July 2013

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

China's new 10-dash line

China’s new 10-dash line

Consistent with her “salami-slicing” strategy, China published a new “10-dash line” map, which is one dash longer than the “nine-dash line” map published less than a year ago. That extra “dash” is placed near Taiwan’s eastern shoreline.

With the tongue-shaped 10-dash line, all the countries surrounding the South China Sea (SCS) would only extend 12 miles out to the demarcation line of what China claims to be her “national boundary.” China’s position is that these countries are not entitled to their 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) as mandated by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) — to which China is a signatory — because China claims “indisputable sovereignty” over the entire area.

In a major move last week, China announced that she has unified her coast guard into one organization that includes the maritime surveillance fleet, maritime police, and fisheries law enforcement. Prior to the unification, these vessels were not allowed to be equipped with weapons. Now, they are.

Code of Conduct

Joe Biden

Joe Biden

The 10 ASEAN members, four of whom have overlapping claims on the Spratly Islands, are trying to convince China into agreeing to a Code of Conduct (COC) in the SCS. At the ASEAN forum last month in Brunei, China agreed to meet with the ASEAN members in September to develop rules to avoid conflict in the SCS.

Last week, U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden, who was visiting India and Singapore, pushed China to negotiate a COC with ASEAN members. The question is: How far would China go along in developing a COC without giving up her sovereignty over the SCS? Which makes one wonder if China would offer to agree to a COC in exchange for the other claimants to waive their claims on all or part of the SCS.

China Dream

Xi Jinping

Xi Jinping

Indeed, that’s what Chinese President Xi Jinping’s “China Dream” is all about. It must be remembered that Xi is first and foremost a pure Maoist. And he’d probably want to realize the emergence of China as the world’s number one superpower.

During the summit meeting between Xi and President Barack Obama in California last June, Xi told the media that he and Obama were meeting “to chart the future of China-US relations and draw a blueprint for this relationship.” Then he added: “The vast Pacific Ocean has enough space for two large countries like the United States and China.”

Lake Beijing

First Island Chain and Second Island Chain

First Island Chain and Second Island Chain

Last June 27, 2013, an intriguing article appeared in the Want China Times titled, “China to take Second Island Chain by 2020: analyst.” It says: “Within seven years, China will be able to control the Second Island Chain — a series of island groups that runs north to south from the Japanese archipelago to the Bonin and Marshall islands — now that the PLA Navy commands the nation’s first aircraft carrier, according to the Hangzhou-based Qianjiang Evening News.”

The Second Island Chain runs through Guam, a U.S. territory. It delineates what is referred to as the Western Pacific from the rest of the Pacific. Simply put, if China succeeded in controlling the Second Island Chain, she would be right at America’s doorsteps!

Admiral Liu Huaqing (Photo/CNS)

Admiral Liu Huaqing (Photo/CNS)

The article also said: “In 1982, Admiral Liu Huaqing, the former commander of the PLA Navy and the mastermind of China’s modern naval strategy, said that it would be necessary for China to control the First and Second Island Chains by 2010 and 2020. The PLA Navy must be ready to challenge US domination over the Western Pacific and the Indian Ocean in 2040. If China is able to dominate the Second Island Chain seven years from now, the East China Sea will become the backyard of the PLA Navy.”

The First Island Chain runs from Japan’s southern tip through the Ryukyu string of islands, through Taiwan, through the Philippines’ islands of Luzon and Palawan, and all along the western part of Borneo. Interestingly, the First Island Chain runs parallel to the 10-dash line’s demarcation.

If China succeeds in breaking through the First Island Chain and take control of the Second Island Chain, the entire Western Pacific waters would become “Lake Beijing.” And in the middle of Lake Beijing is the Philippines, isolated from the rest of the world.

But for as long as the countries in the First Island Chain — mainly Japan, Taiwan, and the Philippines – are allied with the U.S., China would be blocked from gaining a foothold in the Pacific.

Pivot to Asia

U.S. carrier strike group

U.S. carrier strike group

It did not then come as a surprise that the Obama administration has implemented the so-called “Pivot to Asia” that would shift 60% of the U.S.’s naval and air forces to the Indo-Pacific Region (IPR) by 2020 to counter a rising China. Indeed, the past two years saw the strengthening of the U.S.’s strategic partnership with Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, Thailand, and India; thus, forming an arc that would effectively contain China.

Subic Bay

Subic Bay

With the deployment of the U.S. Seventh Fleet to the Western Pacific waters and 150,000 military personnel to Japan, South Korea, and Australia, China couldn’t break through the First Island Chain. Recently, the Philippines announced to relocate major air force and navy forces to the former U.S. naval base at Subic Bay. The Philippines is also negotiating an “access agreement” with the U.S. to allow the deployment of U.S. personnel, ships, and aircraft on a “temporary” and rotational basis; thus, allowing interoperability for joint operations of American and Philippine forces when the need arises.

Meanwhile, the former U.S. Clark Air Base is hosting an undetermined number of P3C Orion planes, the U.S.’s latest surveillance aircraft. The Orions are conducting maritime patrol to monitor activities in the SCS.

Game of Weiqi

Weiqi.2A Chinese game called Weiqi (Go in Japanese), which means, “encircling game,” is a board game that originated in China 2,500 years ago. There are two players in the game. The rules are simple but rich in strategy. Played with white and black pieces (“stones”), the object of the game is to use one’s stones to surround a larger total area of the board. And whoever ends up with a larger area, wins.

During a breakfast with reporters last July 29, Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle, the U.S. Air Force chief of operations in the Pacific, said that the U.S. Air Force will deploy “fighters, tankers, and at some point in the future, maybe bombers on a rotational basis.” He also said that the Air Force will “dramatically expand its military presence across the Pacific this year, sending jets to Thailand, India, Singapore, and Australia.” He also mentioned the possibility of using the bases at Cubi Point and Puerto Princesa in the Philippines and airfields in Indonesia and Malaysia. By the looks of it, the U.S. is ahead in the Weiqi game.

