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Rebuilding U.S.-Philippine alliance

Published in Editorial & Other Articles
Recently, China confirmed that construction work is ongoing at the Mabini Reef (Johnson South Reef) in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).  However, she declined to say what she’s constructing. She told the Philippines that it’s none of her business because the area is “Chinese territory.”
It doesn’t matter that Mabini Reef is within the Philippines’ 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and it doesn’t matter that Mabini Reef is within the Philippines’ continental shelf, both of which are covered by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). With more than 60 countries signing the treaty, including China and the Philippines, the UNCLOS took effect in 1982.  Yet, China roguishly ignores the UNCLOS.  
Today, China insists that an arbitrarily drawn nine-dash line, which bounds about 90% of the South China Sea, delineates what she claims as “undisputable sovereignty” and “core national interest,” a euphemism she uses to signify that an area of land or water is non-negotiable territory.  With no coordinates to pinpoint the exact boundary of the nine-dash-line, the claimed area covers parts of her southern neighbors’ EEZ.  These countries are Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam, and lately, Indonesia. 
The reclamation of roughly five square kilometers of the subsurface area around the tiny Mabini Reef would require moving large volume of rock and soil from China, more than 600 miles away.  It’s estimated that the reclamation and construction of the airbase would take 10 years to complete.
But China must have surmised that it’s worth the gargantuan effort because it would result in her establishing a strategic foothold  -- for the first time outside China -- where her navy, air force, troops, ballistic missiles, and drones could reach Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, and everybody else within 1,500 miles.  With naval and air bases on Mabini Reef, China would come eyeball-to-eyeball with the Philippines… and, by extension, the U.S.  It would, in effect, break the First Island Chain, America’s first line of defense against Chinese aggression, which runs from Japan through Taiwan, the Philippines, Borneo, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam.   It also runs parallel to the nine-dash line. 
If China took unchallenged possession of the South China Sea, she would be in a position to keep the Strait of Malacca open to Chinese maritime routes for oil from the Middle East and Africa, which comprises 80% her foreign oil imports. 
Should the Strait of Malacca be closed, the Straits of Sunda and Lombok in Indonesia and the Timor Sea would provide China with alternate maritime routes.  However, Australia, which is a key U.S. ally, could play a crucial role should war break out between the U.S. and China.  Darwin, which is a forward operating base for American forces in Australia, could deny China’s use of these sea-lanes. 
With the conversion of Oyster Bay in Palawan into a mini-Subic naval base for Philippine and U.S. naval forces, a Chinese military base on Mabini Reef could effectively close the Ulugan Bay where naval vessels from the inner Oyster Bay had to pass through to get into the West Philippine Sea.   From a geostrategic standpoint, it would be a prized appendage for China, but it would be a pain in the groin for the U.S. and the Philippines.
Air-Sea Battle
Given U.S. President Barack Obama’s plan to rebalance 60% of America’s naval and air forces to the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, China’s military presence on Mabini Reef would enhance her Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) strategy, which was designed to counter the U.S.’s Air Sea Battle (ASB) plan.
The question is: What can the Philippines do to assert her sovereignty over Mabini Reef and other islands in the Spratly archipelago that China is fortifying with offensive military assets?   The problem is that the Philippines doesn’t have the capability to stop China on her own.  She relies on the U.S.’s presumed “ironclad” guarantee to come to her aid should hostility erupt over territorial disputes with China.  There is no such “ironclad” guarantee.  
The truth of the matter is the U.S. had repeatedly voiced out her neutrality on the territorial disputes in the South China Sea.  The latest was last May 31 in Singapore when U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel reportedly warned Lt. Gen. Wang Guanzhong that “the U.S. will not look the other way when nations such as China try to restrict navigation or ignore international rules and standards.”   However, he also parroted Obama’s cliché that the U.S. is neutral and doesn’t take any side on territorial disputes in the South China Sea.  That means that the Philippines is on her own in defending her sovereignty and territorial integrity when it comes to any of the islands in the South China, which the U.S. had claimed as not being covered by the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT).  The rationale for the exclusion was that the Spratly islands were not included as Philippine territory; hence, not covered by MDT.
Treaty ally
And this brings to mind the question:  Isn’t a “treaty ally” – as the U.S. refers to the Philippines -- an ally in every sense of the word?  Or is it just something that is applied for the U.S.’s convenience when her “core interests” are imperiled?
Evidently – unlike Japan -- the Philippines is not one of America’s “core interests” after the Philippine Senate had unceremoniously evicted the U.S. bases in 1991.  Since then the U.S. has configured her military defense structure in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region without any consideration for the Philippines as part of the defense arc circling China.  In other words, the Philippines has zero geopolitical value to the U.S.  She simply didn’t exist.
But now, after President Benigno Aquino III begged the U.S. to come back, he has to regain the U.S.’s unqualified support for the Philippines, not just a “treaty ally” but also a “true ally.” 
At the end of the day, the Philippines has her work cut out rebuilding U.S.-Philippine alliance.  It’s not going to happen overnight; but it will, slowly but surely. 
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Erap not reay to hang up political gloves yet

