China is a greatly misunderstood giant

With an economy that grew phenomenally in a brief span of four decades, China has emerged upon the global scene as a giant that has matched wealth with a powerful military. It is now the number two largest economy in the world, with the United States holding on to that position rather precariously. Hence, it is easy to understand why the U.S. and its neighbors feel great discomfort as this combined economic and military power keeps growing. Unless the Chinese economy is stalled, it will overtake the U.S. as the biggest economy in the world.

This has led to rising tensions in U.S.-China relations, with the frightening prospect of this ending in armed confrontation, particularly in the South China Sea and Taiwan. Everybody agrees that war, even on a limited scale, can bring about disastrous consequences. Because of this, experts on U.S.-China relations espouse caution to American policy makers as it struggles to maintain a delicate balance between its need to stay the most powerful nation on the planet and peace. The task becomes difficult because recent U.S. rhetoric, especially during the Trump presidency, demonized China’s intentions.

The Panda bear best describes the size and temperament of China. It is huge but meek. It is not known to be aggressive on human beings. Indeed, there has been no instance in its history when China became an aggressor state. On the other hand, it came under foreign domination several times in the past, the most recent of which was the Japanese invasion during World War II. Even in dealing with break-away province, Taiwan, the mainland Chinese have demonstrated restraint for more than half a century now. Except for the occasional harassment against their estranged province, there has been nothing close to a forcible retaking of Taiwan. At least, up to until now.

With this in mind, we should not allow American scare tactics to put a barrier between our country and China. The Scarborough Shoal issue remains a thorn on our relations, but it does not lock the door on a peaceful resolution that will benefit both sides. If China has reclaimed shoals and reefs in the South China Sea, it is not because of a long-range military plan to expand its territory in the Asia-Pacific. The putting up of military installations on their reclaimed islands are not much different to the United States having bases in Japan and South Korea. China simply wants to build an adequate security barrier to shield the mainland from any security threat.

It’s really amazing how China has continued to grow despite American efforts to contain its economy with tariffs and sanctions such as the ban on Huawei from the U.S. market. During the year 2020, China shrugged off the ill effects of Covid 19 to continue grow at a fast pace of 8-9%. The technological ban imposed by then US President Donald Trump two years ago may have hurt China, but not for long. David Goldman, an economist and China watcher, observed that the economies of the U.S. and China were about the same size. He made that assessment two years ago. “But China is growing at twice the speed of the U.S.,” he said. That gives us a better understanding of the power dynamics we are seeing in China.

This brings me to the tough decision that President Rodrigo Roa Duterte has to make about the country’s relations with China. Early in his term, President Duterte showed openness to friendship with China. But the issue about the Scarborough Shoal put pressure on him to lean back and rethink about developing closer ties with China. The propaganda being thrown about depicts China as a territory-hungry behemoth that will ultimately devour the Philippines. President Duterte is being labeled as a “puppet” of the Chinese.

We need to look at the situation with pragmatic eyes. The Philippines has something every powerful nation on earth now wants to gain access to: vast oil and natural gas reserves underneath the South China Sea that fall within our exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Aside from that, the South China Sea is a vital sea lane where billions of dollars worth of goods pass through every year. Almost all countries would want that shipping lane to remain free to international trade and commerce. This is a reason why the U.S. and other Western nations are apprehensive about China putting up military installations along that route. If China shuts down the shipping lane, all hell will break loose in the global economy.

Rather than provoke China, we might be able to approach the situation with an open mind toward a mutually-beneficial development of the SCS gas and oil reserves. The worst thing China would want to see now is the Philippines going back to the embrace of the United States. That will only alarm them, for a strengthening of the US-PH military alliance is certain to be viewed as a hostile threat. And that will deprive our nation of the economic benefits that can be derived from an early exploitation of the SCS gas and oil reserves.

