Author: Admin

Before Rappler, there was PCIJ: A foreign-funded media weapon of the Yellows

COME to think of it, the Yellows most probably used the misnamed Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) as its template for Rappler, and improved on it by having daily new reportage and by spending millions of pesos for technology to expand its internet reach.

While both viewed themselves as God’s gift to Philippine journalism, with PCIJ indeed producing to its credit about two dozen good investigative reports in its 29 years of existence, it has since degenerated into a tool of the Yellow forces and, recently, of US foreign policy.

This is not my opinion but the indisputable conclusion from facts, which anyone can verify by simply going to the PCIJ website and poring over its articles since 1999.

There is no PCIJ article critical of the second Yellow regime of Fidel Ramos posted in its website.

But it produced dozens of articles against Ramos’ successor Joseph Estrada, especially on his wealth, so that its executive editor then boasted that it was PCIJ that brought that presidency down just as the Washington Post’s Wood-Bernstein duo toppled the Nixon administration. (In our case though, I was told, ‘Deep Throat’ was the top intelligence man of Fidel Ramos, who allegedly went all out to topple Estrada who was then going to prosecute him for the corrupt Amari deal.)

Vociferousness
Right after the Yellows broke away from President Gloria Arroyo’s administration, PCIJ, with the same intensity as the Philippine Daily Inquirer, posted scores of articles vehemently critical of her, her family and her administration. The articles’ vociferousness was such that it was as if it expected to repeat its alleged feat with Estrada.

Many of the articles bordered on tabloid sensationalism. An article titled “Shame and Scandal in the Family,” simply listed the allegations raised by the Yellows against the Arroyo family, all of which — despite the Benigno Aquino administration’s efforts in six years to pin them down on these accusations — have been proven false.

Balanced investigations?

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Filed under: Manila Times Columns

Water companies demand P140B more from govt

NOT happy about their P120 billion in profits in the past 10 years, generated because of their monopoly positions, Manila Water Co. and Maynilad Water Services are demanding another P140 billion from government, for the period from 2015 to 2037, when their agreement officially ends.

The 2018 report to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) of Manila Water, a firm majority owned and controlled by the Ayala conglomerate, pointed out:

“As a result of certain actions by the MWSS and the Republic, which are covered by the provisions of the Sovereign Undertaking, the Company demanded indemnification from the Republic by reimbursing its losses in operating revenues to be realized for each remaining year of the Concession as such losses are realized, which losses are estimated to amount to P79 billion for the period 2015 up to 2037.”

The “certain actions” referred to by Manila Water were both the delay in authorizing the increase in their water rates and the magnitude of the increase. It claimed the water rates authorized by the government “denied the Company the rate of return allowed to operators of long-term infrastructure concession agreement in other countries having a credit standing similar to the Philippines.”

This is totally absurd, and more so, extremely unpatriotic. The regulatory body denied the rates that Manila Water had demanded, but still gave the water tariffs that generated for it an income of P55 billion from 2009 to 2018. Yet Manila Water still claims it didn’t get its appropriate profits, that it incurred losses which government must reimburse it for every year until 2037?

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Pag-asa Island? Oops, arbitration award ruled it’s just a rock

AND you can thank former President Aquino and his astonishingly pro-American Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario for this, as it was they who got the Republic to file an arbitration suit against China for allegedly violating the law of the sea.

Yes, the award sided with much of the Philippines’ arguments, among them its ruling that China’s claim over much of the seas in the South China Sea (demarcated by the ambiguous nine-dash line) had no basis under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

What del Rosario and his pro-American boys posing as objective academics do not mention is the following ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration on the case:

“None of the high-tide features in the Spratly Islands, in their natural condition, are capable of sustaining human habitation or economic life of their own within the meaning of Article 121(3) of the Convention.”

And Article 121(3) of the Convention categorizes such features as “rocks,” as opposed to “islands.”

