<![CDATA[https://www.manilatimes.net]]> (2024)

<![CDATA[https://www.manilatimes.net]]> <![CDATA[ RSS Feed : Opinion ]]> Sat, 18 May 2024 17:52:31 +0800 hourly 1 https://www.manilatimes.net MWSS https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/18/opinion/editorial-cartoon/mwss/1947202 The Manila Times Sat, 18 May 2024 00:15:00 +0800 <![CDATA[Opinion]]> https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/18/opinion/editorial-cartoon/mwss/1947202 <![CDATA[
<![CDATA[https://www.manilatimes.net]]> (1)
The Manila Times
A decisive move to end smuggling https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/18/opinion/editorial/a-decisive-move-to-end-smuggling/1947201 The Editorial Board Sat, 18 May 2024 00:10:00 +0800 <![CDATA[Opinion]]> https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/18/opinion/editorial/a-decisive-move-to-end-smuggling/1947201 <![CDATA[

SMUGGLING of imported goods, especially agricultural goods, has been a widespread and until now apparently uncontrollable problem for the Philippines. However, with a stroke of the pen President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and his administration seem to have accomplished what his predecessors could not, implementing a system that eliminates virtually all opportunities for smuggling.

On May 13, President Marcos signed Administrative Order (AO) 23, "Implementing a Digital and Integrated System for the Pre-border Technical Verification and Cross-border Electronic Invoicing of All Import Commodities." In accordance with the usual rules on publication, AO 23 will take effect on May 28 and will be implemented in phases, fully covering all imports within two years.

AO 23 specifically directs the departments concerned to work out the technical details and implement the system, which will be managed by the Bureau of Customs (BoC). The system, as described by AO 23, will essentially have three parts. First, "pre-border" technical verification, which in plain language means inspection of export shipments bound for the Philippines before they leave their ports of departure. Second, cross-border electronic invoicing, which means invoices for the shipments are sent directly to the BoC by the shipper, so that the bureau no longer has to rely only on what information is provided by the consignees here in the Philippines. Third, a roster of accredited technical, inspection and certification companies, which are the approved companies that can provide the necessary resources and support to carry out the predeparture inspection and cross-border invoicing programs as an integrated package.

To put all this together within the prescribed time frame, AO 23 creates a "Committee for Pre-border Technical Verification and Cross-border Electronic Invoicing." Included on this committee, which will be chaired by Finance Secretary Ralph Recto, are the secretaries of the Departments of Agriculture, Trade and Industry, Energy, Health, Environment and Natural Resources, and Information and Communications Technology, as well as the commissioner of the BoC, the director general of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency and two nonvoting representatives of duly recognized industry associations, to be appointed by the committee chairman upon recommendation by the committee.

As noted, the full implementation of the system will take place in steps over a two-year time period. It will be applied initially to agricultural imports, then nonagricultural goods with health and safety concerns, and finally, other goods that are subject to "misdeclaration to avoid proper taxes and duties," which is frankly all of them, although AO 23 does not quite put it that way.

Best practices

The reason the system created by AO 23 is an incredible benefit to the country is that, for one thing, it brings our import control systems into line with best practices of the rest of the world. More importantly, it establishes a clear set of checks to ensure that only legal goods that are properly declared, and for which the proper taxes and duties are paid, are allowed to enter the country. The electronic invoice provided by the shipper to the BoC must match the verification made by the pre-shipment inspection, and the customs declaration by the consignee here in the Philippines must match the electronic invoice. Physical smuggling, the hiding of prohibited goods inside other shipments, becomes impossible because of the pre-shipment verification. Technical smuggling, the misdeclaration of goods as something else, becomes impossible because of cross-border electronic invoicing.

We understand that implementing this system was not easy to accomplish because of the lobbying of powerful trade interests who profit from smuggling, and some misguided economic advisers who focus on small matters such as the potential for slightly higher prices of some goods and not the enormously greater economic benefits to the public, the government and our domestic producers. The highest praise should be given to President Marcos, Finance Secretary Recto, Special Assistant to the President for Investment and Economic Affairs Frederick Go and BoC Commissioner Bienvenido Rubio for having the competence, perseverance and political will to guide the crafting of the plan in the face of this resistance. We believe the system created by AO 23 already is one of the most important parts of President Marcos' legacy, and can achieve what no one thought possible, the end of the destructive problem of smuggling.

The English professor is just one price we have to pay for turning higher education into a commodity https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/18/opinion/columns/the-english-professor-is-just-one-price-we-have-to-pay-for-turning-higher-education-into-a-commodity/1947222 Antonio Contreras Sat, 18 May 2024 00:08:00 +0800 <![CDATA[Opinion]]> https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/18/opinion/columns/the-english-professor-is-just-one-price-we-have-to-pay-for-turning-higher-education-into-a-commodity/1947222 <![CDATA[

I HAVE already lamented the turning of higher education into a marketplace where learning has become a commodity being marketed as brands. Addicted to, and largely driven by, world rankings, we have seen universities and colleges engage in a fierce race to the top, rendering education akin to a ratings war.

I have talked about its impacts on university governance and to disciplines that have been labeled as "useless" such as the arts, the humanities and the interpretive social sciences.

But the marginalization of some disciplines is just a tip of the iceberg of a larger problem when we place so much premium on faculty publications. And now, even graduate students must publish for them to graduate. The push toward publication is no longer driven by the need of the faculty to be promoted or tenured, and for the graduate students to obtain their master's or doctorate degrees. It has also now become a strategy for universities to earn points which can help them win the race toward obtaining higher rankings.

As someone who is an inhabitant of academia, I have experienced, and struggled with, the so-called publish or perish culture, where the value of a professor is primarily weighed based on how many peer-reviewed articles one publishes and the number of citations generated by these. And the bar became higher and higher, with journals now being also labeled, branded and ranked. More incentives are provided to faculty members who publish in top-tier journals. And it seems that the challenge doesn't stop as you progress toward higher ranks, with the expectation to produce more getting amplified as one moves to the full professor ranks.

Every academic, from the new to the senior, must undergo the rituals of conducting research, converting them into papers that are first presented in academic forums, such as conferences, and then submitting these as manuscripts to journals for publication. Every academic experiences the painful process of being rejected or told that their outputs do not meet the standards. Any academic who boasts of not having encountered a rejection is lying. This is part of the rites of passage that academics must go through before they can claim to be full-fledged members of the privileged circle of the learned and exalted.

Any yet, we must begin asking ourselves what the actual values of these journal articles to humanity are, that they form the basic and core foundation for vetting, branding and rewarding academics. I have seen hundreds of journals in my academic lifetime and read articles that are theoretically esoteric, well written and argued, and yet after reading them there is always that residual feeling of incompleteness, as if something is still missing. I keep on asking myself questions about how these journal articles can be used to advance the interest of humanity.

What aggravates this feeling of inadequacy is the fact that journal articles are measured not in terms of their actual impacts on humanity but on the number of times they are cited. The value is not on how useful the arguments and findings are to meet human interest, but on whether they are used by other scholars as they, likewise, seek their own affirmation as members of the academic community.

While citing one's work is frowned upon, citing friends and peers is not. This has led to a practice where a circle of scholars establishes a circular mafia of academic affirmation by citing each other. The fixation on citations is such that even an adverse citation, which happens when a scholar criticizes another scholar's work, is still counted. This even led academic journals, including those in the top tier, to automatically reject any manuscript that does not cite articles published by the journal, as a strategy to increase their citation indices and maintain, or improve their rankings.

The dash toward being published is also one of the motivating factors that amplified the practice of co-authorship that has become prone to abuse. This is particularly glaring when being a co-author is no longer rationalized by actual participation in the writing of the article but has become an opportunity for more senior academics who practice some authority over their assistants and graduate students, to expect, or even insist, that they should be co-authors. The power differential is such that the more junior researcher, or graduate student, would have no choice but to agree, lest they lose their jobs, or fail to graduate.

While ethical violations should not be the sole basis for rejecting or questioning the "publish or perish" culture in academe, it is a fact that the push for publications, and using this as the main measure for ascertaining the value of, and rewarding, academics has reared its ugly head. In a mad rush to publish, lest they perish, academics end up patronizing predatory journals, or paying fees just to get published. Worse, they end up stealing ideas of their colleagues, and in the case of that English professor in a university in Mindanao, the work of their students.

It's about time the universities rethink the core mission of higher education. It is now time for the academic communities, particularly in countries like the Philippines, to critically assess their participation in this university ranking enterprise that is so fixated on measures that are not authentic in determining the real value of higher education to advancing humanity's interests and welfare.

We should not be pushing faculty members to publish lest they perish, or could end up in professors stealing their student's works. We should rethink counting the number of international students that is probably the reason why there is an increase of Chinese students in some universities.

The focus should be on how universities have served the people, by teaching minds, touching hearts and transforming lives. This would range from actual policies political scientists and economists influenced, to projects for marginalized communities development researchers enabled, to works that poets and artists read to dying cancer patients to make their last breaths more meaningful.

Antonio Contreras Antonio Contreras The Manila Times
Meet China's Ministry of State Security (MSS) — the CIA and FBI rolled into one https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/18/opinion/columns/meet-chinas-ministry-of-state-security-mss-the-cia-and-fbi-rolled-into-one/1947221 Yen Makabenta Sat, 18 May 2024 00:07:00 +0800 <![CDATA[Opinion]]> https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/18/opinion/columns/meet-chinas-ministry-of-state-security-mss-the-cia-and-fbi-rolled-into-one/1947221 <![CDATA[

First word

IN November-December 2022, much of the world community was surprised to learn in the pages of the journal Foreign Affairs that the People's Republic of China, like the United States and the Soviet Union during the heyday of the Cold War, has been conducting extensive intelligence-gathering and spying operations around the world to spread abroad that country's foreign policy and influence in international affairs.

The information was contained in an article on two books that were reviewed favorably in the Foreign Affairs issue, which the magazine billed as "two books on China's campaign for influence abroad."

The books are: "Spies and Lies: How China's Greatest Covert Operations Fooled the World" by Alex Joske (Hardie Grant, 2022); and "America Second: How America's Elites Are Making China Stronger" by Isaac Stone Fish (Knopf, 2022).

The review article by Andrew J. Nathan was published in the November/December 2022 issue of Foreign Affairs.

The two volumes considered the subtle and covert ways Beijing is seeking to spread its influence abroad. They wrote about how China's Ministry of State Security (MSS) engages in traditional spycraft, but unlike most countries' intelligence agencies, it also has a large portfolio of campaigns designed to influence opinion in the West and among Chinese overseas communities. With prodigious digging on the internet, Joske is able to expose many of the ministry's senior operatives and their achievements. A vice minister who worked under the pseudonym Yu Enguang charmed Westerners while serving as a journalist in London and Washington, created the China International Culture Exchange Center (whose mission was to "use culture to make friends" abroad) and infiltrated George Soros' China Fund, which attempted to promote liberal reforms in China a year and a half before the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown. Zheng Bijian, known for the emollient concept of "China's peaceful rise" (which he described in an article for Foreign Affairs), was not an MSS employee but chaired an MSS-created think tank called the China Reform Forum, which encouraged Western academics and officials to support engagement with China. The ministry's Tenth Bureau infiltrates overseas student and dissident groups; the Eleventh Bureau runs a foreign policy think tank that engages Western diplomats; the Twelfth Bureau manages front organizations designed to sway unwitting Western targets of influence — many of whom Joske identifies by name.

MSS 'targets'

Stone Fish looks at Chinese influence operations from the side of the targets, naming numerous American consultants, chief executives, Hollywood big shots and academics who have said and done things that China wants said or done, either for the sake of access or out of an idealistic sense of "friendship" cultivated by warm treatment from Chinese officials. He focuses especially on Henry Kissinger, whom Stone Fish accuses of "monetizing" his relationship with China by charging business executives for introductions to Chinese leaders after he left the government service. Other major figures Stone Fish criticizes for falling victim to Chinese blandishments include members of the Bush family, executives of the Disney corporation, sports figures and former US president Jimmy Carter. Hollywood has bowed to tacit Chinese censorship to avoid being excluded from the enormous Chinese market. Many academics have steered clear of sensitive topics or softened their language to avoid visa denials for themselves or trouble for their students. But it is hard to find purely disinterested discussions of China: those who have something valuable to say usually also have interests or need access. Many Westerners named in both these books could plausibly argue that influence goes in both directions and that their contacts with China make their understanding of the country more, not less, well informed.

The Foreign Affairs review of the two books served as an introduction for much of the world to China's clandestine Ministry of State Security (MSS), which until then few had heard of or read about internationally.

The initials MSS were not as readily recognizable or as notorious as the initials, CIA, KGB, MI6, which signify prominent intelligence agencies in the world. Whenever there was talk about intelligence agencies and their activities, this invariably concerned the intelligence services of the major powers and other major countries, such as: 1) the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the United States; 2) the KGB of the former Soviet Union, which has replaced since 1991 by the FSB (Federal Security Bureau); 3) the MI6 (Military Intelligence, Section 6) of the United Kingdom; and 4) Mossad, Israel's famed intelligence service which has gained plenty of prominence because of some spectacular exploits and Hollywood films.

There has hardly been mention in the news or in popular culture of the intelligence agency of the People's Republic of China.

Interesting genealogy

In fact, however, the MSS has a long history and interesting genealogy. Interestingly, it owes its beginnings to the much respected and revered premier Zhou Enlai.

On Wikipedia, there is a long article on the history of the Ministry of State Security, from its beginnings to contemporary times. The article helps to explain why so many MSS agents have gotten into trouble in various counties and have been charged in some foreign countries. It also sheds some light on why here in the Philippines there are so many China apologists in the media, in so-called think tanks, in academe and in business and industry.

I quote here some passages from the introductory section of the Wikipedia report:

"[The] Ministry of State Security is the principal civilian intelligence, security and secret police agency of the People's Republic of China, responsible for foreign intelligence, counterintelligence and the political security of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). One of the largest and most secretive intelligence organizations in the world, it is headquartered in the Haidian District of Beijing, with powerful semiautonomous branches at the provincial, city, municipality and township levels throughout China.

"The origins of the MSS begin with the CCP's Central Special Branch, better known as the Teke, which was replaced by the Central Social Affairs Department in 1936, which was in turn succeeded by the Central Investigation Department (CID) — the MSS' immediate predecessor — in 1955. In 1983, CID was merged with the counterintelligence elements of the Ministry of Public Security to create the MSS.

"The MSS is active in industrial and cyber espionage, where it has replaced the People's Liberation Army (PLA) as the country's most sophisticated and prolific advanced persistent threat actor. It makes arrests through its own component of the People's Police and maintains the authority to conduct its own extrajudicial court hearings.

"The ministry is also known to be involved in transnational repression, organized crime, surveillance and harassment of dissidents abroad and influence operations targeting overseas Chinese diaspora in collaboration with the United Front Work Department.

"Today, the agency is estimated to have at least 110,000 employees, with 10,000 directly attached to MSS headquarters and 100,000 spread across its dozens of provincial branches. The agency's military intelligence counterpart is the PLA Intelligence Bureau of the Joint Staff Department.

"MSS functions as China's intelligence, security and secret police agency. A document from the US Department of Justice described the agency as being like a combination of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

"The MSS is a civilian agency, although it controls its own separate police force (the 'State Security Police,' one of the four components of the People's Police) and includes some People's Liberation Army officers among its personnel."


Yen Makabenta Yen Makabenta The Manila Times
Questions for straight people https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/18/opinion/columns/questions-for-straight-people/1947220 Danton Remoto Sat, 18 May 2024 00:06:00 +0800 <![CDATA[Opinion]]> https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/18/opinion/columns/questions-for-straight-people/1947220 <![CDATA[

Last of 2 parts

A FEW years ago, I got a copy of a piece called "Do You Need Treatment?" from a British publication called The Internationalist. Since it might help straight people see the members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in a better light, I am reprinting some excerpts.

"Gay people get asked some pretty strange questions. Often, this is because their interrogators have a narrow, strictly heterosexual view of what is considered 'normal.' The New Internationalist magazine turned the tables around and asked heterosexual people some strange questions, too."

The interesting questions, given a tweak, are as follows.

  1. What do you think is the cause of your heterosexuality?
  2. When did you first realize that you might be heterosexual?
  3. Have you told your parents? What do they think of it?
  4. Are there others like you in the family?
  5. Would you say that you had an inadequate mother or father figure?
  6. Don't you think that heterosexuality might be a phase that you are just going through?
  7. Are you afraid of members of your own sex?
  8. Isn't it possible that what you need is a good gay lover?
  9. And what do you actually do in bed?
  10. You put what where?
  11. But how can people of the opposite sex really please each other when there are vast emotional and biological differences among them?
  12. Although society gives considerable support to the institution of marriage, the divorce rate is spiraling. Why are there so few stable relationships among heterosexuals?
  13. Is it because heterosexuals are promiscuous?
  14. There seem to be very few happy heterosexuals. Have you considered undergoing aversion therapy to cure you of your heterosexuality?
  15. Why do you feel compelled to seduce others into your sexual activities?
  16. Why do you insist on making such a public spectacle of your heterosexuality?
  17. More than 90 percent of child molesters are thought to be heterosexuals. Would you feel comfortable entrusting your child's education to heterosexual teachers?
  18. Why do people like you emphasize the heterosexual qualities of famous people such as film stars? Is it because you need to validate your condition?
  19. Penetrative sex is most common among heterosexual couples. Aren't you worried about the risk of getting HIV that leads to AIDS, which is still incurable?
  20. If everybody were heterosexual like you, what would happen to the world's population? Don't you think it is unreasonable and irresponsible of you to insist on sleeping with people of the opposite sex?

These are silly questions, of course. But these are the questions often asked of members of the LGBT community. These questions should stop, as shown by the sarcastic article in The Internationalist magazine.

* * *

I get email inquiries from people asking where they could buy the gay-oriented books that I had written in the past. Well, most of them are out of print now (I've been writing for 2,000 years). But there are still e-books of "Ladlad: An Anthology of Philippine Gay Writing," "Ladlad 2" and "Ladlad 3" on the website of Anvil Publishing. My other books like "Happy Na, Gay Pa," as well as "Bright, Catholic and Gay" can be found at Lazada and Shopee.

They are being sold by independent sellers. In a quirk of fate that I attribute to my longevity as a writer (or the fact that my new books are being published by Penguin Random House Southeast Asia), all my books with Anvil suddenly sold out. I guess they were snapped up by these individual booksellers who are now hawking my books at prices that are two, three or even four times higher than the original prices.

"Riverrun, A Novel" and "The Heart of Summer: Stories and Tales" are still available at Fully Booked. The first book has gay-oriented themes, while the second one has some gay stories as well. "The Heart of Summer" is a compilation of the short fiction that I have written in the last 30 years. They run the whole range, from novella to flash fiction, from a traditional story to a ghost story, from young adult fiction to a children's story.

Penguin Random House Southeast Asia will also publish my new novel called "Boys' Love," which is slated for publication before December 2024. And I am now finalizing a deal with a Philippine publisher for my other novel called "The Country of Desire."

I guess what I'm trying to say is that writing is a marathon and not a 100-meter dash. Of my contemporaries at Ateneo de Manila University, only Rayboy Pandan continues to write prize-winning novels and poems. The others have turned to more lucrative professions, or raised families, or moved overseas and vanished from the literary spotlight.

This is also what I want to say to a few young writers who bash those of us who have been writing for a long time. Just write your stuff, as you would say in the lingo of the day. Just write it and keep on writing for the next four decades.

Only Time, that great and pitiless arbiter, will decide if your writing will last. So tone down the bashing, swallow that ego and just keep on writing, kiddos.

The Manila Times
Water scarcity comes of age https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/18/opinion/columns/water-scarcity-comes-of-age/1947200 Amado Tolentino Jr. Sat, 18 May 2024 00:05:00 +0800 <![CDATA[Opinion]]> https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/18/opinion/columns/water-scarcity-comes-of-age/1947200 <![CDATA[

WATER is a far more pressing problem than climate change ... Even if climate wouldn't change, we have a water problem and this water problem is much more urgent ... Humankind is running out of water at an alarming pace ... We're going to run out of water long before we run out of oil.

– Peter Brabeck

THE year 2001 has sometimes been touted as the first year of the "Century of Water." That focus, however, was overtaken by dramatic changes in climate throughout the world, leading many to elevate climate to the role of Earth's biggest problem and act as though nothing else mattered. As a result, over the past 23 years, the looming global water shortage has attracted less attention than global warming.

According to the United Nations, one reason water received less attention is that, unlike global warming, there is no global water crisis per se. Rather, water issues present as a series of regional predicaments in a world where the distribution of fresh water is so lopsided that 60 percent of it is found in just nine countries, including Brazil, the US and Canada, according to the UN.

As a chemical compound, nothing could be simpler than water. Hydrogen plus oxygen equals water. And, although there is no shortage of water on planet Earth, which is covered by water, more than 97 percent of Earth's water is salty and thus unusable for human consumption, agriculture and other uses. The shortage of fresh water affects people's ability, inter alia, to grow crops, provide drinking and sanitation water for households and to cool power plants.

In the past, military conflict over water rights has led to grave national security issues between some countries, including, to mention a few, contention between Ethiopia and Egypt over the Nile; between Botswana and Namibia over the Okavango; and among Israel, Palestine and Jordan over the Jordan River. Transboundary water sources such as these have always had the potential to foment conflict; however, the natural interdependence between countries sharing a water resource has also drawn people to work together on the water availability aspect even as their countries were officially at war.

Furthermore, it is possible that "water wars" were averted in these situations due to the changing perception of the concept of "permanent sovereignty" over natural resources in favor of "functional sovereignty" or equitable utilization of transboundary shared resources. Be that as it may, the recent changes in the global political and security environment may give rise to doubt as to whether peaceful negotiation over water issues can continue to be the norm much longer.

In the light of this question, it is appropriate to consider the following current water-related situations: 1) China's damming of the source of water of the Mekong River has sparked serious concern among countries downstream (Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam); 2) India, China and Pakistan see rising tensions over shared water resources as a consequence of their efforts to boost production to keep up with huge and expanding population; 3) Some discussions indicate a growing sense of alarm in Central Asia over the prospect that two poor but glacier-heavy nations (Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan) in the region may one day restrict the flow of water to their parched but oil-rich neighbors (Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan).

A torrent of recent water-related news has focused attention on the dry spell brought about by the drought effect of El Niño, leading some countries to declare a state of emergency due to lack of adequate water supplies and to a concomitant decline in agricultural production.

Among Asean countries, Thailand's responses have been notable. It adopted policies to minimize use of water by not growing offseason rice, switching to drought-resistant crops such as beans, or focusing on raising livestock as well as farming shallow-water fish in baskets. Many rice farmers have also joined government-sponsored offseason employment schemes such as working on irrigation canal-dredging projects.

As countries actively pursue major actions such as shifting to renewable energy sources (solar, wind, biomass, etc.) to stop the devastating impacts of climate change, it is now time to set the goal that will lead to a far-reaching effort to meet the challenges posed by the most precious asset on Earth — fresh water.

Amado Tolentino Jr. Amado Tolentino Jr. The Manila Times
Bongbong: No weak leader https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/18/opinion/columns/bongbong-no-weak-leader/1947199 Mauro Gia Samonte Sat, 18 May 2024 00:04:00 +0800 <![CDATA[Opinion]]> https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/18/opinion/columns/bongbong-no-weak-leader/1947199 <![CDATA[

FROM a position paper by the Asian Century Philippines Strategic Studies Institute (ACPSSI), written by its president Herman Tiu Laurel, we gather a comprehensive narrative that pictures President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. as sincere enough in de-escalating the tension in the South China Sea but that his presidential prerogatives on the matter are being subverted by his subalterns.

Titled "Probe 'US-Gibo.' Praise Adm. Carlos," the paper cited President Marcos himself set the foundation for the "new model" arrangement between the Philippines and Chinese maritime security authorities "to peacefully manage the situation in the Ayungin Shoal pertaining to the rotation and resupply (RORE) missions to the BRP Sierra Madre and related issues. The reference was to the President's call made in December 2023 for a "paradigm shift in the West Philippine Sea dispute."

According to the paper, to further clarify his proposition on the year of sea clashes between Philippine and Chinese maritime security forces, Marcos said, "We do not want to go to the point where there are incidents that might cause an actual violent conflict... We have to bring all of those ideas [of de-escalating tension in the disputed waters] together and to change the direction that these incidents have taken us. We have to stop going that way. We've gone down the wrong road. We have to disengage and find ourselves a more peaceful road to go down..."

The situation in the sea dispute appeared to start going down that road two days after the pronouncement. The Philippines' Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo had a phone conversation with China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi, and the readouts of both parties did not identify which side initiated the call, but suffice it to say that it responded to President Marcos' call for "a more peaceful road to go down."

The DFA readout consisted of three short sentences that quoted Secretary Manalo saying, "We had a frank and candid exchange, and ended our call with a clearer understanding of our respective positions on a number of issues. We both noted the importance of dialogues in addressing these issues."

In its elaboration, the ACPSSI paper described the MoFA (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) of China readout on the Wang Yi-Manalo talk as having five lengthier sentences that stated:

"Enrique A. Manalo introduced the views of the Philippine side on the issue of Ren'ai Jiao, expressing the hope that differences will be managed in a way acceptable to both sides, so as to cool down tensions and prevent conflicts. The Philippine side is willing to strengthen dialogue with China in good faith, make good use of the role of bilateral communication mechanism on maritime issues and jointly seek a solution to the issue.

"The two sides agreed to hold a meeting of the Bilateral Consultation Mechanism on the South China Sea at an early date and actively create favorable conditions for it."

The 8th Bilateral Consultation Mechanism that resulted from the talks took place on Jan. 18, 2024.

As disseminated by the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs, the 8th Bilateral Consultation Mechanism on the South China Sea convened in Shanghai pursuant to the agreement reached between President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and President Xi Jinping in San Francisco in November 2023 to ease and manage tensions in the South China Sea. This was followed by a phone call between Philippine Secretary for Foreign Affairs Enrique Manalo and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in December 2023.

Philippine Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Ma. Theresa P. Lazaro and Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Nong Rong followed suit, engaging in frank and productive discussions to de-escalate the situation in the disputed region, and both sides agreed to calmly deal with incidents, if any, through diplomacy. They also agreed that continuous dialogue is important to keep peace and stability at sea. Both sides presented their respective positions on the Ayungin Shoal and assured each other of their mutual commitment to avoid escalation of tensions.

Then just two weeks after the Bilateral Consultation Mechanism Meeting in Shanghai, what looked like an interlude of peace settled in the troubled waters. Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesman Col. Francel Margareth Padilla in a post on X (formerly Twitter) described it thus:

"Today, we executed a flawless rotation and resupply operation for BRP Sierra Madre. Teamwork, precision and dedication at its best..."

As Herman Tiu Laurel put it, "In sum, it was the 'paradigm shift' that President Marcos pronounced in early December 2023 following his November 2023 sideline meeting with President Xi Jinping in San Francisco, the Wang Yi-Manalo phone talk in late December 2023 and the 8th Bilateral Consultation Mechanism talks in Shanghai in mid-January 2024 that mentioned the 'productive discussion to de-escalate,' that brought about this happy fruit of peaceful and constructive engagement. The Philippine media also reported the happy news, notably the Palawan News headlining:

"Earlier today, SeaLight Director at the Gordian Knot Center for National Security Innovation's Ray Powell also said he has observed different scenarios in the West Philippine Sea after Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) Vessels BRP Cabra and BRP Sindangan arrived at Sabina Shoal and were met by only one China Coast Guard vessel, 520.5. He said the resupply mission seems to have encountered virtually no resistance from China.