If such a partnership is achieved, China will feel less nervous about external threats and focus its attention to its goal about continued economic growth to bring prosperity to the lives of its 1.4 billion population. The grand strategy of China is centered on “rejuvenation” after having surmounted its “survival” phase. A joint exploration and development of the SCS will forge stronger economic ties between China and PH and contribute to lowering the tensions in the region. The key word, indeed, is cooperation. And even the U.S. will stand to gain from changing its outlook about China and treat it as an equal in world affairs.

A climate of security and stability in the SCS will put the Philippines at the doorstep of the world’s fastest growing economy. It is not too hard to see Filipinos will reap from that unique position, something that we did not experience when we were loyal allies of the Americans.

China: must we be afraid of it?

The controversy over the South China Sea issue, particularly the loss of the Scarborough Shoal to the Chinese in 2012, has dominated public discussion during the last several months as the opposition tried to pressure President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to assert its rights as laid down in the International Arbitral Court ruling three years ago.

The opposition has painted a picture of a leader who showed subservience to the Chinese in that instead of adopting a strong position in seeking the enforcement of the ruling, President Duterte took the path of friendship with President Xi Jinping since he assumed office on June 30, 2016.

Retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio has been the most vocal critic of the President’s “soft” stance regarding the South China Sea issue. He accused President Duterte of “selling the country’s sovereignty” to China. He and his colleagues in the opposition are trying to spread the fear of China among Filipinos. The Scarborough Shoal episode is just the prelude to China ultimately trying to swallow the Philippines into its fold.

This fear-mongering is unfounded. China is not in the business of gobbling up new territory. What it is doing is translate its relatively new economic power into military might to strengthen its security position. Of course it is understandable why its neighbors are apprehensive. Throughout modern history, the whole world has gotten used to regarding the United States as the sole superpower with the capability to keep the status quo on security and stability.

The sudden emergence of China as a military power has upset that status quo. And its incursions into the South China Sea is being viewed by the U.S.-led partnership in the Asia Pacific as a serious threat to the region’s security. Already, China has created artificial islands in the SCS and positioned naval and air assets. This has extended the reach of China’s military might to the doorsteps of Australia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan and, of course, the Philippines.

This is a most unwelcome development for the United States. It has always projected itself as the unrivaled military power in the Asia-Pacific after Japan surrendered at the end of the second world war. All of a sudden, it is seeing a peer competitor as a regional hegemony emerging from the shadows. Its ability to freely roam the seven seas is now facing a possible obstacle.

But as political science Professor John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago put it, China is merely imitating what the U.S. has been doing for over a century now: it is seeking to become a regional hegemony. The U.S. has done that in the western hemisphere. And during the last century, the U.S. has been instrumental in making sure four nations that had the potential to become hegemons — Imperial Germany, Imperial Japan, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union — would collapse. The U.S. does not like competition.

Is there anything sinister in China’s intentions?

According to Prof. Kishore Mahbubani, what China wants to do is avoid the harsh experiences of the “century of humiliation”. It learned that being a weak China made it vulnerable to exploitation and abuse from more powerful states. It was a victim of the United States, United Kingdom and Japan in the past. This imbued the Chinese leadership with a strong and unwavering drive to become an economic giant, and with it, military might, so that never again will it be subjugated.

Indeed, China has behaved quite well as it grew in leaps and bounds during the last four decades when Deng Xiaoping opened its doors to the world. From a poverty stricken country, it quickly transformed into what is now arguably the most powerful economy that comes a close second to the U.S.

Prof. Mearsheimer believes turning that economic power into military might is only a logical move on the part of China. With its economic gains that breathed prosperity into the lives of its 1.4 billion people, China wants to make sure no other nation can take that away from them. There is no better way to accomplish that than building a military that will deter any aggression toward them.

China wants to be a good neighbor and a global citizen. It is only the United States that now wants to depict this nation as evil the way it did with the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

From the viewpoint of the Philippines, it makes for sound foreign policy to befriend China. The irritants brought about by its take-over of the Scarborough Shoal in 2012 should not put a bile taste into our attitude towards them.

