POSTSCRIPT / June 15, 1999 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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No way can China win this battle of the maps

BEIJING is sailing into troubled waters by engaging us in a battle of maps over Scarborough shoal and other disputed islets scattered over the South China Sea.

Haven’t they heard that we have the best cartographers in captivity? Our world-class artists churn out maps and land titles made to order to fit any and all conceivable situations.

You want a geodetic survey map to include a choice slice of your neighbor’s estate? You want to change the course of a river to add a few hundred square meters to your lot hugging the bank? You want to sell vast tracts mapped out from the bay? You name it, we map it.

If President Estrada wants an official-looking Philippine map that includes Scarborough, a sprinkling of Spratleys islets and a few other protrusions in the sea, he can have it first thing tomorrow morning.

* * *

BEIJING is getting careless. It’s threatening to produce an old map showing that some islands that we claim to be part of our archipelago have been theirs centuries before we learned to pronounce Scarborough.

The gung-ho Chinese might just go for the jugular and dust off an even older map showing that what we now know as the Philippines was actually part of ancient China. They even had a Chinese name for these distant parts describing them as a land of gold.

The map-waving of Beijing, however, should not bother us a bit. We can answer them shoal for shoal, map for map – a holding action that President Estrada has started to do.

When Beijing said Scarborough, which it calls Huanyang, is in the Chinese map, our President countered that he would produce a better map showing the shoal to be within our territorial waters. (We’re waiting for it with bated breath.)

While he’s at it, Mr. Estrada might as well include Sabah and other areas we’ve been claiming, and give them Filipino names. I mean, if we have to redraw the map anyway, we might as well have our artists do a more thorough job and save us time and money otherwise spent on later editions of the map.

Just pray that Spain and Portugal do not join the fray and resurrect ancient maps of the entire globe with a north-south line drawn on it by no less than the Pope dividing the new emerging world between the two naval powers.

* * *

ON Sabah, former assemblyman Gerry Espina recalls that when they were drafting the 1973 Constitution, the framers inserted a provision in Article I saying that the Philippine territory shall include “all other territories belonging to the Philippines by historic right or legal title.”

“This in spite of the fact that the newspapers then were alluding that there was a foreign lobby on Sabah,” Espina said. “We, the delegates then, were hoping that perhaps someday under the above provision, we can eventually exercise sovereignty and jurisdiction over Sabah.”

This hope has been shattered, he said, when that provision for our “historic right or legal title” in the definition of the national territory was replaced in the 1987 Constitution with a wimp “and all other territories over which the Philippines has sovereignty or jurisdiction.”

Since we now do not have sovereignty or jurisdiction over Sabah, our claim has been effectively abandoned. If you want further proof that we now officially consider Sabah as part of Malaysia, look at the consulate we have established in that foreign land.

Espina laments: “We already provided for Sabah’s recovery in the 1973 Constitution, yet we removed it in 1987 when the present Constitution was adopted. Why?”

Why, and who? Who sold Sabah for 30 pieces of silver?

* * *

ESPINA cites the unfortunate dropping of our “historic right or legal title” as one of the glaring weaknesses of the charter that, he says, needs to be corrected by amendment.

While we ourselves find the Constitution wordy and too detailed, we fear that opening it for amendments at this time will be inviting bigger trouble. Lobbyists pushing various agenda are waiting in ambush and we see no effective foil to their designs.

We can still live with the charter, which has been with us for a dozen years without a major constitutional crisis. Let’s grow with it. More important, let’s give its key reformist provisions a chance to prove their efficacy before we tamper with it.

* * *

BY being remiss in their duty to make the Constitution work, lawmakers should be the last to advocate the revamp of the charter. The suspicion lingers that they want to remove some provisions that go against their selfish interests.

The Constitution has provisions banning political dynasties (Section 26, Article II) as well as private armies and paramilitary forces (Section 24, Article XVIII). However, these provisions can take effect only after Congress passes enabling laws.