Published in Headline
MANILA (JGL) – After four decades in politics, 77-year-old Manila Mayor Joseph Ejercito Estrada still feels that he still has many more years of public service left ahead of him.
Taking a page from his idol, President Ronald Reagan, who was asked if he was going to run for re-election and saying, “No. I am not going to run. I want to retire when I can no longer carry my own luggage,” Mr. Estrada told this reporter that if ever he retires from politics, “I want to retire when I can still make love.”
“Wala ka na ngang magawa kung retired ka na (You are already left doing nothing when you had retired), why limit your ambition to carrying a luggage,” Mr. Estrada asked.
The “love” that keeps Mr. Estrada’s fire in his belly is his love to transform Manila back to its old glory.
Believing that a “quitter never wins,” Mr. Estrada is on course to keep Manilenos back on their feet.
Left with a proverbial empty bag by his predecessor, Mayor Alfredo Lim, Mr. Estrada found out that when he took over the City a year ago, the City owes Meralco (Manila Electric Company) 613-million pesos (US$14-M); the City was found by Commission on Audit in arrears by P3.5-B (US$79.5-M) although its cash holdings were placed at P1.006-B) (US$22.7-M); unpaid bill of P33,633,186.06 (US$764,390) and unpaid previous Year’s Obligation (PYO) amounting to P24,137,756.82 (US$548,585) by Maynilad Water Services, Inc. for a total of P57,770,942.88 (US$1.3-M) and Bureau of Internal Revenue tax liabilities of Manila for taxable year 2007 amounting to P684,418,057.76 (US$15.6-M) with interest computed up to April 15, 2014.
As a result of the deficit, Mayor Estrada has stopped hiring casuals and regular employees, which are composed of 11,000 employees. “We don’t have money to pay for the salaries of new employees,” Estrada said.
Like the mythical Hercules, Mr. Estrada had no choice but to clean Manila’s Augean Stable when he found it.
Slowly but surely, Mr. Estrada is trying to make a dent in its City’s tax collection, according to City treasurer, Liberty Toledo,
For instance in the City’s RPT (Real Property Tax) IRA (Internal Revenue Allotment), she was able to collect P6,236,237,807.81 (US$141-M) from January 2 to April 25, 2014 although the prior administration was able to collect for the whole of 2012 P7-B (US$1.5-M), according to Fritz Yenko, head of Manila’s General Services.
Estrada said his recent trip to Hong Kong to apologize to the Hong Kong government Hong Kong survivors for the botched rescue by Manila police to the Hong Kong tourists held hostage by a Manila policeman that resulted in the death of eight tourists and a Manila police captor was actually aimed at enticing back Hong Kong tourists back to Manila and the Philippines.
“We are not talking about compensating the tourist victims here,” Ike Gutierrez, Estrada’s consultant, told the Journal GlobaLinks. “The lives of tourists are priceless. Manila could not probably compensate the victims. But you know Erap (nickname of Mr. Estrada), wants to give abuloy (token donation) to those who died to assuage the feelings of the relatives of the victims.”

San Mig Coffee goes the grandslam in PBA finals

Published in Sports
MANILA (via PhilAmPress)  One team is going for a rare Grandslam. The other, well, just win a second franchise title.
This would be the atmosphere with San Mig Coffee and Rain or Shine battle starting this week in a best-of-five series for the PBA Governors’ Cup championship that would give the San Miguel-Purefoods franchise a sweep of the 39th season of the country’s and Asia's first professional league.
And if the Mixers succeed, they will, likewise, award coach Tim Cone the honor of becoming the first bench tactician to win two Grandslam counting his similar sweep of the 1996 season while calling the shots for Alaska Milk.
That’s besides gifting him, too of his 18th PBA crown that would further cement his grip as the league’s winningest coach.
The Elasto Painters, on the other hand, will be trying to hand the Asian Coatings franchise its only second crown since joining the premier league in 2006 and their mentor, Pampanga Congressman Yeng Guiao his sixth title.
The two teams collide in alone game at 8 p.m. at the Mall of Asia Arena with both gunning to start the series on a bright note to serve as cushion for what is expected thrilling next four sessions.
Incidentally, this series is arepeat of the best-of-seven championship matchup the two teams engaged each other in the season opening of the Philippine Cup which the Mixers won.
Reason why Guiao and his boys expressed their eagerness for the title-playoff to commence and exact revenge for the their All-Filipino setback although they assured everybody that attended the finals press conference held at the Sambokojin Restaurant in Eastwood in Pasig City.
Guiao, Beau Belga, Paul Leem, Jeff Chan, Gabe Norwood, Chris Tiu and import Arizona Reid assured, who also attended the presscon,  though that the agony of that bitter defeat, which still lingers in their minds, could serve as their rallying point in their campaign.             
Guiao, for his part, told his audience he has been constantly reminding his boys of that experience in their preparation for the championship showdown adding that most part of the team’s preparations are focused on what went wrong in their futile Philippine Cup campaign. .
 “Masakit pa din, nanghihinayang ka din sa opportunity. I just keep reminding them the best way to remedy that is to keep working hard and recalling the heartaches and pain. That pushes them to work harder,” Guiao said.

