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[People] The Pacific Pivot and Its Regional Consequences. By Walden Bello

The Pacific Pivot and Its Regional Consequences
By Walden Bello

(Conference on “North Korea and Beyond,”  Center of Korean Studies, Binghamton University, April 25, 2014.)

President Obama is currently in East Asia on a much-publicized tour to tout his so-called “Pacifc Pivot” or “Rebalancing.”  He is slated to visit Korea, Japan, the Philippines, and Malaysia, the first three of which are crucial to the strategy.


The Pacific Pivot is a refocusing of US military strategy on the East Asian region.  Its most prominently cited feature is the deployment of 60per cent of the US Navy’s strength to the area.  Though the US denies it officially, the aim is the so-called Containment of China.  Though the US also does not admit it, the Pivot actually represents a retreat from thecomprehensive global military dominance that the neoconservative faction of the US ruling class attempted under Bush. It is a feint, a maneuver to serve as a cover for a limited retreat from America’s disastrous intervention in the Middle East and Southwest Asia.  It is an attempt by Washington toretreat to an area of imperial power projection that it sees as more manageablethan a Middle East that is running out of control.

Walden Bello word.world-citizenship.org

Yet in one sense, the Pacific Pivot is not new. It is simply a return to a salient feature of the pre-9/11 global military posture of the George W. Bush administration articulated in the 2002 National Security Strategy Paper, which redefined China from being a “strategic partner” to a “strategic competitor.” The“Contain China” strategy was put on hold after 9/11, owing to Washington’s drive to win allies for its “War on Terror.” But while it is not new, there is an urgency to the containment strategy under Obama owing to developments in the intervening decade.

Smoke rather than Firepower

But aside from the deployment of 60 per cent of the US fleet, what does it mean in concrete terms in terms of US power projection capabilities?  The key movements have been modest: the rotation of a Marine Corps battle group in Darwin, the relocation of the Futenma Marine Corps Air Station to another site within Okinawa, the redeployment of 8000 US Marines from Okinawa to Guam and other sites in the Pacific, and the negotiation of an expanded US militarypresence in the Philippines.

Some analysts like John Feffer have called the Pacific Pivot more “smoke than firepower,” and that the thrust is not so much to add substantially to the US military power in the region but to get US allies like Japan to take more of the so-called burden of defines by strengthening their armed forces via, among other things, arms imports from theUS.  As Feffer puts it, “In an age of economic austerity…the Pacific pivot amounts to a complicated dance in which the United States steps backward as we propel our allies forward.  It might seem a penny-wise way of sharing the security burden, but the realignment is still woefully expensive.  And “Asianizing” thePacific through arms exports and visiting forces agreements only helps to fuel what has emerged as the most significant arms race in the world today.”

Allies on the Forefront

Pushed by the US, Japan has increased its military spending for the first time in over a decade and has agreed to take a more active role in the supporting US allies like the Philippines via military aid.   The US has added 800 troops to its 28,500 troops in Korea as part of the “rebalancing,” but, more significant, Korea has been steadily increasing its funding of US troops and bases there from $731 million in 2009 to $836 million in 2013.

In the Philippines, the US is finishing negotiations for locating a US base within a Philippine base.  The arrangement flouts the Philippine constitution since it prohibits foreign bases in the country without a treaty, but it saves the US a lot of money since it will not have to pay rent to the Philippines nor will it incur the huge costs of maintaining fixed bases such as Clark Air Force Base and Subic Naval Base, which the US turned over to the Philippines over 20 years ago.  As Frank Chang of the Foreign Policy Research Institute writes, “For the United States, the…agreement helps demonstrate to the Philippines and the region its commitment to the Obama administration’s oft-mentioned pivot or rebalance to Asia and to do so without the expense of building or maintaining new military installations.”  He adds, “It clearly offers the United States a cost-effective way to enhance its presence in Asia, something that Washington has wanted to do for a long time.”

So the main significance of the Pacific Pivotis not so much a substantial increase in US military deployments so far, but Washington’s allies taking on more of the burden of maintaining the US power projection capabilities either by increasing their arms imports from the US or heightening their own military deployments, as in the case of Japan, or providing the US with inexpensive basing facilities, like the Philippines.  Now, whether it is a buildup by the USor its allies, the Pacific Pivot is destabilizing.

China’s Drive to Regional Hegemony

Le tme now move on China. China’s controversial moves in the Western Pacific have served as a convenient excuse for Washington’s reaffirmation of its presence in the region. In particular, Beijing’s claim of the whole South China Sea (now also called the West Philippine Sea) as Chinese territory hasallowed the United States to portray itself as indispensable for protecting the region’s smaller countries from Chinese hegemony. A one-time U.S. colony and ally, the Philippine government has been especially receptive to Washington’s siren call.

In2012, Beijing created “Sansha City” to “administer” the whole West Philippine Sea and the islands and terrestrial features it claims. Among these are the Spratly Islands, nine of which are claimed and occupied by the Philippines, along with Scarborough Shoal, Ayungin Shoal, Panganiban Reef, and Recto Bank, all of which are claimed by the Philippines. The Spratlys are  about 370 kilometers (230 miles) from Palawan and some 1,609 kilometers (1,000 miles) from China. Scarborough Shoal is137 kilometers (85 miles) from the Philippine province of Zambales and 700 kilometers (434 miles) away from China.

The last few months have seen a series of provocative Chinese moves to dislodge the Philippine presence from some of these islands as part of what a Chinesegeneral has called the “Cabbage Strategy.” The thrust of the Cabbage Strategy,Major General Zhang Zhaozhong explained, was to surround Bajo de Masinloc,Ayungin Shoal, and other Philippine territories with a massive Chinese naval presence to starve Filipino detachments and prevent reinforcements from reaching them.

What China adduces as a legal basis for its aggressive moves is a note verbale that Beijing submitted to the United Nations on May 7, 2009. It unilaterally asserted China’s“indisputable sovereignty” over all the islands in the West Philippine Sea and their “adjacent waters/relevant waters.”

Accompanying the note was the infamous “Nine Dash Line” map demarcating China’s claims int he region. No official explanation for the nine-dash line was provided at that time or since, though there have been unofficial references to the islands and waters of the West Philippine Sea being ancestral Chinese territories, and to their inclusion in maps of the defunct Nationalist Chinese regime that date back to the late 1940s.

The Nine-Dash-Line not only claims for China the islands and other terrestrial features in the South China Sea but also asserts that the Philippines, and the four other claimants to all or part of the to South China Sea (Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam), are not entitled to their 200 Nautical Mile Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), since the whole area falls under China’s “indisputable sovereignty.” What most of the other claimants are left with are only the territorial waters that extend 12 nautical miles from their respective coasts.

But the South China Sea disputes go beyond the interests of the six claimant countries. For what China is saying with its nine-dash line is that a body of water that is 3.5 million square kilometers in size—which borders six states, and through which transits one third of the world’s shipping—is the equivalentof a domestic waterway like Lake Michigan in the United States. If allowed to stand, many analysts conclude that the nine-dash line claim will amount to one of the greatest maritime grabs in history.

With the exhaustion of all possible bilateral approaches to address theissue and to show its commitment to the use of peaceful methods to resolve its disagreements with China, the Philippines recently brought its case over Bajo de Masinloc or Scarborough Shoal to the United Nations for international arbitration. The process would allow China, the Philippines and the otherclaimants to clarify their maritime entitlements under UNCLOS, paving the wayfor a truly peaceful and lasting settlement of the West Philippine Sea disputes.The five-member United Nations Arbitral Tribunal formally began the hearing on the Philippine petition last year.  China, however, refuses to participate in the process, a clear indication that itrealizes that international law is not on its side.

Sothe big question is why is China behaving this way? China’s interest in the rich fisheries and oil and gas reserves of the South China Sea is longstanding.Its behavior, however, has grown more aggressive recently.

There are three theories about the mainsprings of the more assertive Chinese posture.The first says it stems from insecurity. China’s increasingly aggressive   less from expansionist intent than from the insecurities brought about by high-speed growth followed by economic crisis. Long dependent for its legitimacy on delivering economic growth, China has recently experienced domestic troubles related to the global financial crisis that have left theCommunist Party leadership groping for a new ideological justification. It has found this in virulent nationalism.

The second theory, my view, is related to the first. It is that China is poised to make major changes in its domestic political economy from which new winners and new losers will emerge owing to the exhaustion of the old export-led development model. An aggressive, nationalist stance of pushing territorial claims in the West Philippine Sea and the Western Pacific, near Japan and Korea, would, in this view, be a way of containing centrifugal forces as the party carries out a comprehensive program of reform.

The third, most commonly accepted, theory is that China’s moves reflect the cold calculation of a confidently rising power. It aims to stake out a monopoly overt he fishing and energy resources of the West Philippine Sea in its bid tobecome a regional, and later a global, hegemon.

