February 2013

Making life worth living
By Ellen Tordesillas

Aquino to Kiram III: “….desist from this hopeless cause.”

Aquino to Kiram III: “….desist from this hopeless cause.”

In his Facebook wall, Cotabato-based Fr. Eliseo Mercado of the Institute for Autonomy and Governance in Notre Dame University yesterday said, “After the President’s press statement on the Sabah issue, I am continued to be deluged with question,’Who is the adviser of the President on the Sabah issue?’

“Sagot ko: Ambot… baka ang Malaysian PM. From the tone and the content would show that he/she is either Malaysian or Malaysian-Philippine.”

In his statement, which came on the second week of the standoff in Lahad Datu, a seaside village in Sabah, President Aquino several times spoke of peace. Yet, the language he used reeks of arrogance that could only come from ignorance of the root of the issue.

He described the cause that the Sultan of Sulu Jamalul Kiram III and his younger brother Prince Rajah Mudah Agbimuddin Kiram, who is the leader of the group in Lahad Datu as a “hopeless cause.”

Addressing Kiram, Aquino said: “You are a leader of your clan, and every leader seeks the well-being of his constituents. These times require you to use your influence to prevail on our countrymen to desist from this hopeless cause.”

Does this mean the Aquino government has given up the Philippine government’s claim on Sabah?

In his statement, Aquino seemed not sure about the legitimacy of the Philippine claim which was initiated in the 1963 by President Diosdado Macapagal. He said: “This issue is complex: from the basis of our claim, to the question of the rightful heirs, and even involving the translation of documents from an era when our grandparents weren’t even born.”

Princess Jacel Kiram reads statement of her father, Jamalul Kiram III

Princess Jacel Kiram reads statement of her father, Jamalul Kiram III

Responding to the President’s statement Kiram III, though his daughter Princess Jacel Kiram said: “ Mr. President, what more proof do you want us to show that Sabah is ours?”

This standoff came about because the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu decided to do it their way after Malacañang snubbed Kiram’s request for a meeting.

Aquino revealed this in his statement: “Let me say to Sultan Jamalul Kiram III: I have just been made aware that a letter to me, from you, was sent through OPAPP in the very first weeks of my term, when we were organizing the government. Unfortunately, this letter was lost in the bureaucratic maze. Let me make clear that there was no intention to ignore your letter. Knowing this now, will you let your mistaken belief dictate your course of action?”

Aquino also said, “The avenue of peaceful and open dialogue is still available to us. Let us therefore sit down as brothers to address your grievances in a peaceful, calm manner according to our laws and according to correct processes when your people arrive home.”

Yet in the same statement he warned Kiram that his patience is running out:

“As President and chief executor of our laws, I have tasked an investigation into possible violations of laws by you, your followers, and collaborators engaged in this foolhardy act. May I remind you as well that as a citizen of the Republic, you are bound by the constitution and its laws.

“Among your possible violations is Article II Section 2 of the Constitution, which states that the Philippines renounces war as an instrument of national policy, the enabling law of which is Article 118 of the Revised Penal Code, which punishes those who “provoke or give occasion for a war…or expose Filipino citizens to reprisals on their persons or property.”[1] Thus, you are now fully aware of the consequences of your actions.”

“We have not yet reached the point of no return, but we are fast approaching that point.”

To which Kiram stood firm: “As far as we are concerned, we haven’t committed a crime.”

But he also talked about peace: “The sultan of Sulu’s action is a benevolent aspiration and not a violent reaction to fight.”

Will the real diplomats please take over?

Read President Aquino’s statement in full here: http://www.gov.ph/2013/02/26/statement-of-president-aquino-on-the-sabah-incident-february-26-2013/


By Federico D. Pascual Jr.
The Philippine Star 

WHAT?: Sultan Jamalul Kiram III of Sulu could not believe it — that going home has become a crime under the regime of President Noynoy Aquino.

Kiram, the 74-year-old Sulu chief, had sent some 235 of his constituents led by his brother Datu Raja Muda Agbimuddin to go home to a village by the shore of Lahad Datu in Sabah.

Why there? “And why not?” the sultan riposted, pointing out that Sabah is their ancestral home.

Finally noticing the two-week-old worsening standoff, President Aquino has advised Kiram to order his followers, some of them armed, to pull out of Sabah or “face the consequences.”

But the sultan, talking to media in his house in Taguig City, said they were staying home.

*      *      *

HAPPY DILEMMA: The clock, meanwhile, is ticking closer to the deadline for them to leave Sabah. In Manila and Kuala Lumpur, diplomats scurried in search of an amicable way out of the explosive situation.Actually, President Aquino should be secretly glad he has this dilemma. Assuming he handles it skillfully.

When people are threatened and their leader stands up to defend them, the population readily rallies around him. This is an opportunity to display concern, leadership and patriotism, especially in an election year.

President Aquino’s problem is that he is stuck in the embrace of Malaysia — which has been insistent, suspiciously I think, on being facilitator in Malacañang’s peace dialogue with the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

*      *      *

SELF-DEFENSE: In a radio interview yesterday, the sultan’s brother Agbimuddin said: “We believe, ang ginagawa namin is really right. I think there is no such law against fighting for what is right.”

