Written by Angie M. Rosales - President Aquino was warned yesterday to skip any mention about the Scarborough Shoal conflict or any reference to the territorial dispute with China in his State of the Nation Address (Sona) scheduled on Monday.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said if he was President Aquino, he will not make any mention of territorial disputes in the Sona.

Enrile said he does not have any expectations on what should be the content of Aquino’s speech but he could only hope Aquino will touch on the economic direction of his administration and the security problem of the country.

“That’s a sensitive national security problem. It’s better not to talk about it. Don’t talk about a problem that your enemy has an interest on,” Enrile said.

Enrile added he would suggest to Malacañang not to deal with the issue on the contested Scarborough or Panatag Shoal in the President’s speech before Congress on Monday, more important, even state or give a hint as to the country’s position on the matter.

It’s like telegraphing one’s punches to his opponent, he added.

Enrile also cautioned Aquino from even entertaining the idea of backchannel negotiations with China after the Philippines failed to convince member-countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nation (Asean) to take a stand on the issue, saying such would be a dangerous move.

“I will not advocate (resolving the row with China) by back-channeling (the negotiations). That’s dangerous. You know, backchanneling with the giant is dangerous. What are you going to hold? His tail? You involve your friends in order to hold the giant at bay,” he said.

When asked if he was referring to the Asean or similar organizations, the Senate chief who was once a defense minister under the Marcos administration merely replied, “whoever is your friend.”

Discussing China’s alleged repeated intrusions into the country’s territorial waters was a matter best delegated to the Department of Foreign Affairs, he said, especially since it concerns foreign policy.

And even if China continues to engage in bullying tactics, there’s really nothing that the Aquino government can do but try to intensify the logistical support of the Armed Forces.

The recent Asean meeting which proved unprecedented as it failed to come up with a joint communique, the senator said there was nothing surprising about it considering that the host country, Cambodia was a known Chinese ally.

“That’s why we’re bringing the matter before the International Court of Justice for the law to prevail and convince our allies join us in our cause,” he said.

“I am hoping the President will discuss his plans and policy on how to proceed with our relations with China. He has to be clear on our stand and have concrete plans of action that will address the impending problems involving trade, tourism and national security. This will have a great impact not only on our national territory, but also on our economy with China, it being our third largest trading partner,” he said.

“I also expect the Sona to touch on the power sector. A clear and urgent program should be spelled out to address the country’s energy needs. Our existing energy infrastructure can no longer sustain our needs and several power plants are near the point of break-down. The President should articulate a concrete action plan, particularly for Mindanao, to avert a power crisis. We still have time to avert this impending problem,” Enrile added.

“Expected to be in the text are priority legislations and I expect that the President will be pushing for the approval of bills seeking to reform sin taxes, and the Freedom of Information Act,” he added.

“I believe that the Freedom of Information Act will enhance the President’s drive for greater transparency and accountability,” he said.

The Department of National Defense (DND), while vowing it was ready to defend the country’s 200 nautical miles exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the Kalayaan Islands Group (KIGs) or the Spratlys where a fleet of Chinese fishing vessels were deployed outside the Philippines’ EEZ, it was mum with regard to Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal in Zambales where the Chinese have been staying since April.

At a press briefing, DND spokesman Peter Paul Galvez said that defense department will be using whatever capability it has to protect the country’s integrity in connection with territorial dispute, particularly in the KIGs in the West Philippine Sea.
“As long as it’s within our capability, we will be enforcing what we could in support of course with our Coast Guard,” said Galvez.

“If it’s within the 200-nautical mile EEZ, the department, with its recent upgrading of its capabilities, will be, in whatever capability it can muster, with the authorization of our foreign affairs and our other leaders,” added Galvez.

He maintained that any action from the DND will be under the authority of the DFA and other higher authorities.
Galvez noted that statement of military Western Command chief Lt. Gen. Juancho Sabban on Wednesday, stating that the 30 Chinese fishing vessels deployed in the Spratlys were spotted at Fiery Cross Reef or Kagitingan Reef outside the Philippines’ EEZ.

On the other hand, Galvez distanced the DND from the issue in Panatag Shoal, located approximately 124 nautical miles off Masinloc town in Zambales and well within the country’s EEZ.

“I am sorry at the moment I cannot comment on the matter. I have nothing on that for the meantime,” said Galvez.
“The DFA will be the appropriate agency to address the matter at the moment,” he added.

The Chinese have not left Panatag Shoal since April when the standoff started between Philippine and Chinese ships.
Last June 15, President Aquino ordered the pull out of Philippine ships from Panatag Shoal but the Chinese remained in the area. As of last monitoring, there were at least three Chinese government-controlled vessels – a fishery and law enforcement command vessel and two surveillance ships.

Galvez maintained that the DND still hopes that the dispute with China would be resolved peacefully.

With no significant reforms to address the worsening situation of the basic masses, Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano yesterday said he would link arms with basic sectors on Monday during street protests as Aquino delivers his third Sona.
“We have very little to look forward to in the President’s upcoming Sona. As far as we are concerned, the past two years under Aquino yielded no significant reforms and benefits for worker, farmers, fisher folks and urban poor sectors,” Mariano said.

“Two years is long enough to know Aquino’s brand of leadership – pro-foreign and anti-people.”

“As expected, President Aquino will use ‘yellow magic’ to paint illusions of growth, development and good governance. But the people will not buy it. We know the truth,” Mariano said.

The solon said despite Malacañang’s perceived ‘inclusive growth’ based on the 6.4-percent growth in gross domestic product is in the first quarter, economic indicators and actual conditions prove that there had been no significant improvement in the quality of life of Filipinos.

Domestic jobs crisis continue under Aquino. The total number of unemployed and underemployed Filipinos increased by 780,000 in the last two years, from 10.9 million in April 2010 to 11.7 million in April 2012 based on IBON estimates and National Statistics Office data. This is equivalent to 4.4 million unemployed and 7.3 million underemployed Filipinos under the Aquino administration.

The quality of jobs created also deteriorated with 43% or 16.2 million of the jobs in the economy account for part-time or temporary work. The number of full-time workers also dropped by 1.6 million since 2010.

Mariano said workers’ wages are still pegged to the floor and far from the required daily cost of living because of Aquino’s rejection of the legislated wage increase demand. “Despite the P30 wage hike in the National Capital Region, the mandated minimum wage of Php446 in May 2012 is just 44 percent of the required P1,017 family living wage.”

“While wages remain low, workers and consumers endured unending price hikes under the Aquino administration. Oil prices, power, water and toll rates have increased tremendously in the past two years. The government did nothing to prevent the spate of price hikes, inflation and rising cost of living. Constant price hikes contributed to the worsening domestic hunger and poverty.” Mario J. Mallari, Charlie V. Manalo

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved