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BBM has to change his decision-making process

FINANCE Secretary Benjamin Diokno’s admission that neither he nor other economic managers were consulted by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on the rice price cap decision bolsters accounts that I have been receiving over the President’s decision-making process. Unfortunately, they claim his decisions have been made haphazardly, and without consultation with his officials or other private advisers knowledgeable about the issue.

Unlike most effective presidents of corporations, and even a few presidents of the Republic, Marcos reportedly hardly consults with advisers on a decision to be made, nor does he have a group that he asks to debate the pros and cons of a controversy. In the case of the rice price cap, I was told that the Agriculture department’s senior undersecretary Domingo Panganiban called him up to recommend it, and he immediately agreed to the proposal.

I couldn’t find anybody to tell me who or what group Marcos consults with. I had thought chief presidential legal counsel Juan Ponce Enrile and Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin, a former Supreme Court chief justice, would be the heavyweights he would ask for advice. “Have you ever seen a photo of him talking to them?” a Malacañang insider said with a wide grin. Marcos Cabinet meetings are a formality in which reports are presented to a bored audience with no discussion of important issues facing the country. The Cabinet meetings, two members told me, are practically a ritual, dominated by boring PowerPoint events.


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Read more about the article Just what we need: A dysfunctional agri department
The three who run the problem-riddled Agriculture department: Panganiban, Sebastian and Savellano. PHOTOS FROM DA WEBSITE
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Just what we need: A dysfunctional agri department

JUST when prices of rice and other agricultural commodities have become volatile, not just because of climate change and logistical disruptions resulting from the Ukraine war but from such unexpected dements as an Indian ban on some of its rice exports, we have the most dysfunctional department in the country — the Agriculture department.

The blame is solely on President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., although he can easily move to restore the department’s effectiveness by doing what he should have done on Day 1 of his presidency, which is to appoint a qualified technocrat, preferably with political skills, as a full-time Agriculture secretary.

Instead, he appointed himself as concurrent Agriculture secretary, which, as expected, in effect meant that the department was leaderless. In the 14 months that he has been Agriculture secretary, he has visited the department only four times and has reportedly met with its undersecretaries and other officials three times. What has he been thinking?

It is a mystery why Marcos has been adamant about keeping the agriculture portfolio, even though it is so obvious he is unable to run it, especially at this crucial period when prices of rice and even vegetables are so volatile that a tight running of the department is necessary. While he was governor and vice governor of a dominantly agricultural province for 12 years, he has never shown any expertise or interest in agricultural issues. Marcos’ insistence borders on political suicide as the department not only faces daunting challenges because of decades of neglect and mismanagement; it is also viewed as an Augean stable of corruption.

The three who run the problem-riddled Agriculture department: Panganiban, Sebastian and Savellano. PHOTOS FROM DA WEBSITE

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Forget our Mutual Defense Treaty with US

THE real reason our civilian and military officialdom are hostile toward China regarding our disputes with it in the South China Sea is their dubious faith that under the 1952 Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) with the US, the powerful American military will come to our aid in case the Chinese attack us.

Indeed, the head of the ADR Stratbase propaganda outfit in a recent piece praised the MDT to the high heavens. Referring to the US and its MDT, he wrote: “With friends like these, the Philippines can confidently navigate these challenges that threaten to break the peaceful coexistence needed to bolster progress and prosperity.” What he’s saying: No need to worry over our disputes with China; the US has our back.

The oft-quoted provision of the treaty reads: “An armed attack on either of the Parties is deemed to include an armed attack on the metropolitan territory of either of the Parties, or on the island territories under its jurisdiction in the Pacific Ocean, its armed forces, public vessels, or aircraft in the Pacific.”


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Pursue joint development in disputed areas of SCS

Second of 3 parts

FOLLOWING is a slightly edited discussion on the second of three initiatives I had proposed in my 2022 book “Debacle: The Aquino Regime’s Scarborough Fiasco and the South China Sea Arbitration Deception,” which I think would send us on the path of resolving our disputes with China and other claimants in the South China Sea. Time to move on.

