December 2012

AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR
By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 

Only the most negative gainsayers would still assert that our country has not moved forward under President Benigno S. Aquino III (P-Noy). If they can lie to you, then they can easily delude themselves — and they’ve been doing that. Listen to the gainsayers and you’ll wallow in despair instead of revel in the many bright landmark achievements that our country has chalked for the past two years under P-Noy.

It’s been two years and six months since we were rescued from deep despair by one of the cleanest presidents our country ever had. We were on the threshold of despair because we witnessed one of the most scandalous administrations — the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) regime — and how it damaged our national psyche. Today, GMA is facing plunder charges while her husband, the controversial Mike Arroyo, has been accused by a whistleblower as the head of jueteng (illegal numbers game) operations in Pangasinan.

From being cited as the sick man of Asia while all over us our Asian neighbors have been enjoying an economic boom — P-Noy has brought us to just a shade below investment grade in the S & P ratings. He made the world take cognizance of the new spirit and verve of the country, a concerted zero tolerance for corruption and a quest for a better life for every Filipino. Our tourism numbers have breached past record highs. An economic program of inclusive growth has been launched. P-Noy stood tall in challenging China’s claims to Philippine territory.

My sister Dorothy has been based in Singapore for over eight years now. She narrated to me how P-Noy has reversed Singapore public opinion about the Philippines. Even her driver there was telling her that we have a good president in P-Noy.

Good as he is, P-Noy cannot do everything to make life better for all Filipinos. Government can at best only provide the opportunities for all Filipinos to have a fair shot for a better life. P-Noy cannot help indolent fathers who prefer to live off their wives’ meager income and drink it out with neighborhood friends. P-Noy cannot make lazy students from failing to attain the required education and skills to land a good paying job. The fact is there are many good paying jobs out there but few of our countrymen qualify to fill the vacant positions.

There are many other important things that every Filipino must change if we’re to progress like Singapore or China. We have to know our real history. Not knowing our real history is like a person who doesn’t have an inkling of who his parents were and how they lived before. Unless we know our real history and how predators have feasted on us for centuries, we will always be vulnerable to future predation.

First of the predators were our colonizers and they almost wiped out our beautiful culture. These days we’re paying the heavy price of the damaged culture that Spain and the US left in our psyche. If that’s not enough, after raping our natural resources and leaving us with a damaged culture — these colonizers created our corrupt elite. It’s been this elite that has been ruling us and allowing us to be exploited once again. We pay this price for not knowing our real history.

Another negative hangover of our colonial period, we were programmed to be disunited and constantly warring with each other. Divide and rule has been a long practiced foreign policy of conquerors. These days, there’s a mighty China threatening to gobble up Philippine valuable resources. We cannot even hope to resist China if we’re a nation divided.

There are no short cuts to national development. Study the history of the major European nations, the US, Japan and China and you’ll see the common denominator — the national grit and determination to rise above tough challenges and move forward. A good administration can only bring the horse to water but near the water, the horse cannot be forced to drink.

Year after year, many Filipinos keep wishing and longing for a better life. How many of them did something positive to attain their goals? You can spend 10 years of your life praying in church for a better paying job but you know that the better paying job isn’t found in the church. It opens up for those determined enough to fit the requirements and look better then the rest of the field.

In St. Joan, George Bernard Shaw best described the role of God in the making of a nation. Shaw wrote: “God is no man’s daily drudge, and no maid’s either. If you are worthy of it He will sometimes snatch you out of the jaws of death and set you on your feet again; but that is all: once on your feet you must fight with all your might and all your craft. For He has to be fair to your enemy too: don’t forget that.” Over here we keep lazing around and just trusting God to provide our daily bread.

With a great president now leading us, let’s prove ourselves worthy of the qualities that will make our country great.

* * *

Shakespeare: “Madness in great ones must not unwatched go.”

Chair Wrecker e-mail and website: macesposo@yahoo.com and www.chairwrecker.com

COMMONSENSE
By Marichu A. Villanueva
The Philippine Star 

On top of the allocations in the Congress-approved 2013 budget, senators and House members will have billions of pesos in additional pork barrel funds that they can access starting Jan. 1 when the new sin tax law takes effect.

How did this came about? It was a product of the usual horse-trading behind a closed-door bicameral (bicam) conference committee meeting among senators and congressmen. And apparently, everybody was happy as it did not take long for the bicam to come up with the final consolidated sin tax bill that President Benigno “Noy” Aquino III signed into law last Dec. 19.

In the specific case of the new sin tax law, the bicam was steered by Sen. Franklin Drilon as chairman of the Senate ways and means committee and co-chaired by Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab. Both lawmakers belong to the ruling administration bloc in Congress from P-Noy’s Liberal Party (LP).

Before approving the final version of the sin tax bill two weeks ago, the bicam inserted in the reconciled version a new provision allocating a large part of additional revenues from higher taxes on tobacco and alcohol products to congressional districts nationwide. The new provision was carried in the new sin tax law under Republic Act (RA) 10351.

That is why the bicam is pejoratively referred to as the “third congress” for coming out with insertion, or insertions, of new provisions that are sometimes neither in the original Senate nor House version. I gathered that this “rider” in the new sin tax law originated from the House panel in the bicam.

In the end of reconciling differing versions of the Senate and House bills, the consolidated legislation produced at the bicam gets ratified by both chambers and eventually signed into law by the President. Ironically, the original versions of the Senate and House are separately approved in open and public deliberations.

The existing rates have been frozen for more than 16 years until P-Noy signed RA 10351 two weeks ago.

According to the principal authors and sponsors of the new sin tax law, they estimated at least P34 billion in additional revenues would be collected from higher tobacco and alcohol taxes in its first year of implementation.

The higher tax rates in 2013 will only take effect after the government comes out with the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) for RA 10351. That is, if Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) Commissioner Kim Henares makes good her public declaration that her agency will be able to come out with the IRR and publish this today, the last day of 2012.

The tax rates will gradually increase by four percent annually from 2013 to 2016, before a unitary amount is slapped on both low- and high-end products effective Jan. 1, 2017.

As computed by our veteran STAR reporter in Congress Jess Diaz, as much as P5.78 billion out of the additional revenues from the new sin tax law would be allocated every year among “political and district subdivisions for medical assistance and health enhancement facilities programs.”

Here’s how the computations for the new provision on the sin tax “pork” were arrived at.

