FIRST PERSON - Alex Magno - The Philippine Star

When it comes to the practice of diplomacy at the highest level, China is a clumsy oaf.

The world’s most populous country and the second largest economy trips and traipses on the global stage like an utter amateur. Her diplomats issue blunt threats as a matter of course and quarrel with the smallest countries on the pettiest of issues – such as when it undiplomatically wrestled with tiny Lithuania recently.

To begin with, Beijing has an undeveloped sense of soft power. Her diplomats either issue bluster or offer bribes. They promise smaller nations aid packages in exchange for adopting a One-China policy or threaten trade restrictions if they do not.

For China, diplomacy is an entirely transactional affair. This characteristic is sharpened when her Foreign Ministry decided to deploy sharp-tongued spokespersons to convey her positions on the most complex issues of the day.

Nothing agitates China more than the matter of Taiwan – which she considers a “province” even if the mainland never truly governed the island in the entirety of its history as a nation. Beijing’s policy on the island is clear: it will be brought under her sovereignty by any means.

Last year, when then US House speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taipei, Beijing chose to show its displeasure by fielding a small armada in the Taiwan Straits. Last week, when Taiwan’s president transited through the US and met with the current House Speaker, Beijing threw a tantrum. Chinese warships and warplanes menacingly circled Taiwan, conducting mock strikes on targets in the island.

Taipei, fortunately, has a more mature sense of diplomacy. In the face of China’s show of military force, the Taiwanese promised a “reasonable” response.

While the island’s bigger neighbor was throwing a tantrum, the Taiwanese maintained sobriety. No military reserves were called up and no unusual military movement was detected. China screamed; Taiwan yawned. This ridiculous show of force was becoming a bore.

Of course, a war over Taiwan remains a possibility – although not an imminent one as China’s professional saber-rattlers are trying to bluff us with.

An invasion over sea is the most difficult of military maneuvers. It will rely on years of building up an invasion force on China’s coast – a matter that cannot go undetected. It will be a costly operation China’s weakened economy cannot sustain at this time. It will bring on devastating consequences for the global economy that no one is ready to invite.

There is no comparison with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Russian forces merely crossed land borders and cooperative separatist regions after months of building up for invasion. The buildup was thinly guised as a mere military training exercise. In the end, the mighty Russian army floundered in the face of spirited Ukrainian resistance.

By contrast, an invasion of Taiwan needs to be won or lost in a matter of days. China will have to deliver an expeditionary force across a strait where US naval assets are a constant presence. Crossing the strait will be a formidable challenge and likely a foolhardy exercise.

Power struggle

Power services in Oriental Mindoro have been spotty the past months, short-changing consumers and holding economic progress in the province hostage. Much of the blame for this predicament is borne by the Oriental Mindoro Electric Cooperative (ORMECO), the outfit solely responsible for distributing power in the province.

Although the electric cooperative has much to do in terms of upgrading its facilities and improving its services, it seems to have been consumed by an unending power struggle among the groups that want to control it. This is not helpful in achieving the province’s great economic potential, particularly in tourism and agribusiness.

Recently, the former general manager of ORMECO, Engr. Petrocinio Panagsagan Jr., filed a complaint with the National Electrification Administration against the firm and its management team. The complaint accused the management of the electric cooperative with “grave misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the interest of ORMECO and its consumers.”

This is merely the latest chapter of a long saga. Earlier, the group now in control of the cooperative filed a litany of charges against Panagsagan as part of the effort to discredit him and oust him from the post he occupied. While his rivals did succeed in ousting him, the voluminous civil, administrative and criminal charges filed against the former general manager were all thrown out by the courts. This litany of charges, most redundant, provides a case study for why our courts are mired in long backlogs of cases.

The charges filed against Panagsagan covered the whole gamut of imaginable crimes, it seems. They range from illegal possession of guns and ammunition, possession of illegal drugs, estafa, falsification of public documents, abuse of discretion, etc.

Volume, however, did not translate into viability. In the end, the courts decided there was nothing in the charges that would merit bringing any of them to trial. The complainants appealed up to the Supreme Court that recently issued a resolution denying them. The trumped up charges would not stand.

As in many other provinces, the electric cooperative in Oriental Mindoro appears to be closely intertwined with the twists and turns of local politics. The current general manager of ORMECO, Humphrey Dolor, is a brother of sitting provincial governor Humerlito Dolor and current provincial prosecutor Humilito Dolor. The configuration of power over the electric cooperative reflects the configuration of power over the entire province.

But while the power struggle for control of the cooperative unfolds, the entire province is kept hostage.

vuukle comment


  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

Get Updated:

Signup for the News Round now

or sign in with