But a series of bold moves by China is threatening the balance of power in the Indo-Pacific region. With the new 10-dash line, China is raising the ante. Is China’s hand strong or is she bluffing? The U.S. is calling China’s bluff.

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

By Camille Diola

The Philippine Star

Vice President Joe Biden, speaks about the U.S. policy toward the Asia-Pacific region at an event hosted by the Center for American Progress, in Washington, Thursday, July 18, 2013. AP PHOTO/MANUEL BALCE CENETA

Vice President Joe Biden, speaks about the U.S. policy toward the Asia-Pacific region at an event hosted by the Center for American Progress, in Washington, Thursday, July 18, 2013. AP PHOTO/MANUEL BALCE CENETA

American Vice President Joe Biden said in a speech that the alliance with the Philippines is among the cornerstones of the United States’ defensive and economic strategies in the Asia Pacific region.

“The core of our strategy in the region are our alliances: Japan, South Korea, Australia, the Philippines, Thailand,” Biden said, sharing his take on the United States’ policy in the region at the Center for American Progress on Thursday (Manila time).

Biden said the US’ strategic ties with these countries that have transformed economically the past years are at the center of President Barack Obama’s “re-balancing” policy, shifting its focus from Western nations to Asia.

“Economically and strategically, it’s clear why the United States has to re-balance, to direct our resources toward the Asia Pacific region,” he said.

Biden also admitted that building alliances with the five countries as well as India, Singapore and Indonesia have not been without risk, as many of them suffer from disputes.

“In the Asia-Pacific, we saw a region of remarkable promise but also genuine uncertainty and political risk. Many nations have experienced rapid economic transformation that has fundamentally created a new dynamic: rising ambitions and rising tensions,” Biden said.

To address the challenges, he said that the US’ “entire national security and economic teams” are committed to solving concerns in the Pacific region.

The strategy consists in “strengthening our alliances, deepening partnerships and investing like never before in regional institutions to help manage disputes peacefully,” Biden said.

Seeing the disputes over the South China Sea with China claiming almost the entire territory, Biden urged China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to draft a binding code of conduct over the sea territory.

“That means no intimidation, no coercion, no aggression and a commitment from all parties to reduce the risk of mistakes and miscalculation,” he said.

“It is in everyone’s interest that there be freedom of navigation, unimpended lawful commerce, respect for international laws and norms and a peaceful resolution of territorial disputes,” Biden added.

Biden also said the US wants to help create 21st century “rules of the road” to help Asian nations integrate and achieve security and prosperity.

To spark growth, nations must raise their standards. He says there must be fewer border barriers and better protections for intellectual property, the US vice president said.

Another highlight of Biden’s address is about the US’ relationship with a growing superpower in China–calling the ties both of “competition and cooperation” and not of inevitable conflict.

He said Americans like to compete and that competition is good for both countries. U.S.-China relations have been aggravated by economic rivalry, accusations of cyber hacking and China’s inaction in extraditing NSA leaker Edward Snowden. – With reports from AP

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2013/07/19/988881/biden-alliance-phl-core-us-strategy

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RELATED STORY:

US commander: China’s aggression leads to US, allies’ closer ties

By Camille Diola
The Philippine Star

United States Air Force General Herbert "The Hawk" Carlisle. US ARMED FORCES PHOTO

United States Air Force General Herbert “The Hawk” Carlisle. US ARMED FORCES PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines – United States Pacific Air Forces Commander Herbert Carlisle said China’s behavior in the South China Sea has led to stronger ties between the US and its Asian allies which include the Philippines.

“Some of (China’s) fairly assertive, aggressive behavior has in fact brought our friends and they’re relying on us to be there and to be present,” Carlisle said in reports from Washington on Monday.

The US has lately shifted its military and diplomatic focus on the Asia Pacific partly due to Beijing’s claims, with Vice President Joe Biden saying that the “core” of such strategy are alliances with Japan, South Korea, Australia, the Philippines, Thailand and Singapore.

“One of the main tenets of our strategy is to expand engagement and interoperability and integration … with our friends’ and partners’ militaries,” Carlisle said.

Carlisle also weighed in on China’s military buildup, saying it runs the risk of having unintended consequences sooner or later.

“Being fairly aggressive runs the risk of creating the potential for miscalculation,” he said.

Carlisle warned that such aggression may result in an unprecedented response from the different countries that Beijing does not anticipate.

“It’s a complex, changing environment. Every action has unintended consequences and second and third order effects,” Carlisle said.

The American general also gave an overview of the Pacific Command’s positioning in the region, saying that the Air Force’s F-22 fighter jets are present there.

Unmanned spy aircrafts as well as a new F-35 fighter plane will be sent to the area where there is increasing tension.

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2013/07/30/1030981/us-commander-chinas-aggression-leads-us-allies-closer-ties

By Graham Noble  
Guardian Express

Littoral Combat Ship

Littoral Combat Ship

Few Americans know what goes on at the Pentagon – the headquarters of the United States military – and, most of the time, few care. Of greater concern is the fact that few of America’s elected political representatives know very much about what the Generals are doing, either. Currently – and without much congressional oversight – the Pentagon is preparing for war with China.

It is, of course, the job of the Defense Department to plan for various contingencies, including strategies for dealing with emerging threats. It was for this reason that, in late 2008, a strategy was born that has since developed into a major Pentagon project aimed at neutralizing the perceived threat of China, the world’s newest superpower. This project is now known as AirSea Battle.