While he reiterated that they want a peaceful resolution of the standoff, he said that if Malaysian authorities move to disarm his men, they have no choice but to defend themselves.

He stressed that they went to Sabah not to make war, especially since they will live with fellow Muslims there.

To other residents of Sabah, he said: “We did not come here to die here, but we come here to live with them, to stay with them, to love each other and enjoy the income of Sabah together.”

*      *      *

ON WHOSE SIDE?: The queer thing is that President Aquino seems to be more sympathetic to Malaysia than to the Filipinos under siege in Sabah. What does he owe Kuala Lumpur?

By his actions and statements, the President does not seem to believe in the validity of the Philippine claim on Sabah.

If he believes that the claim has merits and is worth pursuing, it is high time he officially said so like some previous presidents. What is taking him?

Maybe the President should pause from his hectic campaigning (using taxpayers’ money) for the administration Liberal Party candidates so he can study the Sabah question more closely.

*      *      *

CONSTITUTION CITED: It is amazing that President Aquino, in warning Kiram, said: “You are bound by the Constitution and its laws. Among your possible violations is Article II, Section 2, of the Constitution, which states that the Philippines renounces war as an instrument of national policy.”

But Kiram is not declaring war on anyone. Nor is the sultan egging the Philippine government to wage war against Malaysia.

If Kiram’s constituents peaceably assembled in their homeland are attacked by Malaysian forces and they defend themselves, their self-defense cannot be construed as in pursuit of “war as an instrument of national policy.” Ang layo naman!

The President also drew the sultan’s attention to the Penal Code, which he said punishes those who “provoke or give occasion for a war… or expose Filipino citizens to reprisals on their persons or property.”

That is more like it. The Penal Code, more than Article II of the Constitution, appears more directly applicable if the conflict takes a violent turn for the worse.

*      *      *

SELECTIVE ENFORCEMENT: Even to non-lawyers like the President and me, a more obvious violation of the Kiram group is illegal possession of firearms, compounded by the fact that the weapons are being carried around despite the ongoing election gun ban.

We are simply assuming that their guns are not licensed and they have no permits to carry them outside of residence. No Muslim in the South, as far as I know, bothers to secure licenses for his firearms.

And the Philippine National Police appears afraid, or at least unwilling, to check on gun-toting Muslims. The laws in this country are selectively enforced.

(Another example of the police’s selective enforcement is their tolerating the illegal numbers game of jueteng — presumably so as not to disturb the systematized collection of multi-million-peso payola for the usual protectors.)

*      *      *

RENT IS PROOF: In reiterating that he is “ready to face the consequences” of his not obeying President Aquino’s order for the sultan’s followers to leave Sabah, Kiram pointed out they have not violated any law.

Kiram’s secretary-general Abraham Idjirani quoted the sultan as saying “What else do we have to prove? With all the historical facts, the sultanate of Sulu has not violated a law in allowing our people to come to our homeland.”

Idjirani said the sultan is open to negotiations. One possible compromise, he added, is the surrender of their firearms to the Philippine government and allowing the sultan’s followers to remain in Lahad Datu in Sabah.

But Kiram said he was grateful the President was beginning to look at the plight of his followers who are being barred from their own homeland.

He asked: “What more proof do you want us to show that Sabah is ours? By the mere fact that Malaysia is paying us annually in the amount of 5,300 Malaysian ringgit, is it not enough?” (That is equivalent to around P70,000.)

*      *      *

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

See more at: http://www.philstar.com/opinion/2013/02/28/914078/under-aquino-admin-going-home-crime#sthash.5VaslDR6.dpuf

By Cecille Suerte Felipe and Aurea Calica
The Philippine Star 

Sultan-Jamalul-Kiram-III.4MANILA, Philippines – Only after the return of his followers to the Philippines from their dugout in Sabah will the government negotiate with Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III regarding his claim on the territory.

Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II made this clear yesterday in a television interview where he also accused Kiram of taking the government hostage to press his claim.

“No government will allow itself to be placed under the gun or under duress or taken hostage. The nation is being held hostage and lives are in danger,” Roxas said in Filipino.

He said Kiram and his more than 200 mostly armed followers should not doubt the sincerity of President Aquino when the latter declared that he wanted the Sabah standoff to end peacefully. “Remove the danger, we can always talk,” he said.

He said the President is known for always keeping his word, thus earning him the trust of several groups including the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

He said the administration is thankful that the Malaysian government has again extended the deadline for the Filipinos holed up in Lahad Datu to leave the area.

Roxas also said the President has sent Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Gov. Mujiv Hataman, Armed Forces Western Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Rey Ardo and Philippine National Police Directorate for Intelligence chief Director Cipriano Querol to talk with Kiram’s group.

At Malacañang, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said that while they were vigorously working to end the impasse peacefully, “this cannot go on interminably.”

“You’ve seen our action. We asked for an (extension) of the deadline, hoping that they will change their position, and we’re still there. We are still trying to resolve this peacefully,” he said.

“What the government has been asking them to do is: Let’s take out that potential (for violence) by asking your armed people to come home,” Lacierda said.

“I think that’s a fairly reasonable request. We have sent emissaries to speak to them to precisely address that issue. Let’s defuse the tension in Lahad Datu,” he said. “The Kirams would like to speak to us. What we’re saying is: Let’s do it in a way where… the tense situation has been resolved and we can discuss (in) an objective, prudent atmosphere,” he said.