But whatever the source of its provocative posture, Beijing’s moves have alarmed its neighbors.  The Philippines, as I noted earlier, is finalizing an agreement with Washington that will create US bases within Philippine bases. Vietnam, Washington’s old enemy, has stepped up military cooperation with the United States and has opened the old Soviet naval base at Cam Ranh Bay to the US Navy for its repair and maintenance needs.  While Vietnam has not formally called for a stronger US military presence owing to a desire not to antagonize China, they have unofficially promoted it. When I visited Hanoi a few years ago in my capacity as a member of the Philippine Congress, I was told by a Foreign Ministry official that as an old US ally, the Philippines must push the US to have a heightened military presence in the South China Sea.

At the meeting of its foreign ministers at the end of June, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) reminded China of its “collective commitment under the [2002] Declaration of Conduct [of Parties] to ensuring the resolutionof disputes by peaceful means in accordance with universally recognised principles of international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), without resorting to the threat or use of force, while exercising self-restraint in the conduct of activities.”

Unrepentant Japan

U.S.-China sparring is worrisome enough, but there is a third source of destabilisation in the region: Japan. Right-wing elements there, including the current Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, have taken advantage of China’s moves in the West Philippine Sea and Japan’s dispute with Beijing over the deserted Senkaku Islands to push for a more aggressive military posture.  Under Abe, Japan has pushed for a bigger role in the military configuration in the Pacific, advancing the doctrine of “collective defense,” which means Japan will go the aid of the USand other allies of Japan in the event of conflict in the Western Pacific.  Abe, who is, incidentally the grandson of former Japanese Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, an acquitted Class A War Criminal, has also called for the abolition or amendment of Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution, which currently prohibits war as an instrument offoreign policy and prevents Japan from having offensive military capabilities.

The ostensible aim is to counter China’s rise.  But the strategic objective is to have a foreign and military policy more independent from the United States, which has managedTokyo’s external security affairs ever since Japan’s defeat during the Second World War.  As Abe’s allies put it,they want a Japan that is once again a “normal” nation, that has shed its“semisovereign” status.

Many of Japan’s neighbors are convinced that a Japan more independent from the United States will develop nuclear weapons. They fear the prospect of a nuclear-armed Japan that has shed its post-war pacifism and not yet carried out the national soul searching that in Germany embedded responsibility for the atrocities of the Nazi regime in the national consciousness. This failure to institutionalize and internalize war guilt is what allowed the mayor of Osaka, Toru Hashimoto, to make his shocking statement two years ago that the estimated 200,000 Korean, Chinese, and Filipino “comfortwomen“—women captured and forced into sexual slavery by Japanese troops in the Second World War—were “necessary” for Japanese troop morale.

Even more scandalous was Abe’s visit to the Yasukuni Shrine last December, the first visit of a Prime Minister in six years. Yasukuni Shrine, the home of Japan’s war dead, includes among those interred14 convicted war criminals, and Japan’s neighbors have long condemned the ritual visit of Japanese leaders to Yasukuni as a sign of the country’s unrepentant attitude for its conduct during WorldWar II.

Abe’s perceived repudiation or minimizing of Japan’s war guilt has alienated not only China but South Korea.  The relations between the two pillars of Washington’s Pivot strategy have become so bad that President Obama felt compelled to hold a trilateral meeting with Abe and South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague in late March.  Paradoxically, the Pivot strategy, with Japan’s heightened role in it, may in fact be strainingrather than consolidating political and military relations among some USallies.

Strategic Dilemma for South Korea

In this connection, let me just focus on some of the implications of the Pivot for the two Koreas:

The first is that, with Japan becoming more assertive and less repentant, South Korea would be less willing to participate in a multilateraleffort to pressure North Korea on its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

Second, the US will find it much harder now to enlist Chinese support to retard North Korea’s nuclear and missile efforts, and we all know hat it there is only one country that North Korea listens to and that is China.

Third, with China being now so central to South Korea as a consumer market, a source of components, an investment area, and a constraint on North Korean behavior, South Korea will feel quite ambivalent filling the good solid ally role that the US wants it to play.  South Korean attitudes toward China have also been changing, with a 2002 poll showing that 86 per cent of younger generation Korean opinion leaders wanting to see Korea-China relations strengthened.

So rather than make a definitive statement, I would like to pose a question t: isn’t Obama’s Pacific Pivot creating a something close to astrategic dilemma for South Korea’s elites?

To return to the regional picture, China’s aggressive territorial claims, Washington’s “pivot,” and Japan’s opportunistic moves add up to a volatile brew. Many observers note that the Asia Pacific military-political situation is becoming like that of Europe at the end of the 19th century, with the emergence of a similarconfiguration of balance of power politics. It is a useful reminder that while that fragile balancing might have worked for a time, it eventually ended up int he conflagration that was the First World War. None of the key players in East Asia today may want war.  But neither did any of the Great Powers on theeve of the First World War.  The problem is that in a situation of fiercerivalry among powers that hate one another, an incident like a ship collision—intended or unintended–may trigger an uncontrollable chain of events that may result in a regional war, or worse.

Let me end with some words on the alternative.  The only viable ealternative to the balance of power strategy that is now pushed by the US,Japan, Vietnam, and the Philippines is a collective security arrangement.  This would include China, Japan, the two Koreas, and the ASEAN countries. This was the direction that the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) was heading towards in the 1990’s, despite the opposition of the United States.  The Clinton administration, which saw itself as the sole guardian of regional peace and security,  tried very hard to undermine this process, calling the ARF a “talk shop.” Unfortunately, the Asian financial crisis in 1997, by pulling the rung from under the credibility of ASEAN, dissipated the momentum of the ARF.

It will be difficult, but I feel strongly that we in the region must once again pick up the ARF project of creating a mulilateral body with a set of rules adhered to by every participating government to ensure regional peace and security. The alternative is a future where crisis will follow upon crisis as the positive dynamics of the region towards towards trade, cooperation, andpeaceful engagement gets subordinated to superpower conflict.

*Representative of Akbayan (Citizens’ Action Party) in the House of Representatives of the Philippines.

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[People] One-dimensional diplomacy: A cost-benefit analysis of Manila’s security deal with Washington. By Walden Bello

One-dimensional diplomacy: A cost-benefit analysis of Manila’s security deal with Washington.
By Walden Bello, Afterthoughts, Inquirer.net
April 23, 2014

Manila and Washington are said to be rushing to complete negotiations on the Agreement on Enhanced Defense Cooperation (AEDC) so both Presidents Aquino and Obama can seal the new security deal when the American head of state arrives next week.

Walden Bello word.world-citizenship.org

If there is anyone in the government who can take credit—or blame—for the new security deal, it is Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, who now monopolizes the ear of the President when it comes to relations with China and the United States.

Our territorial conflicts with China are the reason for this new agreement, and the message del Rosario and Malacañang want to deliver is that the AEDC is the mechanism that will make the Chinese respect our rights to Scarborough Shoal, the nine islands and reefs we claim in the Spratly Islands, our continental shelf, and our 200 Mile Exclusive Economic Zone.

The truth of the matter, however, is that the deal negotiated by Secretary del Rosario will do no such thing.

No US obligation to defend Spratlys and Scarborough

According to Philippine officials, the new agreement is governed by the US-Philippine Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) and that the MDT obliges the US to come to the Philippines’ defense in the event of an attack on Philippine territory, including our possessions in the West Philippine Sea or South China Sea.  Here they cite Article V of the MDT, which says “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 or on its armed forces, public vessels or aircraft in the Pacific.”

The problem with this view is that that is not the way the US sees it.  Indeed, the US has not deviated from the position explicitly stated several years ago by Morton Smith, a spokesperson of the U.S. Embassy; according to researcher Roland San Juan, Smith asserted that the Kalayaan islands are excluded from the scope of the treaty because the Philippines raised its claim to them over three decades after the MDT was signed in 1951.

Senkakus, yes; Spratlys, no

Washington’s distancing itself from the defense of the Kalayaan Islands is in contrast to US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel’s recent aggressive statements in Beijing over the disputed Senkaku Islands (Diaoyu Islands in Chinese) during his visit in early April.  Hagel said, “I restated the principles that govern longstanding U.S. policy on the Senkaku Islands and other islands.

We affirmed that since [the Senkaku Islands] are under Japan’s administrative control, they fall under Article 5 of our Mutual Security Treaty.”  Article V of the US-Japan Mutual Security Treaty provides that “an armed attack against either Party in the territories under the administration of Japan would be dangerous to its own peace and safety and declares that it would act to meet the common danger in accordance with its constitutional provisions and processes.”

The difference with the Philippines, in Washington’s view, is that, unlike Scarborough Shoal and the Spratly islands claimed by the Philippines, the Senkakus were under the administrative control of the prefecture of Okinawa when the US-Japan Mutual Security Treaty was signed and were thus covered by the restoration of Okinawa to Japan’s control in 1972.

