Could the Duterte appeasement policy on the WPS be correct?

Service Contract 72, proposed for joint development [Photo source: Grenatec web site]

By JoeAm

A recent article here by Chemrock explored how the Philippines ‘lost’ the West Philippine Sea (WPS) to China. There were two prominent historical moments that led to the loss: (1) The Philippines kicking out US bases in 1991, and (2) President Arroyo’s appeasement program. Other mistakes were made under President Aquino that aggravated an already dire situation. If you have not read Chemrock’s article, you should. You will then be among the most knowledgeable in Asia about this complex matter.

That is one point. The WPS is effectively lost. The Duterte policy pretty much mirrors that of President Arroyo, to share opportunities with China for all that means, so there seems little likelihood that the lost seas will ever be regained.

Slight digression. One of the advantages of being a foreigner in a strange land is that I was taught by my Filipino mentors that it is not the Philippines that is strange. The Philippines is what it is. It is me who is strange if I try to impose foreign values on residents here. That single lesson, learned and heeded, enables me enjoy my stay here a lot more. I accept my environment rather than fight it as many foreigners are inclined to do.

I also learned to ask, “what if I’m wrong?” That causes me to pause and observe deeply, rather than judge.

The discipline is very useful, and it helps keep my blood pressure down.

So I ask: “What if I am wrong about the WPS? What if appeasement is to the best advantage of the Philippines? Can that be? How can that be? Stretch yourself, Joe! Look at it differently.”

I invite you to step back with me and re-frame the issue.

What is the WPS in terms of resources? What exactly does it represent in terms of possible value to the Philippines?

  1. It is an international sea making it possible to sail a straight line from here to there. Or fly one.
  2. It is rich with fish and other foods and materials (seaweed).
  3. It is rich with minerals, including some level of oil and natural gas.
  4. It is an ecological wonderland with tidal currents, tourist attractions, and biological security.
  5. It is a buffer zone that the Philippines can exert some measure of control over; it keeps foreign intruders at bay.

Those are very meaningful values.

It is also instructive if we try to figure out what other nations want to do in the contested areas.

  • The US wants open seas and skies, not to engage in wars, and probably wants democracy in the Philippines to hold those commie rascals at bay.
  • China wants sovereign control of their “9-dash region”, which means military control, and unfettered access to oil, gas, and other physical resources there.
  • Viet Nam and other claimants want the same things the Philippines wants, what the laws say is theirs.

Well, the US is not a problem for the Philippines. America is more an opportunity than a burden, an option, a resource to help the Philippines keep seas and skies open, and to defend the nation against physical assault from anyone, terrorists, China, or unforeseen invaders. The Philippines can make the relationship be whatever she wants it to be. Chemrock argues that the decision to evict American bases in 1991 was instrumental in leading to the current situation where Philippine seas are in China’s hands.

Vietnam and other claimants are not problems because conflicts can be sorted out under the laws and rulings of international courts.

China is the problem. China claims resources the laws say belong to the Philippines, and has the power to take and keep those resources. Consider each of our five value points. China can and has:

  1. Blocked free sailing in the WPS
  2. Taken fish, giant clams, and other materials from the WPS, and stolen fish from Filipino fishermen
  3. Claimed the shoals and islands most suitable for drilling or digging for minerals, even those clearly in the Philippine EEZ.
  4. Destroyed local ecological wonderlands.
  5. Taken away the Philippine buffer zone, with Chinese ships ships now patrolling just off the coast from Subic at Scarborough Shoal.

Can we put a value to these infringements and losses? Is it big? Is it small? Is it worth fighting over? Are there ways to oppose China’s incursions to minimize the loss or expense of trying to hold onto the valuable resources?

Let’s look at the value points one at a time.

Free sailing

On one hand, it is possible for the Philippines to say, “Hey, this is a fight for the bigger nations. We’ll just lay low.” On the other, the Philippines needs to replenish her own military outposts and draw fish from common fishing grounds without being harassed. Trade anchors the economy. Free passages is vitally important.

The advantage of the policy of appeasement is that the Philippines OUGHT to have the leverage to say to China, “We are not against you, so kindly let us do our necessary travel unimpeded.” If China can’t do this, the only recourse for the Philippines is to join with the bigger nations to fight the fight for free seas. The ball is in China’s court on this.

The Philippines is a seafaring state and passage through surrounding waters is a lifeline. There should be no appeasement if access is blocked in any way.

Fish and goods

Same argument as above. If the Philippines is not opposing China, then China needs to follow a good-faith policy as well by allowing Filipino fisherman unfettered access to common fishing grounds. If she can’t make this small gesture, then the appeasement policy is failed. The ball, again, is in China’s court to define the relationship: mutual good faith, or one-way ticket.

Minerals

This is most interesting. The one area the Philippines has leased for exploration is at Reed Bank where Forum Energy, a subsidiary of Manny Pangilinan’s conglomerate of companies, had pegged the reserves in the lease area at 3.4 trillion cubic feet of gas (Forum Energy completes Reed Bank survey). That was March, 2011. However, the US Energy Information Administration two years later (April 2013) put out a report essentially saying there is very little oil or gas in the Spratly Island region (Contested areas of South China Sea likely have few conventional oil and gas resources).

Who to believe, eh? And we should also ask, are commercial interests allowed to define state policy, or shouldn’t it be the other way around? This question arises when we look back at way former Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Del Rosario seemed to want to aggravate China over the Scarborough Shoal standoff in 2012 (The back channels: Trillanes, US and Pangilinan). Del Rosario is a friend of Manny Pangilinan and is on the Board of some of his companies. One would think he would want the matter solved quickly and smoothly so that exploration could continue. But it did not end smoothly. It ended with an angry China.

Is there gas, as Pangilinan’s company said, or is there not? The EIA survey had access to the Forum Energy claim, but did not cite it.

Bizarre. All we know is that Pangilinan would accept joint drilling, the Philippine government is inclined to accept it, but joint drilling is an apparent violation of the Constitution. (Philippines earmarks two sites for possible joint oil exploration with China)

But I fear I digress.

Bottom line, if mineral quantities are insufficient for commercial use, why jump through hoops to chase resources that simply don’t exist. Let China carry the heavy load of exploration.

