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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. 
 
Reclamation
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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. 
 
 
Chokepoints
 
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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There’s no question the economy has not been kind for many California families who bought and borrowed more than they can chew in the mid 2000s’. Bad things happen to good people and many folks fell victim to bankruptcy, foreclosures,  and lost a home either through short sale.
Buying a home after this type of financial hurdle may be much easier than you think. With the recent increase in bankruptcy and foreclosure filings, lenders are changing their guidelines to allow potential homeowners to get back in the real estate market faster.  Even just learning and preparing now for a future purchase is worth your time.   The following explains how these situations affect purchasing a home based on the new FHA guidelines.
 After Bankruptcy, buy again using:
 • FHA – 2 years from the discharge of a Chapter 7 bankruptcy
 • FHA – 1 year from the discharge of a Chapter 13 bankruptcy 
• Conventional – 4 years from the discharge of a Chapter 7 bankruptcy
 • Conventional – 2 years from the discharge of a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. 
NOTE: If you include a mortgage in your bankruptcy there is also a separate waiting period if you end up losing the home to short sale, deed in lieu, or foreclosure. 
These waiting periods run concurrently if you filed bankruptcy as well, so the longer of the two waiting periods will determine eligibility. 
After Short Sale or Deed in Lieu of Foreclosure, buy again using: 
• FHA – 3 years from date deed of trust transfer completed 
• Conventional – 2 years from date deed of trust transfer completed if: 
o 20% down payment | Minimum 680 credit score 
• Conventional – 3 years from date deed of trust transfer completed if: 
o 10% down payment | Minimum 680 credit score 
After Foreclosure, buy again using: 
• FHA – 3 years from date deed of trust transfer completed 
• Conventional – 7 years from date deed of trust transfer completed. 
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I watched the “Godfather” movie -- for the umpteenth time -- last week and loved every scene just like when I saw it the first time 42 years ago.  Yes, forty-two years and the movie is still popular – indeed, very popular -- and the No. 1 movie of all time.  It had brought criminal enterprise and the violence and corruption that it brews into a level of acceptability – and even respectability -- in people’s lives. 
 
In the same year the “Godfather” made its debut in the movies, another “Godfather” emerged from the political doldrums of the early years of an independent Philippines. On September 21, 1971, in a stroke of madness, then President Ferdinand E. Marcos signed Proclamation No. 1081, the declaration of martial law.      
 
Fifteen years later, the EDSA People Power revolution ousted Marcos and brought Cory Aquino to power.  She presided over a revolutionary government, rewriting the constitution in the process.  Known as the 1987 Constitution – often called Cory’s Constitution -- it was supposed to dismantle and reform the corrupt system of government that Marcos left behind.  
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Caller :  I currently own a home that is a 3 bed and 1 bath older home, we are quickly outgrowing this house and needing more space.  I would like to take some equity out of this house to buy our family a bigger home.  What I would like to do is to be able to rent out our existing house so we would have a renter to supplement the mortgage payments.  Our currently financial situation is that our total mortgage payment per month is about $2150.00.  We currently have a combined income of about $87 K and we have a car payment of about $390/mo.  All our other debts are at a minimum and we are getting a gift amount for a down payment from our parents.  We would like to take out our equity to be able to do a 20% down on a new house down the street that is much newer and completely remodeled.  Our estimated value of our house is about $390-400K.  What would you be able to advise us on how to proceed with these scenario? 

Ken:  Thanks for the call, these borrowers are in a great position now based on my phone interview.  They bought the house in 2004 at a discount directly from the sellers.  They owed about $300K on it and has about an estimated 80-90K in equity.  After reviewing the entire financial package, I came to a conclusion that, these homeowners are better of selling their existing house and moving all the equity to the new home.  Let me explain, they literally only have about $4K in savings, most of the down payment will be a gift from their parents whom just sold their home and will be moving in with these couple.  Therefore,

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Consul Gen. Henry Bensurto receives commemorative plaque from Daly City Mayor Canepa June 9.

SAN FRANCISCO- The highest ranking representative of the Philippine government in its diplomatic mission in Northern California and vicinity met the Filipino American community officially June 17 at a meet-and-greet in the consulate.