Commenting on the contrasting US behavior on the two disputes, Rear Admiral Michael McDevitt, a retired US Navy officer who was director of the Pentagon’s East Asia Policy Office during the Bush II administration writes, “At first glance, the disputes China has with the Philippines over Scarborough Shoal in the SCS [South China Sea] appear similar to the ECS [East China Sea] with Japan because the US is a treaty ally of the Philippines.   Actually, however, the two situations are different.  In the case of Scarborough Shoal, the Philippines did not have undisputed ‘administrative control’ prior to the 2012 confrontation over the islet.  Second, the US is not directly involved in the Scarborough Shoal dispute because its mutual defense treaty with the Philippines does not obligate Washington to take sides over sovereignty questions.”

If the deal does not provide for US support for our territorial claims in the South China Sea, what benefits then do we get from it?  Most likely an increase in military aid, including a few more antiquated Hamilton class cutters.  If so, this is a very poor return for a larger US military presence, especially the Constitution-defying grant to operate US bases within Philippine bases, which the deal essentially is all about.

‘Pacific Pivot’ on the cheap

What is in it for the US?

The US has always said that its main interest in the South China Sea is “ensuring freedom of navigation.”  The first thing to note here is that although China claims the South China Sea as a domestic waterway in its notorious Nine-Dash-Line claim, the threat of its interfering with freedom of navigation has always been remote.  China is not about to court world condemnation by enforcing its domestic shipping regulations on a busy waterway through which an estimated one-third of international trade passes.  Nor does it have the capability to do so, at least not for a long to come.

But even if the Chinese were to pose a threat to international navigation, the US does not need a Philippine outpost to accomplish its stated goal of protecting international shipping.  Even with the US bases in the Philippines already gone in the mid-1990’s, the Pentagon had the South China Sea firmly under control: According to analyst William Berry, during the Mischief Reef crisis in 1995, then Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Joseph Nye “stated that if any conflict in the South China Sea threatens freedom of the seas, then the United States Seventh Fleet was prepared to provide escort services so that freedom of navigation could be protected.”

That this was no bluff was revealed in 1996, during the Taiwan Straits crisis, when two aircraft carrier battle groups were deployed swiftly and with ease out of Yokosuka, Japan, to show Washington’s support for Taiwan.

The fact is the US does not need bases in the Philippines for its upgraded military presence in the Asia Pacific.  The loss of the Philippine bases in 1992 did not translate into any difficulties in the ability to deploy and logistically support its forces from the North Pacific to the Indian Ocean.  The only significant modification to naval logistics that the event led to was the negotiation with Singapore for the provision of ship repair facilities.  Indeed, the elimination of Subic and Clark was probably a big plus for the US since it did away with the great cost of maintaining large fixed bases.

So why does the US now want a higher military profile in the Philippines?  This is owing to what one might call Washington’s “exhibitionist syndrome,” that is, the imperative it feels to “show the flag” to its allies and to China, and to do so in an inexpensive way, with no rent to the host country, with a quid pro quo involving just a few of what the Americans call “Excess Defense Articles” like antiquated cutters.

This is what John Feffer calls “Pacific Pivot” on the cheap in the era of Pentagon budget cutbacks, since using Philippine bases will involve probably just a fraction of having large fixed bases.  As Frank Chang of the Foreign Policy Research Institute writes, “For the United States, the…agreement helps demonstrate to the Philippines and the region its commitment to the Obama administration’s oft-mentioned pivot or rebalance to Asia and to do so without the expense of building or maintaining new military installations.”  He adds, “It clearly offers the United States a cost-effective way to enhance its presence in Asia, something that Washington has wanted to do for a long time.”

Strategic costs for the Philippines

But coming back to what the Philippines gains from the coming agreement, the increase in obsolete military donations from Washington will be more than offset by the negative strategic consequences.   Three of these must be highlighted.  First of all, the coming agreement will, paradoxically, bring us farther away from a resolution to the territorial disputes with China because this issue will be marginalized by the dynamics of a superpower conflict, to one side of which the Philippines will be considered an adjunct.

Second, it will definitely turn the Philippines into another of Washington’s front line states, like Afghanistan and Pakistan, with all the detrimental and destabilizing effects of such a status, including the subordination of the country’s economic, social, and cultural dynamics to Washington’s security needs.  Third, it will move the region farther away from the negotiation of a collective security agreement that is a far better alternative to the current state of volatile balance of power politics, where a simple thing like a ship collision involving antagonistic parties can lead to a bigger conflict.

From balance of power to collective security

Make no mistake: the territorial conflict with China is real, but the way to resolve it is to rely on international law and diplomacy, and this is a terrain in which the Philippines has a big advantage.  As I said in an earlier column, the submission of the 1000-page “memorial” delineating our entitlements in the West Philippine Sea to the United Nations Arbitral Tribunal is a giant step in this direction.  Beijing knows it does not have a leg to stand on in international law, which is why they have been pushing us to drop the case on pain of “damaging bilateral relations.”

We must also maximize the diplomatic option, where we too have an advantage over Beijing.  We must also press our ASEAN partners to remind Beijing to live up to the commitment to negotiate a binding code of conduct on maritime behavior in the West Philippine Sea that it made at the foreign ministers’ meeting in Brunei in June 2013.  It was pressure from ASEAN and internationally that forced Beijing to make this commitment, and it will be consistent pressure that will force it to follow through on it.

Still on the diplomatic track, we should prepare the ground at the United Nations General Assembly for the eventual introduction of a resolution condemning Beijing’s unilateral annexation of over 80 per cent of the South China Sea, brusquely disregarding other littoral states’ rights to their continental shelves and 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zones.  There’s a very good recent precedent: Beijing’s aggressive annexationism based on its arbitrary Nine-Dash-Line claim is essentially similar to Russia’s gobbling up of Crimea, which the General Assembly condemned few weeks ago.

The strategic aim of our diplomatic efforts must be to bring about a collective security agreement for the region that would include ASEAN, Japan, the two Koreas, and China. The ASEAN Regional Forum was headed in this direction in the 1990’s, despite the opposition of the United States, which arrogated unto itself the role of serving as the enforcer of stability in the region.  Its momentum was, unfortunately derailed by the Asian financial crisis in 1997, which swept the rug from under the credibility of ASEAN’s major states.  Though the process will be difficult, it is time to revive this project of collective security since the unstable and volatile balance of power politics favored by Washington is not a viable mechanism for regional peace and security.

With the impending basing agreement with the US, we are right back to our position during the Cold War, when we played the role of handmaiden to the US strategy of Containment by hosting two huge military bases.  The small window of opportunity to forge an independent foreign policy that we gained with the expulsion of the US bases in 1992 will disappear with the impending signing of the Agreement on Enhanced Defense Cooperation with the US.

As many have noted, President Aquino’s presidency already has two important legacies: the anti-corruption campaign and the peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).  Unfortunately, these achievements will be cancelled out by his embrace of Secretary Albert del Rosario’s one-dimensional diplomacy of reintroducing a massive American military presence in the Philippines.

*INQUIRER.net columnist Walden Bello represents Akbayan (Citizens’ Action Party) in the House of Representatives.

All submissions are republished and redistributed in the same way that it was originally published online and sent to us. We may edit submission in a way that does not alter or change the original material.

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[Blog] THE SABAH ISSUE: The Betrayal to the Republic of the Philippines of Mr. Aquino by Jose Mario De Vega

THE SABAH ISSUE: The Betrayal to the Republic of the Philippines of Mr. Aquino

Mario De VegaI concur with the statement of the Anonymous Philippines (February 28th) that President Aquino‘s February 26, 2013 statement on Sabah issue is problematic.

In fact, I will even argue that the pronouncement of Mr. Aquino is unpatriotic and treasonous. Whatever little respect I have in him is completely gone the very moment I heard him uttered those traitorous words!


Where can you find a president whose allegiance is not with his people but with another state?

I also agree with candidate Dick Gordon that Mr. Aquino is courting an impeachment case against him for not “executing faithfully the laws of the land”. In failing to do so, he is betraying the “public trust and the public and patrimonial interest of the nation.

It is beyond dispute that “the context of this action by the Sultan of Sulu and his followers is beyond question. It is not a power-grab. Neither is it a land-grab. It is a reassertion of their historic, legal and moral right to be in Sabah, the vast track of land in Northern Borneo controlled by the Federation of Malaysia. It was for them the pursuit of a noble cause.”

Anyone can check all the available sources that they can find, whether it is an encyclopedia, atlas, almanac, Wikipedia, history books, etc. In all of them, Sabah can never ever be separated with the Philippines, specifically the Sultanate of Sulu.

Consider the words of Mr. Aquino:

“You are a leader of your clan, and every leader seeks the well-being of his constituents. These times require you to use your influence to prevail on our countrymen to desist from this hopeless cause.”

I wonder who the hell is his adviser on Sabah? Whoever the hell is that creature, he/she should be immediately shot on the spot. I also wonder why it is that this so-called President appears to be ignorant and blur on the whole issue?

Are those words quoted above, the words you want to hear from your so-called Chief Executive?


Following the line of his ‘reasoning’, if one can imagine or construe, what kind of ‘argument’ is that: why is he egging our people to stand up and fight and not be intimidated by giant and bullish China? Yet, when it comes to the Malaysians, he seems to be soft and apathetic?

