Monday, April 25, 2016

The West Philippine Sea or how corruption pushed us into trouble

One of the most important issues that our country is currently facing is the Chinese incursion of the West Philippine Sea (WPS). It may not be so well-known to many voters but our problems with China all started with a corrupt government.

Back in 2005, then president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo entered into an agreement called the Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU) with China and a very hesitant Vietnam. In the guise of a scientific exploration, the JMSU was everything an agreement should never be; secretive, unconstitutional and gravely discretionary. To make a long story short, China used  this agreement so they can gain access to places like the Recto bank and the other islands in the group to take a peek at the riches they hold, in this case, rich natural gas and oil deposits.

JMSU was GMA's payment for a host of Chinese funded programs, like a railway running from Clark to Tutuban (the North railway project) and the very infamous national broadband network through the Chinese tech company ZTE. JMSU was a terribly disadvantageous agreement to the government but it became a quid pro quo condition to granting all sorts of loans by the Chinese to the Arroyo administration, loans that haunted GMA until the end of her term. Not to mention earning George W. Bush's ire for not choosing to be part of the "coalition of the willing". But that's another story.

In 2012, the Aquino administration passed the baselines law or Administrative Order 29, which clearly defined our territorial boundaries pursuant to the UNCLOS agreement which the Philippine and Chinese government signed. As of this moment, we are awaiting the UNCLOS decision which we expect to be favorable to us.

Now that it is election 2016 season, our presidentiables have been asked what they would do if they were president. Duterte and Binay practically have identical answers; go into bilateral talks with the Chinese government. This move reeks of corruption because we all know that GMA's corruption was what got us in this trouble in the first place. Duterte and Binay know of the shady deals with the Chinese and are expressing their desire to get a fat slice of the Chinese bribes by disguising their actions as their desire to mitigate war with the Chinese. Truth be told, the Chinese are terrified of war because they know the Americans will intervene along with the Japanese, British and Australians. No, it's not because of an intrinsic altruistic messiah complex to help the Philippines, but a naval conflict with China in the West Philippine Sea will give the Americans the opportunity to control the region, something that the Chinese fear more than losing their Xiao Long Bao.

Duterte and Binay are both prospective brown nosers to the Chinese government. In local parlance "tuta" (lap dog) would be the better description.

Grace Poe is more ambiguous. She says she will pursue the case against China but is also open to bilateral talks. Now that's just weird. Grace Poe is very green and the matter of the WPS is nowhere within her purview as she is a first-time senator and has never handled matters beyond our borders.

Liberal Party Presidentiable standard-bearer Mar Roxas and Vice Presidentiable Leni Robredo

Of all the presidentiables, Mar Roxas is the one who has done his homework well. He has been part of the Aquino administration and is well versed in the overall strategy to fight the Chinese invaders. Mar is one of Pnoy's most trusted officials. After winning the elections, Aquino audited all the agreements and transactions made by the previous administration. It was believed that Mar Roxas was called to join the audit in an effort to undo damage to the government by reversing and nullifying agreements that are disadvantageous and non-compliant with our existing laws and policies.

Mar Roxas believes that we need to be more hawkish with this matter rather than be dove-like. Winning the UNCLOS case will be a terrible precedent against the Chinese and the other regional governments who have similar claims on the West Philippine Sea and its adjacent waters and islands, could follow suit leading to a global embarrassment for the Chinese and eventually UN sanctions, measures that the already-downturning Chinese economy cannot afford.

Mar Roxas is the best president who can handle the WPS issue and ensure that no longer will our officials be bribed into practically selling out the whole Philippines. President Aquino already returned millions of dollars to the Chinese, money intended for the North Rail project. An act which earned the respect of our allies abroad. Mar Roxas just needs to follow the Aquino directive as it is the most beneficial for our country and economy. 

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