“We did not start this. What we’re trying to do is to protect our national interest. We’re also trying to protect and prevent a possible violent outcome,” Lacierda said.

Lacierda explained that the Department of Foreign Affairs is in touch with the Malaysian foreign ministry and the Malaysian ambassador to Manila.

He said the Kirams may have been misled into thinking that the emissaries sent by Manila were on a mission to arrest them.

“I didn’t hear Secretary Mar Roxas say that. The principal issue for sending an emissary is to come up with a peaceful resolution,” Lacierda said.

“That’s their spin, that’s what (Kiram’s spokesman Abraham) Idjirani has been saying. Idjirani, if you’ve listened to his various interviews, has maintained a defiant stand from the very beginning,” he said.

“While they sound nice, they sound respectful, the essence of their discussion – the essence of his statement is: ‘We refuse to leave Sabah.’ That’s the end-all and be-all of whatever interviews you get from their side,” Lacierda said.

“What we’re saying is: Between the two of us, let’s try to avoid bloodshed. Let’s try to defuse the tense situation in Lahad Datu and that’s the goal of this government. We also have to be concerned with the 800,000 Filipinos there in Sabah, and that’s the purpose for sending emissaries,” he said.

“The forces that are there are not Philippine forces. The forces that cordoned the area are Malaysian forces,” he pointed out.

“While we are trying to avoid bloodshed, the Kiram side is saying: ‘We are willing to die. We are willing to shed blood here.’ What we’re saying is: Let’s resolve this peacefully. Who wants a peaceful resolution?” he said.

Asked how long the government is willing to wait, Lacierda said: “You know, your question presupposes and clearly shows the patience of this government – the willingness of this government to go the extra mile in exerting all means to come up with a peaceful resolution.”

‘Political harassment’

For the followers of Sultan Kiram, the Aquino administration’s order for them to leave Sabah was “political harassment.”

“They just want to keep us silent from speaking,” Abraham Idjirani, spokesman of the Sultanate, told The STAR.

Idjirani said the sultan and members of his family as well as his followers are also willing to appear before the Department of Justice (DOJ) to answer allegations that they were violating laws.

“We can’t do anything if summoned by the DOJ. There is no justice,” he said.

Idjirani said the sultanate does not even have a legal team to defend itself.

Idjirani scored the government for apparently siding with Malaysia over the Sabah issue.

Idjirani also clarified reports that Malaysian troops have entered Kampung Tanduo in Lahad Datu where the sultanate’s Royal Army has been holed-up since Feb. 9

Idjirani also said that if there is anyone who should be jailed, it’s the Malacañang staff who had lost the sultan’s letter to Aquino.

The President earlier admitted the letter may have been lost “in the bureaucratic maze” when his administration was still being organized.

“Why should we be sent to jail when we only want to return home?”

Idjirani also welcomed the support being offered by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) led by its chairman Nur Misuari.

He stressed, however, that the sultan and his council would have to examine the MNLF’s statement of support.

In a radio interview, Misuari reaffirmed his support for the sultanate but denied that the MNLF was on red alert and preparing for armed confrontation with Malaysian forces.

“I do not know where the report came from; there is no order for the MNLF to go on red alert,” he said over radio dzMM.

Misuari stressed the MNLF is not involved in the ongoing standoff in Lahad Datu and that he had even sent an appeal to Prime Minister Najib Razak not to harm the group.

He admitted, however, that some of the young men who joined the group were regular members of the MNLF.

He said the MNLF has ruled out the use of force in reasserting the Sabah claim.

But MNLF chief of political affairs Haji Gapul Hajirul said there appeared to be a buildup of forces sympathetic to the sultan near Lahad Datu.

The Philippine Navy has deployed six gunboats between Tawi-Tawi and Sabah to prevent armed civilians from leaving for Sabah.

“The MNLF is carefully weighing the whole situation. We hope that the Malaysian authorities will not forcefully violate the rights of Sultan’s followers. If that happens, that would be a different story,” Hajirul said.

On Wednesday, Malaysian security forces tried to enter the area where the sultan’s followers were holed up but later backed off. With Edu Punay, Rainier Allan Ronda, Jaime Laude, Perseus Echeminada, Mike Frialde

See more at: http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2013/03/01/914452/palace-sultan-no-return-followers-no-talks#sthash.HONCravE.dpuf


Convinced that Filipino legislators have “neglected” the 1987 Constitution’s mandate to pass a law defining political dynasties, a multisectoral group has launched a campaign to tap a new kind of “people power” to end the rule of a few families in the Philippines.

The group Movement against Dynasties (MAD) has set out to gather over 5 million signatures as part of the process to push for a law banning political dynasties through a people’s initiative.

“If we will succeed in doing this, we will experience real change. We will accomplish something good for our country,” MAD chairman Quintin San Diego said at a forum at the University of the Philippines-Diliman on Tuesday afternoon.

The group described itself as “an association composed of civic-minded individuals and professionals” that believes “in a government of laws rather than of men.”

San Diego added that aside from soliciting signatures, his group wants to make ordinary Filipinos aware of the bad effects political dynasties have on the country.