This is a clear contradiction!

If the question of the ownership of Sabah is a hopeless cause then, how about our cause against China? Is that not a hopeless case, too? Again, that is following Mr. Aquino’s ‘mental mechanism’.

If our cause against China is not hopeless, then how come our cause against Malaysia is dormant?

The aberrant position of Mr. Aquino defies logic and mock reason!

Further, I would like to ask: what is the distinction in our Sabah dispute with regard to our conflict with China? Why in the latter, he is so eager to stand up with the giant (to the point that a newspaper in China and even here went to the point of tagging and calling him/us as a “trouble maker”) yet he is so cautious and soft with regard to the former?

I see no distinction by virtue of the fact that Sabah and
Scarborough Shoal, etc are both our properties and territories.
Why he is not afraid to irritate China, yet he appears to be uneasy to offend Malaysia?

Indeed, there is no shadow of doubt that “it must have been a totally disappointing and devastating feeling for Sultan Kiram and his followers to hear that their noble cause is, for the President of the Philippines, “a hopeless cause.””

Sad but true!

It is my considered view that Mr. Aquino’s call to the followers of Sultan Kiram: “To desist from this hopeless cause” is not merely an impeachable offense but undeniably treasonous and the heights of unpatriotism!

I am ashamed that he is the president of this country.

The duty of a true and valiant president is to be the first one to recognize the claim of the Sultanate of Sulu that “Malaysia has no ownership rights over Sabah and that such ownership rights belong to the Sultanate of Sulu over Sabah which is rightfully within Philippine territory. The position of the Sultanate of Sulu is, in fact and in law, exactly the international claim of the Philippines on Sabah against Malaysia.”

This argument is in conformity with Ambassador Lauro L. Baja, Jr. (A veteran Philippine diplomat. He was the Philippine Permament Representative to the United Nations (May 2003- Feb.2007). Prior to that, he was Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Policy) in his article ‘Don’t play into Malaysia’s hand’, VERA Files, February 27th, when we categorically state that:

Mr. Aquino’s “statements and actions give the unintended consequence of leaning on our own nationals over a foreign power. We may be playing into Malaysia’s hands who have been adopting a studied but cavalier attitude over the standoff. They are exercising acts of “effectivités” over Sabah during this standoff by their actions and even by their silence over our naive pronouncements.”

The “wisdom of doing it in public” (the President’s act of appearing on TV appealing and at the same time chastising and criticizing the Sultan of Sulu over the stand-off in Sabah) has clearly shows that he has no concern with our Sabah claim and that instead of taking the cudgel of our Filipino Muslim brothers, he let them down, worst he even appears to be the Malaysian spokesperson.

The whole thing exploded to his very face!

I strongly doubt if he could still recover the trust and confidence of the people and the public as a whole!

The reaction of the people is swift. Check the Yahoo online survey.

The latest is that Mr. Aquino is viewed by a greater number of our countrymen as pro-Malaysia. What a shame!

The so-called ‘president’ of daang matuwid became the pang-gulo ng kalsadang baluktot!

As Ambassador Baja said:

“The Sabah standoff should rouse the Philippine Rip van Winkle attitude towards our claim to the area. It provides the country with a unique but sensitive opportunity to revisit our claim. If the Philippines can deal with the situation with some diplomatic imagination and finesse it can correct some missteps of the past which led to the current state of helplessness insofar as the issue is concerned…

“The solid legal foundation of our claim still exists.

“In the transfer of sovereignty document which the Sultan of Sulu signed with the Philippine government, it was expressly provided that the transfer shall be deemed voided if the Philippines shall fail to pursue the claim. The sultan understandably feels he is now free to pursue the claim himself.”

Why? Because this President does not give a damn about them, hence I concur that the Sultan had no choice but to pursue their historic claim by themselves.

Indeed, “it is a sad commentary on the Philippines if our own nationals should run to the UN because their government cannot protect their rights. This is not the spectacle our country wants to portray to the international community.”

Professor Randy David is in point where he stated in his article, “The Real Sovereign”, Philippine Daily Inquirer, March 7th that:

The Sultan can very well file his private claims before a Malaysian or international court; he does not need the Philippine government’s consent to do this. Since the Philippine government has not actively pursued its sovereign claim over Sabah, the Sultan is free to seek help elsewhere.

One thing he cannot do is force the Philippine state to go to war for him.


My suggestion is for the United Nations to intervene on this issue and assume jurisdiction.

I welcome their call this Thursday (finally, after weeks of silence) for the parties to stop from killing and wiping out each other.

I also call upon the Organization of Islamic State (OIC) to mediate between the followers of the Sultan of Sulu and Malaysia to engage in a dialogue.

Further, I certainly believe that the intervention of the Sultan of Brunei, as the original historical owner carries some moral and persuasive effect to the contending parties.

The Sabah “invasion”

How could be the act of the followers of the Sultan of Sulu be considered as an “intrusion” or invasion” when said land subject of the dispute is their land?

If Malaysia owned the land, as they are claiming then why the hell up to now they are paying rent, no matter how nominal and small the amount to the Sultan of Sulu?

The use of excessive force

I concur overwhelmingly with Professor Harry L. Roque, Director, Institute of International Legal Studies of the University of the Philippines Law Center that:

“The use of modern fighter jets and air strikes against the followers of the Sultanate of Sulu is illegal. Under human rights law, the use of force in police operations should be absolutely necessary and strictly proportional to the threat posed by the Filipinos in Sabah. Moreover, Respect for the right to life of a police suspect requires that the nature and degree of force used be proportionate to the threat posed by the suspect to the safety and security of the police officers, other individuals and society as a whole. Malaysian Law enforcement officials should, as far as possible, apply non-violent means before resorting to force, and in particular, the resort to airstrikes.

“Since the use of force against the Filipinos involved in the standoff is illegal, Malaysia has committed an internationally wrongful act. Accordingly, the Philippine government, in addition to espousing the rights of its nationals, should also demand that the international community should ask Malaysia to cease and desist from further breaching human rights law. It should later be asked to pay compensation to the victims of its use of disproportionate use of force.”

According to the Malaysian authorities, they have already defeated the ‘militants’, yet even their senior police officer is doubting that that is the case. Further, the so-called “mopping operations” have yet to produce the dead bodies of the “intruders”. Hence, what ‘victory’ is this?

The barbarity of war

I condemn Malaysia for using excessive force, in the same vein that I also condemn to the highest degree the acts of the followers of the Sultan of Sulu (if the reports are true) that they engaged in torturing and beheading the police and/or soldiers that they caught!

This is a shame!

Both sides are wrong on this score!

Yes, there is an on-going conflict, but as the American philosopher William James said, there should be a certain degree of morality, even in war.

Why? Because if both sides will engaged in acts of barbarism, then there would be no distinction between the two and the two of them would be no different from animals and scoundrels.

The Cyberwar

It saddens me that the on-going stand-off in Sabah has already spilled to the cyber world!

According to the reports, Malaysian hackers hacked the site of Globe; thereupon in an immediate retaliation, the Anonymous Philippines Cyber Army also hit back and hacked numerous Malaysian sites!

This pierces my heart profusely!

On this juncture, I would like to thank and commend the Anonymous International in their intervention and call for both the Filipino and Malaysian hackers to stop this unnecessary cyberwar.

As they said in an official statement:

“Let us help both The Philippines and Malaysia unite, not find a reason to fight…”

We all have to find a way to stop this fiasco before, a more bigger and much sinister development happen!

According further to the reports, the ‘war-front’ that begun as a single area has now spread to other areas. Now, the front-lines of battle are on three different locations.

So, now how will the Malaysian authorities conduct the so-called mopping operation, if the delineation of the battle-fields is not clear?

I do not know whether the Malaysian authorities are aware of the consequences of its actions!

They claimed that the so-called ‘militants’ and/or ‘intruders’ are numbering from 100 to 300; then why not send 1, 000 to 2, 000 marines or soldiers to subdue them? Why bring in the tanks and the fighter jets?

Are they afraid to fight in a mortal combat those so-called ‘invaders’?

It was also reported that one Malaysian fighter jet instead of hitting the position of the ‘militants’ rather wrongly bomb their own soldiers. Is this a case of a ‘friendly-fire’ or due to some human error or can we attribute this to the stupidity of the pilot?

Yes, they can wipe out and kill all of those ‘intruders’, yet I doubt if that would be the end of the problem!

Do they not know that the sons and daughters and the heirs of those ‘militants’, ‘invaders’, ‘intruders’ will not cease from continuing what their ancestors have struggled for!