The Philippine government should adopt a pragmatic approach. Our experience with the U.S. hasn’t been pleasant. While we have a mutual defense treaty with the Americans, it has failed to demonstrate that it is a sincere ally that is looking after our interests. The U.S. has exploited our friendship with them in a lopsided manner: the scale has tipped heavily in their favor.

As we have seen in the past, we almost have to beg for military aid to crush the communist insurgency. More than that, the U.S. has tried to interfere with our domestic affairs. This was apparent when President Duterte launched an all-out war against illegal drugs; the Democrats in the U.S. Senate blocked military sales to the Philippines because they accused him of human rights violations. It puts into serious question on whether the U.S. indeed wants the communist insurgency to end. (30)

Duque

DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III might not be the best person to head the agency, but I don’t think there’s a need for him to resign as what some senators are demanding. One of them, Senator Grace Poe, said that Duque “failed the minimum standard of leadership.” Poe and 14 other Senators signed a resolution calling for Duque’s resignation because he allegedly failed to get mass Covid 19 testing into place. He is also being accused of gagging medical personnel and dragged his feet on getting FDA approval for Covid 19 testing laboratories.

The Senators are playing politics. They are placing into the feelings of discontent expressed by some people, and twisted the facts out of proportion. The allegations against Duque are thinly disguised attempts to distract the government’s efforts to combat the corona virus. For a month now, Senators have been pushed back the national stage. Their only role was to enact legislation to support the government’s Covid 19 response program.

Must Duque be blamed for the lack of mass testing capability? In case these Senators haven’t noticed, the Philippines isn’t the only nation that struggled with mass testing capabilities. Even the great United States of America was stymied in that area. The Covid 19 is a new virus, and the production of mass testing kits was limited. The pandemic hit the whole world at the same time. In the mad rush for testing kits, the Philippines had to compete with other nations to get hold of these testing kits.

Maybe the Senators ought to be reminded that government procurement was hampered by stringent procedures before the emergency was declared. In fact, my friend Minority Leader Franklin Drilon was quick to tell the DOH it could not do away with RA 9184 in trying to procure testing kits and personal protective equipment (PPE). By the time the emergency powers were granted, the rest of the world was already ablaze with the disease.

This is the reason that we had to depend on donations from China, South Korea and other nations for our Covid 19 response capability at the start of this crisis.

On the matter of FDA approval for testing laboratories, the Senators must understand that it isn’t a matter of filling up application forms and pushing the paperwork around. There are strict protocols to be followed. And the FDA was overwhelmed by avalance of bureaucratic challenges that included evaluation of locally produced testing kits and potential drugs. It was like a squad of the Army being attacked by the entire New People’s Army at the crack of dawn.

No matter how great the pressure was on them, the FDA could not afford to take short-cuts, unlike what the government did when then DOH Secretary Janette Garin pushed for the early approval of Dengvaxia vaccine and pave the way for its anomalous procurement in 2015.

I admit Duque lacks certain qualities that inspire public confidence. But I don’t think it amounts to critical leadership lapses that endangered people’s lives. We must not lose sight of the fact that we have effectively contained the virus after a month, notwithstanding the failure of local government units in Metro Manila to strictly enforce the home quarantine. The numbers do not lie. The Philippines still ranks low in terms of Covid 19 infections.

Finally, these Senators need to be reminded that Duque needs only to have the full trust and confidence of one person: President Rodrigo Roa Duterte. If he has accountability, it’s to the President of the Republic, unless, of course, he has broken laws. So far, the issue is more of his perceived lack of leadership by standards imposed by Senators who don’t have a clue about what the situation demands. It’s a matter that’s outside their league.

It would be better for them to let the crisis end before Senator Poe gets back to her practice of unproductive investigations in aid of legislation.

Iloilo on the world stage in fight vs. Covid 19

The images of Ilonggo doctors, nurses and hospital staff wearing brightly-colored personal protective clothing have spread across the world to bring cheer and hope to the hundreds of millions of people quarantined in their homes because of the corona virus pandemic.