“Debacle” excerpt starts here:

On Nov. 20, 2018, the Philippines and China signed an agreement titled “Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation on Oil and Gas Development” between the governments of the two countries. The committee consisting of representatives of the two countries which would implement the agreement met for the first and last time in October 2019.

While the pandemic had put on hold further meetings, the agreement opened a way for settling the disputes in the South China Sea (SCS): Joint development of the resources even in the disputed areas of the SCS. That could make the South China Sea, as even a vociferous critic of China, retired magistrate Carpio, surprisingly wrote, a “zone of peace.”

The agreement’s intent, as its text put it, is to “negotiate on an accelerated basis arrangement to facilitate oil and gas exploration and exploitation in relevant maritime areas.” This, it said, “will be without prejudice to the respective legal positions of both governments.”


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Time to move on

First of three parts

IT is quite obvious that the belligerent foreign policy towards China, started by Benigno Aquino 3rd, reversed by Rodrigo Duterte, and revived by Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s officials (but apparently not officially declared by him) has yielded nothing to advance our national interests. If this hostility continues, we risk an economic catastrophe since, whether we like it or not, China has become our biggest trading partner, and a military power at that.

Only an ideological China-hater (i.e., “China has and will always view itself as the center of the world”) or one advancing the US program to demonize China to slow down its rise as the Asian superpower would insist on continuing the clearly counterproductive unfriendly stance towards a neighbor, which could even be — as in the case of a few Asean nations — the biggest source of private and public capital.

The following is a slightly edited version of the final chapter in my 2022 book “Debacle: The Aquino Regime’s Scarborough Fiasco and the South China Sea Arbitration Deception” that discusses three main thrusts in resolving our disputes in the South China Sea.


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Are we at war with China already, or will be very soon?

WELL, going by the statements of three senators, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) spokesman, very disappointingly of the new defense secretary Gilbert Teodoro Jr. as well as Armed Forces chief Romeo Brawner, and the headlines of the Philippines Daily Inquirer and the Philippine Star, a state of war exists, or will soon exist, between us and China, ever since the Chinese coast guard used water cannons against our PCG vessels.

Sen. Jinggoy Estrada in the halls of the Senate called me a traitor — for reporting an incontrovertible fact that his father Erap when he was president, or his administration, had promised the Chinese that the BRP Sierra Madre and the BRP Benguet — the former deliberately run aground in Ayungin Shoal, the latter in Scarborough Shoal — would be towed away. This is an incontestable fact, bolstered by the Foreign Affairs secretary’s and Erap’s Defense secretary’s silence on this issue.

Brainless as this senator is, that promise was really a smart move on Erap’s part, as it gave China an excuse not to pressure us for 15 years to remove the BRP Sierra Madre from Ayungin, which was just kilometers from their huge artificial island turned into an advanced military base at Mischief Reef, with Erap’s successor Gloria Macapagal Arroyo very successfully making China our friend.

The Chinese moved to call on the promise only in 2013, in retaliation against the Aquino 3rd government’s hostile filing of the “arbitration” suit against China. The Marcos Jr. administration’s agreement to let the US military use nine of our camps and airports to pre-position war materiel and house their troops then prompted the Chinese to pressure us to abide by the commitment, to make sure that the BRP Sierra Madre isn’t expanded into a permanent facility, and even turned over to the US as a tenth site that it could use.

Jinggoist Jinggoy even falsely claimed that Erap’s defense secretary, Orlando Mercado, had claimed that there was no such promise. Mercado, however, has not denied it. He even revealed that Erap in fact ordered the BRP Benguet towed away a few weeks after it was grounded. The Navy rushed to implement his order, even to the extent of hiring a Malaysian tugboat to tow it away, as the BRP Benguet’s engines weren’t working.


Continue ReadingAre we at war with China already, or will be very soon?