A week ago, Henry Sicad Bensurto Jr., the new PH Consul General in San Francisco, began his tenure here by raising his nation's flag in the continental United States town with the highest concentration of Filipino residents.
Commemorating the 116th anniversary of Philippine independence, Bensurto, 49, joined Daly City Mayor David Canepa in hoisting the Philippine tricolor on the grounds of the City Hall in what is known as New Manila U.S.A.  Filipino American City Council Members Mike Guingona and Ray Buenaventura led community members watching with pride.
A lawyer and diplomat, Consul Gen. Bensurto is the immediate past Assistant Secretary of the West Philippine Sea Center with the Department of Foreign Affairs. He is among the legal experts in the Philippine arbitration case against China currently pending in the Arbitration Tribunal at the Hague.
Bensurto might have arrived at his new posting sooner had not China escalated its claims on the area, some observers speculated.
He succeeds intelligence and logistics ace Marciano Paynor Jr., who retired January 10.
"We look forward to Consul Gen. Bensurto's leadership of the Philippine Consulate General, as we continue to serve the Filipino and Filipino American community, as well as deepen and expand our business, political and cultural ties in our 10-state jurisdiction," Deputy Consul Gen.Jaimon Ascalon, officer in charge for six months, told author.

Local officials welcomed the envoy.
"His academic credentials coupled with his maritime expertise dealing with issues in the South Sea provide a Consul General who is highly capable," noted Canepa. "As the mayor of the largest Filipino community in California we are looking forward to the great work he will offer to those in the Bay Area.''
The consulate in its June 10 announcement touted its chief of mission as the former "Secretary General of the Commission on Maritime and Ocean Affairs Secretariat, a cabinet level interagency coordinating body on the Law of the Sea and other maritime issues."
For his participation in the South China Sea negotiations, Bensurto received one of the Philippine government's highest honors, the Presidential Order of Lakandula, with the rank of Grand Officer.

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After Franco Consolacion died on June 6, 2014 at age 75 from serious health complications that had debilitated him since 2005, a mutual friend, Cip Ayalin, asked me to say a few words at his Cypress Lawn funeral wake on June 14. I replied that I wasn’t sure if I could find enough good words to say about him. Nonetheless, his brother, Alex, and his son, Gary, asked me to speak and so I did.
 
At one point, Franco and I had been close friends, as my law office was right across his accountancy office on Market Street and we would often have lunch together, along with another friend, the late Jess Esteva, publisher of the Mabuhay Republic.
 
We were such close friends that I was the first one he called when he was arrested for pointing a gun at a homeless man who had harassed him late at night as he was walking to his car. When his call woke me up at 3 a.m. one very early morning, I asked him why he didn’t call his wife. “She would kill me if she found out,” he explained. So I bailed Franco out, represented him in court and got the charges against him dismissed.
 
And yet, years later, when I ran for election the BART Board in 1990, where I would be the first Filipino elected to public office in San Francisco, Franco turned his back on me and supported my opponent, James Fang, who had the unified backing of his Chinese community and the endorsement of every major political official in San Francisco. When I lost by 56 votes, Franco publicly claimed credit for my defeat boasting that he convinced at least 56 Filipino voters in San Francisco to vote for my opponent.
 
Many years later, we patched up our differences as Franco apologized and explained that he just wanted to teach me a lesson. It wasn’t much of a lesson because I ran for the San Francisco Community College Board two years later and won as I did for 3 consecutive elections thereafter. But our friendship had been strained.
 
So it was with mixed feelings that I agreed to deliver a eulogy for Franco. I began by declaring that of all the Filipino community leaders I had met and known over the past 43 years in the U.S., I would say, without fear of contradiction, that Franco Consolacion had the biggest ego of them all. He was an unabashed egomaniac.
 
To my surprise, the chapel audience composed of his family and friends all nodded their heads in agreement. They all knew Franco to be the best Filipino community leader, the best accountant, the best lover, the best in everything he did. If you had any doubt, just ask Franco.
 
But, I said, sometimes, one’s greatest flaw is also one’s greatest strength.
 
I shared that when Rev. Jesse Jackson was asked if he had a big ego for his decision to run for the Democratic nomination for president in 1992, he replied: “Show me a presidential candidate without a big ego, and I’ll show you a national security risk.” The general consensus then was that an African American could never hope to win the presidency so his election campaign was a joke, a futile exercise.
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There is a spate of killings all over Metro Manila and other parts of the Philippines and the people are bothered why it is happening even in broad daylight and in the presence of many people. What is more bothersome is the seemingly slow response of the police authorities in going after the killers, many of them riding in tandem on motorcycles, and solving these senseless murders, tinting the image of President Benigno S. Aquino III and his subalterns, Interior Secretary Manuel "Mar" Roxas II and Gen. Alan Purisima, the President's handpick chief of the Philippine National Police.
 
The latest in this series of senseless killings were recorded on June 12, the Philippine Independence Day. The victims were noted race-car driver Enzo Pastor who was gunned down by a motorcycle-riding tandem while driving in Quezon City; hotel chain owner Richard King who was gunned down right in his hotel office in Davao City and businessman Jason Chua who was shot and killed at the busy corner of F.B. Harrison and Pablo Ocampo (formerly Vito Cruz) in Malate, Manila.
 
