POSTSCRIPT / May 19, 2011 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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US defense of Phl nice to hear, but…

CLARK FIELD — It was nice of US Ambassador Harry Thomas Jr. to assure Filipino guests on board the visiting nuclear aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson last Monday that the United States is ready to stand by these fair islands whenever their security is threatened.

“This is a commitment born of our shared histories and close ties, and we are proud to stand by your side,” Thomas said.

What the crowd did not hear — not because of the wind blowing across the deck of the warship but because the envoy did not say it — was that the avowed readiness to stand by us was only if the threat came in the form of an aggressive attack from outside and if military reaction has been approved first by the US Congress.

In short, the United States’ retaliation to an external threat to us is not instant and all-inclusive. Under our 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty signed with the US in August 1951, such a paper commitment for the Americans to come to our rescue is still subject to its “congressional processes.”

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NOT INSTANT: Of course it would be a different story if American forces in the Philippines, visiting or otherwise, were the prime target of such an attack. In this case, hitting back would be a US military reflex action, treaty or no treaty.

Come to think of it, that might be a good idea: Keep US forces in our midst if only to ensure instant and considerable American retaliatory action in case we are attacked and some American personnel get sideswiped.

In the meantime, however, it might make for goodwill and credibility if the US pays fully and immediately the benefits long promised Filipino veterans who fought in the American war against the Japanese several decades past.

Caught in the usual US “congressional processes,” payment of veterans’ compensation has dragged so long that many of the pitiful beneficiaries, faithfully wearing their uniforms, caps and service medals, have died before seeing full payment.

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YOKOHAMA EXPANSION: On Monday, in this former US military base, the Yokohama Rubber Co. Ltd. will break ground for the 300,000-square-meter expansion of its plant, injecting an additional P27 billion to its present investment at the Clark Freeport Zone.

Clark Development Corp. President and CEO Felipe Antonio Remollo said the expansion of Yokohama’s present 165,000-square-meter plant will require boosting its Filipino labor force from the present 2,000 to 5,000.

With its plant working area growing to 460,000 square meters, its current output of 7 million tires every year is expected to grow to 10 million next year, 13 million in 2013, and 17 million by 2017, making it the biggest Yokohama plant outside Japan.

Remollo said there are now 424 locators here, employing 60,000 workers – a far cry from the 25,000 Filipinos when it was still under the US military. The US base lease ran out in 1991, when the Military Bases Agreement lapsed, coincidentally with the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo.

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TOP EXPORTERS: Based on export revenues of locators, Yokohama placed second with its $226,959,384 earnings in 2010. The garments sector here chalked up $140,604,105 to rank third.

Put up in 1996, Yokohama in Clark manufactures tires (for export) with internal diameters of from 13 to 18 inches for passenger cars and sports utility vehicles. Most of the tires are exported to Europe, North America and the ASEAN market.

In 2010, overall Clark exports increased by $454 million, surpassing by that much the $890-million exports value covering the same 12-month period in 2009.

Top Clark exporter was Nanox Philippines Inc., a Japanese manufacturer of liquid crystal display (LCD) items that earned $767,222,152, which was the bulk of the total $916,332,584 brought in by all electronic products made in Clark.

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SMUGGLING RAPS: Phoenix Petroleum Phils. Inc. is hurting from the smuggling charges filed by the customs bureau for its alleged non-payment of P5-billion in levies on its oil importations from June 2010 to April 2011.

Vowing to clear itself, the firm said the charges were preposterous as, being a publicly listed corporation, it has been careful about integrity and transparency, especially in its tax payments and its reporting to shareholders. It was one of the first to release financial statements for 2010.

Phoenix said it was impossible for it not to pay the proper taxes in its oil importations, because the banks would not have issued it letters of credit if the right taxes had not been paid.

The firm lamented that the charges were filed with the Department of Justice without the customs·bureau bothering to communicate first with it or its officials.

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PHOENIX RECORD: If there was communication from Customs in good faith, it said, any point of misunderstanding or confusion could have been explained away without the case degenerating into a trial by publicity.

Phoenix pointed to its record as No. 211 among the country’s top 1,000 corporations in 2009 with a declared first-quarter revenue of P6.1-billion this year, 122 percent higher than the P2.75 billion it made during the same period last year. It reported a 95-percent increase in volume year-on-year.

As part of its corporate social responsibility, it said, it has been involved in environmental protection, health and education projects.

It said it was not fair that suddenly its corporate reputation was ruined by one baseless and malicious accusation.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of May 19, 2011)

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