The AirSea Battle project is, in its most simplistic form, the plan for pre-emptively attacking and neutralizing China. The project covers the development of new weapons, technologies and military capabilities that will be necessary for carrying out such an attack. Former Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, gave the project his official blessing in 2010. The Department of Defense Quadrennial Defense Review Report directed the military to “develop a joint air-sea battle concept . . . [to] address how air and naval forces will integrate capabilities across all operational domains—air, sea, land, space, and cyberspace—to counter growing challenges to U.S. freedom of action.” Leon Panetta, who succeeded Gates as Defense Department chief, also endorsed the project and established the Multi-Service Office to Advance AirSea Battle, as described by Amitai Etzioni, Professor of International Affairs at The George Washington University, in an article for Yale Journal of International Affairs.

AirSea Battle requires “interoperable air and naval forces that can execute networked, integrated attacks-in-depth to disrupt, destroy, and defeat enemy anti-access area denial capabilities.” The project acknowledges that “[t]he scope and intensity of U.S. stand-off and penetrating strikes against tar­gets in mainland China clearly has escalation implications.”

Does the development of the AirSea Battle project mean that President Obama – or, indeed, the Pentagon – actually intends launching a military strike against the Chinese? There is nothing to indicate such an intention. In addition, China is not yet at the point where it could seriously challenge the United States, militarily. As Etzioni infers, however; the mere existence of AirSea Battle may prompt the Chinese to escalate their own defense spending and planning for military ‘contingencies’.

It should be noted that Pentagon officials deny that the project is aimed specifically at China. It appears to be widely accepted, however, that the scope and nature of the AirSea Battle clearly indicate that it is being developed with China in mind. As one senior naval officer put it, “Air-Sea Battle is all about convincing the Chinese that we will win this competition.”

The Chinese, of course, are aware of the project and are presumably in little doubt that AirSea Battle was developed with them in mind.

The most unsettling aspect of this Pentagon project, however, is that it has been neither reviewed, nor approved, by either the White House or Congress; it was conceived by the military and approved by the Defense Department, but appears to have moved forward with little involvement or oversight by the civilian leadership of the United States. In 2011, Admiral Robert F. Willard wrote to Defense Secretary Panetta that “[d]espite reports throughout 2011 AirSea Battle had been completed in an executive summary form, to my knowledge Members of Congress have yet to be briefed on its conclusions or in any way made a part of the process.”

The military, therefore is preparing for war with China without the approval of elected representatives. The Pentagon, it seems, is quite literally above the law.

http://guardianlv.com/2013/07/pentagon-preparing-for-war-with-china/

By Chico Harlan
The Washington Post

TED ALJIBE/AFP/GETTY IMAGES - US and Philippine navy personnel prepare to launch an unmanned aerial vehicle from a boat off the naval base in Sangley point, west of Manila. The six-day exercises were held last month, close to Scarborough Shoal, which China insists it owns.

TED ALJIBE/AFP/GETTY IMAGES – US and Philippine navy personnel prepare to launch an unmanned aerial vehicle from a boat off the naval base in Sangley point, west of Manila. The six-day exercises were held last month, close to Scarborough Shoal, which China insists it owns.

MANILA — China’s most daring adversary in Southeast Asia is, by many measurements, ill-suited for a fight. The Philippines has a military budget one-fortieth the size of Beijing’s, and its navy cruises through contested waters in 1970s hand-me-downs from the South Vietnamese.

From that short-handed position, the Philippines has set off on a risky mission to do what no nation in the region has managed to do: thwart China in its drive to control the vast waters around it.

Analysts say the Philippines’ strategy, in standing up to Asia’s powerhouse, is just as likely to backfire as succeed. But it provides a crucial test case as smaller countries debate whether to deal with China as a much-needed economic partner, a dangerous maritime aggressor, or both.

The Philippines doesn’t view China exclusively as a threat, officials here say, noting that trade between the countries is growing. The Philippines has also used caution at times, most notably by holding off on provocative plans to drill in what could be the nation’s richest oil and gas field. But analysts point to a series of steps taken in recent months that suggest that Manila is increasingly willing to confront Beijing. They also note that the Philippines has suspended or canceled several development deals that depended on generous Chinese aid.

Earlier this year, the Philippines filed a case with the United Nations contesting China’s maritime claims. More recently, the Philippines has increased its manpower on disputed islands, approved upgrades to decrepit military equipment and discussed plans that would give the United States expanded access to Philippine air and naval bases. Speaking to his armed forces in May, Philippine President Benigno Aquino III said the nation needed to protect its maritime territory from “bullies.”

Battles over territory in Asia go back centuries, but China has made an increasingly aggressive play in recent years to recover land that it says fell wrongly into foreign hands. China has made a case for ownership of nearly the entire South China Sea, marking its territory with a nine-dash line on a map that it submitted to the United Nations in 2009.

At least four other neighbors — Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam — are skirmishing with China over the tiny islands and the waters within that boundary. They covet sovereignty not just as a matter of pride but also to claim rich fisheries and underwater oil and gas resources.

But they have reason to tread cautiously. China is Malaysia’s largest trading partner. Brunei depends on China as a market for its fossil fuel exports. Taiwan’s president, Ma Ying-jeou, has fostered a major improvement in relations with Beijing.

Comparatively, Vietnam has been more willing to anger China. The two nations have a legacy of centuries of animosity, including a brief border war in 1979 and more recent clashes at sea. But the two are also communist partners, capable of patching up frayed ties.