"Powell also said around 17 Chinese militia vessels were also monitored nearby but stayed west of Mischief Reef and did not conduct their usual blocking and intimidation against the PCG vessels as well as the civilian resupply boat Unaiza May 1."

Now, for Powell to be indulging in such a peaceful narrative is a revelation. Readers will recall that time and again, it is this guy that has been fanning in the media animosity between the Philippines and China, always zeroing in on the near-clashes between vessels of the CCG and PCG. His evident intent is to create scenarios that advance American war strategies against China, with the Philippines as proxy. For him to admit that no such scenarios are in the making would be to contradict his sworn task.

But then again, this is America at play. And wherever America plays, double deal is the name of the game. The ACPSSI position paper puts it quite candidly.

"What did the Americans, i.e., Ambassador Mary Kaye Carlson, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Capt. Raymond Powell, do after this successful 'flawless' mission and de-escalation that goes against their avowed strategy of 'assertive transparency' to 'exact a reputational cost on China?' We cannot tell what they did behind the scenes, but move they did, because there was an abrupt change in the front scene as US proxies went into action heightening tensions again.

The successful and peaceful outcome of the Feb. 2, 2024 "flawless" RORE mission to the BRP Sierra Madre was not received well in the usual suspicious quarters. As any professional analyst should be aware today, the US has available hundreds of millions of dollars from the 2022 "America Competes Act" to fund disinformation and "negative news" operations.

The Feb. 2, 2024 "flawless" Ayungin RORE to BRP Sierra Madre was a very "positive news" for the Philippines and China going forward.

Here is what Laurel has to say on the matter:

"On Feb. 13, 2024, PCG spokesman for WPS Commodore Jay Tarriela said at a Stratbase-ADR Institute forum in Makati City, 'Let me again emphasize that our transparency initiative remains to be the same, how aggressive we are, how we started until now it remains to be the same...'"

Put yourselves now in the shoes of President Bongbong. You've done your damn best to try to be at par with big world politics in order to spare the Filipino nation the increasingly threatening ravages of war. Only to realize your damn best is not good enough simply because those you think are your loyal foot soldiers obliged to do your bidding actually take command from the Americans.

The feared military confrontation with China is not without its restraining mechanism. So far, Bongbong has survived the travails with flying colors, so to speak, as shown by the ACPSSI position paper.

All it takes really is to keep faith with the Filipino people. He could be a strong leader, after all.

Mauro Gia Samonte Mauro Gia Samonte The Manila Times
Reader relates his own TRB experience https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/18/opinion/columns/reader-relates-his-own-trb-experience/1947198 Al Vitangcol 3rd Sat, 18 May 2024 00:03:00 +0800 <![CDATA[Opinion]]> https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/18/opinion/columns/reader-relates-his-own-trb-experience/1947198 <![CDATA[

Last of 2 parts

WE published last week the first half of the letter addressed to lawyer Alvin Carullo, executive director of the Toll Regulatory Board (TRB), which was sent by a "concerned motorist." Here is the remainder of that letter:

"5. In the course of the passage of time and introduction of information and communications technologies and onset of e-Commerce/eBusiness, a third party is now involved, and these are the intermediaries or third parties now tasked to collect the payment of toll fees instead of the concessionaires/operators who once directly received the toll fees paid that is so authorized and privileged under PD 1112.

"6. The intermediaries I am referring to are Autosweep and Easytrip, which in my view are third parties or service providers to TOC/TOA holders acting as electronic payment gateways. Both Autosweep and Easytrip are separate and distinct corporations registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and as such, SEC has jurisdiction over these firms and TRB has no jurisdiction over these entities being companies not directly involved in construction and maintenance of toll roads/expressways as in fact, Autosweep and Easytrip have no TOC and TOA with TRB.

"7. Use of toll roads and expressways is regulated so it is DoTr, LTO and TRB that promulgate and issue such rules/policies — and not third parties or electronic payment gateways like Autosweep and Easytrip by way of a four-page contract between the motorist and RFID account managers in the guise of application form which is actually a contract in context and contents. Be aware that concessionaires/operators are 'regulatees' that is subject to the powers and authority of the regulator (TRB) who supervises or regulates the operations of the concessionaires/operators or any other business entities doing business in the toll road as toll fee collector which is deemed contrary to PD 1112.

"8. Despite the fact that Autosweep and Easytrip are not within the ambit of PD 1112 or not even mentioned or referred to therein, hence deemed not covered by the administrative and regulatory mandate of TRB, these companies (Autosweep and Easytrip) wield power and strong influence upon the motorists as noncompliance with their corporate policies (some of them I believe to be incompatible with the rules set forth by DoTr, LTO and TRB). Inspired and motivated by LTO MC 2020-2224 and TR's three-strike policy, which I believe is confiscatory, motorists are forced or pressured into having RFID accounts and in so doing, motorists make an advanced deposit or advance payment of toll fees (at the time of the opening of the RFID account) because LTO and TRB rules require the maintenance of a sufficient balance upon entering the expressways, or else motorists run the risk of apprehension and penalties.

"9. The only thing clear to me is that with SMHC/MATES having Autosweep as partner and MPIC/MPCALA having Easytrip as partner, there is a clear display of expansionary strategies called 'concentric diversification' which justifies channeling of toll fees supposedly done by the concessionaire (with the TOC and TOA) to its subsidiary company, but the income stream of both organizations flow through the same pocket, the mother companies or holding company (?) of the concessionaires/operators. Put it another way, I view it as a matter of corporate greed, which is a common practice among business conglomerates but in this case I believe there is some sort of circumventing of some laws, among them PD 1112.

"10. In my research on records of expressway users (RFID ID subscribers), it is estimated that advance payment of toll fees or deposit to these firms upon applying for an RFID account now made as mandatory (or confiscatory?), translates to an advance payment of around P300 million each for Autosweep and Easytrip (i.e., a lot of funds to play with in the money market). If TRB and the third parties referred to can only share the data of RFID subscribers and toll road users as well as full disclosure on the matter, a more accurate estimate of the advance payment of toll fees (aka minimum or sufficient balance required for each RFID account) can be established.

"I have stated the abovementioned facts to raise the issue of the propriety or legality of Autosweep and Easytrip now directly involved in road business as toll fee collector without any legal basis and authorization from TRB under PD 1112 or any other policies or circulars promulgated and issued by DoTr, LTO and TRB.

"Presidential Decree 1112 is clear on who is duly authorized to collect toll fees which is supposed to serve as the income stream for the operators/concessionaires that would allow a reasonable rate of return on investments (please refer to the premises of PD 1112). As such, I cannot see the legality and propriety of Autosweep and Easytrip to act as toll fee collector which is not so authorized under PD 1112 or any of the circulars and policies issued by DoTr, LTO and TRB. The policies issued by DoTr, LTO and TRB refer to the policy of the government (mainly motivated and inspired by the pandemic era and Electronic Commerce Act) to promote an electronic toll collection scheme and/or cashless payment scheme, but these policies did not categorically authorize any other third parties to collect toll fees for and on behalf of the concessionaires/operators whose rights and privileges under their respective TOCs and TOAs which is not transferable or cannot be delegated by the TOC/TOA holder.

"The application form provided by these third parties (e.g., Easytrip) are so strict or stringent, and one I believe unfair for the motorists but simply meant to ensure that toll fees flow to these firms even prior to entering or actual use of the expressways as if the use of expressways is a prepaid business akin to fast-food chain. Making it worse is that the terms and conditions set forth in the application form, which takes the form of a contract, is such that non-use of the vehicle's RFID account or non-use of the expressway by the motorist (RFID account holder) can be considered as dormant account and eventually closed involuntarily, and without knowledge and consent of the vehicle owner and/or RFID account holder — and I am a victim of this scheme as reported to TRB.

"By my own personal experience officially filed to TRB, once the RFID account is closed, the account cannot be accessed, and the balance in the said RFID account is deemed gone or deemed forfeited in favor of Autosweep or Easytrip, and to me, this is akin to 'highway robbery' (the term used by a Manila Times columnist in his write-up about TRB).

"In light of the foregoing, I am urging DoTr, LTO and TRB to examine the role of the two companies which I perceive as confiscatory and abusive if not illegal. Please review and look at the role of these two organizations with utmost due diligence in work and conscience, taking the viewpoint of a motorist and as motorist or road user as well.

"If there is any misconceptions and/or misinterpretations at my end, please educate me on the matter.

"Looking forward to your quick action on this matter under your Citizens Charter and RA 6713."

Email: allinsight.manilatimes@gmail.com

FB page: www.facebook.com/All.Insight.Manila.Times

Viber account: (0915)4201085

Al Vitangcol 3rd Al Vitangcol 3rd The Manila Times
Controversial transcript of purported 'new model' agreement between PH and China https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/18/opinion/columns/controversial-transcript-of-purported-new-model-agreement-between-ph-and-china/1947197 Prof. Anna Malindog-Uy Sat, 18 May 2024 00:02:00 +0800 <![CDATA[Opinion]]> https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/18/opinion/columns/controversial-transcript-of-purported-new-model-agreement-between-ph-and-china/1947197 <![CDATA[

AMID an ongoing verbal sparring match between Beijing and Manila spanning several months, it appears that China has grown irritated by the persistent denials from Philippine government officials regarding the purported "new model" agreement for resupply missions to Philippine troops stationed in the disputed Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea. This prompted China to adopt a hardball diplomatic stance, exemplified by the release of a transcript capturing the discussions between a Chinese diplomat and Vice Admiral Alberto Carlos, the head of the Philippine military's Western Command, regarding the so-called new model or "one-plus-one" agreement with an overarching aim of mitigating and de-escalating tensions in the area, which, in my view, represents a prudent step for both parties to prevent escalation and promote diplomatic stability.

Ensuring smooth resupply missions, free from confrontations, is crucial for regional peace, stability and security. Why then would the Marcos administration deny this? The intention behind this new model agreement is genuinely beneficial for both sides. Could it be that the Americans are unhappy with it?


The controversy stirred by the release of the transcript underscores a deeper narrative. China appears intent on asserting the existence of an agreed-upon "new model" agreement between the two nations, emphasizing the Philippines' alleged breaches.

The transcript documenting a purported conversation on Jan. 3, 2024, implies that Vice Admiral Carlos acquiesced to the so-called new model for managing resupply missions to the disputed Second Thomas Shoal where the BRP Sierra Madre is situated. In the transcript, Carlos indicated to the Chinese diplomat that the proposed "new model" had received approval from higher authorities, including a name redacted in the document, AFP Chief General Brawner, Defense Secretary Gibo Teodoro and National Security Adviser Secretary/General Año.

Consequently, on Feb. 2, 2024, AFP spokesman Col. Francel Margareth A. Padilla announced the flawless execution of a rotation and resupply operation for BRP Sierra Madre on her official Facebook account, highlighting teamwork, precision and dedication. However, the post was deleted following the release of the transcript. The optimism from the successful operation was short-lived as tensions surged again between the Philippines and China. This resurgence precipitated diplomatic and political crises, further straining bilateral relations, particularly concerning the South China Sea dispute.

Philippine authorities have vehemently denied there is such a "new model" agreement, dismissing the transcript as a fabricated deception possibly generated by AI. This controversy has escalated with accusations of violations of Philippine laws, such as the Anti-Wiretapping Law. The tensions have reached a point where high-ranking Philippine officials are advocating for the expulsion of implicated Chinese Embassy officials, citing their alleged involvement in malign influence and interference operations within the country.


Amid the controversy surrounding the Chinese side's release of the purported transcript, the response from the Philippine government officials concerned appears disjointed. Their reactions, marked by swift denials, seem to betray a certain level of anxiety. This inconsistency is particularly perplexing. The accusation against China engaging in wiretapping implies the acknowledgment of the existence of an audio recording and the authenticity of the transcript. Conversely, other Philippine government officials, including the AFP, assert that the transcript is "deeply fake." These conflicting statements only further complicate this issue.

Speaking of wiretapping, Sen. Francis Tolentino has filed a resolution to investigate an alleged wiretapping incident involving the Chinese Embassy in Manila related to the "new model agreement" negotiations between the Philippines and China. Accordingly, the Chinese Embassy will be invited to a Senate hearing on Tuesday (May 21). It is crucial to consider whether it is prudent and lawful under international law to subject Chinese Embassy officials to this hearing. I also think this matter raises complex questions under international law.

Under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (1961), diplomats enjoy immunity from the jurisdiction of the host country's courts and other authorities. This immunity is intended to allow diplomats to perform their duties without fear of coercion or harassment by the host country. Article 31 of the Convention specifically provides immunity from the host state's criminal, civil and administrative jurisdiction. This means they cannot be prosecuted or sued under the host country's laws. This immunity extends to the diplomats' personal immunity and family members. Note also that the premises of a diplomatic mission, such as an embassy, are inviolable. Host country officials cannot enter the premises without permission, and the mission's property and archives are protected. These principles are outlined in the Convention, which provides the legal framework for diplomatic relations and the treatment of diplomatic missions.

Note that the principle of sovereign immunity also protects foreign states and their representatives from being subjected to the legal processes of another state. Inviting Chinese Embassy officials to testify in a Senate hearing could be seen and perceived as a violation of this principle, potentially leading to severe diplomatic and political tensions in the already tension-driven diplomatic and political relations between the Philippines and China. The potential consequences of this action cannot be overstated. In my opinion, the issue could be addressed through diplomatic channels instead of summoning diplomats to a public hearing. This approach respects the principles of diplomatic immunity and protocols, and avoids escalating tensions.

Hence, attempting to accuse the Chinese side of violating anti-wiretapping laws or interfering in the Philippines' internal affairs is futile. Keeping transcripts and recordings is common practice, particularly during high-level diplomatic discussions between governments on sensitive issues. These records serve multiple purposes, such as historical documentation, ensuring accountability and transparency, and facilitating decision-making for both parties.

Moreover, a deeper examination of Vice Admiral Carlos' role is crucial. The transcript reveals that Carlos acted more as an intermediary than a decisive authority. It appears he became the scapegoat for the government officials mentioned in the transcript, who are responsible and should be held accountable for shedding light on this matter by providing an honest, straightforward and accurate explanation. This whole fiasco undermines Vice Admiral Carlos' reputation and integrity as a military officer and highlights broader issues of accountability and transparency within the current government. It appears unjust and unfair that seemingly Carlos has been made the sacrificial lamb to shield others from scrutiny in this controversy. It is indeed crucial for the Filipino people to recognize the implications of such actions and strive for greater transparency, accountability and fairness in addressing these controversial matters.


To effectively address this dispute between the conflicting parties, it would be wise for the relevant Philippine government officials to abstain from making provocative remarks and instead return to the negotiating table to engage in constructive dialogue with their Chinese counterparts. Prioritizing diplomacy remains the most prudent approach for both sides to pursue a resolution to this controversy.

Furthermore, one must not forget that trust, good reputation and honoring agreements, big or small, are the bedrock and foundational principles of international relations. They play a pivotal role in maintaining stability, fostering cooperation and resolving disputes. When trust is nurtured and upheld, it serves as a cornerstone for building stronger and more resilient international partnerships.

Anna Rosario Malindog-Uy is a PhD economics candidate at the Institute of South-South Cooperation and Development in China's Peking University. She is analyst, director and vice president for external affairs of the Asian Century Philippines Strategic Studies Institute (ACPSSI), a Manila-based think tank.

Prof. Anna Malindog-Uy Prof. Anna Malindog-Uy The Manila Times
'Prayer' rally https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/18/opinion/columns/prayer-rally/1947196 Chin Wong Sat, 18 May 2024 00:01:00 +0800 <![CDATA[Opinion]]> https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/18/opinion/columns/prayer-rally/1947196 <![CDATA[

THE former government executives — now jobless since their boss, former president Rodrigo Duterte, left office — clambered onto the back of a truck that was turned into a makeshift stage, decked out with lights, a sound system and an LCD wall.

The provincial gathering was billed as a prayer rally for peace.

On stage, a group of young singers and dancers wearing identical t-shirts that said "Defend the Flag" warmed up the crowd to the primitive beat of a Cebuano ditty that seemed designed to suck out any remaining intelligence from the people watching. "Where is the 20-peso rice?" They later sang to the tune of "She'll Be Coming 'Round the Mountain When She Comes," mocking President Marcos for his unfulfilled campaign promise to bring the price of rice down to P20 a kilogram. "Nothing!" the crowd responded gleefully. They were wearing the same "Maisug Peace Rally" t-shirts, waving their arms and dancing in atavistic lockstep. Some carried uniform placards calling the President a drug addict ("BBM bangag") and demanding that he resign. Others in the back waved the Philippine flag.

A balding emcee came onstage to thank the "energetic" dancers, and introduced the "economical prayer" (oh, he meant ecumenical) while mispronouncing the word "Catholic" (sounds like cathartic). The national anthem followed a Muslim, then a Christian prayer — the excuse needed to call this a "prayer rally."

Then, an elderly fellow in glasses explained that his group organized the rally because they support transparency, accountability, peace and security — behind him, a projected logo of a giant fist in front of a Philippine flag.

A succession of speakers associated with the former president — his son, the mayor of Davao City, criticizing the President's wife; a former congressman mocking the President and calling his wife "the national problem;" and two former Cabinet members, one skinny and the other looking like a dark version of the Michelin man, both complaining about how the permit for their "prayer rally" was canceled at the last moment, in violation of their right to free speech. These same people, when they were in power, defended the most heinous violations of human rights in the bloody war on drugs that their boss pursued — but don't you dare trample on their free-speech rights.

The main event was a rambling, profanity-laced speech by the former president, that began with a sermon on how the Constitution was the fundamental law of the land, and how people shouldn't tinker with it, moved on to how Mindanao could separate from the country if not for the Charter; a rant about how the permit for their rally was suddenly withdrawn and how they had to go to another park instead; an abbreviated history of the country's colonial past; Marcos Sr.'s efforts to tinker with the Constitution (fact check: he didn't tinker with it, he had it rewritten), President Cory Aquino's attempts to fix it (she also had it rewritten); how it was unconstitutional to prevent anyone from exercising his right to free speech; then the danger that President Marcos would amend the Constitution to allow him to run again.

"What's the f*****g matter about the Constitution? It's perfect," he said.

The defense of free speech was rich, coming from the ex-president who was responsible for shutting down the country's biggest broadcast network, harassing and threatening journalists — and even cynically accusing them of extortion, accepting bribes or "attacking their victims needlessly" when one of them was murdered.

Anyone straying into the park that night looking for prayer or peace at the rally would have been sorely disappointed. There was little of either.

Oped Template Chin Wong Final Oped Template Chin Wong Final The Manila Times
STILL ALICE https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/17/opinion/still-alice/1946996 The Manila Times Fri, 17 May 2024 00:15:00 +0800 <![CDATA[Opinion]]> https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/17/opinion/still-alice/1946996 <![CDATA[
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The Manila Times
<a class="als" href="https://moneyney.com/forums/personal-finance-in-switzerland.51/" title="Switzerland" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Switzerland</a> tries to rekindle Ukraine peace efforts https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/17/opinion/switzerland-tries-to-rekindle-ukraine-peace-efforts/1947011 The Editorial Board Fri, 17 May 2024 00:10:00 +0800 <![CDATA[Opinion]]> https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/17/opinion/switzerland-tries-to-rekindle-ukraine-peace-efforts/1947011 <![CDATA[

TWO years into the war in Ukraine, prospects for a negotiated settlement are elusive as ever.

Previous attempts to end the war have not worked out well. Just days after the Russian invasion began, peace negotiators met in Belarus, but no deal was reached.

A month later, negotiations in Turkey produced the framework of an agreement that would have, among other things, declared Ukraine as a neutral state. The framework was never fleshed out as negotiations collapsed.

Now, it's Switzerland's turn to play the peacemaker.

This June, the Swiss government will host a "peace conference" near the city of Lucerne "to establish a forum for a high-level dialogue on ways to achieve a comprehensive, just and lasting peace for Ukraine in accordance with international law and the UN Charter."

Almost 80 to 100 countries have been invited to attend, including the United States and its major Western allies, and states making up the Global South.

Earlier this week, Swiss President Viola Amherd said more than 50 countries have signed up for the summit.

Not on the list of invitees is Russia. It's a curious omission, considering that it was its troops that launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022.

Russian President Vladimir Putin wouldn't have come, anyway, as Moscow earlier dismissed the conference as "pointless."

The Swiss government explained that the Lucerne summit "aims to create a common understanding of a framework favorable to this objective and a concrete road map for Russia's participation in the peace process."

Stripped of its diplomatic nuance, it looks like Switzerland plans to assemble a global coalition to pressure Putin into accepting an exit plan for the Ukraine conflict.

To assure Putin that it has no cards up its sleeve, Switzerland is pushing hard to get China to join the summit. Since last year, China has been keen to assume the role of international troubleshooter and wants to get involved in peace negotiations for Ukraine.

Beijing even presented its own 12-point formula to end the war, although it did not get into specifics.

China's President Xi Jinping believes Putin needs a trusted ally by his side if ever he has to face his Western archrivals across the negotiating table.

Last April, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying that China wanted Russia and Ukraine to sit down at an international conference to discuss a way to end the war in Ukraine.

And this week, Putin is in Beijing, citing the "unprecedented" level of relations between Russia and China. He also praised Beijing's "genuine desire" to help end the Ukraine crisis.

Last-ditch effort

Observers see the Lucerne conference as a last-ditch effort to prevent the conflict in Ukraine from decaying into a "perpetual war" that could endure for years with no clear winner.

Kyiv's vaunted counteroffensive has lost steam. Ukrainian officials are now complaining they have difficulty recruiting soldiers. And President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is getting impatient over the slow flow of arms assistance promised by the US.

Russia, on the other hand, has been making new headway on the battlefront, particularly in the key Kharkiv region, and has stepped up drone and rocket attacks on civilian communities.

At least 10,000 Ukrainian civilians have been killed in the fighting, more than 18,600 injured, and thousands more have either fled the country or become internal refugees.

The Western powers are looking forward to the Lucerne summit because the Ukraine war, along with the Covid-19 pandemic, had pushed the world to the brink of an economic catastrophe.

Food and energy took a direct hit from the Ukraine conflict. By one estimate, nearly 258 million people around the world felt the impact of food insecurity.

During the first two weeks of the fighting in Ukraine, oil prices rose by more than 25 percent. A month later, European gas prices went through the roof, surging 580 percent higher. Energy prices have stabilized since, but at higher levels.

Ending the Ukraine war would help ease the pressure on the global economy. That is an objective everyone on both sides of the geopolitical fence must focus on.

WEARY OF WAR A female evacuee arrives by bus at an evacuation point in Ukraine’s northeastern Kharkiv region on May 12, 2024. AFP PHOTO WEARY OF WAR A female evacuee arrives by bus at an evacuation point in Ukraine’s northeastern Kharkiv region on May 12, 2024. AFP PHOTO The Manila Times
Height of immorality to use civilians as cannon fodder, sacrificial lambs https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/17/opinion/height-of-immorality-to-use-civilians-as-cannon-fodder-sacrificial-lambs/1947010 Rigoberto D. Tiglao Fri, 17 May 2024 00:08:00 +0800 <![CDATA[Opinion]]> https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/17/opinion/height-of-immorality-to-use-civilians-as-cannon-fodder-sacrificial-lambs/1947010 <![CDATA[

IT is the height of immorality for President Marcos Jr.'s Navy and Coast Guard to use civilians — in this case poor fishermen — as cannon fodder, even sacrificial lambs, in the maritime-area dispute with China in the South China Sea.

For planning and undertaking such a profoundly depraved scheme, those involved in it, and their bosses, especially Philippine Coast Guard spokesman Jay Tarriela, who sources say planned it, should be fired and dishonorably discharged.

I am referring to the operation by a dubious group called "Atin Ito" launched the other day for a number of fishermen and activists, prodded, paid or fooled by former communist leader Edicio de la Torre and Akbayan head Rafael David's outfits, to sail on their fishing boats to "swarm" Bajo de Masinloc (Scarborough Shoal).

President Benigno Aquino III's officials abandoned that shoal, fooled by an American diplomat during the so-called Scarborough stand-off in 2012, which cemented China's claim of it as part of its sovereign territory called Huangyan Dao (island). (I have detailed this episode in several columns, which no official in the Aquino government has denied).

<![CDATA[https://www.manilatimes.net]]> (3)

The "Atin Ito" operation is undoubtedly a plot thought up and undertaken by the Philippine Navy and Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), particularly by Tarriela, who claimed in his X account that it is merely the fishermen providing "humanitarian aid" to other fishermen in Bajo de Masinloc, and "by the way," asserting the Philippines' right to its exclusive economic zone.


Tarriela thinks we are fools. Since when do small Filipino fishermen — among the poorest in the country — provide aid to and "resupply" other fishermen doing what they do as their livelihood income, which is to fish?

The real intent is a shameless, depraved version of the Philippine Navy and PCG's tactics in the past months in Ayungin Shoal. This was to provoke China into defending what they think is their territory by water-cannoning and shooing away Philippine vessels attempting to supply the BRP Sierra Madre with repair and construction materials. For the Chinese, this violates the agreement made with President Estrada's administration not to supply the Sierra Madre with such materials that would make the vessel a permanent outpost.

While hogging the headlines for several days with its dramatic video clips and portraying China as a Goliath bullying the Philippines as a heroic David in Ayungin Shoal, that drama has fast receded from public consciousness, and with the Chinese Embassy's explanation on the incidents.

The Chinese Embassy released the transcript of a telephone conversation between a Chinese diplomat and the military's Western Command head Gen. Albert Carlos., which confirmed what they have been saying all along: That there was an agreement (an updated one since the Estrada administration) that all they can bring to the Sierra Madre are food living supplies and not repair materials that can be used to turn the grounded vessel into a permanent outpost.


Knowing they would be violating that agreement, the Navy and PCG hoped that China's reactions would result in Filipino casualties, which would have created international outrage against China and possibly invoke the Mutual Defense Treaty, which would be triggered at least, according to US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin's recent unthinking statements, if a single Filipino is killed in clashes with the Chinese in the disputed waters.

But that didn't happen: the PCG's steel-hulled vessels, of course, wouldn't sink even if hit by the most powerful water cannons, and their sailors, of course, have such well-tuned survival instincts they'd evade the water blasts to survive unscathed and not be thrown overboard.

I bet Tarriela thought he had a brilliant idea: "Instead of Navy and PCG vessels, send to the Chinese-controlled Bajo de Masinloc this time a flotilla of fishermen and bleeding-heart activists fooled by the ex-priest, ex-communst de la Torre, who probably needs extra funds as he had long-lost Communist Party allowances, with his Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement he claims to be president of, years ago a dead, penniless outfit. Marcos' staunch ally, Sen. Risa Hontiveros, of course, could be asked or directed to order her longtime "Pink" (i.e., namby-pamby former Reds) organization Akbayan to provide the warm bodies for that operation."

"Those fishermen's small boats wouldn't stand a chance: they'll sink when the water-cannons blast them, or even when the wake created by a Chinese Coast Guard vessel hits them, and they sink with the fishermen drowning helplessly," Tarriela must have thought. The Philippines and the world will be outraged and condemn China. I can imagine Tarriela's eyes light up, and rush to the PCG head to present his brilliant, diabolical plan.


