POSTSCRIPT / June 6, 1999 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Scarborough is outside RP, our own map says

HOW can we win the dispute with China over its fishermen poaching in Philippine waters when we cannot even get our maps right?

Asked if she told Chinese fishermen recently caught off Scarborough shoal near Zambales to avoid trouble by not fishing in Philippine waters, Ambassador Fu Ying unrolled maps showing the embarrassing fact (to us Filipinos) that Scarborough is not even in our latest political map.

Addressing yesterday’s overflow kapihan crowd at the Sulo hotel in Quezon City, the lady ambassador pointed to Scarborough lying well outside the line delineating our territorial boundaries.

Are you saying, we followed up, that Scarborough is not Philippine territory? The consummate diplomat said with a smile that she was not saying it, but that that was what our own Philippine map says.

* * *

SOME smart alecks might point out that the map, like many documents floating around with fake signatures, may not be genuine or official.

I sidled up to Second Secretary Wang Ni, who was quietly assisting his ambassador, and asked where they got the map. He grinned and whispered that they bought it from the National bookstore in Makati.

It’s the same map being studied and copied by Filipino school children and being displayed in government offices. Until shown a contrary map, we will assume that it represents a faithful rendition of the correct delineation of Philippine territory as defined in the Constitution.

* * *

THIS disclosure by the lady ambassador is no laughing matter.

The implication is clear: Our Navy was chasing Chinese fishermen, sinking one vessel in the process, in the open seas.

As this crucial point sank in our minds, the ambassador followed through. She stressed that the use of military might to harass the fishermen and sink one of their vessels was the same as (“tantamount to” was her term) forcing a military solution to the dispute over islets in the South China Sea.

Now we’re the ones being pictured as ogres resorting to military might (?) despite solemn commitments made within the auspices of ASEAN and in bilateral talks with China to search for a pacific resolution of conflicting territorial claims in the region.

* * *

THE ambassador went on to tell a tear-jerker of a story about the fishermen who, by the way, had gone back to China on an Air France plane to rejoin their worried families.

She said the fishermen’s families had scrimped and pooled their savings to buy that fishing boat and its gear. Now they’ve lost everything! She repeated the plea of the fishermen to be paid their losses. (President Estrada has said No!)

One of the teeners on the boat told her in tears that he merely joined the fishing trip because he was on vacation. (Reminds us of those two boys from the South who were just visiting their uncle, a top honcho of the Kuratong Baleleng gang, when the police swooped down on their house and arrested everybody. The teeners were later found killed with gang members in the ensuing alleged shootout.)

* * *

EVEN her careful diplomatese failed to hide her message that the Navy was lying when it said that their vessel and the fishing boat slammed into each other because there was bad weather and they were being tossed around by big waves.

She produced technical reports of their weather bureau showing that on that day in that spot near Scarborough, the sea was relatively calm, the weather was fair and visibility was good. The implication is that the Navy was lying.

Ergo, the line goes, if the Navy could lie about something verifiable like the weather, they could be lying with other details of the incident.

The ambassador said she interviewed the fishermen at length and in detail. The facts as she gathered them, she said, point out that the Navy rammed the boat thrice. What’s more, she added, the sailors just watched as the fishermen struggled to keep afloat, and it was only later that they picked up three of them.

* * *

OUR sins of omission are catching up on us. Postscript had pointed out way, way back that until this late date, we have not bothered to delineate our territorial waters and economic zone. We’re supposed to do this under an international Law of the Sea that we had signed a long time ago.

Our maps still show the old boundaries that were carried over from old documents, including the 1896 Treaty of Paris wherein Spain ceded the Philippines to the United States and the new Philippine map produced after we gained independence from the US.

Do we have an official political map showing all the areas that, according to us, are part and parcel of this archipelago? The answer is No. All we have are those maps being sold at National and which are sent to our embassies abroad, government offices and libraries.

If you have one of these maps, look for Scarborough and you will discover, as the Chinese envoy did, that it is outside our boundary.