“They [political dynasties] have control of politics and the economy… Kung magkakamag-anak na ang nasa kapangyarihan, ano pa ang pagkakataon ng karaniwang tao na mahalal?” he said.

A study by the Asian Institute of Management revealed that 68 percent of the Philippines’ current lawmakers are members of political dynasties. The same study showed political dynasties are located in poor regions of the country.

For the May 2013 midterm polls, 12 out of the 21 senatorial bets from the two biggest coalitions come from known political families. Some of these senatorial hopefuls said political dynasties are not always bad for the country.

‘Tall order’

San Diego, however, admitted that gathering 5 million signatures from all around the country is a “tall order.” He said that, as of now, his group has only managed to get around 100,000 signatures.

“Hindi naman kami kilala. Wala naman kaming pera, but we have to at least try. Otherwise, wala nang pag-asa ang bansa,” he said.

Under Republic Act 6735 or the Initiative and Referendum Act, a people’s initiative must get support from 10 percent of all registered voters for it to be considered for a referendum. Under this law, this figure must include three percent of voters from each legislative district in the country.

The MAD chairperson likewise said that his group’s strategy is to target churches, since these areas are usually frequented by people.

He added that MAD will also seek the opinion of other groups, such as the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, in defining political dynasties.

In its draft petition, MAD said a political dynasty exists “when a person who is the spouse of an incumbent elective official, or a relative with the second civil degree of consanguinity or affinity of an incumbent elective official, hold or runs for an elective office simultaneously with the incumbent elective official.”

‘Imperfect democracy’

UP President Alfredo Pascual, for his part, expressed support for the effort to pass an enabling law against political dynasties.

Pascual described the rule of a few families in the Philippines as “morally, economically and legally contentious.”

“The success of the electoral exercise in our country has been tarnished by the reality that the names of candidates have been too familiar and repetitive. It seems like only a few names are interested in politics in our country,” he said in a separate speech.

He added that Philippine democracy can only reach full maturity once the problem with political dynasties is addressed.

“Our electoral system was designed to ensure a level playing field among candidates. Political dynasties are indications of our imperfect democracy,” he said. — DVM, GMA News

See more at: http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/296791/news/nation/group-taps-new-kind-of-people-power-to-end-political-dynasties#sthash.RtLO5ZUp.dpuf

By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 

This resistance to the Manila Bay Reclamation Project isn’t something new. Right after President Cory C. Aquino became president in 1986, former Bulletin president Nap Rama introduced me to a Chinese investor who had a similar reclamation plan but was impeded by similar emotional outbursts from people crying that “save our sunset” bovine ordure.

If you really think about it, “Save our sunset” is an absurd claim. Those crying “save our sunset” have no legal claims to the Manila Bay Sunset, no more than you and me. Check your land title and see if there’s a sunrise or sunset included in what you own. It’s a promotional gimmick meant to inject an emotional element that will stir resistance.

The reclamation is happening behind the Cultural Center land and not along Roxas Boulevard, which is also reclaimed land. The sunset isn’t going anywhere. What will happen is that there’ll be progress that will allow all of us to still avail of the Manila Bay Sunset in an even better location than its present site. We’ll still have our Manila Bay Sunset while more jobs are created, where more recreation sites are erected in order to attract more tourists and improve our economy.

Don’t just take my word for it. Listen to the assessment of respected urban planner Jun Palafox about the Manila Bay Reclamation Project. Per Palafox, “there are disadvantages to doing a reclamation project, like it can worsen flooding, block the views of existing waterfront development, harm aquatic resources, environment and heritage historic sites. However, there are also many advantages if planned, designed, engineered, and implemented properly in the right place, at the right time, at the right land-use density and type of development. In Europe, they call water reclamation Corniche.”

All this time, we’re just hearing the side of the “save our sunset” whiners. No expert ever told us that all these problems that the “save our sunset” whiners have been peddling could all be addressed with the right engineering plan. The point now is why impede progress if the downside could all be avoided.

Palafox further stated that “a properly planned, designed, engineered, and implemented reclamation area can function as wave breakers to storm surges and tsunami, add urban land supply, provide the opportunity to properly masterplan new urban developments, increase jobs, and generally alleviate poverty.” He enumerated successful reclamation projects around the world that didn’t encounter the “doomsday” predictions of the “save our sunset” whiners.

Singapore had reclaimed over 6,000 hectares to enlarge their island city-state from 65,000 hectares to 71,000 hectares. Palafox mentioned that two-thirds of The Netherlands is reclaimed and yet there’s no flooding. Dubai, with only 70 km of waterfront, reclaimed the Palm Islands to add 2,000 km more of waterfront. A lot of progress there and we Filipinos shouldn’t miss out on this opportunity just because of these “save our sunset” whiners.

Per the developer of the reclamation project, the Manila Goldcoast Development Corporation (MGDC), they’ll abide by best practices and use the state of the art green technology.

MGDC vowed: “It (the reclamation) will not cause floods and will, in fact, reduce the occurrence of floods like other reclamation models all over the globe. We will have our own renewable power supply, recycled and treated water, and waste to energy facilities.” MGDC further committed that it will not disrupt the marine ecology and human settlers in the area. They said: “Studies conclusively show the absence of marine life — even sponges and ascidians that are tolerant to turbid and polluted water — in the project site and contiguous areas … The project will not cause the displacement of settlers. It will not lead to a loss of jobs.”

