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Manila should learn from Vietnam – Golez

Filipinos and Vietnamese descended from the ancient Malays. The race also brought forth the Indonesians, Malaysians, and Bruneians. The Malays were daring seafarers. Around the first millennium they crossed the Indian Ocean in boats of 300 warriors, and conquered Madagascar off Africa. There they introduced plants and animals, like banana and carabao, and rice paddy agriculture – all nowhere found in mainland Africa. For a time the Cham region of southern Vietnam served as the capital of the Malay realm.

Today the Philippines and Vietnam find common cause anew. Giant China has been claiming the seas between them – and Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei – including their exclusive economic zones. The two countries are being prevented from fishing and exploring oil in their EEZs: the Philippines in Scarborough Shoal, Mischief Reef, and Recto Bank, and Vietnam in the Paracel Isles. As both gingerly avoid war, China bullies them.

Manila won in July 2016 a UN maritime arbitration against Beijing. Vietnam benefits from that Philippine victory, as the UN court moots China’s “nine-dash” sea boundary that trespasses their EEZs, chides China for ruining the environment by building artificial islands in the two’s EEZs, and reiterates that mere reefs and rocks cannot expand China’s EEZ.

Recognizing China as its biggest investor, Vietnam is bolstering their ties with new fisheries and river-use pacts. At the same time, it is modernizing its navy and air force with submarines and fighters. In an independent foreign policy, it is forging ties with old enemy United States and new nuclear power India.

“The Philippines should learn from Vietnam in diplomacy and defense,” former national security adviser Roilo Golez proposes. At a forum of the Stratbase-Albert del Rosario Institute on the anniversary of Manila’s UN triumph, Golez cited Vietnam’s protection of interests:

• Hanoi crafted a defense deal in which US warships dock in Cam Ranh Bay (due west of the Philippines’ Subic Bay) for maintenance;

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• Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc visited US President Donald Trump, offering multimillion-dollar trade expansion, including the purchase of $15 billion in American consumer goods and weapons;

• Hanoi initiated a strategic economic partnership in which India jointly explores and mines oil in the Paracels;

• In 2014 Vietnam resisted China’s attempt to install a giant oil rig in the Paracels, sending small coast guard and police craft to bump the Chinese warships. Amid global rebuke for bullying, China retreated after four months.

• Vietnam has acquired from Russia Kilo-class submarines, SU-30 fighters, and anti-ship and cruise missiles, and is ordering more from India.

By contrast, Golez rues, Manila has diminished its joint military exercises with mutual defense ally US, and cancelled joint naval patrols of the West Philippine Sea. Grudgingly acknowledged was the US dispatch of spy planes and drones in the anti-terrorist battle in Marawi City.

China’s promise of $24 billion in loans and investments has yet to materialize, Golez notes. Chinese armed vessels still prevent Filipinos from entering Scarborough Shoal, 120 miles off Zambales and 650 miles from China’s closest Hainan province.

Golez foresees China building an air and naval fortress in the shoal within three years, as it did in Mischief, Subi, and Fiery Cross Reefs. He worries that the US might let China do it, since it depends on the latter to contain North Korea from nuclear testing. If that happens, the Philippines would be defenseless.

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Joblessness and diminishing incomes deserve highlighting in a true State of the Nation.

Once and for all the multitrillion-peso “Build Build Build” infrastructure must be moved from press release to implementation. That would employ Filipinos in construction and support businesses, including canteens, uniforms, tools, and transport.

Regulators must disband and imprison the cartels in rice, garlic, onion, and fertilizers. Farmers need a break from the continually dropping farm-gate prices. Also from dirty miners that choke their irrigation rivers and poison their crops.

Those are missions not only for national government agencies but also local officials. If they eat three square meals a day, it’s because of the taxes that the suffering Filipinos pay.

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Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).

Gotcha archives on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jarius-Bondoc/1376602159218459, or The STAR website http://www.philstar.com/author/Jarius%20Bondoc/GOTCHA

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