonifacio Global City, which would eventually cost P15 billion when furniture, fixtures, and other finishing costs are included? The project broke ground in 2019 and had its first concrete pouring in February last year. No problem with funds; it is scheduled to be finished this year. We are the only country in the world to be undertaking such a huge $200 million project to build luxury offices for 24 super-egos, at a time when we are in a recession because of the pandemic.

That is why I said the three senators are hypocritical when they complain that Duterte isn’t doing anything to protect our sovereignty. If they are so concerned about our sovereignty in the KIG, these three senators should spearhead a move to put on hold the construction of that monument to their super-segos, and work out some way to reallocate the P15 funds for it to instead to develop our facilities in that disputed area.

NPA monument

Congress can also allocate P500 million for a building dubbed as a memorial to human rights victims during martial law, but which – as I will prove in subsequent columns – is a monument to members of the Communist Party and New People’s Army killed in their failed revolutionary war.

Our defense establishment has become so stupid to the  point of being ridiculous. Defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana has been jumping up and down protesting the presence of Chinese fishing vessels at Julian Felipe, claiming they are “maritime militias” entirely on the say-so of US intelligence operatives.

For chrissake, the Union Bank where that reef is at, has been  occupied since 1988 by the Chinese and the Vietnamese. Yet Lorenzana shouts, “we will not give an inch of our territory to China.”

China doesn’t need to raise a finger grab our “territory” in the KIG. It is to the sea to which we will be giving up our territory.

Email: tiglao.manilatimes@gmail.com
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