The heirs of those ‘martyrs’ will not stop from fighting what they believe righteously belongs to them…

The ‘war’ will not end and this is because of the fault both of the governments of Malaysia and the Philippines…


Jose Mario Dolor De Vega
March 8, 2013

College of Arts and Letters
Department of Humanities and Philosophy
Polytechnic University of the Philippines

Institute of Arts and Sciences
Department of Humanities, Literature and Philosophy
Far Eastern University

The writer has a Master’s degree in Philosophy, a law degree and a degree in AB Political Science. He was previously teaching Philosophy, Ethics and Anthropology at an institution of higher education in Nilai University College at Nilai, Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia

As of the moment, he is preparing to publish his first book entitled “Dissidente”. It is a collection of his articles, commentaries and op-ed published by various newspapers in Southeast Asia, including the Philippine Daily Inquirer

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[Blog] Cambodia’s subservience to China: A Tale of Treachery and Selfishness -by Jose Mario Dolor De Vega

Cambodia’s subservience to China: A Tale of Treachery and Selfishness
by Jose Mario Dolor De Vega

I refer to the AFP report concerning Manila’s act of summoning the Cambodian envoy. As reported by the said newspaper:

“The Philippines has summoned Cambodia’s ambassador to explain comments he made accusing it and Vietnam of playing “dirty politics” in trying to solve a maritime row with China.

“The move appeared to further deepen divisions within the 10-nation Asean grouping, more than two weeks after a ministerial meeting hosted by Cambodia ended in disarray over the sea dispute.”

Raul Hernandez, the spokesman of the Department of Foreign Affairs said that the Cambodian ambassador, Hos Sereythonh was personally asked to categorically explain his comments. However, he failed to turn up and claimed that he is sick.
Hernandez said in a statement that:

“We will continue to summon him until he is able to come. We want him to explain what he meant when he stated that the ‘inflexible and non-negotiable position of two countries of Asean is dirty politics’.”

The Cambodian envoy is referring to the Philippines and Vietnam respectively concerning the said two countries’ on-going maritime dispute with China.

As reported by Michaela Del Callar of GMA News Network, “DFA demands explanation from Cambodian envoy for caustic remarks”, July 31:

“The rift started two weeks ago when the ASEAN failed to issue its traditional joint statement as Cambodia, a known Chinese ally, blocked moves to mention the Bajo de Masinloc or Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal incident between the Philippines and China in the proposed communiqué.

“It was an unprecedented moment of disunity in the bloc’s 45-year history.

“Vietnam also wanted to include in the document recent incidents of China’s incursions in its waters.

“After the Phnom Penh meetings, Foreign Undersecretary Erlinda Basilio issued a public statement explaining that the ASEAN failed to come up with a communiqué due to Cambodia’s firm position not to reflect the recent developments in the South China Sea despite the view of the majority of the bloc’s members that these developments impinge on the overall security of the region.

“In response, the Cambodian ambassador sent a letter to the Philippine Star accusing the Philippines and also Vietnam of “sabotaging” the statement.

“The Cambodian envoy’s biting criticism of the Philippines and Vietnam are the latest twist in the brewing animosity between this year’s host and Chinese ally Cambodia on the one side and Manila and Hanoi on the other over the territorial disputes that had been a divisive issue within the regional grouping.”


For all legal intent and purposes, I view that the action undertaken by the Cambodian envoy with the apparent concurrence of his government, is not only undiplomatic, but also selfish and traitorous.

It is undiplomatic by virtue of the fact that said envoy did not give the full details and complete information concerning the unfortunate event of Asean failing to issue a joint communiqué for the first time in 45 years.

It is selfish in my view because Cambodia is only concern with its interest to the detriment of the collective interest of the whole region.

It is in this grave sense that Cambodia’s position through the words of its Philippine ambassador is traitorous on account of betraying the general welfare of the Asean just to satisfy and please China, which is not even a member of the said bloc. This is a shame!
What are the evidence of my charge and the proof of my accusation?

I am specifically referring to the minutes of the ministerial meeting in Phnom Penh. As already noted, it is not the Philippines or Vietnam’s fault why Asean failed to issue the said communiqué. It is due to “Cambodia’s firm position not to reflect the recent developments in the South China Sea despite the view of the majority of the bloc’s members that these developments impinge on the overall security of the region.”

Hernandez charged Cambodia, a close ally and number one trading partner of China, of rejecting repeatedly “at least five final drafts of the joint statement that would have addressed the maritime row.”

The truth, no matter how sad it is; is crystally clear: Asean failed to issue the said communiqué because of China’s bullying and flexing of its muscles and Cambodia’s subservience and connivance with the said bully at the expense of other Asean member states.
Cambodia instead of coming out to support the position of the

Philippines, Vietnam and other member states of the Asean, rather threw its lot to China, which is a non-member.

Worst, after they created the problem that leads to the apparent division and crack in the grouping, they pointed their finger and blame the Philippines and Vietnam.

This is a shame, truly a disgusting and rude behavior not only of the said ambassador but by Cambodia itself.

The Question of “Dirty Politics”

Cambodia accused the Philippines and Vietnam of ‘inflexible and non-negotiable position’ which it construed as “dirty politics”.

Further, Cambodia also accused the said two countries for “sabotaging” the said statement and lastly, Phnom Penh maintained that it will not allow the ministerial meeting to be a “hostage” by the prevailing maritime dispute involving the member states and China.


I do not know whether Cambodia still remembers or not, that during its conflict with neighboring Thailand about their dispute concerning the Preah Vihear Temple, Manila never accused them or Thailand of “dirty politics”. Every time, Cambodia and Thailand will engaged in a military skirmish, Manila is always the first one who calls for sobriety and moderation between the two protagonists and disputants. Through the years, Manila is consistent in its view that the proper and the most reasonable method of resolving the said dispute (said issue was finally resolved by the International Court of Justice last month) is by placing the said issue before an international court. In the interim, Manila helped both Cambodia and Thailand in the de-escalation of violence and maintaining peace in the said volatile border.

In August of 1997, following the bloody coup, in June of that year, launched by Hun Sen against Norodom Ranariddh and his supporters, the latter went to Manila and he was accepted and welcome there, not as a defeated political entity or a refugee or a loser; but as a statesman and he was afforded with due respect and full courtesy.

Needless to say, Manila also helped Cambodia during those critical times for the normalization of the country and assisted them to have a political formula to settle the dispute between Hun Sen and Norodom Ranariddh.

I do not know whether that ambassador or the whole of Cambodia still remembers all of these acts and services that we Filipinos gave and extended to them.

After all of those friendship, assistance and help that we had given to Cambodia, now this country is accusing us of engaging in “dirty politics”. Is it “dirty politics” to fight for one’s territory and property?

I say that Cambodia is the one engaged in “dirty politics”. That is by flirting and conniving with China as against the interest of other member nations of the Asean. And this is “dirty politics” of the worst kind. Why? Not only is Cambodia selfish but also a traitor to the regional bloc. Phnom Penh is selfish by virtue of the fact that it is only concern with its own naked financial interest and traitor for turning its back to Asean.


I agree with the action took by the Department of Foreign Affairs in summoning the Cambodian ambassador in order for that individual to answer for his statement. If after the said meeting and the DFA is not satisfied with his explanation, said envoy must be declared a persona non grata. Further, Manila must recall the ambassador in Phnom Penh back home. If it is necessary, the Philippines should terminate all relations with Cambodia. We must register a clear point to China as the principal of this regional division and dispute and so as Cambodia as its accessory, dog and puppet.

The message must be hammered loud and clear!

To Cambodia, may I remind you that the Philippines with Indonesia and Malaysia are the original founders of the Maphilindo which is the embryo of the present Asean. We just welcome you into the said organization just recently; henceforth do not act as if you are somebody.

We, Filipinos have a distinctive culture known as “utang na loob”. It means; debt of honor or gratitude. Shame on you being an ingrate and no sense of honor! The Heavens will gravely curse you and History will heavily condemn you!

Lastly, to China, do not act as if you own the world. No one and nothing is indispensable in this world! Heed the lessons of world history. Your gigantic empire will one day crumble too, just like the Roman, the Hohenzollern, the Ottoman, the Romanov empires, etc.

Your Great Wall will one day fall just like the Berlin wall. Why? Your people will one day rise up again, just like in 1911 and 1989 to try to overthrow you!

Mark my words!

Jose Mario Dolor De Vega

August 3, 2012
Subang Jaya, Darul Ehsan,
Selangor, Malaysia

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[Blog] Stop the blame game…. the race is on: Are efforts made by the Philippines at resolving impasse with China over Scarborough Shoal futile and ambiguous? by Anna Rosario Dejarlo Malindog


Stop the blame game…. the race is on: Are efforts made by the Philippines at resolving impasse with China over Scarborough Shoal futile and ambiguous?

“I again saw under the sun that race is not to the swift, and the battle is not to the warriors”

Since time immemorial, inter-state conflicts, wars in general are most often than not fought out of self –interest. A nation-state will wage war usually for two recurring reasons. Either a country will freely or will be forced to wage war against another state to protect itself against a potential enemy from invading its territory, or a state will freely or forcefully wage war against another state when it perceives that it’s neighbor is seizing its lands or resources. These are shared sentiments being championed by both China and the Philippines in justifying their individual claims to Scarborough Shoal. Both countries are strong in their assertions that the island is theirs. From the vantage point of the Chinese, they say that their claim to Scarborough Shoal is compelling. The Filipinos on the other hand, is also saying that their claim to the island is legitimate. Both countries are saying that they can prove that this island is theirs. But no one, no institution, no government nor any international convention or law at the moment can really ascertain the legitimate heir who has the sole territorial rights to Scarborough Shoal beyond qualm and doubt. There are legal and legitimate international bodies and mechanisms like the International Tribunal, the International Criminal Court in the Hague, and UNCLOS (United Nations Conventions on the Laws of the Seas) that could mediate and adjudicate the dispute, however, these existing international institutions and mechanisms are not at all definitive and decisive international instruments that could actually resolve the said conflict beyond contention and controversy. And this makes the problem solving easier said than done.

