This writer received a call last November 2, 2022 at 5:30am from a well-known radio station seeking with urgency a phone patch interview. I had just awoken and wondered what on earth would be so urgent. Nonetheless, I acceded to the request after asking what the topic of the interview would be. It turns out to be about reports of “new” structures supposedly suddenly sprouting on the Chinese controlled reclaimed islands.
I was glad they called an sought clarification as I explained that the South China Sea islands occupation-cum-facilities buildings is an old story that the Philippines actually pioneered in the late 1970s under President Ferdinand Edralin Marcos, Sr.’s initiative. I recalled that the Rancudo air base was one of the earliest facilities set up then by any country on those rocks/islands courtesy of the Philippines.
One top local broadsheet featured a report on the South China Sea islands under the headline “DND assures ‘constant’ monitoring of development in the Wet Philippine Sea”. It described photos made by Filipino photographer Ezra Acayan uploaded to social media as “gripping images showing fully developed airfields, building…” as if these things were new.
“Gripping” my eye, these overly dramatic editorializing just shows that the reports the newspapers are republishing are from hand-outs of US-Amboy (American boys) public relations outfits emanating from the Asia Maritime Institute (AMTI) of CSIS director Gregory Poling emoting to create the “evil China” effect.
If “gripping” scenes were desired then the Philippines newspapers and media could go straight to the South China Sea Probing Initiative (SCSPI) Twitter account and see the satellite monitoring and images of Vietnam’s continuing reclamation activities just this November 5, 2022. There’s a timelapse photo set of 341 acres reclaimed on five features.
The Philippines is not behind either in improving its facilities on its own occupied and claimed islands (or rocks, as the Hague arbitration panel classifies them). In May 2022 the Philippines established 3 new Coast Guard Outposts on three islands (or rocks) in the Spratly features it occupies in the “hotly contested” (the Rappler report says) – the only “hot” there is the hot air of Rappler overacting.
My interview went well and initial over-excitement of the two radio anchors turned calm and cool as I explained the history of the different claims and how, in fact, the Philippines under Marcos Sr. made the brilliant move to occupying some islands based on arbitrary declaration of putting a stake on “terra nullius” which over time become a viable claim (unless of course a physical challenge is made).
In the midst of the interview one of the anchors asked what direction the disputes will be taking, characteristically only asking if “bakbakan” of physical clash will be the result. I had to point out that there are two actually two end games, that “bakbakan” which is unlikely because the “talk-talk” or “jaw-jaw” that is attributed to Winston Churchill will 99.999% be the likely end result.
I cited the happy ending (almost, more on this story later) that had come about from the Reed Bank or Recto Bank dispute between China and the Philippines. President Rodrigo R. Duterte upon assuming the Philippine residency in 2016 started talks (remember jaw-jaw?) on between China and the Philippines on joint exploration and exploitation of the Reed Bank oil-gas resources.
Duterte achieved a big win, getting China to agree to a 60-40 sharing of the oil and gas output of the joint venture for the Philippines. But, after 6-years of legal nitpicking by the Philippine negotiators foremost of whom was his Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro “Teddyboy” Locsin, what in effect turned out was a sabotage by legal minutiae. Just a month before DU30’s term was to end Locsin announced the “termination” of the talks.
Locsin boastfully declared that the Philippines gave away “not an inch of territory”, neither does it have oil and gas still in the country’s worse energy crisis since the 1970s. The constitutional hair-splitting simply shows that the issues should have been interpreted correctly by political will in such cases as the determinant factor – but even Duterte got addled on that, or confused by the Amboy “experts”.
A president of the Republic in case of such split opinions of legal disputants can and should resolve it by being the sovereign authority to choose what definition prevails given the need of the State and the Nation, and this country needs nothing more urgently than energy self-sufficiency at this moment and the next decade in its history.
Going back to the sensationalized news about alleged “gripping” photos of China’s “new structures” on its eight reclaimed islands, the US and Amboy media always have an ulterior motive in ranting a cycle of “evil China” propaganda. One begins to see the dark motive a few days before or after the initial sensational “aggressive China” news.