Some Filipinos say their country is more suited than others in the region to play tough with China. The Philippines has deep ties to Washington, stemming from a U.S. colonial period that ended in 1946. China and the Philippines took opposite sides in the wars in Korea and Vietnam, as well as in the Cold War.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/philippines-pushes-back-against-china/2013/07/23/4dfa6058-f043-11e2-bed3-b9b6fe264871_story.html

 SOURCE: NEWS.COM.AU

Gap in our knowledge... The War on Terror continues to be fought from here

Gap in our knowledge… The War on Terror continues to be fought from here

LAST week, it was revealed that the Australian research facility Pine Gap might be indirectly responsible for US drone strikes which have killed Pakistani citizens.

How did that happen? And what exactly is Pine Gap? Here’s a quick cheat sheet for those of you who’ve vaguely heard of Pine Gap but never bothered to find out much more.

SHHHH! IT’S A SECRET!

Pine Gap is a secretive facility nearly 20km south-west of Alice Springs which has been there since 1970. Run by both Australia and the United States, its official name is the Joint Defence Facility Pine Gap, even though our government really hates to admit it exists.

As for persuading the government to describe what it’s there for, forget it. We contacted the national office of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) and none of the three lines answered. So we rang two state offices, both of which told us to ring the national lines that weren’t answering.

“It is fair to say that Pine Gap has some fairly awesome capabilities when it comes to intelligence gathering,” said a former worker at Pine Gap, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak about his work. “It’s hard to imagine, but I suppose that’s the nature of the game. It’s secretive.”

YES, BUT WHAT IS IT THERE FOR?

Surely they should know better than to tell you to turn around this close to double lines.

Surely they should know better than to tell you to turn around this close to double lines.

Pine Gap is essentially a satellite tracking station, situated in the middle of nowhere because that makes it hard for other countries to intercept the signals emitted from within. It is thought that the US controls all of its spy satellites from Pine Gap, and that the US and Australia “listen to Asia” from the 14 antennae concealed beneath white domes at Pine Gap. Put it this way, those white domelike structures aren’t a cat boarding facility.

WHAT’S THE EDWARD SNOWDEN CONNECTION?

Renegade American intelligence guy Edward Snowden revealed just recently that Pine Gap is one of the key facilities used in US surveillance.

WHICH IS WHY PINE GAP IS IMPLICATED IN DRONE STRIKES

Yes. A Pakistani lawyer went on record this week saying Pine Gap tracks the communications of al-Qaeda and Taliban militants. This, he says, enables the US to target those militants with its drone strikes. Sadly, these strikes kill civilians in addition to killing military targets.

IT BASICALLY RUNS THE ALICE SPRINGS ECONOMY

bottom left

Pine Gap is the small cleared area above the pink A in the bottom left. The town of Alice Springs is top right. Picture: Google maps

Pine Gap employs up to 1000 people. When you think about it, 1000 jobs in a town of 25,000 people is like 160,000 people working at one company in a city of four million people such as Melbourne. So basically, it’s the biggest employer in town. Not that anyone admits that. Meet one of the Americans who seem to be everywhere in The Alice and they’ll tell you they work as a “gardener”, when they’re probably some sort of high-level intelligence operative. Because of the American influence, festivals such as Halloween and Thanksgiving are huge in Alice Springs.

MANY PEOPLE ARE OPPOSED TO IT

A 1986 picture of Peter Garrett, then just a rock star, who was campaigning to close the Pine Gap facility.

A 1986 picture of Peter Garrett, then just a rock star, who was campaigning to close the Pine Gap facility.

There have been numerous protests on site over the years, although Pine Gap’s remote location has the effect of making mobilised opposition difficult. The excellent ’80s rock band Midnight Oil sang several songs in opposition to US military presence in Australia, and Pine Gap bobbed up in the famous song Power and the Passion in the line:

Flat chat, Pine Gap, in every home a Big Mac

That lyric appeared to be referring to an insidious American incursion into our lives at all levels – cultural, military and so on.

These days Peter Garrett works for the same government that won’t pick up its phone to acknowledge Pine Gap’s existence.

WEIRD STUFF

Several groups believe Pine Gap is a secret facility investigating UFOs and aliens. According to one particularly imaginative website, three UFOs are being dissected at Pine Gap as we speak – complete with frazzled bodies. The UFO guys didn’t answer the phone either.

By Paul Atienza
The Daily Tribune

Ballsy-Aquino.3Several weeks of reports on the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) 3 project where the presidential sister and her husband were linked to the alleged extortion try on Czech company, Inekon, Ballsy Aquino only yesterday, in an interview, challenged those behind what she called “rumors” to come out in the open, while denying that she had anything to do with Inekon or the MRT-3 project, where another Aquino cousin, businessman Jorge Aquino-Lichauco, was being named among those pushing the MRT-3 supply contract to be awarded to Czech coach manufacturer Inekon Group.

Ballsy and her husband Eldon Cruz were linked to the extortion try of $30 million in exchange for the Czech firm Inekon to secure the contract to supply trains for the MRT 3.

It was reported that Ballsy and her husband went to Prague in 2011 and met with Czech Ambassador Josef Rychtar, who brought up the extortion attempt, but inexplicably cleared the couple .

that Rychtar has already spoken, and quoted him as saying that he had talked to some people who are doubtful.

In explaining her trip to Prague in 2011, she said she was with her husband in Paris for a business trrip, who was with his boss, whom she did not name.

She claimed that they went to Prague because her sister, Pinky, who had been to the Czech Republic’s Capital, enthused about seeing the Sto. Nino, saying: “We went there and I got my wish.”

Ballsy also denied that she and her group met with any official or businessman, nor were they welcomed by anyone at the airport, saying that even the Philippine Ambassador to the Czech Republic Evelyn Austria-Garcia did not meet them, because she (Ballsy) knew how much of a headache ambassadors have when Filipinos want to be met and fetched.

The logbooks and CCTV cameras in the Philippine Embassy in the Czech Republic should have the pictures and logbooks, and the investigators, whether the NBI or the House of representatives should order the Philippine Embassy in the Czech Republic to have these brought if they really want to get at the truth, no matter who gets hurt.

