BY by REY O. ARCILLA
‘The able and amiable DFA spokesman, Raul Hernandez should be the only one speaking on the Scarborough Shoal dispute.’
The Philippine Daily Inquirer editorial of 21 June 2012 called it a blooper. I call it rank amateurism, coupled with faulty judgment.
I do not think Foreign Secretary Albert “Amboy” del Rosario is so stupid as to announce that China had committed to do the same thing when Noynoy ordered the withdrawal of our two remaining ships in the Scarborough Shoal if it weren’t true.
I could be wrong but my take is that there must have really been an agreement for a mutual withdrawal using as a convenient excuse the bad weather in the area. What was lost in translation was that there should be no public announcement of the agreement. Being the Amboy that he is, Del Rosario is obviously unaware or, more likely, unmindful of the great significance that the Chinese attach to “loss of face”.
Del Rosario also apparently forgot that the Chinese leaders are very sensitive to any possible misstep at this time, particularly on the West Philippine Sea issue, because of the looming leadership change in the country.
As for President Noynoy Aquino himself making the withdrawal announcement, well, he doesn’t know any better, relying as he does on the advice (if indeed he consults him) of his unwitting foreign secretary.
(Note: I do not think it is true that the real reason the two ships were withdrawn was because they have run out of provisions and fuel and that no replenishment was forthcoming due either to the inclement weather or the unavailability of transport ships. Or is it?)
Which takes me to a question I have often asked in the past: “Why are there so many blabbermouths from our side making all sorts of statements on the Scarborough issue? From Noynoy to Del Rosario and his spokesman to the DND secretary and his spokesman to the Malacañang mouthpiece and his sometimes presumptuous deputy and, heaven knows, who else. On the other hand, have you heard or read of President Hu Jintao or Prime Minister Wen Jiabao or even their foreign minister comment on the issue? No. Only the Chinese embassy spokesman and the Foreign Ministry spokesman in Beijing and, of late, a rear admiral of the Chinese navy, open their traps on the issue.
Imagine the personal embarrassment to Noynoy and Del Rosario when a mere Chinese embassy mouthpiece, not even the ambassador herself, repudiated their claim.
I suggest that from now on, we should speak with only one voice. Noynoy should issue a directive that only the able and amiable DFA spokesman, Raul Hernandez, or his deputy, must speak on the issue and, when appropriate, our ambassador or her spokesman in Beijing. (Poor Sonia Brady… what is supposed to be her role in attempting to reach a peaceful solution to the dispute? Damage controller? Ay naku, kawawa naman!)
In case Noynoy and Del Rosario are not aware, every time they talk about the issue, they leave themselves with no room for maneuver to rectify any mistake.
What recourse do we have, now that the Chinese did not leave the area either by design or as a consequence of our claim that they committed to leave as well?
That’s a no-brainer. We have to send back our ships consistent with our rightful claim that the territory is ours. The problem is that the place is now “occupied” by the Chinese. They may be tempted to intercept, board or worse, shoot at our vessels on the pretext that we are trespassing on their territory. Already, Rear Admiral Yin Zhuo, director of the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s (PLAN) Information Expert Committee, was quoted as saying Chinese troops should go after Philippine ships and fishermen who come near the Shoal. What do we do then? What will our American friends do then?
As the Inquirer said, the withdrawal mistake may prove to be costly. This could very well be one of the costs.
US Ambassador Harry Thomas reiterated in a public forum his country’s neutral stand on the Scarborough Shoal dispute and the US position on the Mutual Defense Treaty.
No need! Secretary Del Rosario had already done that for him in an earlier 14-point statement!
In this regard, whenever the US exhorts China and the Philippines to resolve their dispute through diplomacy and international law, particularly the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), it rings rather hollow. The US has not even ratified the UNCLOS! Ratify it. Then you talk. (Incidentally, I was one of the Filipino signatories to the original UNCLOS document in Montego Bay, Jamaica, 10 December 1982. The others were Justice Secretary Vicente Abad Santos, DFA Undersecretary Pablo Suarez and Ambassador Victor Garcia III.)