If our own maps show that shoal to be outside the fence, we have no business chasing, much less sinking, foreign vessels.

* * *

PRESIDENT Estrada, the ladies’ man, will find his match in the new Chinese ambassador, a charming and obviously educated diplomat.

Beijing’s sending her over during the watch of Mr. Estrada and in the midst of ruffled bilateral relationships, is a master stroke.

Even US Ambassador Thomas Hubbard must watch the lady from the corner of his eye as she presents another indicator of Beijing’s attitude toward the new American politics in Asia.

The lady ambassador was very explicit when she reiterated her country’s attitude toward the signing of the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement. She said in reply to a question that as a matter of policy her country is against military alliances.

But she expressed the hope that the VFA would work for – not against – regional peace and stability. China, she added, can only want peace in the region because this is its environment.

* * *

WE nearly forgot, if you have to email us, please address us at fdp333@info.com.ph. We have dropped Yahoo, because it was too time-consuming and therefore expensive.

With Infocom or some other local Internet Service Provider (ISP), you can open and read your mail, update your address book and compose messages while offline, or while you are not connected to your ISP. But with Yahoo, you have to stay on line, while the clock ticks on and your bill piles up.

A reader suggested our using some software or something to enable us to use Yahoo Mail while offline, but we found the procedure too cumbersome. Just getting a second Infocom address was simpler.

Infocom, btw, sent us an explanation of why their new machine that recites a taped holding message takes subscribers in unending circles instead of facilitating technical support. But the message was encoded using a Macintosh and we could not open it. We hope they can resend it using a PC format like MSWord.

* * *

MANY people have asked us which is better to buy: Macintosh (Apple) or PCs (either branded or clones). Maybe they think we know enough o the subject to give expert advice.

What we normally say is that the Macs are or were (what I used to know of them) user-friendly and they last longer but are terribly more expensive. Also, they are in the minority so if you’re using a Mac, sometimes you may not be able to communicate or have your files used by a non-Mac computer.

As for PCs, they are much cheaper, they have become faster and more powerful with the introduction of better processors, especially those of Intel and AMD. And with Windows, PCs have become more user-friendly with their icons, mouse and other accessories. With a PC, you are able to communicate with the rest of the computer world. What’s more, PCs are much much cheaper.

* * *

YOU can even assemble your own PC and save at least 30 percent. You save on 10 percent overhead, 10 percent profit and 10 percent VAT. You can assemble a good enough computer for your kid without spending more than P20,000. Of course, as you raise your options, the costs go higher.

As we said in earlier columns, assembling a computer is very easy, if you have a reasonable background, if you have the aptitude for it, and can wield a screwdriver.

It has grown even easier with the introduction of newer motherboards that no longer require intricate setting of switches or jumpers. The jumpers (which determine the speed, among other details) have been preset in the factory, except for two or three of them. All you have to do is stick in the matching processor and connect everything.

In my case, without any experience in tinkering with the insides of a computer, I learned assembly in a one-day seminar.

* * *

IN the last batch of readers to whom we sent the story of that boy who lost his sister and was about to lose his mother, were: Mae Encarnado, Joy Burgos, glenn fabricnte, Jim&Beth Saladino, artemio baron, vd velazco, Charie Felix, Jose V. Yango Jr., Gemma Llamis, Manuel Z. Jugueta, Rosalie Natalio, Jho Yu, Nathan S.Guevara, Katheryn Penaco, Anthony V. Gatoc, Maudie M. Chua, Federico Termulo, Deo Guevara, Juna Sarabia, and Aida M. Dayrit.

We deleted their email addresses to protect their privacy. There was a longer list of previous batches, but we can’t locate it at the moment. Some of them had bounced back because of errors in their addresses.

Our address book is already bulging and we have this lingering fear that we could be hit by virus slipping in with some incoming email, so we are searching for a way to protect the rest of the hard drive in case a virus manages to penetrate our email box.

We would appreciate advice from the experts.

Meanwhile, please use fdp333@info.com.ph to reach us, instead of using the Yahoo address.

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of June 6, 1999)

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