Suit vs China: Oligarchs’ last resort to salvage their gas project in Spratlys

A DISGUSTING penchant of the Yellows, even its oligarchs, has been to claim that their troubles are not just their own, but of others. The Lopez oligarchs claim their fight is that of ABS-CBN Corp.’s 11,000 employees and of the network’s millions of viewers. Maria Ressa claims that it is not she that the government has prosecuted for libel and tax evasion but the Press. Always, “Hindi sila nag-iisa.”

The most repulsive of such claims was the previous Yellow regime’s assertion that the suit it brought against China in 2013 over disputed claims to exclusive economic zones in the South China Sea, was the “Filipinos’ fight to assert the country’s sovereignty” against what former Foreign Affairs secretary Albert del Rosario said was the bully in Asia — China.

Del Rosario was really speaking not for you and me, but for the Indonesian-owned First Pacific Co. Ltd. Del Rosario had been for nearly two decades a director of First Pacific and/or its biggest subsidiaries such as PLDT Inc. and Metro Pacific Investment Corp.

Indonesian Salim, Razon and del Rosario: Was del Rosario speaking for them? PHOTOS FROM ANNUAL REPORTS
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Two oligarchs triggered our quarrel with China

TALK about the power of the oligarchy, and by “oligarch” I mean not just any magnate but one who has the capacity to get a state agency to do what he wants for his particular business project.

This particular case involves not just one oligarch but two, a foreign one and a Filipino one. What they got the Republic to do — through two administrations — was so significant that it nearly got us into a shooting war with the superpower in our part of the world, China.

This explains why after 10 years that Philippine-China relations flourished despite the two countries’ disputes over the Spratlys, these quite suddenly broke down in 2011.

What was being fought over: the Sampaguita Field in the Reed Bank in the contested Spratlys. Map by author using Google Earth Pro

For all its declarations of nationalist fervor in asserting Philippine sovereignty, the Aquino 3rd administration’s antagonistic stance toward China and its 2013 suit against the superpower in an international venue was triggered by a mammoth business project launched in 2008 by the First Pacific Co., one of the biggest public-utility and infrastructure conglomerates in the Philippines.

China dashed their dreams to become South China Sea oil giants: the Indonesian Salim, his CEO Pangilinan and Razon. Photos from First Pacific and International Container Terminal Services annual reports

Container-port billionaire Enrique Razon Jr., who got a 30-percent stake in this project, played a crucial role in getting that project launched.

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Arbitration ruling opened us to Chinese or Vietnamese military aggression in South China Sea

IT is sickening for the previous Yellow regime, especially its Foreign secretary Albert del Rosario, and just recently President Rodrigo Duterte’s present Defense and Foreign Affairs secretaries to be flag-waving in claiming that the arbitration suit President Benigno Aquino 3rd had filed against China was a “victory” for the Philippines.

The truth – if Duterte’s officials would just bother to study the award and read international law experts’ voluminous analyses on it (rather than reports of United States media) – is that it severely damaged our national interests on such a scale that Aquino and del Rosario could be deemed to have committed treason.

I discussed in last Friday’s column that the arbitration award degraded our islands in the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) into mere “rocks” not entitled to exclusive economic zones, which could have meant – if not for the award – expansive maritime areas for the country four times bigger than the size of Luzon.

But the worst ruling of the award that has put the Philippines in a situation of clear and present danger is this: it made us vulnerable to Chinese or Vietnamese military operations to control our claimed territory within the KIG, which they claim – way before Ferdinand Marcos did in 1978 – as part of their sovereign territory.

It was really stupid for the Aquino-del Rosario lawyers to have asked the tribunal to rule as illegal Chinese ships’ attempts in May 2013 to block Philippine vessels from providing supplies to our 12-man Marine detachment in Second Thomas (Ayungin) Shoal living in the BRP Sierra Madrewreck.

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Locsin and Lorenzana so terribly misinformed about PH vs China arbitration

IF President Duterte has foreign affairs and defense department secretaries who demonstrate astonishing nescience over a very important matter as the Philippines vs China arbitration, he should be very worried.

Do you really want to implement the award? Left, without the award, Pag-Asa’s potential EEZ (red circle) encompassing nearly half of the South China Sea. Right, implementing the award: only a tiny territorial sea (tiny small circle). BY THE AUTHOR USING GOOGLE EARTH PRO

If the two officials echo almost verbatim the belligerent statements against China exploiting the arbitration award of Kelly Kraft, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, last June 1, and the more recent one of  Secretary of State Michael Pompeo — which are really just part of  President Trump’s recent attempts at distracting his nation from his catastrophic failure  to deal with the coronavirus pandemic — he should be very concerned.

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A strong Republic emerges through four fronts

WE are living in historic times, in, as Lenin remarked, “weeks where decades happen.”

That’s a bit exaggerated. It is the past several months or so where decades happened: A strong republic is finally emerging in what has been this sorry land.

The Republic against the four: Lopez, Sison, Ressa and Covid-19.
photo credits: ABS-CBN, Wikipedia, AP

And by a strong state, I mean, as political scientists define it, one that has two main features. First, it is a state that is autonomous of dominant classes and sectors, most especially independent of the oligarchs. Second, it has the capacity through a strong bureaucracy and military to protect and serve the Filipinos’ interests.* The importance of a strong state is that there has been no developed country that didn’t have a strong state in periods of their growth.

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Enough of this ‘chilling effect’ nonsense: Media is a pack of wolves, not sheep

FROM the likes of Sen. Franklin Drilon to an obscure never-heard reporter of ABS-CBN network talking to BBC to the bogus organization of “journalists,” the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, we’ve been hearing this claim that the Congress’ decision not to give that oligarch-owned network the privilege to use the nation’s radio frequency spectrum would have a “chilling effect” on press freedom.