The inserted provision in the new sin tax law states: “After deducting the allocations under Republic Act Nos. 8240 and 7171, 80 percent of the remaining balance of the incremental revenue shall be allocated for universal health care under the national health insurance program, the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and health awareness programs; and 20 percent shall be allocated nationwide, based on political and district subdivisions, for medical assistance and health enhancement facilities, the annual requirements of which shall be determined by the Department of Health.”

RA 7171, entitled “An Act to promote the development of the farmers in the Virginia-tobacco producing provinces” and enacted on Jan. 9, 1992, allocates 15 percent of all revenues from cigarettes using Virginia tobacco to provinces producing such leaf raw material.

On the other hand, RA 8240 enacted on Nov. 22, 1996, amended certain provisions of the National Internal Revenue Code and mandated small adjustments in the tax rates on tobacco and alcohol products.

Under RA 8240, 15 percent of total collections from the small adjustments are allocated to tobacco-producing provinces. Of that amount, 15 percent or P5.1 billion would be set aside for programs that would benefit tobacco farmers. Of the remaining P28.9 billion, 80 percent or P23.12 billion would go to the state-owned Philippine Health Insurance Corp., the attainment of MDGs and health awareness programs.

Under the new sin tax law, the balance of 20 percent, or P5.78 billion, would be allocated among “political and district subdivisions for medical assistance and health enhancement facilities program.” So far, no one has come out to dispute these computations.

Since the sin tax rates will increase by four percent every year over the next four years, this means the P5.78 billion in sin tax “pork” would also increase by that much over the same period. Thus, incumbent lawmakers and the succeeding ones could access these public funds from the sin tax “pork” for medical assistance for their constituents and for the improvement of state hospitals and other health facilities in their districts.

Understandably, House members and senators allot a large part of their annual funds for medical assistance, giving the money to government hospitals where they refer constituents needing medical attention.

The intentions are obviously well meaning. What makes the earmarking of these public funds dubious is that many of the recipients are the so-called “epal” lawmakers. “Epal” refers to lawmakers whose faces and names appear in billboards, streamers and tarpaulins, claiming that such and such project came from their own funds.

Clearly, the sin tax “pork,” like the rest of the national budget of the government, comes from the taxpayers themselves. In this case, smokers who can’t kick the habit and alcohol consumers, whether they drink socially or are alcoholics.

Indeed, it’s good tidings for lawmakers when the P2.006-trillion budget of the government takes effect at the same time as the sin tax “pork” in the first day of 2013.

Here’s to a happy new year!

http://www.philstar.com/opinion/2012-12-31/891679/sin-tax-pork

POSTSCRIPT
By Federico D. Pascual Jr.
The Philippine Star 

ZARZUELA: It is comical that both camps in the fight for control of vote-rich Cebu province are sanctimoniously invoking the rule of law, when in fact the spectacle is nothing but the usual political zarzuela.

On center stage in the political drama is Gov. Gwen Garcia, who was suspended by Malacañang for six months — or until after the May 2013 elections! — for alleged grave abuse of authority.

The 57-year-old executive has barricaded herself in her office while an acting governor propped up by Malacañang goes through the motions of running the capitol to maintain the myth of normalcy.

Has the Liberal Party, using its Palace dentures, bitten off more than it could chew?

* * *

THREE KINGS: “The rule of law must prevail,” intoned Vice President Jojo Binay after he and two other United Nationalist Alliance stalwarts — former President Erap Estrada and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile — paid Garcia a booster visit last Sunday.

Their show of solidarity with the embattled PDP-Laban governor may presage the emerging of UNA as the opposition coalition in the 2016 presidential elections and even as early as next year’s midterm polls.

Malacañang and the administration Liberal Party shot back with a veiled warning, expressing “hope” the UNA bigwigs were not encouraging Garcia to dig in and defy the rule of law. As lawyers, they know what that means.

* * *

CUTTING CLEAN: Binay had been saying that UNA is not the opposition ­— which merely meant that he, a creation of then President Cory Aquino, was not ready to cut clean with her son the incumbent President and his friends in the First Family.

But the Liberal Party’s clumsy attempt to capture Cebu, teeming with more than 2.5 million voters, may just accelerate UNA’s dropping all pretenses and standing as the opposition in 2016, if not in the midterm local polls next year.

That the suspension order was carried out by Secretary Mar Roxas of the Department of the Interior and Local Government is not lost on Cebuanos known for their fierce opposition to outside interference.

Roxas, who had stepped aside in 2010 to enable Aquino to run and become president, is presumed to be the LP presidential bet to face UNA’s Binay in 2016.

* * *

ONGOING PROCESS: Binay pointed out that Garcia’s tormentors, asking for calm, have been saying that the governor could file a motion for reconsideration or ask the court for relief.

Garcia, a member of the politically entrenched Garcia clan, has asked the Court of Appeals to stop the DILG from enforcing her suspension.

“This only shows that there is an ongoing process,” Binay said. “So why insist on the suspension and disturb the status quo in the capitol, prejudice essential services and unnecessarily raise political temper?”

* * *

TEST RAID: The power play in Cebu could be just another test attack. Earlier, Malacañang also went after Gov. Amado Espino of Pangasinan, another vote-rich province, accusing him of illegally amassing millions from jueteng.

The Nationalist People’s Coalition promptly went to the defense of Espino, charging political harassment. Binay and Enrile of UNA also expressed doubts the plunder charges against Espino had basis.

Somebody seems to be testing the water this early, to see how the public will react — and if the ensuing propaganda war could be managed in the media.

* * *

HIGH EXPECTATIONS: Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco, UNA secretary-general, noted that the LP and Roxas’ agenda will erode the people’s trust in President Aquino’s administration.

He said: “The people have very high expectations of the administration. They want jobs and a better life. They are fed up with the previous regime’s lust for power. They want more governance and less politics.”

“The LP’s power grab in Cebu is a return to the discredited mindset of politics at all costs,” he said. “Roxas’ obsession to capture power in 2013 all the way to 2016 could be costly for the President’s reform agenda.”

* * *

RATINGS DROPPED: As it is, President Aquino’s net satisfaction rating has already dropped by 12 points (from 67 to 55 percent), if the latest survey of the Social Weather Stations conducted Dec. 8-11 is to be believed.

The SWS said Aquino’s annual average rating of 53, which it said was “very good,” matched his 2011 score but was nine points lower that his 62 rating in 2010 — the highest recorded so far in his three years in office.

The polling agency said that Aquino’s scores fell in all areas, socio-economic classes and gender. The SWS said it used face-to-face interviews of 1,200 adults nationwide.

