POSTSCRIPT / June 19, 2012 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Phl losing territory bit by painful bit?

IT DEPENDS: The defense department says that the pullout of Philippine ships from the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoals would not weaken the country’s claim over the disputed area 124 nautical miles off Zambales.

That is an “it depends” scenario that the defense people are gambling on. That the pullout, occasioned by stormy weather in the area, would not jeopardize the Philippine claim depends on:

* If China would also pull out its more than 20 ships in the area in a pre-arranged restoration of the status quo ante while a diplomatic solution is being worked out.

* If Philippine vessels and fishing boats would return promptly, in the normal course, when the bad weather clears up. By the time you read this, typhoon “Butchoy” may have left the country.

(And, btw, is it now the defense establishment speaking for the Philippine government on this conflict with China?)

* * *

PHYSICAL POSSESSION: It was President Noynoy Aquino himself who ordered the pullout of the two Philippine vessels left in the area, raising in our mind the possibility that such a stepping back had been pre-arranged with Beijing.

It cannot be that the President was not aware that physical absence from the shoals would boost China’s hold on Panatag. Actual possession in territorial disputes is a plus-point for the occupier.

Running a country crawling with squatters, land-grabbers and deprived tenants, the President – even in the absence of sound legal advice — must know the risks of abandoning an area to a claimant already in place.

We hope fervently our President has hammered out a deal with Beijing on the pacific resolution of the Scarborough and related conflicts.

* * *

PATTERN: We can only watch now if China would also withdraw its vessels. If it does not, we would have lost to a bullying neighbor another crucial marine outpost within our 200-mile exclusive economic zone.

Still fresh in our mind is the government’s similarly weak handling of the feud, also with China, over Panganiban reef close to Palawan.

The Chinese interlopers kept intruding, and we kept retreating, until they were able to build structures on the reef, thereby cementing their claim by actual occupation.

* * *

BALKANIZATION: Aside from losing bit by painful bit some of our islets and reefs, we may also lose soon a big chunk of Mindanao-Sulu-Palawan to the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Manila negotiators are set to journey shortly to Kuala Lumpur (what is so alluring with Malaysia?) to resume the talks leading to the breaking up of what is supposed to be a stable, solid Philippine Republic.

The irony here is that the United States, which claims to be on our side as a mutual defense partner, has been facilitating what appears to be the coming Balkanization of strategic areas in Southern Philippines.

Has the President noticed also that while the US invokes international law in pressing Manila to resolve territorial disputes peacefully, it has not bothered to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea?

It is the President’s patriotic duty to level with the people and discuss the demands being made on him in exchange for whatever. Who knows, the simple Filipino might be able to help him sort out his dilemma.

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IT’S CEBU!: The Philippines, specifically Cebu City, will host the 51st International Eucharistic Congress in 2016.

The selection of Cebu, where Catholicism got a foothold on the islands in the 1500s, was announced Sunday in Dublin, Ireland, by Pope Benedict XVI at the closing of the 50th congress held there.

From Dublin, the Vatican-based Zenit news network reported:

“Thunderous applause erupted at Croke Park Stadium as Pope Benedict XVI appeared on the video screens to address the closing Mass of the 50th International Eucharistic Congress.

* * *

COMMUNION: “The Holy Father greeted the participants on reflections on the congress theme ‘Communion with Christ and With One Another.’

“He said that the notion of koinonia (communion) has been central to the understanding of the Church, its relationship with Christ, and in the sacraments, particularly, the Eucharist.

“The Pope also spoke of the congress coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council: ‘Based upon a deepening appreciation of the sources of the liturgy, the Council promoted the full and active participation of the faithful in the Eucharistic sacrifice.

“’At our distance today from the Council Fathers’ expressed desires regarding liturgical renewal, and in the light of the universal Church’s experience in the intervening period, it is clear that a great deal has been achieved; but it is equally clear that there have been many misunderstandings and irregularities.’

* * *

JOYOUS NEWS: “Towards the end of his statement, the Pope announced that the 51st International Eucharistic Congress in 2016 would be held in Cebu City, the Philippines.

“As the announcement was made, thousands of participants from the future host nation waved their flags and applauded with joy.

“The Pope said: ‘To the people of the Philippines I send warm greetings and an assurance of my closeness in prayer during the period of preparation for this great ecclesial gathering.  I am confident that it will bring lasting spiritual renewal not only to them but to all the participants from across the globe.’

“Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, archbishop of Dublin, congratulated the diocese of Cebu City on its selection as host of the next Congress: ‘We pray that the Congress will bring the same special blessing to that city and diocese and nation as this Congress has brought to Dublin and Ireland.’”

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of June 19, 2012)

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