That chilling effect cliché is one urban legend, actually in the same genre of an outright superstition that a black cat crossing your path means bad luck.

Take it from me, as I’ve been a journalist since my teens, even during martial law. If you believe in this chilling effect hogwash, you don’t know how media works, you’re a middling “journalist” with not enough experience in the business, or you’re simply a mouthpiece of the Lopezes of ABS-CBN shamelessly trying to hide the fact that Congress has boldly decided to disarm an oligarch of its media weapon.

President Corazon Aquino testifying at a hearing of her libel suit against Philippine Star columnist Luis Beltran
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Never again an oligarch-owned ABS-CBN

Solon alleges 200M bribe
THE House of Representatives, especially its committee on franchises, would be making history if it rejects the demand of the oligarch-owned ABS-CBN Corp. to authorize its use of our Republic’s radio spectrum as a broadcast network.

To be frank, I had never thought I’d see in my lifetime a Congress that would disarm an oligarch as powerful as the Lopez clan of its more potent weapon, its media behemoth. This is especially so since the House of Representatives has been such a tool of the rich and powerful since the founding of the Republic and easily vulnerable to bribes.

Indeed, ACT-CIS party-list Rep. Eric Go Yap the other day issued a statement claiming that somebody had called him, introducing himself as an emissary of ABS-CBN and asking him to vote for ABS-CBN’s franchise. In return, he would be paid P200 million, Yap said.

ABS-CBN issued a terse one-sentence denial: “ABS-CBN did not send an emissary to bribe any lawmaker to vote in favor of our franchise.” But did the Lopezes?

I do hope Yap discloses who this emissary is.

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A gullible and irresponsible Makati Business Club

IT is sickening and the height of irresponsibility for the Makati Business Club (MBC) — or perhaps a cabal there that dupes its members  — to have issued statements against the Ant-Terrorism Act, against Rappler head Maria Ressa’s conviction for cyberlibel and for the Congress’ refusal (so far) to grant ABS-CBN Corp. another 25-year broadcast franchise.

MBC’s current trustees: They in effect claim that there is no rule of law in the Philippines.  Photo from MBC website

Or has the MBC finally shed its true nature as the big-business propaganda arm of the dying Yellow Cult that it so willing to bash anything identified with the Duterte government?

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Political will or plain discernment?

“WITH all the pressure coming from different directions against the signing of the Anti-Terrorism bill into law, at the end of the day, it is President [Rodrigo] Duterte’s strong political will that mattered most,” Sen. Panfilo Lacson, the bill’s principal author, said in a message to reporters on the day the law was enacted. “I cannot imagine this measure being signed under another administration.”

Indeed, Duterte in the four years that he has been leading the country has done crucial things that obviously required much political will, all of which you can describe exactly with Lacson’s “with-all-the-pressure-coming-from-different-directions” phrase.

Among these: the prosecution and incarceration of Benigno Aquino 3rd’s Justice secretary Leila de Lima for connivance with drug lords; Ferdinand Marcos’ burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani; the war against drugs; ending the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) owners’ illegal but lucrative hold on a Makati commercial center; the siege of Marawi; the collection of P30 taxes owed by tobacco manufacturer Mighty Corp. and the P6-billion unpaid aviation fees by magnate Lucio Tan’s Philippine Airlines; the “pivot” away from the United States and the country’s rapprochement with China; his refusal to reopen peace talks with the communists; the six-month closure of Boracay island; the clean-up of Manila Bay and Pasig River; and the four-month quarantine (of different intensities) of many major cities in order to contain the coronavirus.

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The low-tech way that Japan managed to tackle coronavirus quickly

ON our 110th day of different degrees of lockdown, any unbiased observer would rationally conclude this administration’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic could be graded 7 to 8, in a scale in which 10 is perfect.

I didn’t pull this grading from out of the blue. Going by worldometers.info’s data and tabulation, the number of Covid-19 cases for the planet’s 7.7 billion population is 1,386 per 1 million population. That’s four times of ours, which is 351. For deaths per 1 million population, it is 67 for the world; ours is just 12.

Check out the accompanying table and we’re obviously doing much, much better than the United States, United Kingdom, Italy as well as most of Western and Eastern European countries.

We’re doing better than Indonesia. But Thailand, Malaysia, Japan and, of course, Vietnam’s performance have been spectacular. Can you believe that Vietnam has only 355 cases and no deaths?

These figures, however, all mean that the government’s performance is not just average but at least two notches higher than average, which would be 7 to 8. The 9 and 10 grades are obviously for Thailand, Malaysia, Japan and Vietnam.

Which brings up to what should be the top concern now of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), which is to determine — and tell the public — why we still haven’t been able to contain Covid-19 on the level that Malaysia, Thailand, Japan and Vietnam have done.

Reprinted below is a June 24 article from the Japan Times titled “The low-tech way that Japan managed to tackle the virus quickly” which I hope could contribute to the IATF-EID’s efforts.

What I found promising is that the “low-tech” way discussed in this article is simply contact-tracing, undertaken through Japan’s 450 community-level “public health centers.”

We have a similar institution, called the Barangay Health Center, which had been mandated to be set up in each of our over 40,000 barangay by a Marcos letter of instruction in 1973. While I cannot find data on how many such centers have been set up and actually running, these are ubiquitous in Metro Manila and its adjacent provinces, functioning as most barangay residents’ first point of health service.

Covid-19, July 2, 2020 Source: worldometers.info
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