For sure, no one in the Philippines is likely to argue that the nation should go to war over empty oil and gas fields.

The Duterte policy makes sense . . . IF there are few oil and gas reserves.

Ecology

China clearly has no appreciation of natural resources in its island-building program. Gross destruction of corals and other sea-life is taking place. Does this destruction harm the Philippines greatly? Tragic though it may be, it does not. These are remote areas. Scarborough Shoal is tangibly tragic because we have met the fishermen affected, and it is close to mainland Luzon. But the Philippines, as a nation, is grossly negligent herself in the caretaking of marine life and fisheries. Over-fishing and dynamite fishing are commonplace. Many bays and seas close to the larger islands are underwater deserts. Plastic is everywhere.

It is hard to be righteous about other nations in faraway places when the Philippines is negligent on her home turf. Er . . . home seas.

This is ecologically tragic and maybe Greenpeace ought to have a stronger Asian force to protest the Chinese blunt force trauma against the sea ecology. But it is a non-issue in weighing whether or not tough action is required of the Philippines in the WPS.

Buffer Zone

This might seem to be a minor matter, having an economic buffer zone around the Philippines. But it is perhaps the most complex and speculative of all the resource issues when we consider the entire conflict is based on China’s clear desire to establish her own buffer zone in the Pacific that pushes the United States and other nations away.

So the seas have been militarized, and China is assertively working to impose her will on ships and air traffic going through or over her self-proclaimed “sovereign” seas.

It is certainly possible to imagine China developing Scarborough Shoal and installing missiles within striking distance of Manila. China’s militarization of her claims is a direct and immediate threat to Philippine land-based sovereignty. China apparently has said she will not develop Scarborough. Then why do her Coast Guard patrol boats not de-escalate Scarborough and return the shoal to its common fishing usage?

What is the purpose of the offensive presence?

Because China has a hard time convincing other nations of her good faith interest in THEIR interests, it is incumbent upon the Philippines to shore up her defenses on her own. Not as a threat to China, but as an assurance to Filipinos that they are safe from the wayward ambitions of other forces.

The way to do this is by following the policy framework that President Aquino introduced:

  • Assure that the laws are clear as to Philippine rights, and use those laws to secure Philippine territory.
  • Build the Philippine defensive capacity.
  • Build close relationships with neighboring states that share Philippine security interests: Japan, Malaysia, Korea, Singapore, Indonesia, Viet Nam, Australia, and India.
  • Maintain close ties with the United States through the Mutual Defense Treaty, Visiting Forces Agreement, and Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

The seas are one form of buffer zone. Alliances represent another form, one that China is not empowered to take from the Philippines. The mistake of 1991 should be recognized and corrected, and with some measure of speed, given China’s aggressions.

Replace the sea buffer with alliances.

Conclusion

It may help if we remove from the dialogue the pejorative term “appeasement” to describe the Philippine approach to the West Philippine Seas. Let’s call it “respectful cooperation”, and underscore that it presumes China will be respectful of Philippine interests, whether they agree with them or not.

Caveat: Although there is no basis for taking up arms against China, or even aggravating a neighbor who is an important trading and investment partner, there is no basis for believing that China operates in a lawful manner, in Philippine interests, or even in good faith. It is in China’s court to prove good faith.

The Philippine government would be highly negligent not to take steps to protect Filipino interests by:

  • Ensuring protective laws are not diminished by failing to defend them (China’s unlawful acts in Philippine seas should be protested in writing).
  • Building military defense capabilities (for example, the ability to identify if missiles have been placed in Philippine seas).
  • Building defense relationships with neighboring states.
  • Maintaining defense treaties and agreements with the United States.

 

Comments
111 Responses to “Could the Duterte appeasement policy on the WPS be correct?”
  1. As additional food for thought, two articles by Manolo Quezon:

    http://opinion.inquirer.net/114048/pro-beijing-talking-points Among its gems:

    “…We have to go back to our Asian roots. Western colonialism has damaged the Filipinos’ sense of history. In China, the source of the people’s nationalism is their history. In fact in Dezhou, China, where the royal tomb of the Sultan of Sulu of 1417 is located, you can see how China values Asian history, more importantly the centuries of friendly PH-CH relations…

    “The sea is not meant to divide but to unite. The Western legal framework and colonial mentality create borders that are detrimental to the fraternal bonds practiced by the fishermen in the middle of ocean for thousands of years. In the middle of the ocean, there is no nationality, only humanity…

    ..1.6. Independent domestic policy despite Western threats to sanction aid and block arms sales, we needed to fight against the rebels. Good relations led to much-needed assistance from China and Russia that led to our ending an IS-led siege in record time instead of descending into hell as experienced by others…

    http://opinion.inquirer.net/114198/pro-beijing-talking-points-wrong

    First: In Dazhou, China, a Sultan of Sulu’s tomb dating to 1417 can be found, and it is put forward as proof of how China “values” centuries of Philippine-China history. But this is problematic. The relationship between the Ming imperial court and the Sulu sultanate was that of a ruling state and a vassal. Missions to send tribute were sent from Sulu to China in 1370, 1372, 1416, 1420, 1421, 1423 and 1424. There would be another tributary mission in 1733.

    Tribute, as Ji-Young Lee defines it, is premised on “the culture-based theory of Chinese superiority,” which, “the more [it]… was accepted by actors in the periphery, the more likely they were to participate in the tribute system.” That included sending ambassadors or going in person to kowtow and present gifts to the Emperor, to signify accepting the superiority of the Emperor and, in return, being allowed to trade with China.

    To say the least, aside from being of antiquarian interest, this is not the kind of relationship useful as a model for modern state-to-state relations.

    Second: The assertion that the “Western legal framework and colonial mentality create borders that are detrimental to fraternal bonds” is also problematic. In the first place, the “Western legal framework” is one that both China and the Philippines in general formally adhere to. The Philippines, in particular, participated in the drafting of the law on the sea.