Our Pag-Asa Island in the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG), as well as three other features that Marcos had called islands when he annexed the area in 1978 through his Presidential Decree 1596, are all in the Spratly Islands, which therefore under the arbitral award are not islands but rocks.

Islands under UNCLOS are entitled to a 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Rocks do not have such a zone, and have only a 12-nautical mile territorial sea.

If there had been no such arbitration ruling, we could have argued that Pag-Asa is an island and therefore entitled to an EEZ. This would have extended our existing EEZ, which as of now is measured from baselines in Palawan, and ends near the KIG.

Talk of the law of unintended consequences. Or perhaps it was the consequence the US strategists wanted.

Just rocks, not islands, according to arbitration award: Pag-Asa Island (left) and Taiwan’s Taiping.
Taiping and Pag-Asa’s EEZ (inside the circle) if they were islands.

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Carpio is ignorant, or lying about loan terms in his anti-Chinese rants

IN the course of his campaign to paint China as an evil empire, Supreme Court Senior Justice Antonio Carpio has claimed that the Philippines had defaulted on its loans in 1983.

He said this is a precedent that if government defaults on its borrowings from China for the Chico River dam project, the Chinese can seize Philippine assets, probably even the gas-rich Reed Bank.

That is so absurd.

Carpio is so totally ignorant of international loan agreements, and what happened in 1983, that bankers are laughing at him. More likely, he is deliberately lying for his agenda that is becoming clearer every time he opens his mouth. This is to stoke the embers of the centuries-old anti-Chinese racism among Filipinos so as to force President Duterte to move away from China and instead, as his predecessor did, be a vassal of the US.

I know in detail what happened in 1983 because I covered daily for two years as a senior reporter of the Business Day newspaper the unraveling of the debt crisis at the time, when Carpio claimed the Philippines “defaulted” on its loans.

It is astonishing that for a former corporate lawyer, and Supreme Court justice, Carpio doesn’t seem to know that in international loans, “default” is a precise legal term. It is an event that occurs when the lender declares that the creditor has failed to pay its interest payments (or the loan principal) on time, and beyond a grace period stipulated in the loan agreement. Continue reading

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Is the Senate, particularly Lacson, out to sabotage Duterte’s reform program?

I AM becoming convinced more and more that indeed the Yellows in the Senate, exploiting the chamber’s clubbish nature, are succeeding in sabotaging President Rodrigo Duterte’s reform momentum through its power over determining the national government’s budget.

After all of Sen. Panfilo Lacson’s blah-blahs, full of “pork” sound bites, but hardly any empirical proof, the Senate’s interference with the budget approved by the House of Representatives resulted in billions of pesos of funds for the President’s key programs being deleted from the budget for this year.

It is an indication of the Yellows’ hold on media that the statement the other day of Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr., chairman of the House committee that drafts the budget after its submission by the executive department, wasn’t reported at all, or was relegated to the inside pages. The Philippine Daily Inquirer, for example, reduced the issue of delays in the House’s approval to Lacson’s allegations that it was due to a feud between Andaya and his political rival in Camarines Sur, Luis Villafuerte.

The remnants of the Yellows haven’t given up, strategizing that sabotaging Duterte’s reforms at this stage would weaken him politically and thereby increase the opposition’s chances of recovering power in 2022.

Andaya’s press statement the other day explained how the budget has been mangled by the Senate. I am taking this unusual move to publish it in full, verbatim, although I have emphasized certain points through italics.

You decide if his allegations are accurate.

Andaya’s statement:
“The 2019 General Appropriations Bill [GAB] has been transmitted for the signature of President Duterte, and we expect it to be signed after the Office of the President has wrapped up its review of the veto message.

Blocking ‘Build, Build, Build’? Senate removes from budget P11.3B for right-of-way projects.

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Water monopolies raking in insane profits

IF after reading this piece, you find nothing wrong in our oligarch-dominated economic system, then your faith in unbridled capitalism is boundless, bordering on the religious.

The monopoly profits of the two companies that supply one of the most basic needs of humans, water, which a state is mandated to provide, in the past ten years to 2018 (for which I was able to get data) amounted to P120 billion, according to their annual reports.