But why would lawmakers who have made politics a lucrative family business push legislation enforcing the constitutional ban on political dynasties? Why would they pass an enabling act that would strip them of their private armies?

Now, after deliberately frustrating the intent of the Constitution by blocking enabling acts, they are loudly clamoring for its amendment.

* * *

SAN Juan Mayor Jinggoy Estrada wrote to clarify that local executives are not out to supplant completely lawmakers in pursuing public works projects in the countryside.

Postscript has supported a new procedure pushed by the League of Municipalities of the Philippines headed by Mayor Estrada that gives local executives a big say in public works. We pointed out that the assigned duty of legislators is to enact laws, while that of executives is to execute the law.

After passing the public works budget, we said, lawmakers should leave it to the Executive branch to carry out the budget law. Mayor Estrada clarifies:

  1. The authority of legislators over public works will be respected even if local governments are allowed to handle construction of projects using public works funds. The guidelines require prior consultations with concerned members of Congress.
  2. Congressmen stay as members, together with mayors and governors, of the Provincial Development Council that decides what projects are to be pursued in the locality. Projects will be a communal undertaking.

* * *

IN just six short months, we will know if we passed the test after our cramming against the Y2K or the Millennium Bug threatening to throw into confusion computer-based networks worldwide with the start of the new millennium.

Some of us think this is just a minor problem that can be solved by changing the BIOS chip in a personal computer (PC). Reader Arthur R. Lingad says “this is not just a computer problem, but a management problem, specifically, Risk Management Problem.” He explains:

“Chief Executive Officers should take ownership of the problem and not relegate it to their technical (IT or MIS) managers. When the company shuts down or faces lawsuits because of Y2K, the CEO cannot blame his IT man. Unfortunately, this is the prevailing situation among the top Philippine corporations.

“Most CEOs do not fully comprehend and appreciate the possible devastating effects of Y2K in their organizations. Every time Y2K is mentioned, the CEO calls in his IT person, he can’t be bothered, he has better things to do.

“I can understand this in the light of the dearth of information our own Y2K Commission is putting out. Also if the CEO does not surf the Net, he may not have updated himself on what is going on in the rest of the world.”

* * *

LINGAD continues: “What is unforgivable is if the IT specialists themselves believe that the Y2K problem on PCs resides only in the BIOS. I almost hit the ceiling when I heard a bank IT specialist tell me that his recommendation to solve Y2K is to buy brand-new PCs. He must have been talking to a PC salesman!

“First of all, a brand-new PC does not guarantee that the BIOS is Y2K-compliant. The global purchasing strategy that computer companies follow to be price competitive cannot ensure the hardware to be 100-percent compliant since some parts may come from older production of Third World suppliers.

“But the BIOS is just the obvious tip of the iceberg. There is a lot more to your PC’s Y2K problem than you think. The next level to test is the operating system, Windows to many, then the software applications such as Excel, Quattro Pro, Quicken, etc. Furthermore, you need to test the User data (existing data and spreadsheets may not be Y2K-compliant and can corrupt present data when projected beyond Year 2000. Finally the Data Exchange (this is data from other sources, viz., Internet, diskette, email, etc.)

“These are the five layers of the PC’s Y2K problem. It is not a simple problem, even on the PC level. Multinational companies spend billions of dollars and no less than two years in Y2K remediation and testing. Generally remediation is only 10 percent of the solution. It is the testing that takes so much time and money.”

* * *

THANKS to reader Lawrence Andraschko who emailed to point out that the Treaty of Paris between the United States and Spain was signed in October 1898, not in 1896 as we erroneously wrote in Postscript.

He gave this chronology in 1898: Feb. 1, the US battleship Maine is blown up at a Cuban port; April 11, President McKinley asks Congress to declare war; April 24, Spain declares war on the US; May 1, Commodore Dewey reaches the Manila harbor and destroys the Spanish fleet; July 18, Spain asks France to intercede in negotiations of surrender; Aug. 13, Americans occupy Manila; Oct. 1, Treaty of Paris begins.

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of June 15, 1999)

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