    Arturo Tolentino, who spent 12 years participating in the drafting process, pointed out the benefits that accrued from being part of the drafting, and being a signatory, to, the law on the sea: a. Ownership of the Philippines over all minerals, oils and living resources in the waters and the seabed and subsoil of the archipelago; b. The 200-mile exclusive economic zone around the islands and the continental shelf even beyond 200 miles from the shore; c. Increased waters under Philippine jurisdiction, including the exclusive economic zone, by more than 93 million hectares; d. Recognition of the law of the “archipelago principle” which the Philippines has been advocating since 1956; e. Acceptance of the Philippines by the international community as a single political, economic and geographic unit with no international waters between the different islands.

    Third: The rest of the points try to propose a departure from the current treaty relationships of the Philippines in general, and abandonment of two long-standing Philippine positions in particular. One is the support for a multilateral approach—that is, Asean nations acting together—to negotiating a code of conduct for disputed areas, which provides a fairer, because less power-unbalanced, means for negotiations, in contrast to China’s preferred bilateral or nation-to-nation approach. And two, support for the principle of freedom of navigation in international waters, where the Chinese position, like its old imperial world view, would require nations to accept that the nine-dash line represents a kind of territorial sea of China’s in which foreign vessels travel only on China’s say-so.

    In making this pitch, IDSI ignores the experience of African nations with China, which are increasingly reacting against what is often called the “debt trap” that China creates to expand its influence through loans for infrastructure. Mahathir of Malaysia has recently spoken out on the unease this policy has created in his country; from Madagascar to India, China’s undertakings have provoked similar growing unease.

    In the end, much of the language of IDSI’s talking points serves as a camouflage for a dangerous pro-Beijing boosterism…

    (the language of the think tank is IMHO the nascent language of Chinese imperialism.. try to take any statement of a nascent imperial power and turn of memory of nasty deeds.. all sound nice!)

    • “China values the centuries of friendly relations”..

      “the culture-based theory of Chinese superiority,”

      the Philippines indeed has a choice to make.

      • It is not an accident that there is pushback against China brewing in so many countries. Nor is it an accident that pushback is taking place against Trump’s trade and immigration policies. On one had, we have a major state that is rudely pushing out into the world and disregarding the interests of other states, and on the other, we have a major state that is turning protectionist and rudely dumping other countries as if their partnership were irrelevant. BOTH major states have strange racist underpinnings to policies.

        The choices are not easy. The Philippines needs to stand for Filipinos, I think, and it will be a little tricky when the big states are so rude.

        • Filipino statecraft will have to mature a lot, very quickly. Local allies (Indonesia and Vietnam) and regional allies (India) cultivated more than was the case before.

          The present prostration/prostitution before China (borrowing at high rates, preferring Chinese firms all over, not checking immigration properly for a country just across the sea with more than 10 times Philippine population) is more than foolhardy.

          There are other alternatives like Japan for loans, even if one decides that abiding with human rights (protecting one’s own people) is too much of a condition and one does not want “white people’s money” in return for promising that. Sovereignty as right to kill, uck..

          Ninotchka Rosca’s version that Chinese want Lebensraum, meaning that killing Filipinos and settling Chinese is a Nazi-like strategy of long-term occupation a la Tibet, might be a bit far-fetched, but one should not let the conditions for such a takeover thrive.

          But probably those with own interests in making money off China go over national interest.

          • Yes, it is astounding what high-ranking people, like senators, let pass as acceptable by their standards. And even the moral caretaker of the Philippines, the Catholic Church, only really raises a voice when their own ox is gored. Maybe there isn’t even a nation if there is so little nationalistic indignation over the harms and risks to OTHERS.

    • Thanks for putting MLQ3’s insights here. Very to the point, and and underscore some of my conclusions.

      “Good faith” is the issue.

      • There are indeed many perspectives or systems of belief to this..

        “Good faith” is what people used to dealing on equal terms expect, to trust the partner.

        Those who are used to dealing on power terms, meaning patron and client, do not really understand good faith. The one above is at most “benevolent”, which can mean that he doesn’t invade you – or kill you when he subjects you to drug tests or tambay arrests.

        One can see that both Chinese dealings and Duterte’s idea of state coincide. Duterte as “parens patriae” and China as the father or older brother of the Philippines. Yeah yeah.

        While Filipinos, ever unsure of themselves, are being told good faith is a “Western concept”. Practically everything that ever came from the West – including Christianity – is derided now. To what end? Someone who loses his own beliefs is easily brainwashed with new ones.

  2. karlgarcia says:

    It is true that even without China, We destroy our envoronment.
    People even say, solve Pasig River first before WPS.
    We practice dynamite fishing on our seas, we put fishpens in our lakes.

    About discipline, we had discussed enough in the past, even in the three blogs that dealt about how we are supposed to overhaul how we think and learn.

    Even changing how we call things can change our mindsets.
    Instead of inequality, as Edgar suggests we should call it diversity.
    There would be much less victim mentality if you do that.
    And of course appeasement must be changed to
    mutual respect.

    As to oil explorations maybe Pangilinan is thinking like a patient asking for second third fourth opinion after the doctor told him that cancer was detected.

    Maybe he believes his team has more advanced instruments.You will never know unless you try.

    • karlgarcia says:

      China is on a power tripping mode right now.
      She believes she is beyond everyone.
      No respect of good faith is given, how can their be mutual respect or even cooperation?

      The administration or Roque(if he claims ownership) is wrong by saying WPS is mot part of the Pacific making The Mutual Defense Treaty inutile.

      We can ask help from others too, but how can we, if our leader badmouths everyone including himself?

    • That could be, re Pangilinan. I would have given it up as futile long ago. Until the government can clear a legal and protective path for drilling, why spend a dime?

  3. edgar lores says:

    *******
    For all the reasons discussed in this post and many others in TSH:

    1. China is wrong in its nine-dash claim. This is per the Arbitral tribunal’s ruling that China has no legal basis to claim historic rights within the nine-dash line.

    2. China is wrong to have built artificial islands in the SCS/WPS. The SCS/WPS features are disputed and China has no clear sovereignty or jurisdiction over them. Then there is the ecological damage, which the Arbitral tribunal characterized as “irreparable harm to the marine environment.”

    3. China is wrong in its militarization of the artificial islands. This is per China’s 2015 promise not to militarize its artificial islands.

    4. Duterte is wrong in his appeasement policy. This is per Philippine’s win vs. China in the Arbitral tribunal’s verdict over the WPS.

