Philippines, not Aquino, lost Scarborough

GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc - The Philippine Star

The word war between ex-President Noynoy Aquino and Foreign Sec. Alan Cayetano is doing the country no good. They’re blaming each one on who lost Scarborough Shoal and how. Fact is, we Filipinos lost the rich fishing ground off Luzon to Chinese aggressors. The more their two camps clash, the less our chances of recovering it. National economy and patrimony are at stake, yet all they can agree on is they’ve lost their hair.

A senator had loused things up by overstepping his backchannel role in the 2012 Scarborough standoff. In Senate annals is his preempting the foreign secretary and the mediator from Washington. Bragging to know the shoal more, he set an alternating withdrawal of Philippine and Chinese warships. Aquino’s lapse was in not restraining his backroom boy. But China is more to blame – for reneging on its agreed departure after the Philippine Navy. America too, for letting China get away with it and the concreting of seven more reefs into island-fortresses in the South China Sea. Aquino made up for it with a victorious UN arbitration. The UN upheld the Filipinos’ 200-mile exclusive economic zone including Scarborough, outlawed Beijing’s nine-dash line sea claim, and rebuked its grab of Philippine maritime jurisdiction and environmental ruin.

Cayetano is not faultless. Instead of building upon the UN win, he shelved it. He engaged in supposed silent diplomacy that involved 150-200 secret protests of China’s further incursions. That’s too many in the year-and-a-half he has been in foreign office. Yet he claims normalized ties with Beijing. Events constantly belie him. Chinese coast guards not only bar Filipino fishers entry to Scarborough, but also seize their catch outside. Chinese ships stop residents of Pag-Asa, Palawan, from stepping on newly formed Sandy Cay three km away, within Philippine territory. Chinese choppers buzz Filipino rubber boats that resupply Marines in a grounded vessel on Ayungin Shoal. Chinese patrols drive away Filipino research vessels in the Reed Bank off Palawan. Weeks ago Chinese jets harassed the plane of the Philippine defense and the armed forces chiefs en route to Pag-Asa.

Now Cayetano dares Aquino publicly to debate the SCS issue. As foreign secretary he must know that would please only Beijing’s divide-and-conquer strategists. A first-time diplomat would learn more by quiet counsel of predecessors and the National Security Council. The NSC consists of present and past Presidents, congressional majority and minority leaders, and various experts. Cayetano and Aquino sedately can exchange views there.

The two have common political foes, like an ex-President-turned-Speaker and an ex-VP-city mayor. From that they presumably can forge permanent interests – the country’s. Unless, of course, they know more about each other than just one’s descent from a collaborator and the other’s dual Fil-Am nationalities. Did one let his pals’ nickel mine ores be used in China’s island reclamation, thus the telltale reddish-brown surrounding waters shown in aerial photos then? Was the other, as murmured, paid off from abroad? If not, then they should stand side by side as compatriots against a bellicose foreigner.

Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio has stated what we Filipinos – under one government – can do about China’s bullying. One, we can delineate with friendly Malaysia and Vietnam the overlapping EEZs, without need to involve China. That’s encouraged in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. Two, we can seek UN General Assembly support for our arbitral victory against China’s continued occupation of our reefs, shoals, and banks. All peace-loving seaside states benefit from the UN ruling. Third, we can file new arbitration to make China pay for marine damage to Scarborough and the seven artificial islands. The UN already found China guilty, and it continues to mar the seas, as images show.

Lastly we can show oneness with the world in respecting freedom of navigation in the SCS, including our EEZ. France and Britain now permanently patrol the seas to ensure passage of $5 trillion in annual commerce. Like the United States, they forge maritime alliances with Australia, Japan, Korea, Singapore, and India. Malaysia is turning firmer in disallowing Beijing’s regular trespass of its territorial waters. Vietnam, while forging fisheries and tourism deals with Beijing, boldly resists Chinese maritime incursions. The Philippines can learn from them.

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When it “rained” inside an MRT-3 train Wednesday, DOTr’s tyro communications director Goddes Libiran babbled: “We acknowledge na ‘yung talagang problema ng MRT ay hindi madaling ayusin kasi resulta iyan ng ilang dekadang neglect and kamalian sa operational and management decision.”

Libiran might wish to clarify this: MRT-3 has been in operation for 18 years, since 2000. “Decades of neglect and wrongs” implies practically all those years. Sumitomo of Japan handled operational maintenance in 12 of those years, 2000-2012. If Sumitomo was neglectful and wrong, then pray tell why DOTr is rehiring it for MRT-3’s rehab and maintenance at a whopping P17 billion. (As I’ve been pointing up, but those kids at DOTr keep obfuscating, Sumitomo offered to do the same work to MRT-3’s private owner-builder MRT Corp. for only P7.5 billion.)

The “rain” was actually a leaking air-con. Libiran said those units should be overhauled every eight years. The first and last time that was done, by Sumitomo, was 2008. Second overhaul should have been 2016, but MRT-3’s new maintenance contractor BURI didn’t do it.

In truth, as I’ve been stating in running exposé on the MRT-3 mess since 2013 – not only air-cons but all dozens of train components need periodic overhaul. Included are auto-doors, brakes, bogey wheels, lights, alarms, catenaries, couplers, signaling, etc. Second overhaul should have begun 2014, at the latest 2016. Why it didn’t happen, remnants of the old DOTr know.

In 2012-2016 then-Sec. Joseph Abaya and pet Usec. Rene Limcaoco replaced Sumitomo with a series of inept but influential outfits. First PH Trams, then APT Global, lastly BURI. In all three were involved the same Liberal Party mates. Ask present Usec. for Railways Timothy John Batan how. He was Limcaoco’s right-hand man all those years.

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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 https://www.philstar.com/columns/134276/gotcha





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