At an annual rate of P12 billion in profits, this monopoly supplying water is one of the most profitable businesses in the country. Some would call that insane.

The two metropolitan water monopolies are first the Manila Water Corp., the biggest stockholder of which, the Ayala family, with 42 percent share, is the quintessence of the Spanish-descended landlord class. Unlike other elites in Asia which led their countries’ industrialization, the Ayalas have stuck to a rent-based business – property.

The rest of Manila Water Corp.’s owners are also the richest in the country and in the world, their investments in the company made through global fund managers and directly through the stock market. The firm is the monopoly water distributor in the metropolis’ eastern area, consisting of 23 cities in Manila and Rizal, including of course as the Ayala would want it, Makati and Taguig, where the two premier business districts are.

Monopoly
The second monopoly—to call the two a duopoly is false, as they don’t compete but have their own territories—is the Maynilad Water Co. Maynilad has the monopoly of water distribution in the western part of the metropolis, covering 17 cities and municipalities, which includes Quezon City and parts of Cavite province.

Scenes from the recent water shortage crisis (top); below, the men behind the water monopolies: the Zobel de Ayala brothers, Salim and his Executive Manuel Pangilinan.

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Aquino, Del Rosario endorsed fake book on the PH-China suit

TO be honest, I’m mad. I spent hard-earned P1,000 (P700 for the book, P300 commuting to the bookstore) on the pompously titled The South China Sea Arbitration: Understanding the Awards and Debating with China, by a retired De La Salle University professor, Alfredo Robles.

Despite my doubts about the book, I decided to buy it as part of my research for a book on the topic I’m working on. After all, President Benigno Aquino 3rd made a very rare public appearance at the book’s launch last January, endorsing it.

While I certainly doubt Albert del Rosario’s intellect, as he was fooled into losing Scarborough Shoal to the Chinese, still he was the Foreign Affairs secretary who said the book was an “edifying, analytical piece, a must-read.”

It is a fake book, consisting mostly of not the author’s writings but material cut and pasted from the website of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) that “arbitrated” the Philippine suit against China for allegedly violating the UN Law of Sea treaty.

Fact
This is not my opinion but a fact, as objective as arithmetic.

The book is 334 pages long. But over 250 pages, or three-fourths of it, consist of the PCA documents on its two decisions (called awards) as well as the very detailed biographies of the five judges and the Philippines’ six lawyers (none of whom are Filipinos.)

These are all freely available and downloadable from the PCA website. Why would anyone in his right mind pay P700 for content that is free in the internet?

Another trick the author used to lengthen the book was to have an index that is 36 pages long. How did he do that?

Did they even open the book? (Author at extreme right)

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US fooled Del Rosario and Aquino for its ‘Pivot to Asia’ strategy

WE lost Scarborough Shoal (Bajo de Masinloc) in June 2012 to the Chinese when then President Aquino 3rd’s foreign secretary, Albert del Rosario, ordered our vessels out of the shoal’s lagoon, naively believing the claim of the US mediator that the Chinese had also agreed to do so. That is an indisputable fact.

Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th claims that Del Rosario ordered our vessels out without Aquino’s permission. Neither del Rosario nor Aquino has responded to Trillanes’ account ever since I reported it back in 2013.

The Chinese vessels didn’t leave the shoal, and with the unwritten rule in all territorial squabbles that a party that leaves a disputed area loses it, unless it uses military force — for which the world will, however, condemn it.

If China had not taken advantage of del Rosario’s boo-boo, and allowed Philippine vessels to return to the shoal’s lagoon, there would have been such a howl among the Chinese, especially the People’s Liberation Army, that the Communist Party leadership would have certainly been ousted from power.

Only our then ambassador to the US Jose Cuisia, who was actually in the meetings with the Chinese, and del Rosario have claimed that China reneged on the agreement. But they cannot even produce a document such as an aide memoire or “draft memorandum of agreement” that are SOP instruments in any kind of negotiations.

