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Manhit lies on international support for arbitration award

Second of 3 parts

ANOTHER of the lies of Victor Andres Manhit, president of the pro-US ADR-Stratbase outfit, is that seven years after the arbitration award on the Philippine suit vs China was handed down by a five-man ad hoc panel, there has been growing “unanimous” support for it.

That’s a patent lie. The reality is that there has been waning interest in the arbitration award, and this year’s flurry of activity by the ADR-Stratbase to celebrate the award’s seventh anniversary was a pathetic attempt to draw attention to it.

The world and even the US has realized that the award, as President Duterte said in 2021, is just a useless “piece of paper.” As I have argued in several columns, if one reads the award, it not only does not have any means of enforcement: It actually doesn’t even order China to do anything.

Yes, it declares that the nine-dash line in the Chinese maps has no basis in international law. But it doesn’t order China to vacate the islands and reefs in the Spratlys it occupies, which the Aquino 3rd government falsely claimed was its justification for holding on to these. Contrary to ignorant claims that the suit was a “legal victory” for the country, it settled nothing over the sovereignty and maritime-rights disputes in the Spratlys. In its very fifth paragraph, the award pointed out: “Unclos does not address the sovereignty of States over land territory. Accordingly, this Tribunal has not been asked to, and does not purport to, make any ruling as to which State enjoys sovereignty over any land territory in the South China Sea, in particular with respect to the disputes concerning sovereignty over the Spratly Islands or Scarborough Shoal.”

Even a US propaganda venue on the South China Sea disputes — the Asian Maritime Transparency Institute (AMTI) — could not but help reporting the declining interest in the arbitration award. The AMTI is an affiliate of the Washington-based Center for Strategic Studies set up right after the Aquino 3rd government filed the arbitration suit in 2013. Its Philippine-based counterpart in fact is the ADR-Stratbase outfit that was set up the same day.


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ADR-Stratbase head Manhit: Purveyor of lies on PH-China arbitration

THE lies being spread over the Philippines’ “arbitration” suit against China and its “award” are a testament to the US’ power to control global narratives.

Indeed, in its intensity and embrace by so many people, the dominant anti-China view on the arbitration suit is on par with the epic lie the US spread in 2003 to justify its totally illegal and horrific invasion of Iraq: that it had weapons of mass destruction that threatened the world.

That isn’t really surprising; the elites in a nation, and the US in the world as the hegemon, almost always dominate current views. In time, however, these will be exposed as fabrications. That lie about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction has been totally, absolutely and inarguably exposed as one of the most shameless deceptions in modern history, and its real intentions — to secure for the next century the West’s oil supplies and to reinvigorate America’s “defense” industry — are coming to light.


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We lose 19% of PH territory if we comply with arbitration ruling

IT’s bordering on hilarious that Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo and his predecessor, the late Albert del Rosario’s propaganda outfit Stratbase ADR, have been shrieking for the “implementation” of the 2016 arbitration ruling on the Philippine suit against China, with three ignorant and noisy senators even demanding for our government to ask the United Nations to ask for Chinese compliance with it.

Why do I claim so?

Yes, the award declared illegal under Unclos China’s nine-dash line that encompasses much of the South China Sea. But that is not the basis for Chinese claims over the Spratlys. Other than declarations made hundreds of years ago, China declared what it calls “Nansha” as part of its territory in the post-war period through the Declaration of the Government of the People’s Republic of China on the Territorial Sea of 1958 and the Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone of 1992. All its official maps portray the Spratlys as part of its territory, as does Vietnam.

But we’re really the losers in what Manalo and the ADR-Stratbase — and of course, the US government — have claimed as a “landmark ruling” in international law. It is the same Unclos provisions that the arbitration ruling invoked to declare China’s nine-dash line illegal that the panel invoked to declare our Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) without basis in international law.


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The arbitration suit: US’ worst blunder in Asia that could lead to nuclear war

THE ruling of the three-man arbitration panel on our South China Sea disputes with China has been totally useless for us, as the past seven years have proven. But worse, the suit itself which the US manipulated the Benigno Aquino 3rd regime into filing in 2012 — and even undertaken by American lawyers — has been one of the US’ biggest geopolitical blunders.

It may just pave the way for a nuclear war between the two superpowers in our part of the world.

That war would break out is of course speculative. But what’s an established fact is that the filing of the arbitration suit triggered China, Vietnam and the US’ frenzied militarization of the area, with the former especially building artificial islands with facilities that would turn these into forward bases in a war with the US over Taiwan. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in 2014 said China would be willing to halt its island building in the Spratlys if the Philippines dropped the suit that it initiated the previous year. The Aquino government — or the US — said no.

What arbitration has wrought: Chinese vs US toe to toe. Image by author using Google Earth Pro

Looking with horror that the arbitration suit gave China the justification to transform its seven formerly puny reefs into “unsinkable aircraft carriers,” the US moved heaven and earth — how it did this is a big mystery — to restore the Philippines as its forward-military base, through the so-called Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement that allows the US military to use nine facilities as their platform for war all over the country.

The arbitration suit against China engineered by the Obama administration to further its anti-China campaign, euphemistically called its “Pivot to Asia,” started in 2009, resulted in the colossal debacle that gave the Chinese de facto permanent military control, through their artificial islands, of the northern part of the South China Sea, in the part of the Spratlys archipelago nearest us. It had secured the southern part when it took over the Paracel islands in 1974.