If the logbook has been altered or torn, or the CCTV film has been erased, that will be known too.

Presidential Deputy spokesman Abigail Valte refused to comment on the possibility of having Ambassador Rychtar declared by the Aquino administration “persona non grata for sowing malicious unsubstantiated intrigues” against the relatives of President Aquino and close associates of his family who allegedly tried to extort $30 million from a Czech-based contractor Inekon.

Valte reiterated that Aquino had already asked the Justice Department to start its investigations on the published reports on the alleged extortion attempt by his relatives and close associates of his family and other officials in the administration.

Valte told the Tribune that it would be better to ask the Department of Foreign Affairs on the matter of declaring a foreign diplomat whose acts could be considered offensive to the host country and the processes on how to declare a perosna non grata.

“Better ask the DFA,” Valte said.

DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez informed the Tribune that the instrumentalities of the national government have been ordered to conduct a probe on the issues of anomalies affecting the MRT 3 coaches project.

“I believe this issue is being looked into by concerned agencies. Let’s wait for the result of the investigation,” Hernandez said.

Under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations Article 9, a receiving State may “at any time and without having to explain its decision” declare any member of a diplomatic staff persona non grata. A person so declared is considered unacceptable and is usually recalled to his or her home nation. If not recalled, the receiving State “may refuse to recognize the person concerned as a member of the mission.”

While diplomatic immunity protects mission staff from prosecution for violating civil and criminal laws, depending on rank, under Articles 41 and 42 of the Vienna Convention, they are bound to respect national laws and regulations. Breaches of these articles can lead to a persona non grata declaration being used to punish erring staff.

Valte had also said in the regular press briefing in Malacañang that Aquino had ordered already the Department of Justice and its investigating agency, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to do the investigation.

The nationalist bloc in the House of Representatives had vowed to conduct also its independent inquiry in aid of legislation.

“Explanation (on MRT scam)? That is something that normally happens. Yes, it (investigation) was announced yesterday (Monday),” Valte said.

Valte said Justice secretary Leila de Lima as well as Transportation and Communication Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya have been informed already and confirmed that Aquino wanted the NBI agents to conduct the investigation of the reported anomalies.

The Justice secretary said the thrust of President Aquino is to ascertain the facts and the truth and determine accountability, if warranted.

http://www.tribune.net.ph/index.php/headlines/item/17344-ballsy-denies-meeting-dares-accusers-to-come-out-openly

Source: ABS-CBN News

Jeane-Lim-Napoles.5MANILA – The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) is investigating the wealth of businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles, after photos of her daughter flaunting their wealth appeared on social media.

Napoles is the alleged brains behind the P10-billion pork barrel “scam.”

The Instagram account of her daughter, Jeane, shows photos of the younger Napoles boasting about expensive cars she received from her parents during her birthday debut and graduation from college.

The photos also show expensive watches, jewelry, clothing, and shoes.

One Instagram photo claimed that she bought all the items at Celine, a branded bag store.

Jeane-Lim-Napoles.2Another showed shopping sprees in other countries.

The photos were sent to ABS-CBN News by a friend of the younger Napoles, a a fashion designer and model, after the pork barrel scam hit news headlines.

Jeane Napoles’ Instagram account has since been deleted, but other photos and video clips showing her lifestyle are continuing to circulate online.

One Vimeo video clip shows her 21st birthday party at Beverly Hills.

Meanwhile, another blog claims that the younger Napoles has a clutch bag costing roughly P400,000 and 9 pairs of shoes costing P360,000 each.

It also alleged that her watches alone cost P1 million each.

Jeane-Lim-Napoles.1ABS-CBN News showed the photos to her mother, Janet Lim Napoles, who confirmed their authenticity.

She, however, offered an explanation for them.

Napoles said her daughter’s Porsche was a gift when her daughter graduated magna cum laude.

Another Porsche was a gift during her daughter’s birthday, she added.

She said they also gave jewelry and expensive watches as gifts during her birthday.

Napoles denied that they own the 20 pieces of luggage at a Japan airport, but did not disown luggage that arrived in Manila.

She said they only had 5 pieces of luggage and a copier machine.

Napoles said it was their right to go shopping because they were earning money from their business ventures.

She also denied buying all of the items sold at a high-end bag shop.

Napoles insisted that their wealth is the the result of legitimate business.

“Wala po na nanggaling sa gobyerno, ni piso. Lahat pong yan ay hanapubuhay namin galing sa aming pinaghirapan,” she said. “Kaming mag-asawa ay nagpapakamatay na maghanapbuhay para maibigay po namin sa aming mga anak.:

She also confirmed that they co-own a P7-million hotel near Disneyland in Los Angeles, California.

ANC HEADSTART, July 30, 2013

http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/video/nation/07/30/13/instagram-account-shows-napoles-wealth

By REY O. ARCILLA
MALAYA

‘Noynoy said the government loses P200 billion a year in customs duties due to corruption. Appoint someone else who can do the job of customs chief better, like Ping Lacson.’

Ping-Lacson.3PEOPLE have been asking me of late why I have stopped supporting and have become critical of President Noynoy Aquino. They’ve got it all wrong! I criticize Noynoy because I want him to succeed in his daang matuwid crusade. I do not think anyone around him will have the guts to tell him what he is doing that is obviously wrong. Do you?

So, if Noynoy’s trusted lieutenants are also serious about daang matuwid, they should thank me and others like me. We are doing them a favor. Given Noynoy’s tendency to automatically defend and exonerate close friends accused of alleged wrongdoing, surely those around him who are straight are aware of the old adage “walang sumisira sa bakal kundi ang sariling kalawang”. It would be great, of course, if they themselves were to be the ones to tell Noynoy. Whether they like it or not, not to do so makes them part of the “kalawang”.

