POSTSCRIPT / October 30, 2012 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Noy is quiet, but Mar acts against ‘jueteng’

CHINA ISSUES: Bilateral issues with the Philippines, including conflicting territorial claims, are likely to be brought up today when China Ambassador Ma Keqing speaks as guest of the Tuesday Club forum at the Edsa Shangri-La hotel.

PhilSTAR columnist Tony Katigbak, TC chair, said he expects an overflow crowd that includes media, public relations and advertising executives, as well as businessmen and government officials.

Ambassador Ma may want to clarify Malacañang stories that there is an agreement for the two neighbors to pull out their government vessels from the Panatag (Scarborough) shoal off Zambales to defuse the tense situation.

The envoy may also want to comment on a statement of Rear Admiral Luis Tuason, Coast Guard chief, that Chinese ships were still in the Panatag area despite the agreement. The Philippines had pulled out its vessels.

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NEW APPROACH?: President Noynoy Aquino has expressed hope that relations with China will improve after Beijing’s leadership change next month. Vice President Xi Jinping, 59, is set to take over from President Hu Jintao, who turns 70 this December.

China’s neighbors, including claimants to some isles in the West Philippine Sea, are hoping the leadership change will usher in a less-confrontational approach to regional conflicts.

The situation at Panatag and other points in the West Philippine Sea should not end up as a zero-sum game with no winners. In a prolonged stand-off or in a violent confrontation, the small, ordinary Filipinos are the losers.

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WIN-WIN OPTION: It was well and good that a senator who had volunteered to do back channeling had been replaced by Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas II, who gave President Aquino a mature view of the situation and an insight into the incoming leadership.

Malacañang should simmer down and prepare to “talk business” with China. After all, economy and not mere pride is the priority of both countries. And both believe there are considerable mineral and marine life resources in the neighborhood, particularly in Reed Bank.

The Philippines could prolong the stand-off and let the resources go to waste since neither country could develop them — or it could consider a win-win collaboration to benefit both parties.

It has been shown that the Philippines and China, plus other claimant Vietnam, can work together. In 2005, they had joint seismic testing for oil deposits near the Spratlys. The international community lauded the collaboration as an “important step in preserving regional peace.”

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GO’VT-TO-GOV’T: Some multinational groups also want to dig for oil in that area, but chances of this succeeding are dim. China is not likely to allow any private entity, especially one not their own, to siphon off resources within an area it claims.

Beijing may be more amenable to a government-to-government approach involving two sovereign powers talking and mapping out a mutually profitable arrangement.

Once President Aquino pulls this off, the Filipino people will reap the benefit. The belligerence eases and the security climate improves as a potential aggressor becomes a business partner.

If there is oil, we get our share that would not have been realized if the mineral resources remained untapped because of war threatening to erupt any time.

What if there is no oil? That makes for peace too. Both the Philippines and China would be less inclined to mobilize military forces to protect non-existent strategic resources.

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JUETENG: Back home, the cabalen who have learned to live with jueteng gambling are keenly watching Secretary Roxas, who told regional police and elective officials last week that he wanted the illegal numbers game crushed.

Adding political color to his order was the presence of Fr. Eddie “Among Ed” Panlilio, who has been fielded by his Liberal Party against reelectionist Gov. Lilia “Baby” Pineda, wife of a suspected jueteng operator.

Although Panlilio is not an official, policeman ormember of the Regional Development Council then meeting in Clark Field, the priest-turned-politico sat with Roxas at the presidential table.

To make the cut more telling, Roxas issued the anti-jueteng order after Pineda reported on the decline in Pampanga’s crime rate.

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PAYOLA: Despite the denials, it is true that jueteng is thriving in Pampanga and in a number of other provinces.

A mystery is why until now President Aquino has not acted against jueteng as decisively as Secretary Roxas. All I remember Mr. Aquino saying is that jueteng is not a priority issue with him.

Another big question is who now gets the reported multimillion-peso jueteng payola. Then Gov. Chavit Singson said under oath at the 2002 trial of then President Erap Estrada that he delivered suitcases of money regularly to Malacañang.

Since jueteng still flourishes, some say with impunity, it is presumed that the same payola continues to be delivered. By whom and to whom?

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TELCO SERVICE: The National Telecommunications Commission in Western Visayas has set up a One-Stop Public Assistance Center to act faster on complaints on telco services ranging from nakaw load or vanishing prepaid credits to text scams.

NTC Region 6 Director Nestor Antonio Monroy is conducting an information campaign on how the OSPAC can help consumers. Engineer Dygee Gallega, OSPAC officer-in-charge, tells users of the do’s and don’t’s of cellphone usage.

He warns of a new technology where subscribers may be unaware that their new cellphones activated automatically could run up extra charges due to added features in their phones.

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DAILY REPORT: A common complaint is the difficulty of connecting despite telcos’ claimed modernization. For instance, netizens reacted recently to Smart’s system outage that blacked out a large area for several hours, rendering mobile devices useless.

In Congress, Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Jay Velasco has filed HB 6335 requiring cellphone firms to give subscribers a daily billing report that includes the number of calls made, number of SMS, and a summary of charges on both calls and texts.

Cellphone companies should install their own anti-nakaw load system. With the way things look, however, the NTC Western Visayas region might beat the NTC central office to the draw.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of October 30, 2012)

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