* * *

GUT SURVEY: This observer takes these surveys with a ton of salt. But assuming the results reflect the true public sentiment, they just show that sooner or later the truth will break through propaganda and braggadocio.

They also remind us that the true situation is not in press releases but in the people’s guts. In a developing country like the Philippines, the main determinant of public satisfaction is the people’s economic situation.

The rosy economic scenario painted by foreign creditors wanting to convince the Philippines to borrow some more does not correspond to the picture as seen by the natives who must endure the bitter fruits of bad government.

* * *

WHERE’S INVESTMENT?: The supposed hundreds of millions in dollars promised to be invested whenever President Aquino visited a foreign capital are — just that — promises made to make the visitor feel good.

Somebody should add up these promises and compare them to the hard direct investments actually brought in, not borrowed from local sources, then tell the truth.

Actually the millions of Filipinos wallowing in poverty already know the truth. But their pained cries are not heard when the table surveys are put together for the clients paying for the poll report.

* * *

RESEARCH: Past POSTSCRIPTs can be accessed at manilamail.com. Follow us via Twitter.com/@FDPascual. Send feedback to fdp333@yahoo.com

http://www.philstar.com/opinion/2012-12-30/891422/lp-bit-more-it-could-chew-cebu

Gagni’s Gleanings
By Lito U. Gagni
Buisness Mirror

THERE is an interesting exchange of correspondence among the CIIF Oil Mills Group, the Bureau of Treasury (BTr) and the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) on where the P57.669-billion coco-levy funds are lodged.

The funds were received by the CIIF from San Miguel Corp. from out of the proceeds of the redemption price of P75 per share for the SMC preferred shares that the CIIF Oil Mills Group owned, arising from the coco-levy funds that were recently decided by the Supreme Court as belonging to the government, supposedly in trust for the coco farmers. The checks that the CIIF received from SMC were ordered turned over to the BTr by PCGG President Andres D. Bautista.

But when CIIF OMG President and CEO Jesus L. Arranza asked Bautista where the huge coco-levy funds were, as well as the documentation about the checks that were earlier mentioned, the PCGG head told Arranza to direct his query to the BTr, headed by National Treasurer Rosalia de Leon. The reason? Even Bautista himself was clueless on where the proceeds were deposited.

And so Arranza wrote de Leon early this month: “We are formally requesting that the 14 CIIF holding companies be provided with copies of the documentation executed or signed in connection with the opening of account(s), and the deposit of the aforesaid checks to said account(s), for our file. Lastly, we would appreciate receiving an update on the balances of said account(s), and interest that has accrued thereon as of 30 November 2012.”

To our knowledge, a reply has yet to be made.

Globe outsmarts Smart

WHEN Supertyphoon Pablo devastated Surigao del Sur, Agusan del Sur and Davao Oriental, the Internet chatter was about Globe’s services still up and running in crucial parts of the devastated areas, whereas Smart had a hard time putting its services on line. If this is the portent of things to come, then Globe was much wiser in putting in practically new facilities in its cell sites.

Social-media chatter after Pablo hit that part of Mindanao showed that Globe had its signal in Mangagoy, Lingig and Bislig in Surigao del Sur, while Smart’s was down. In Santa Josefa, Loreto and Lapaz, Agusan del Sur, though, both Globe and Smart services were down. Three weeks later, Globe had a signal in Lingig, while Smart service was down; in Boston, Davao Oriental, Globe also has signal, while Smart does not have.

In a tweet of Mel van der Woodsen at @hateposh: “Good sunny morning friends! No more #PabloPH in this part of the country but still no signal from @SMARTCares. Buti na lang may Globe na.” For Ross at @roz_MESTIZO, he posted: “Still No #Smart network here in #IliganCity. Almost 19 hrs out of service. Pls fix it @SMARTCares if you really care.”

The battle for the mind of the consumers goes on in the social media. Here are some: “@SMARTCares Why is 3G pathetic here in Davao,” from @jingpm; “@SMARTCares ang hina ng signal ng pocket wifi here at 3rd floor admin building university of Makati. I’m paying for the load,” from @bulwark03; “Oh ang Mura ng promo ng Smart UNLI100 unli call &sms +80 sms to other network,” from @angeloruanto. Even in the sale of iPhone 5 for both telcos, the social chatter goes on, which just goes to show that the positioning game continues.

Market play on elections

WITH the expected dividends from the increased ad spending in the forthcoming political exercise, brokers are recommending the purchase of ABS-CBN and GMA 7 shares, with the former having a greater fan rating. The past three election years in 2004, 2007 and 2010 saw the price-earnings multiples of the listed TV stations going up by up to 17 percent as against the current PE of just below 13 percent.

The brokers’ bias for ABS-CBN shares arises from its recurring net income; as of September, it reached P1.6 billion, which already surpassed its year-end estimates by P100 million. Providing support for the bias toward ABS-CBN shares is the sterling performance of the company in the first nine months, as well as the projections that the economy would grow higher next year, what with the expected sovereign-rating upgrade looming.

ABS-CBN’s earnings next year is seen at P2 billion, which translates to earnings per share of P2.60 as against the possible P1.7-billion earnings this year that means a per-share earnings of P2.20.

Strict BSP rules

THE Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, when it grants liquidity assistance, makes sure that it secures the necessary promissory notes and opens a way by which it could go after those who mortgage their property should they turn out to be fraudulently titled. And the BSP relies on the Monetary Board, its governing body, before it decides to grant a loan to any financial institution.

Thus, when the Optimum Development Bank and the Manila Brickworks Inc. executed a deed of real-estate mortgage, the BSP named Andres Rustia, its managing director in charge of the Department of Loans and Credit and the Asset Management Department, as its signatory to the document that was made on June 29, 2001, for loans of more than P300 million.

Questions that would arise from the BSP assets that are later foreclosed, such as the ones above, then give options to the monetary body to go after erring mortgagors.

http://www.businessmirror.com.ph/index.php/news/opinion/6712-where-are-the-p57-b-coco-levy-funds

By Erick San Juan

“Conditions today are the most perilous in world history. Global war is possible. The threat is real and ominous. Open discussion is suppressed. Media scoundrels won’t touch it.” (Four More Years of War by Stephen Lendman)

Yes, no matter how we like to celebrate the coming New Year with so much fun and full of hope with our family, the glooming scenario of an impending war is inevitable. As much as we don’t want to be the messenger of gloom and doom, we just have to help the present government to be wary and read the writings on the wall as it kowtow (unfortunately) to a perceived master in the process.

