Pass Disaster Resiliency bill now!

Phivolcs not an NDRRMC member
IF there’s any big lesson from the Taal Volcano eruption, and the continuing threat of a bigger one, it is this: Congress must pass asap the Disaster Resiliency bill that President Duterte endorsed in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) last July. Duterte’s words in that SONA seem a bit prescient now:

“I am calling on Congress to expeditiously craft a law establishing a new authority or department that is responsive to the prevailing 21st-century conditions and empowered to best deliver an enhanced disaster resiliency and quick disaster response.”

The utter failure of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) to issue an emergency alarm in the early hours of January 12, which I wrote about last Monday, is just one symptom that this entity is so unwieldy and has little authority to confront what has been our country’s geological bad luck.

We are in the so-called “Ring of Fire (its scientific term, the Circum-Pacific Belt), a major area in the bottom of the Pacific Ocean characterized by active volcanoes and frequent earthquakes. The majority of the earth’s volcanoes and earthquakes take place along the Ring of Fire. We are also smack in the path of typhoons generated in the Pacific Ocean, that a 2006 United States government study concluded that our country is the worst hit by this terrifying natural phenomenon, in terms of both frequency of occurrence and extent of destruction.

With natural disasters so obviously the biggest, really inescapable, threat to our people, guess what has been the state agency assigned to tackle this? (more…)

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Emergency alert system on Taal eruption failed

An eyewitness account
I WRITE this at this time not to blame the government agencies in charge of it, but in order for them to fix their emergency alert system asap, given the uncertainty that, according to our volcano experts, there is still the possibility of a more violent eruption than the one that occurred on January 12.

If such a second eruption occurs, and they haven’t fixed their emergency alert system yet, I’m certain that this time around, there will be huge casualties, caught flat-footed because they hadn’t been warned on time.

The emergency alert system the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC) operates didn’t work last Sunday to warn residents that could be affected by Taal’s eruption.

I was an eyewitness to this as I happened to be in Tagaytay that day playing golf at the Splendido Golf Club, whose coffee shop had a spectacular view of Taal Lake, when the volcano exploded.

The day, month, or even year a volcano erupts is of course unpredictable, as our volcano experts have emphasized in their briefings, since, unlike typhoons, the explosive magma’s movement towards the surface cannot be seen, and can only be surmised by its effects, such as earthquakes, changes in the land’s elevations, and cracks on the earth’s surface.

Taal eruption, photo taken at 5:51 p.m., January 12, 18 km from crater. No emergency alert from NDRRMC. Phivolcs would raise alert level from 3 to 4 only at 7:30 p.m. (Photo by author.)

(more…)

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Yellow trio helping China’s case in South China Sea disputes

BY the “Yellow Trio,” I mean the three who have been clamorously claiming that China is out to devour our territories in the South China Sea. These three are:

1. President Benigno Aquino 3rd’s foreign secretary Albert del Rosario who pushed for the filing of an arbitration case against China over our disputes with that country in the South China Sea in his attempt to cover up for his loss of Scarborough Shoal because of his bungling in 2012;

2. Former Supreme Court senior associate justice Antonio Carpio, believed to be the architect of that suit; and

3. Former Supreme Court justice Conchita Carpio-Morales, who seems to think her role in her post-Supreme Court years would be as her colleague Carpio’s partner in shaming China.

Wittingly or unwittingly, their actions have only served to advance China’s claims in the South China Sea, while trying to demonize China as an expansionist power. If this is the kind of “patriots” we have, we are in big trouble.

Apparently to maintain media attention for their narrative of Chinese expansionism in the South China Sea — after the arbitration ruling in July 2016 proved to be useless and even harmed our national interests — del Rosario and Carpio-Morales last March filed a complaint again Chinese President Xi Jinping before the International Criminal Court (ICC) “for crimes against humanity over environmental damage in the South China Sea.” The two claimed the suit was filed “in behalf of the hundreds of thousands of Filipino fishermen persecuted and injured by the People’s Republic of China.” (more…)

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Carpio persists in lying about arbitration ruling vs China

TO be honest, I find it a sad commentary on our Supreme Court as an institution that a person like Antonio Carpio, who served as justice there for 17 years and purportedly wrote important court decisions, continues to ignore the facts, and because of his pro-United States stance, chooses to fan the embers of anti-Chinese sentiment in the country.