The Environment Management Bureau (EMB) of the Natural Resources Department (DENR) refused to issue the recall of the MGDC Environmental Compliance Certificate or ECC. EMB Director Juan Miguel Cuna said that the EMB couldn’t recall ECCs on the basis of perceived disasters alone.

Cuna added: “An ECC is a document showing that a proposed project has undergone an environmental study and the adverse environmental effects of the proposed project have somewhat been predicted and corresponding measures to arrest or mitigate the same will be implemented by the proponent.”

Mayor Ed Hagedorn gets a strong endorsement

For those having difficulty choosing 12 senators to vote for, you might want to read the endorsement that “Prophet of Boom” Bernie Villegas gave Palawan’s Edward Hagedorn. “I have seen with my own eyes how his strong and enlightened leadership has transformed the City of Puerto Princesa in a most dramatic way over the last 20 years,” Villegas said.

Villegas cited the need for a senator “who can bring down the rest of their colleagues from their respective ivory towers of pure speculative thinking. This is especially important in the field of ecology and environmental protection in which some legislators are wont to exaggerate one dimension of the very complex issue because of their lack of practical experience in expertly balancing the varied and often conflicting interests of all the stakeholders of mother nature or the physical environment.”

Ed Hagedorn replaces one of two Team PNoy senate candidates who won’t get my vote.

* * *

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

E-mail: macesposo@yahoo.com and Website: www.chairwrecker.com


February 24, 2013

Liberal Party senatorial candidate Ramon Magsaysay Jr. today said the resolution of the country’s problems today rest on its present and future leaders.

Magsaysay made the statement as he joined President Benigno Aquino III in commemorating the 27th year of the first people power revolution that toppled the regime of the late President Ferdinand Marcos.

“While I agree to observations that the ills of the former dictatorship is still apparent these days we, Filipinos, however must not and should never forget our great sense of patriotism that modeled peaceful revolution in the world,” Magsaysay said.

Magsaysay, son of popular leader former President Ramon Magsaysay, said “change is not something we can embrace overnight. So we really have to be wary in choosing our leaders.”

“Widespread poverty, corruption, armed conflicts, and even political dynasties will no longer be rampant today, if we have not forgotten our idealism. If we did not cease, but rather lived the spirit of the Edsa revolt,” the former senator said.

Magsaysay said “Filipinos have to find their way back to the past. In the ‘50s and ‘60s, we were considered a very highly professional people, respected and highly effective. The succeeding decades, however, witnessed the deterioration of our race.”

Magsaysay also said leaders whether in politics or business should embody a servant leadership and not a dealership style of government.

Leadership is a test of character, an issue of continuity, strategic vision and hard work. Oftentimes due to lack of continuity, new leaders get corrupted not just in terms of financial, but also in terms of integrity, he added.

“As we remember what have transpired in this nation 27 years ago, I as a senior, a grandfather, and an uncle, as a father, a fellow, and as a leader would like to see that Filipinos are globally competitive. And that we, Filipinos, are women and men of character and competence. That we don’t have the diaspora of 10 million Filipinos leaving their country and leaving their love ones behind.”


Magsaysay, Ramon Jr.

Liberal Party

The Lund Association of Foreign Affairs (UPF Lund)

The busy geography of the South China sea. Image: University of Texas

The busy geography of the South China sea. Image: University of Texas

After many years of peaceful agreements and conflict resolution attitudes from the ASEAN free trade area countries, 2012 was filled with heated discussions and humiliating summit meetings. The core of all these disagreements was the South China Sea conflict. The islands situated in this territory called the “cow’s tongue” are rich in natural resources, trade routes, and have been military strategic points for several years. The fact that China claims sovereignty over this territory has raised many concerns among the neighboring countries, with the Philippines and Vietnam being the strongest opponents. In addition to these disputes, the U.S. has started a “pivot” military strategy towards Asia, increasing tension in the area. Will this divide the ASEAN countries and start a new conflict?

The South China Sea is about 1.4 million square miles of the Pacific Ocean, and it is one of the most profitable fishing spots in the world. It consists of hundred islands, most of which are uninhabited, making the conflict even more difficult to solve. Who has sovereignty over these islands? It is not an issue limited to land, but also to natural resources. Each country in the region has an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) determined in 1982 by the

United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) that includes 200 nautical miles from the coast of each nation’s territory. The UNCLOS recognizes the “common heritage of the world’s oceans” and with a set of laws defines the rights and responsibilities of nations in their use of the oceans. The law is not clear, however, on the matter of islands.

With increasing international trade coming from Asia’s industrialization and the oil imports, the South China Sea has become a major economic hub. “Just more than half of the top ten shipping container shipping ports are located in or around the South China Sea” according to David Rosenberg, professor of political science at Middlebury College. It is very important, therefore, that this remains a free access territory, where no restrictions are imposed where commerce can continue freely.

Furthermore, the rapid urbanization of coastal cities in China has fostered huge competition over the resources. The resources are scarce, and in order to continue growing and developing, China needs as many as they can obtain. But the South China Sea has oil reserves that could be an interesting opportunity for other rapidly emerging economies such as the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia. Some countries -Vietnam with the collaboration with India and China-have already started cooperating with other nations in order to develop oil in disputed waters angering those left out.