This brand of conflict between states is not at all new rather this is a common pre-occupation among states since time immemorial. The history of human civilization has been forged by this trade we call war for territorial expansion and accumulation for more resources for the preservation and expansion of self-serving interests of nation-states. That’s why words like “colonization”, “imperialism”, and “invasion” gained their glorious moments from the time of the Roman empire until contemporary times, precisely because inter-state conflicts most often than not, are waged in the name of territorial and resource based expansion for the maintenance and enlargement of the power, influence, and clout of a state, especially powerful states over another state or several states. Historically speaking, there are numerous cases that proved this assertion. For example, the bloodiest wars of the 20th century were waged by large and powerful countries like the United States, the Soviet Union, Britain, Japan, Germany and France across borders for prolonged periods of time for the purposes of expansion of territory, accumulation of more wealth, and gaining both political and economic influence and dominion over less powerful countries. What China is doing, claiming Scarborough Shoal as part of its expanded territory at the expense of the Philippines even if it can’t show concrete and legitimate basis to these claims, bullying the Philippines to show its might and to demonstrate how vulnerable the Philippines in relation to itself, being an emerging superpower, to gain an upper hand on the said disputed island, is again another example.

But I guess the challenge for us Filipinos being in this situation is how to respond to this state of affairs. What kind of responses is there for us to take? How do we best react to what is happening at the moment?

Speaking of responses, Filipinos are reacting in an overwhelmingly emotional manner to the standoff between the Philippines and China. Many Filipinos are freaking out, which is fine, but to take this to extremes, as if, it’s already “the end of the world”, to the point that street protests and demonstrations are already being held in every corner of the world by Filipinos condemning and provoking China without any regard whatsoever, as to how these protest actions might affect our international relations with China, especially when it comes to trade, tourism and military security, is quite for me an exaggeration and counter productive to the goal of resolving the issue in a peaceful and calm manner. These protest actions though genuine and are legitimate rights of Filipinos to freedom of assembly and right to expressions, these kinds of initiatives are quite pre-mature to be staged to defend the Philippines, and would just further escalate the tensions between the Philippines and China. Diplomacy is still the best course of action towards the resolution of this conflict.

As a country, the best possible position we can take at the moment in the midst of the whole controversy on the Scarborough Shoal is to refrain from any aggressive and offensive stance because this would only complicate things and would provoke China further. But mind you, the reverse happened. The Philippine government took some tactical steps directed towards the dispute with China, which were very provocative, that led to the escalation of tension to the already strained relations between China and the Philippines. Call me unpatriotic or whatever, but I really do have some problem empathizing with the Philippine government at the moment in its approach towards the standoff it has with China on the Scarborough Shoal. I find it absurd for the Philippine government to hang on to its ever passé, ever conservative, ever naive and ever US dependent unfounded solutions to the crisis. The Philippine is vying and is convinced of the idea that, worst come to worst, if in any case the Philippines will be engaged in a military confrontation with China, the United States as an ally will back it up militarily speaking, that the United States will indeed wage war with China in defense of the Philippines appears to me to be both fanatical and a false sense of confidence. I find this aspiration if I can call it as such, to be so naïve and misplaced though romantic to say the least. To consider such an option, for me is a suicidal posture for the Philippines both domestically and geo-politically speaking.

Domestically speaking, with an ailing economy far from recovery for at least the next five years or more, plus the fact that as a country it is burdened already with other equally important issues such as corruption, political instability, insurgencies, etc., the Philippines can’t afford at all cost to wage war or any form of military confrontation with China or any other country because it will be costly on the part of the Philippines. War or military confrontation with China if in ay case, is indeed an expensive business, and I don’t think the Philippines is apt to this venture even with the assistance or military backing of the United States. Either way, the Philippines has so much to lose vis-à-vis China if it engages in a war or military encounter with the “quasi superpower”. The Philippines bluntly speaking, is no match to China’s military and economic might. Even the United States is struggling at the moment to match or catch up with China economically and China’s advancing military capacity. How much more the Philippines. This image of China is not at all an illusion, rather it is a fact we need to painfully accept and come to terms with. To acknowledge this doesn’t mean we are not anymore fighting for our right to Scarborough Shoal, that we are accepting defeat, that we are not anymore protecting our sovereignty as a country. Rather to acknowledge this reality offers an opportunity for the Philippines, first and foremost, to assess its strength, its comparative advantage or leverage vis-à-vis China. Accepting such reality gives the Philippines that opportunity to concoct the best possible strategy that could resolve the conflict without losing its legitimate claims to Scarborough Shoal, and without gaining an embittered enemy bowed to take retribution through possible clandestine and stealthy military scuffle, diplomatic squabble, squandered political goodwill typified by China.

Furthermore, the masquerade of procuring second hand military vessels and sending them along the Scarborough Shoal is really pathetic and counter productive to the already burdensome Philippine economy. I personally see it as a crime to actually prioritize or give attention to military spending when 60% of the people in the country are suffering from chronic poverty. The Philippines can’t afford to militarize the way China does because it would be a huge levy to our economy. Military spending on the part of the Philippines by buying second hand military vessels or armaments just to show to China that the Philippines can, is like committing a felony against the Filipino people who are not only deprived but thirst for a more effective and efficient delivery of basic social services, and are living way below global standard. To take this move and to continue pursuing this position is quite really self defeating for the Philippines. We don’t only waste resources buying second hand military vessels, which are not even to a barest minimal or slightest sense at par with Chinese military ships. Worst of all, in the long run, we will exhaust all our resources leading to our demise if we don’t stop this craze. With or without the military support of the United States, any military confrontation with China is to our disadvantage and a losing battle for us. We can’t afford this and we should avoid this option at all cost if we want to live in a Fun Philippines.

Then again, elevating the issue to an international tribunal using UNCLOS as a reference point is indeed a rational and legal move by the Philippines with a bit of a problem. Guess what! China is not amenable and does not agree with this option. Rather, China is opting for bilateral talks between itself and the Philippines, which to be honest is not at all a bad idea. Bilateral talks give the Philippines potential leverage to talk to China in a more calm and rational manner its contentions, propositions and reasons why the Philippine state is indeed claiming the Scarborough Shoal as part of its territory. Through bilateral talks both countries could possibly explore joint ventures making the most of Scarborough Shoal, which would benefit both states, therefore, forging cooperative and constructive relations between China and the Philippines, as oppose to swelling antagonisms taking place between these countries at the moment. This could be a win-win situation both for the Philippines and China. Who knows what might turnout if we engage in bilateral talks with China. We will never know until we try. Another option the Philippines might consider is to request ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) as a neutral party to mediate in behalf of the Philippines. This is a diplomatic course of action, which I think China is acquiescent with. This should be explored further because probably something more promising may come out from this alternative solution.

All the same, to be more pro-active in responding to the crisis, the Philippines should move away from looking at the whole situation from a “zero sum game” perspective or from a “glass half full half empty” standpoint. It should move away from the thought that China is the enemy, the culprit. It should stop from thinking that China is an opponent that we need to be hostile with and fight to defend our so-called right to the disputed Scarborough Shoal. It should avoid any aggressive or evasive efforts to resolve this conflict because this would only lead to nowhere and would only fuel the escalation of the conflict to unprecedented level which I am pretty sure, both China and the Philippine don’t want to happen. Rather, the Philippines should first and foremost, do its homework by probing where it can gain advantage or leverage over China on the said issue. It needs to be certain what it really wants, needs, and requires out of this issue, then look at how China sees these things, what it wants, and from there, it can start talking and negotiating maybe it be through a mediator, or maybe through bilateral talks. Either way, these are legitimate diplomatic means as oppose to pointing fingers and blaming China as the villain snatching a piece of island from the Philippines, which is just making the process of problem solving complicated and difficult. Again, the Philippines should approach the whole situation in a more pragmatic, rational and from an objective viewpoint devoid of any hint of overwhelming emotions that cloud judgments. The Philippine government should bringing into play a new set of constructive and workable possible solutions to the conflict that are based on the idea of mutual understanding in which many mutual and common needs between parties are met. A set of alternative and out of the box possible solutions to the conflict that are guided by the principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence from the dictates of other states more specifically by the United States, are but imperative and compulsory. This I believe is one possible effective and compelling way in which we can resolve and transform the conflict.

By: Anna Rosario Dejarlo Malindog
+63](0) 9475521711

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[In the news] Mga Pinoy nananawagan na lisanin na ng China ang Panatag Shoal -GMA News

Mga Pinoy nananawagan na lisanin na ng China ang Panatag Shoal.