De la Torre of course, who was a leader of the communist-led National Democratic Front in the 1980s, would be familiar with such tactics. Communist-led demonstrations during the late dictator Marcos' time were intended to provoke such police brutality that demonstrators were killed, increasing the loathing against that dictatorship. This was the template created by demonstrations in the 1970s that Jose Ma. Sison called the First Quarter Storm.

This Atin Ito/Tarriela plot is an abomination. At least earlier operations in Ayungin Shoal were undertaken by the Philippine state's armed components — the Navy and the PCG. In contrast, this Atin Ito/Tarriela plot will involve unarmed, helpless civilians, and the poorest ones at that — small fishermen — who have nothing to do, and even probably disagree, with this government's belligerent stance against China, who just want to be left alone to make a living. It is indeed preposterous to believe Tarriela, de la Torre and David's claim that the fishermen volunteered to swarm Bajo de Masinloc as their patriotic duty to defend the Philippines' EEZ.

This diabolical plot will hurt our fishermen. Duterte had actually convinced China to agree to revert to the status quo before the Scarborough standoff, which is to allow small fishermen, including those from the Philippines and Vietnam, to fish in the waters adjacent to Scarborough and seek refuge in its lagoon to weather a storm. I think China will change its policy in reaction to the Atin Ito/Tarriela plot, and totally ban Filipino fishermen from fishing in the area.


The news agency Agence France-Presse reported at 11 a.m. yesterday that Atin Ito organizers "abandoned plans to sail closer to" Scarborough Shoal." The group's spokesman, Emman Hizon, however told reporters that an "advance team" had already distributed fuel and other assistance to Filipino fishermen last Tuesday. The AFP also reported: "A government aerial reconnaissance flight saw 19 Chinese vessels including a warship and eight coast guard vessels patrolling around the shoal on Wednesday, the Philippine Coast Guard said. The Filipino convoy consisted of four wooden-hulled fishing boats and a coast guard escort, and was 108 kilometers southeast of Scarborough Shoal."

A source claimed that when the fishermen saw the Chinese vessels, they must have realized they were being used as cannon fodder, and on their own turned around to head home, surprising the "Atin Ito" organizers, who panicked and proceeded to give media conflicting explanations.

Facebook: Rigoberto Tiglao

X: @bobitiglao

Website: www.rigobertotiglao.com

Did they join the fishermen? Organizers of plot former communist de la Torre and Akbayan president David. SCREENGRAB FROM ABS-CBN ‘ATIN ITO’ PRESSCON ON YOUTUBE Did they join the fishermen? Organizers of plot former communist de la Torre and Akbayan president David. SCREENGRAB FROM ABS-CBN ‘ATIN ITO’ PRESSCON ON YOUTUBE The Manila Times
Investigating Bongbong https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/17/opinion/investigating-bongbong/1947009 Francisco S. Tatad Fri, 17 May 2024 00:07:00 +0800 <![CDATA[Opinion]]> https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/17/opinion/investigating-bongbong/1947009 <![CDATA[

AN ongoing Senate committee inquiry seeks to establish whether or not President Ferdinand (Bongbong) Romualdez Marcos Jr., before he became president in 2022, was ever involved in any kind of dangerous drug use, a criminal offense. The inquiry, supposedly "in aid of legislation," is being conducted by the Committee on Public Order chaired by Sen. Ronald "Bato" de la Rosa, a former national police chief and principal ally of former president Rodrigo Duterte, who has recently broken political ties with Marcos, his former political ally.

Duterte, whose daughter Sara is the sitting vice president and first in the line of presidential succession to Marcos, has been quoted as saying Marcos is believed to have taken cocaine.

De la Rosa used to be part of Duterte's drug war that admittedly killed thousands and has caused the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague to move for the investigation of former president Duterte, Vice President Sara and possibly de la Rosa himself for alleged "crimes against humanity." This, despite the fact that Duterte had withdrawn Philippine membership from the ICC in 2018 (effective 2019), and Marcos himself has decided not to cooperate with the ICC probe. The Senate inquiry could be an attempt to deflect public attention from Duterte to Marcos.

The Senate committee is trying to determine the veracity of an incriminatory report from one Jonathan Morales, a former Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency agent. This report claims that in 2012, the agent conducted a surveillance operation on then-senator Marcos Jr. and other social personalities, but that his superiors ordered his operation aborted. Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, one of former president Erap Estrada's two senator-sons, and a couple of other senators, have questioned the credibility of the witness, but the inquiry has provoked wide public interest, notably on social media and among former military and police officials.

It may have contributed to recent calls on Marcos to resign, and to rumors of a possible coup attempt against the President. On May 10, former senator (2007–2019) Antonio Trillanes IV, a retired naval captain who was involved in the 2003 Oakwood mutiny and the Manila Peninsula siege in 2007, warned Marcos about such a coup, prompting the latter to issue a formal denial. The next day, The Manila Times ran a banner headline saying, "No report PNP plotting a coup."

It was a ridiculous and absurd statement. Normally, a responsible and serious government does not deny the existence of a security threat that does not exist; nor does it confirm a particular threat that exists, except to do what is necessary in order to eliminate it. But Malacañang issued its ludicrous statement, and so it continues to shadow-box with all sorts of rumored threats. Duterte's rhetoric has contributed to those threats: secessionism, revolutionary government, withdrawal of support to the president and commander-in-chief. And the government's response has, so far, been totally incompetent and inept.

In a duly constituted democratic and republican order such as ours, the president and commander-in-chief does not owe his legitimacy and term of office to the officers and men and women of the police or the armed forces. He owes it to the Constitution and the electorate. Likewise, the officers and members of the police and the armed forces owe their loyalty to the Constitution and to duly constituted authorities, beginning with the president and commander-in-chief. How is it then that some generals seem to believe they could withdraw their allegiance and support to the Constitution and to the president and commander-in-chief, and the latter can do nothing about it?

This happened twice in our country in the last 38 years. First, against Ferdinand Marcos Sr. in 1986, and then against Joseph Ejercito Estrada in 2001. In both cases, the president's ouster was instigated by alien forces. Is it not time for the state to read the riot act on the various extra-constitutional forces and make sure the Constitution and the rule of law are strictly followed?

From all indications, de la Rosa is determined to pursue his inquiry to see whether there is enough evidence against Marcos. This is not as simple as it appears. The issue here is not simply the credibility or lack of credibility of the witness. The real issue here is whether the Congress has the right or the duty to investigate a sitting president outside of the impeachment process. Under our Constitution, no sitting president can be investigated by Congress unless and until he has been impeached by the House of Representatives, and is now being tried by the Senate impeachment court. In the case at bar, the alleged offense is supposed to have been committed when Marcos Jr. was a senator, but he is now the president, who is immune from suit for any criminal offense.

We dealt with this problem once before, in 2000, when then-president Estrada was accused of bribery and corruption by Ilocos Sur governor Luis "Chavit" Singson, and Sen. Aquilino "Nene" Pimentel Jr., as chairman of the Senate blue ribbon committee, rushed to investigate the charges as soon as they were repeated in the Senate by Senate Minority Leader Teofisto Guingona Jr. As Senate majority leader and chairman of the committee on rules at the time, I tried to remind Pimentel that the Constitution did not allow him to investigate.

But I was rudely brushed aside, and among my colleagues, only the late senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, a former trial judge and a constitutional expert, supported my position. The rest of this is history: Estrada was impeached, but the prosecutors walked out of the impeachment trial when they could not get what they wanted, and Erap was ousted in a judicially instigated coup by a small mob of pro-Gloria Arroyo supporters.

Marcos Jr. has the choice of rereading to the de la Rosa committee the constitutional provision on the separation of powers, or taking a chance that what happened to Erap would not happen to him.


Francisco Tatad Francisco Tatad The Manila Times
Global Summit of Women in Madrid https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/17/opinion/global-summit-of-women-in-madrid/1947008 Ma. Isabel Ongpin Fri, 17 May 2024 00:06:00 +0800 <![CDATA[Opinion]]> https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/17/opinion/global-summit-of-women-in-madrid/1947008 <![CDATA[

I ATTENDED the Global Summit of Women in Madrid, Spain from May 9 to 11. The conference was in its 26th year, led by the Fil-Am dynamo Irene Natividad and her high-powered group of international women leaders. The Philippine delegation was led by former foreign affairs secretary Delia Albert and Aurora Geotina Garcia of the Philippine Women's Economic Network (she headed the Financial Planning and Investment Strategies for Women Forum at the event).

Government leaders, business personalities and women from all the continents were present, bringing their own interests and experiences, as well as readiness to learn, collaborate and innovate within the current climate primarily of business and economics but expanding toward women's issues and current geopolitical issues. The summit theme was "Women: Energizing Economics of the Future." More than 1,000 women were in attendance. From Asia, the Vietnamese delegation was the biggest, followed closely by China and Kazakhstan, with Cambodia, Malaysia and Japan in attendance. Africa was present with a substantial group from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, among others. Europe, of course, had the major countries represented, including Iceland and Romania, as well as delegates from South and Central America.

The basic concerns were climate change, artificial intelligence (AI) and the new workplace of remote, hybrid or interpersonal conditions.

On AI and its repercussions, the thinking was that it was here to stay, a useful tool which could improve any life conditions but had to have rules for its use in place. The European Union has already come up with rules, and the United States is formulating its own.

On climate change, the need to preserve, as well as intelligently manage resources needed for living, including agriculture, air quality, water, and open spaces and forests, was discussed. Technology like robotics and AI, for example, can be used to conserve water, use fertilizer properly and measure soil conditions to keep them optimal. It could also prevent deforestation by containing poachers and other depredators by remote control.

Then the new workplace conditions, especially after the pandemic, where office workers were working from remote working areas like the home, were brought up. While for family members who have home responsibilities, remote working would be ideal, it was the consensus that hybrid was better where reporting physically to the office enabled the dynamics of learning and innovating to come through interpersonal activities. Other workplace matters, like keeping them healthy for employees by addressing their personal needs like mental health issues, economic problems and future expectations, were discussed. It was admirable to note how some big corporations like PepsiCo address them with Wellness and Inclusive issues, having executives tending to them. Diversity is also being accommodated in workplaces by many forward-looking business groups.

The topics went much farther than the above. For example, the subject of women living in urban areas who have special needs like transport, freedom from sexual harassment, protection from violence as well as to be given attention by educational institutions and government offices, was of great interest and noteworthy for imitation.

And then the subject of wellness for women in both the workplace and home was tackled. Speakers who have been in this field emphasized self-care and learning, and to ask for support when needed. Trying to be superwomen and doing everything for others will come to an end if women do not think of their own health, their own needs and their own mental well-being.

All in all, this was a substantive summit where issues, including peace negotiations (more women should be in peace-making work), addressing violence against women by support services, and the education of men and boys about gender equality, were topics brought up, along with the business and economic where women are now present and in charge in those environments.

Correction: In fairness to Savonarola, the Dominican friar burned at the stake in Florence during the Renaissance as mentioned in my last column, it was the Inquisition that condemned him for his criticism of the Church and the Florentine elites, and his aggressive institution of the "bonfire of the vanities" — the burning of books, luxuries, etc., as spectacles to publicly shame and condemn those whom he judged to be sinners. It was another time.

Ma. Isabel Ongpin Ma. Isabel Ongpin The Manila Times
Hybrids, plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/17/opinion/hybrids-plug-in-hybrids-and-electric-vehicles/1947007 Stephen CuUnjieng Fri, 17 May 2024 00:05:00 +0800 <![CDATA[Opinion]]> https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/17/opinion/hybrids-plug-in-hybrids-and-electric-vehicles/1947007 <![CDATA[

Last of two parts

THE oldest style, which is getting obsolete, is the hybrid like my old Prius, which is a roughly 25-year-old technology. This type of car has a modest internal combustion engine and battery. At slower speeds and for short distances, especially if flat or downhill, the car can run on the battery. Usually, it runs on the rather small engine often augmented by power from the battery. The battery is usually guaranteed for five to seven years. Mine had to be replaced after a year, and it was done under warranty, and the replacement was still working fine when I sold the car. Generally, one gets double the mileage of an equivalent sized regular car. The battery is not charged but charges itself through friction (regenerative braking) and the internal combustion engine, if needed. I think this is a very useful technology versus full electric for a place with inadequate EV charging infrastructure like the Philippines. In the US, it is no longer eligible for federal tax rebates, as they want buyers to move to the more advanced and environmentally friendly plug-in hybrids and electric cars.

Let me go to electric cars first so the difference between them, old hybrid and plug-in hybrids, becomes clearer as the latter is, in some way, a compromise but also a better use of both the electric car and internal combustion engine.

Electric cars are all battery. Zero gasoline, so the most environmentally friendly as literally zero tailpipe emissions. They have instant torque, so acceleration is quite good especially compared to hybrids. Generally, the cost of charging the car is half what one would pay for running an equivalent car on gasoline or diesel. Most have a range of at least 100 miles but one should expect over 250 miles or 400 kilometers from newer models like the one I bought. Battery life is 12 to 15 years. The limitations are if one goes on the road a lot or on vacation with an electric car, are the quick charging options available. This is where, yet again, anticipatory infrastructure is needed as they are doing in China, Europe and parts of the US, rather than the chicken and egg approach of waiting for more electric cars to be on the road then filling the need. There, they are anticipating and encouraging the need by making the shift to electric as seamless as possible. Another example of the limitations of the Washington Consensus mindset.

If not charging the electric vehicle overnight, at worst one can slow charge with a normal electrical outlet. I drove a Tesla late last year when my youngest son and I went from New York to Philadelphia, and we had to return at least three-fourths charged, and we did charge it in New Jersey on the way back, and it took about 20 minutes at a fast-charging station to go from about 30 percent to 100 percent. My BYD has a DC charger installed at my home, and they recommend charging when it is below 80 percent but above 20 percent. If the car is near zero, it will take about seven hours, but like many, I don't wait like with a regular car until the gas tank is empty to load. I usually charge at around 50 percent, and it takes about three hours. I try to charge it during the day so my solar panels at home are also lowering the overall cost which is an added benefit. Because it has fewer parts (no internal combustion engine), it costs much less to maintain the car. The main disadvantage is the charging infrastructure available which may limit one to the DC charger (level 2 charger), which one must install at home or hope the apartment complex has it or be limited to the very slow regular electric outlet. That could take up to 12 hours to fully charge from near zero.

A plug-in hybrid is not quite an electric car but much more than the original hybrid. As I replace my cars, I would hope to go all electric or at worst, plug-in hybrid. Like an old hybrid, it has both a battery and an internal combustion engine, and both are larger than that in an older hybrid. The batteries are generally big enough that fully charged the car can run in full electric mode for 20–40 miles which is more than normal daily driving. You charge it the same way an electric car is charged. Beyond that, the car runs on gasoline and the internal combustion engine. Again, much better mileage and lower tailpipe emissions and still cheaper to maintain than an internal combustion car. I think this is very useful for the Philippines, at least as of now, with its nearly nonexistent electric-charging infrastructure.

Overall, to me, if one can use an all-electric car that is the cheapest to run and maintain, and the most environmentally friendly with zero tailpipe emissions, that is the way to go. Full take-up will require an infrastructure like what one sees in California and New Jersey. In many places that seem to be on the way.

The future of a zero-tailpipe emission car is no longer a concept. It is here. Luddites like Cut and Paste seem to be overly aroused by regressing and bemoaning progress, but while not perfect, the post-internal combustion engine era is here and improving. It is just a matter of how long it will take to transition. I suppose if that upsets the Luddites, let them console themselves by watching a film on their Betamax or VHS and complaining to their friends via their landline or Nokia phone. Again, as the apt saying goes, "The dogs may bark, but the caravan rolls on." In this case, a zero-tailpipe emission caravan.

Stephen CuUnjieng Stephen CuUnjieng The Manila Times
The ambiguity of freedom and nationalism https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/17/opinion/the-ambiguity-of-freedom-and-nationalism/1947005 Van Ybiernas Fri, 17 May 2024 00:04:00 +0800 <![CDATA[Opinion]]> https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/17/opinion/the-ambiguity-of-freedom-and-nationalism/1947005 <![CDATA[

ACCORDING to vocabulary Dot com, the word preamble comes from the Latin praeambulus, which means "walking before." In the case of statutes or laws, the preamble acts as an introduction, often explaining the purpose of the measure.

In the case of Republic Act (RA) 1425, or the Rizal Law, signed into law by President Ramon Magsaysay on June 12, 1956 and sponsored in the Senate by nationalist titans Claro M. Recto and Jose P. Laurel, the first preambulatory statement reads: "Whereas, today, more than any other period of our history, there is a need for a rededication to the ideals of freedom and nationalism for which our heroes lived and died."

Why did the preamble of RA1425 emphasize the "need for a rededication to the ideals of freedom and nationalism" using "today, more than any other period in our history"? Could it be a kind of recency bias that gives undue importance to recent events vis-a-vis the historic past?

Reading Reynaldo Ileto's "Knowledge and Pacification" (2017), however, will give the readers a different interpretation of that preambulatory statement authored by Recto and Laurel. In broad strokes, Ileto reminds us of how crucial the 1950s were to the history of Philippine nationalism (to be elaborated in the next columns).

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Rizal's generation is universally recognized as the progenitors of the Filipino nation born in the late 19th century. In fact, as I wrote in "Jose Rizal: The First Filipino" (The Manila Times, May 10, 2024), Rizal biographer Leon Ma. Guerrero labeled him "the first Filipino" for that particular reason.

Zeus Salazar, on the other hand, argues forcefully regarding the nacion-bayan dichotomy. To wit, Rizal may rightly claim to the label "first Filipino" in the context of nationhood wherein nacion in the Spanish language predominantly used by the ilustrados seeks to be the successor-state to the colonial state. Salazar emphasizes that Andres Bonifacio's (haring) bayan followed a different trajectory from Rizal's nacion in the sense that the former is a modern-day iteration of the pre-colonial bayan, which colonialism sought (unsuccessfully) to destroy through the establishment of the colonial state.

Many believe that the archipelago did not have a national political structure prior to the establishment of the colonial state with its capital (eventually) in Manila in the 16th century. I am one of a few historians to insist that a loose federation or confederation of what Salazar calls "ethnic states" horizontally structured and distributed throughout the archipelago existed prior to the advent of Spanish colonialism. Salazar reminds that these loosely confederated ethnic states manifested themselves many times to resist the Spanish colonial incursion beginning in the 16th century, including the so-called Tondo Conspiracy of 1587-1588. In the said conspiracy, leaders of ethnic states from all over the archipelago plotted to oust the fledgling colonial state once and for all.

The ethnic states continued to exist in areas beyond the reach of colonialism, in the Muslim south and in non-Muslim communities — mostly in the hinterlands — that warded off colonial rule. These also persisted, albeit beneath the surface, in the colonized parts of the archipelago where the datu and rajah served as administrators in the renamed-but-essentially-unchanged barangays and pueblos as cabezas and gobernadorcillos, respectively.

As Angelito Nunag shows, the Katipunan's revolutionary government structure reflects the horizontal relations among the confederated ethnic states of the pre-colonial era through the establishment of the various "sanggunian" administrative and political units. The Katipunan revolutionary government, nevertheless, integrated the technical innovation introduced by the colonial state through the establishment of higher level political-administrative units at the provincial level (Sangguniang Bayan) and at the national level (Kataas-taasang Sanggunian).

As the events of the 1896 Revolution unfolded, Bonifacio and the Katipunan's bayan clashed with the nacion of the ilustrados/elite. Aside from fighting the Spaniards, the revolution struggled with infighting between Bonifacio and Emilio Aguinaldo. Salazar suggested that Bonifacio lost power in Cavite as a result of a disguised coup d'etat and that the intention of Aguinaldo's group was to eventually sue for peace with the Spaniards as what happened in Biyak-na-Bato.

The Revolution went into its "second phase" in 1898 after an alliance with the United States was supposedly forged between Aguinaldo and American diplomats in Hong Kong and Singapore. The Americans eventually disavowed this agreement and moved to take over the archipelago from Spain as a result of the Treaty of Paris. When the Filipino-American War broke out in 1899, infighting among Filipinos continued between those committed to the independent republic in Malolos and those who sought collaboration with the United States.

For decades after the Revolution and in the shadow of American colonial rule, the idea of Philippine nationalism wallowed in limbo. Freedom and nationalism were confused (and confusing) terms in light of the elite's beneficial relations with the American colonizers (and the Spanish before them).

In the 1950s, what exactly did freedom and nationalism in the context of Filipino nationhood mean?

Water curtains 101 by Google and Pinoy insights https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/17/opinion/water-curtains-101-by-google-and-pinoy-insights/1947004 John Lesaca Fri, 17 May 2024 00:03:00 +0800 <![CDATA[Opinion]]> https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/17/opinion/water-curtains-101-by-google-and-pinoy-insights/1947004 <![CDATA[

"A WATER curtain system on ships is a defense mechanism designed to create a protective barrier of water around the vessel to ward off external threats, such as water cannon attacks, or boarding by sea pirates or criminals.

High-pressure water curtain systems can be manually or automatically activated, depending on the level of threat detected. Some advanced systems may be equipped with sensors, cameras and control mechanisms to detect and respond to potential attacks effectively, providing an additional layer of protection against various maritime threats."

Deploying water curtains on a ship can be an effective way to ward off water cannon attacks. Here are some methods to effectively deploy water curtains:

  1. Install specialized water curtain systems along the sides of the ship that can be activated remotely.
  2. Use the continuous water curtain directed toward incoming threats.
  3. Utilize adjustable nozzles and sprayers to control the width and intensity of the water curtain.
  4. Integrate sensors and cameras to detect and track incoming threats, triggering the water curtain deployment automatically.
  5. Ensure the water curtain covers vulnerable areas of the ship where water cannon attacks are most likely to occur.
  6. Regularly test and maintain the water curtain system to ensure its effectiveness in deterring attacks.
  7. Train crew members on how to operate and deploy the water curtain system efficiently in case of an emergency.
  8. Coordinate with security personnel to have a rapid response plan in place to activate the water curtain system when needed.
  9. Consider integrating the water curtain system with other ship defense mechanisms for enhanced protection against water cannon attacks.
  10. Evaluate the effectiveness of the water curtain system through simulations and drills to identify any areas for improvement.

"Ultra-high pressure water jet cutters are used to cut a wide variety of materials including granite, concrete, ceramics, fabric and even Kevlar. One such cutter delivers 55,000 psi through a nozzle 0.003 inches in diameter at 1 kilometer per second, which can cut a person at a close range. There are reports of accidental deaths involving the industrial use of high-pressure water."

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Of course, the above research got my attention, mainly because of its defensive capability more than the aggressive possibility. I understand the official policy of not going down to the level of bullies, but we need to protect the ship's crew and equipment from being hurt and damaged, right?

It's high time we think out of the box on this one. Let's use our creative abilities to protect our maritime vessels from harm. This way, the bully just wastes his time and expends more diplomatic capital. Some are funny, comical, humorous, maybe harebrained and entertaining but hey, I'd rather share the following suggestions given to me, than be an armchair "ranter":

– Install long rectangular steel shields on each side of our ships similar to the front end of a bulldozer, only much wider and higher. This blocks the spray and deflects the spurts back toward the water. Or make the curve face backwards. The material can be made of plastic for lightness but effective — the idea is to dissipate the strength of the water spurt and lessen the damage and harm.

– Or, place these shields at the rear of our ships. The captain then steers the ship so the shield always faces the water cannon and pushes the ship safely out of harm's way. This saves on fuel, too.

– Use some sturdy netting material to snag the belligerent ship's propellers and render them inoperable, and let them drift away to Africa without food and water. Then we sell them our supplies.

– Broadcast the belligerent acts live over social media through drones and show the international community what is taking place in real time.

– Dress up some ships with weapons made out of cardboard and deploy them in the guise of resupply activities. While they are being attacked with water cannons, the actual supply ships speed out to complete their objective.

– Use our helicopters to rain feces and waste collected from our clogged sewage systems on belligerent ships. Just make sure the local ships are far away to minimize collateral damage.

– Equip our maritime vessels with bigger and souped-up engines to outrun and outmaneuver these belligerent vessels.

– Use the VFA to include an American in our supply ships. That way, when they get attacked with water cannons, and the American citizen is hurt, the US must act. This will finally convince the anti-VFA proponents that they are wrong.

– DoST should develop strong water-soluble and biodegradable acids that are capable of melting steel hulls.

– Because the midterm elections are coming, allow our politicians to make laws prohibiting China from using water cannons. Anyway, no one follows the law here. However, our Constitution provides for self-defense, but that's why they always want to change it.

Have a great weekend everyone!

The Manila Times
The arduous journey to civil service https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/17/opinion/the-arduous-journey-to-civil-service/1947003 Dr. Carl E. Balita Fri, 17 May 2024 00:02:00 +0800 <![CDATA[Opinion]]> https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/17/opinion/the-arduous-journey-to-civil-service/1947003 <![CDATA[

GOVERNMENT service is probably the most rewarding career. It guarantees stability and provides for career progression assured with social insurance and retirement benefits of a lifetime. But the entry and permanency to this noble job is not easy. In a highly clannish culture, the "whom you know" is as imperative as "what you know."

What if a law is passed to require political candidates to pass certain examinations to ensure their capability to think and reason logically as well as write and speak with correct grammar? What if it is mandatory that they know the Constitution, and the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, as well as competencies in peace and human rights, and environmental management and protection? These are the competencies tested by the Civil Service Examination (CSE).

If even the clerks and encoders in government service are required to pass the most difficult examination with the lowest passing rate in the country, the CSE, then why are the key decision-makers and leaders exempt from demonstrating competencies prior to the offering of themselves to the public for election? If all the choices offered to the public are competent based on some normative measures, then the voting public and the society have greater chances of choosing the better and best candidates.

But this is an impossible dream anchored on the excuse that the voice of the people is the voice of God — vox populi, vox dei. Only those wanting to work in government are subjected to qualifications and tough competition.

Hurdles of the most difficult examination

Civil Service Eligibility, through the CSE, is a means for one to apply for permanent jobs in the government. It is given twice yearly and conducted by the Civil Service Commission (CSC). The pen-and-paper test is given through a text booklet, while the computerized examination (Comex) is conducted through the CSC offices.

The CSE is tougher than any other examinations. The average passing rate in the Civil Service Examination (CSE) in nine years or in 13 examinations from 2015 to the recent is only 14.12 percent. The highest passing rate was in August 2022 at 18.97 percent, and the lowest passing rate was in March 2018 with only 10.57 percent. For nine years (2015 to 2024) and in 13 Civil Service Examinations, 2,528,836 Filipinos failed from a total of 2,945,798 takers.

With an application fee of P500 for the pen-and-paper test, the Civil Service Commission collected a total amount of almost P1.5 billion, with more than P1.2 billion paid by the failed takers. Comex costs P680.

Coverage of CSE

The passing rate to the CSE is 80 percent.

Professional CSE has 170 items of tests given in three hours and 10 minutes. It covers, in both English and Filipino, subject areas like vocabulary, grammar and correct usage, paragraph organization, reading comprehension, analogy, logic and numerical reasoning. Subprofessional CSE has 154 items which is given in two hours and 40 minutes, and covers in English and Filipino, questions on vocabulary, grammar and correct usage, paragraph organization, reading comprehension, spelling, clerical operations and numerical reasoning. Both professional and sub-professional CSE have general information items on the Philippine Constitution, Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, Peace and Human Rights Issues and Concepts, and Environmental Management and Protection.