***

Poor Foreign Secretary Albert “Amboy” del Rosario. Noynoy praised him for not exactly the right reason during his fourth SONA – going to Libya during the crisis in that country three years ago to assess the situation of our OFWs there. Looking after OFWs is not Del Rosario’s main job. That was more of an amateurish publicity stunt.

Noynoy could have praised Del Rosario for his handling of, say, our present delicate relations with China and the United States, but that would definitely raise eyebrows instead. One need only recall Noynoy’s use of Senator Antonio Trillanes and later Secretary Mar Roxas to talk with the Chinese on the issue of the South China Sea/West Philippine Sea. As for our relations with the US, well, everyone knows he is not an Amboy for nothing.

Unwittingly (or was it wittingly?), by singling out Del Rosario, Noynoy caused the camera to focus on the latter showing him wearing a headset like the foreign diplomats present! He needed to listen to Noynoy’s speech in English?! Those who were watching TV with me burst out laughing. Where in the world can you find a foreign minister who cannot speak and evidently, cannot understand either, his country’s national language? Nakakahiya yata, di ba? If Noynoy is not bothered by that, he should know that his bosses are! Eh siya pa naman itong kauna-unahan nating pangulo na kapuri-puring nagbigay halaga sa pag-gamit ng ating sariling wika sa kanyang mga SONA upang maintindihan ng ating mga kababayan.

In any case, Noynoy’s words for Del Rosario smacks of a left-handed compliment, especially in the light of the recent “sex-for-fly” scandal that hit the DFA. (Incidentally, people are asking what happened to the investigation of the scandal that Del Rosario said he himself will handle.)

I wonder, as my friend Ellen Tordesillas asked, is that Noynoy’s way of paying a “farewell tribute” to Del Rosario?

***

Many, including me, are now beginning NOT to understand Noynoy? First, he severely criticizes, pillories, crucifies and shames before the whole nation his Bureau of Customs chief Ruffy Biazon, then rejects the latter’s resignation. Biazon, on the other hand, inexplicably decided to stay on notwithstanding the humiliating condemnation by his boss. Wala yatang delicadeza.

Even before the SONA, businessmen and other groups had urged Noynoy to let Biazon go. Do the two have a prior understanding of sorts? Who or what is behind Biazon’s staying power? Is it because he is allegedly a “team player” as one columnist has said? Resigned deputy customs commissioner Danny Lim was reported to have said that “for as long as Biazon is at the helm of Customs Bureau, nothing will ever change.”

Let’s watch what happens to the much-ballyhooed revamp that Malacañang and Biazon are bandying about.

***

Noynoy said in his SONA that we should no longer give priority to achieving some kind of minimum credible defense posture by not buying jet fighters. He was the one who first said we should do that. Now he changed his mind because he said we can use the money to build more schools.

How about the Customs collecting the P200 billion he said we lose every year because of corruption in the bureau? How? Appoint someone else who can do the job. Former Senator Ping Lacson readily comes to mind. How about it, Mr. President?

***

If Noynoy wouldn’t do that, and he doesn’t seem wont to do it, how about scrapping the pork barrel? Aside from the P27 billion earmarked for the pork barrel of senators and congressmen, more will be saved to buy at least two squadrons of jet fighters if the pork barrel allegedly received by other government officials like provincial board members, city councilors and others were to be scrapped as well. I am told that even barangay captains receive at least P200,000 pork.

But the problem is Noynoy apparently does not want to abolish the pork barrel. (Makes one wonder if he really is serious about daang matuwid.) In the wake of the scam allegedly involving the immoral and illegal use of pork by certain senators and congressmen, he now has the golden opportunity to do it. So, why does he not seize the moment? Let me guess – he, with or without the advice of his minions, does not want to give up the presidential pork either.

Does Noynoy need pork for effective governance? He does not. All the government agencies are under his command. Neither does he need to cater to members of Congress. He has both houses already in his pocket. He can easily “persuade” any recalcitrant member who refuses to cooperate and support his legislative agenda through other means. The powers of the presidency are so enormous. He also cannot run for re-election.

The bottom line is Noynoy must set the example by getting rid of his pork barrel. Once he gives that up, those now squandering the people’s money will be forced to follow suit. The people, his bosses, will be right there to support him. His legacy will be lasting.

***

GSIS head Robert Vergara issued a press release saying that some 200 government agencies owe the pension fund P730 million.

What gall! He is complaining about the sum of P730 million when he can’t or won’t even account for P4.13 billion (1 billion is equals to 1,000 million… just for emphasis) in contributions and loan payments made by 12, yes 12, government offices to the GSIS that have not been credited to the offices as of 31 December 2011. COA also said the amount of unrecorded remittances could go much higher because only 36 agencies had as of three or four months ago responded out of the 186 that were sent confirmation requests by government auditors. Of the 36 that responded, 27 confirmed ‘discrepancies’ in their premium and loan payments ledgers when compared with those of the GSIS.

If the remittances of only 12 government agencies amount to P4.13 billion, can you imagine how much the total remittances of 186 agencies would amount to?!

I think it’s time Vergara leveled with the poor GSIS members about their loan payments and contributions and stopped quibbling about the “piddling” sum of P730 million. I’m sure they will, in time, be paid. The question is will they be posted on time?

Vergara should also explain to the poor government employee-members of GSIS the humongous salary and allowances of P16.36 million COA said he received last year that made him the highest paid government servant.

***

Warm congratulations to the DFA career officers recently nominated by Noynoy as ambassadors. I wish them all the best in their new assignments.

***

Reminders (for Noynoy’s action):

1) Filing of charges against officials of the National Food Authority (NFA) during Arroyo’s illegitimate regime. Noynoy himself said on several occasions that there is documentary evidence to prove the venalities in the past in that agency.