Other confrontations that have taken place are related to the interception of illegal fishing vessels in the region. The Philippines claimed that eight Chinese fishing vessels were caught illegally in their waters. This is one of the greatest potential conflicts, since 1.5 million people in the area depend on fishing and due to overexploitation in the South China Sea’s overlapping water territories.

The HQ of the ASEAN free trade area in Jakarta. Image: wikimedia commons

The HQ of the ASEAN free trade area in Jakarta. Image: wikimedia commons

These disputes are of great importance for the ASEAN countries, which are in need of resources to continue growing, but also for other high income countries. The fact that it is one of the busiest international sea-lanes, and a strategic link between the Pacific and Indian Ocean, intensifies the need for the region not to close its waters. The U.S. has stated its intentions of making a “pivot” movement – a shift of their forces and strategy – towards Asia, and this conflict is putting a lot of pressure on the emerging economic power. Vietnam and the Philippines have asked the U.S. to increase its presence in order to counterbalance China’s rising economic power. The latter even doubled its defense budget in 2011 and considered a five-year joint military exercise plan with the U.S. Despite pressure from some Asian countries for more American presence, other countries believe that they should reduce their influence on the region. In particular, China is insisting on bilateral agreements, while rejecting any of the UN mechanisms for arbitration as well as the ASEAN countries cooperation with external actors. These bilateral agreements entail cooperation of the countries that are affected by the conflict in making arrangements on territorial issues. The problem here is that China has greater power than the other emergent countries, and these fear an unjust territorial distribution.

Unlike NATO for developed countries, ASEAN countries do not have any military cooperation, so it will be difficult for solutions to arise since each country will defend its own interest. With the emerging conflict, fears of a new “Cold War” in Asia have started to materialise. Experts, however, believe that common interests between the Asian nations arising from economic integration will provide an incentive to harmonize the management of the resources and resolve the other conflicts. China and Vietnam, for example, have started to cooperate on a common fishery zone. Is this enough to start resolving the conflicts? One can only hope that the ASEAN cooperate more enthusiastically again and find a solution to the sovereignty problems in the South China Sea so that the development of the region can continue unabated.


By Perry Diaz

Sultanate-of-Sulu-ArmyTo the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu, Sabah is only worth 5,300 ringgits (the equivalent of US$1,500), the annual rent the Sultanate has been receiving from the Federation of Malaysia since 1963 when the federation was created from a group of former British colonies including Sabah.  But with Sabah’s large quantity of natural resources including oil and gas, the revenue generated is out of proportion to the rent paid to the Sultanate of Sulu. It’s cheap… obscenely cheap!

But the Federation of Malaysia has enormously benefited from Sabah.  Figures from FACTS Global Energy show that Sabah has about 1.5 billion barrels of oil and about 11 trillion cubic feet of gas in its reserves, which represent about 25% and 12% of Malaysia’s oil and gas reserves, respectively.

Socio-economic growth

Sabah-SOGTIn November 2011, Reuters reported the discovery of oil offshore of Sabah of which initial estimates put the well’s oil reserves at 227 million barrels.  It didn’t take the giant Petronas long to infuse billions in investments.  Petronas began five major projects: Sabah-Sarawak Gas Pipeline (SSGP), Sabah Oil & Gas Terminal (SOGT), Kimanis Power Plant (KPP), Kimanis Petroleum Training Centre (KTC), and Kinabalu NAG (non-associated gas) upstream development.  The SOGT has a daily capacity to handle up to 300,000 barrels of crude oil and one billion cubic feet of gas.

But while Sabah is the sixth biggest contributor to Malaysia’s national economy — contributing more than 25% of the total oil and gas produced in the country – it is the poorest state with the highest unemployment rate in the country.  Is it probably because the money generated from tapping its natural resources is being funneled out of the state into the coffers of the national government and pockets of out-of-state companies; thus, leaving the state – and its people — mired in poverty?

Sabah-intrusionSabah, with an area of 76,115 square kilometers, is the second largest of the 13 states in the Malaysian federation.  With a population of more than 3.2 million — the majority of them are Tausugs from Sulu — it has a large number of overseas Filipino workers.  Of the 600,000 Filipinos working in Malaysia, most of them are in Sabah.  Filipinos come and go and nobody would pay any attention… until now.

It did not then come as a surprise to Malaysian authorities in Sabah when about 250 Filipinos slipped into the town of Lahad Datu.  But when they found out who they were and why they came, all hell broke loose!

The group of Filipinos turned out to be members of the Royal Army of the Sultanate of Sulu.  Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram, the brother of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, leads the group. And they want their ancestral land back.
The question is: Does the Sultan of Sulu have any legal claim to ownership of Sabah?

Historical milestones

Records show that Sabah was originally part of the Sultanate of Brunei.  In 1658 (1704 from other sources), the Sultan of Brunei ceded Sabah to his cousin, the Sultan of Sulu, to compensate him for helping the Sultan of Brunei quell a rebellion in Brunei.  From that time on, that territory became part of the Sultan of Sulu’s domain, which came to be known as the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo.

