EDITORIALS & OPINIONS OF THE WEEK:
(Mini Reads followed by Full Commentary below)

FROM THE INQUIRER

EDITORIAL: LAND OF POLITICAL DYNASTS


JUNE 17 ---Photo from Google Images The 1987 Constitution actually prohibits political dynasties—but a staggering 75 percent of the Philippines’ political elite come from politically entrenched families. To the question of whether she would support the long-moribund antipolitical dynasty bill now being pushed in the Senate, Sen. Nancy Binay had a quick response: No, she would not, she said, because if doctors and lawyers are allowed to take after their parents in the choice of professions, why not the offspring of politicians? And besides, she argued, why limit the choices of voters? They get to make the final decision in an election, anyway, even if candidates are dying to get into public office. (“Eh kami, kahit gustong-gusto naming maging public official, for as long as the people don’t vote you into office, eh hindi ka magkakaroon ng posisyon.”) It didn’t take long for an actual physician to respond to the senator’s analogy. As Dr. Toto Carandang of the Philippine General Hospital wrote in an open letter on social media, “we do not earn our degrees by popularity or democratic voting. We earn it.” Indeed. Medical personnel, along with those in most other professions, endure arduous years of study and preparation before they are given the license to practice, and only if they hurdle the qualifying examinations in their field. READ MORE...

ALSO EDITORIAL: Economic optimism
[World Bank president: “We believe that countries that invest in people’s education and health, improve the business environment, and create jobs through upgrades in infrastructure will emerge much stronger in the years ahead. These kinds of investments will help hundreds of millions of people lift themselves out of poverty.”]


JUNE 16 ---Photo courtesy of GETREALPHILIPPINES.COM Multilateral lender World Bank has nothing but praise for the Philippines, observing that it is moving toward more inclusive, sustainable growth that can further slash poverty, and forecasting its leadership in the region in terms of economic growth in 2015 and 2016. Despite bureaucratic inefficiencies (the government has been spending much less than it has programmed, depriving the public of essential services), the positive prognosis has been traced to the fact that other economies around the world are facing stronger head winds. Besides, the Philippines can always rely on its own growth drivers—the more than 10 million Filipinos working overseas who send home nearly $2 billion a month, the burgeoning BPO (business process outsourcing) sector that earns billions of dollars as well, and a regime of low interest rates and inflation that is conducive to business expansion. Externally, something going for the Philippines is the depressed prices of crude oil (it imports nearly all of its petroleum requirements). For 2016, a particular growth driver is the increase in consumer spending due to the national elections scheduled in May. READ MORE...

ALSO: EDITORIAL ‘Praised Be’


JUNE 19 ---Whodunit?  That’s the question roiling the Western presses right now, as the release of Pope Francis’ hotly anticipated encyclical on climate change set for release this week had the wind knocked out of it when the draft was apparently leaked to a Rome newspaper, which then published it. It’s not just that the encyclical on the environment is controversial enough; many conservative elements in the Church and society at large are critical both of the science behind global warming and the idea that a pope, for the first time in history, would weigh in on a subject that until now has been the province mostly of scientists and politicians. The leak, however, seems to confirm and bring such tensions into high relief; whoever squirreled away a copy of the 191-page document, called “Laudato Si” (Praised Be) and sent it to L’Espresso magazine, a publication known for its fierce opposition to Francis and the reforms he has instituted at the Vatican, appeared bent on preempting, perhaps even embarrassing, the Pope and subverting the impact his landmark encyclical will have on the contentious worldwide debate over climate change. Based on the draft published, it’s a document, indeed, that has the potential to tip the balance in favor of greater recognition of the reality of manmade environmental deterioration, instead of the view offered by climate-change deniers that the melting of the polar ice caps, the steep rise in the planet’s temperature and sea levels and the resulting extreme weather disruptions are all natural phenomena unrelated to or uninfluenced by human activities. In “Laudato Si,” Francis comes out firmly on the side of mainstream international scientific consensus by saying that global warming is “mostly” the result of human action. He warns that unless societies scale back on harmful activities such as the indiscriminate burning of fossil fuels and the rampant emission of greenhouse gases that trap heat in the planet’s atmosphere, the world risks a catastrophe, with the Earth “transforming itself into an immense rubbish dump.” READ MORE...