2) Investigation of reported anomalies in the GSIS during the watch of Winston Garcia and ordering his successor, Robert Vergara, to file the proper charges, if warranted, against the former.

3) Facilitating the investigation of rampant corruption in the military and police establishments.

4) Expeditious action by the AFP on the case of Jonas Burgos.

5) Expeditious probe of the allegation that water concessionaires Maynilad (Manny Pangilinan) and Manila Water (Ayala) have been passing on to water consumers their corporate income taxes amounting to P15.5 billion from 2008 to 2012 or P3.1 billion a year. They allegedly even charge to the consumers expenses on travel, foreign exchange differential, project costs, cost of arbitration in court, donations, contributions and promotions!

***

Today is the 93rd day of the seventh year of Jonas Burgos’ disappearance.

Whatever happened to Noynoy’s directive to the NBI to conduct a “focused, dedicated and exhaustive” probe of what really happened to Jonas?! Your bosses want to know, Mr. President.

***

From an internet friend:

Answers given by an 8-year old boy to the question “if you could change one thing about your mom, what would it be?”:

1. She has this weird thing about me keeping my room clean. I’d get rid of that.

2. I’d make my mom smarter. Then she would know it was my sister who did it, not me.

3. I would like for her to get rid of those invisible eyes on the back of her head.

***

Email: roacrosshairs@outlook.com

Even at 85, there’s no retirement yet for former Philippine president Fidel Ramos

By Janice Ponce de Leon 
Gulf News

(File Photo)

(File Photo)

Dubai: Former Philippine President Fidel Ramos may be 85 years old but he can still challenge and beat men 60 years his junior to a gruelling full 50 push-up and sit-up public stint. He may have greyed and have officially stepped out of government office, but he is anything but retired.

Ramos, who has more than five decades of military and government service in his record, continues to hit local news pages today even after finishing his presidential term 15 years ago. He carries out his advocacy for peace and nation building as the chairman of his own foundation, the Ramos Peace and Development Foundation. He continues to write opinion pieces for local newspapers and abroad.

“I’m still doing my work as a responsible senior citizen. You may retire from your office, from your career, but you never retire from your duties as a citizen of this republic,” Ramos was quoted as saying in an interview with investigative news magazine, NewsBreak.

Born in March 1928 to a diplomat father and a mother who worked as a teacher, Ramos’ career was forged for him early on — public service was in his blood. At 18, he entered the Philippine Military Academy and won a scholarship at the United States Military Academy in West Point. Always an achiever, Ramos was one of the first four Filipino soldiers to be sent for special forces training in the US, topping the Special Forces-Psychological Operations-Airborne Course at the United States Army Infantry School at Fort Benning.

After graduation, the young lieutenant led a United Nations Filipino Platoon to victory at the Battle of Hill Eerie during the Korean War in 1952.

His next assignment took him to the Vietnam War as a non-combat officer in a purely combat area — which he described later on as his toughest assignment in his military career.

The bemedalled soldier rose up through the ranks — often in combat locally and abroad. Until now, he is the only Filipino soldier who has held all positions in the military from lieutenant to Commander-in-Chief when he became president in 1992.

In 1972, Ramos received full military powers as Chief of the Philippine Constabulary. He was at the beck and call of then strongman and dictator Ferdinand Marcos for 20 years during Martial Law. His loyalty earned him a spot in Marcos’ elite group of trusted advisers, the so-called Rolex 12.

But things took a different turn in 1986 when military support for Marcos—the very foundation on which he bases his power—crumbled. In an apparent attempt to stay in power, Marcos rigged the Presidential elections and the people flooded the streets in protest. This marked the beginning of the four-day People Power Revolution.

Seeing the public outcry against his president, Ramos, together with then Defence Minister Juan Ponce Enrile, defected from Marcos and shifted alliance to the masses. Ramos influence was so strong that he was able to forge the support of the military and police during the bloodless revolt that toppled the dictatorship and sent the Marcoses packing.

From that point on, Ramos became a household name. He was appointed as Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines during the Aquino Administration, crushing seven coup attempts to unseat housewife-turned-president Cory Aquino.

And as if part of a carefully planned strategy, Ramos eyed the presidency after Aquino. His campaign — flooded with his pro-People People Power antics and backed by Aquino — catapulted him to the Presidential Palace in 1992.

Ramos, then the country’s first protestant leader, inherited a nation in disarray and was often branded as a “weak state.”

His term was plagued with recurrent power crises and a weak peso. Investors shun the country due to instability caused by previous military attempts to seize power.

But weakness had no place in Ramos’ administration. For him, the challenge had just begun. The oft-described ‘no-nonsense’ president created an energy department and allowed independent power producers to supply power in the country, solving the power crisis in just two years.

The former man in uniform also campaigned for peace and met head to head with separatist groups in Mindanao. He signed the final peace agreement with the Moro National Liberation Front and gave them conditional powers for an autonomous reign.

Ramos carried out a national reform process and popularised his Philippines 2000 programme through five key targets: peace and stability, economic growth and sustainable development, energy and power generation, environmental protection, and streamlined bureaucracy. After years of pessimism, the people had hope for a better nation was once again, fired up by the president’s ‘We can do this’ attitude.

He opened up the traditionally closed national economy. The globetrotting leader became the most travelled Philippine president and wooed investors abroad. His first three years in power saw the Philippine economy soar. From being the perennial Sick Man of Asia, the Philippines bounced back as the new Tiger Cub Economy of Asia.

But the country’s economic gains were short-lived, the Philippines was not immune to crises after all. The 1997 Asian Financial Crisis hit the country hard, devaluating the peso, closing down business, and rendering people jobless. All this happened with Ramos just having one last year in the Presidential Palace.