It just started as an idea on how to provide PPEs for Iloilo hospitals at a time when these were in short supply. A nurse at the Medical City, Andre Pe, decided medical front-liners shoudn’t have to wait until the first shipments of PPEs arrived in Iloilo City. The Covid 19 virus wasn’t about to slow down to give our hospitals time to prepare.

Pe, who has a passion for fashion design, took out his pencils and paper and went to work. He quickly drew a design for PPEs that volunteers could use to sew them. Iloilo City mayor Jerry P. Trenas came to know about the initial batch of PPEs that Pe and his group had turned out, and he saw it was an answer to Iloilo’s inadequate supply to shield frontliners from this deadly virus. He directive mass production of the PPEs.

Pe’s design called for bright colors of liquid-repelling materials. There was blue, red, pink, black and white. In a few days, the production lines were churning attractive-looking PPEs. It certainly lifted the spirits of the doctors, nurses and hospital staff that started wearing them. Instead of letting the threat of Covid 19 to worry them, they started posting pictures and videos of themselves wearing the locally-produced PPEs.

The images and videos instantly captured the hearts of people here and abroad. These were shared and reshared on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Ilonggos taught people around the world that we know how to fight this disease, and fight we will with flair and cheer. It wasn’t just about the PPEs being colorful and attractive. The effort has even adopted movie themes like “Star Wars” to add fashion flavor to the design.

The viral photos and videos also reflect the solid community effort that has been put into Iloilo’s efforts against the corona virus. Trenas and Governor Arthur Defensor, Jr., along with the local chief executives of the province, have done well to enforce the enhanced community quarantine to keep the virus from infecting more people. From the reports of the DOH, Iloilo has effectively contained the virus. The number of infections has been kept to a minimum.

On a personal note, I am saddened that a close family friend in Roxas City has become a casualty of the virus. The feeling is different when somebody you know falls victim to Covid 19. In the past, the soaring number of deaths were clinical statistics as I watched the WHO and DOH briefings on a daily basis. But when the sad news about my friend’s death reached me, I discovered that the Covid 19 pandemic is much closer to me than I was prepared to accept.

It reinforces the message that nobody is safe from Covid 19. You can never know who might be a carrier of the virus. Even a healthy looking individual can be a bearer of death. Hence, it’s absolutely necessary that we adhere to the home quarantine that’s being enforced. Just by staying at home, we can save lives. This is a crucial part of the containment strategy that is the only effective way to bring the pandemic to a halt.

Grace Poe pumapapel sa gitna ng krisis

Kumukulo ang dugo ko dahil sa pagbatikos na naman ni Senator Grace Poe sa Department of Health sa binili nitong mga protetive personal equipment o PPE para sa ating mga doctors, nurses at iba pang frontliners na lumalaban sa Covid 19 pandemic.

Overpriced daw ang binili ng DOH sa halagang P1,800 bawat set ng PPE. Sa kanyang canvass daw, ang bawat isa ay pumipresyo lang ng P400 hanggang P1,000 per set. Pero hindi naman niya sinabi kung saan siya nag canvass, at kung ano ang material na ginamit para dito.

Sa paglilinaw ni DOH Undersecretary Ma. Rosario Vergeire, hindi pare-pareho ang paggawa ng mga PPE. Ayon sa kanya, itong binili ng DOH ay top-of-the-line. Pinakatibay panglaban sa mga infectious disease. Kaya may kamahalan

Oo nga naman, Senator Grace.

Kahit sa anong gamit, iba iba ang presyo. May fake na Rolex na mabibili mo sa halagang P500. Yung genuine at hindi mo mabili ng mas mababa sa P250,000. Meron pa nga milyon-milyon. It’s the same thing with cell phones and many other gadgets. May peke. May genuine. Siyempre mura ang peke.

More than that, we are living in dangerous times. And that danger is nowhere more present than our hospitals where Covid 19 patients are being treated. Our doctors, nurses, medical technologists, staff and even janitors are exposed to the virus 24/7.