ALSO: Bangsamoro identity and modernity


JUNE 14 ---By Randy David
ONE OF the things that I find particularly appealing in the Bangsamoro Basic Law is the way it formulates the aspiration to self-government as a modern political project. The document signals an unmistakable resolve to distance itself from the warlordism and aristocratic ascendancy that have historically characterized political rule in Southern Mindanao. As importantly, by projecting the idea of a Bangsamoro people, it has sought to transcend the ethnolinguistic and tribal divisions that have frustrated past attempts to unite the region’s inhabitants around a common vision. But, for a host of reasons, the BBL finds itself weighed down by many structural strains. To me, these fundamentally arise from the attempt to reconcile two contradictory tasks. The first is the differentiation of the Bangsamoro community along implicitly religious lines. The second is the building of a modern democratic political system. These two projects feature two contrasting principles of differentiation—one modern, and the other premodern. The political institutions described in the BBL appear to hew closely to the design of a modern, functionally differentiated society. But, by tacitly anchoring Bangsamoro identity on religious affiliation, the BBL follows the premodern principle of segmental differentiation, which assigns primacy to kinship, ethnic, linguistic, cultural and religious ties. To a certain extent, this is understandable. In Islam, there is no sharp separation between the imperatives of one’s faith and the rules that one is supposed to follow in the other aspects of daily life. In contrast, modern societies have progressively eroded the value of such segmental identities by developing institutions that are autonomous of one another and are fundamentally free from the influences of primordial affiliations. All Philippine Constitutions, particularly the 1987 Constitution, are modern documents precisely because, among other things, they do not refer to religious and ethnic identity in their definition of the rights and obligations of citizenship. The BBL does. READ MORE...

ALSO: Legally murky waters of West Philippine Sea


JUNE 20 ---By Ricardo J. Romulo 
The 1987 Constitution echoes a sentiment that has been articulated in our fundamental law since 1935. Section 2 of Article II adopts “the generally accepted principles of international law as part of the law of the land.”  Based on this foundation, we sought on Jan. 23, 2013, the resolution of our dispute with China over the South China Sea—an issue long standing since the 1930s—through a peaceful process of arbitration. A layman’s guide to understanding what is involved in that arbitration process can be found in the good writeup recently published by Jay L. Batongbacal, a professor at the University of the Philippines College of Law. For reasons of space, I propose to focus on a major legal issue that separates the positions of the Philippines and China: whether the five-member arbitral tribunal convoked at the instance of the Philippines under an international agreement signed by and ratified by both countries known as the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) is the right body to make the adjudication. By way of caveat, any inaccuracy or error in my rendition is mine alone and certainly not the good professor’s. The Philippines is questioning at the arbitration proceeding the so-called “nine-dash line map” which China arbitrarily adopted to support its claim of sovereignty, jurisdiction, historic title or rights over the maritime areas within those lines. The Philippines’ position is that the nine-dash line map is invalid. It is contrary to the Unclos. Enclosed within those lines are waters which are beyond what was agreed upon by the parties in the Unclos. READ MORE...

ALSO: ‘The poor and the fragility of the planet’


JUNE 20 ---By Solita Collas-Monsod 
It was really only a matter of time before Pope Francis would weigh in on issues surrounding the environment. His chosen namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, after all, was a lover of nature, and in his last days while he lay sick and dying, composed his most famous poem, “The Canticle of the Creatures,” which has the constant refrain, “All praise be yours”—“Laudato Si.” Which the Pope borrowed for the title of his encyclical, and which he also reproduced, in said letter. St. Francis’ 13th-century paean was to the Lord, for Brother Sun and Sister Moon, Brothers Wind and Air, Sister Water, Brother Fire, and Sister Mother Earth. It may be of interest to the Reader that St. Francis was named patron saint of the environment in 1979 by Pope John Paul II, and Pope Francis refers to him (St. Francis) a number of times in the 246-paragraph, 180-page letter, which ends with two prayers: the first he shares with “all who believe in a God who is the all-powerful Creator,” and the second is for “we Christians” (not just Catholic Christians, note) to ask “for inspiration to take up the commitment to creation set before us by the Gospel of Jesus.” Not an exclusivist, our Pope. No wonder he is universally loved. Except by those, like the Heartland Institute, who pooh-pooh his efforts, saying that the encyclical devotes only a small percentage of its writing to the environment! Well, that’s because the Pope is trying to tie it all together. As he states, “I will point to the intimate relationship between the poor and the fragility of the planet, the conviction that everything in the world is connected, the critique of new paradigms and forms of power derived from technology, the call to seek other ways of understanding the economy and progress, the value proper to each creature, the human meaning of ecology, the need for forthright and honest debate, the serious responsibility of international and local policy, the throwaway culture and the proposal of a new lifestyle.”


READ FULL MEDIA EDITORIALS & OPINIONS  HERE:

EDITORIAL: Land of political dynasts

MANILA, JUNE 22, 2015 (INQUIRER) @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:47 AM June 17th, 2015


Photo from Google Images

The 1987 Constitution actually prohibits political dynasties—but a staggering 75 percent of the Philippines’ political elite come from politically entrenched families. To the question of whether she would support the long-moribund antipolitical dynasty bill now being pushed in the Senate, Sen. Nancy Binay had a quick response:

No, she would not, she said, because if doctors and lawyers are allowed to take after their parents in the choice of professions, why not the offspring of politicians?

And besides, she argued, why limit the choices of voters? They get to make the final decision in an election, anyway, even if candidates are dying to get into public office. (“Eh kami, kahit gustong-gusto naming maging public official, for as long as the people don’t vote you into office, eh hindi ka magkakaroon ng posisyon.”)

It didn’t take long for an actual physician to respond to the senator’s analogy.