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How ‘miserable’ are we, compared to others, and to past regimes?

THE “misery index” I wrote about last Monday is a rough economic measure of the well-being, or rather its obverse, of a country. Its usefulness is that it provides some solid basis — a quantifiable one — for assessing where we are as a nation under a current administration. The index is simply the sum of the inflation rate and unemployment rate for a particular period.

High prices drive up a person’s misery; joblessness reflects the citizens’ misery.

As I reported in detail in last Monday’s column, the 11.9 average of our misery indices in the year to June 2023 is the third-highest in the current decade, after the 19.5 index in 1998 during the 1997-1998 Asian financial crisis, and the 12 in 2008 during the global financial crisis.


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Marcos’ popularity steady, Filipinos’ misery the worst in 25 years

SO far into his presidency, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s popularity continues to be high. Going by the pollster Publicus Asia’s most recent poll, his approval rating in June 2023 remains at 62 percent, unchanged from a year ago, and his trust score is at 80, statistically unchanged from 81 a year ago.

However, Filipinos’ misery during Marcos’ first year in office has worsened, using that rough economic measure termed the “misery index.”

This is simply the sum of the unemployment and inflation rates. It is a logical rate to measure a nation’s well-being, or lack of it: more people without work means more miserable people, while even more people are at work, but the salaries they receive aren’t enough to buy the things they need.


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Fire Frasco for the fiasco

I COULDN’T help but use that catchy headline, a rare one as it has both alliteration and rhyme. Perhaps the universe indeed is conspiring against the tourism secretary Christina Garcia Frasco and her P49-million tourism slogan, “Love the Philippines.” It has turned out to be a fiasco, and will go down in the department’s history as the most ridiculed and disliked among our past six slogans.

An official video for the slogan telling the world to travel to the Philippines and they’ll love the country, yet having scenes from Brazil, Indonesia, Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates misrepresented as “lovable” sites here? Ridiculous.

The fiasco is a case study of the high risk of having top officials with no experience in the tourism industry and letting the department head take in as his or her core staff her home-province amigas.


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EDCA bases crucial to US hegemony in Asia

THE military bases that two Philippine administrations have authorized the United States armed forces to use are crucial to America’s military superiority in Southeast Asia, Gregory Poling, a top American strategist on the South China Sea issue claimed in his most recent book Dangerous Ground.

As a result, however, various recent simulations of a US-China war show that the Philippines has been raised as among the top targets of a Chinese missile strike, at the level of Kadena Air Base in Okinawa and the Andersen Air Base in Guam, two of the US Air Force’s biggest facilities in the world.

Revealingly subtitled America’s Century in the South China Sea, Poling’s book surveys US hegemony in Asia, and the emergence of the territorial and maritime-disputes in that sea.


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The road forward for SCS disputes: Drop sovereignty debates

I HAVE written so many columns and a book debunking the US narrative on the South China Sea (SCS) disputes — swallowed hook, line, and sinker by our elite as well as by the administrations of Aquino 3rd and even implicitly Marcos Jr. The crux of this narrative is that China is an expansionist power and intends to occupy all of the waters and features of the SCS.

This view is simplistic and contains factual errors, and upon close scrutiny, is merely intended to advance the American propaganda line of China as the new Evil Empire — with the hidden assumption that the US must continue as the hegemon in Asia to counter it. Note that in this false account, Vietnam as a militant claimant, which had occupied the most number of features and which in 1994 grabbed an islet we had occupied, is only rarely mentioned in the US accounts as this weakens the narrative China as an evil empire.

Another even more important reason to debunk this US view is that it doesn’t point to any solution to the disputes, except through an armed conflict between the US and China. I think this is what some American strategists really want, in order to prevent China’s rise as the superpower in the region.


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Ignorant senators, irresponsible newspaper

FOR two straight days, the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s banner headlines were about bringing our disputes with China to the United Nations. Its banner on June 26: “Senator backs bringing WPS case vs China to UN.” Who’s the senator? Francis Tolentino.

Yes, he’s vice chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee, which, because it doesn’t have a hand in almost anything in the country, is one of the least sought-after posts in the Senate. But c’mon, Tolentino’s worldview has probably not gone beyond Tagaytay, which he has headed for 18 years, and beyond the buildings of Metro Manila as chairman for five years of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority.

Screaming headlines supporting a cockamamie proposal.

And then yesterday, that paper had as its banner: “UN as venue to resolve WPS row gains support.”  Who threw in their support to that cockamamie idea?

One, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, has been also a small-city mayor and hardly a thinker known to contemplate geopolitics. The other is Sen. Risa Hontiveros, who had been with the Pink Akbayan Party for years before she made a successful run for the Senate due to then President Benigno Aquino’s inexplicable, massive support.

With utmost respect, these three senators are colossally ignorant about, in general, what our territorial disputes with China are about, and in particular, what the “ruling” by an arbitral panel was in 2016 involving these issues. I doubt very much if Estrada, Tolentino and Hontiveros even read the 500-word ruling. I strongly suggest they undertake a crash course on the South China Sea disputes before pontificating on these.

Why, I don’t think they have even read the United Nations Charter, or even know what this international body with 193 member states is.


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