Who are qualified to take CSE

Applicants to the CSE must be a Filipino citizen; at least 18 years old; no criminal record; no record of dismissal from military or government service; has not taken the same-level exam within the last three months before the exam date.

High school graduates, or those who finished a course that's less than four years, may take the subprofessional CSE required for jobs such as clerical, trades, crafts and custodial work in public offices. Those who have completed a four-year college course are qualified to take the Professional CSE which qualifies one to apply for first-level and second-level government positions like professional, scientific, managerial, technical and higher posts of clerical jobs in public offices.

Who are exempted from CSE

Exempted from the CSE are Bar and Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) Board licensure examination passers (under Republic Act [RA] 1080); the cum laude, magna cum laude or summa cum laude honor graduates (under Presidential Decree [PD] 907); and the graduates of a legitimate university abroad (CSC Resolution 1302714).

Also exempted are all elective barangay officials (punong barangay, regular Sangguniang Barangay members and Sangguniang Kabataan chairmen) and appointive barangay officials (barangay secretary and treasurer) under RA 7160. Also exempted and given second-grade civil service eligibility are barangay-based volunteer barangay nutrition scholars (under RA 1569) and barangay health workers with at least two years of college education and served for five years (under RA 7883).

Exemption is also given to elected Sanggunian members which includes vice mayor, vice governor and regular Sanggunian members of the Sangguniang Bayan, Sangguniang Panlungsod and Sangguniang Panlalawigan (RA 10156).

The CSE exemption is given to qualified Filipinos whose skills are not measured by the written test (CSC MC No. 11, s. 1996) like plant electricians, automotive mechanics, heavy equipment operators, laboratory technicians, shrine curators, carpenters, drafting technicians and plumbers.

Scientific and technological specialists like scientists, researchers and inventors are exempted from taking the CSE (PD 997, Revised 2009). Electronic data processing specialists, scientific and technological specialists (under PD 997), natural sciences, engineering sciences, mathematics, information and communication technology are also exempted.

CSE exemption is also granted to those who passed the proficiency test or training course of the National Computer Center (NCI-NCC) in the following computer courses: Systems Analysis and Design, Computer Programming, Java, MS Access and Visual Basic (CSC Resolution No. 90-083).

Veterans and their spouses are also exempted (EO 132/790). Also included are veterans' children who did not pass or lacked 10 points in the Career Service Professional Examination, Career Service Sub Professional Examination, Fire Officer Examination or Penology Officer Examination.

Department of Education Order 2 (1987) further enlarged granting civil service eligibility to all graduates with honor or distinction equivalent to cum laude, magna cum laude and summa cum laude of master's or doctorate degrees.

Recent exemptions

CSC Resolution No. 2301123 dated Dec. 7, 2023, released the grant of career service eligibility-preference rating to specific workers in government agencies based on length of service and work performance. Applicants to CSE-PR eligibility must have rendered or is rendering services in the government as a JOCOSC6 (job order, contract of service, casual, contractual, coterminous, occupying categories III or IV position, career service employee with first-level eligibility), for at least 10 aggregate years.

Applicants must have applied and taken the scheduled CSE, beginning with the March 3, 2024 CSE and obtained a failed rating of not lower than 70. Additional requirement includes at least a very satisfactory performance rating, or its equivalent, in the latest/available two rating periods preceding the date of filing for the grant of CSE-PR.

Civil servants serving well

Civil Servants seem to be serving well. This is what can be concluded from the 2022 Whole-of-Government Citizen Satisfaction Survey conducted by the Development Academy of the Philippines through its Productivity and Development Center. The frontline government offices and agencies received an overall government-to-citizen (G2C) satisfaction score of 96.96 percent from transacting citizens. The overall rating is composed of 55.34 percent very satisfied and 41.62 percent satisfied with their transactions.

The biennial survey involved a face-to-face interview of 3,708 citizens who completed transactions with frontline services of selected national government agencies (NGAs) and local government units (LGUs) in four highly urbanized areas.

The survey also noted a high G2C Satisfaction Score across the four main areas of the country, with Mindanao obtaining the highest rating at 98.77 percent, followed by Visayas at 96.75, balance of Luzon outside NCR at 96.41 percent and the National Capital Region at 96.02 percent.

G2C Satisfaction for clusters of NGAs was also high, with one-stop shops at 98.55 percent, social and welfare services agencies at 96.82, civil registration services at 96.65 percent, and licensing or regulation agencies at 96.42 percent.

Further, the G2C Satisfaction Score is 96.59 percent in national government agencies, compared to 96.97 percent in LGUs (95.47 percent in city offices and 98.14 percent in barangay offices) by transaction point.

The government has a total of 2,462,534 workers and 642,077, with 26 percent composed of job order and contract of service personnel (Inventory of Government Resources, June 30, 2022). Nine hundred seventy-three thousand two hundred and twenty (973,220) are women (Statista). These are heroic men, women and all genders regarded as heroes of public service. May they be true to their commitment to serve the public, which is the very reason why they are privileged to be in government. Salute to them!

Dr. Carl E. Balita Dr. Carl E. Balita The Manila Times
Bringing the world's food production in line with global climate goals https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/17/opinion/bringing-the-worlds-food-production-in-line-with-global-climate-goals/1947002 Dan Drollette Jr. Fri, 17 May 2024 00:01:00 +0800 <![CDATA[Opinion]]> https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/17/opinion/bringing-the-worlds-food-production-in-line-with-global-climate-goals/1947002 <![CDATA[

NORTHAMPTON, Massachusetts – Food systems — how we grow, transport, prepare and dispose of the food we eat — are responsible for roughly one-third of all global greenhouse gas emissions. And those gases are changing the climate, which, in turn, is disrupting the food supply. It would seem to be a classic vicious circle.

To compound the problem, the intertwined fates of food and climate change have taken remarkably long to be recognized: It was only last December that the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) unveiled its nonbinding "food systems road map" for bringing the world's food production in line with global climate goals.

Why it took so long for food to be "on the table" at international conferences about climate change is something that Emile Frison delves into for the special issue of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. In his article "We cannot afford another lost year for food and climate action," Frison says part of the problem so far has been imagery: "When we think of climate change, ... [w]hat we almost certainly don't think of is the burger sitting juicy on the dinner plate, the cow in the barn, or the ready-made lasagna steaming fresh from the microwave."

Along similar lines, an interview with food systems expert Catherine Bertini focuses on the difficulties of reconciling the UN's twin (and perhaps not entirely compatible) goals of eliminating global hunger and stabilizing global climate.

But while the problems involved in creating more sustainable food systems may have taken a long time to be recognized and be large in size, they are not insurmountable. In fact, there are many approaches to solving them.

One is to use the latest in high-tech genetic editing tools to make crops with increased yields, greater resiliency to extreme weather, and more resistance to the new diseases introduced as formerly temperate zones become warmer and the reach of what were formerly exclusively tropical pests and diseases expands.

"Appropriately enough, in the Century of Biology, that means turning to genetic tools such as CRISPR," write the authors of "We need to act now to ensure global food security and reduce agricultural greenhouse gas emissions," using the acronym of clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats.

A whole other tack involves looking to the past and bringing back some traditional, indigenous food sources, many of which are extraordinarily well-suited to the Global South but, over time, fell by the agricultural wayside.

In "What if potatoes grew on trees," Diane Ragone, founder of Hawaii's Breadfruit Institute, describes the organization's successful effort to bring back the low-cost, sustainable, locally grown food item known as breadfruit.

She highlights the importance of several projects, years in the making, to interview people across the Pacific Islands about their traditional cultural practices regarding this food's planting, cultivating, harvesting and storing — and to document their knowledge in photographs, recordings and videotapes.

This type of holistic approach is also a key part of what has come to be known as "regenerative agriculture," which deals with not only food production but also with how agricultural practices can enrich the soil and the environment.

In "Regenerative agriculture sequesters carbon — but that's not the only benefit and shouldn't be the only goal," Jessica Villat, a researcher affiliated with the Harvard University Extension School, explains how practices aimed at better sequestering carbon — including the planting of cover crops, using non-chemical fertilizers, applying integrated pest management and not tilling cropland — can succeed.

Not only that, these practices go to the heart of efforts to increase biodiversity, better control wildfire, and improve water quality and availability, as well.

Human society faces tremendous challenges in remaking its food system in an age of climate change, but it has some powerful tools at hand and a number of different approaches to take in possibly transforming a vicious circle into a virtuous one.


Final Oped Template TMT Cosme Perspective Final Oped Template TMT Cosme Perspective The Manila Times
'GUO-NECTING' THE DOTS https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/16/opinion/editorial-cartoon/guo-necting-the-dots/1946652 The Manila Times Thu, 16 May 2024 00:15:00 +0800 <![CDATA[Opinion]]> https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/16/opinion/editorial-cartoon/guo-necting-the-dots/1946652 <![CDATA[
<![CDATA[https://www.manilatimes.net]]> (7)
The Manila Times
PH should not expel Chinese diplomats https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/16/opinion/editorial/ph-should-not-expel-chinese-diplomats/1946671 The Editorial Board Thu, 16 May 2024 00:10:00 +0800 <![CDATA[Opinion]]> https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/16/opinion/editorial/ph-should-not-expel-chinese-diplomats/1946671 <![CDATA[

IN the aftermath of the Chinese Embassy's release of a highly suspect recording of a telephone conversation alleged to have taken place in January between a flag officer of the Philippine Navy and an embassy official, Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. and National Security Adviser Eduardo Año have both called on the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to expel the Chinese diplomat who supposedly recorded the call and possibly other embassy officials. While this reaction is certainly understandable, and the Philippines would be clearly within its right to order any or all Chinese diplomatic personnel to leave the country as a result of the incident, we disagree with our officials.

To recall, the Chinese Embassy in Manila, on May 7, shared with selected media organizations what it claimed was a recording of a phone conversation between an individual claiming to be the "AFP WesCom chief" and a Chinese diplomat. In the conversation, the two speakers agreed on four points under a "new model" for managing disputes in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), specifically, the manner in which resupply missions to the BRP Sierra Madre at Ayungin Shoal would be carried out. However, the authenticity of the recording has not been confirmed, nor has the actual chief of the AFP Western Command, Vice Adm. Alberto Carlos, returned from personal leave to shed light on the controversy.

In response to the calls from Teodoro and Año, China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs warned that expelling its diplomats in Manila would be a "hasty action" that could "potentially harm" the Philippines. "The Philippines' response shows precisely their guilty conscience [is] in the face of facts and evidence and how exasperated and desperate they have become. We ask the Philippines to ensure that Chinese diplomats can carry out their duty normally and to stop provocations and infringements," said ministry spokesman Lin Jian in a press conference last Friday.

Expelling the Chinese diplomats from the embassy in Manila would not at all be a hasty action but would, in fact, be a normal response to the only provocations and infringements that are happening in the present circ*mstances, which are all coming from China. For China to be offended at the suggestion that their diplomats may be expelled is the height of arrogance because, at a minimum, their public release of the alleged recording was a gross breach of diplomatic protocols and conventions, in particular, the principle of non-interference in a country's internal affairs.

And as Secretary Año pointed out, if the recording is proven genuine, which can only be determined by a thorough and transparent investigation, then the Chinese officials very well may have violated the Anti-Wiretapping Act. Diplomats are duty-bound to comply with the laws of the countries they serve, and expulsion is the accepted consequence for their refusal to do so.

Be that as it may, we believe that expelling any Chinese diplomats is not appropriate or in the Philippines' best interest at this time. The investigation of the supposed phone conversation has not yet been conducted; the presence of those involved on the Chinese side is required. Removing a channel for communication with China is also inadvisable because of the risk that some escalation of the WPS dispute might occur; without the means to communicate quickly, the chance to keep a situation from spiraling out of control becomes much smaller.

Beyond that, expelling China's diplomats would surrender the initiative the Philippines now has as the wronged party in the ongoing dispute. China would be able to cast the Philippines as the aggressor and deliberately seek to prevent negotiation and peaceful resolution.

Our government should make it clear to China that we are exercising forbearance in the interest of resolving our differences through diplomacy, and it is for that reason alone that we are choosing not to exercise our right to remove their representatives in Manila. We should also make it clear to China that the decision should be considered an invitation for them to dispense with cheap machinations and join us on the high road and that if the invitation is refused, rightful consequences may indeed follow.

PH should not expel Chinese diplomats


IN the aftermath of the Chinese Embassy's release of a highly suspect recording of a telephone conversation alleged to have taken place in January between a flag officer of the Philippine Navy and an embassy official, Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. and National Security Adviser Eduardo Año have both called on the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to expel the Chinese diplomat who supposedly recorded the call and possibly other embassy officials. While this reaction is certainly understandable, and the Philippines would be clearly within its right to order any or all Chinese diplomatic personnel to leave the country as a result of the incident, we disagree with our officials.

To recall, the Chinese Embassy in Manila, on May 7, shared with selected media organizations what it claimed was a recording of a phone conversation between an individual claiming to be the "AFP WesCom chief" and a Chinese diplomat. In the conversation, the two speakers agreed on four points under a "new model" for managing disputes in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), specifically, the manner in which resupply missions to the BRP Sierra Madre at Ayungin Shoal would be carried out. However, the authenticity of the recording has not been confirmed, nor has the actual chief of the AFP Western Command, Vice Adm. Alberto Carlos, returned from personal leave to shed light on the controversy.

In response to the calls from Teodoro and Año, China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs warned that expelling its diplomats in Manila would be a "hasty action" that could "potentially harm" the Philippines. "The Philippines' response shows precisely their guilty conscience [is] in the face of facts and evidence and how exasperated and desperate they have become. We ask the Philippines to ensure that Chinese diplomats can carry out their duty normally and to stop provocations and infringements," said ministry spokesman Lin Jian in a press conference last Friday.

Expelling the Chinese diplomats from the embassy in Manila would not at all be a hasty action but would, in fact, be a normal response to the only provocations and infringements that are happening in the present circ*mstances, which are all coming from China. For China to be offended at the suggestion that their diplomats may be expelled is the height of arrogance because, at a minimum, their public release of the alleged recording was a gross breach of diplomatic protocols and conventions, in particular, the principle of non-interference in a country's internal affairs.

And as Secretary Año pointed out, if the recording is proven genuine, which can only be determined by a thorough and transparent investigation, then the Chinese officials very well may have violated the Anti-Wiretapping Act. Diplomats are duty-bound to comply with the laws of the countries they serve, and expulsion is the accepted consequence for their refusal to do so.

Be that as it may, we believe that expelling any Chinese diplomats is not appropriate or in the Philippines' best interest at this time. The investigation of the supposed phone conversation has not yet been conducted; the presence of those involved on the Chinese side is required. Removing a channel for communication with China is also inadvisable because of the risk that some escalation of the WPS dispute might occur; without the means to communicate quickly, the chance to keep a situation from spiraling out of control becomes much smaller.

Beyond that, expelling China's diplomats would surrender the initiative the Philippines now has as the wronged party in the ongoing dispute. China would be able to cast the Philippines as the aggressor and deliberately seek to prevent negotiation and peaceful resolution.

Our government should make it clear to China that we are exercising forbearance in the interest of resolving our differences through diplomacy, and it is for that reason alone that we are choosing not to exercise our right to remove their representatives in Manila. We should also make it clear to China that the decision should be considered an invitation for them to dispense with cheap machinations and join us on the high road and that if the invitation is refused, rightful consequences may indeed follow.

The Manila Times
China's melodrama in WPS: Conduct unbecoming of a superpower https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/16/opinion/columns/chinas-melodrama-in-wps-conduct-unbecoming-of-a-superpower/1946760 Antonio Contreras Thu, 16 May 2024 00:09:00 +0800 <![CDATA[Opinion]]> https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/16/opinion/columns/chinas-melodrama-in-wps-conduct-unbecoming-of-a-superpower/1946760 <![CDATA[

IT is shocking, to say the least.

I am referring to this most recent antic of the Chinese, where they threatened to reveal a secretly recorded conversation allegedly between an unnamed Chinese military official and Western Command (Wescom) Commander Vice Admiral Alberto Carlos. China is saying that the two-minute recording of what appeared to be a 10-minute conversation contained certain concessions allegedly made by Carlos on behalf of the Republic of the Philippines. The Manila Times has since obtained a transcript of the conversation, although it cannot confirm if it was indeed Carlos.

Apparently, someone has already leaked the content of the conversation.

Based on the transcript, it appears that the person whom China is claiming to be Carlos reportedly agreed to a "1+1" proposal where only one Philippine Coast Guard ship and one civilian vessel would be involved in the resupply mission to the BRP Sierra Madre on Ayungin Shoal. In addition, the Philippines would have to notify China at least two days ahead of any resupply mission. It is also alleged in the transcript that this agreement has the blessings and approval of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief General Romeo Brawner Jr., Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr., National Security Adviser Eduardo Año and another person that was redacted in the transcript.

There are just too many things that do not add up here. We will always give Carlos the benefit of the doubt, and the burden of proof remains with China, which is making the allegation. However, assuming without believing that it was indeed Carlos who was at the other end of the line, we cannot simply take China's allegations, even if backed by the transcript, without asking for the full 10-minute conversation. As correctly pointed out by UP law professor Jay Batongbacal, there is a need to look at the two-minute excerpt within the context of the larger conversation, which is the process when taped conversations are submitted as evidence in any court proceedings.

What further amplifies the need for caution and doubt is the fact that in the age of artificial intelligence and deepfake, it is easy to mimic the voice of another person to make it appear as if he or she is in the conversation. Someone tried to do this to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., and even in the US, AI was used to make it appear that it was President Joe Biden who was making a robocall.

It is not difficult to accuse China of producing fabricated evidence and lies. After all, it has been caught lying before. Batongbacal recalled in his social media post how the Chinese Embassy in Manila lied about not using lasers against the Philippine Coast Guard and not engaging in a forced retrieval of rocket debris from our forces and that it had prior approval.

The mere fact that China did not name the official with whom Carlos allegedly had an agreement also raises a red flag. More importantly, any person knowledgeable in diplomacy and international negotiations knows that binding agreements are products of conversations between authorized parties. The issues attending the West Philippine Sea are sensitive and volatile, that at the very least these alleged agreements should bear the imprimatur of top officials. The Department of Foreign Affairs has stated the obvious. Only President Marcos can approve or authorize any agreements with regard to the West Philippine Sea.

In resorting to what can be construed as top-level blackmail, if not a masked attempt to sow intrigue, China has committed acts that seem to throw shade at its claim to being a superpower. It is simple naiveté for anyone to presume that an admiral, even if highly placed, can have the final authority on matters that, if true, amount to a surrender of our rights as a sovereign country over our exclusive economic zone (EEZ). The Ayungin Shoal is within 200 nautical miles from our baseline and thus is within our EEZ. China has no business imposing on us how we should conduct our resupply mission to the BRP Sierra Madre, more so ask its permission before we can engage in such mission.

Further diminishing China's stature is the clear evidence of bad faith shown in its violation of diplomatic protocol and even of our laws. Professor Batongbacal accused China of committing a textbook case of subversion if, indeed, it contacted our operational units in the WPS on matters as delicate as territorial and maritime jurisdictions, which would require proper coordination and authorization from higher authorities. Worse, China even violated our laws against wiretapping when it recorded the alleged conversation and is admitting to such openly when it acknowledged the existence of a recording and threatened to release it to the public.

For a country with claims to the stature of a superpower, China's moves reveal that it is now scrambling and is forced to engage in acts that further betray its lack of good faith. Not only does it engage in dramatics, it resorts to gaslighting us in its effort to paint itself as the victim and the Philippines as the aggressor. It has gone beyond violating the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) and has now openly violated the norms and conventions of civilized diplomacy, resorting to acts akin to blackmail by using as leverage an alleged agreement forged with a field-level operations officer. Tactics that are sophom*oric at best.

Perhaps China has become used to dealing informally with Philippine government officials, even on sensitive matters such as the West Philippine Sea. Maybe this was the tenor of how it conducted diplomacy with the previous Duterte administration. And apparently, China may have believed the optics that was painted against President Marcos who has been imaged as weak by his predecessor, and a mere Duterte 2.0 by his critics. China thought they could win against Marcos on the strength of secret and informal agreements, and now blackmail.

China could never be more wrong.

Antonio Contreras Antonio Contreras The Manila Times
Questions for straight boys and girls https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/16/opinion/columns/questions-for-straight-boys-and-girls/1946759 Danton Remoto Thu, 16 May 2024 00:08:00 +0800 <![CDATA[Opinion]]> https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/16/opinion/columns/questions-for-straight-boys-and-girls/1946759 <![CDATA[

First of 2 parts

YEARS ago, I attended a seminar on gender issues organized by an international NGO. Some young journalists comprised the core of the participants. Well and good, I told myself, because the cliché holds true that, perhaps, hope lies in them.

I still remember legendary debates with the macho editors of a newspaper I worked for in the mid-1990s when I was a young editor.

They used to splash photos of near-naked "prostitutes" (I said they should be called "sex workers") and of raped housemaids on the front page of the newspaper.

During one of the editorial meetings, the fiercest among them, who looked like a bulldog, barked at me: "What are you complaining about? Their faces are shown on the evening news. Why can't we show their faces on our front pages?"

Since Bulldog must have forgotten his class on media ethics, I reminded him that a newspaper is a public record. Surely, nobody tapes the evening news and runs it again for his or her delight, right?

But the newspaper is there for posterity, bound in volumes and collected in archives in the form of microfilms. Now, they are scanned or converted into PDFs. Or the online version remains there forever. But in the 1990s, we did not have these information platforms. The split-second image on the evening news on TV fades easily. But the one in print stays there and can be passed on from one person to another.

That's the problem, I told myself silently, leaning back on my face-leather office chair, when you have editors — the gatekeepers of the news — who only put news stories of women above the fold when they were raped, their workplaces raided, or they wrestle in the mud, for work. The object of the male gaze has not changed. The woman is seen only as a victim. She has no agency and no will of her own; her life has no horizon of hope.

During the same meeting, the award-winning independent director Nick Deocampo showed his film, "The Sex Warriors." It is a brave and beautiful work about a transgender who works in Japan. Now that I am reminded of it, one of our best singers went to me during the break for the PETA play "Caregivers" and asked me, "What is the difference between transgenders and transsexuals?"

I said that a transsexual is someone who wears the customary attire of the opposite sex (female), but that's just that. He does not identify with the opposite sex. His sexual orientation and gender identity are still male. On the other hand, a transgender feels that he is born in the wrong gender; thus, this mistake has to be corrected. He feels female in mind, heart and body.

But back to the brave and beautiful film of Nick. It deals with transgender Filipinos doing sex work in Japan to provide for their families back in the Philippines. The things we do for our families, Nick seems to imply, who can accept us — gays and bisexuals and transgenders — only if we are their piggy banks, their central banks, or their ATMs that don't go blink any time of day or night.

Nick's film also deals with the slippages of language. "There are many names for us here," Nick later said during his talk. Then he ticked them off, one by one: "agi, bayot, bakla, badat, bading, baklesha, baklita, sirene, verde ang dugo..." and we've only just began.

He added that his list contained at least 100 names for gays, with each word and every nuance carrying the complexity of Philippine gay life. Nick Deocampo has won several awards for his filmography and his research on Filipino film. He has also published books that should be part of individual and library collections dedicated to Philippine culture and the arts. He continues to teach Film at the University of the Philippines.

Before I left the meeting, I photocopied a piece called "Do You Need Treatment?" One of my female friends at the meeting got a copy from the magazine New Internationalist, published in the United Kingdom. Since it might help our straight friends see us in a new light, I am publishing some excerpts.

"Gay people get asked some pretty strange questions. Often, this is because their interrogators have a narrow, strictly hom*osexual view of what is considered 'normal.' This intrepid magazine will turn the tables around and ask heterosexual people some rather strange questions, too."

To be continued

The Manila Times
For Marcos' prayer, we may need new leadership https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/16/opinion/columns/for-marcos-prayer-we-may-need-new-leadership/1946668 Ricardo Saludo Thu, 16 May 2024 00:07:00 +0800 <![CDATA[Opinion]]> https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/16/opinion/columns/for-marcos-prayer-we-may-need-new-leadership/1946668 <![CDATA[

Last of three parts

WHAT will it take to fulfill President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.'s recent consecration of the Philippines to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, asking her: "Take it (the country) from our fragile hands into thine own, defend it and guard it as thy own property. Make our Lord Jesus reign, conquer, and rule in it as King, for outside of Him there is no salvation."

In prayer, the President feared "a terrible storm raging around us, threatening to disperse and destroy the faithful flock of those who bless thee because thou art the Mother of our Lord Jesus."

That raging storm may reference intensifying superpower confrontation, which could make us a "front line" in a possible war in Asia as in World War II, which Marcos had warned. In 1941, Japan invaded the Philippines as the United States military bastion in Asia — which we are again becoming with US and other allied forces building up here.

We face not just war, but evil

Besides war, we face ideological and social forces undermining Christian values and promoting atheism, materialism, individualism and hedonistic lifestyles. Marcos sought Mary's succor as "evil winds blow, bringing cries of death against thy Son and against the civilization founded on His teachings, deceiving minds, perverting hearts and lighting the fires of hatred and revolution in the world."

The President also decried "unclean waves of an open immorality, which has even lost the notion of sin, exult the rehabilitation of the flesh in the face of the very Cross of thy divine Son, threatening to choke in this world the lily of virtue nourished by the Eucharistic Blood of Jesus Christ."

In this battle between God and evil, the consecration warns that "even the good run the risk of being lost" and pleads to the Blessed Virgin: "Unite all the Filipino people around thy divine Son in the love of the Church and also in the civilization of virtue and respect for order and fraternal charity."

More than peace in our land, President Marcos prayed on behalf of our people for godliness in our hearts and our society.

Will we obtain both? As this article recounted on May 9 and 12, Portugal's consecration by its bishops in 1931 and 1938 protected it from war and communism. So did then President Ramon Magsaysay's 1954 consecration spare the Philippines even as war and communism bloodied Vietnam from 1954 to 1975.

And papal consecrations shortened world war in 1942 and prevented it in 1953, 1984 and, at least for now, 2024 ("Our Lord may have stopped world war — for now," https://tinyurl.com/4a4mhyhe).

Also, on the very day of Pope St. Paul VI's consecration on Nov. 21, 1964, the Feast of the Presentation of Mary, China cemented the split between world communist giants with a scathing article against the Soviet Union. And after the Soviet collapse in 1991, Russia revived Christianity, with its leader since 1999, Vladimir Putin, endowing the Russian Orthodox Church, among the most Marian congregations, with vast lands and countless state-funded churches during his quarter-century rule.

Changes at the top

So, what would it take for consecration to bring peace and advance the faith, as President Marcos prayed and past consecrations showed?

Consecrations in 1942 and 1984 stopped the war with military setbacks. Nazi Germany's first major defeat in El Alamein, Egypt, heralded more Allied victories against it and its allies Japan and Italy. And massive explosions in the Soviet Union's main naval base in Severomorsk stopped its plan to attack US missiles in Europe, preventing war on the continent.

But most war-stopping events after consecration involved leadership changes. The El Alamein victory came after Gen. Bernard Montgomery took command of British forces reeling from the German assault under top Nazi tank general Erwin Rommel.

