POSTSCRIPT / July 4, 2013 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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US not ready to call China an aggressor

WHAT’S A FRIEND FOR?: We mark today July 4, that day 67 years ago when the United States gave back independence to Filipinos picking up the pieces from the devastation of the last war with Japan. It was a happy event.

After decades of a roller-coaster love-hate relationship, I dare say that a survey would show that most Filipinos are still infatuated with Uncle Sam.

How we wish our American friends do not take for granted Filipinos who have stood by them even through unhappy times.

We want to know today, for instance, what our friends would do now that that Red Dragon has started breathing fire and grabbing valuable maritime areas within our 200-nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone.

We are not trying to pass on our duty to defend our territory from foreign landgrabbers. It is just that we expect help from supposed all-weather friends.

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SHIFTING, SHIFTY: Will the US quibble over defense treaty terms?

Through a series of treaties, agreements, protocols and declarations, we have been led by Washington to understand that – motivated by its own national interests – the US will help us in the spirit of mutual protection when we become victims of aggression.

In our book, forcible occupation by a foreign power of any part of Philippine territory is aggression.

We have noticed, however, that the US has a shifting, shifty attitude as to the source and nature of aggression or a threat thereof.

In its earlier commitments, it was clear that Communist China was the target of the security alliances that it has inveigled the Philippines (among other Asian allies) into signing. But now the US seems to be telling us: “China ba? Teka muna!”

We are sure US Ambassador Harry K. Thomas knows enough Pilipino to know what that means.

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NOW TERRORISM: We have been told again and again that in foreign relations there are no permanent friends nor permanent foes, but only permanent national interests.

While during the Cold War (1947-1991) Communism dominated the minds of US policy-makers as the super evil devoutly to be vanquished, now they regard it as just one benign ideology that democratic nations can live with.

The US has replaced Communism with Terrorism as the most serious threat to its national security and to the tranquility of the Free World.

And the big shift is starting to tell on how Washington now treats its allies.

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SECURITY ALLIANCES: The Cold War saw much of the world divided between the Western Bloc led by the US and the Eastern Bloc dominated by the Soviet Union. Both camp leaders were then busy loading their nuclear arsenals as the world teetered on the edge of a possible Final War.

The US allies organized the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), while the Communists put up their counterpart Warsaw Pact. It was a classic gangland rivalry for territorial control.

Security alliances were not confined to the Western hemisphere. The US lost no time rounding up its partners and client-states to form mutual defense arrangements in its regional spheres of influence, some of them overlapping just to be sure.

In our part of the world was formed in 1954 the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO). It was to be headquartered in Manila but was moved to Bangkok after the local press pilfered and published secret conference documents. The Philippines was shown to be one big security leak.

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CHINA AGGRESSOR? We are recalling the now-defunct SEATO, to underscore shifting US interests. The eight-nation alliance was sponsored by the US as a foil to Communist China, which even at that time was regarded as a threat to its neighbors and the rest of Asia.

Also, according to sources, in the US reservations in the negotiations for the US-PH Mutual Defense Treaty of 1951 the Americans referred to Communist China as the understood potential source of aggression against treaty-partner Philippines.

But now, after China rolled down its Bamboo Curtain, opened its market to the world (at the same time opening the world market to itself) – and lending trillions of dollars to the US — Washington suddenly stopped regarding Communist China as a threat.

Suddenly, China is a more valuable friend than the Philippines.

Suddenly, the threat is no longer Communism, but Terrorism.

China an aggressor? Teka muna raw!

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SSS ASSAILED AGAIN: Overburdened members of the Social Security System have been joined by congressmen in demanding that the SSS junk its plan to raise monthly premium contributions to generate money for upgrading benefits.

The SSS is supposed to amass contributions from members and their employers, then invest the money wisely to earn more money to give out as loans and benefits. Why should members finance their own benefits?

Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares said that instead of raising contributions, SSS should refund the P788.8 million in advance interest it collected from members for their loans, as found by the Commission on Audit last year.

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REFUND SOUGHT: State Auditor Delia Agatep said SSS collected an advance interest of P982.61 on a P20,000 salary loan. The rate applied was actually 18.45 percent and not 10 percent per annum.

“The COA revealed that SSS has been charging member-borrowers an exorbitant 18.45 percent interest rate,” Colmenares said. “This is unjust and unfair even banks don’t do it. This is their own money they are borrowing.”

“Aside from the immediate refund of excess interest income, the SSS should concentrate on how it can raise the pensions of members. It should collect from delinquent employers who owe the system around P45.5 billion,” he said.

He and other party-list congressmen have filed a bill pegging the minimum SSS monthly pension at P7,000.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of July 4, 2013)

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