He has been doing this by spreading lies about the decision on an arbitration case that the Philippines brought against China over our disputes in the South China Sea.

In a recent article in his favorite newspaper, Carpio insists that the arbitration panel ruled that Subi (Zamora) Reef is part of our sovereign territory. The Chinese have, since the turn of the century, claimed Subi Reef and have occupied it since 1988, and have reclaimed land to build massive installations on it right after the Philippines filed its arbitration suit against China in 2013. We claim it as one of the features of our Kalayaan Island Group, which President Marcos annexed into our territory in 1978.

Carpio struggled to extract this claim by pointing out in his article: “The tribunal categorically declared that Subi Reef is part of the territorial sea of Thitu Island, which is also known as Pag-asa Island, the largest island occupied by the Philippines in the Spratlys.”

He argued: “Paragraph 373 of the award declared…that ‘Subi Reef would fall within the territorial sea of Thitu as extended by basepoints on the low-tide elevations of the reefs to the west of the island’.” (more…)

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Robredo’s massive failure of mind

IN a report from her 18-day stint as co-chairman of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD), Vice President Maria Leonor Robredo has concluded that President Duterte’s key program, his war on illegal drugs, was a “massive failure.”

It seems though that, based on one of her main arguments for that, she has demonstrated a massive failure of mind.

Robredo claimed in her report: “More than 1.2 million users had surrendered since 2016, while 300,000 had been arrested in police operations, for a total of 1.5 million. If we use the 4 million estimate of drug users and pushers, and only 1.5 million had been accounted for, where are the 2.5 million?”

That the 1.5 million had been “accounted for” means that number of addicts and pushers has been taken out of the population involved in illegal drugs. While there would definitely be backsliders, it is very reasonable to assume that most of these have stopped being addicts and therefore users, and sellers of illegal drugs.

That means approximately a 38 percent reduction in our illegal-drugs world. To use Duterte’s metaphor of war, that means that more than one-fourth of the battlefield has been won by the Duterte administration.

That’s certainly not bad at all. The past Yellow regime in its six years of power had allowed it to prosper. Why, its Justice secretary, Leila de Lima, according to the government charges against her, even protected the drug lords, and allowed its prison to be the nerve center of the trade. After decades of fighting it, other countries with similar scourges — Mexico is a prime example — have seen it even worsen, giving rise to that term “narco state,” or governments controlled by the drug lords.

Yet Robredo claims that she’d give this administration a success grade of 1 percent. (more…)

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Airport immigration offices a disgrace

TO be fair, this kind of nightmare for airline travelers has always been a perennial problem during the holidays, when the number of international travelers drastically increase. Then President Gloria Arroyo in 2003 even had to make a surprise visit to the airport to knock airport authorities’ heads to make the gates to our country tourist- and OFW-friendly.

I am referring to the unbelievably long, nightmarish queues at the immigration counters I myself witnessed returning from an overseas vacation during the holidays.

Worse, Philippine Airlines Terminal 2 doesn’t appear to have been improved at all so that passengers have to be brought from their planes to the terminal on buses. The terminal though was so crowded because of the long immigration queues that the arriving passengers had to wait in their buses — which either had no air-conditioning or had malfunctioning ones. (more…)

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Arbitration tribunal’s most useless ruling, and its worst

Last of four parts
THE tribunal’s ruling that was most hailed by the Yellow regime as well by the United States government and media was its judgment that China’s so-called, even infamous “nine-dash line” has no legal basis under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos). Benigno Aquino 3rd’s Foreign Affairs secretary, Albert del Rosario, claimed, and continues to claim, that the Chinese therefore have no right to be occupying features within that line, which includes eight reefs in our Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) and Bajo de Masinloc, off Zambales.