Denied
The Chinese diplomat in the talks, then Foreign Affairs Vice Minister Fu Ying, totally denied that that there was such an agreement. Indeed, only the most incompetent diplomat would have assumed that Fu had the authority at that one-day secret meeting in a Virginia hotel, to commit her country to such a crucial decision. It was astonishing indeed that Cuisia and del Rosario were ignorant of the fact that China — as all countries do — have a mandatory hierarchical system for deciding on a course of action.

Even the respected London-based Financial Times in its report on that episode was aghast at del Rosario’s naiveté:

“It is unclear whether Ms Fu really tried to sell the agreement in Beijing or whether the foreign ministry was overruled by more hawkish elements in the Chinese system, including the military. ‘When you think about it, neither is a very appealing outcome,’ says one participant in the talks.”

What is extremely significant is that not even the US has gone on record to claim that the Chinese reneged on an agreement to leave Scarborough Shoal together with the Philippines.

The book’s author who fooled our gullible foreign secretary that the Chinese had agreed to leave Bajo de Masinloc.

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Del Rosario’s ICC case: Cover-up Part 2 for his boo-boo in losing Scarborough

THE real reason why former President Aquino 3rd’s Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto del Rosario filed a useless case against China’s President Xi Jinping in the International Criminal Court (ICC) is the following.

It was because of del Rosario’s huge blunder that we lost Scarborough Shoal (Bajo de Masinloc) to the Chinese in 2012. To cover up for his monumental error, he urged the Aquino government in 2013—most probably prodded by the US—to file the arbitration suit against China for violating the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

He very falsely thought the suit could order China out of the shoal. It didn’t.

That was Part 1 of his efforts to portray himself as a big crusader against China, as a smokescreen to conceal his blunder. After two years, the decision was handed down; that suit more and more is being revealed not just as useless one because it cannot be enforced, even as we spent P500 million for it.

Worse, some of its decisions worked against us, among these was its ruling that not only the features the Chinese were occupying were mere “rocks”. It ruled that all features in the Spratlys were not “islands” but rocks. That means even our Pag-Asa Island, and every geographical feature under the Kalayaan group of islands which Marcos annexed to our territory, became mere “rocks.” If we really comply with the arbitration decision, as del Rosario keeps saying China should, we have to rename those territories as the Kalayaan Group of Rocks, and Pag-Asa Rock.

With more and more studies pointing to del Rosario’s blunder, he needed another plot to portray himself as a patriotic crusader against China, which was to file the ICC case: Part 2 of the big cover-up. Continue reading

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Senate’s profligate P15-B edifice a lesson for the nation

PERHAPS the insistence of the Senate, led by Sen. Panfilo Lacson, to build its new luxurious 11-story, 8.5-hectare office building at the posh Bonifacio Global City at a cost likely to reach at least P15 billion will turn out to be good for the nation.

It will be a stunning lesson that will drive into Filipinos’ consciousness a reality that has been hidden from them through the rhetoric of “democracy”: We are really ruled by a small, exclusive, clubbish political elite — the Senate being one of its prime institutions — who don’t really have the masses’ welfare in their heart of hearts. Instead it’s fool them in the way Senate President Vicente Sotto 3rd justified that monument to their superegos, when he said it will be an “illustrious home to the servants of the people.”

Give me a break. There has been no senator who became a senator because he wanted to be a “servant” of the people. Next to the presidency, it is the highest form in this country of building up one’s ego. After achieving that goal, maybe then they serve the people, especially since appearing to do so helps them get reelected.

The obvious belief of our senators: “We are the gods of the country’s political Olympus. We can do what we want. Rant as long as you like.”

The many comments posted in my column on this topic on Wednesday, and even in the Facebook posting of the Manila Bulletin newspaper on its new story that simply announced the groundbreaking for the edifice show citizens so angry at the new Senate building. Just a few examples: Continue reading

Filed under: Manila Times Columns