POSTSCRIPT / June 28, 2012 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

Share on facebook
Share This
Share on twitter
Twitter

Aquino intimidated by Chinese dragon?

B.S.P. INDEPENDENCE: From her sickbed, Rep. Gloria Arroyo harked back yesterday to her presidency that, she said, “always respected the independence, wisdom and direction of the Central Bank in managing the country’s monetary affairs, including our international reserves.”

Her statement hinted that she feared for the possible erosion of the independence of the Banko Sentral ng Pilipinas in light of the Aquino administration’s lending $1 billion of the country’s reserves to the International Monetary Fund.

The Constitution guarantees the independence of the BSP. Malacañang cannot instruct it to lend money to its former creditor IMF for a flimsy reason, such as the window-dressing of the President’s State of the Nation Address before the Congress on July 23.

* * *

FREED FROM IMF: From the presidential suite of the Veterans Memorial Medical Center, Ms Arroyo said she was gratified that the country was now in a much stronger position in relation to the IMF.

It was in 2006 during her term that the Philippines was able to repay in full the accumulated Philippine debts to the IMF and free itself from its constricting conditionalities.

She said this liberation from the IMF was made possible by her administration’s fiscal reforms and unbroken growth achieved, leading to a strong peso, healthy reserves, and unprecedented economic resiliency.

The repayment of IMF loans by the Arroyo administration made possible the Philippines’ lending back to the IMF, although Malacañang has kept quiet about this detail.

* * *

NAVY WAITING: On the still festering dispute over the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, President Noynoy Aquino will have to think and move fast, considering how the Chinese have been running circles around him.

The President cannot keep relying on the fickle tropical weather to provide him a face-saving reason not to send back to the shoal the naval and fisheries vessels he had pulled out.

Until early yesterday, the Navy has been itching to take back their position at Panatag, but the Commander-in-Chief could not make up his mind about asserting Philippine sovereign rights over the shoal off Zambales.

“The Navy is willing and able to undertake whatever instructions given to us,” Navy chief Vice Admiral Alexander Pama has said on television.

* * *

LIMP MOVE: If the President is afraid to antagonize Beijing by redeploying government vessels, he may try sending private fishing boats. But that spineless gesture of a sovereign party asserting ownership may be ill-advised:

* How will Filipinos venturing into a Chinese-dominated area 124 miles out at sea protect themselves without naval cover? There have been previous harassment incidents of Filipino boats by the Chinese lording it over Panatag.

* Assuming the Chinese will allow Filipinos into the rich fishing ground, the President’s sending private boats has no political value as far as asserting Philippine ownership is concerned.

* Such a move will only reinforce the impression left by wimpy moves of the President that the Philippine government is afraid of the Chinese who continue to cement their presence in the South China Sea.

* * *

STILL POACHING: Either the President miscalculated or misread the mind of the Chinese when they indicated that they would also leave Panatag after Philippine vessels pulled out from Panatag.

Being inexperienced in power diplomacy and clutching at straws, President Aquino merely swallowed what was reported to him as a Chinese agreement to withdraw its vessels and restore the status quo ante.

Asked what he would do if the Chinese did not leave or returned, President Aquino vowed to send back the government vessels. But he did not say when he would do that.

Days after the foreign office announced (erroneously) that Chinese vessels had left Panatag in compliance with the alleged agreement, the defense department disclosed that they never left at all and were still busy poaching!

* * *

NO O.J.T. HERE: Many observers have gotten the impression that the President has been sufficiently intimidated to now tiptoe when he hears the Chinese dragon snorting nearby.

When a vessel with “Hong Kong” emblazoned on its back rammed last week a fishing vessel off Bolinao, Pangasinan, killing one of its crew, the President and his underlings broke their arms keeping China a safe distance from the incident.

Without awaiting a final report, the President became China’s spokesman. He sought to convince the public that the hit-and-run vessel was not a Chinese naval ship and that the incident was just an accident and not a deliberate ramming.

By this time, Mr. Aquino may have realized the point of former President Fidel V. Ramos, a paratrooper, who said that an incoming president must hit the ground running. The country’s CEO does not have the luxury of on-the-job training.

* * *

U.S. UMBRELLA: But then, what options does Mr. Aquino have to extricate himself from the Panatag imbroglio, given that the Philippine armed forces are no match to the Chinese military?

Outside the amateurs surrounding him, to whom can the President turn? The politicians are just out to make hay. The business moguls are out to make more money.

The moral support of the United States has been mainly that – moral support, couched in the tricky verbiage of the Phl-US Mutual Defense Treaty.

President Aquino and his coterie have not snapped out of the illusion that the US will come out fighting for its former colony, out of love for us little brown Americans, if the Chinese navy as much as nudged a Philippine vessels in Panatag.

Maybe the US would take the Philippines under its protective wings if some conditions are met? Will the President, who has a small comfort zone, level with the people and tell them the stiff price we have to pay for protection?

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of June 28, 2012)

Share your thoughts.

Your email address will not be published.