Previous to these June 12 killings, Mayor Ernesto Balolong Jr. of Urbiztondo, Pangasinan, was murdered on the eve of his wedding anniversary and the wedding of his son while inspecting a municipal building in his town on June 7. On May 13, Laurette Tollosa was found dead in her Ford Explorer in Quiapo, Manila, apparently a victim of foul play. On May 11, two days earlier, gunmen on a motorcycle went on a seemingly random killing spree in Quezon City, resulting in five people dead, almost all unconnected with each other. Earlier on May 4, broadcast journalist Richard Nadjib was killed in Tawi-Tawi and on April 7,
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The Philippines unemployment rate for April 2014 has eased to 7.0 percent from April 2013’s unemployment rate of 7.6 percent, and April 2012’s 7.5 percent, according to the latest Labor Force Survey (LFS) of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA). In that report, highest number of unemployed population in April was in Metro Manila with unemployment rate of 10.4 percent and this is followed by Ilocos Region with 9.2 percent unemployment rate; Central Luzon with 8.6 percent unemployment rate; and Calabarzon with 9.0 percent unemployment rate.
 
The same report stated that majority or 61.7 percent of the total unemployed persons in April were male and the remaining 38.3 percent were unemployed women. In terms of age group, ages 15 to 24 years old contributed 49.8 percent of the total unemployed population in April followed by ages 25 to 34 years old at 30.5 percent. “By educational attainment, one-fifth or 22.4 percent of the unemployed were college graduates, 14.5 percent were college undergraduates, and 32.7 percent were high school graduates,” PSA added.
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MANILA -- Empire East Land Holdings Inc. has seen robust domestic residential sector that will push the company to have a double-digit growth this year.
Anthony Charlemagne C. Yu, Empire East president, said during the Annual Stockholders’ Meeting  that the Philippines offers bigger opportunities for residential sector developers compared to other neighboring countries.
“The residential sector is booming in comparison with neighboring Asian countries. The Philippines has a lot of room for growth for residential development,” Yu said.
He cited three factors that will push demands in the residential sector.
According to Yu, the Philippines – unlike other neighboring Asian countries – has no massive government housing projects; hence an opportunity for the private sector to tap the residential sector.
“Because of that, when we speak of housing it is really private sector-driven industry. Because of that, there was a huge gap that has to be filled by the private sector,” he added.
 
He also mentioned that the overseas Filipino worker (OFW) phenomenon which the Philippines sustained for decades will back demand in the residential sector.
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The Philippines was both being diplomatic and showing signs of weakness when it said it would not respond to any provocation from China in its widening rift with the Asian superpower over disputed islands in the South China Sea. Instead of aggressively opposing any illegal action of the Chinese as the Vietnamese are doing, it seems the Aquino government would rather offer its other cheek following reports that China is building an artificial island over the Mabini Reef (Johnson South Reef) and may also be planning to reclaim land over two other nearby reefs – the Gavin Reef and the Calderon Reef.
 
“The tack that we have taken is that we do not respond to provocative actions, including military action. We always exhaust the diplomatic channels and legal means in addressing this issue,” Palace deputy spokesperson Abigail Valte said.
 
That would have been the proper response to a diplomatic dispute, but China has obviously abandoned diplomacy on the issue, having ignored basically all calls by the United States, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), Australia, and the G-7 leaders from Germany, United Kingdom, European Community, France, Canada, Italy, Japan and the US against use of force and coercion in the East and South China Sea.
 
It is becoming obvious that China is ready to bring the dispute to a higher level as it shifts to increasingly bolder, assertive and offensive actions in the region. The bullying has intensified, with the Philippines and Vietnam bearing the brunt of the offensive.
 
Recently, China pulled an oilrig into the Paracels that resulted in a brief skirmish with small Vietnamese vessels, resulting in the sinking of a Vietnamese boat. It also intensified the reclamation of land in the Mabini Reef, forcing the Philippines to file yet another diplomatic protest; and started sending ships with land reclaiming capabilities to Gaven and Calderon Reefs, which like the Mabini Reef are being claimed by the Philippines and are well within the country’s 200-mile exclusive economic zone.
 
China has been quietly reclaiming Mabini Reef land since 2012 and when confronted by the Philippines about it, the Chinese foreign ministry basically told the Philippines “it’s none of your business.”
 
“China exercises indisputable sovereignty on the Nansha (Spratly) Islands and the adjacent waters,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said. “Any action taken by China on any island falls within China’s sovereignty and has nothing to do with the Philippines.”
 
President Aquino later reported that Chinese ships were seen around the Gavin and Calderon Reefs, obviously with the same intent of reclaiming land in the disputed waters.
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