On October 27, 2022, GMA7 headlined, “PH, US want five more joint military facilities under EDCA, says senior Pentagon official”. I was aghast at the new item. First of all, this news is coming at a time that there are infinitely more urgent crises the country is facing such as: economic crisis from fuel, energy and food near-hyperinflation, as well as the crime wave and foreign policy crisis.
Second, it is now the Pentagon making announcement for the Philippine government. The DFA, the DND are now relegated to playing echo voices to the Pentagon and Gregory Poling of the US – CSIS (former CIA) Asia Maritime Transparency Institute (AMTI). This is how low the US government thinks of the Amboy infested PBBM administration now – clearly a result of pandering to the US.
If we see or read PBBM chastising the Americans for pre-empting Filipinos from making statements on matters that only the Philippine government can and should speak on I would salute PBBM immediately, but instead I am beginning to call this little “weakling” (as Duterte said) a child-president, mistaking servility as civility.
Even dyed-in-the-wool PBBM supporter Jay Sonza posted on his FB wall:
Quoting again from previous timely articles: Ricardo Saludo of the Manila Times reacted to the news of the five additional EDCA bases in his article “Stop EDCA before it weaponizes and wrecks us”, referring to fellow Manila Times columnist Bobi Tiglao’s article August 8, 2022 that urged “Marcos should rescind Aquino 3rd’s EDCA now!”, and last September 5, Ado Paglinawan wrote on the Asian Century Journal that the “Deadline to Abrogate EDCA is April 27, 2023.”
Our fellow ACJ writer hit the nail on the head when he defined the U.S. objective in the latest spate of “evil China” propaganda revolving around the “new structures” on the islands – the ulterior motive in this new series of black propaganda is the ramp up to the debate on the renewal of the EDCA in April 2023!
Aside from the fact that the US has already proven to be a treacherous ally, stabbing allies in the back the way the E.U., particularly Germany, is being destroyed today to force German industries to pack up and relocate to the U.S. as a corollary effect of the proxy Ukraine War (a record repeated from the Korean and Vietnam Wars to Afghanistan), the EDCA is illegal and unconstitutional.
Here are excerpts from the late Constitutionalist Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago in the 2015 Senate debates:
“Voting 15-1-3, Senators on Tuesday adopted Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago’s resolution expressing the strong sense of the Senate that, absent their concurrence, the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) is a treaty prohibited under the Constitution.
Besides Santiago, those who voted in favor of the resolution were Senators Sonny Angara, Nancy Binay, JV Ejercito, Chiz Escudero, TG Guingona, Lito Lapid, Loren Legarda, Bongbong Marcos, Serge Osmeña, Koko Pimentel, Grace Poe, Ralph Recto, and Cynthia Villar.
The 15th vote came from Sen. Pia Cayetano, who was not at the session hall during the vote, but later manifested that she is voting in the affirmative.
Plenary approval formalizes Senate Resolution No. 1414 as the Senate’s position on the question of the validity and effectivity of the EDCA, on which the Supreme Court is allegedly set to decide before U.S. President Barack Obama visits Manila.”
On the Supreme Court eventual approval of the EDCA Sen. Santiago lumped it with the VFA (Visiting Forces Agreement):
“January 17, 2016
Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago on Sunday renewed her call for the Philippine government to scrap its Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the U.S., as she lamented that the Supreme Court failed to rise from its problematic 2009 ruling on the VFA by also upholding as constitutional the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).
Santiago, chair of the Senate committee on foreign relations, stood by Senate Resolution No. 105, which she and 14 other senators adopted in November. The resolution said that without Senate concurrence, any treaty or international agreement, including the EDCA, is invalid. “When the Supreme Court held in the 2009 case of Nicolas v. Romulo that the VFA is constitutional, no less than then Chief Justice Puno dissented, telling his colleagues, ‘This slur on our sovereignty cannot continue, especially if we are the ones perpetuating it.’ Those words resonate today, with the Supreme Court decision on the EDCA.”