Sultan-Jamalul-Kiram-American-era.2In 1878, Sultan Jamalul Ahlam of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo leased North Borneo — which became known as “Sabah” — to Gustavus Von Overbeck, an Austrian, and Alfred Dent, his British partner.  The written agreement used “padjak,” the Tausug word for “lease.” However, the lessee interpreted it to mean, “grant” or “cede.”  The annual “lease” amount was 5,000 Mexican gold pieces (called Mexican dollars). The agreement also specified that the rights to Sabah couldn’t be transferred to any other person or country without the Sultan of Sulu’s express consent.

In 1881, Dent formed the British North Borneo Company (BNBC), which was chartered by the British government.  Subsequently, BNBC assigned the lease contract to the United Kingdom.  That was the beginning of the colonization of Sabah.

In 1885, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Spain signed the Madrid Protocol, which recognized the sovereignty of Spain over the Sulu archipelago in exchange for Spain relinquishing all her claims to Sabah in favor of the United Kingdom.  However, the Sultanate of Sulu and Sabah was not a party to the tripartite agreement.

In 1888, Sabah became a protectorate of the United Kingdom.  This is one step closer to colonization.

In 1936, BNBC stopped paying the rent when Sultan Jamalul Kiram II, the 32nd sultan of Sulu, died.  The reason for the suspension of rent was because of President Manuel L. Quezon’s refusal to recognize Kiram II’s heir, Sultan Punjungan Kiram.

In 1946, British North Borneo Co. transferred all its rights over Sabah to the United Kingdom.  The United Kingdom’s colonization of Sabah was a fait accompli, although BNBC continued to exploit her natural resources… and pocketed the profit.

In 1950, Kiram’s heirs filed a case in the Sessions Court of North Borneo, which ordered BNBC to resume paying rent.  BNBC complied with the court’s order.

In 1962, the Sultan of Sulu ceded sovereignty of Sabah to the Philippines, which empowered the Philippine government to pursue to claim Sabah.

In 1963, when the United Kingdom granted independence to Malaya and created the Federation of Malaysia, Sabah was made part of that federation.  To protest the inclusion of Sabah in the Federation of Malaysia, the Philippines severed diplomatic relations with Malaysia.   Malaysia took over the responsibility of paying the annual rent to the Sultanate of Sulu through the Malaysian Embassy in Manila.  It’s interesting to note that Malaysia insists that the amount is an annual “cession” payment while the Kiram heirs consider it as “rent.”

In 1967, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was formed, which included the Philippines and the Federation of Malaysia among its charter members.  It was at this point that the Philippines ceased to actively pursue her sovereignty claim over Sabah.

In February 2013, the Royal Army of the Sultanate of Sulu entered Sabah to reclaim their ancestral land.


The $64,000 question is: Would the Federation of Malaysia willingly return Sabah to the Philippines or the Sultanate of Sulu?  Or would the standoff lead to bloodshed?

With multi-billion economic developments going on right now, it’s doubtful if Malaysia would pack up and voluntarily leave Sabah.  There is just too much money, infrastructure, and resources already invested in Sabah.

However, like anything else, nothing is impossible if all parties would compromise to make everybody happy.  Could it be possible that the Philippines, Malaysia, and the Sultanate of Sulu form an economic consortium divvying up the profits from the revenue generated by the companies doing business in Sabah?  With the Philippines retaining sovereignty, Malaysia driving the economic growth, and the Sultanate of Sulu receiving royalty or franchise fee, they might all turn out to be winners – a trifecta!

What is Sabah worth then? To the Philippines, Sabah is all about sovereignty. To Malaysia, Sabah is all about money.  But to the Sultanate of Sulu, Sabah is worth dying for.


By Val G. Abelgas

EDSA-shrineDuring the term of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, she and her minions tried to downplay People Power and bury it into oblivion. Despite their yearly efforts to ignore it, however, people power is far from dead and the spirit of EDSA will continue to live for as long as there are people who are willing to stand up against tyranny and oppression, and to fight injustice and corruption.

Arroyo, who was the accidental beneficiary of the second EDSA People Power Revolt, wanted us to forget EDSA because she feared being engulfed by its awesome power. She feared the very forces that catapulted her to power, a power she just as soon abused. She feared the very people that gave her their trust, albeit hesitantly, in EDSA 2 in January 2001. Her fear had grown so much, she couldn’t stand to see people gathering, especially at EDSA, and she soon turned to the same oppressive tactics and policies that the people repulsed at EDSA in 1986 and 2001.

While the Filipino people seemed to have abandoned the spirit of EDSA, because of their perception, rightly or wrongly, that their efforts and sacrifices in the two peaceful revolutions have not brought positive changes to their lives nor to the country’s political and economic well-being, the world obviously has not forgotten.

The people power revolutions that engulfed the Middle East and Northern Africa in late 2010 until early 2011, known as the Arab Spring, are testimony to the legacy that those four days of People Power Revolution at EDSA, starting Feb. 22 until Feb. 25, left to the world. These revolutions were a repeat of the uprisings that rocked and democratized communist Eastern Europe, starting with the fall of the East German government and the eventual dismantling of the Berlin Wall in late 1989, and the lifting of the mythical Iron Curtain, both longtime symbols of communism in the region.

The people power uprisings spread all the way to the once mighty Soviet Empire, with the former Soviet republics declaring their independence from Moscow.

