Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Treacherous grounds

The glaring issue we are too horrified to face
even if it is hitting us between the eyes is treason.
It is so despicable and so painful that it is hard to
imagine that treason may have been committed against
the Filipino people. Has the future of the
Philippines been compromised, the Constitution
silently violated, and our institutions eroded by
those who would foment and protect their personal
gains ?

An economist friend explained that the sell- out
has been going on for decades, right under our noses.
Haven’t I noticed how our fledgling industries were
always nipped at the bud and never allowed to
flourish? Haven’t I heard siren songs about how much
cheaper it is to import staple foods than pamper
indolent farmers? Haven’t I heard plaudits to
consumer-led growth, the strong peso and the service
sector? This friend said I should stop looking at the
trees and try to get a perspective of the forest, or
rather, the dense wilderness surrounding us.

To illustrate his point, he said the
astronomical overpricing in the ZTE, National
Broadband Network, the Cyber Education project, North
and South Rail was allowed by the proponents as an
exchange for something China badly bneeds. My
economist friend emailed a copy of Mr. Barry
Wain’s article ‘Manila’s Bungle in the South China
Sea” (Far Eastern Economic Review, Jan/Feb 2008) .This
revealing article is a must read.

Mr. Wain (Institute of Southeast Asian Studies,
Singapore) extensively quotes a Mark Valencia, an
independent expert on the South China Sea. The article
contends that: “ Presumably for higher political
purposes..,” the present dispensation has agreed to
joint surveys with China in areas that include parts
of our legal continental shelf where China does not
have legal claims-- our sliver of the Spratlys and
precious Malampaya, our gas- producing field off
Palawan .

By agreeing to joint surveying, our government
implicitly agrees that the Chinese claims have a
legitimate basis which is quite dangerous because
China has always affirmed “historical” ownership of
almost the entire South China Sea.
So, if the present dispensation, no matter how
indirectly, appears to give credence to China’s
“historic claim,” we not only put our position in
jeopardy but also that of fellow ASEAN members. The
articles describes the administration’s behavior as “…
a stunning about-face” because in 1995, the
Philippines kicked up an international fuss when the
Chinese moved onto the submerged Mischief Reef on the
same underlying “historic claim” to the area.

According to the Wain article, to date the details
of those agreements with China remain unknown, and
almost nothing has been disclosed about progress on
the seismic study, which should be completed in the
next few months. China’s demands for resources seem
bottomless and as an emerging power, it seems to have
succeeded in persuading this government to tailor
our national plans to China’s requirements, when it
should be the other way around.. The Arroyo
administration may find China’s offers impossible to
resist so we should remain vigilant through
“communal action” , “interfaith rallies” or even
Senate inquiries. There should be transparency and
accountability at all times so the present
dispensation will not be accused of tiptoeing on
treacherous grounds.

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