In the article of Lendman, the warning of then US President Dwight Eisenhower was mentioned regarding the military-industrial-Complex, to quote, “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.” (Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1961 Speech)

According to Lendman the warning of Eisenhower was ignored and the military-industrial-complex (M-I-C) did prevail and persisted up to the present US leadership.

“Every gun that is made, every war ship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, from those who are cold and not clothed.

“Today’s legacy is force-fed austerity. Health and public welfare are sacrificed on the alter of America’s addiction. Obama has plenty more in mind. Wars of choice are planned.

“Since WW II, none of necessity existed. America is masterful at inventing enemies when none exist. No matter how many times people are fooled, they’re easy prey to convince alleged threats must be challenged.” (Ibid)

There seems to be no end to the existing culture of violence that was highlighted after 9-11 which guise as the war on terror, started by Bush and being continued up to this very day by the Obama second term presidency. It’s very clear to the recently approved (by the US Senate) 2013 budget that has allotted $633 billion for US defense. Every year the federal budget has been allotting 58 percent for its military and/or defense expenditures, both domestic and abroad.

As what Valentin Zorin (a political observer) wrote “The country’s state debt is growing at a fast rate. And judging by the newly approved 2013 budget, Washington has no intention of ending the arms race. At present, the US military expenditure exceeds combined military spending of all other countries.

Experts attribute the current difficulties experienced by the US economy to the fact that it cracked under the burden of military spending, which proved too heavy for it, if not outright intolerable. According to the US Treasury Department, the unprecedented $17 trillion debt will increase to $19 trillion in the foreseeable future and exceed 100% of the country’s current GDP. On top of that, Boston University Professor Laurence Kotlikoff has established that the US budget deficit is larger than the officially reported amounting to a whopping $200 trillion.”

In order to sustain the big business in the M-I-C, war is a necessity and an outside enemy is needed to justify the huge spending.

Just like what retired United States Marine Corps Major General and two time Medal of Honor recipient Smedley D. Butler wrote in his speech and in his booklet – War Is A Racket that “he frankly discusses from his experience as a career military officer how business interests commercially benefit from warfare.”

Being run by racketeers profiting from war materiel – “the military-industrial complex has turned the arms race into an endless source of profit for weapons manufacturers and dictates policies to those in power. All hopes and election pledges on the part of aspiring politicians drown in this strive for profit which gains the upper hand defying people’s interests and the requirements of the common sense.” (Prof. Valentin Zorin, Political Observer of The Voice of Russia)

As they profit from this endless war games, the culture of violence is being sustained and those countries being part and parcel in this ‘game’ maybe wittingly or unwittingly, will find themselves in a debt trap and their poor citizens will suffer the deadly consequences.

People will keep on repeating history if they will not heed to several salient points being given by past leaders and distinguished military men and humanity will be the one to make his own apocalypse in the process.

Be very vigilant new year to all!

By Angguntari C. Sari
Jakarta Post

The dispute in the South China Sea; the prospect of a major military confrontation or its peaceful resolution, has been an important issue throughout the past year.

With 2013 around the corner, it is a good time to explore the possible future scenarios for the situation in that area.

The projection of the future of the South China Sea is structured along six key determinants of stability. The six drivers are first, the presence of a hegemonic power that has the capacity and incentive to create a stable order, second, the equal distribution of military power and avoidance of overly aggressive behavior, third, the adherence to international norms of peaceful settlement of disputes, fourth, a preference to maintain international economic ties and development, fifth, the presence of institutions to regularize dialogue and cooperation, and sixth, united domestic entities that prefer win-win and peaceful solutions.

So, what does the future hold for the South China Sea? Do the six factors correspond to the current situation? There are three possible scenarios; the apocalypse scenario, the dream scenario and the status-quo scenario.

The apocalypse, or worst possible case, scenario would be one in which the conflict among the disputants erupts and involves the US. The major military confrontation would stem from the inability of the US to maintain neutrality in the dispute, or the total withdrawal of the US from the region, a complete breakdown of regional talks, dismissal of international norms and narrow calculation by the disputants.

The dream scenario refers to a situation in which the territorial claims are completely and peacefully resolved, and a win-win
solution is produced. For convergence to occur, the claimants would have to take pragmatic stances and the six factors would have to be in place.

In the status-quo scenario, which is the most likely scenario for the next 10 years, the claimants adopt half-hearted attitudes to resolving the territorial claims and maintaining stability.

The current information suggests that a major conflict will not take place. Military analysts at IHS Jane’s say that Southeast Asian countries, including the claimants, together increased defense spending by 13.5 percent last year, to US$24.5 billion. The figure is projected to rise to $40 billion by 2016. This will prevent China from forcefully pressuring other claimants or occupying the territory that it claims.

The other stabilizing factor is the US. The US pivot to Asia Pacific since 2009 includes the commitment to keep all claimants in check since this area has a high strategic and economic value. Nearly a third of the world’s maritime shipping traverse this area.

An encouraging sign has come from China’s next leader Xi Jinping. In his address to the annual meeting with ASEAN members, held in the southern Chinese city of Nanning recently, Xi said China was committed to “common development and a peaceful regional solution to the dispute”.

The claimants’ desire to maintain regional peace and stability, however, might not be enough to ensure future stability. The ability of central governments to persuade the various domestic institutions, and their peoples to adopt a win-win, comprehensive, peaceful solution is also crucial.

So far, China has been having difficulties in convincing various institutions or indeed its people who prefer to see an assertive stance, of the importance of preserving regional peace and stability as a precondition of economic development.

The writer is a lecturer at the department of international relations, Parahyangan Catholic University, Bandung.

http://www2.thejakartapost.com/news/2012/12/31/three-possible-scenarios-south-china-sea.html

SOURCE: LIGNET 

South Korean coast guard officers escort Chinese fishermen to shore in October after their boat was seized for illegal fishing in the Yellow Sea. Two Chinese fishing boats were seized by Argentina last week after they were caught fishing off Patagonia. (DONG-A ILBO/AFP/Getty Images)

Summary

Argentina’s capture of two Chinese ships last week that were fishing the waters off Patagonia highlights China’s expanding and illegal hunt for fish far from its shores in waters clearly belonging to other countries. The Chinese government likely had no knowledge of the whereabouts of the boats because it doesn’t track fishing vessels. But it could, and chooses not to, likely because the growing aggression of Chinese fishermen is in line with China’s growing aggression that includes a refusal to recognize maritime boundaries.