The EDSA People Power-inspired revolts spread all across the Arab World in the Middle East and North Africa, toppling dictators in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen. Uprisings also rocked Bahrain, Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco and Sudan, and Syria is still engulfed in an unending civil war, the immediate result of civilian protests.

The tyrants of the world are shaking in fear.

And recently, people power is manifesting itself again in recession-rocked European countries, such as Spain, Greece, Italy and Portugal.

These events lend even more significance to the celebration of the 27th anniversary of the EDSA People Power Revolution the past week. Although the two People Power revolts led to two failed governments, the first because the installed leader was obviously unprepared for the humongous task of rebuilding a severely damaged nation, and the second because the installed leader betrayed the people, the lesson that EDSA left must not be lost on the people – that the power of the people is supreme, and that the answer to tyranny and injustice is people power.

While nearly all people power uprisings led to the downfall of long-entrenched tyrants and dictators, or the downfall of inept and corrupt leaders, people power need not be limited to the toppling of tyrants and dictators. The people must not wait for another abusive president to relive the spirit of EDSA.

People power can also be harnessed to pressure the existing government to go after the corrupt and abusive officials of both the past and present administrations. People power can be rekindled at EDSA to stop the evil designs of national leaders to perpetuate themselves in power, to stop Congress from passing unfair legislations, to pressure a callous Ombudsman to resign, to pressure government to act against human rights abuses and injustice, and to air their legitimate grievances.

EDSA must live on to be a constant reminder to corrupt and abusive officials that if they do not mend their ways, they would pay the price at the altar of freedom and justice. EDSA must not only rise to topple tyrants, but must continually be on the go to prevent leaders from becoming tyrants, and to make sure that the nation’s leaders remain answerable to the people.

That is the spirit of EDSA, and it lives on.


By Josemaria Claro
The Philippine Star 

(This article was originally written in remembrance of President Cory’s birthday last month. The author revised some parts as the article is a fitting reflection for yesterday’s anniversary of the People Power Revolution.)

Cory and FVRGoing by the dwindling crowds during observances of the EDSA anniversary in the past couple of years, one would think that people power was gone … where are the cheering crowds, the dancing in the streets by the champions of democracy?”

Former President Corazon Aquino posed this question back in 2004. When we think about it, it was a painful question for her to even ask, given how our country had relied on the sacrifices made by her family to win back our freedom. What pain it must have felt if we were to equate dwindling numbers with desertion. But Cory Aquino knew better.

Long before the massive crowd had emptied, Cory already knew that the People Power Revolution must go beyond EDSA. She knew she must find a way to harness the spirit of people power to build our nation.

How did Cory regard people power? While most of us Filipinos were deluded into thinking that rallies were enough to create social change, Cory had learned that EDSA was just the political manifestation of a deeper ideology.

Somewhere along the way, Cory was able to fathom that people power is the heart and soul of the Philippine nation. Cory observed, “People power did not start in EDSA — it was harnessed in the grassroots where people are helping people create jobs and livelihood, deliver social services, bring about peace and order and improve lives. People power lives not in EDSA, but in the nation’s communities where NGOs and people’s organizations are helping one another help themselves.”

The Marcos dictatorship was not toppled by people revolt alone, but by the confluence of people’s movements, that is, of Filipinos standing up against injustice and extending a compassionate hand to those oppressed by the regime. Today, Pres. Benigno Aquino III admits the battle of EDSA is not yet over. Poverty still enslaves many Filipinos through unjust social structures. But the nation must continue to reflect on how people power is the only path that would bring about lasting change in our country.

And this is what the EDSA People Power Commission (EPPC) strives to do as its mission. It aspires to make the spirit of people power go viral. It works towards making that spirit of volunteerism, activism, and compassion become a nationwide movement. Indeed, People power is alive when volunteers raise funds to donate boats and plant mangroves in the community of Layag-layag in Zamboanga. There is people power when volunteers join hands with the local government and various non-government organizations in rebuilding earthquake-damaged Martilo Elementary School in Dumaguete. And people power is evident in Davao when volunteers are working to install a solar panel for the Matigsalug tribe. These are just three projects of the nine EPPC regional councils established all over the country to sustain a movement that calls for a more progressive and caring society that President Cory always dreamed about.

Many people challenge Cory Aquino’s claim to people power by maliciously stating that she wasn’t even present during the uprising. What they do not understand is that without her selfless and courageous stand against the Marcoses, the people would have never been inspired to demand for their freedom back. More importantly, after the euphoria of EDSA had faded, it was Cory who reflected on our history and grappled with what people power truly meant. While many of us went on our separate ways after 1986, she never wavered on her promise to empower her people with a democracy that would enable them to be responsible for the affairs of the motherland.

It is this unfaltering spirit that Filipinos must call to mind after our celebration yesterday of the 27th anniversary of People Power. More important than us trooping to EDSA is the embodiment of our pledges and commitments through volunteerism so as to empower the most marginalized of our countrymen. These acts may not be as resplendent as what happened in 1986, but they certainly have the potential to groundswell into a massive movement that would effect real meaningful change — something that EDSA ’86 alone could not have achieved.

Cory Aquino believed that if this country was ever to progress, it should not forget how it showed the world the true meaning of solidarity. The greatest tribute we could give her is if each one of us will be able to set ablaze the spirit of EDSA in every barrio and barangay of this People Power nation.