GMA News
May 11, 2012

Kasabay sa isang kilos-protesta laban sa pag-angkin ng China sa Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, nanawagan nitong Biyernes ang isang party-list group sa Beijing na lisanin na ang  lugar at ihinto na ang pambu-bully nito.

Ayon sa sulat-pahayag ng Akbayan party-list group, nagkaisa ang mga Pilipino sa buong mundo sa panawagang ihinto na ng China ang tangka nitong pag-ankin sa pinagtatalunang shoal na umano’y halatang pag-aari ng Pilipinas.

“Today, Filipinos from different parts of the world rise up to confront the bullying of the Chinese government in the region. We hope China hears us loud and clear. We may be a small nation, but we will not let our country’s sovereignty be trampled upon,” ayon kay Akbayan acting president Marie Chris Cabreros.

Ayon sa Akbayan, ang kilos-protesta na tinaguriang “Global Day of Action against China’s bullying in the West Philippine Sea,” ay ang pinakamalaking pagkilos ng mga Pilipino para  sa “immediate pull out” ng China sa teritoryo ng Pilipinas.

Read full article @ www.gmanetwork.com

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[In the news] Filipinos across the globe launch protests vs China | Sun.Star

Filipinos across the globe launch protests vs China | Sun.Star.

May 11, 2012

MANILA (3rd Update, 12:20 p.m.) — Police have stopped an activist from burning a Chinese flag at a protest outside China’s consulate in Makati City amid the two countries’ monthlong standoff in the South China Sea.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario also said the protests are a private undertaking. “We have nothing to do with this,” he said, noting that even Chinese groups have launched similar actions against the Philippines abroad.

Tensions have risen since both countries deployed vessels to claim sovereignty over the Scarborough shoal, which is located 124 nautical miles from Zambales province and 472 nautical miles from China’s nearest landmass in Hainan province.

The Chinese Embassy warned its citizens in the Philippines ahead of the protest.

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[Blog] Made in the Philippines: Let Justice and Morality Reign (The Question of the Lawful Ownership of the Scarborough Shoal) by Jose Mario De Vega

Made in the Philippines: Let Justice and Morality Reign (The Question of the Lawful Ownership of the Scarborough Shoal)

by Jose Mario De Vega

I am writing in reference to the stand-off between the Philippines and China last week in relation to the dispute and ownership of the Spratly islands.

The pertinent facts of this latest confrontation are not in dispute.

According to the Associate Press:

“A Philippine warship attempted to arrest several Chinese fishermen accused of illegal entry and poaching, but was prevented by the arrival of two Chinese surveillance ships. One of the Chinese ships blocked the entrance to a lagoon at the shoal, where at least eight Chinese fishing vessels were anchored. The Chinese ships also ordered the Philippine warship to leave Scarborough, claiming Chinese sovereignty over the rich fishing ground. But the warship has stayed put, arguing it is Philippine territory.”

Hence, due this volatile and fragile situation, diplomats from the two countries concern are scrambling to resolve the impasse.

It is my firm contention and considered view that the most appropriate way and reasonable manner of settling this dispute and claim of ownership must be lodge to the International Court of Justice.

Based on International Law, this sensitive case is so impressed not only with regional peace and stability, but most importantly of both human and universal interest.

The ICJ, without a doubt has the exclusive jurisdiction to resolve this matter of great and grave concern.

The crucial issues that the Court will address and finally pass judgment will be the following:

a. Who among the different claimants and disputants has the superior right with regard to the possession of the said group of islands?
b. Who has the exclusive and/or the collective owner(s) of the same?
c. The judicial act of giving, handling and granting custody, possession and jurisdiction to the rightful and legal owner(s).

My legal contention is in conformity with the thesis advanced by V. Thomas:

“Tensions between China and the Philippines rose when the Philippines challenged China’s claims of exclusive rights and sovereignty over the Spratlys. These islands are reportedly rich in gas, oil and other mineral deposits. China, the Philippines, Taiwan, Brunei, Vietnam and Malaysia have all made claims to them.
“It could turn into a regional hot spot unless a diplomatic way is found to defuse the tension, such as by sharing the resources or, better still, if all the claimant countries refer the dispute to the International Court of Justice in the Netherlands.
“Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia have availed themselves of the court’s international law expertise to settle territorial disputes.
“The court’s judgment was accepted in good faith by all and this has raised its stature.”

It is my fervent hope that after the ruling of the Court, all the contestants, parties-in-interests, and disputants to this issue will respect and abide by the decision and thereby secure the peace and harmony that the region and the whole world justly deserve.

Indeed, “it is better to settle territorial disputes with the court than opt for war”.

A military confrontation or an armed hostility would be against the interest of humanity.

However, having said and laid down this humble suggestion in the hope of reasonably, peacefully and diplomatically adjudicating and resolving the problem, it is sad and unfortunate to state that China with her full might and vast power is doing acts and postures which undeniably are detrimental and indeed prejudicial to regional peace!

Do I have to list down here their series of historical confrontations with the other disputants with regard to these islands through the years?

China always invoked their so-called historical right to the said islands by virtue of the fact that it is located at the South China Sea.

This is not only a preposterous and outrageous idea, but definitely ridiculous! If we will follow the ‘logic’ of this argument, that is if a reasonable mind could even construe it as a argument its conclusions would be that technically the whole of those islands and countries of Southeast Asia are domains and properties of China.

And if the world will sanction this myopic position of China, then it will serve as a precedent that will empower India to say and assert that all those islands and countries which lies in the Indian Ocean based on their own historical right righteously belongs to it! This is utterly laughable to the core!

A Philippine newspaper, Malaya reported on April 13th that:

“The government has stated that it is prepared to protect the sovereign integrity of the shoal which, at 124 nautical miles off Zambales, is well within the 200-mile exclusive economic zone. In comparison, China is some 500 nautical miles from Scarborough Shoal.”

The pertinent question here is: given this irrefutable facts and undeniable proofs, does China have the moral and the legal right to claim the said group of islands, solely on the dubious ground that those islands lies on the sea which contains their name?

On this juncture, may I refer the attention of the public to the article of Chow How Ban, “The Philippines and China in troubled waters”, The Star, April 14th. The author stated in no ambiguous term the following remarkable words:

“Tension is rising in the South China Sea. China’s navy is ready to hit back if a clash between several Chinese fishing boats and a Filipino naval vessel in the waters of Huangyan Island cannot be resolved diplomatically, Chinese patriots have been flooding the media with provocative comments stating that they are ready to go to war.”


China’s navy is ready to hit back, the question is: who hit first? The Philippine warship was within their countries exclusive economic zone, while China is 500 nautical miles away from their home. Who was the aggressor and the invader here?

The Filipinos since day one have always resorted consistently to maximize the diplomatic channel and agreeable for the ICJ to assume jurisdiction!


Will China voluntary submit its claim to the jurisdiction of the ICJ?

Chinese patriots are flooding the media with their provocative calls that they are ready for war.


This is the same thing that the Japanese war-freaks did during 1929 to 1932 when they are emerging then as a global imperial power.

We all know what they did to China then and the rest of the Southeast Asian countries.

Is the author implying that China is now the new Japan?

I vehemently condemn the provocative position taken by the writer which borders on arrogance and pure ignorance.
Because there is a problem the solution is war?

Does he put into consideration how the world will receive this latest impending military fiasco?

Does it mean that the UN and the ASEAN will simply just keep their mouths shut while China is conducting war on the Philippines and/or Vietnam?

How about the global bar of public opinion of the international community? Does it mean that they will just sit back and enjoy watching from a distance this newest version of the battle between David and Goliath?

I do not think so!

As V. Thomas stated:

“Should the dispute worsen, the solidarity of Asean members could be tested, apart from endangering the Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality concept, which is a principle accepted by all major military powers to keep Southeast Asia free from conflict.
“Asean members, noting the danger of the dispute should initiate a move, with the support of China and Taiwan, to refer the matter to the court.”

Again, I reiterate that the immediate way to facilitate the prompt resolution of this dispute is for all parties concern to voluntarily submit their contention to the jurisdiction of the ICJ. That is the right and the moral thing to do!

However, if I may again call the attention of the public to the unwise and unfortunate words of Chow How Ban:

“China attaches great importance to friendly ties with countries around South China Sea but a recent altercation between Chinese fishermen and the Philippine navy in the disputed Huangyan Island may turn into a full-scale war.”


Wow! Reading these words I thought I was inside the movie house watching a typical Hollywood film about military hostility and armed confrontation.


Is this a warning to us? Are you threatening us?


To that writer of war of scenario and to the whole of the Chinese empire, may I remind you that we may be small as compare to your hugeness, we may be a dwarf as compare to your gigantic size, we may be poor, as compare to your economy but our people, the Filipino people are not weak, our people have character and strength.

That was precisely shown and exemplified in action in conjunction with our latest showdown when we stood our ground, stayed put and dared you!