Bikolanos in US set convention in Chicago

Published in National News
CHICAGO (JGL) – Rep. Maria Leonor “Leni” Gerona-Robredo of the third district of Camarines Sur in the Philippines has accepted the invitation of Bikol U.S.A. of the Midwest (BUSAM) President Evelyn R. Tolledo to attend the July 25-27, 2014 annual 34th national convention of the Bikol National Associations of America (BNAA) to be held at Hilton Rosemont/Chicago O’Hare, 5550 N. River Road at Chicago's suburb of Rosemont, Illinois.
 Robredo will be joined by a group of tourism, trade and investment government officials from Bikol region led by Department of Tourism Regional Director Maria Ong-Ravanilla, Gov. Edgardo Tallado of Camarines Norte; Vice Governors Harold O. Imperial of Albay and Vicente Homer B. Revil of Masbate; Senior Board Member Glenda O. Bongao, chair of Albay Tourism Committee; Board Members Ralph A. Andes, Albay Chair of Committee on Budget and Appropriations, Neil I. Montallana, Albay Chair Committee on Transportation, Communication and Public Utilities; Joseph Philip Lee of Albay; Sangguniang Panlalawigan Chito B. Baldo, Chair Committee on Environment; Sangguniang Panlalawigan Melissa A. Abadeza, chair Committee on Laws and Rules, Sangguniang Panlalawigan Vicente F. Baltazar, Chair Committee on Finance, all of Legazpi City.
Provincial Administrator Robert Lee-Rodrigueza of Sorsogon; Provincial Tourism Officer Gerardo Presado of Masbate; Mayor Tito S. Sarion of Daet, Camarines Norte; and Mayor Ian Peter S. Sepulveda of Esperanza, Masbate.  
Among the past BNAA presidents, who are attending the annual convention, are Zayda O. Baron, 1983-85; Wilfredo R. Ramin, Esq., 1989-91; Delia S. Evangelista, 1995-97; Dr. Cyrill P. Mendez-Llaneta, 1993-95; Roger R. Odiamar, 2003-05; Armando P. Placides, 2005-07; Angelita de Leon-Pena, 2009-11; and Adolfo R. Manlangit, 2011-2013.
Rep. Robredo is the widow of Sec. Jesse Robredo of the Department of Interior and Local Government who died in a plane crash. A lawyer by profession, Ms. Robredo is going to deliver her keynote address during the Welcome Night Reception (Hawaiian Luau), which starts at 6 p.m. and lasts up to 12 midnight on Friday, July 25. The junior congresswoman will also attend a breakfast session from 7 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, July 26, and will hold a town hall meeting/press conference afterwards. She will leave after lunch for Manila so she can catch the State of the Nation Address of President Aquino on Monday (July 28) afternoon at the House of Representative Complex in Quezon City.
The convention will open with a tourism presentation on Friday, July 25, at 3 p.m. and will last up to 5:30 p.m.
A voting delegate will be charged $125 cover the breakfast, lunch and convention materials. A non-voting delegate will be assessed $100. Regular guests attending the formal Gala Night dinner dance starting at 6 p.m. and lasting until midnight on Saturday, July 26 at the Grand International Ballroom of Hilton/Rosemont Chicago O’Hare will pay $55.
A farewell/send-off picnic is slated at Schiller Woods Forest Preserve Grove No. 1 at 8400 West Irving Park Road, Forest Preserve District of Cook County near Cumberland and River Road from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday, July 27.
Among the programs and projects of BNAA are to purchase of pump wells for Bikol’s depressed areas chaired by Senen and Zayda O. Baron; surgical operation of children with cleft palate, called Operation Smile, chaired by Armando P. Placides; medical missions chaired by Dr. Lilian Obrero-Gines; disaster relief headed by Roger R. Odiamar; and scholarship chaired by Dr. Cyrill P. Mendez-Llaneta. 
Bikol U.S.A. of the Midwest, like BNAA, is a registered 501c (3) non-profit organization, which accepts tax-deductible donations. Among its upcoming projects is the distribution of Calamansi seedlings/plants in Bikol's depressed areas. (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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