Duterte pushing US, China to 'bidding war'
WITH less than a year left of his term, President Duterte is pressing the United States and China to compete for his favor as the two powers fight for ascendancy in the Indo-Pacific region that has become a flashpoint for possible hostilities.
With time ticking away fast and Duterte’s terms for continued US military operations in the Philippines growing stiffer, the matter may have to be referred with urgency to President Biden himself.
Duterte telegraphed the urgency days ago: “I just want to…speak or communicate or I just want to talk to some people in Washington, be it from the Office of the President or the State Department or the Defense Department.” No quick reply has been reported.
In contrast, Duterte is usually able to tell Beijing what he wants, sometimes talking directly to China President Xi Jinping, his supposed friend who had promised to do all that is needed to keep him in power.
Duterte used to play small change, talking of the canceled US visa of his protege Sen. Bato de la Rosa and the need for COVID-19 vaccines. But with the contraction of the economy, the spread of the pandemic, and the coming end of his term, he wants Washington to move faster.
Early this week, he reiterated his notice for the termination of the 1998 Visiting Forces Agreement which, together with the 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement and the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty, serves as basis for US military operations in the country.
The talks about basing, rental and military aid could have been accelerated during the Trump presidency, with a visit to the White House as a bonus, but there was doubt about the wisdom of having them seen together when Trump was running for reelection.
Last week, the US voiced support for the 2016 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague upholding the Philippine challenge to the expansive claim of China over most of the South China Sea including sections of Philippine maritime areas.
Aside from the gesture being five years late, it was all words. At the moment, Duterte wants to see action, and the quick delivery of critical items, including armed forces materiel and rental for the use of Philippine military facilities.
If the US wants to estimate how much Duterte wants, it can recall that some 35 years ago then-President Marcos demanded $900 million in military and economic aid over a period of years.
Biden must note that China is ready with its own offers. After his inauguration in 2016, Duterte lost no time making a pilgrimage to Beijing where he announced his breaking away from Uncle Sam and his opening up to his Chinese neighbor.
… While we’re in the mood for reminiscing, Duterte must remember also that weeks after Marcos demanded stiff base rentals, a People Power Revolution materialized and chased him out to exile.
• Olympians to use cardboard beds!
WHAT, the world’s top athletes who are in Tokyo to compete in the Games have to sleep – somewhat like Manila’s homeless in pre-pandemic days – on cardboard spread tatami-style in the Olympic Village?
We can imagine that knee-jerk reaction of some Filipinos to that headline mentioning Olympic “cardboard beds”, especially those who knew Manila by night before COVID-19 protocols swept away the vagrants sleeping on cardboard mats on sidewalks.
Another cultural warp is suggested in the tweet of American athlete Paul Chelimo on the Olympic beds’ being “able to withstand the weight of a single person to avoid situations beyond sports”. His post triggered stray thoughts about sex in bed.
His tweet: “Beds to be installed in the Olympic Village will be made of cardboard, this is aimed at avoiding intimacy among athletes. Beds will be able to withstand the weight of a single person to avoid situations beyond sports.”
Others locked in their COVID-19 mental frame speculated that the cardboard beds were probably designed to prevent the spread of the deadly virus in the Olympic Village. Well…
(On July 19, Tokyo reported a total of 190,000 COVID-19 cases, 178,000 recoveries and 2,253 deaths. Japan has been slow in importing vaccines as it races to produce its own.)
It was a relief then that the day after Chelimo’s tweet, Irish gymnast Rhys McClenaghan posted a short video showing him jumping up and down on an Olympic cardboard bed frame (not a mat!) to show how strong the bed was. He said while bouncing on it:
“In today’s episode of fake news at the Olympic Games, the beds are meant to be anti-sex. They’re made out of cardboard, yes, but apparently they’re meant to break at any sudden movements. It’s fake, fake news.”
The team manning the Olympics Twitter account liked that and replied: “Thanks for debunking the myth. You heard it first from @TeamIreland gymnast @McClenaghanRhys – the sustainable cardboard beds are sturdy!”
“Sustainability” popped up as the rationale behind the beds. In a July 19 report, the TODAY show on NBC explained:
“Back in January 2020, Olympics organizers told the Associated Press that they were planning to create cardboard beds so that they could be recycled into paper products after the games were over.
“Despite being made of cardboard, the beds aren’t flimsy. They can support 440 pounds, Takashi Kitajima, the general manager of the Athletes Village, told AP at the time, insisting they would be ‘stronger than wooden beds.’ In addition, each mattress, not made of cardboard, will be recycled into plastic products.”
Reports on the cardboard beds also reminded us of tatami, a native mat made mainly of rush grass, seen in many traditional Japanese homes. Tatami mats are also used in Japanese martial arts training in a dojo and in competitions.
While Westernization has crept in, with more Japanese houses following Western design, we often see at least one room (referred to as “washitsu”) featuring tatami floor covers. This option fuses traditional and modern styles, allowing one to enjoy the benefits of both worlds.