    5. Four wrongs — never mind, two wrongs — do not make a right.
    *****

  4. caliphman says:

    Edgar, it would be a disaster to base any WPS strategy on moral consideration, whether it be on China or the Philippines part. The only exception is the moral duty to defend the homeland and its territory, with ones own blood or the enemy’s if necessary. Its appears the Philippines is lacking and China is ovetflowing in this respect.

    • edgar lores says:

      *******
      I have to disagree.

      One of the most pernicious concepts in political theory is Lord Palmerston’s adage that “Nations have no permanent friends or allies, they only have permanent interests.”

      At bottom, the conflicts between nations have a moral character. Think about it.

      Why do we abhor China’s grab of WPS features? Is this not stealing?

      The action to defend the homeland is a moral action, a self-defense, against immoral aggression.

      It is past time that humans become aware that moral considerations should govern the interaction between nations as it does between individuals.

      International law is a codification of moral sentiments.
      *****

      • caliphman says:

        I am not sure we are in disagreement here. Nations who engage in conflicts or wars with each other usually have a moral justification for doing so, which mostly they disagree on. China sees nothing wrong in taking what they claim is theirs whilst the Philippines considers it stealing what is legally theirs. This whole article is based on the question of whether a strategy of appeasement is the best is the least worst alternative to follow given what is at stake and the force imbalance between China and the Philippines. The rationale for international or any law is to codify what is just and applies to everyone, weak or powerful. So the idea of justtice is a moiral judgement in itself which is supposed to be shared by everyone agreeing to be bound by the law.

        In the case of China which has decided not to be bound by international law but can be decided by force, a successful strategy ls best developed by calculation and not moral considerations. For me, a strategy of appeasement is morally reprehensible not that I consider Duterte an especially moral figure. But even if I find it morally and constitutionally unacceptable to give up territory withour a fight, there are many things Joe points out in his article I agree with as part of the right strategy even I do not prefer it on moral grounds.

        • If you have others who believe in the same things, morally speaking, they are natural allies.

          Why does Western Europe not ally with Russia, but with America? Shared values.

          Now if one goes by total pragmatism, there are others who don’t want China to rule all. Regional and local potential allies like India, Vietnam and Indonesia for example – but to handle that would take skills of statecraft the Philippines does not yet have.

          Of course the classic Filipino strategy is similar to Congress supermajorities – sa llamado. Join what is perceived to be the winning side, in this case China. Turncoats/collaborators.

          Except if the winds turn, people will know. They may throw stones at the ex-dog of China.

  5. karlgarcia says:

    The news about the Chinese coast guard being under the Chinese Military should be no big deal because the US Coast guard is under the US Navy, and they handle maritime law enforcement?

    But the fear is will it lead to unnecessary miliitary conflict?
    Lastly, if the 2012 incident will repeat itself, will we be justified now to send the Navy?

  6. Andres 2018. says:

    What composes the West Philippine Sea? The waters west of Luzon and the waters of the entire Spratly Group of Islands. The territorial waters west of Luzon is still ours, the waters of the Spratly Group of Islands is never ours to begin with because it is disputed since the early 1900s. Did we lost the West Philippine Sea? No, since Luzon sea is till ours and Spratly is never ours to begin with. Yes, we lost Scarborough Shoal and Mischief Reef.

    Appeasement policy deescalate tensions with China, and maintains the status quo. This policy promotes cooperation among the nations in the region which is the general intention of the UNCLOS, cooperation among the coastal states. Nations could never start to cooperate with each other when the one sues the other.

    • The West Philippine Sea are those waters west of Luzon and Palawan that fall within the lawful EEZ of the Philippines. It covers much of the Spratlys, but not all..

      (http://www.officialgazette.gov.ph/2012/09/05/administrative-order-no-29-s-2012/)

      The seas belong to the Philippines, yes, so they are “ours” in concept, but not in reality. China has occupied them and in that sense they are lost.

      Thank you for providing the Chinese point of view on this matter, which includes a subtle hint that the Philippines created the dispute by filing for arbitration, a lawful process aimed specifically at resolving disputes. That is, a peaceful approach which China agreed to, but does not follow.

  7. NHerrera says:

    NECESSITY

    There is a powerful force that drives individuals as well as nations to do what they have to do. An otherwise unemployable mother of five left by the husband is driven to prostitution out of necessity. Let me dwell on this word.

    From China’s viewpoint, its actions worldwide among which is its actions in the SCS/WPS may be considered to be driven by necessity. This necessity in such an Authoritarian Regime, is currently defined by Xi and the Politburo. It is a necessity prompted by its domestic requirements whose satisfaction can only be ignored at the peril of this ruling group. It is a necessity driven too by the view of China’s destiny, considering its history, and aided by the present reality of its economic and military power — possession of wealth and might makes right.

    Issues of morality in the case of the prostitute and in the case of China may have been thought about but set aside in what is considered an over-arching necessity. Of course, Chinese spokesmen have issued statements seemingly moral and legal, citing history, if contrived — they are masters of the art.

    From the Administration’s or Duterte’s viewpoint, there is also necessity driven by these elements: the “shadow play” [beloved by the Indonesians] of harshness to or seeming abandonment of former allies — who the Admin has not really or entirely abandoned — but sweetened the ears of Xi and company, provided an extra room to “maximize” the winnings of the game so to speak.

    The Admin’s strategy if true is sad in that the problem of morality and the consequent result a decade or so from now is given less weight in a country supposed to be schooled — if not in practice — on morality. Reversing the future result may be extremely difficult.

    Geopolitics, I understand, is driven mainly by the concept of necessity.

    • When two necessities are incompatible and cannot be resolved, it leads to fistfights. Tragic, but a reflection of our limited capacity as humans to rise above animal expressions. China does not understand ‘good faith’, and the US does not understand the lack of it. The Philippines is but a leaf blowing in the wrong direction. Meaningless, with neither power nor moral principles.

    • “From the Administration’s or Duterte’s viewpoint, there is also necessity driven by these elements: the “shadow play” [beloved by the Indonesians] of harshness to or seeming abandonment of former allies — who the Admin has not really or entirely abandoned — but sweetened the ears of Xi and company, provided an extra room to “maximize” the winnings of the game so to speak.”