Don’t forget that we are the first country in Asia to overthrow a foreign power and declare a republic!

During World War II, we stood and fought the Japanese Imperial Army from day one up to the end!

We fought a dictator for more than two decades and had two revolutions. In fact, when your people tried to copied our own 1986 revolution in 1988 at Tiannamen Square, your government viciously crackdown on the people and the students who led the same!
Hence, do not take us lightly, in the same vein that we are not taking you for granted, too.

We may be small, yet we are capable of inflicting damage to you too!

As a Filipino writer puts it so succinctly, Jose Ma. Montelibano, Philippine Daily Inquirer, April 13th:

“China may risk killing some of us but it will find too costly to kill millions of us”.

Lastly, I am not threatening you, but warning you that we have our history of courage and greatness, too.

Hence, I implore China to learn from history: do not ever forget the lessons of the Battle of Thermopylae.

It is always the case that the tiniest of the dust often cause the greatest irritation and discomfort to the biggest bloody eyes!

Again, we are also warning you!

Jose Mario Dolor De Vega

April 17, 2012
Subang Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia

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[People] Needed: Firm but Deft Diplomacy, not War Games by Walden Bello

Needed: Firm but Deft Diplomacy, not War Games

By: Walden Bello
April 12, 2012

President Aquino is to be complemented for his firm defense of Philippine sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea. At the same time, the standoff between the Philippine ship Gregorio del Pilar and Chinese naval boats at Scarborough Shoal (Panatag) over the activities of Chinese poachers within the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone underlines the urgency of arriving at a diplomatic settlement on the territorial disputes in the area.

It emphasizes the critical importance of not endangering the diplomatic window for conflict-resolution by engaging in activities designed to project military might, such as the US-Philippine Balikatan military exercises that will take place off Palawan from April 16 to 27.

Historic Visit to Pag-Asa

On Aug. 2, 2011, four members of the House of Representatives landed on Pag-Asa Island in the Kalayaan Islands in the West Philippine Sea. The mission was historic on two counts: 1) it was the first time sitting members of Congress had come to Kalayaan; and 2) it was the first time a commercial plane landed in Pag-Asa, the largest of the nine islands and reefs claimed by the Philippines.

Criticism of the visit came from various quarters. Most vociferous in denouncing it was the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China, which filed a diplomatic protest with the Department of Foreign Affairs. The DFA and Malacanang, both of which had no hand in the visit, told the Chinese Ambassador that they could do nothing to stop it for two reasons: 1) the Executive could not tell members of Congress what to do since Congress was a co-equal branch of government; and 2) it could not prevent citizens of the Philippines from traveling from one part of the country to another, in this case to the municipality of Kalayaan, which had been incorporated as a political into the national territory in the late seventies.

Reps. Kaka Bag-Ao, Ben Evardone, Teddy Baguilat, and I undertook the mission to support our government’s just claim to part of the Spratlys. It took place a few weeks after Rep. Bag-Ao and I co-sponsored a resolution renaming the South China Sea the West Philippine Sea–a recommendation that was immediately implemented by the DFA, the Department of National Defense, and eventually Malacanang. But equally important as an objective was our promoting a peaceful solution to the Spratlys dispute via multilateral negotiations among the six countries making claims to the area. This was our response to disturbing reports of harassment of Filipino fishermen and an oil exploration vessel by Chinese patrols.

As the head of the mission, I welcomed the DFA and Malacanang’s support of our right to travel to Pag-Asa. As the proponent of a peaceful solution to the territorial dispute, however, I was disturbed by succeeding developments.

Running to Uncle Sam: A Bad Idea

While urging the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and China to forge an updated “Code of Conduct” governing the behavior of the interested parties as they awaited a diplomatic settlement of the dispute, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Department of National Defense were simultaneously pursuing what turned out to be their principal approach to the territorial conflict: to bring in the United States as a military protector.

The United States, in fact, did not need much convincing. Declaring that it had a strong interest in keeping the West Philippine Sea open to commerce, Washington eagerly snatched the Philippine invitation to legitimize its move to assert a stronger military presence in the area. High profile assertions of mutual support by Secretary of Foreign Affairs Alberto del Rosario and US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton were followed by a low-profile “bilateral strategic dialogue” between Pentagon officials and their Filipino counterparts aimed at “an expansion of the US military presence in the country,” according to the New York Times.

Running to Uncle Sam, we had warned, was precisely the wrong response to the Chinese. For by promoting a military solution, we were, in fact, defeating our main purpose with respect to the Spratlys, which was to settle a territorial dispute.

By bringing in the United States, not as a mediator, but as an armed protector, we converted what was a territorial disagreement into a superpower confrontation, one driven by its own dynamics, leading to a marginalization of the territorial issue.

The “Obama Pivot”

See how fast matters have moved beyond our control: Beginning in late 2011, starting at the APEC in Honolulu in early November, the Obama administration unfolded its new strategic posture. After over two decades of trying with little success to control events in the Middle East, Washington now moved to make East Asia and the Western Pacific the “pivot” of the US’s global military presence.

The primary strategic objective of the “Obama Pivot” is to contain China, which is now firmly defined as a strategic rival. Under the new strategy, the central frontline for the US will shift from Iraq and Afghanistan to the South China Sea and the adjoining area stretching up to Korea and Japan.

The “Obama Pivot” to Asia is hardly new. It is the revival of the post-World War II strategy, first articulated by Gen. Douglas MacArthur, of using what he termed America’s “Western Pacific Island Chain” stretching from the Philippines to Japan to project power onto the Asian landmass, from which threats to US security were perceived to emanate. Frustrated in the Middle East, the US has regressed to the Cold War era of “Containment,” a strategic posture that was directed at “Red China,” as well as the old Soviet Union. And it is dragging us along with it.

Provocative War Games

From April 16 to 27, the two governments will stage the annual Balikatan (“shoulder-to-shoulder”) drill, with military units from Australia, South Korea, and Japan joining in either as participants or observers. Reportedly, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Singapore will also join in, making the military exercise one of the biggest in recent years. “Intriguingly,” notes one military analyst, “the geographical focus of this year’s combat drills has been shifted from the northern island of Luzon…to Palawan in the South China Sea, nearer the disputed Spratly Islands.” While the drill is being publicly announced as a disaster response rehearsal, the focus of the exercise will be on combined planning, readiness, and “interoperability” between US and AFP forces. As some observers have pointed out, this year’s Balikatan is unusual since it involves more trainors than trainees, with 2300 AFP personnel receiving instructions from some 4500 US troops.

Taken in the context of Obama’s pivot to Asia strategy, which everyone knows is aimed at China, the Balikatan war games are downright provocative.

Is China a Threat?

Is there really a Chinese threat?

There is no doubt that the Chinese are tough when it comes to rhetoric, but as former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher asserted, “[W]hile China has always been vigilant about its borders and has occupied Tibet, it has not historically been an expansionist power with territorial designs on its neighbors.”

The Spratlys dispute is a territorial dispute among adjoining countries, not evidence of “Chinese expansionism.”

China’s military spending is a quarter of the size of the Pentagon’s budget. And even if it is building up its forces, there is currently little cause for alarm. As the most recent issue of the Economist notes, “For the moment at least, China is far less formidable than hawks on both sides claim. Its armed forces have had no real combat experience for more than 30 years, whereas America’s have been fighting, and learning, constantly. The capacity of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) for complex joint operations in a hostile environment is untested. China’s formidable missile and submarine forces would pose a threat to American carrier groups near its coast, but not farther out to sea for some time at least. Blue-water operations for China’s navy are limited to anti-piracy patrolling in the Indian Ocean and the rescue of Chinese workers from war-torn Libya. Two or three small aircraft-carriers may soon be deployed, but learning to use them will take many years. Nobody knows if the “carrier-killer” missile can be made to work.”

The appropriate response to China’s rhetoric is a firm, straightforward assertion of our rights, like the trip members of Congress made to Pag-Asa last August, coupled with an Asean-backed offer of a multilateral diplomatic solution.

Both Asean and China, it must be remembered, are committed to a diplomatic solution to the West Philippine Sea crisis, though the two parties continue to disagree whether a settlement should be pursued through bilateral talks (the Chinese position) or multilateral negotiations (the ASEAN stand). At a time that the Chinese are trying to project themselves as a responsible global power, they simply cannot afford an adventuristic course in the West Philippine Sea that would severely compromise this image.

The diplomatic window remains open. Instead of widening that window, the Balikatan war games will narrow it.

Rather than promoting regional security, Balikatan will raise the level of regional insecurity. My advice to President Aquino: It is probably too late at this point to withdraw from this year’s Balikatan without projecting inconsistency and confusion. But let this be the last time, Mr. President, that you allow your advisers and subordinates to draw our country into Washington’s confrontation with China.

To borrow a famous line from former US Secretary of State James Baker, “We don’t have a dog in this fight.”

*Inq.net columnist Walden Bello represents Akbayan in the House of Representatives. His resolution calling for transparency in Philippine foreign policy led to hearings in the House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Relations during the third week of February.