Julian Felipe Reef

READER’S VIEWS - The Freeman

China radio challenge: You are approaching a Chinese reef. To avoid any move that may cause misunderstanding, please leave immediately.

Philippine pilot response: This is government Philippine aircraft Charlie 2 Niner 5. We are conducting routine maritime patrol over Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone. We are proceeding based on our planned route.

This is the customary exchange of challenges since March 7, 2021 when 220 Chinese vessels were discovered moored tightly together near Julian Felipe Reef in the Spratly Islands.

Chinese ambassador Huang Xiliang told President Duterte: The fishing boats are seeking shelter from inclement weather. But Defense Secretary Lorenzana says: Weather is fine and the open sea is not conducive for sheltering. No fishing activity is observed.

So what are the real reasons for the presence of so many vessels in the Spratlys since December 2020? And why are their lights on in the nights?

I have two theories: Harvesting rare-earths and concreting the base for a new artificial island.

The Chinese have realized that their seven artificial islands can collapse in a storm surge or a tsunami and sink all the civil and military equipment. The materials sucked from the sea bottom by that giant dredger are a loose and unstable base for the artificial islands. Therefor they are now building a solidly-based artificial island by pouring concrete into the sea. The workers mix it in the vessels in day and night shifts and throw it over board. As soon as one ship is empty it leaves to get more cement and gravel from the mainland. In the videos are seen five barges lashed together in a line pushed by one motor boat. That is the way bulk materials are best transported.

My second supposition is that some time ago the Chinese have discovered manganese nodules that they are now harvesting. Those lumps are known to contain nickel, cobalt, copper, and molybdenum.

All these metals make alloys of steel stronger, harder and more rust-resistant. Manganese is also used in battery cathodes, glass, tiles and fertilizers.

The nodules are bean- to potato-sized and lay in equatorial oceans partly densely covering the deeper seabeds. It is estimated that seabed mining dwarfs land-based resources and is more profitable.

In South Africa’s Kalahari Desert are laying 70% of global land resources of manganese. Deposits are also in Australia, China, Gabon, and Brazil.

Although China dominates the global production of rare-earth metals by over 95% they hope to find more on the sea bottom for producing electronic devices and super magnets.

Now I am no longer wondering what the Chinese survey ship was looking for from June to December 2016 crisscrossing in the Benham Rise, a 13-million-hactare undersea plateau in the Pacific. Located off the coast of Aurora Province it is well within the Philippine EEZ and was declared by the United Nations part of the Philippine territory in 2012. President Duterte has renamed Benham Rise Philippine Ridge in May 2017.

Erich Wannemacher

Lapu-Lapu City

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You have got something BIG to do

Is it finding a job, running for office, or learning a trade skill? Maybe it is an art project, school thesis, engineering problem or you're working on an invention? For any big task the following will help you succeed:

Simplify your life so you can set aside a time to focus on the project.

Be consistent with choosing your time and chosen place to work.

Remove anything from around you that can distract you, that can lead you into doing different things. Mute or turn off your cellphone. Beware of easy tasks that don't help the project.

Do your homework: Learn all the facts and skills you will need.

Don't give up, however if you get stuck look for new ways to look at the project as a whole to conceptualize it in a new way. Talk with people who have experience with this type of task or project.

Taking a break often helps, especially if it's a physical activity to get more blood to the brain.

Success comes from being consistent every day, and not being distracted even though the task is difficult or sometimes boring.

Remember Thomas Edison. He didn't fail hundreds and hundreds of times making the first light bulb. He was just learning all the ways that didn't work!

Richard Baker

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