China operates more than 2,000 fishing vessels outside of its territorial waters. Many of them routinely fish in waters that are within the 200-mile exclusive economic zones of other countries. China routinely underreports the activities of this distant water fishing fleet to the UN, and is contributing to worldwide depletion of fish stocks. While other responsible nations are managing their fisheries and their fishing fleets in compliance with a 2001 UN Agreement, China’s fishing activities around the world are part of its strategic plan to assert its dominance.

Background

On December 24, Argentina’s Coast Guard detained two Chinese fishing vessels that had been caught fishing inside the nation’s 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ). They were found to be carrying 10 metric tons of squid and fish. Recent estimates say that Chinese fishing boats catch close to 200,000 tons of fish each year while operating within the EEZs of South and Central American nations.

The two ships detained by Argentina are part of China’s distant water fishing fleet. This fleet comprises more than 2000 vessels known to operate in the EEZs of 79 countries. The only regions they do not operate in are the waters off North America and Europe, and in the Arctic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.

According to a July 2012 study commissioned by the European Parliament, Chinese fishing vessels operating in EEZs off the coast of Africa catch more than 3 million tons of fish per year. That is approximately two-thirds of China’s estimated distant fleet catch. Some experts estimate that at any given time, there are at least 300 Chinese fishing vessels operating within the EEZs of African nations.

While some of these vessels operate under agreements with African countries, without marine patrols, most of these countries have no way to effectively police the number of vessels, or the type and amount of fish caught.

Some analysts have attributed the existence of maritime piracy off the coast of East Africa to the endemic overfishing of the waters by other countries, like China. They assert that the depletion of fish stocks in that region spurred local fishermen to resort to other, less pacific, means to earn a living.

China must resort to fishing waters outside of its own EEZ because it has already depleted the stocks in the Yellow Sea and South and East China Seas. In 2006, a study published by the University of British Columbia found that 30 percent of the fish stocks in China’s EEZ were “collapsed” with an additional 20 percent “overexploited.”

In the 1980s, China recognized the problem with its overfishing, and established a fleet of vessels to start fishing foreign waters. Over time, the Chinese government provided subsidies to its fishermen if they operate outside of China’s EEZ, encouraging them to go farther afield.

China is known to over-report its domestic marine catches to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, and severely underreport the activities of its distant water fleet. On average, between 2000 and 2011, China only reported 50 percent of its distant water fleet catch.

This misreporting is exacerbated by a couple of factors. First, the over-reporting of the domestic catch was found, by the EU study, to be a result of internal Chinese politics. Chinese political officials are rewarded when their regions meet established, centralized economic goals. Therefore, it is in their best interests to do so. Unfortunately it only further masks the actual state of fishing stocks in China’s EEZ, making it appear as if the stocks are not as depleted as they actually are.

The distant water fleet numbers are severely underreported due to a complete lack of transparency in China’s fishing fleet activities.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization compiles annual data on worldwide fishing activities. However, the information on fishing industry and annual catches is provided by each member nation. This self-reporting allows China to give whatever numbers it pleases, because there is no international regulatory oversight of the process.

Analysis

China’s total lack of transparency in the operations of its distant water fishing fleet means that even Beijing has no way of actually knowing what was caught, how much was caught, and who caught it. The only national entity that has any connection with the fishing industry is the Fisheries Law Enforcement Command, which falls under the Ministry of Agriculture. However, it has limited funding and its main purpose is to escort Chinese fishing vessels in domestic waters.

While U.S. fishermen, for example, are subject to national monitoring of their vessels and registration of all catches, China has no such management system. However, it really is not in China’s national interests to monitor its distant water fishing fleet.

China contributes approximately one-fifth of the world’s population, but consumes 25 percent of the world’s documented fish catches. Over the past twenty years, the per capita consumption of fish in China has doubled. As the nation continues to grow, and the economy continues to expand, China’s consumption of fish will continue to grow as well.

As a result, feeding this growing nation is actually a matter of Chinese national security, and one of sovereignty. While it is exercising a modicum of moral imperative on the fishing within its own physically sovereign areas; it is not beholden to regulating its activities outside of its immediate territory.

China refuses to ratify a 2001 UN agreement that is aimed at long-term conservation of migratory fish stocks. And it certainly does not abide by it in principal. China’s distant water fishing fleet is slowly depleting the oceans of the world. China is severely underreporting its global fishing catches, which will have severe implications for global fishing stocks.

While developed nations have coast guards to monitor unregulated fishing activities in their own EEZs, countless nations worldwide have no capacity to assert their territorial claims. This can already be seen at the regional level in the South China Sea. China has de facto sovereignty of many disputed areas because nations such as the Philippines and Vietnam do not have maritime patrols that could remove Chinese fishing vessels from their territorial waters.

Conclusion

Throughout 2012, China has more aggressively asserted its physical sovereignty over disputed regions throughout the South and East China Seas. Predominantly it has used its fishing fleet (with armed escort ships) to assert its territorial claims. However, it may be quietly asserting it dominance around the world in a similar manner. While China may not dispute the physical “sovereignty” of maritime nations in Africa, South and Central America, and their maritime domains; much like the Philippines and Vietnam, China is establishing de facto sovereignty in many regions of the world to pursue its own national security agenda.

Read more: http://www.lignet.com/ArticleAnalysis/Chinas-Illegal-Fishing-Fleet-Dominating-Worlds-Oce#ixzz2Gf2BYufi

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SOURCE: LIGNET

Russian President Vladimir Putin (3rd from right) meets with heads of state of members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, an organization of former Soviet states, in Moscow on December 19, 2012. (KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images)

Summary

As the NATO-led International Security and Assistance Force (ISAF) prepares to withdraw from Afghanistan in 2014, Western influence in Central Asia is on the verge of a major decline. Regional supply routes – developed since 2001 for the war in Afghanistan – have boosted Western influence in the region, but will soon lose their importance. Russia, which has so far judged that ISAF’s campaign in Afghanistan mostly supports its security interests, is preparing to fill a Central Asian power vacuum that looks set to emerge in 2014.

Russia has signed a series of major military assistance packages with Central Asian states, including a $1.1 billion military assistance package to Kyrgyzstan in November. China is also enhancing its presence in the region with major energy and resource projects. However, the U.S. is likely to judge that these developments do not pose a major threat to its national interests, and may even support some of its objectives in the region.