Moscow's 1952 plot to invade Europe while America fought in Korea ended after Soviet despot Josef Stalin died in 1953 from a brain hemorrhage. And after St. John Paul II's 1981, 1982 and 1984 consecrations, not only was another Soviet war plan stanched, but reformer Mikhail Gorbachev also rose to power, eventually imploding Soviet communism.

In our struggle against what Marcos' prayer called "a terrible storm raging" and "unclean waves of an open immorality," will there also be leadership change?

Russia and China aren't seen as ripe for change at the top, and there are, in fact, valid fears that ousting Putin and Xi Jinping could ignite power struggles and elevate more aggressive rulers.

America's election in November, however, could bring new leadership, especially with former president Donald Trump, incumbent Joseph Biden's likely challenger, slightly ahead in voter polls.

Trump is seen as averse to US military action abroad and keen to make deals to avoid war, as he did with North Korea in 2018 and through the Abrahamic Accords between Israel and Arab nations in 2020.

What if Biden is reelected? Washington would then continue weaponizing our country as it did to Ukraine under its global priority spelled out in Biden's National Security Strategy: "Out-Competing China, Restraining Russia."

America blocked the March 2022 peace pact so that Russian invaders could withdraw if Ukraine stayed neutral. The West then armed Ukrainian forces to keep fighting — leading to vast devastation, with 600,000 soldiers killed and many millions of Ukrainians fleeing. The Biden administration also favors pro-abortion and gender policies contrary to Christian family values.

The other leadership question has to be whether the Marcos administration would continue to allow US military buildup sure to bring death and destruction if a US-China war erupts. If so, fulfilling the consecration prayer may well require new leadership here as well.

But surely, the greater question in heaven's mind is whether our nation would hold fast to our faith. Arms buildup and war would push Filipinos to seek security in powerful armies, not God. And American dominance cannot but bring Western values here, like the United Nations' call in November 2022 for us to legalize abortion as a human right.

May our consecration to Mary bring leaders safeguarding us from war and faithlessness. Amen.

The Manila Times
'Share a Book, Bless a Life' https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/16/opinion/columns/share-a-book-bless-a-life/1946666 Paul Chua Thu, 16 May 2024 00:06:00 +0800 <![CDATA[Opinion]]> https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/16/opinion/columns/share-a-book-bless-a-life/1946666 <![CDATA[

WALT Disney once said, "There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island," for books carry information of substantial value that, once read by the user, can instill new knowledge. Books also play a vital role in the teaching-learning process; these are used as references when teachers create learning materials for their students. On the other hand, books are also used by students to better understand concepts and to acquire new knowledge.

Despite its importance, unfortunately, the Philippine public school system has been facing a perennial problem of shortages of textbook materials, and given this situation, it appears that owning a book is a privilege due to the scarcity of resources. Meanwhile, in private high schools, students normally purchase prescribed textbooks every academic year. After completing a grade level, these books are either passed on to their younger siblings or relatives or are simply stored somewhere inside the house, eventually ending up being forgotten.

A book cannot fulfill its purpose of enlightening minds when it is merely stored and made to collect dust when it could have been used as an opportunity for another person to learn, just like children's toys wouldn't be able to fulfill their destiny if they are not played by kids. Our family, the Chua family, realized the importance and value of sharing books with people who do not have the adequate resources to own them so that they, too, would be enlightened by these books that once taught us.

Our family owned an entire set of Encyclopedia Britannica that had been with our family for three generations, and living up to our family's advocacy, we decided to donate these books to the University of Caloocan City (UCC) library. In the year 2013, with the approval of the nine Chua siblings who owned the books, the custodian, Leonardo Chua, made the ceremonial turnover to the UCC, which started the "Share a Book, Bless a Life" program that aims to encourage collaborative action and enlightenment through the sharing of books.

In 2014, a small group of learning advocates at the UCC undertook a university-wide book-sharing program inspired by the "Share a Book, Bless a Life" of the Chua family. The UCC effort started as my MPA class project on Nov. 23, 2014, to a DPA university-wide project, and by March 8, 2015, the UCC "Share a Book, Be a Hero" project turned over 4,468 books to then OIC and now UCC president Marilyn de Jesus. This program at UCC promoted a culture of participation and sharing among students. As a matter of fact, through the gratuitous donations of students and members of the academic community, more than 16,000 books were successfully collected in a year. The donations, consisting of an array of academic textbooks, fiction, and non-fiction books, are now stored at the university's library and have since been enjoyed by the UCC students.

In "Share a Book, Bless a Life," when a person shares a book, he or she also shares a blessing — a blessing of having the opportunity to be enlightened with new knowledge and wisdom. Nothing prevents this advocacy from being confined to the level of a campus such as the UCC; if this culture of sharing blessings through books is done on a national scale, it will benefit many more, such as local governments, communities, local colleges, and universities, and more importantly, less privileged students who cannot afford to buy and own books.

It is with great hope that institutions be inspired and encouraged by our example at UCC to also engage with the "Share a Book, Bless a Life" program, for it promotes collaboration among students and sends a unifying message that we should be part of each other's success, one book at a time. At present, the Share a Book project is being supported by the Bless a Life Charities of the Chua family.

Paul Chua, PhD, is deputy administrator for engineering and operations at the Light Rail Transit Authority. He was a scholar at the Central European University in Budapest, Hungary, and finished several international programs at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

Facebook: Paul Chua

The Manila Times
Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/16/opinion/columns/render-unto-caesar-what-is-caesars/1946663 Jeremiah Belgica Thu, 16 May 2024 00:05:00 +0800 <![CDATA[Opinion]]> https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/16/opinion/columns/render-unto-caesar-what-is-caesars/1946663 <![CDATA[

Last of two parts

IN the first part of this article, I discussed how in Mark 12: 13-17, the Pharisees and Herodians asked Jesus the trick question, "Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?"

Jesus asked to be brought a denarius or "tribute penny," which is what each citizen of Rome and of the conquered nations ought to pay as recognition of the sovereignty of the current ruler, Caesar, over them. Jesus then brought attention to how the denarius showed Caesar's likeness and the inscription "Pontifex Maximus," which means Chief Pontiff or High Priest. This implied that the Roman government was implying that Caesar was the son of God and their Roman High Priest, titles which are both claimed and attributed to Jesus Christ.

Jesus then proceeded to say, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's."

But what does this mean, and how can we apply it? From this statement, we can glean three key ideas.

First, the government of the world requires the surrender of our money, but God's kingdom or government desires the surrender of ourselves and our world. In the story, Jesus brings attention to Caesar's image on the face of the denarius by asking the question of whose image is seen on it. He implied that the image bearer on the coin owns the item. The Pharisees and Herodians who heard his question instinctively knew from their childhood that the Hebrew people believe that man is God's image bearer. It is written in the Torah in Genesis 1: 27-28 that "God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.'"

This means that money and monetary systems may be claimed by powerful men and men in power, but man itself and everything under him ultimately belongs to God. Let us remind ourselves that while man can make currency and monetary systems, only God can create man. While man can try to lay claim over things and brand them as their property, only God can truly lay claim over man and all His creation.

Meaning that while we are to submit unto earthly powers and authorities (rulers and governments), we are to render all of ourselves and all of creation, including our rulers, unto God.

The second key idea is that we must submit or pay tribute to earthly authorities, knowing that all are subject to God's ultimate authority in the end. In Matthew 17: 24-27, we see that even Jesus Christ paid taxes.

Romans 13: 1-5 states that we need to submit to earthly authorities, for they are appointed by God and serve as His ministers. The verses read, "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore, whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers who are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience."

From these verses and the next few, we could glean the last key idea, which is that civil servants are ministers of God for the promotion of good and punishment of evil, and by paying our taxes, we sustain the ministry of civil government. Man may think that their power emanates from other men and man-made structures, but in reality, they are accountable to the real source of all authority — God who is the Creator, Owner and King overall.

Previously, I discussed how biblical scholars across history saw how God created and authored the institutions of self, family, church and civil governments. Man, being the special creation of God who bears His image and likeness, was given special power and authority over all creation. Man is the manager and steward of God on earth. These institutions are to be directed by man as God's enforcer. God created the institutions and divided the tasks and responsibilities of governance between them so man would be able to enforce the Law-Will of God over the entire creation. Each institution has exact dimensions of its tasks and jurisdictions within which man is expected to fulfill his call of applying the Law-Will of God within that specific sphere of creation.

On the other hand, the responsibility of the civil government is likewise limited within the sphere of jurisdiction that the Bible has prescribed. Civil government is not called to run the lives of the people. Civil government was instituted by God to serve as a control and an external threat against the manifestation of the sinful nature of man in society. It brings to justice any untoward actions that hurt the community and maintain peace and order. It also safeguards the rights of its citizens to exercise their right to life, liberty, and property and pursue God's individual and corporate calling for themselves and their community.

Romans 13: 6-7 explains that tributes or our modern-day taxes are considered as our recognition of the divine role of the ministry of civil government in our lives. The Bible says, "For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom is honor is owed."

This tells us that paying taxes is essential to sustain the ministry of civil government, which is one of the key ministries that man needs to manage to be an effective steward of all creation and enforcer of God.

Finally, we are reminded that what Jesus seeks to impress on everyone is that we cannot give unto God treasures and gifts on earth until we have actually surrendered our lives to God. Thus, let us challenge ourselves to render ourselves unto God by acknowledging the real "King" and "Lord" of our lives and of all things, Jesus Christ, the risen Lord and King. As Romans 1: 12 says, "Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God — this is your true and proper worship."

Atty. Jeremiah Belgica Atty. Jeremiah Belgica The Manila Times
PCCI too pessimistic about decarbonization bill https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/16/opinion/columns/pcci-too-pessimistic-about-decarbonization-bill/1946662 Ben Kritz Thu, 16 May 2024 00:04:00 +0800 <![CDATA[Opinion]]> https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/16/opinion/columns/pcci-too-pessimistic-about-decarbonization-bill/1946662 <![CDATA[

First of two parts

LAST week, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) aired its concerns about a proposed bill colloquially referred to as the decarbonization bill. House Bill (HB) 7705, or the "Low Carbon Economy Act," was refiled in March of last year and has been floating in legislative limbo ever since, but seems likely to receive some productive attention from Congress this year. The bill would establish greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions targets and limits on certain economic sectors, calls for the development of an emissions monitoring and reporting system, and lays the groundwork for the establishment of an emissions trading system in the country.

The PCCI, while taking care to remain politically correct and not reject the bill entirely, nevertheless made their discomfort with it clear in a statement released to media. "This legislation represents a bold step toward sustainability and responsibility. But it should not come at a cost to businesses and to the economy as a whole," PCCI Chairman and Director for Energy and Power George Barcelon said in the statement.

Unlike most legislation, HB 7705 is surprisingly detailed and complex, clocking in at just under 14 pages rather than the usual three, so all credit to its author, Bohol 1st District Rep. Edgar M. Chatto, for doing his work like a professional. The bill is by no means perfect, far from it, and needs a great deal of improvement in some respects. However, none of those really have anything to do with the more generalized criticisms of HB 7705 offered by the PCCI.

The PCCI had three complaints. First, the high cost of compliance with the proposed measures of HB 7705 "will eventually affect the food production sector and threaten further the country's already fragile food security situation" because the agriculture and food industries would be required to have decarbonization targets.

Second, the Cement Manufacturers Association of the Philippines (Cemap) expressed alarm that the industry would be badly compromised by the bill since energy accounts for about 40 percent of the industry's costs. "Compliance options will come at a heavy price. Even now, the cement industry is already suffering from cement imports from Vietnam, where production and cost of power are subsidized by their government," Cemap said in the statement.

Finally, the PCCI questioned whether HB 7705 was actually relevant to the Philippines or was an instance of First World standards being applied to a Third World country. The chamber highlighted that the Philippines consumes comparatively little energy and that the country's GHG emissions were only a third of the global per capita average.

I'll address the last point first. Choosing emissions per capita as a metric is disingenuous. National emissions targets — or lack thereof — are determined on a gross basis, not per capita, simply because it is impossible to break down regulation to a per capita level. China and India have low per-capita emissions, too, but they are the biggest and third-biggest sources of GHG emissions, respectively, because of their large populations.

In addition, even though the Philippines is only responsible for a bit less than 1 percent of global GHG emissions, it ranks as the world's 37th-largest emitter, contributing more emissions than 163 other nations, according to the Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research. This puts the country in the top 25 percent of global emitters, which, even though the PCCI may disagree, is a dubious level of prestige that suggests the Philippines should seek to be a leader in emissions-reduction efforts rather than an apologist. Furthermore, if the total emissions of all the countries contributing 1 percent or less are combined, they add up to 27 percent of the global total — more than the GHG emissions of the US (number two behind China) and India combined. The argument that the Philippines' emissions are too inconsequential for the measures proposed by HB 7705 is, with all due respect to the PCCI, rather irresponsible.

It is true that many, if not all, of the proposed provisions in HB 7705 will impose significant costs to subject businesses; that is by no means a fallacious observation on the PCCI's part, and there are some shortcomings in HB 7705 in terms of managing that. However, pulling back entirely from the basic concept of the decarbonization bill is not an option. The cost of not decarbonizing is simply too great; according to a recent Swiss Re Institute report, weather-related calamities reduce the Philippines' GDP by almost 3 percent annually, the highest rate of loss in the world. The World Bank's "Country Climate and Development Report" estimates that by 2040, the nation could witness a staggering 13.6-percent decrease in GDP from the impacts of climate change.

Obviously, enacting HB 7705 or something like it is not going to correct that on its own and will probably contribute very little to the solution directly. Indirectly, however, it means everything; if the country that suffers the highest loss from climate-related weather cannot be bothered to do its small bit in its own self-interest, it could be argued fairly that it has no right to demand that the rest of the world change instead.


Ben Kritz Ben Kritz The Manila Times
Honoring Filipino innovators https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/16/opinion/columns/honoring-filipino-innovators/1946653 Samira Gutoc Thu, 16 May 2024 00:03:00 +0800 <![CDATA[Opinion]]> https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/16/opinion/columns/honoring-filipino-innovators/1946653 <![CDATA[

THE viral Asoka visual challenge was easily countered by the Pilipinas challenge showcasing dazzling makeup and costume transitions.

I did not have the energy to join, although I was itching to. Through writing, I extend my salute to all Filipino feats.

I was at the Mindanao State University Iligan Institute of Technology, where its vice chancellor, Dr. Prime, passionately outlined to me the need for a science park for the industrial capital, Iligan, where the Mindanao public can see organic and other products worth investing in in the future.

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In this season of historic heat, we hope these research outputs by students and scientists can obtain space in some galleries for the use of industry.

This week, we honor The Outstanding Young Men/Women 2023. I missed the Manila Hotel ceremonies, but the co-TOYM alumni and Jaycees were on hand to give them tribute.

The TOYM Awards 2023 on Tuesday recognized 10 leaders from different backgrounds for embracing innovation.

Pole vaulter EJ Obiena, economist and author JC Punongbayan, and civic leader Kenneth Abante were among the recipients of the TOYM Awards 2023.

"These outstanding individuals have demonstrated unparalleled commitment, innovation and leadership in their respective fields, embodying the spirit of positive change and progress," TOYM Awards said.

"They have not only excelled in their fields but have also embraced innovation with passion, driving positive change in their communities and beyond," it added.

Ruel Amparo and Mark Gersava were recognized for their innovations in agri-entrepreneurship, while Stephen Michael Go was acknowledged for the food technology industry.

The other honorees include Khrista Francis Desesto, OFW empowerment advocate; John Mark Napao, sustainable energy; Ma. Regaele Olarte, education leadership; and Tor Sagud, heritage promotion.

Established in 1959, the TOYM Awards recognize the achievements of Filipino men and women between the ages of 18 and 40. Women have been included in the recognition since 1984.

Previous honorees of the award — for a time dubbed The Outstanding Young Filipinos — include the late senator Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr., Nobel Peace Prize laureate Maria Ressa, singer Lea Salonga and Olympic gold medalist Hidilyn Diaz.

From our batch, which included Gary Valenciano and Inquirer president Sandy Prieto Romualdez, I was asked to share our message at the Malacañang ceremonies. As a nominee for youth leadership in socio-cultural development, breaking barriers against discrimination holds a deep meaning for me.

I am so honored to have been on the screening committee thrice and even sit among judges to defend our choices. This very prestigious award has so far honored only 549 awardees to date.

May I share some key messages from last year's Impact Summit keynote speaker Tony Meloto of Gawad Kalinga?

1. Never stop loving our country.

2. Never stop caring for our people.

3. Demand greatness in yourself as a Filipino.

4. Inspire greatness in other Filipinos

"Napakahirap mahalin ng Pilipinas, pero kapag natutunan mo siyang mahalin, 'yan ang napakasarap damhin bilang isang Pilipino," was the message from Dr. Gerardo Legazpi, medical director of the Philippine General Hospital in his keynote address.

The Manila Times
Russia's Kharkiv push aims to stretch Ukraine forces https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/16/opinion/world/russias-kharkiv-push-aims-to-stretch-ukraine-forces/1946651 Agence France-Presse Thu, 16 May 2024 00:02:00 +0800 <![CDATA[Opinion]]> https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/16/opinion/world/russias-kharkiv-push-aims-to-stretch-ukraine-forces/1946651 <![CDATA[

PARIS – Russia's offensive around Kharkiv probably aims more at presenting Kyiv with a strategic quandary over where to deploy its already stretched forces than taking the major Ukrainian city, experts say.

Moscow's troops were firing at around 30 villages in the northeastern Kharkiv region and had occupied tens of square kilometers in the space of a few days.

But analysts don't see Russia's immediate aim as taking Ukraine's second-largest city, which has a prewar population of 1.4 million, after Moscow already failed to capture the industrial hub when it first invaded the country on Feb. 24, 2022.

"This Russian force is of insufficient size to seize a city the size of Kharkiv," Australian former general Mick Ryan wrote on the blogging platform Substack.

"It could, however, hold it at risk with increased artillery strikes," he added, saying the coming weeks "may be one of the toughest moments for Ukraine in the war so far."

Over the two years of its invasion, Russia has been running complementary campaigns of attrition of men and materiel on the battlefield and public opinion among Kyiv's allies.

It still holds a numerical advantage, bolstered by the months of dallying in Washington over the $61-billion aid package finally passed in April.

The Ukrainians "were forced to ration their shells and war materiel for months, leading to higher attrition rates," said Ivan Klyszcz of the Estonia-based International Center for Defense and Security.

Shorter supply lines

"The promise of new US military support meant that the rationing does not need to be as rigorous anymore," he added, although Kyiv "must continue to hold as much territory and preserve as many forces as possible."

Following the failure of Ukraine's counteroffensive last summer and the "rasputit*a" period of melting snow and thick mud across the country, the initiative is now back with Russia.

Moscow is also able to absorb punishing losses, given its "human reserves and industrial capacity much greater than Ukraine's," said Pierre Razoux of the Mediterranean Foundation for Strategic Studies.

Russia's government says it wants to create a "buffer zone" to protect its border region of Belgorod, which has regularly come under bombardment.

The Kharkiv region's location on the border means "the Russians can mobilize air support, drones and artillery, firing from within their territory, giving them shorter supply lines and the cover of air superiority," Razoux said. "They're in an optimal position."

Ukraine, for its part, faces a basic strategic dilemma.

"They have to defend the front line, but also strategic sites that they must not lose," Razoux said, highlighting especially major cities and the roads linking them back to Ukraine's western boundaries with Romania and Poland.

The question for the defenders is, "What's more important: defending a key objective or holding the front line?" he asked.

'Military and political'

For now, pulling off both missions seems out of Kyiv's reach.

"This is both a military and a political issue," Ryan wrote. "If the Ukrainians decide to hold ground at all costs, they will lose more of their increasingly smaller army. If they chose to preserve their army, they will have to give up ground."

It may not be immediately clear whether the Russians can pull off a major push in the northeast, and it will take still longer for any strategic impact to show up elsewhere along the front line.

"There does not seem to be a fundamental change in [Russia's] strategy," Klyszcz said, as "capturing the entire Donbas region... appears a higher priority for Russia at this stage."

Retired French general Olivier Kempf wrote on his blog that Russia's push into the Kharkiv region "is evidence of weak initial resistance."

Ukrainian forces would have avoided "expending too many forces in salients that are tricky to defend," he added.

"Now we will see the intentions and capabilities of both sides," Kempf predicted, judging the ground taken so far "not necessarily significant."

Russian leader Vladimir Putin is likely aiming to change minds further from the fighting, including among Kyiv's Western allies.

His attention will be on the upcoming American presidential election in November and the possible return to power of Donald Trump, who has little interest in keeping up Ukraine aid.

"If Ukraine flags before the election, Trump would take it as proof Joe Biden is a loser who bet on the wrong horse," Razoux said.

The Manila Times
Will AI replace doctors who read X-rays, or just make them better than ever? https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/16/opinion/world/will-ai-replace-doctors-who-read-x-rays-or-just-make-them-better-than-ever/1946648 Associated Press Thu, 16 May 2024 00:01:00 +0800 <![CDATA[Opinion]]> https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/16/opinion/world/will-ai-replace-doctors-who-read-x-rays-or-just-make-them-better-than-ever/1946648 <![CDATA[

WASHINGTON, D.C. – How good would an algorithm have to be to take over your job?

It's a new question for many workers amid the rise of ChatGPT and other artificial intelligence (AI) programs that can hold conversations, write stories, and even generate songs and images within seconds.

For doctors who review scans to spot cancer and other diseases, however, AI has loomed for about a decade as more algorithms promise to improve accuracy, speed up work, and, in some cases, take over entire parts of the job. Predictions have ranged from doomsday scenarios in which AI fully replaces radiologists to sunny futures in which it frees them to focus on the most rewarding aspects of their work.

That tension reflects how AI is rolling out across health care. Beyond the technology itself, much depends upon the willingness of doctors to put their trust — and their patients' health — in the hands of increasingly sophisticated algorithms that few understand.

Even within the field, opinions differ on how much radiologists should be embracing the technology.

"Some of the AI techniques are so good, frankly, I think we should be doing them now," said Dr. Ronald Summers, a radiologist and AI researcher at the National Institutes of Health. "Why are we letting that information just sit on the table?"

Summers' laboratory has developed computer-aided imaging programs that detect colon cancer, osteoporosis, diabetes and other conditions. None of those have been widely adopted, which he attributes to the "culture of medicine," among other factors.

Radiologists have used computers to enhance images and flag suspicious areas since the 1990s. But the latest AI programs can go much further, interpreting the scans, offering a potential diagnosis and even drafting written reports about their findings. The algorithms are often trained on millions of X-rays and other images collected from hospitals.

Across all of medicine, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved more than 700 AI algorithms to aid physicians. More than 75 percent of them are in radiology, yet just 2 percent of radiology practices use such technology, one recent estimate showed.

For all the promises from industry, radiologists see a number of reasons to be skeptical of AI programs: limited testing in real-world settings, lack of transparency about how they work and questions about the demographics of the patients used to train them.

"If we don't know on what cases the AI was tested, or whether those cases are similar to the kinds of patients we see in our practice, there's just a question in everyone's mind as to whether these are going to work for us," said Dr. Curtis Langlotz, a radiologist who runs an AI research center at Stanford University.

To date, all the programs cleared by the FDA require a human to be in the loop.

In early 2020, the FDA held a two-day workshop to discuss algorithms that could operate without human oversight. Shortly afterward, radiology professionals warned regulators in a letter that they "strongly believe it is premature for the FDA to consider approval or clearance" of such systems.

But European regulators in 2022 approved the first fully automatic software that reviews and writes reports for chest X-rays that look healthy and normal. The company behind the app, Oxipit, is submitting its US application to the FDA.

The need for such technology in Europe is urgent, with some hospitals facing monthslong backlogs of scans due to a shortage of radiologists.

In the US, that kind of automated screening is likely years away. Not because the technology isn't ready, AI executives say, but because radiologists aren't yet comfortable turning over even routine tasks to algorithms.

"We try to tell them they're overtreating people and they're wasting a ton of time and resources," said Chad McClennan, chief executive officer of Koios Medical, which sells an AI tool for ultrasounds of the thyroid, the vast majority of which are not cancerous. "We tell them, 'Let the machine look at it, you [review and] sign the report and be done with it.'"

Radiologists tend to overestimate their own accuracy, McClennan says. Research by his company found physicians viewing the same breast scans disagreed with each other more than 30 percent of the time on whether to do a biopsy. The same radiologists even disagreed with their own initial assessments 20 percent of the time, when viewing the same images a month later.

About 20 percent of breast cancers are missed during routine mammograms, the National Cancer Institute says.

And then there's the potential for cost savings. On average, US radiologists earn over $350,000 annually, the US Department of Labor says.

In the near term, experts say AI would work like autopilot systems on planes — performing important navigation functions but always under the supervision of a human pilot.

That approach offers reassurances to both doctors and patients, says Dr. Laurie Margolies of the Mount Sinai hospital network in New York. The system uses Koios breast imaging AI to get a second opinion on breast ultrasounds.

"I will tell patients, 'I looked at it, and the computer looked at it, and we both agree,'" Margolies said. "Hearing me say that we both agree, I think that gives the patient an even greater level of confidence."

The first large, rigorous studies testing AI-assisted radiologists against those working alone give hints at the potential improvements.

Initial results from a Swedish study of 80,000 women showed a single radiologist working with AI detected 20 percent more cancers than two radiologists working without the technology.

In Europe, mammograms are reviewed by two radiologists to improve accuracy. But Sweden, like other countries, faces a workforce shortage, with only a few dozen breast radiologists in a country of 10 million people.

Using AI instead of a second reviewer decreased the human workload by 44 percent, the Swedish study found.

Still, the study's lead author says it's essential that a radiologist make the final diagnosis in all cases.

If an automated algorithm misses a cancer, "that's going to be very negative for trust in the caregiver," said Dr. Kristina Lang of Lund University.

The question of who could be held liable in such cases is among the thorny legal issues that have yet to be resolved.

One result is that radiologists are likely to continue double-checking all AI determinations lest they be held responsible for an error. That's likely to wipe out many of the predicted benefits, including reduced workload and burnout.

Only an extremely accurate, reliable algorithm would allow radiologists to truly step away from the process, says Dr. Saurabh Jha of the University of Pennsylvania.

Until such systems emerge, Jha likens AI-assisted radiology to someone who offers to help you drive by looking over your shoulder and constantly pointing out everything on the road.

"That's not helpful," Jha says. "If you want to help me drive then you take over the driving so that I can sit back and relax."

Final Oped Template TMT Cosme Focus Final Oped Template TMT Cosme Focus The Manila Times
STRIKE WITH TRUTH https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/15/opinion/editorial-cartoon/strike-with-truth/1946448 The Manila Times Wed, 15 May 2024 00:15:00 +0800 <![CDATA[Opinion]]> https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/15/opinion/editorial-cartoon/strike-with-truth/1946448 <![CDATA[
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The Manila Times
Now is the time for environmental case against China https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/15/opinion/editorial/now-is-the-time-for-environmental-case-against-china/1946383 The Editorial Board Wed, 15 May 2024 00:10:00 +0800 <![CDATA[Opinion]]> https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/15/opinion/editorial/now-is-the-time-for-environmental-case-against-china/1946383 <![CDATA[

TWO reports that have emerged in recent days raised the alarm about China's ongoing destruction of the environment in the West Philippine Sea, breathing new life into an issue that first gained public attention late last year. At that time, the government announced it would prepare a case to be filed at the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) at The Hague, seeking to hold China liable for damage caused in the West Philippine Sea. Unfortunately, our slow-moving Department of Justice, despite stating that the case would be prepared by March of this year, has not taken any action as yet. The opportunity presented by the latest revelations cannot be allowed to slip past again.