      If they were able to play the Indonesian wayang kulit shadow puppet game, I might be less critical. But I doubt that they have that sophistication – or even care for the entire nation.

      Mahathir and Jokowi have the sophistication of Malay rajas, know their essential game.

  8. karlgarcia says:

    Are you guys ok if China puts a floating Nuclear plant in the South China sea? NH, we discussed this before right?

    https://thediplomat.com/2018/05/chinas-risky-plan-for-floating-nuclear-power-plants-in-the-south-china-sea/

  9. Micha says:

    When Cuba was fighting its war of independence against Spain it got pivotal help when the US entered (and won) the Spanish-American War. Today, the US still maintains a military base in Guantanamo even if Cuba is already an independent country and has a gov’t that is its ideological nemesis.

    The US also has substantial military presence in Panama and has long history of interfering in the domestic affairs of almost every Latin American countries in the guise of preventing, during the cold war, the spread of communism but continues to this day as a matter of policy in protecting its neoliberal interests.

    As much as the US wanted to condemn the aggressive presence of China in WPS, it effectively lost the moral high ground.

    In a way too, what Duterte is doing now is just history repeating itself, first as a tragedy, then as a farce. The Philippines became a US protectorate after its independence from imperial Spain. Now he is prostituting the entire country (with him acting as the bugaw-in-chief) to become a Chinese protectorate after supposedly declaring that he is cutting ties with imperial America in the waning days of its imperial power.

    • Some cynical Realpolitik: (independently of morals, the laws of power are reality)

      1) the next-door power is always the worst.
      1a) USA to Latin America
      1b) Soviet Union to Eastern Europe
      1c) India to its subcontinental neighbors
      1d) China to its neighbors
      1e) Germany to its neighbors (even now re Euro)

      2) The far-away power can be a good ally if it needs you
      2a) Soviet Union to Cuba
      2b) United States to the Philippines
      2c) India to Vietnam
      2d) Germany to the Baltic States (vs. Russia)
      2e) maybe even China to Sri Lanka (but they overplayed their hand IMHO)

      3) Even among the less powerful, it depends how you deal your cards
      3a) Cuba was in its revolution much longer, from 1892
      3b) Filipinos only started when Spain was considerably weakened by Cuba
      3c) the USA did not colonize Cuba fully, they made it into a protectorate
      3d) they probably thought these Cubans are trouble, give them some leeway
      3e) Filipinos usually took the path of least resistance – in 1571, 1896, ’98, 1942 and today

      The Filipino way can be seen as cowardice or as sensible survival mode.

      The Vietnamese mode as partly suicidal. The Cuban way as friendly but harsh.

  10. Micha says:

    “The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.”

    Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot

    • NHerrera says:

      “Out, out, brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.”

      — Macbeth (Act V, Scene V)

      • Micha says:

        @NHerrera

        The Bard has the pleasant, if notorious, habit of speaking in tongues.

        Pray tell, what’s the significance to the subject of imperial ambitions and conquests of the Macbeth quote ruing the insignificance of life itself?

        • NHerrera says:

          Micha,

          I am just going with the flow here. Sagan seems to suggest the insignificance of the glorified personages when alive in the context of the vastness of the universe — even people like Trump, Xi or Duterte [Sagan spoke of emperors and generals in their glory and triumph] are only “momentary masters of a fraction of a dot.”

          In a similar vein, Macbeth seems to suggest the insignificance of people or actors in the world stage — be they kings or mere subjects or mortals — in the context of the brief life on earth (“out, out, brief candle”), who even as a king who “struts and frets” upon the world stage, who is “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing;” in the end becomes rather like a mere footnote of history when dead — “is heard no more.”

          (Perhaps a poor interpretation of the Bard’s soliloquy through Macbeth. I am using some literary license that I hope Joe will grant me.)

          If you are bothered with my reply, forget it, Micha. Take it as one of those posts you ignore. 🙂

  11. madlanglupa says:

    OT: How he managed to strike a chord, at a time when spirits become dangerously lowered.

  12. chemrock says:

    My earlier blog “The low down on the WPS” is an explaination of the “butterfly effect” from the closure of the American bases. The butterfly effect in games theory says a minute change in a complex system can have large effects elsewhere. This blog is a demonstration of what critical thinking is. I like the angles you approach the issues.

    Basically you are skewed towards an utilitarian solution to a very emotional dispute. Neighbours have gone to war over an inch of their fencing line, literary speaking. But we have a govt that shows such disinterest when Chinese nuclear warships visit, and the probability of building nuclear plants in close proximity to Philippines. The passivity of Philippines to such a threat is a glaring opposite of the US and USSR confrontation where they almost nuke each other in the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.

  13. caliphman says:


    Lessons from Vietnamese experience in contesting Chinese takeover of Spratleys.

    Massacre of 60 Vietnamese soldiers wading waist high by Chinese marines and accompanying gunboats. First video shows how not to defend Scarborough and other Spratleys.

    Patriotism is good. A potent deterrent is even better. Second video shows what a poorer and smaller country compared to the Phiippines can give pause to Chinese bullying in WPS. if both are present, a strategy of appeasement may not be necessary.

    • karlgarcia says:

      I agree.
      Patriotism and a potent deterrent is the answer.
      The 1988 video showed that lightly armed defiant patriots will give you heroes, unfortunately dead heroes.

      We need more than a fighting chance.
      Our modernization program must continue.

      Our unique brand of systemic corruption must end too.

      We still do not know where the “all accounted for” proceeds of the Fort Bonifacio sale went.

      Our procurement system is already strict, but it seems the stricter, just one loophole will override that.

      Even newly built Roads get repaired within a years time, our bridges are in terrible shape.
      Good luck to the build build build.

      True patriotism, no corruption.
      If you love your country you won’t let corruption persist.

      • karlgarcia says:

        I will eat my words on the Fort Boni sale.

        From a 2013 news article.

        “Proceeds from the military camp sale were used to finance various ongoing programs and activities, the BCDA said in a statement Thursday.