Hindi na kailangan pang ipaliwanag ang panganib na hinaharap nila. As of last night, 19 na yata ang mga doctor na namatay dahil sa sakit na ito.

Sa ganitong sitwasyon, time is of the utmost essence. Rush, rush, rush. At lahat na bansa ngayon ay nag-aagawan para makabili ng PPEs para sa kanilang mga hospital frontliners. It’s the basic law of supply and demand at work. The DOH just had to buy by the hundreds of thousands of sets ASAP. Wala nang panahon upang makipagtawaran.

Gusto lang talaga ni Senator Poe na magpaporma at the expense of the government’s efforts to combat this pandemic. What is she trying to prove? That she is for clean government? Holy shit! Puro Senate investigation na nga lang ang ginagawa niya. Wala namang positive output.

For example, she conducted hearings into the drug situation in Iloilo just before the 2016 elections. She was running for President, and apparently, she figured it would help varnish her image if she looked to be tough on illegal drugs.

Subalit wala namang nangyari pagkaraan ng limang taon. Poof! The issue vanished into thin air.

Kaya Madam Senator, please keep your mouth shut at this time.

We heal as one, but dilawans keep pulling nation down

Two days ago, inulunsad ang isang serye ng mga online concerts na may tema na “We heal as one” sa gitna ng krisis dulot ng Covid 19 pandemic sa bansa.

Indeed, this is a time for everybody to close ranks and fight this disease as one people. Mas malubha pa sa pandaigdig na digmaan ito. Kailangan magtulongan tayo upang masugpo ang sakit. Sana makalimutan muna ang political divisiveness. Malaking kahirapan ang nasa harap natin, pero kailangan maging matatag ang kalooban natin at mag-tiis. This requires big sacrifice.

Kaya nalulungkot ako na makita ang mga dilawan at mga leftist groups na patuloy na ina-atake ang ating gobyerno on the propaganda front. Uma-agaw eksena sila sa bawat pagkakataon. Walang pahinga sa paghanap ng dahilan upang maka reklamo. Gusto nila ipalabas na hindi ginagawa ng gobyerno ang katungkulan nito sa taong bayan.

There will be a time for accountability. But not now.

Bigyan natin ang gobyerno, lalo na si President Duterte, ng pagkataon na mamuno na walang hadlang at abala. Kung may kapalpakan sa mga ahensiya, nakakasiguro ako na nakikita yan ni President Duterte. Hiindi nakakatulong ang pag-iingay.

LET US HEAL AS ONE.

Ambush ni Kim Chiu part of destabilization plot

From day one after the news came out that actress Kim Chiu was ambushed in Quezon City on March 4, a thought had already occupied my mind that this was not what it looked like: an attack on a young celebrity in the streets of the national capital.

And the more I puzzled over the incident, the idea gradually formed that there’s a sinister plot behind it, and the target wasn’t Kim Chiu. It didn’t take long before I became convinced it was a staged ambush to cause widespread anger about the leadership of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte.

Isa po itong pakulo ng mga dilawan sa kanilang patuloy na black propaganda campaign against the Duterte government. Their purpose is to bring down President Duterte and pave the way for Vice President Leni Robredo to ascend to the Presidency.

Panoorin niyo ang viral video na ginawa ko sa YouTube:

Mag-ingat! Uma-atake ang dilaw na veerus!

As millions of Filipinos live in fear because of the corona virus (Covid 19) pandemic now sweeping through the archipelago, it is lamentable to see the yellow army stepping up their propaganda campaign to erode the people’s confidene in our government.

Wala silang pahinga sa pagpakalat ng kasinungalingan at distorted na impormasyon sa social media sa kanilang plano na pahina-in ang pamahalaan ni President Duterte kahit na araw-araw, lumalala ang sitwasyon sa ating bansa.

They want to sow fear and confusion. They want to destabilize the government.