In the latest news, research done by the University of the Philippines Institute of Biology in March found that Pag-asa Island Cays 1, 2, 3 and 4 were in a "degraded" state and that crushed coral that appeared to be sourced from elsewhere had been dumped at the small reefs. While the UP researchers were careful not to speculate as to the reason for the appearance of the crushed coral and the generally poor conditions of the reefs, it is consistent with preparatory work for land reclamation. This notion was further reinforced by the report of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) this past Saturday, May 11, which dispatched the BRP Teresa Magbanua to Sabina Shoal, where a similar dumping of crushed coral was discovered. Nearly three dozen China Coast Guard and China Maritime Militia ships have been spotted near Sabina Shoal, presumably to carry out or provide security for reclamation work. The PCG reported that such activity was interrupted, at least temporarily, by the arrival of its ship.

The Pag-asa Cays lie between 6 and 12 kilometers, or 3 to 6 nautical miles west of Pag-asa Island, and are thus within Philippine territorial waters. Sabina Shoal, also known as Escoda Shoal, lies 75 nautical miles west-northwest of Palawan and so is well within the 200-nautical mile limit of the Philippines' exclusive economic zone or EEZ.

The filing of a case against China at the PCA is completely justified; China is carrying out destructive activities within the Philippines' jurisdiction. There is already precedent for such a case contained in the July 12, 2016 ruling in the case filed by the Philippines against China with the arbitral tribunal, which found that "China had caused severe harm to the coral reef environment" in the West Philippine Sea, and that China had "violated its obligation to preserve and protect fragile ecosystems and the habitat of depleted, threatened, or endangered species," and "inflicted irreparable harm to the marine environment."

Of course, it would be naïve to think that China would participate in or recognize the authority of the PCA, much less accept an adverse ruling and pay damages to the Philippines. China has consistently demonstrated that it does not respect international law or the provisions of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, and there is no reason to expect that this time would be different.

Nevertheless, the case would not be a waste of time on the Philippines' part. It cannot argue that it has not caused wanton environmental destruction because the physical evidence is plain to see. Therefore, it is put in the unfavorable position — even in refusing to recognize the arbitral tribunal — of having its best argument be that it has the right to carry out environmental destruction because it claims sovereignty over the locations in question. That would be disastrous for China's public image. Granted, China's belief in its own superiority may reduce its impact, but it would have real consequences that could seriously erode China's influence out of the public eye. Being perceived as environmentally uncooperative would subject China-backed development projects to greater scrutiny and constrain their access to some funding. In addition, its influence in climate- and development-related institutions — China has board seats in several multilateral and UN institutions — would be greatly diminished. Perhaps enough to actually achieve the most important outcome in the current context, which would be for it to cease its unsustainable activities. The Philippines should definitely push forward with its proposed case to help ensure that happens.

The Manila Times
Jinggoy all out for Marcos' defense in PDEA case https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/15/opinion/columns/jinggoy-all-out-for-marcos-defense-in-pdea-case/1946432 Rigoberto D. Tiglao Wed, 15 May 2024 00:09:00 +0800 <![CDATA[Opinion]]> https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/15/opinion/columns/jinggoy-all-out-for-marcos-defense-in-pdea-case/1946432 <![CDATA[

SEN. Jinggoy Estrada — in the third hearing of the Senate Committee on Public Order investigating allegations that President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in 2012 was a cocaine user — demonstrated such disdain and contempt for the accuser, former Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) agent Jonathan Morales, that his shameless behavior can be explained by one and only one thing.

He has become so servile to Marcos that he has internalized the President's seething rage against Morales, so obvious in a recent "ambush" interview" in which Marcos called Morales a "professional liar." That's the first time that a president of the Republic has stooped so low as to cuss in such a manner at a lowly citizen. Estrada has taken the President's cue, and called Morales a "congenital liar."

One can't blame Estrada: he was convicted of bribery last January and sentenced to 12 years. His only real chance of evading a long jail term is for President Marcos to use all his influence for his conviction to be reversed by some court.

Estrada took up probably an hour of the hearing's duration to claim that Morales' allegations weren't credible since he has been accused of both criminal and administrative charges. It seemed strange, though, that for his alleged crime of "planting evidence" against a Chinese-Filipino couple, it was only the Civil Service Commission that acted on the complaint by simply ordering him fired — for "dishonesty."

Morales had a simple retort to Estrada's strained efforts to portray him as a criminal, whose allegations, therefore, should posthaste be thrown to the wastebasket: "If I had such a bad record, why was I admitted as an agent of the PDEA, and complied with its requirements?"


Estrada wasn't thinking right when he adopted a strategy of highlighting the criminal and administrative charges against Morales to discredit his testimony. The senator was convicted by the Sandiganbayan anti-graft court last January of a crime that makes the accusations against the PDEA agent seem petty. It was a classic case of that biblical saying of an accuser with a wooden beam in his eye.

That Sandiganbayan decision concluded that at least half of the P262 million of the Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF, the official term for congressional pork barrel) allocated to Estrada from 2004 to 2008 rather than being used to provide livelihood projects for the poor was instead mainly turned over to Pauline Mary Labayen, Estrada's deputy chief of staff. Prosecutors claimed that Labayen was merely acting as an agent for Estrada in collecting the stolen funds.

However, Labayen vanished in 2014 when the charges were filed, and it is strange — and suspicious, I think — that the authorities haven't been looking for her.

Morales was irreverent enough to remind Estrada that while he had cases filed against him, the senator was already convicted of a crime. He said in Filipino: "Your honor, I don't like what Sen. Jinggoy Estrada is saying about me. He seems to be judging me. I only have cases that are yet to be proven before the court. Unlike our good senator, who is already convicted."


Estrada's behavior certainly had a backlash. Becoming viral on social media was a video clip with him saying, "I am a man of conviction," with an unidentified man beside him suppressing his laughter, and then an image of the newspaper article on his conviction for bribery. Jinggoy was called in so many internet posts using the rhyming Filipino term for monkey.

While Morales certainly isn't a saint, and may have even planned to benefit in some way from his accusations against the President, my conclusion is that the "Pre-Operation Report" and "Authority to Report" he signed that would have had the PDEA investigate the report on Marcos taking cocaine with friends but was aborted is authentic. I base this conclusion on the following:

1. An under-reported revelation was committee chairman Sen. Ronald de la Rosa's disclosure that his own informant had reported to him it was one "Ian," who was Morales' informant who also provided cell phone videos of Marcos, actor Maricel Soriano, and other females and males in the cocaine-taking party. That corroborates Morales' claims. "Ian," de la Rosa claimed, was a sort of an adopted son ("anak-anakan" in Filipino) of Soriano, who probably stayed with her but hated the cocaine parties there.

2. Soriano has admitted that she owned the condominium unit that Morales, in his "pre-operation" and "authority to operate" documents, had identified as the site where the cocaine-taking parties were being undertaken. Of all places, how could Morales have identified that place?


3. Why would Morales invent an allegation against the most powerful man in the country at this time? If he intended to blackmail him, it was clearly too late, as the allegation had already been revealed by the anonymous vlogger "Maharlika." He would have faced slander charges if he had admitted that he had faked the documents.

4. Senator de la Rosa, a veteran police investigator, pointed to the detail of a paper fastener's punch marks in the two documents, indicating that these were part of a file that Morales claimed contained the informant's affidavit and cellphone images taken by the informant of the personalities taking cocaine. For de la Rosa to claim that he would bet his life, and in the third hearing his penis, that Morales' documents were authentic, he must know something he hasn't revealed or cannot reveal.

5. President Rodrigo Duterte, in November 2021, during the election campaign, claimed that one of the presidential candidates was a cocaine user and was on the PDEA's drug-user watch list, whom many in the know concluded was Marcos. His allegation was unexpected and strange since he and his political forces supported Marcos. The former president, I think, has this uncontrollable urge to reveal to people things he knew were important. His revelation about Marcos in 2021 bolsters the authenticity of Morales' allegations.

6. A person who passed away in 2016 was mentioned by Morales as having been with Marcos often in those cocaine-taking sessions. I knew that person, whom Morales could not have known in 2012 as close to Marcos. In my circle of Ateneo high school classmates, indeed, that person was known to have been both a cocaine user and a close friend of the President since the martial law days.


It was witless for Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri, who appeared at the hearing only to make a brief statement, to indirectly conclude, as Estrada directly claimed, that Morales' claims were mere "hearsay." But Morales didn't claim he heard from somebody that PDEA agents were planning to surveil Marcos for cocaine use, which, however, was ordered stopped by a Malacañang official. Morales is claiming that he signed the orders to investigate Marcos.

After three hearings, most people concluded that Morales' allegations had not been debunked.

There is no way, however, to establish definitively whether there were such planned operations, except if the informant's actual affidavit and the cellphone images he took surface.

A body blow, though, has been inflicted on Marcos' image. Filipinos would always wonder if he did take cocaine, and worse if he still does or will do so again in times of stress to the point that his brain becomes so clouded as to make reckless, unwise decisions that would terribly hurt the country.

The hearing yesterday ranked No. 1 as the most viewed and viral on YouTube that day. While reported by most TV channels and viral on social media, all but one broadsheet reported on the hearing, which echoed the Malacañang line of Morales being a liar. Sigh.

Facebook: Rigoberto Tiglao

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My website: www.rigobertotiglao.com

Rigoberto Tiglao Rigoberto Tiglao The Manila Times
The arbitral judgment https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/15/opinion/columns/the-arbitral-judgment/1946428 Fr. Ranhilio Callangan Aquino Wed, 15 May 2024 00:08:00 +0800 <![CDATA[Opinion]]> https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/15/opinion/columns/the-arbitral-judgment/1946428 <![CDATA[

Last of 4 parts

SCARBOROUGH Shoal is what we call "Bajo de Masinloc." Cuarteron Reef is known to us as "Calderon Reef," while Fiery Cross Reef is "Kagitingan Reef." Johnson Reef is, for us, "Mabini Reef," while Mischief Reef is "Panganiban Reef." It is this plurality of names — international, Chinese and Philippine nomenclature — that can make reading the decision confounding.

Following the Convention on the Law of the Sea, the tribunal distinguishes between a low-tide elevation — an area of land that emerges at low tide but is submerged at high tide — and an island. A low-tide elevation has no territorial sea of its own. This differentiates it from an island, which is a naturally formed area of land surrounded by water and above water at high tide. Because of the position of the tribunal that a feature is to be characterized according to its natural state and not according to enhancements introduced, even if a low-tide elevation should resultantly become visible at high tide or even habitable, it remains a low-tide elevation in law. Interestingly, the tribunal holds, as a matter of law, that such low-tide elevations are not part of the land territory of a State but to its territorial sea or continental shelf, the latter being a submerged prolongation of the land mass of a coastal State. But because the State exercises sovereignty (not merely sovereign rights) over its territorial sea, it also exercises sovereignty over low-tide elevations within its territorial sea.

On the basis of scientific data made available to the tribunal as well as those that it obtained on its own initiative, the tribunal finds that the Scarborough Shoal is a high-tide feature. Calderon Reef is likewise a high-tide feature, as is Kagitingan (Fiery Cross Reef). By contrast, Mischief Reef is a low-tide elevation. The Ayungin Shoal (The Second Thomas Shoal) is a low-tide feature within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone (EEZ). This being the case, only the Philippines can legally construct an artificial island — and contrary to the posturing of some pro-China apologists, the deliberate grounding of BRP Sierra Madre that is manned by Philippine Marines is perfectly within the rights of the Philippines. It is the periodic provisioning of the uniformed personnel on board this grounded vessel that has been the occasion for abusive and provocative Chinese maneuvers.

In respect to Mischief Reef and Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal), the tribunal was clear: They are located within the 200 nautical mile expanse of the Philippine exclusive economic zone and thus form part both of its EEZ and its continental shelf. Article 56 of the Convention grants the Philippines the exclusive right to establish and use artificial islands, installations and structures, including gas and oil platforms.

Turning to the provision of the Convention that "rocks that cannot sustain human habitation or economic life of their own shall have no exclusive economic zone or continental shelf," the tribunal engages in an analysis of each term in the provision. One of the important points made in this portion of the award is that what is called for is not an inquiry into whether the feature actually sustains human habitation or human life (as human intervention can make it so capable) but whether, objectively, the feature is "apt, able to, or lends itself to human habitation or economic life." Likewise required is that the feature must provide food, drink and other necessities of human life over a period of time. Habitation must be non-transient, and a feature that is treated merely as an extraction site will not be deemed, by that token, to be capable of sustaining human life or economic activity. It is not economic value that the provisions of the Convention demand but sustaining economic life which the tribunal takes to refer to the life and livelihoods of the human population. If a feature is, therefore, completely barren of vegetation and lacks drinkable water and sources of food necessary even for basic survival, it lacks the capacity to sustain human habitation.

What the tribunal ruled in regard to the Spratly Islands is linked to its discussion on the requirements of a feature that generates an EEZ and a continental shelf. The tribunal finds that while some islands of the Spratly group have military personnel stationed on them, this is not the human habitation required by law — for aside from being transient (depending on the personnel's tour of duty), they rely on supplies from beyond the islands that must be periodically replenished. The tribunal concluded that Ito Aba, Thitu — which is Pag-asa Island to us in the Philippines — West York, Spratly Island, South-West Cay and North-East Cay are not capable of human habitation within the contemplation of law. The result, of course, is that none of them are entitled to an exclusive economic zone or a continental shelf — without prejudice to the territorial sea to which islands are entitled.

Under Section 2 of Republic Act 9522, which set forth the reference points for the archipelagic baselines of the Philippines — conformably with the Convention — express provision was made for the "Regime of Islands" to apply to the Kalayaan Island Group and the Scarborough Shoal. PD 1596 constituted the Kalayaan Island Group as a separate municipality of the province of Palawan. Since the tribunal held that the Spratly Islands — of which the Kalayaan Islands are part — do not constitute an "archipelago" for failing to meet the requisite proportion of water to land as laid down in the Convention, each island generates its own territorial sea — without the EEZ and the continental shelf. The "Regime of Islands" is likewise provided for by the Convention on the Law of the Sea insofar as it provides that islands are entitled to a territorial sea, a contiguous zone, an EEZ and a continental shelf, except when they cannot sustain human habitation or economic life. Neither can they be enclosed within the archipelagic baselines of the Philippine archipelago, as the lines would deviate beyond the permissible limits under the Convention.

It is my hope that through this series of columns on the arbitral award, our countrymen become better informed with respect to what has been declared by a tribunal of competent jurisdiction to be ours under the aegis of international law — rights that we must, if we are not to fail ourselves and future generations, jealously hold, defend and cherish!




Fr. Ranhilio Callangan Aquino Fr. Ranhilio Callangan Aquino The Manila Times
Thick fog over the West Philippine Sea https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/15/opinion/columns/thick-fog-over-the-west-philippine-sea/1946425 Francisco S. Tatad Wed, 15 May 2024 00:07:00 +0800 <![CDATA[Opinion]]> https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/15/opinion/columns/thick-fog-over-the-west-philippine-sea/1946425 <![CDATA[

A SPECIFIC problem with China and with some of the nation's defense officials on the issue of de-escalating the tension between the Philippines and China in the West Philippine Sea has forced Vice Adm. Alberto Carlos, the multi-awarded commander of the AFP Western Command (Wescom), to go on indefinite leave, leaving certain questions unanswered about the Philippine Coast Guard's rotation and resupply mission (ROREM) to the BRP Sierra Madre, the grounded warship that stands as a symbol of Philippine sovereignty in the Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal.

Carlos has not been heard from since he went on leave on May 5, following his low-level talks with Chinese officials on how to de-escalate the tension in the area. No one is on board to authoritatively answer questions about his talks. From what we could responsibly gather, the proposal to de-escalate the tension in Ayungin came from the Chinese in December 2023, which proposed that each side deploy only one private boat and one coast guard vessel in the next resupply mission.

According to our sources, Colonel Lee, the military attache of the Chinese Embassy, had insisted on talking to Carlos about the proposed arrangement, and Carlos had to clear everything with his bosses — Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr., National Security Adviser Ed Año and AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr.— before sitting down with him. It was specifically Secretary Año, according to our sources, who spoke to Teodoro and President Marcos Jr. about the Chinese proposal and gave Carlos the go-ahead to talk to Lee. After Carlos was cleared to talk to Lee, the latter reportedly suggested that Carlos also talk to the Chinese deputy chief of mission, who insisted on it, our sources revealed.

Carlos reportedly tried to point out that the proposal to de-escalate was coming from the Chinese rather than the Philippine side and that he had no authority to discuss anything beyond the proposed arrangements for the next resupply mission. Nevertheless, Lee insisted, so Carlos had to get a new set of clearances. Año reportedly spoke to the President, who reportedly said he also wanted to "de-escalate."

Carlos talked to the Chinese as instructed, the sources said, but despite the agreement to limit the mission to one supply boat and one escort on each side, the Chinese sent two coast guard vessels and one militia to the February 2024 mission. This prompted Carlos to recommend going back to the old arrangement of two supply boats and two escorts during the next mission, the sources said. The March 5 resupply mission resulted in four minor injuries on the Philippine side.

All throughout, Carlos complied with his standing orders to the letter, and gave up nothing of value to the Chinese side. It appears, however, that in one conversation between a top Philippine defense official and a top US diplomat, the former was asked, "Why are you talking to the Chinese?" The defense official reportedly denied any knowledge of it and promptly turned the heat on Carlos. A very strong message was sent to Carlos, who still has over a year in active service, suggesting that he should retire. So, for following the orders of his superiors to the letter, he now has to be sacrificed. Why?

Is it because this officer has dared to dream of peace replacing the climate of war being forced upon our country and our region? Because the real problem for our leaders is how to accelerate the pressure for war against China, rather than the opposite? Apparently, our external allies can see nothing to be gained from trying to put an end to the water-cannoning incidents in the shoal. The same playbook being used in Gaza and in Ukraine is being used here; there is a careful avoidance of a ceasefire that could lead to peaceful negotiations. A de-escalation of the tension in the South China Sea is clearly not an option for the hawks and has to be thumbed down.

Still, Carlos does not deserve a rotten deal. He is the most senior officer in the Navy lineal roster and is top-caliber executive material. Aside from having graduated from the Annapolis Academy in Maryland, he also studied at the Naval Command College in Nanjing, China, which gives him a balanced exposure to the competing superpowers.

A bemedaled ship captain and naval aviator, he has served in various posts in the AFP, the Navy and the Department of National Defense, doing logistics, procurement, resource management, modernization and operations. He is also a published author. He has served as head executive assistant to two defense secretaries (Teodoro during his earlier stint and Norberto Gonzales, both under then-President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo) and was twice honored with the Presidential Lingkod Bayan Award by the Civil Service Commission — in 2017 for Region 4A and in 2020 for the National Capital Region.

As Wescom commander, covering the province of Palawan, the Kalayaan Island Group and the West Philippine Sea, Carlos is one of the top Philippine military officers, if not indeed the top military officer, most exposed to the day-to-day problems of the South China Sea. Together with Brawner, he barely escaped being water-cannoned by the Chinese coast guard in one of the resupply missions to Sierra Madre. But this has not made him less keen on exploring the resources of diplomacy to try to find a solution to the South China Sea conflict.

While some of his superiors tried to chide Carlos for wanting to de-escalate the tension in the area, the PMA Makatao Class of 1989, headed by its class president, retired Army lieutenant general Ernesto Torres, issued an unsolicited statement expressing full support for him as "a distinguished military officer of unswerving integrity, patriotism and honorable service throughout his professional career."

In advocating for Carlos, the statement said, "We emphasize his exemplary character as a graduate of the US Naval Academy and a TOPS (The Outstanding Philippine Soldiers) awardee, whose dedication to duty, honor and country "exemplifies the highest standards of military service and leadership, reflecting the core principles of the AFP."

While remaining on armed duty, Carlos has tried to advance the opportunities for peaceful engagement with China. This has won the respect of many of his countrymen; it would be quite a shame if his superiors did not recognize its merits at all.


Francisco Tatad Francisco Tatad The Manila Times
Volcker's vaulting interest rate onto high gear https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/15/opinion/columns/volckers-vaulting-interest-rate-onto-high-gear/1946382 Ei Sun Oh Wed, 15 May 2024 00:04:00 +0800 <![CDATA[Opinion]]> https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/15/opinion/columns/volckers-vaulting-interest-rate-onto-high-gear/1946382 <![CDATA[

KUALA LUMPUR – In the United States, the Federal Reserve (the American central bank) has been reluctant to lower its short-term lending rates to major financial institutions. The Fed procrastinated for months and months. The main reason is likely that the domestic inflation rate in the US has not yet descended to the Federal Reserve's preferred level of around 2 percent, and the Fed thus feels itself obligated to maintain a high interest rate of around 5 percent to combat inflation. In other words, the Fed's determination to fight what it perceives as unacceptable inflation remains resolute.

In elite financial sectors around the world, veterans often reminisce about Alan Greenspan, who became the Fed chairman in the mid-1980s and held the position for nearly two decades. During his tenure, Greenspan carefully adjusted interest rates to largely support the rapid growth of the US economy. However, Greenspan also witnessed several rounds of economic crises that originated in the US and spread globally. He may be said to have effectively held the world's hand through one economic roller coaster after another.

However, many Americans and relatively affluent foreigners may have more profound memories of Greenspan's predecessor, Paul Volcker, whose tenure spanned the struggling US economy of the 1970s and (at least) the early 1980s. At that time, the US relied heavily on oil supplies from the Middle East as its primary energy source. It is well-known that modern economic development, now as then, requires the use of large amounts of affordable energy. When energy prices (or — more precisely — oil prices, as nuclear and other renewable energies, were still in their infancy then) rise, the operating costs for businesses and industries increase correspondingly.

Back then, the geopolitical situation in the Middle East was even more tense than it is today. Israel was not only in conflict with Palestine but was also confronting almost the entire Arab world. Many oil-producing Arab countries, unable to defeat Israel in warfare, have long recognized that the US was a steadfast supporter of Israel. Consequently, they decided to leverage the direct relationship between oil supply and its ultimate consumers by initiating an oil embargo against the US in particular and the Western world in general, aiming to force the US to reduce its support for Israel.

The oil embargo imposed by Arab countries on the US (also known as the Middle East oil crisis) was a dramatic event that turned the dynamics of international political and economic operations upside down. Since the rise of the US as the world's largest economy, embargoes meant to achieve political and diplomatic goals were mostly imposed by the US on other countries' leadership, systems of governance, or diplomatic stances, of which the US disapproved. It was rare for any country or group of countries to successfully impose an embargo on the US and cause significant economic pain, and the oil crisis may thus be characterized as unprecedented.

Half a century ago, unlike today, the US, though a large oil producer, could not exploit enough of its own oil reserves (such as shale oil, which only became economically viable with technological advancements in this century) to offset the fuel shortages caused by the embargo. As a result, gasoline prices skyrocketed across the country, and in many places, there was no gasoline available at all, leading to long lines of cars at gas stations. The shortages and price hikes of fuels that were essential for businesses and industries were even more severe. Miles-long lines of gas-guzzling American automobiles waiting for their turn at the gasoline pumps were a common sight then.

To make matters worse, businesses passed the increased energy costs on to consumers, leading to a high, double-digit inflation rate in the US. However, this inflation had a somewhat "interesting" cause. Typically, inflation pops up when there is an excessive flow of "hot money" in the market, resulting in demand exceeding supply and causing speculative price hikes, as seen currently in many economies. But the 1970s inflation during the oil crisis was, at least initially, primarily driven by lower energy supply, although demand did not peak, and money was scarce in the market.

How, then, did Volcker, the Fed chairman at the time, tackle this formidable challenge? Well — surprise, surprise — by drastically raising American interest rate over time, such that by the early to mid-1980s, it reached an all-time high of nearly 20 percent and remained in double digits for a number of years. It was a daring attempt at suppressing run-away, double-digit inflation with almost matching double-digit interest rates and was a textbook exhibit of economic intervention, countering inflation by interest rate adjustments. The world was left breathless as the Fed assumed the mantle of inflation slayer, reminiscent of what it is again doing now, but with much more high-handedness then.

And American inflation did come down eventually. Nevertheless, it remains a subject of heated economic debate as to the actual cause of the lowered American inflation. By the late 1970s, Israel had made peace with its then-Arab arch-rival Egypt, with the Camp David Accord coming into effect. The Middle East oil crisis thus wound down correspondingly. And Middle Eastern oil once again flooded American gas pumps. Energy costs fell significantly, and with them, arguably, inflation. But Volcker's aggressive interest rate hike also likely played a not insignificant role in bringing down the inflation. It was perhaps this double whammy that finally tamed the inflation beast.

But what was the effect of Volcker's rate hike on the rest of the world? We shall explore this further.

The Manila Times
Two presidents: Impact on midterm elections https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/15/opinion/columns/two-presidents-impact-on-midterm-elections/1946381 Lito Monico C. Lorenzana Wed, 15 May 2024 00:03:00 +0800 <![CDATA[Opinion]]> https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/15/opinion/columns/two-presidents-impact-on-midterm-elections/1946381 <![CDATA[

Second of a series

THE specter of the Deegong hovers over the Philippine political scene, a major factor in the confluence of events leading to the midterm elections, considering his still high popularity rating and his family's hold on their bailiwick in the south and among the Bisaya-speaking voters.

This state of affairs is perhaps a nostalgic offshoot of the Duterte years that painted him as a strong leader verging on the authoritarian, an iconoclastic politician, an outsider, an unsophisticated, dirty-mouthed, uncultured "probinsyano" never before seen among the heavily Luzon-centric rarified womb of presidents.

The Deegong, inured to the pomp and adoration of the masses, can't help being a political cynosure after his presidential stint but is now facing the consequences of his brutal presidential acts, haunted by the possibility of incarceration through the sanctions of the International Criminal Court (ICC). In a similar fashion, Duterte's predecessor, ex-president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, spent time under hospital arrest until exonerated by the Supreme Court. To defend herself and her tattered legacy, she ran and was reelected to Congress.

Duterte, too, threatens to run for Senate. In the latest Publicus Asia survey, he maintains a high ranking — a veritable shoo-in. But the way he has been seen in public lately, with his cane, a shuffled walk, a tottering old man with a stooped body, he can barely climb the steps. His coterie has to bodily carry him up to the "entablado," where he revives and commands an audience of partisans. But the vitriol spewing out of his mouth remains undiminished.

It is doubtful he can survive the rigors of an election campaign. In the latest prayer meeting in Bacolod — a euphemism for a political rally, cloaked as a religious gathering — he again called for President Marcos to resign, a recurring theme. And the Deegong has been doing the rounds in the country, starting in Davao two months ago when the rift between two political dynasties opened up. He is on the warpath!

The chasm between the Marcoses and Dutertes has widened, and the stakes are high — the eventual dominance of the political dynasty emerging after the midterm elections in May of 2025. What triggered this conflict was as innocuous as VP Sara being deprived of her status as the prima inter pares in this administration.