        The agency said that about P12.3 billion went to remittance for the AFP modernization program, P9.5 billion was spent for the Military Replication facilities, and an additional P1.65 billion is set to be remitted to the National Treasury for the next phase of the modernization program this February.”

        http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/money/companies/292978/bcda-generates-p56b-in-20-years-afp-gets-lion-s-share/story/

      • Francis says:

        I am a cynic—and don’t think corruption can ever be eliminated, only mitigated. That doesn’t mean that there’s no role for “true patriotism” there; a patriotic society is one where the thieves will stop or moderate themselves when they know the nation itself is at stake.

        Japan is not a corrupt country—on the surface. GDP percentage spent on infrastructure spending though unusually high when compared to fellow developed countries; lots of pork barrel there.

        America is not a corrupt country—on the surface. Before Trump at least. The occurrence of “outright” bribery (before Trump) is rare. Which is why Americans are so disturbed by Trump; parang askal itong si Trump—his brand of corruption is more “Third World” in flavor. Yet, that only implies that America has her own flavor of corruption; the legal kind—the one that’s good on paper, yet morally dubious—lobbyists in the revolving doors of politics and big business, the sheer money that Super PACs inject into politics, etc.

        “Kickback” is a universal phenomenon. One interpretation of politics is that it is about who gets what—translation: anong cut ko diyan? If society feels fancy and high-minded, the currency can be in ideas—most of the time though, people transact in ¥£€$. This is especially the case in democracies; Mr. President, what am I going to give to my dear constituents?

        I admit that a pure society, a purely clean government is an admirable goal. But to me—just the thieves looking beyond themselves when the national self-interest calls for it, that is good enough for me.

        The fact that our great thieves cannot even do that—and would rather sell our souls to China—disgusts me.

        • karlgarcia says:

          Actually I thought before if we allowed NBN ZTE to proceed, we could have jump started many things.

          But with all the security risks proven.
          It was a good decision.

          What if all the losers in a bidding of a project won’t complain?
          We could have many projects now right?

          What if the baranggay captain the councilor the mayor etc did not get piece of a slice, we could have better infra right?

          I am rambling now.

          I agree it would take gene editing par excellance to change things.

      • chemrock says:

        There is no fighting chance in a war with China. But you build up a capable defence force to make sure they know thwy will get a bloody nose in some battles. That;s deterrence, enough to keep bullies away.

        Next you build intel on their strategic assets that you can hit. Hurt them where it matters, physically and economically. Do you have info on Chinese assets in Philippines. When Vietnamese went on a rampage against Chiese assets in Vietnam, it hurt them bad and they stop to rethink.

        • karlgarcia says:

          It can be done.
          First bring diown the National Grid. That would hurt the Chinese but we won’t have electricity.

        • sonny says:

          Echoing chempo.

          1. A security posture must be translated from philosophy to real capabilities; this includes being of one political, economic, social will to transition from “plowshares to swords”;

          2. An honest assessment of this capability to transition this way must be the perpetual agenda of our diplomats, armed forces, educational establishments, i.e. everybody; politicians must remove their polarities in favor of defensive creativity to save the Filipino polity from destruction and inflict on the enemy the cost of their folly;

          3. Our present capability, our needs and assets should be surfaced by this exercise;

          • karlgarcia says:

            Military hardware is hard to hide nowadays. Build a stealth plane and a stealth sub, it will get published if not in the news outlets, it will get published in wikipedia.

            Let us say we will be successful in bulding stealth planes and subs, then announce that it is now patrolling the WPS, then what is the use of stealth.It is like announcing Hidden CCTV cameras are present better not steal that vault.

            • Good explanation. Also, I think the bee fleet has the same deterrent value if the boats can be widely seen around the Philippines doing enforcement work.

              • karlgarcia says:

                In addition going back to your idea, Allow me to paraphrase Sinking 1 to 10 large ships is easy, sinking a hundred is not easy at all.

                I am sure post Duterte, we could have our priorities set.
                We will get there.

                Deterrence is the key.

                All this lawfare and warfare must be Trumped ( lack of a term) by National Interest.

              • sonny says:

                I watched the use of PT-boats in the movie THEY WERE EXPENDABLE, the story of the USN Lt John Bulkeley (Medal of Honor) originator of the use of PT-boats in the Philippines. The Philippine Commonwealth Army made use of its naval arm, the Off-Shore Patrol fleet of six PT-boats skippered by PMA/Annapolis grads in WW2.

              • It is an old idea, but missiles are new. And radar.

  14. karlgarcia says:

    For those who have not read Joe’s excellent 2014 article about the bee fleet.
    Ibam copying the article below.

    https://joeam.com/2013/08/31/the-bee-fleet-2/

    Why should the Philippines spend hundreds of millions of United States dollars buying a few huge ships that can, after all, only patrol a few places among the expansive Philippine seas and islands? Correct me if I am wrong, but a ship is easily sunk, is it not? A missile, a mine, a torpedo, a cannon, a bomb.
    So why put all our sitting ducks in one pond, so to speak?
    ▪ Why not seed a major industry, boat building, by manufacturing a lot of smaller, simpler craft?
    ▪ Why not provide jobs in the Philippines instead of America?
    ▪ Why not have a large fleet of small, mobile, missile-toting ships?
    The bee fleet.
    Enough bees can kill a horse.
    And a manufacturing base can make a nation.

    • karlgarcia says:

      Another oops.
      The article was written last 2013.

        • karlgarcia says:

          Yes Joe. 🙂
          Francis seems to appreciate the suggestions. 🙂

          • Yes, noted. I wonder why self-generated military manufacturing programs don’t have much traction. It’s like everything is purchased. Is it outside the thinking of people on the way to the next promotion to think about investing in military infrastructure?? It is like the culture is purchase because it is fast and easy. Maybe a component of the defense improvement ought to be creating a military industrial complex capable of manufacturing utility drones, missiles, small boats and the like.

            • karlgarcia says:

              It is not only in the military.
              DOST people are complaining of the persistent snubbing of their innovations.
              license plates purchased instead of manufactured here.
              No cars of own etc.

              A military industrial complex can can change that purchasing habit.
              We might think it is so world war two.
              So what, if we need to get the intellectual property rights licenses then then no better time than the present.

              A program, a framework for the program to work,the will to do it.
              Our frustrations can be channelled into results if we all get frustrated together,

              Btw.
              I still like to get back to the time when being a Colonel or at least a One star General as long as productive is good enough.

