POSTSCRIPT / March 21, 2005 / Sunday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Malaysia wins Sipadan, Ligitan; Sabah is next?

WIT & CLASS: A Filipino walks into a bank in New York City and asks for the loan officer. He tells the loan officer that he is going to the Philippines on business for two weeks and needs to borrow $5,000.

The bank officer tells him that the bank will need some form of security for the loan, so the Filipino hands over the keys of a new Ferrari. The car is parked on the street in front of the bank. The Filipino produces the title and everything checks out.

The loan officer agrees to accept the car as collateral for the loan. The bank’s president and its officers all enjoy a good laugh at the Pinoy for using a $250,000 Ferrari as collateral against a $5,000 loan. An employee of the bank then drives the Ferrari into the bank’s underground garage and parks it there.

Two weeks later, the Pinoy returns, repays the $5,000 and the interest, which comes to $15.41.

The loan officer says, “Sir, we are very happy to have had your business, and this transaction has worked out very nicely, but we are a little puzzled. While you were away, we checked you out and found that you are a multimillionaire. What puzzles us is why you would bother to borrow $5,000.”

The Pinoy replies: “Where else in New York City can I park my car for two weeks for only $15.41 and expect it to be there when I return?”

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GAS GUZZLER: Is this account of a Pinoy and his Ferrari in Nuyok true? It could be a mere rehash of an older tale, but the story, pulled down from the Internet, is good enough for me to use as intro for your Sunday reading.

For the curious, I checked out the $250,000 price mentioned in the story and found it probably correct (assuming our Pinoy millionaire drives the latest Ferrari).

The 2005 model of Ferrari 612 Superamerica, a four-seater with a 5.7-liter, 12-cylinder engine, is priced from $247,850 to $259,655. It runs 10 miles to the gallon (4 km/liter) in the city, and 17 miles/gallon (7 km/liter) on the freeway.

All you four-cylinder motorists in Manila may cringe at the thought of the gasoline that that V12 Ferrari guzzles just to warm up. But then, we assume that anyone who can buy a Ferrari can afford the most exotic gasoline laced with gold dust.

To buy at that price, it would help if you were an illegal logger, a drug lord, a smuggler, a government contractor, a Logcom general or a pork barrel-addicted solon.

If you are in that league, you might consider buying a BMW X-5 essuvee for the maid to use when she goes to the wet market with one of your family drivers.

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WHERE TO DRIVE?: Okay, you buy a Ferrari — or for that matter any of these models (in alphabetical order so there is no pushing) that many car aficionados lust after: Audi TT, BMW Z4, Cadillac XLR, Chevy SSR, Chrysler Crossfire, Ford Mustang, Jaguar XK, Lexus SC430, Mazda RX-8, Mercedes Benz SLK, Nissan 350Z Roadster and Porsche Boxter — but where do you drive it at optimum speed?

In Metro Manila, the main artery EDSA has been ruined by the reckless builder of the MRT and further ripped up by the contractors doing “block repaving” who actually lay the basis for a bigger work area by breaking adjoining blocks.

Then the MMDA joined in and reduced the passable lanes by inserting U-turns in wild abandon. And in exasperation over undisciplined motorists, MMDA chairman Bayani Fernando installed wire fences to keep everybody in line.

We do not know when or where the experimentation will end. Maybe it will never end, as somebody has to think of new and bigger contracts to keep the juice flowing.

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SOVEREIGNTY: The point I raised last time: “Will the genuine Sulu Sultan please stand up?” elicited a reaction from former Ambassador Rodolfo Arizala, our active correspondent in Santiago, Chile.

He said Malaysia’s paying rental to the Sulu sultan is also relevant to the issue of sovereignty:

“It may be recalled that the Deed of Cession made by the Sultan of Sulu to the Republic of the Philippines dated Sept. 12, 1962, is subject to a resolutory condition: that if the Republic of the Philippines ‘should fail to recover North Borneo after exhausting all peaceful means, then the transfer document shall ipso facto become null and void and the Sultan of Sulu shall be free to assert his sovereignty.’