Alam nilang abala si Pangulong Duterte at ang kanyang Cabinet, kaya sinasamantala nila ang sitwasyon upang atakehin na parang anay ang kalooban ng ating bansa. Inu-udyok nila ang taong bayan na magalit kay Pangulong Duterte.

May masamang balak sila. Gusto nila i-oust si Pangulong Duterte at papalitan ni Leni Robredo.

Panoorin niyo po ang YouTube video na ito upang ma-unawaan.

Benenta na ba nila ang kanilang kaluluwa?

Judging from the actions and statements coming from a number of Senators and Congressmen and -women, it would seem that they have swept aside standards of ethical behavior to accommodate a panicky oligarch-owned television and radio network in its bid to obtain a new franchise from Congress.

For instance, Senator Grace Poe is breaking the rules on the grant of legislative franchises in pushing for an early hearing on the network’s renewal application which has remained stuck in the Lower House. Alam ni Poe na hindi makagalaw ang Senado hanggat na-approve na ng House of Representatives ang bill para sa panibagong franchise. Sa ngayon, wala pa kahit bill. Application pa lang.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, who acknowledges that ABS-CBN cannot operate without a franchise, is trying to introduce a band-aid solution by filing a Joint Resolution to give the network authority to operate until December 31, 2022. Baka lang kinakalawang na si Manong Frank, pero franchise po ang kailangan. Sir, alam mo yan na hindi mapalitan ng Joint Resolution ang franchise. Wala naman sa batas ang temporary legislative authority, di po ba?

Dalawang bagay lang yan.

It’s either takot sila sa ABS-CBN, or lobby money is at work.

This is the tragedy of this Republic. Meron pa rin tayong mga elected officials na nakakalimot ng kanilang totoong tungkulin, at ito po ang maglingkod para sa mamayan at hindi para sa mayayaman.

PRESS FREEDOM: Hindi panangga ito sa ginawang kasalanan

Wala tayong mahanap na provision sa 1987 Constitution na nagbibigay sa mga media organizations o mga kasapi nito ng karapatan na mag-violate sa mga batas ng bansa by just invoking PRESS FREEDOM.

The Constitution protects freedom of the press. Ibig sabihin, kailangan mabigyan ang ating media ng sapat na kalayaan sa pag report ng balita o pagbigay ng mga kommentaryo tungkol sa mga pangyayari sa lipunan. But even that right is not absolute. May libel laws tayo na nagbabawal ng mga malisyosong pag print o broadcast ng mga bagay na maaraming maka-sira sa pangalan o pagkatao ng iba. Hindi porket totoo ay puwede na nating isulat at post sa Facebook o Twitter o ilabas sa media.

Ang kaso na isinampa sa ABS-CBN ay walang kinalaman sa kung anuman ang mga pahayag nito sa television.

Natuklasan ng Office of the Solicitor General na marami silang nagawang violations sa ating batas. Malalaking krimen. Panlilinlang sa mga subscribers nito. The network is alleged to have ripped off hundreds of millions of pesos from illegal transactions. HIndi pa nga yata kasama diyan yung pag-WRITE OFF, o pagbura, ng utang nito sa Development Bank of the Philippines. Utang nila galing sa pera ng bansa, hindi na siningil.

SO WHAT ASSAULT ON PRESS FREEDOM ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT, ABS-CBN?

At malinaw na binibigyan sila ng DUE PROCESS. Pinapadaan ito sa Supreme Court, ang pinakataas na hukoman sa bansa. May pagkakataon itong mapahayag ang panig. Kung talagang wala naman silang ginawa na kasalanan, di ma di-dismiss ang kaso. At wala itong kinalaman sa kanilang application for renewal of franchise. Ang mga Congressmen ang kausapin nila tungkol diyan, hindi si Solicitor General Jose Calida.

Sa madaling salita, huwag niyong gamitin na SHIELD, o panangga, ang pangalan ng PRESS FREEDOM upang maka-iwas kayo sa mga pananagutan sa batas na inireklamo ni Calida sa Supreme Court. Fight on the merits of the case.