Background

Since 2001, ISAF members – particularly the United States – have relied on the cooperation of Central Asian states to prosecute the campaign in Afghanistan. As Undersecretary of Defense Ashton Carter noted in 2009, “Next to Antarctica, Afghanistan is probably the most incommodious place, from a logistics point of view, to be trying to fight a war.”

Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan have allowed their territory to be used as important ISAF logistical supply nodes, known as the Northern Distribution Network. Approximately 40 percent of all NATO supplies to the ISAF force in Afghanistan pass through this network. The importance of these supply routes has significantly boosted the Western diplomatic and military presence in the region.

Over the last decade, Russia has recognized the threat from ungoverned spaces in Afghanistan, and has therefore not treated the West’s presence in Central and South Asia as a complete threat to its interests. Russia’s calculation is that ISAF operations have kept in check narcotics smuggling from Afghanistan and the spread of radical Islam into former Soviet states in Central Asia and Russia’s Caucasus region.

Russian officials judge that without ISAF in Afghanistan, the burden on Russia from these threats would increase. Indeed, as late as March 2012 Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, urged ISAF to remain in Afghanistan until Afghan security forces have reached full capability, and poppy cultivation has been effectively constrained.

At the same time, however, while Russia welcomed U.S. and NATO forces expending their resources to quell instability in Afghanistan, it has tried to undermine any American or NATO military presence in former Soviet states in Central Asia and has worked especially hard to prevent any permanent American military base in the region.

But with the ISAF withdrawal in 2014, the relative geopolitical stability generated by ISAF and Russia’s overlapping interests is being thrown into a state of flux. Russia, and increasingly China, are expanding their influence in the region as the ISAF presence is being drawn down.

Las month, Russia signed a $1.1 billion military aid package with Kyrgyzstan and announced $200 million of assistance to upgrade Tajikistan’s air defense system. The Tajik government has extended the lease on Russia’s base in Dushanbe until 2024 in exchange for military training and a deal that allows better access to the Russian labor market for Tajik citizens. On December 13, the Kyrgyz parliament ratified a 15-year extension to the lease of the Russian airbase in the country in exchange for a $489 million debt settlement and energy infrastructure upgrades.

In addition to the traditional military balancing act in Central Asia, there is a parallel struggle for influence in the region revolving around energy and resources. While China has not competed for basing rights, it has become a competitor for Central Asian energy and resources. In 2006, the China National Petroleum Corporation (CPNC) became the only firm to obtain the rights to an onshore natural gas field in Turkmenistan by promising to move rapidly toward monetization of the field. A 1,100-mile pipeline was completed three years later. In 2011, CNPC built on this success by winning a major oil tender in Afghanistan.

By contrast, the U.S. has recently experienced volatile relations with Central Asian states. In 2005, the U.S. was evicted from the Karshi-Khanabad Air Base (K2) in Uzbekistan, likely due to U.S. and Western criticism of President Islam Karimov’s repressive regime – and in particular the “Andijan” massacre of civilians by Uzbek soldiers that year.

In 2011, the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), which includes Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, agreed that no future foreign military bases could be opened on CSTO territory without the agreement of all member states. Earlier this month, the newly-elected President of Kyrgyzstan publicized a decision that the U.S. could not use the country’s Manas base after 2014 and said U.S. troops would leave the country in 2014.

The West also lags behind in energy and resources competition in Central Asia. For over 20 years, the West has been trying to secure energy in Central Asia and reduce Russian influence, but with little success. Europe and the United States are promoting a pipeline that would connect Turkmenistan to South Asia and its ports via Afghanistan known as TAPI, and a gas line across the Caspian Sea connecting Turkmenistan to Azerbaijan and on to Turkey and Europe (known as Nabucco West). Both projects have suffered major obstacles and neither is deemed practical in commercial terms, according to Steve Levine of the University of Montana.

It is not all bad news for geostrategic prospects in Central Asia for the United States and Europe after the 2014 ISAF withdrawal from Afghanistan. Uzbekistan has suspended its membership of the CSTO, which is paving the way for possible U.S. bases in Uzbekistan in the future. Tajikistan has also continued to court the U.S. in spite of its membership of the CSTO. Even though new Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev has repeatedly ruled out U.S. use of the U.S. Manas base beyond 2014, Nicholas Redman of the International Institute of Strategic Studies assessed last July that “the prospect of Kyrgyzstan seeking a way to keep the U.S. air base at Manas open beyond 2014 can’t be ruled out.”

Furthermore, according to 2009 International Energy Agency calculations, while Chinese involvement in Caspian energy sectors is growing rapidly, it only stands at 7 percent of total Central Asia oil and gas production, whereas other international oil companies, which are mostly Western, have a share of 38 percent. Alexandros Petersen of the European Energy Security Initiative believes that as the Russian and Chinese share increases, it may meet resistance from Central Asian powers that remain fearful of too large a role by regional hegemons following their experience of the Soviet Union’s iron grip. As one Turkmen official puts it, “we do not want to be dependent on anyone. We set our energy policy as an independent, neutral state.”

Analysis

After a long and difficult war in Afghanistan, the U.S. may decide that a loss of influence in the region is a price worth paying for the 2014 withdrawal. Moreover, the U.S. under President Obama appears to be refocusing its attention on the Asia-Pacific under Mr Obama’s “Asia Pivot” policy where he judges U.S. interests are of greater importance.

In addition, analysts such as Steve Levine argue that Russian and Chinese presence in Central Asia may be a help rather than a hindrance. As Russian support for the war in Afghanistan has shown, the U.S. and Russia both have an interest in stable governance and regional security in Central Asia and Afghanistan. The development of a post-2014 balance of power where Russia bears more of the burden therefore may not be a bad thing for the U.S.

As for China, U.S. policy-makers have interpreted Beijing’s advances into Central Asia as having a double strategic purpose: gaining access to energy resources while also countering Western and Russian influence. Again, some senior strategists believe this may not necessarily represent a major threat to U.S. interests and counters Russian efforts to dominate Central Asian energy production, especially natural gas.

Moreover, if Russian and Chinese engagement enables the creation of prosperous, stable and secure Central and South Asian countries, they may help prevent a spill-over of instability and possible terrorist havens that could occur in Afghanistan if the elected government cannot defend against efforts by the Taliban to take over the country after international forces withdraw in 2014.

U.S. interests in Central Asian energy will remain limited to securing energy for its European and Asian allies, but its interest in pursuing this goal will probably diminish after 2014 as Washington focuses on other regional problems. Europe, however, will retain a keen interest in securing access to Central Asian gas and finding ways of shipping it to Europe with pipelines that do not go through Russia to reduce Moscow’s ability to use its gas exports to Europe as a weapon to influence European economic and security policies.