    • Francis says:

      hmm

      not a military guy or expert in such things but that raises a very interesting question

      why are we looking at defense from the perspective of “big guys” like PRC and US? it is probably important to realize that “standard” tactics and strategy won’t work for us because “standard” tactics and strategy is based on assumpions meant for resource-rich, wealthy and huge nations?

      if we can’t buy a carrier, or buy enough frigates—perhaps solution lies outside the box?

    • Francis says:

      good also to link manufacturing to defense

      but also—builds up national self-confidence, morale as well. not only among masses (i.e. ordinary citizens) but also among elites: raises elite confidence in themselves, makes them less passive.

    • NHerrera says:

      Speaking of military hardware manufacturing —

      Nothing like tensions of the military kind to buoy up the economy: the cooperation between Australia and UK in the building of Australian warship stimulates economic activity both ways, using steel [an item on Trump’s tariff agenda] in addition.

      “Australia picks UK’s BAE Systems for $26 billion warship deal.”

      http://money.cnn.com/2018/06/29/news/companies/bae-systems-australia-combat-ship/index.html

      I can see a scenario — not under the present Admin (“ano ba kayo loko loko; sabi ko na China will protect me and the PH”) — where Japan, Singapore, and the Philippines cooperate seriously in the manufacture of military hardware and materiel for the Philippines. Japan for the know-how, Singapore for the financing, PH paying for those of course in a delayed/ term arrangement; and Filipinos providing the workforce and serving as interns for some transfer of technology — the start of a military-industrial complex.

  15. josephivo says:

    And there is the bigger picture as distances are shrinking and time is speeding up. Interactions and dependencies are intensifying and on the flipside problems that transcend national boundaries. From surviving as a clan to trading with outsiders and cooperating inside cities and then addressing challenges as pyramids and endless river dams that required the formation of nations of cooperating of cities. Eventually this resulted in a planet of only sovereign nation states, and violence as the tool to move boundaries and interests.

    Today there are problems individual nations can’t solve, such as a nuclear Armageddon, climate change, global trade and most importantly the new technologies. Think of autonomous intelligent weaponry, cyber security, designer babies… not a single sovereign nation can solve the problems created by these new challenges. We will have to find ways to better cooperate at the global level.

    China as the future leading economy has to be an integral part of this new world “government”, but not the imperial part. Learning to fight (without violence) and cooperate (in win-win arrangements) at the same time is mandatory. The WPS could be an ideal learning situation to sharpen these new skills.

    • NHerrera says:

      A “Prisoner’s Dilemma” mentality leads to utter destruction when a cooperative win-win situation is called for. It seems Stephen Hawking’s 100-year forecast of planet earth’s end-of-times is on schedule [ref: Joe’s earlier post].

    • “Today there are problems individual nations can’t solve.” Superb point. The smaller and poorer the nation, the more this is true. Which is why a tilt toward any single nation and away from the EU is nonsense for the Philippines.

  16. karlgarcia says:

    Even in an end of the world scenario, Duterte is still biased.

    “If war breaks out, America will melt first, but Russia and China will also follow suit. Kung bitawan nila ang nuclear warheads nila, it’s the end of the world,” he said.

  17. https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2018/06/28/1828726/us-ship-aids-stranded-filipino-fishermen-west-philippine-sea

    ..The Mustin commander added that he was proud of his sailors for safely and professionaly assiting their fellow mariners at sea.

    Filipino-American watch standers aboard the US Navy ship provided translation when Mustin assisted the local fishermen.

    “That pride extends from my bridge watch officers who spotted the Filipino mariners in the distance indicating distress by waving their shirts over their heads, to our Tagalog speakers who could break through the language barrier to determine the extent of the distress, and finally to my small boat team for their ability to tow the fishing boat to safety during heavy rain, lightning, and thunderstorms,” Smith said.

    Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Nicasio Bone said that he used the ships’s announcing system in breaking the language barrier.

    “It is the right thing to do to help people in distress and if anyone was put in the same position as me, they would bring the same help. I was really impressed by how the ship came together at the end of a long day to help these two fishermen; it seemed natural to do,” Bone said…

  18. karlgarcia says:

    Off Topic

    I maybe harsh for saying that he had it coming.
    The way he treated Delima by refusing to apologize and saying that he is happy she is detained us harsher.
    Good to know that TP is indicted for libel.

    http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/1005677/pasay-prosecutors-office-indicts-blogger-nieto-for-libel

  19. karlgarcia says:

    When we are willing able and ready, like the Vietnamese and the Australian S.A.S, we can say:

  20. karlgarcia says:

    If not Lorenzana then hopefully his successor will consider a bee fleet.

    http://www.pna.gov.ph/articles/1030945

    DND weighs pros, cons of acquiring small naval craft
    By Priam Nepomuceno April 5, 2018, 11:55 am

    MANILA — The Department of National Defense (DND) is looking into the pros and cons of acquiring smaller naval craft compared to larger or frigate-sized ships.

    “That is one option we are contemplating. There are pros and cons of big ships and so do small ships. We’ll look at our geography and the mission our ships will undertake. Yun ang magiging basis natin sa ating desisyon (That will be the basis of our decision),” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Wednesday.

    Lorenzana was responding to comments that it only takes a torpedo or a missile to sink a multi-billion-peso ship like a frigate.

    At the moment, the Philippine Navy is awaiting two missile-armed frigates being built by Hyundai Heavy Industries and scheduled to be delivered in 2020 and 2021.

    The naval vessels, which cost PHP18 billion including their weapons systems and munitions, will back up the three more elderly Del Pilar class-frigates (formerly the Hamilton class cutters) acquired from the United States.

    Lorenzana said steel-cutting for the two ships are expected by this month. (PNA)

    • Okay, very good. Now acquire the plans and build them in the Philippines.