Which reminds me, have we lodged a complaint before the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) as Del Rosario has been “threatening” to do from the start? If not, why not? How come there has been no announcement about it? Do we now have any doubt whether or not such a move will serve any useful purpose?
It doesn’t matter. I think we should just go ahead and do it, if only to prove our seriousness. At least we will find out if the law is on our side, i.e., if the ITLOS gives our complaint due course which it certainly deserves.
Reader Sluggo Rigor has this to say regarding an item in my last column:
“Your piece about diplomats assigned abroad resonates with thinking expats who observe them. In the case of personnel assigned to the US, wouldn’t it be interesting to research how many staffers originally assigned here in the past 25 years or so have decided to stay permanently? This is not wrong in itself as many of them, upon finishing their terms, want to take advantage of the opportunity to someday become citizens. A matter of wonder and common sense is when these very people, earnestly promoting how good the old homeland is reverse themselves through such acts. Parang hindi tugma, di ba? In our neck of the woods in North America, there are even ambassadors and high-ranking diplomats who have chosen to remain.”
I would go one step further – the DFA should conduct a probe of all its personnel, including its top honcho, to determine who have permanent residence status in another country or have acquired dual citizenships.
National security, if not common sense, dictates that foreign service personnel should not have double loyalties. Once they leave the service, they can do whatever they want.
Now that the World Boxing Organization has declared Manny Pacquiao the winner over Timothy Bradley, he should forget about having a rematch with the latter.
Instead, he should take on Floyd Mayweather in November. Time is no longer on his side. It is pretty obvious he is no longer the same fighter he was one or two years ago. Mayweather it should be, before he (Pacquiao) loses more of the sting that’s left in him. He can very well have a trilogy with Mayweather, if they split the first two and then retire. Or if he wins the first two, he can retire just the same and buy himself an executive jet in addition to his newly acquired helicopter.
Reminders (for Noynoy’s action):
1) Filing of charges against officials of the National Food Administration (NFA) during Arroyo’s illegitimate regime. Noynoy himself said on several occasions that there is documentary evidence to prove the venalities in the past in that agency; 2) investigation of reported anomalies in the GSIS during the watch of Winston Garcia; 3) facilitating the investigation of rampant corruption in the military and police establishments; and 4) expeditious action by the AFP on the case of Jonas Burgos.
Re the first item on the NFA, following are excerpts from Noynoy’s first State of the Nation Address on 26 July 2010:
“Let us now move on to the funds of the National Food Authority (NFA).
In 2004: 117,000 metric tons (of rice) was the shortage in the supply of the Philippines. What they (the government) bought were 900,000 metric tons. Even if you multiply for more than seven times the amount of shortage, they still bought more than what was needed.
“In 2007: 589,000 metric tons was the shortage in the supply of the Philippines. What they bought were 1.827 million metric tons. Even if you multiply for more than three times the amount of shortage, they again bought more than what was needed.
“What hurts is, because they keep purchasing more than what they need year after year, the excess rice that had to be stored in warehouses ended up rotting, just like what happened in 2008.
“Is this not a crime, letting rice rot, despite the fact that there are 4 million Filipinos who do not eat three times a day?
“The result is NFA’s current debt of 177 billion pesos.
“This money that was wasted could have funded the following:
- The budget of the entire judiciary, which is at 12.7 billion pesos this year.
- The Conditional Cash Transfers for the following year, which cost 29.6 billion pesos.
- All the classrooms that our country needs, which cost 130 billion pesos.
“This way of doing things is revolting. Money was there only to be wasted.”
So, how come, Mr. President, you have not done anything about this in the last two years?! Your bosses want to know!
Today is the 52nd day of the sixth year of Jonas Burgos’ disappearance.
From an internet friend:
I hope this poem has the same effect on you as it did on me. If so, forwarding it will be worth the effort:
“Walk With Me As I Age”, a beautiful poem about growing older….
Uhm… ah… Nuts, I forgot the words!