Russia’s increasing influence in Central Asia after international forces withdraw from Afghanistan in 2014 will probably bolster its efforts to counter such pipelines to maintain economic leverage over Europe and political influence with Central Asian states.

China will continue to play an offsetting role here because Chinese negotiators have shown that they are able to come up with quicker and more lucrative deals for Central Asian energy producers to ship gas to China. Pipelines to China are also harder for Russia to block for geographic and political reasons.

Conclusion

As the ISAF withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014 approaches, U.S. and European military and diplomatic influence in Central Asia will decline. Russia and China are already preparing to fill a regional power vacuum that will emerge. However, this does not represent a significant threat to post-2014 U.S. or European interests because this shift could help prevent any spread of instability should the Afghan government collapse after 2014. There still will be a competition for Central Asia gas between Europe, Russia, and China, and Russia probably will increase its ability to best Europe in this competition as U.S. and European political influence drops in Central Asia after 2014.

Read more: http://www.lignet.com/ArticleAnalysis/Will-Russia-and-China-Fill-Power-Vacuum-in-Central#ixzz2GeyPt7ws

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By Bert Drona
The Filipino Mind

Andres Bonifacio

We native Filipinos, at the very least, all recognize Jose Rizal as a martyr-hero, given that all of us grew up learning about him, seeing his statue or other in our schools, town plazas, etc., and elevating him practically to a cult of personality by a few Filipinos. We know Rizal was in the forefront of the Propaganda Movement for Spanish reform in our homeland.

Dr. Jose Rizal

Thanks to native ilustrados then who were generally elitist (as most of today’s so-called educated and from exclusive Catholic schools like Rizal was) and the American colonizers (who at the time were discarding the anti-imperialist stance of their Founding Fathers), Rizal was made “the” national hero because of his more acceptable reformist and thus less threatening outlook (rather than a revolutionary one, i.e. Andres Bonifacio).

Apolinario Mabini

In comparison, we barely know much about Apolinario Mabini beyond being the “Dakilang Lumpo;” however with some inquiring effort, we can know/understand that Mabini moved beyond propaganda, to discover that he has actively engaged in revolutionary activities against the Spaniards and much more so thereafter, against the American invaders.

We natives ought to know more about him and other Filipino heroes. Hopefully they are still being taught and learned in today’s schools. Since we Filipinos think hierarchically, let us put Mabini way up there, if not higher, with Rizal (and Andres Bonifacio).

Apolinario Mabini has earned the title “Brains of the Revolution.” Having been the chief adviser to General Emilio Aguinaldo during: the revolutionary struggles against the Spaniards, the short-lived Republic established at Malolos and the subsequent Philippine-American War. This latter war, which was years longer than the months-long Spanish-American War, was/is continually denigrated as an “insurrection” for almost a century and glossed over in school textbooks and popular history books in America, etc.

Mabini was one of the few uncompromising patriots (another was General Antonio Luna, the ablest Filipino revolutionary soldier, who was assassinated). He was more than just a thorn in the ass of the duplicitous invading Americans (1898), then nascent imperial power and new colonial master of native Filipinos.

Mabini believed that a foreign nation does not colonize another nation for purely altruistic reasons. Imagine seeing President McKinley doing his claimed hogwash -on his knees praying about what to do with the Islands- as narrated in school and military textbooks, etc. Mabini was proven correct by our past and ongoing national/people’s history.

While imprisoned by the Americans, Mabini wrote many articles on independence, political rights and against alternatives to political independence i.e.political autonomy proposed by some early pro-American Filipinos like Pedro Paterno, Felipe Buencamino, T.H. Pardo de Tavera, etc.. Mabini believed in the importance of bravely expressing one’s political beliefs.

He was considered a dangerous and uncompromising insurgent who aroused enthusiasm to keep the struggle alive. When amnesty was proclaimed on June 1900, Mabini refused to take the oath of allegiance to the United States, which was the condition for release.

Mabini was consistently opposed to other former/fellow members in the short-lived Malolos Congress who readily sold-out to the winning Americans and formed the Partido Federal which he labeled a “party of convenience.”

The Federalistas included such prominent/educated elite such as TH Pardo de Tavera, Cayetano Arellano, Benito Legarda, Felipe Buencamino, Tomas del Rosario, Teodoro Yangco. TH Pardo de Tavera stated that “..all the efforts of the party will be directed to the Americanization of the Filipinos and the spread of the English language… .” Many of these guys are taught in schools to be our “heroes” and our streets are named after these early quislings; subsequently emulated by many of our supposed leaders in government, military and business, past and present.

Unwittingly, generations of native Filipinos were conditioned and grew up with reverence for such traitors to our homeland. And subtly worst, our generations of so-called leaders in government, military and business perennially exhibit a beholden, mendicant, and kiss-ass behavior towards foreigners (Americans et al.) at the expense of the common good for native Malay Filipinos.

The U.S. Army under Major General Arthur MacArthur (Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s dad) implemented more stringent means to facilitate the so-called ”pacification campaign” by deporting ranked revolutionists and their intellectual/nationalist sympathizers. The Army considered Mabini as one of the latter prominent people who encouraged the continuation of the revolutionary struggle, now via guerrilla warfare. It therefore had Mabini shipped to Guam.

MacArthur wrote to the U.S. Senate that: “Mabini deported as most active agitator persistently and defiantly refusing amnesty and maintaining extensive correspondence with insurgents in the field while living in Manila under protection of the United States, also for offensive statements in recent proclamation enforcing laws of war. His deportation is absolutely essential.”

On July 4, 1902 President Theodore Roosevelt offered another amnesty after he proclaimed that the insurrection (Philippine-American War) was over. Mabini and Gen, Artemio Ricarte refused again to take the oath of allegiance. So the two were not released and remained in exile in Guam.

U.S. Secretary of War Elihu Root stated in a letter to Pres. Roosevelt that: “…to prevent the great body of ignorant natives from being led again into the horrors of insurrection and civil war, should prevail over any sentimental consideration over this one individual (Mabini)….”

Governor-General William H. Taft (later U.S. President Taft) wrote in 1903: “Mabini has been a consistent opponent of American sovereignty and a persistent inspirer of rebellion and insurrection. he was for a very long time the chief adviser of Aguinaldo. He has manifested much skill and cunning in his appeal to the people of the Philippine islands against the American Government, and may be said to be the most prominent irreconcilable among the Filipinos.