Ramos, who, at that time was also faced with corruption allegations, mostly spent his final year as president campaigning for a change in the constitution. Critics said he wanted to extend his term but the Filipino people had already become allergic to apparent Marcos-wannabes. So they trooped to the streets once again and put a lid into Ramos’ dream.

History will remember Ramos as the most competent president after Marcos. His brilliance, leadership qualities, positive attitude continue to lure people to him. His advice on national security and strengthening the economy is still widely-sought out locally and internationally to this day.

He may no longer be actively involved in Philippine governance, but his influence no doubt extends in various political circles, including the country’s movers and shakers. And when the octogenarian is not busy giving his political analyses to the media, he is out there shouting “faster” and making 20-ish men cringe in pain as they race to their 50th push-up.

http://gulfnews.com/news/world/other-world/fidel-ramos-from-the-barracks-to-the-palace-1.1213748

ON DISTANT SHORE
By Val G. Abelgas

Noynoy-SONA-2013.6President Aquino appeared very tough and seemed serious when he dressed down erring and incompetent bureaucrats during his fourth State-of-the-Nation Address last week. The President, who won on a reform agenda in the 2010 presidential elections, echoed the common complaint of many Filipinos for decades: that the bureaucracy has become so corrupt and so incompetent that it seemed impossible for the country to get back on the right track.

Aquino has vowed to eradicate corruption and the “wang-wang” mentality among government employees and officials, but three years since he took over the presidency, the general feeling is that it is “business as usual” for these erring bureaucrats.

“But let us be honest: Even today, there are still those in government who seemingly refuse to change. It is disheartening to discover the depth and breadth to which they have branched out in the bureaucracy; the moment we look away, someone is sure to be taken advantage of and victimized,” Aquino said in his speech.

“And for those employees who refuse to turn their backs on the culture of wang-wang: my patience has run out. You were given three years to demonstrate your readiness to change; now, I shall pursue all of you and hold you accountable. No hard feelings,” the President continued.

If indeed Aquino is hell bent on crushing these erring public servants as he appeared to be in his speech, then there may still be hope for our country. But then, just a few hours after the much-applauded speech, Aquino seemed to send mixed signals when he rejected an offer to resign of Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon, whose agency, the graft-ridden Bureau of Customs, was one of three offices that bear the brunt of the presidential anger. Aquino basically consoled Biazon by saying he continues to trust the customs chief.

The comforting words to Biazon offered no comfort to the people who expected Aquino to bring down the ax to whomever it should fall, friend or foe alike. That Biazon failed to even make a dent on the corruption that pervades the customs bureau or improve the agency’s revenue collection efforts after several months in office should have been unassailable proof that he has failed as head of that agency, and should have, therefore, been the first to go.

Not even the claim of Deputy Director Danilo Lim, he who distinguished himself as the idealistic and rebellious military leader, that “powerful forces” are preventing them from instituting reforms in the agency, should have saved Biazon because he had not shown the political will that was needed to reform the customs bureau. Nobody told them reforming the Customs bureau would be an easy task.

Now that he has decided to keep Biazon, Aquino should give the young former congressman the full authority and support to institute drastic reforms in the bureau. Biazon, for his part, should start seriously cracking down on the erring officials and employees by firing and prosecuting those found to be corrupt. He should also go after customs brokers who have made a mockery of the country’s customs laws by offering bribes to virtually all levels of the customs bureaucracy – from the guards to the clerks to examiners and port collectors – to get the shipments of their clients out of customs without paying the appropriate taxes and duties, if they ever pay at all.

Brokers offer to get importers’ shipments out for a fixed amount that are often much less than the estimated tax or duty that would be levied on the cargo. They would then assign fixers who would make sure that the needed papers are processed fast and that the taxes to be paid are just a little percentage of the budget accepted from the importer. Thus, the government gets just a negligible amount of what it should legally take. Sometimes, no taxes are paid at all.

It is common knowledge that a broker or importer’s representative can’t get inside a customs office without bribing the guards, or have their papers processed without greasing the messengers and clerks, or have the import documents signed without a payoff to the signing officials, or get a low tax appraisal without kickbacks to examiners and collectors. The government pays these bureaucrats to do their duties, and the importers and brokers pay them more so they wouldn’t.

According to sources, these erring importers, brokers, customs examiners, and port collectors are under the protection of powerful officials from both Malacanang and Congress who exercise appointive and budgetary powers over the bureau.

Last January, Biazon ordered a reshuffle of officials to include two of the alleged “three kings” in the bureau. But the two, who reportedly enjoys the backing of two ranking government officials, have remained in their lucrative posts despite failing miserably in curbing corruption and hitting their target collections.

Biazon should not make the mistake of merely reshuffling the 12 port collectors. They would just continue their shenanigans in their new assignment. He should dismiss and prosecute the erring collectors if he finds incontrovertible evidence against them. He should also go against other ranking Customs officials found to be in cahoots with importers.

Sending these corrupt officials to jail and confiscating their ill-gotten wealth would send shivers to other recalcitrant customs and other government employees, and hopefully make them think twice before violating the people’s trust.

If Aquino has the political will to really change the errant way bureaucrats are performing their duties, he should start at the Customs Bureau by really pouncing on the corrupt and the incompetent and sending them to jail. He should also order a crackdown on customs brokers who have enriched themselves by cheating the government on behalf of their equally corrupt importer-clients.

By truly reforming the customs bureau, the Aquino administration would serve warning to other corrupt agencies and officials and, at the same time, significantly increase government revenues needed to improve the economy and alleviate poverty.

Such an undertaking needs not just tough talk, but serious and sincere action. He has to send a strong message that he means business, not business as usual.

(valabelgas@aol.com)