ADVOCACY MindaNOW: What to do with China?

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DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/17 May) — I talked on the phone last Saturday with Zambales Gov. Hermogenes ” Jun” Ebdane who was a colleague in the Arroyo Cabinet. He has set up a high-tech coastal watch monitoring system in his province, in cooperation with a Canadian firm, to spot foreign vessels intruding into his provincial territorial limits. .  This is clearly aimed at China which has started shooing away Zambales fishermen from the Panatag or Scarborough shoals, around only 230 kilometers from Masinloc town. What the Philippine government intends to do if China indeed intrudes into our claimed territorial waters, I have no idea as yet.  Over the weekend, a team of foreign journalists visited Masinloc as part of their study tour on the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) issues. They belong to various international news organizations as Jefferson Fellows under the auspices of the East West Center based in Honolulu, Hawaii and skippered in their Philippine trip by EWC’s Ms. Ann Hartman.


WATER CANNONED. I missed joining the team of journalists on their Zambales visit as they came right smack into the annual media forum of the Philippine Press Institute that I had to host, PPI also being the local partner of the Fellows’ visit.  Fortunately, my long-time “girl Friday” Charmaine Olea joined on my behalf and she reported how Masinloc fishermen aired their anger at losing their livelihood. This was the group of fishermen who were driven away from their usual fishing grounds by the Chinese using water cannons. They were terribly missing the protective presence of the US bases, according to “Cha”, and they (including the local LGUs) seemed not in the loop on what Malacanang is doing. I suspect Gov. Jun’s being not with the Liberal Party is the reason why.


CHINA. The way things are shaping up and if things are not properly handled,  our country is on a collision course with  China in our territorial dispute.  I remember having a chat sometime ago with the previous Chinese lady Ambassador Ma. She was stressing a more effective way of settling issues among  neighbors, the Asian way. Although we need to go to an international body like the United Nations to seek redress on a multilateral basis,  we ought to have opened up also  a parallel, backchannel route on a bilateral basis. President Ramos again called for “back-channel” direct contacts.  Why this was not done up to now, I still cannot understand.    Fact is, we cannot go to war with other countries, much more  with China. Lest we all forget: we all  have Chinese blood in our veins.  And yes, sorry to say, we are no match to China militarily.


PAPAL MAGIC. I read a report earlier this week  that Cuban President Raul Castro, a communist and brother of famous Fidel Castro, after meeting with Pope Francis, said that  that he was “returning” to the Catholic Church. Cuba although a next door neighbor of the US has been an “enemy” of the US for half a century. It was through the recent  facilitation and assistance of the Pope that  both  countries resumed diplomatic relations. As a result  the 50-year economic blockade of Cuba that practically isolated it to the world, was lifted  by the US. Papal magic at work.


“HAVING STOMACH.” Elections  is just 12 months away.  The rigor and the heavy burden  that  a candidate and an elected official for public office must  experience  to win — and then serve if elected —  are principally the reasons why only a few good men, who “have the stomach” venture into politics. Yes, there are blessings in many forms but, take it from me,  there’s “life after politics“.  When public officials refuse to dismount or they consider politics as a lifetime career or claim it as their own birthright or consider themselves (or their kin) as God’s gifts to mankind, that’s where the problem lies. I’ve been there before, folks. So I know!


BANGSAMORO. The crucial vote on the BBL in Congress, both in the House and in the Senate and its final fate will be known in due time. Congress is  bent on removing some provisions that were subject, I am sure,  to intense negotiations over the years. Mind you, during my time as peace negotiator,  even a word or  a comma, could be a serious bone of contention.  I now  worry that  the milestones that both government and  MILF achieved will be put to naught in one single  sweep when the final version is passed. This is a repeat of Congress “writing its own peace agreement” as what Misuari’s faction complained about before. In fact, up to now, MNLF still complains  about the alleged  non-implementation of the original Tripoli Agreement signed in 1976 during Marcos time.


NO MORE WAR? Fast forward today. While Congress now  talks of major revisions, MILF keeps saying that they will not accept a “watered-down” BBL.  But at the same time,  MILF hurriedly says they will not go back to war again. To me, this sounds more like an early warning  that while MILF may not accept Congress’ own version,  they will still continue their struggle through peace negotiations to get their “non-negotiable”  concessions at another time, perhaps beyond the Aquino administration.  Of course, the so-called “rogue elements”, the BIFF and other armed groups that MILF disclaims links with,  will do their own thing.    Anyway, things will come to a  head soon.  Whatever is the  final outcome of all this,  the fact remains that the work for peace is a never-ending journey.


JOURNALISM AWARDS. The Philippine Press Institute this week honored the winners of the annual 2014 Civic Community Journalism Press Awards during appropriate ceremonies at the Diamond Hotel in Manila.  They are: Bohol Chronicle, Baguio Midland Courier, Baguio Chronicle, Cebu Daily News, Sun Star Davao, Edge Davao, Sun Star Cebu, Mindanao Cross and Business Week Mindanao. Congratulations!

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Advocacy MindaNOW is a syndicate column of lawyer Jesus Dureza who served in various capacities including Press Secretary and Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process under the Arroyo administration. He is now publisher of Mindanao Times and president and chair of the Philippine Press Institute).


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