      • karlgarcia says:

        There is this new law.
        REPUBLIC ACT No. 10698

        AN ACT TO REGULATE AND MODERNIZE THE PRACTICE OF NAVAL ARCHITECTURE IN THE PHILIPPINES

        And this suggestion of Gordon.

        http://www.senate.gov.ph/press_release/2018/0127_gordon1.asp

        Press Release
        January 27, 2018

        GORDON WANTS NAVAL ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN INCLUDED IN MARITIME COURSES’ CURRICULUM

        To cultivate Filipino talent in ship-building, Senator Richard J. Gordon has proposed to include naval architectural design in the curriculum of maritime courses of the country’s maritime academies.
        Gordon made the proposal during the formal launching of one of the world’s biggest commercial vessels built at the Subic Bay shipyard of Hanjin Heavy Industries & Construction-Philippines.
        “It is high time, I think, that part of the contribution of Hanjin should be to welcome maritime design. But before they can do that, our government must therefore make sure that part of naval architectural design be incorporated in the naval courses or the maritime courses of the maritime academies all over the Philippines,” he said.
        —-

        My take:
        Big or small crafts need Naval architects.
        I think the big ship makers are operating at a loss.
        That makes small craft manufacturing more feasible for Filipinos, we should also review our evaluation process if we need to relax entry of new Filipino players with no track record ( technology, design,manufacturing , etc)for a limitted number of projects let us say one or two.
        If not, our system of purchasing from abroad will never end.

        DND must consider this.

        • Well what do you know. When the man stops grandstanding, he has good ideas.

          Thanks for this encouraging word.

          • karlgarcia says:

            Welcome Joe.

            • karlgarcia says:

              His follow through is even more encouraging.

              http://www.senate.gov.ph/press_release/2018/0204_gordon1.asp

              GORDON WANTS RP TO BUILD ITS OWN SHIPS TO BOOST MILITARY CAPABILITY

              Senator Richard J. Gordon has called on the government to develop Filipinos’ abilities to build our own ships to ensure that the military will have the capability to secure the country and its territorial waters from piracy and terrorism.

              “We are an archipelagic country; we should be able to build ships. We should have ships made in the Philippines – in Cebu, in Hanjin in Subic. We should really make an effort to strengthen our military, because we are facing both internal and external threats. At the same time, we should consistently assert our national territory, which includes Scarborough Shoal and Benham Rise, in no uncertain terms,” he said.

              • What is he, Jekyll and Hyde? He is making sense. I’m gobsmacked.

              • chemrock says:

                More than 50 years ago Lee Kuan Yew tried to get some SE Asian countries to get togehter and co-operate economically. There was I think a meeting where they thrashed out some initial ideas. LKY proposed specialisation — Malaysia do household products manufacturing, Philippies for heavy industries (because you have the natural resources), Singapore for pharmaceuticals — only these I remembered. Everybody wanted their own pet projects so nothing worked. Malaysia went for heavy industry and set up car manufacturing. Their national car manufcturer has been surviving on tax payers support for decades. Singapore went ahead with pharmaceuticals and shipuilding and we are doing well in these. Philippines did nothing. Had Philiipines gone ahead and organise yourself on heavy industries, by now you would have gone into vehicles, ship building, buses, even trains perhaps.

                Naval Ship building is a long learning curve. 20 or 30 years I think.

              • caliphman says:

                I might have mentioned by this before commenting in a discussion on the galleon trade. The bulk and the biggest galleons were the largest ships in the world during the two centuries of the trade. The vessels could carry a thousand passengers.and huge amounts of cargo. These oceangoing ships were made here in Cavite, using narra and other native hardwoods, by local shipwrights and craftsmen.

                Which is not to say that Philippine shipyards are capable of turning missile cruisers and destroyers next year. But Senator Gordon is absolutely right about starting a program to revive our shipbuilding past. It should not take too long to turn out fast patrol boats carrying antiship missiles which are much cheaper to build and manufacture here. The weapon systems do not have to be costly or state of the art as the older cruise rockets and torpedoes can just as easily sink Chinese gunboats and destroyers as any of the expensive submarines or frigates on the Navy’s long term shopping list.

              • karlgarcia says:

                If we think of long learning curves then it is more important to start now or even yesterday just to emphasize urgency.

                Our Philippines is not short of ideas and roadmaps.
                For sure we have lots of them.

                We must not be ashamed to start simple.
                We snub DOST projects and innovations we think they are mediocre without even looking at them.

                For our value chains,we have overlogged, iovermined, overfished.
                We can’t even manufacture a ballpen.

                Some can still be corrected. We can correct over mining, over logging and over fishing etc.
                But we do not need a full blast vertical integration. We still need our neighnors as links to the value chain, all we need to do is to add value gradually adding more as we correct past mistakes that can still be corrected, we need to spend of course and even if greed can just be moderated, we must do our very best not to get caught, I mean improve our value system.

  21. karlgarcia says:

    Now we will have the missiles at least they won’t be deployed to the Frigates, but to the smaller MPACs.
    The Navy chief even said that they don’t want to deploy it to small bancas as if someone reminded him again of the small crafts.

    http://globalnation.inquirer.net/166831/philippine-navy-missile-maritime-security-asia-multi-purpose-attack-craft-mpac

    PH Navy’s first missiles to be operational in three months

    The Philippine Navy’s recently acquired first-ever missiles, seen to boost the country’s maritime deterrent, will be operational in three months’ time.

    Navy Flag-Officer-in-Command Vice Admiral Robert Empedrad told reporters that they are studying the doctrine and possible deployments of the multi-purpose attack craft (MPAC), where the missiles would be installed.

    “We are still studying the doctrine, where to deploy the MPAC we already acquired…This will be made operational in two to three months’ time,” he told reporters on the sidelines of a maritime symposium in Manila.

    The Spike ER missiles from Israel were delivered to the Philippines last month. It has a maximum range of eight kilometers.

    “It’s a good system. It has a pinpoint accuracy of hitting whatever target it wants to destroy. It’s a new capability of the Navy and this is our first missile capability; kailangan talaga pag-aralan namin kung (we really need to study) how to operate and where to deploy our ships,” Empedrad said.

    The Navy chief said they are still studying where to deploy the gunboats fitted with missiles, but cited areas like Palawan and Zamboanga.

    “It can be for anti-insurgency or territorial defense. Syempre pag-iisipan muna, ayaw naman natin paputukin ang P10-million ammo sa small banca (Of course we will still study it, we don’t want to use the P10-million ammo on a small boat),” he said.

    “I’m sure ma-threaten ang enemies that ply our maritime waters. This will be used to secure the choke points or what we call the sea lines of communication of our maritime nation,” he added. /je

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