The tribunal did rule that the line has no justification under Unclos. However, that was really one of its most useless rulings: China’s claims in the South China Sea are not based on maritime entitlements specified by the Unclos.

Even the official Chinese documents (among these, 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) in the post-war era that declared that the Nansha Islands (Spratlys), Xisha (Paracels), and Zhongsha (Macclesfield Bank, which it claims includes our Bajo de Masinloc) are part of its sovereign territory, do not even mention the nine-dash line. (more…)

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We lost our islands with arbitration award

Third of 4 parts
AS discussed in my last column, the arbitral tribunal declared only one feature occupied by China in the Spratlys, Mischief Reef, as within our exclusive economic zone (EEZ), which the superpower cannot claim since as a “low-tide elevation,” or one which sinks to the sea at high tide, it cannot be appropriated by any country.

Even that victory is doubtful because China argues that it claims Mischief Reef not as a separate feature, but as part of its Nansha islands.

Whether China is right or not, that the tribunal declared Mischief Reef as within our EEZ is dwarfed in significance by what we lost as a result of the award, which prompted not a few scholars to conclude that the arbitration ruling was a pyrrhic victory for the Philippines. The term’s origins refer to King Pyrrhus of Epirus who lost so many of his troops in one victorious battle with the Romans. In this case, the Philippines lost so much in getting the tribunal to rule that Mischief Reef is ours. (more…)

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Sovereignty claims, not maritime entitlements

Second of 4 parts
AT the core of the arbitral tribunal’s errors in its ruling was its refusal to recognize that the dispute between China and the Philippines involved sovereign claims over territory. The Philippines’ lawyers though deviously tried to package the suit as involving which country has the right maritime entitlements such as exclusive economic zones (EEZ) if such exist in the South China Sea (SCS) under the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).

They did so because they knew full well that neither the tribunal nor any international panel nor the Unclos has the authority to rule on territorial disputes between nations.

“The tribunal should have got below the surface of the Philippines’ claims, but it did not,” Chris Womersley, an international law expert who has been an adviser to the British government on territorial issues pointed out. (In “The South China Sea: The Award of the Tribunal in the Case Brought by Philippines Against China — A Critique.”)

Similarly, Oxford University professor on public international law Antonios Tzanakopoulos pointed out: “The dispute between the Philippines and China is obviously over sovereignty over… features in the SCS, and only relatedly over maritime zones and the entitlements that the relevant features generate.” (more…)

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Arbitral PH vs China: A colossal deception

First of 4 parts
IT is a colossal deception that the Philippines in 2016 won the arbitration suit against China involving our disputes in the South China Sea and that the country should pursue the “enforcement” of the arbitral tribunal’s “award.”

If it was a victory at all, it was a pyrrhic one, not a few international law scholars have concluded, That means that the damage to Philippine interests, and to the integrity of arbitration based on the provisions of the UN Convention on the Law of Sea (Unclos), made it tantamount to defeat.

(Salako, S. E. in “Entitlement to Islands, Rocks and Low-tide Elevations in the South China Sea: Geoeconomics versus Rule of Law” and Nordquist, Myron, “Unclos Article 121 and Itu Aba in the South China Sea Final Award: A Correct Interpretation”)

President Benigno Aquino 3rd and his foreign secretary Albert del Rosario told the country when it filed the suit in January 2013 that it would recover Scarborough Shoal (Bajo de Masinloc), which Aquino and del Rosario lost to China in June 2012 because of their bungling of the two-month-long stand-off between Philippine and Chinese vessels in the area, as extensively discussed in previous columns. Aquino’s plea for the US to intervene for us to get back Bajo de Masinloc, through American warships escorting our ships back into its lagoon, was also rejected by President Obama. (more…)

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