It is a fact that the Dutertes helped immensely in the Marcoses repairing their image after their years in the political wilderness. Mayor Baste Duterte reminded the Marcoses that it was his father who allowed the burial of the late dictator's cadaver at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani, the initial steps toward the Marcoses' rehabilitation. It is a general belief, too, that Sara could have taken the presidency but gave way to BBM — a decision the Deegong had gone ballistic over.

The conflicts surfaced at the onset of BBM's administration. Sara was refused the coveted defense portfolio that she wanted. She got the Department of Education instead, where subsequently, her intelligence fund — a source for political manna — was gutted. On top of this, the ICC investigation of Duterte's alleged crimes during the war on drugs has prospered. And Duterte's powerful religious fanatic ally, a deluded "Appointed Son of God" and his propaganda machinery — a necessary tool in the Dutertes' preeminence — the Sonshine Media Network (SMNI) was to be disenfranchised and castrated in Congress by BBM's allies.

The Marcoses

All of these should not have come to a head were it not for the Duterte camp's arrogance that they can get away with these assaults, confronting the colorless BBM whose tolerance is being perceived as a sign of his weakness. Aside from their call for the "co*kehead to resign" the presidency, their ally, former speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, has been emboldened to call for the armed forces to disregard the chain of command. A seditious challenge!

Lifting from a contemporary writer's posts, Jose Alejandrino: "Bongbong is a kid who never grew up... Bongbong inherited the sweet character of his mother Imelda and, being the only son, was naturally spoiled. But he is in the wrong job. His father, the late President Ferdinand Edralin Marcos, wrote that his son needed to 'develop character.' Being the favorite, like most spoiled children, Bongbong doted on his mother... It is also his lack of character that drove him as a young man to like co*ke, as it was the in-thing with the boys of his age to show he was part of the 'in-crowd.'"

And even older sister, Sen. Imee, the Marcos whose intellectual grasp and demeanor are nearest the father — and should have been the heir(ess) to Makoy's political legacy as president — confirmed in some oblique way in the movie she produced "Maid in Malacañang." She assigned her younger brother one dramatic scene with the Apo, which Ambeth Ocampo, a critic, described as "...a whimpering child of a man desperate for his father's attention and approval...." Even with literary license — the role was most degrading — the future president should not have been depicted this way.

A family rift

This could explain the disharmony between the in-laws, precipitating the fierce defense by Liza, the wife, who recently, in the Taberna interview, bared her soul and her teeth when the Deegong called her husband "bangag," while VP Sara reportedly looked on with amusem*nt from the sidelines. In the face of BBM's inability to defend himself, as in Imee's words, "My brother is 'masyadong mabait,'" this was the last straw that broke the camel's back. Liza, the mother hen, understandably came to her brood's defense. This could be an appropriately acceptable natural behavior by an aggrieved, stronger-willed mother and a wife to a fragile president.

But she went beyond the limits of her discretion. A consort to the powerful must not go beyond the official functions of the royal court. Yet she asserted she caused the termination of no less than the executive secretary — the "little president," the second most powerful position in the executive department. And further admitted recommending the appointments of a cordon sanitaire, replacing the ones originally around the President. And when warned that there could be consequences and repercussions, her riposte, pronounced only by a sharp, savvy and New York-trained lawyer: "Bring it on!"

Now, Philippine politics has been muddled, reviving the image of Imelda 2.0, eliciting from the publisher of a revered newspaper a defense of Liza.

But the last say could be from those of the older generation who knew the Imelda Marcos of the 3,000 shoes. She was elegant, tall, gorgeous, articulate in her own peculiar way. But what was really going for her was that the original Makoy appointed her to the bureaucracy — cloaking her with the wherewithal of an official of the legitimate Cabinet — Minister of the Human Settlements and governor of Metro Manila, who presided over the uplifting of the culture of the great "bakya" masses. She later ran and was elected to the Batasang Pambasa (parliament).

I have not met Liza. She doesn't know me from Adam. But she is not Imelda 2.0 — but a professional, a lawyer, an educator, a mother and a wife, but unfortunately, an unelected adjunct to a weak presidency. But I must sympathize with her!

To be continued next week


The Manila Times
Declare agri in a state of crisis, then write new policies https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/15/opinion/columns/declare-agri-in-a-state-of-crisis-then-write-new-policies/1946380 Marlen Ronquillo Wed, 15 May 2024 00:02:00 +0800 <![CDATA[Opinion]]> https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/15/opinion/columns/declare-agri-in-a-state-of-crisis-then-write-new-policies/1946380 <![CDATA[

THEY are grand policies with innocuous names. In Europe, the prime examples are the European Green Deal, Horizon 2020, and the Strategic Forum for Important Projects of Common European Interests. The US versions are the CHIPS and Science Act, the Inflation Reduction Act, and the Infrastructure and Industrial Jobs Act. China has Made in China 2025 and several other similar programs.

Scrap the veneer of seeming innocuousness and probe deep into the programs that emerged from these policies, and you will find out what they really are. They are the industrial policies that many of the economically powerful countries have designed in the wake of the geoeconomic fragmentation to protect and promote their own niche industries. Employing tools that remind the world of the dreaded word "protectionism." Tools such as production subsidies, tariffs, tax incentives, loans, and domestic content rules were last deployed in a bygone era. In many ways, these industrial policies are a rebuke of the grand tenets of globalization, which, ironically, these major economic powers themselves foisted on the world, starting with the General Agreements on Tariff and Trade ( GATT).

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After the accession to the World Trade Organization of countries big and small in the last decade of the past century — our own Senate ratified our accession to the WTO in the dying days of 1994 — much of the world fully embraced globalization and free trade. So firmly footed was unfettered free trade that most prominent trade economists thought the words subsidies, loans, tax incentives, and domestic content rules that fall under the ambit of industrial policies and are anathema to free trade have been written off for good.

Today, as the broader world comes to terms with the reality that the era of efficiency — the idea that everything countries and households need can be sourced quickly and cheaply because the manufacturing centers are awash with them and the supply chain is as efficient — is over; the siren call of resilience has gained traction. Major economic powers and regional blocs such as the EU have been crafting their own industrial policies, the grand, animating principles of free trade be damned, because of the uncertainty of the supply chain, wars and other geopolitical tensions. The primary disruptors were the Covid pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war. Right now, we have the Red Sea attacks on commercial vessels and the longer travel time for ships moving anything from cars to oil to food supplies.

What are the lessons that the lesser economic powers, the Philippines included, can learn from these initiatives of the major economies that defy the grand principles of free trade and smack of protectionism? First is this. No global trade rules are sacrosanct and inviolable, whether we are talking of industrial policy or agricultural policy. In the Philippine context, and this is the second lesson, we should ask ourselves these questions. Should we remain committed to our agricultural trade commitments both to the WTO and the regional trade agreements? Or, is now the perfect time to write our own agricultural policies because our almost slavish adherence to global and regional agricultural trading rules has brought us nothing but misery?

During the 1994 debates in the Senate on the question of WTO accession, the anti-accession coalition led by then-senator Wigberto "Bobby" Tañada said the underwhelming fundamentals of the agriculture sector, or the general unreadiness of our agriculture sector to compete globally, was enough to pause the then giddy sentiment in the Senate to join the WTO.

The anti-accession coalition stated in no uncertain terms that the backward state of Philippine agriculture guaranteed only one thing: under the WTO rules, the Philippines would be the dumping ground of every imaginable agricultural product from the various seaports of the world in the immediate future.

Seven years after the accession, a review done by trade and agricultural economists on the impact of the accession made the following findings:

– The promise of accession was the surge in agricultural jobs. Seven years later, hundreds of thousands of agricultural jobs were lost, exacerbating the migration of the rural poor into the cities.

– The accession promised a surge in agricultural exports. It was food imports that surged to historic levels seven years after the accession.

– The accession promised an increase of several folds in agriculture's gross value-added. Seven years later, a major drop in agriculture's GVA was the result.

Not one of the quack economists who provided the senators with the rosy Panglossian impact of the accession on agriculture was held accountable despite the big letdown. The Philippines, starting in the last five years of the past century, indeed became the dumping ground for every food import imaginable: from rice — the staple food — to yellow corn, sugar, and even fish and soy sauce. Accurately stated, from atis to patis.

The 21st century institutionalized one tragic development — our national food security became dependent on food imports. The Rice Tariffication Law was passed in 2019, the climax of the long, deliberate effort to defenestrate the agriculture sector. From 2019 to the present, we were either the No. 1 or No. 2 global rice importer. Not content with the RTL, the Duterte administration did more tariff-cutting on rice, pork and corn, which the Marcos Jr. administration has adopted.

Recently, Administrative Order 20, which eliminated all non-tariff barriers to food imports, was implemented, which probably sealed the total collapse of the agri sector.

The National Economic Development Authority, according to farm groups, is now the National Importation Development Authority. The Department of Agriculture is now the Department of Importation.

Time to declare a state of crisis in the agriculture sector and a total rewrite of its bungled policies.

The Manila Times
Asia-Pacific's alarming loss of biodiversity: A hidden threat to the food security and habitat of future generations https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/15/opinion/world/asia-pacifics-alarming-loss-of-biodiversity-a-hidden-threat-to-the-food-security-and-habitat-of-future-generations/1946379 Jong-Jin Kim Wed, 15 May 2024 00:01:00 +0800 <![CDATA[Opinion]]> https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/15/opinion/world/asia-pacifics-alarming-loss-of-biodiversity-a-hidden-threat-to-the-food-security-and-habitat-of-future-generations/1946379 <![CDATA[

IN recent months, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and others have pointed to an increase in food insecurity and "hunger hotspots" in various parts of Asia and the Pacific. While conflicts and climate crises can carry some of the blame, we must acknowledge that the slow but steady erosion of our region's biodiversity is an equal or even greater threat to our future food security.

FAO's most recent outlook report on Asia-Pacific's Forest Sector found that biodiversity and ecosystem resilience in natural forests are declining along with the capacity of these forests to deliver water and soil protection, climate regulation, amenity and cultural values, and wood, foods and medicines. Reversing this trend must be a priority for all countries in the region now and in the next decade to ensure our survival, especially in the face of dangerous climate change.

While this biodiversity loss is a crisis for Asia and the Pacific in many ways, the impact it can have on our ability to achieve future food security poses a serious threat. We know from FAO's recent reports that the Asia-Pacific region is home to half of the world's undernourished people and that nearly 45 percent cannot afford a sustainable and healthy diet. At the heart of some of these nutrition challenges is a food system that is currently founded on a narrow genetic base of 10 to 15 crops. We have lost much of the diversity that was, historically, commonplace in our diets, and increasing dietary diversity is a key part of the solution to ending malnutrition.

According to "The State of the World's Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture," published by the FAO Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture Assessments, biodiversity for food and agriculture (BFA) contributes to food security and nutrition in many ways. This includes the enabling of food to be produced in a wide range of environments, helping to maintain the stability of food supplies throughout the year and resilience to shocks such as droughts and pest outbreaks, and supplying a wide variety of nutritionally diverse foods.

Indeed, wild biodiversity is an important source of food for many people, particularly in poorer parts of our region. It also provides raw materials for crop breeding programs and contributes to the supply of many ecosystem services that support food production.

So, we all need to wake up to this urgent need to better protect Asia-Pacific's biodiversity for the good of ourselves, our food security and nutritional health, and our environment, and to safeguard those of our future generations.

This month, we observe the International Day for Biological Diversity. Its slogan, indeed its call to action, is that we must all "Be part of the Plan" to halt and reverse the loss of biodiversity by supporting actions called for in the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework.

At FAO, we are working to that end in our efforts to help our member nations enhance efforts at biodiversity and sustainability in agriculture, aquaculture, fisheries and forestry, particularly through our updating of action plans to reach the 2030 biodiversity targets. Ultimately, the goal is to ensure a sustainable food system transformation across the region to achieve food security, nutrition and livelihoods — especially for local communities and Indigenous people who rely on the existing biodiversity.

Given the importance and the increased demand for aquatic foods in our region and worldwide, FAO has committed to a vision for Aquaculture Transformation for Asia and the Pacific. This will enable the sustainable intensification of aquaculture by improving sustainability and reducing the environmental impacts of production. It also aims to harness the rich and diverse cultural foundation of aquaculture in this region by strengthening its contribution to food security and improved nutrition while securing livelihoods and socioeconomic development and environmental recovery.

Halting deforestation and forest degradation while enabling forest and landscape restoration are also vital components of addressing the challenge of biodiversity loss and climate change. Some 15 years ago, FAO and its partners UNDP and UN Environment Program launched the REDD+ program. REDD+ is the acronym for "Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries." FAO, as co-lead for the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration and host of the Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission, is working to support countries in upscaling restoration with an aim for better livelihoods and the environment. FAO also provides technical expertise directly linked to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

With food security as our mandate, along with ending poverty and reducing inequalities, FAO in Asia and the Pacific is responding to help shape national pathways for a food systems transformation. As part of these transformative efforts at country and regional levels, it is imperative to promote sustainable natural resources management and protect critical ecosystems to conserve biodiversity and protect land, soil and water — while reducing food loss and energy use.

All of these approaches complement FAO's overarching global framework to help our members achieve better production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life for all — leaving no one behind. I believe that, together with many stakeholders, we can 'walk the talk' necessary to achieve this. That's if everyone, including every woman and man in this region, steps forward to "Be part of the Plan."

The author is assistant director-general and regional representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

Final Oped Template TMT Cosme Perspective Final Oped Template TMT Cosme Perspective The Manila Times
South Korean FM's visit to China hoped to foster more positive steps https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/14/opinion/south-korean-fms-visit-to-china-hoped-to-foster-more-positive-steps/1946376 Global Times Tue, 14 May 2024 23:59:00 +0800 <![CDATA[Opinion]]> https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/14/opinion/south-korean-fms-visit-to-china-hoped-to-foster-more-positive-steps/1946376 <![CDATA[

ON Monday, Foreign Minister Wang Yi held a meeting with his visiting South Korean counterpart Cho Tae-yul in Beijing. Wang said that in the more than 30 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between Beijing and Seoul, the overall development of the relationship between the two countries has been smooth and fruitful. He noted that China-South Korea relations have been facing challenges recently, which is not in the common interests of both sides, nor is it what China wants to see. He also expressed hope that their two countries will work together to stick to the original intention of establishing ties, adhere to the direction of good neighborliness and friendship, stick to the goal of mutually beneficial cooperation, remove disturbances and make joint efforts to push for the sound and steady development of China-South Korea relations.

Cho said it was hoped this visit would become an important step forward in the two countries' relations. He pointed out that South Korea doesn't perceive foreign relations as a zero-sum relationship, and it has been cooperating with other nations in a balanced manner. He also said South Korea was willing to enhance mutual trust, expand consensus and focus on cooperation with China, thus avoiding geopolitical constraints as much as possible and jointly opening up a new situation of bilateral cooperation.

Cho's statement of "taking the first step to create new momentum for South Korea-China ties" has been directly taken as headlines by major South Korean media outlets. His words and actions in China have also sparked a significant amount of analysis and interpretation. On one hand, this visit is the South Korean foreign minister's first visit during his term, and the high level of attention itself reflects the abnormal state of current China-South Korea relations while also carrying the expectations of the people of both countries for a quick return to normalcy in bilateral relations. On the other hand, Cho's statements have formed a contrast with the South Korean side's actual policy of "pro-American and distancing from China" in the recent period, conveying a signal of hope for adjusting and improving China-South Korea relations.

Cho's visit to China and the related statements signify a positive step forward in South Korea's diplomacy toward China. In fact, prior to this, there was a high public opinion in South Korea hoping to quickly handle relations with China and maintain a "minimum balance." At the economic and trade and cultural exchange levels between the two countries, various dialogues and interactions continue to resume. Not to mention the Zhangjiajie tourism boom driven by the influx of South Korean tourists and the emotional ripples among the people of both countries stirred by the giant panda Fu Bao. Therefore, it's fair to say Cho's visit conforms to the fundamentals of bilateral relations.

There is no need to hide the fact that in the past period, the development of China-South Korea relations has not been satisfactory. Some people have said "there are many unresolved issues between China and South Korea that have piled up like a mountain," and this visit will also involve some thorny issues. In this situation, it is important to clarify why communication and dialogue, as well as the starting point of both sides, are crucial. First, the ups and downs of China-South Korea relations in the past should make both sides, especially the South Korean side, clearer that there is no fundamental conflict of interests between the two countries, nor is there any strategic competition. On the contrary, there are many inseparable interdependencies and internal dynamics. Second, stabilizing and developing China-South Korea relations is in line with the common interests of both countries, as well as the expectations of the two countries' vast populations and business communities. Third, China-South Korea relations should not be disrupted or influenced by third-party factors. Both sides should abide by the principles of independence, mutual respect, and mutual benefit in order to maintain a stable and long-lasting bilateral relationship.

It is important for both countries to take a positive step in high-level exchanges and create a stable expectation for China-South Korea relations. It is also important to cultivate a rational attitude toward each other and create a good atmosphere for bilateral relations. For example, in the industrial field, there is some objective competition between China and South Korea, but this is not the mainstream of China-South Korea economic and trade relations, nor does it mean that the two countries are going to become hostile. The scale of economic and trade cooperation between China and South Korea is large, with strong complementarity, and there is still huge potential to be tapped.

As representatives of South Korean companies in a dialogue with the South Korean foreign minister said on Monday, the Chinese market has benefited both countries' economies in the past 30 years, and it is believed that in the next 30 years, both sides can also develop a win-win strategy. There is no need for China and South Korea to fall into the self-fulfilling prophecy of competition, even hostility.

Next, there will be a series of diplomatic dialogues and interactions between China and South Korea, including the ongoing coordination of the China-Japan-South Korea trilateral meeting. For both China and South Korea, especially for the people of both countries, what is anticipated is not just a restoration of exchanges in forms, but also the development of substantive content. This is something we all see very clearly. We hope that the positive step taken by the South Korean foreign minister's visit to China can bring about more positive steps from the South Korean side, and South Korea will work together with China to promote the healthy and stable development of bilateral relations.

This article was first published in the Global Times on May 14, 2024. The Global Times is an English-language Chinese tabloid under the People's Daily, the flagship newspaper of China's ruling Communist Party. The views expressed here are the paper's and not of The Manila Times.

India's ambitions can foster complementarity with China https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/14/opinion/indias-ambitions-can-foster-complementarity-with-china/1946375 Global Times Tue, 14 May 2024 23:55:00 +0800 <![CDATA[Opinion]]> https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/14/opinion/indias-ambitions-can-foster-complementarity-with-china/1946375 <![CDATA[

THERE has been no shortage of pessimism regarding economic and trade relations between China and India, as Chinese companies are bearing the brunt of the most severe crackdown due to India's tendency to generalize security issues in its China trade policy. However, the latest data may indicate a different trend, serving as a reminder not to overlook the complementary strengths of both economies.

China again emerged as the largest trading partner of India in fiscal year 2023–24, Indian news agency PTI reported on Sunday. Bilateral trade stood at $118.4 billion, with India's exports to China up by 8.7 percent, according to economic think tank Global Trade Research Initiative (GTRI).

After the US became India's largest trading partner in fiscal years 2021–22 and 2022–23, this change in India's top trading partner status may come as a surprise to many, especially considering the tensions between China and India and the latter's scrutiny of Chinese companies.

This unexpected development underscores the potential for economic and trade cooperation between China and India, showcasing how the acceleration of the Indian manufacturing sector's development is leading to increasingly complementary economies.

For a long time, whether India could replace China as the world's factory has been a popular topic, but if you look at global industrial and value chains, India is not in the same segments as China. As India is seeking to become a manufacturing power, such a difference is poised to bring significant development opportunities for both nations.

China has a well-developed industrial system, solid manufacturing foundation and cutting-edge technologies in many areas, while India has advantages in the services sector, particularly in information technology services. With the implementation of the "Make in India" strategy, the country's needs for industrial chain support have increased, especially in technology- and capital-intensive products. This situation offers new market and collaboration prospects for China's manufacturing sector.

For instance, a study by the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade, a state-backed university in New Delhi, in April 2023 found that Chinese imports were boosting India's manufacturing and exports in key sectors, including inorganic chemicals, pharmaceuticals, iron and steel, the South China Morning Post reported.

Noticeably, over the years, some people in India have frequently criticized the country's trade imbalance with China, which may have had a negative impact on the development of bilateral trade. In fiscal year 2023–24, India's imports from China increased by 3.24 percent to $101.7 billion, while exports to China reached $16.67 billion, according to GTRI.

It's essential to attach great importance to this imbalance and find solutions to promote the healthy and long-term development of bilateral trade.

First and foremost, promoting the localization of Chinese companies in India is a crucial strategy to address the existing imbalance. By establishing production bases in India, Chinese companies can generate more employment opportunities and stimulate the growth of the local economy, ultimately aiding in the reduction of the trade deficit.

For instance, in India's rapidly expanding smartphone industry, only a small percentage of components are sourced domestically, with China continuing to dominate as the primary supplier for smartphone plants in the country.

Despite Apple's efforts to encourage its suppliers to invest in India, discriminatory economic and trade policies have dissuaded many Chinese component suppliers from doing so. Consequently, it is imperative for the Indian government to implement preferential policies and foster a favorable business environment to attract increased investment from Chinese companies.

In the meantime, China could gradually expand market access for Indian products, particularly in sectors like agriculture and services outsourcing.

Furthermore, both countries can enhance collaboration in science, technology and innovation, facilitating technology exchange and industrial advances through the establishment of joint research and development centers.

This initiative could incentivize companies from both nations to pursue partnerships in various fields, including renewable energy, information technology and other emerging industries, thus diversifying their trade structures and uncovering additional business prospects to mitigate trade imbalances.

It is sincerely hoped that by leveraging their complementary strengths and exploring opportunities for collaboration, China and India can forge a more stable and prosperous trade relationship that mutually benefits both nations.

This article was first published in the Global Times on May 14, 2024. The Global Times is an English-language Chinese tabloid under the People's Daily, the flagship newspaper of China's ruling Communist Party. The views expressed here are the paper's and not of The Manila Times.

West stuck in present while China sees the future https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/14/opinion/west-stuck-in-present-while-china-sees-the-future/1946374 Global Times Tue, 14 May 2024 23:50:00 +0800 <![CDATA[Opinion]]> https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/14/opinion/west-stuck-in-present-while-china-sees-the-future/1946374 <![CDATA[

By Martin Jacques

OVER the last two years, there have mounting accusations in the West that China is guilty of dumping its goods at uncompetitive prices on Western markets. This criticism has largely been directed at the new green technology industries, in particular solar power, wind turbines and, most notably, electric vehicles (EVs). It is true that China, especially in a much earlier period, gave large-scale financial assistance to EV manufacturers and, until the end of 2022, subsidized the vehicles' purchases, as quite a few other countries did. But the idea that these subsidies are the reason for the remarkable competitiveness of Chinese EVs is a fantasy.

There are three key reasons for China's competitiveness. First, EVs, like solar panels and wind turbines, were a key component of the "Made in China 2025," launched in 2015. China's success in EVs is a textbook example of China's long-term thinking, which, with the notable exception of Tesla, is almost completely absent in Europe and the United States. There, manufacturers preferred to think short term and continue to benefit from the high profitability of internal combustion engine products for as long as they could. China saw the future; Western manufacturers were stuck in the present. And the latter are now paying the price.

Second, the Chinese market is huge and the most competitive in the world. For much of the 20th century, the same could be said of the US market, compared with Europe. The hypercompetitive nature of the Chinese market is constantly ignored in the West, no doubt because it undermines age-old cliches about what a socialist economy is supposed to be like. The complexity and dynamism of China defies such prejudices. The EV sector is subject to cutthroat competition with most firms destined not to survive.

And third, China continues to prioritize the industrial sector. China is the only country in the world that is represented in every major industrial sector. That is why China, unlike the West, could supply the world with virtually everything it needed during the pandemic. The West has long neglected its industrial sector. The classic example is the US, which is now in a state of angst over the decline of its shipping industry and the extraordinary crisis that has befallen Boeing, its sole producer of commercial aircraft. The financialization of the Western world, above all the US, in the single-minded pursuit of profit, has led to the abject state of manufacturing.

Meanwhile, China is reinventing the nature of the industrial process. The spectacular success of BYD is not the result of government subsidies but the birth of a new kind of company, hugely efficient and cost-effective, highly innovative, a combination of car maker and battery producer, with a quite new kind of global reach, that will dominate the global EV industry for many years to come. If Ford invented mass production early last century, then BYD is doing the same for the new era of electric vehicles, while acting as a model for other sectors. The economic revolution now underway in China is not restricted to one company or industry, it is about the new era of decarbonization and the new green industries, including wind turbines and solar power, which, together with new forms of consumption and living, will define a new epoch of human development. China is thinking in exactly these terms and leaving the West far behind in the process. To add insult to injury, the entire world, including the West, will over time, become overwhelmingly dependent on the products of China's green technology, in particular EVs, wind turbines, and solar panels, in order to achieve carbon neutrality.

Instead of berating China for misdeeds it is not guilty of, the West should be taking a leaf out of China's book and seeking to learn from it. Ultimately it will have no alternative, otherwise it will be out-competed in sector after sector. Although the West will find it desperately difficult to admit, the process has already started. America has begun, tentatively, to discuss the idea of an industrial strategy, some European countries likewise, and the inspiration, whether they admit or not, is China. This takes us back to "Made in China, 2025." It is patently clear that this was never taken seriously in the West. The deeply rooted assumption was that China was a developing country incapable of innovation and doomed to remain in the foothills of economic development, dependent on cheap labor and borrowing from the West. The latter simply did not believe that China could make the giant leaps in technology that it has achieved over the last decade.

They cry foul when in fact the only thing China is guilty of is doing what any developing country in its position would do: learn and apply. Meanwhile, the West, in a desperate attempt to prevent what they never dreamed of happening in the first place, is seeking to prevent China, or at least forestall it, from continuing its technological transformation. Blocking Chinese access to state-of-the-art technology is just a latter-day form of protectionism. As King Canute failed to halt the tide, so the West will fail ignominiously to prevent China's rise.

The author is a visiting professor at the Institute of Modern International Relations at Tsinghua University and a senior fellow at the China Institute of Fudan University. This article was first published in the Global Times on May 13, 2024. The Global Times is an English-language Chinese tabloid under the People's Daily, the flagship newspaper of China's ruling Communist Party. The views expressed here are the author's and not of The Manila Times.

BAD NEWS https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/14/opinion/editorial-cartoon/bad-news/1946169 The Manila Times Tue, 14 May 2024 00:15:00 +0800 <![CDATA[Opinion]]> https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/14/opinion/editorial-cartoon/bad-news/1946169 <![CDATA[
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The Manila Times
Department of Migrant Workers on the right track https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/14/opinion/editorial/department-of-migrant-workers-on-the-right-track/1946066 The Editorial Board Tue, 14 May 2024 00:10:00 +0800 <![CDATA[Opinion]]> https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/14/opinion/editorial/department-of-migrant-workers-on-the-right-track/1946066 <![CDATA[

THE late Secretary Susan Ople of the Department of Migrant Workers had a vision for her department, but death cut short the fulfillment of those dreams. One of them was to streamline and digitize the processes for recruitment and protection of our overseas Filipino workers (OFWs). We are lucky that the newly appointed DMW secretary, lawyer Hans Cacdac, has vowed to follow this vision.