“With reference to the statement quoted in POSTSCRIPT that ‘In 1915 the Sultan was forced to sign the Carpenter’s agreement with the United States, leaving him no sovereign power but was merely reduced to a symbolic leader of the people and their faith,’ Governor General Carpenter in a letter dated May 4, 1920, to the Bureau of Non-Christian Tribes made it clear that the sovereignty of the Sultan of Sulu over Sabah remains and is not affected by the Carpenter Agreement of 1915.”

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DROP CLAIM IF…: The main point I have been driving at is that the Philippine claim on Sabah is still there and should therefore be uppermost in our officials’ mind when they deal with the cunning Malaysians.

Now if the daughter of then President Diosdado Macapagal no longer believes in the validity of the claim researched on and formally pushed by her father, then let us not beat around the bush. Let President Arroyo as the country’s spokesman in foreign affairs say so officially and thereby improve relations with Kuala Lumpur.

But if the case is still active, why is President Arroyo allowing our officials and diplomats to do and say things that clearly jeopardize the long-term viability of our claim?

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INDON PARALLEL: Read this posting by writer Richel Langit excerpted from titled “Indonesia: Islands in the storm” and note the parallel with our neglected Sabah claim:

JAKARTA — Indonesia is scrambling to keep its territorial integrity after the International Court of Justice (ICJ) awarded Sipadan and Ligitan islands to neighboring Malaysia.

There are at least four more islands that Indonesia might lose if the principle of continuous administration — employed by the ICJ in awarding Sipadan and Ligitan to Malaysia after both claimants failed to present solid legal proof of ownership over the two islets off the northeastern tip of Indonesia’s East Kalimantan province — is applied.

The four islands still in question are Nipah off Riau province, which is now controlled by Singapore; an unnamed small island off West Kalimantan province occupied by Thai fishermen; Miangas island off Sangir Talaud in North Sulawesi, currently occupied by Philippine fishermen; and Ashmore reef, situated south of Kupang, the provincial capital of Indonesia’s East Nusa Tenggara.

With the exception of Ashmore reef, Nipah, Miangas, and the unnamed small island in Indonesia’s West Kalimantan province are generally recognized as Indonesia’s islands, but the country has yet to exercise sovereignty over them.

Aside from these four islands, however, more than 80 small islands are scattered across Riau, North Sulawesi, Maluku, West Nusa Tenggara, East Nusa Tenggara, and Papua provinces. Most of those islands are neglected though they form part of the country’s territorial boundary.

Theoretically, other countries could come and take over those “neglected” islands and should Indonesia protest, they could insist on bringing their case to the international court, where they could be expected to win in the light of the principle of sovereignty exercise or continuous administration.

Indonesia, the world’s biggest archipelagic country, stretching almost 5,000 kilometers from the Asian mainland into the Pacific Ocean, has more than 17,000 islands, only 3,000 of which are inhabited. The rest are not only unoccupied but also left neglected, and most of them do not even have a name. Fears are running high that Indonesia could lose some of these unnamed islands.

The ICJ ruled that neither Indonesia nor Malaysia had a title-based claim to the small islands, but Kuala Lumpur had shown “manifestations of state authority” over the islands, notably in the 1930s under British rule, while Indonesia did not protest Malaysia’s actions until 1969.

Still, any attempt by Indonesia to exercise sovereignty over neglected outlying islands is likely to be undermined by the current prolonged economic crisis and ill-equipped armed forces. Indonesia, once considered one of Asia’s economic powerhouses, was brought to its knees in 1997 when financial crisis plunged it into deep economic recession.

Home Affairs Minister Hari Sabarno has urged regional administrations to oversee outlying islands and exercise the country’s sovereignty over them by setting up monuments, assigning security officials there or moving some Indonesian communities to neglected islands.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of March 20, 2005)

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