POSTSCRIPT / August 12, 2014 / Tuesday


Opinion Columnist

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Only option for PH on sea row is to fight

PANATAG MISTAKE: An American friend who was with the US Marines has what looks like a straightforward answer to the question of how to slay the Chinese dragon nibbling at the fringes of Philippine maritime territory.

Visiting him over the weekend in his house in a wooded area in New Jersey, we got to talk about adobo, shooting wild turkey with a crossbow, taking down North Korean squaddies with his sniper rifle, US military bases, and Chinese communist aggression.

He said it was a mistake for us to have abandoned Panatag (Scarborough) shoal off Zambales, when poachers escorted by Chinese government vessels grabbed it in 2012 and drove away Filipinos from their traditional fishing ground.

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FIGHT FOR IT: But what could we do in the face of superior force? Besides, from Malacañang came the order of the Commander-in-Chief for all Filipino vessels to pull out to avoid the storm blowing in the vicinity of Panatag.

The Marine scoffed at this use of the weather as excuse for running away from a clear act of aggression. Repeating what we all know, he said that one will lose all that he has which he is not ready to defend.

Filipinos should have fought back, he said, with their coast guard or navy rushing to the rescue. With our naval vessels that even Moro kumpits can outrun?, I asked. With whatever you have, he said.

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ONLY OPTION: There is a reason for standing up to the neighborhood bully, even if it may look like madness to President Noynoy Aquino and his yellow advisers.

Asserting sovereign rights is not misplaced braggadocio. To my no-nonsense Marine friend, it is the only option. It is duty.

He explained that once shots are fired, especially if any personnel or sea craft is hit, the United States must join in and respond militarily. It does not matter who fired the first shot, and it will be extremely difficult to show who did.

Bringing the US into the fray is one reason for fighting back when attacked, even at the risk of losing some men and one boat or two. Under the PH-US Mutual Defense Treaty, the US must come to our succor in case of an armed attack.

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IT IS OURS: The US cannot pretend to be still not sure that Panatag is Philippine territory, and therefore not covered by the MDT.

Here is an entry in Wikipedia: “In 1957, the Philippine government conducted an oceanographic survey of the area and together with the US Navy force based in then US Naval Base Subic Bay in Zambales, used the area as an impact range for defense purposes. An 8.3-meter-high flagpole flying a Philippine flag was raised in 1965. An iron tower that was to serve as a small lighthouse was also built and operated the same year. In 1992, the Philippine Navy rehabilitated the lighthouse and reported it to the International Maritime Organization for publication in the List of Lights.

“The 1900 Treaty of Washington provided that any and all islands belonging to the Philippine archipelago, lying outside the lines described in Article III of the Treaty of Paris, were also ceded to the United States. This included Scarborough Shoal, which is outside the Treaty of Paris treaty lines. In effect, the Treaty of Washington amended the Treaty of Paris, so that the islands ceded by Spain to the US included islands within and outside the Treaty of Paris treaty lines, so long as Spain had title or claim of title to the islands.”

It would be a different matter, however, if the US is neither ready nor willing to engage China and may in fact have forewarned President Aquino against firing or provoking the first shot over Panatag.

As a Pilipino expression goes, there can be any reason when one wants to do it but a myriad excuses if one does not want to.

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LET GO!: Meanwhile, it looks like it is time for President Aquino to start cutting losses to save whatever is left of his political capital and leave the table with enough chips to stay popular and relevant.

With only one year left of his six-year term (not counting the sixth year which will be eaten up by the 2016 elections), he has to make quick decisions on several issues complicating the end-game of his administration.

We are not privy to Aquino’s political entanglements, but from our vantage we see that:

He does not owe DILG Secretary Mar Roxas any political favor for stepping aside in 2010 to let him have the Liberal Party presidential nomination. It is Roxas who should thank Aquino for snatching him from sure defeat as LP standard bearer then.

As ruling party, the LP has not contributed significantly to making life better for Filipinos. On the contrary, LP carpetbaggers have abused their being with the administration, and gotten away with flouting Aquino’s tuwid na daan reform program.

While his intentions may be honorable, many of his plans and programs have been corrupted by some operators around him.

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DROP THEM!: Banking on Aquino’s obstinacy, this citizen would like to see him take these actions:

Stop this pointless parading of Roxas as his chosen successor. The pretender has been given more than enough time and space to prove himself, but he simply does not have it.

Suspend, dismiss and/or jail a number of his Cabinet members and second liners who are notoriously undesirable, obviously corrupt or bereft of any concern for those who have less in life. An example is Budget Secretary Florencio Abad.

Four years of the LP pretending to help him, a neophyte executive, run the government has not resulted in any impressive gain, especially in poverty alleviation, job generation, peace and security, and the other basic concerns.

His loyalty should not be to the Liberal party or his gratitude to Roxas, but to his real bosses, the people.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of August 12, 2014)

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