He said he intends to "further build on the legacy left by Secretary Susan Ople," who wanted to reduce the processing time of the OFW documents and ensure they are protected in their jobs abroad.

In July 2022, Secretary Ople said that an OFW took "a minimum of three months" to get an accreditation.

"By doing away with all those redundant procedures and unnecessary requirements, even the number of signatures, we are confident that we can cut that timeline from a minimum of three months to perhaps less than a month, or even three weeks," the late secretary said. She envisioned that this could be done with the help of the Department of Information and Communications Technology.

OFWs who go home to the Philippines for a vacation also face a problem getting their Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC). This document is important so that the OFWs can fly back to their posts abroad. The DMW launched a mobile app that contained a digital alternative to the OEC. Moreover, it could be easily downloaded through Google Play or the Apple App Store.

Secretary Ople added that such "paperless transactions would allow the OFWs to store their documents on their cell phones." It would also allow for a seamless exit procedure with Philippine immigration and a seamless procedure with immigration desks in other countries.

Moreover, digitizing data and documents will help our OFWs from becoming victims of cyber criminals and illegal recruiters who prey on them. The number of reports has lessened, but there are still Filipinos being victimized by illegal recruiters, especially those who promised jobs in Thailand but ended up working for Chinese cyber syndicates in Myanmar.

Some overseas-bound Filipinos have also been victims of human trafficking, investment scams and consumer fraud.

Secretary Cacdac also went to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to follow up on the back pay of overseas Filipinos who used to work in companies there that had gone bankrupt and closed shop. Secretary Ople already had initial meetings with the labor minister of Saudi Arabia, who had promised to solve the case with the money coming from the Saudi Arabian government.

Upon assuming office last April 25, Secretary Cacdac, a graduate of Ateneo de Manila University, said: "We shall continue to adhere to a rights-based approach and ensure the utmost protection of our OFWs' human and employment rights."

Aside from these, he also highlighted other priorities. These include promoting financial literacy, developing the OFWs' skills and career paths, and pursuing deeper bilateral relations with OFW host countries.

Secretary Cacdac's appointment was well-received. He had served in the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration and the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) before being plucked and appointed as a DMW undersecretary for foreign employment and welfare services in 2022.

He passed the bar exams in 1994 and then worked for the Sentro ng Alternatibong Lingap Panligal, which gave legal help to underserved and marginalized communities. He worked as a director of the DoLE's Bureau of Labor Relations in 2001.

He then served for one year as the National Conciliation and Mediation Board administrator and was later appointed as the deputy administration of the POEA from 2006 to 2010. He became a DoLE undersecretary in 2010, the POEA administrator in 2012 and the OWWA administrator in 2016.

Lawmakers championing OFW rights hailed his appointment. Kabayan party-list Rep. Ron Salo cited his having been a "sturdy anchor" of the DMW over the past eight months and a "steadfast protector" of OFWs amid the geopolitical shifts around the world.

Marissa del Mar Magsino of the OFW party-list said: "As a veteran in public service and of migration policies, he knows the processes and nuances of labor migration. But more than his capabilities, Secretary Cacdac also has his heart in the right place — to offer genuine service to our OFWs and their families."

Overseas employment may not be the best way to solve our unemployment problem, but those who take this path can rest assured that someone has their back.

Migrant Workers Secretary Hans Leo Cacdac. PHOTOS BY J. GERARD SEGUIA Migrant Workers Secretary Hans Leo Cacdac. PHOTOS BY J. GERARD SEGUIA The Manila Times
The Tulfo syndrome https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/14/opinion/columns/the-tulfo-syndrome/1946131 Antonio Contreras Tue, 14 May 2024 00:09:00 +0800 <![CDATA[Opinion]]> https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/14/opinion/columns/the-tulfo-syndrome/1946131 <![CDATA[

LET us call it, for the lack of a better word, the "Tulfo" syndrome, named after Sen. Raffy Tulfo who has popularized the transformation of justice into a performative public spectacle that involves shaming people.

We are now witnessing the public unfolding of an online lynch mob, pouncing on that English professor from a university in Mindanao who posted a public apology, admitting to stealing the work of her student and making it appear she wrote the piece. The admission was posted on the Facebook page of her department.

It is indeed a mortal sin for academics to claim authorship of something not theirs. The penalty is harsh even if the material is a mere sentence. In the case of this English professor, the stolen material is an entire piece of work. What aggravated her sin was the fact that it was her student's work, where asymmetrical power relations existed.

I have been falsely accused of plagiarism before, and the experience was traumatizing. And that incident continued to haunt me. This is why I am now ever more extra careful in ensuring that I correctly cite my sources.

The practice of faculty advisers, and even panel members of thesis and dissertation committees, becoming co-authors of their student's publication is not new. The practice found more impetus when the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) began requiring a publication as a prerequisite for master's and PhD students to graduate. This need for students to publish in order to graduate has conveniently coincided with the need for faculty members to publish in order to be promoted and/or tenured. It was a convenient and mutually beneficial arrangement until you realized that the students would be coming in with the handicap of not having the option of refusing to accept their panel members as co-authors. It would be an unimaginable affront, which no graduate student would be willing to take.

The same asymmetrical power relations exist when the persons involved are the faculty members who lead a research project and their research assistants. In this situation, the dilemma goes beyond research assistants, who would find it hard not to include their project leaders as co-authors even on papers that the former would have primarily and independently worked on. The exploitation even includes the assistants practically ghostwriting for the project leaders on papers the latter would claim as theirs as if they wrote these. The pressure felt by the assistants that would make them accede would not be the threat of not graduating but the threat of losing their jobs.

This is precisely why I have never asked my students to include me as a co-author in their publications. The single instance was when it was my student who invited me to be a co-author. I have been mainly writing most of my academic publications as sole author, but would always require myself to include as co-authors in manuscripts that are submitted for publication by all members of the research team, whenever it is applicable.

It cannot be said differently. What that English professor did was a violation of academic ethical standards, and she should face the consequences of her action when she knowingly stole the work of her student.

However, it should also be said that the manner in which she has been subjected to online public lynching is equally unethical. There are procedures for handling sensitive cases like these, and there are applicable codes that would accord her due process and impose the applicable penalty on her. Public shaming would not be part of that.

The department concerned, realizing the backlash of their publication of the apology letter of the offending professor, which frankly, any rational person should have anticipated and therefore is not at all surprising, has come out with an explanation. The department claimed that such publication was the outcome of the agreement between the student whose work was stolen and the offending professor, where the issuance of a public apology and its posting on the social media account of the department were conditions set by the student. Presumably, the professor consented to her public humiliation.

This is exactly what I find disturbing: this utter sense of performative justice that is now comfortably residing in people's minds. The bloodlust is now replaced by the urge to publicly crucify, where justice is now a toxic blending of retribution and public vilification. This is a nasty element of our collective psyche that has somewhat lain dormant, hidden by our celebration of shared selves, and used to only occasionally reveal itself when people express their schadenfreude over the misery of those they don't like. We see this in the tendency of people to enjoy the spectacle of catfights and arguments, which then manifests in our fondness for drama, where there is plenty of slapping and shouting. This is the root cause of why news rates only when it covers conflict and controversies.

Social media has amplified this lust for shaming people, with trolls feeding and celebrating cancel culture, deriving pleasure from the misery of others who they think fully deserve such treatment. This is why Sen. Raffy Tulfo's show resonates with the masses. It caters to the need to witness people who did bad things being turned into a public spectacle as objects of shaming.

The Romans used to watch with glee as gladiators engaged in mortal combat, as they cheered the winners but also jeered at those they felt did not deserve to live and expressed this with their thumbs pointed downwards. Often, the coliseum also became the place where the crowd watched as the bodies of Christians were torn to pieces.

This is what we have become. We have equated justice with lynching and shaming. And in the face of a system that is flawed, biased and inaccessible, we have turned to Tulfo's brand of justice.

What is saddening, and disturbing, is that in the case of this English professor who stole the work of her student, the academia has enabled, with some academics actively participating in, the lynching.

Antonio Contreras Antonio Contreras The Manila Times
Appeasem*nt of China as strategy for statecraft in WPS dispute https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/14/opinion/columns/appeasem*nt-of-china-as-strategy-for-statecraft-in-wps-dispute/1946130 Yen Makabenta Tue, 14 May 2024 00:08:00 +0800 <![CDATA[Opinion]]> https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/14/opinion/columns/appeasem*nt-of-china-as-strategy-for-statecraft-in-wps-dispute/1946130 <![CDATA[

First word

OF the six recognized strategies for statecraft in conflict in international relations (negotiation, deterrence, coercive diplomacy, crisis management, war termination and détente), I have discussed so far coercive diplomacy and crisis management as strategic tools for statecraft that our government can employ in the present state of relations in the West Philippine Sea.

We should not neglect the discussion of an alternative policy strategy that pro-China apologists among us have been actively promoting as the appropriate and rational policy strategy for our government to pursue at this time. This is the policy of appeasem*nt of China, which they contend can be a viable and effective policy for the nation to employ and is the best way to avoid war in the contested waterway.

The pro-China lobby characterizes as "belligerent and confrontational" the approach of President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. in navigating the dispute with China in the West Philippine Sea (the part of the South China Sea that is our exclusive economic zone under Unclos).

They contrast without blushing the Marcos policy with the earlier policy of the previous administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, which worshiped a policy of friendship and submission to China, highlighted by Duterte's dictum of being "a friend to all and an enemy to no one."

In their book "Force and Statecraft," Gordon Craig and Alexander George include a full discussion of appeasem*nt as a strategy in conflictual relationships in interstate relations. They wrote:

"The historical case against appeasem*nt is well-understood and deeply etched in the consciousness of generations of policymakers and foreign policy specialists. In contrast, the case for appeasem*nt is not well understood and lacks an analytical basis derived from historical instances when it was usefully employed in the interest of avoiding conflict and developing positive relations. Policymakers who believe it may be expedient to 'conciliate' a possible dangerous adversary or to engage in a 'constructive engagement' with him do not have available a historically grounded theory regarding the conditions under which what is essentially 'a policy of appeasem*nt' is likely to be a viable strategy. Under what conditions is appeasem*nt a dangerous policy that will increase the likelihood of war or a worse war in the future? But also, under what conditions is appeasem*nt a viable strategy that will reduce conflict with another state and markedly lower or eliminate the possibility of war?

"Only now, however, is a scholarly effort finally underway to make a systematic analysis of historical cases of appeasem*nt in order to identify those conditions under which it is likely to be a viable conflict avoidance strategy and other conditions in which appeasem*nt is likely to be misguided and contribute to the eventual onset of war.

"In the classical European balance of power system, there existed a gradation of steps for improving relations between two states that was incorporated into well-defined concepts and practices of diplomacy. The process of improving relations might begin with 'détente.' which referred merely to a relaxation of tensions, and could possibly develop into 'rapprochement,' whereby one or both sides expressed a desire to address some or all of their disagreements with a view to possible agreement. This, in turn, could lead to an 'entente' — a limited but significant improvement in relations in which the two sides at least recognized a similarity of some views and interests, but with understandings between them limited to certain issues that stopped short of an alliance. Entente could then lead to appeasem*nt — the methodical removal of the principal causes of the conflict.

"Following the breakup of the European system, the precise definition and sharp distinction among these concepts and practices were badly eroded. The history of interstate relation was marked by the experience of British appeasem*nt policy toward Hitler, and various instances in which appeasem*nt or conciliation either worked — or did not."

Woven into the narrative of pro-China apologists is the line that in defying China's bullying, the Philippines is advancing the interests of the United States and not its own. In the words of Anna Malindog-Uy, a Filipino graduate student at China's Peking University, who also happens to write a column for the Times, "President Marcos' strategy emphasizes bolstering the Philippines' military ties with the US, the trilateral defense/military pact and alliance between the Philippines, Japan and the US, and the regular joint military exercises and naval patrols by these countries in the South China Sea.

The apologists long for the time when President Duterte made kowtowing to China the official Filipino policy. No doubt Xi Jinping and other Chinese leaders have the same longing for Duterte's predictable and now long-departed regime.

Up to this point, the Philippines and China have made clear the irreconcilability of their positions in the WPS dispute. They have exhausted the possibility of a negotiated solution.

China has persisted and continues to encroach on the Philippines' exclusive economic zone (EEZ), absurdly claiming for itself "indisputable sovereignty" over our EEZ. And blasting water cannons at our ships in the waterway and surreptitiously trying to turn another Philippine shoal into its own.

Meanwhile, amid these trials and tribulations, the transition from President Duterte to President Marcos has shown marked improvement and modernization of our country's armed forces and defense capability. More countries today rally to our side, and many have shared with us some of their military assets and hardware to assist in defending our interests. More and more are actively pledged to stand with us in the event of an unfortunate breakout of hostilities in the waterway.

Our country is in a much better position to defend its EEZ and its sovereign rights and interests than it was in earlier years and earlier presidencies.

As in the case of South Korea and Taiwan, under the stress and trial of persistent threat and intimidation by a powerful neighbor, the Philippines, too, is emerging from the shadows as a modern state that has become vastly more ready and capable of defending its national interest and territory. We have not had until now a more modern and better equipped armed forces. Nor have we had a people more roused and alert to the dangers posed by the ambitions and bullying of a more powerful neighbor.

Appease Goliath? Who dares to urge upon the nation such a grotesque and foolish policy in the West Philippine Sea?


Yen Makabenta Yen Makabenta The Manila Times
Trump's stormy weather https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/14/opinion/columns/trumps-stormy-weather/1946128 Orlando Mercado Tue, 14 May 2024 00:07:00 +0800 <![CDATA[Opinion]]> https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/14/opinion/columns/trumps-stormy-weather/1946128 <![CDATA[

LIVING in this century of information technology, I find myself unable to resist the need to follow the unfolding events of today's major international conflicts. The Russian war in Ukraine and the Israeli-Palestinian war had my undivided attention since the start of hostilities. I have always made it a habit to attend webinars, listen to podcasts, and watch documentaries to have an informed and balanced view of these hotspots.

Of late, I have noticed myself spending more time in a different hotspot: the New York hush money trial of Donald Trump. The unprecedented courtroom drama can be riveting, especially as Trump has the distinction of being the first former president to be tried on criminal charges. This case was originally considered the least important of the four criminal cases against him. The three others were fraud, election subversion, and possessing and concealing classified documents. Today, it has become the only one that can affect the coming US presidential election. It is likely the only case against Trump that will be heard before November.

<![CDATA[https://www.manilatimes.net]]> (12)

The case centers on whether the former president falsified business records so he could hide hush money payments worth $130,000 to adult entertainment actress Stormy Daniels by claiming that they were "legal expenses." Her testimony revealed details about her encounter with Trump in 2006, which Trump denied. Trump's defense team sought to undermine Daniel's credibility by focusing on the financial benefits as a result of her revelations. Her testimony provided the critical motive for Trump to be fearful that her statements weeks before the election might cost him the election, thus the need to buy her silence.

Stormy Daniels said she met Trump in a celebrity golf match in Lake Tahoe. She said she was led to believe that they were only meeting to have dinner. She was graphic in her description of her "brief" sexual encounter with Trump. Daniels specified that Trump was wearing silk or satin pajamas, did not wear a condom, and asked her about her career. She also claimed that Trump said she reminded him of his daughter, Ivanka. The defense called for a mistrial, arguing that Daniel's statements would prejudice the jury against Trump. The judge denied the motion.

Daniels was repeatedly asked by the defense if she was motivated to make the revelation by financial gain. She admitted profiting from the story but emphasized that she was looking for accountability. "I have been making money by telling my story," she said, adding, "It has also cost me a lot of money." Daniels also claimed that coming forward about the encounter had been a net "negative" for her life.

Daniels also repeatedly denied the assertions of the defense that she had made up the encounter. "If that story was untrue, I would have written it to be a lot better."

The defense pressed Daniels on her feelings about the former president in an attempt to undermine her reliability. She answered yes when asked if she hates President Trump.

Trump's attempt to sweep his alleged sexual encounters with Daniels under the rug reminded me of Nixon's Watergate scandal. In 1972, then President Richard Nixon's reelection campaign members broke into the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate Hotel in an attempt to wiretap the office. They were arrested, and Nixon dismissed the issue as a "third-rate burglary." He paid hush money to the "burglars" to conceal the involvement of the White House in the crime.

Nixon and Trump's schemes are eerily the same, as both were aimed at defrauding Americans before the upcoming presidential elections. These worrisome attempts to cover up the truth are more sinister than what they are trying to hide. Both were done to secure the most coveted position of being the "leader of the free world." Nixon eventually resigned in 1974 before an almost-certain impeachment and removal from office. Whereas if convicted, Trump may face jail time.

Only when the decision results in a conviction can it be determined if it will affect the election, as more than 50 percent of swing state voters may consider Trump unfit to become president if convicted, based on a Morning Consult/Bloomberg poll. Only time will tell if Trump's stormy cover-up will also prove to be his undoing.

We can only hope that America will uphold the values of integrity, transparency and accountability as non-negotiables when choosing its next president.

The Manila Times
No, China is not building floating nuke plants https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/14/opinion/columns/no-china-is-not-building-floating-nuke-plants/1946065 Ben Kritz Tue, 14 May 2024 00:06:00 +0800 <![CDATA[Opinion]]> https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/14/opinion/columns/no-china-is-not-building-floating-nuke-plants/1946065 <![CDATA[

LAST Monday, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported that China is planning to build a fleet of up to 20 floating nuclear power plants "that could power military facilities in the South China Sea," attributing the news to a report in The Washington Post. The Washington Post, in turn, attributed the news to "State Department officials" and the recently retired commander of the US Indo-Pacific Command, Adm. John Aquilino. Aquilino was indirectly quoted as saying that "Chinese state media announced Beijing's intent to use this project to bolster control of the South China Sea."

I'm singling out the Inquirer because it was the only local news outlet to carry the story. Everyone else in the local media market apparently took a moment to actually read the wire report carefully or do a little quick fact-checking. The Washington Post, the unidentified State Department officials and the retired admiral should have done the same, too, but that doesn't let the Inquirer off the hook for spreading misinformation. I'm sure that was not intentional, but the consequences are the same.

The news to which the US sources were referring was a 2016 report in the Global Times Online, one of China's state-controlled media outlets, which described a plan by the government to build up to 20 floating nuclear power plants, at least some of which could be deployed to the South China Sea. Each of the recent reports picked up on the same salacious quote from the original Global Times report: "Each South China Sea island and reef, paired with a floating nuclear-powered platform [is essentially] a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.... [It is] equipped with combat aircraft and missile systems. Their military advantage far outweighs that of a US carrier fleet coming from afar."

Ooh, scary. Or it would be if it was actually happening, which it is not, and it has officially not been happening for nearly a year. I wrote about this very topic at the beginning of June last year and then fact-checked my research again in late November as part of preparing the manuscript for my book on nuclear energy. Since we're retreading already traveled ground here, recycling some excerpts from that earlier piece ("China steps back from ambitious nuke plan," June 8, 2023) will suffice:

"According to a report in the South China Morning Post on May 31, an ambitious plan by China to construct a fleet of up to 20 floating nuclear power plants has been shelved by regulators, at least for the foreseeable future.

"The lead engineer from the National Energy Offshore Nuclear Power Platform Technology Research Center told the SCMP that final approval to begin construction of China's first floating nuclear plant was withheld by regulators who expressed 'security concerns' about the project.

"'Floating nuclear power plants have various natural advantages, and the technology to build them is ready. Both China National Nuclear Corporation and China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation have been actively conducting research and development work. However, construction of China's first floating nuclear power plant demonstration project has yet to be approved,' senior engineer Wang Donghui was quoted as saying.

"The hesitance on the part of the government was, according to the SCMP report and other sources, driven by the perceived risk to placing some of the nuclear plants in the South China Sea.... To be clear, this explanation has not been publicly offered by the government directly, but only by the team managing the project. That alone suggests it is probably accurate, however, because the focus of the project, according to other news about it over the past five or six years, has not been on the South China Sea installations but rather on the hundreds of island communities along China's long east coast.

"Thus, engineer Wang and his colleagues may soon find themselves in hot water with the authorities for their unhelpful candor. Any hint that there is even a ghost of uncertainty in China about the legitimacy of its claim of sovereignty over most of the South China Sea and its ability to enforce it is definitely unproductive and embarrassing from the Chinese government's point of view.

"Be that as it may, there seems to be much more to the 'withholding' of the government regulators' approval to begin construction of the project than is being said, and in fact, the issue of a potential security risk from the South China Sea dispute may just be a minor incidental factor being used as cover for some deeper problems."

So, to summarize, China indeed had a plan to go big on floating nuclear plant construction but pulled back from it after about six years of work. It is unclear if they actually built anything; the initial program was to build a unit for sale to Russia and another of between 60 and 100 MW capacity for China's use as a demonstration project, which was supposed to be ready for sea trials by 2020.

From my earlier column, "Reports as recently as April [2023] have said the unit is currently being tested in the Bohai Sea, but on the other hand, the engineers who supposedly built the thing were describing the project that they failed to get regulatory approval for as 'China's first floating nuclear plant.' Some sources have suggested that what is being tested is actually just the boat part — in other words, without the nuclear reactor and related systems installed — as the state-run Chinese developers have recently described in great detail how they are designing floating plants to withstand severe weather and sea conditions."

It was my guess at the time, and I have yet to see any information that suggests I'm wrong, is that "the economics of SMRs (small modular reactors) and floating nuclear plants have dampened planners' enthusiasm. The financial details of the Chinese projects are not known and are not likely to be disclosed, but the experiences elsewhere provide some strong clues. The Akademik Lomonosov [the first floating nuclear plant, built by Russia] was supposed to be relatively cheap and easy to build, particularly since it uses recycled submarine reactors, but it was not; it was supposed to be ready by 2010 at a cost of about $170 million, but was only completed in 2018 with a final price tag of close to $700 million."

As a final confirmation that the floating nuke plan still is not a thing, a brief story in the South China Morning Post on May 8, two days after the news broke here, confirmed that the Chinese project is still suspended and has not been resurrected.


Ben Kritz Ben Kritz The Manila Times
Visions of the coming superstorm https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/14/opinion/columns/visions-of-the-coming-superstorm/1946064 Rafael Alunan III Tue, 14 May 2024 00:05:00 +0800 <![CDATA[Opinion]]> https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/05/14/opinion/columns/visions-of-the-coming-superstorm/1946064 <![CDATA[

A TERRIBLE thought crossed my mind while watching documentaries on the History Channel. Free World countries were massively attacked by cyber, electronic, magnetic pulses, and conventional and unconventional means to decapitate their leadership, destroy their warfighting resources, cause their instantaneous defeat and gain world dominion. They would be launched simultaneously from all points of the compass, including outer space. That would be the culminating step of asymmetric and unrestricted warfare should non-kinetic means fail.

The Free World's adversaries began applying asymmetric and unrestricted warfare long ago to weaken them from within and without. Asymmetric methods like hijackings, suicide bombings and terror attacks to narrow the power gap; unrestricted warfare for the purpose of achieving victory against a superior enemy without open warfare. It follows the principle of "no rules, nothing is forbidden" in applying a broad spectrum of creeping gray zone methods, e.g., psychological, smuggling, drug, network, technological, fabrication, resources, economic aid, cultural and international law warfare, terrorism, and influence operations.

They — China, Russia, Iran, North Korea and their networks of surrogates — aim to disperse the Free World's forces; deplete their warfighting resources through localized hot wars; infiltrate their political, business and social sectors to deceive, spy, destabilize and sabotage as they did during the Vietnam war. China et al. have the upper hand today for playing the long game that began in default or without opposition decades ago. The Free World is scrambling to catch up, stitching a counter-strategy and global alliance on-the-go to reverse the tide and win the day.

In a 1988 conference on technology I attended in Washington D.C., the Chinese delegation disclosed China's master plan to become a superpower "in 50 years." I took that to mean that it intended to replace the US as "No.1" at some point, preferably applying Sun Tzu's principle of subduing the enemy without "firing a shot" to demonstrate their "acme of skill." Since then, it has become the world's factory of everything by exploiting Western hubris, naivetè and commercial greed. I wouldn't be surprised if China et al. were manipulating world events from that time.

The signs are clear that a superstorm is heading toward us. China's core interest is to rule the roost. A prime objective is full control of the South China Sea and the countries surrounding it. China, specifically the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the People's Liberation Army (PLA), has demonstrated resolute and arrogant resistance to the Free World's pressures to return to peaceful rise. Its defiance indicates its readiness for open conflict if need be. No amount of Fonops, simulated exercises, or diplomatic protests have deterred the CPC-PLA.

China has reached the point of confidence where it's now routinely issuing warnings to the US and its allies to carefully consider the consequences of continued pushback. It's propping up Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Iran's asymmetric attacks in the Middle East and North Korea for its black operations. It's transforming the PLA and strengthening military-civilian "fusion" to wage a true "people's war." Its air force, navy, coast guard, maritime militia and integrated dark businesses intrude, harass and coerce its weak neighbors with impunity.

As we already know, the Philippines is prime real estate that hegemons lust for to control the region and project power throughout the Indo-Pacific. Whether we have US backing or not, China's hostile behavior from the time it stole Mischief Reef from us in 1995 has, in fact, intensified. China's core interest in being the next superpower puts it on a collision course with the US. The calculation is as early as within the next two years (worst case) and within the next three to five years (best case). Should open warfare erupts between them, everyone loses. Whether we like it or not, we'll be caught in the middle.

We're already badly infiltrated on land and badly outclassed at sea and in the air, as it is. Through its anti-access, area denial (A2AD) strategy, China has taken de facto control of portions of our EEZ, Mischief Reef, Scarborough Shoal and the surrounding area of Ayungin Shoal; continues to reclaim within our EEZ; poaches our marine resources; destroys our coral seabeds; forcefully disrupts our resupply missions; prevents our fishermen from fishing in their traditional areas; wages information warfare; conducts influence operations; and engages in all kinds of criminal activity with impunity.

Influence operations exploit our corruptibility and malleability to buy political support and criminal justice system protection. They burrow their way into positions of power like that spurious Bamban, Tarlac mayor, the business sector, civil society, and uniformed services. They're able to expand their united fronts to spy, scare, sow discord and sabotage as they please. They're disguised as students, as tourists, as POGO operators, and even as Filipino citizens armed with birth certificates, passports and various IDs. How many more are there?

They've managed to easily pre-position themselves in and around our sea lines of communications (SLOCs) and centers of national power. Like it or not, we must get ready for the superstorm headed our way. Risk management plans must consider the probability of hybrid warfare happening all at once that employs political warfare blended with conventional warfare, irregular warfare and cyberwarfare with other influencing methods, such as fake news, diplomacy, lawfare, regime change and foreign electoral intervention. Isn't that all too familiar?

We must fast-track our preparations. We could accelerate our defense build-up through "lend-lease" arrangements with friendly countries for required weapons and systems, the way the US came to Britain's help in WW II. And because we're import-dependent on most things, we need a stockpile policy and strategy such as supply chain resilience measures, reliable import sources, and joint-venture manufacturing, fully supported by our allies, to ensure our safety, security and survival. We can't afford to get caught with our pants down for yet another time.

Rafael M. Alunan 3rd is a former chairman and currently a trustee of the Philippine Council for Foreign Relations. He also formerly headed the Department of the Interior and Local Government under President Fidel V. Ramos.

Rafael Alunan 3rd Rafael Alunan 3rd The Manila Times
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