If he were allowed to come to Manila he would form a nucleus for all the discontented elements which he would be certain to encourage in every form of plot and conspiracy against the existing government. Nothing he write, nothing he says, but contains unjust insinuations against the American Government and its good faith…

What he desires is to be brought to Manila, because he thinks that even if imprisoned here he will form a point of concentration for the rapidly diminishing number of irreconcilables in these Islands.

I think it would be unwise to allow him to come unless he is willing in advance, by his oath of allegiance, to agree not to plot against this Government..”

On February 1903, Mabini was formally notified that he was not a prisoner and can leave Guam to go anywhere but not land in the Philippines without taking the oath of allegiance.

He could not bear dying elsewhere and so he took the oath.

Mabini died on May 13,1903 less than three months since his return from exile.

This post is comprised of short articles on our three heroes written, at different dates, by Indalecio (Yeyeng) P. Soliongco, who was editorial writer/columnist of the Manila Chronicle from the late 1940s to 1971. His take on the stories about our three heroes, coming from a journalist –not a professional historian, is critically objective and well written (and nationalistic though he was not much known as one).

I find his writings credible and relevant for us native Filipinos, then and today; and want to share them with you all. I extracted the article from my Source book.

http://www.thefilipinomind.com/2012/12/about-our-heroes-andres-bonifacio.html

AS A MATTER OF FACT
By Sara Soliven De Guzman
The Philippine Star 

I truly believe that our government must set the record straight and inform all of us the truth that Jose Rizal has never been proclaimed a national hero. Administrations have come and gone and up to this day, they have neglected the educational value of teaching our youth and our people the historical and cultural facts about our country. No wonder we are a confused lot.

Our country has been conditioned to look up to Jose Rizal whose execution by the Spaniards on December 30, 1896 was commemorated yesterday. In school, we are required to read his great novels: Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo. In fact, others have even memorized his farewell address to the country: Mi Ultimo Adios. And because of this, we have forgotten and neglected the other unsung heroes who have fought and died for our country.

Don’t get me wrong. I know that Rizal is a hero in our hearts and minds but according to the publication of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, aside from the Philippine flag, the anthem, the coat-of-arms and other heraldic devices, the Philippines has only five national symbols declared by law.

One: Narra was declared the national tree by Governor General Frank Murphy during the Commonwealth Era in 1934 through Proclamation No. 652. The name narra is actually a Hispanic corruption of the native term naga, which is how the tree should be called and after which Naga City was named. This tree is valued for its wood which is used in making furniture and houses. Its leaves and bark are used in traditional medicines by several ethnic groups in the country.

Two: Sampaguita was declared the national flower also at the same time as narra by Governor General Frank Murphy in 1934 through the same proclamation. This flower is also known as Arabian Jasmine in English. It is a small shrub or vine that bears small, sweet-smelling, white flowers used in making perfumes and tea in other parts of the world. Sampaguita flowers are made into garlands and leis and are used to welcome visitors and as offering to religious icons. The sampaguita symbolizes purity, simplicity, humility and strength.

Three: The Philippine Eagle, formerly known as the monkey-eating eagle was proclaimed the national bird by President Fidel V. Ramos in 1995 through Proclamation No. 615. He said that the eagle’s uniqueness, strength, power, and love for freedom exemplify the Filipino people. This bird is endemic in the forests of the country. However, it has become endangered for extinction because its habitat is increasingly being destroyed.

Four: The South Sea Pearl was declared the national gem also by President Ramos on October 15, 1996 through Proclamation No. 905. The pearl is a distinctive part of our socio-economic and cultural tradition and the local pearl industry as among the world’s leading pearl producers. As a matter of fact, we have produced the world’s largest pearl, known as the Pearl of Allah or as the Pearl of Lao Tze.

Five: Arnis was declared as the national sport and martial arts in 2009 by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo through Republic Act 9850. This is played by using two sticks, usually made of yantok or kamagong, as weapons or extensions of the arms. Arnis began even before the Spaniards came and is also called eskrima, kali and garrote. In other Philippine dialects it is called pananandata in Tagalog,; pagkalikali in Ibanag; kabaraon and kalirongan in Pangasinan; and didja in Ilocano.

Aside from Jose Rizal, there are other Philippine icons (or things) that are commonly mistaken for national symbols which are taught in schools, written in many textbooks and are present in the net or social media: like the anahaw as national leaf, cariñosa or tinikling as national dance, carabao as national animal for land, bangus as national fish, mango as national fruit, barong tagalog and baro’t saya as national costume, lechon as national dish, nipa hut as national house, maya as national bird, bakya as national footwear, sipa as national game and would you believe — Juan de la Cruz as representation of the Filipino people.

These are all cultural icons and cannot be called national symbols because they have no official status and have not been established by law.

As a matter of fact, research shows that there is no Filipino historical figure who has been officially declared as a national hero through law or executive order. What we have are laws and proclamations honoring Filipino heroes. It was only on November 15, 1995, that the Technical Committee of the National Heroes Committee created through Executive Order No. 5 by then President Fidel V. Ramos, recommended nine Filipino historical figures to be National Heroes: Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio, Emilio Aguinaldo, Apolinario Mabini, Marcelo H. Del Pilar, Sultan Dipatuan Kudarat, Juan Luna, Melchora Aquino and Gabriela Silang. I learned that this is still a pending issue because up to now no action has been taken on these recommendations. Susmariosep! I hope that the National Historical Commission can persuade the President to do something about this.

The Philippines has always been in search of its identity. We have a beautiful country with loving and very likeable people. We have a distinct heritage and a very colorful culture. It is time we straighten up our historical data in order to strengthen our national identity before we get lost in the greater depths of humanity.

As we usher in the New Year we bring with us a renewal of spirit and hope. Let us clear out the cobwebs in our lives and start anew. It is never too late as we are given the chance to do so every New Year.

I’d like to end this column with a quote from William Arthur Ward, a dedicated scholar, author, editor, pastor and teacher: “Another fresh new year is here. Another year to live! To banish worry, doubt, and fear, to love and laugh and give! This bright new year is given me. To live each day with zest. To daily grow and try to be my highest and my best! I have the opportunity once more to right some wrongs. To pray for peace, to plant a tree. And sing more joyful songs!”

Happy New Year!

http://www.philstar.com/opinion/2012-12-31/891680/jose-rizal-national-hero