As Dr. Toto Carandang of the Philippine General Hospital wrote in an open letter on social media, “we do not earn our degrees by popularity or democratic voting. We earn it.” Indeed. Medical personnel, along with those in most other professions, endure arduous years of study and preparation before they are given the license to practice, and only if they hurdle the qualifying examinations in their field.

READ MORE...

No such examinations are required of politicians, only the capacity to present a facsimile of sincerity before the voting throng, the capacity to charm and say the right words before an expectant audience.

To be fair, a number of politicians have recognized the need to prepare for public service, and thus take up courses in public administration, say, to better understand the legal and structural underpinnings of government, or kick off their political careers from the bottom rungs, to better get a handle on the gut-level grind of public governance.

Senator Binay, along with others like her in Congress, did neither.

For many years she toiled in obscurity as a “personal assistant” to her parents as they took turns as mayor of Makati, before her father vaulted to the vice presidency on the strength of his trumpeted achievements as chief executive of the Philippines’ wealthiest city.

She held no elective or appointive position in government that would have somehow prepared her for work as a public servant, let alone a senator of the realm. She had no known positions on any public policy, she articulated no argument on any of the burning social and political issues of the day.

In short, she, along with others like her, sallied forth solely on the strength of who she was.

And in Philippine politics, who she was was in fact her ticket to the Senate, on her very first electoral try.

Would she have picked up votes outside Makati had not her father been the VP, and had not his formidable, well-oiled war machinery heaved into action?

Would people have taken so much as a second look at this virtual unknown, had it not been for her surname and all that came with it?

Many others more well-known to the populace and who have accrued substantial political gravitas to their names—Risa Hontiveros, Teddy Casiño, among others—all floundered at the polls; Nancy Binay triumphed because of her being her father’s daughter.

Her argument that the choice should be left to voters, as in her case, neglects to mention that, with political dynasties, voters are left with hardly any choice.

With power and influence concentrated in dynastic families for years, even decades, the electoral system is eventually skewed to favor them and their scions every time, their wealth and reach giving them undue advantage to harness the public will by feudal patronage, by vote-buying, or, if necessary, in certain areas of the country, by violence and harassment.

The “equal access to opportunities for public service” mandated by the Constitution has gone out the window, and the country is left with more of the same—the same surnames, the same faces, the same vested interests, the same historic ills.

Take it from how the members of the House reacted to the idea of the antipolitical dynasty bill being given a second reading: They threatened to walk out of the plenary, and so got the planned vote scuttled.

It’s the nation’s turn to walk out for good from this corrupt and corrupting setup.

Congress must pass the antipolitical dynasty bill, or let it die trying.


EDITORIAL: Economic optimism @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:16 AM June 16th, 2015


Photo courtesy of GETREALPHILIPPINES.COM

Multilateral lender World Bank has nothing but praise for the Philippines, observing that it is moving toward more inclusive, sustainable growth that can further slash poverty, and forecasting its leadership in the region in terms of economic growth in 2015 and 2016.

Despite bureaucratic inefficiencies (the government has been spending much less than it has programmed, depriving the public of essential services), the positive prognosis has been traced to the fact that other economies around the world are facing stronger head winds.

Besides, the Philippines can always rely on its own growth drivers—the more than 10 million Filipinos working overseas who send home nearly $2 billion a month, the burgeoning BPO (business process outsourcing) sector that earns billions of dollars as well, and a regime of low interest rates and inflation that is conducive to business expansion.

Externally, something going for the Philippines is the depressed prices of crude oil (it imports nearly all of its petroleum requirements). For 2016, a particular growth driver is the increase in consumer spending due to the national elections scheduled in May.

READ MORE...

Rogier van den Brink, World Bank lead economist in the Philippines, told members of the media last week on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Senior Finance Officials’ meeting in Bataan that the country has “achieved macroeconomic stability, high growth rates, and more recently is starting to show the kind of growth which is more inclusive.”

In a report released Friday in Washington, the World Bank also kept its growth projections for the Philippines at 6.5 percent in 2015 and 2016 and 6.3 percent in 2017.

Van den Brink was not worried by the government’s underspending in the first quarter, which had largely been blamed for the slower-than-expected 5.2-percent GDP growth.

He said the Aquino administration was already working to ramp up public spending, such that the rest of the year should show improved expenditures.

The big story, according to the economist, is that the Philippines has established a clear trajectory toward growth that is more inclusive, which can be sustained if economic reforms continue. He said that about 20 or 30 years ago, reports on the Philippines were all about boom-and-bust cycles related to macroeconomic instability.

Real growth was low, inflation rates were high, the current account balance was negative, budget deficits were high, and national government debt was soaring.

But in recent years, he observed, such issues were no longer major concerns because real growth was ranging from 5 to 7 percent, prices had stabilized, the current account was registering surpluses, and Philippine finances were stronger than ever.

The World Bank’s prognosis for much of the rest of the world is different. In its latest Global Economic Prospects report released last week in Washington, it warned that developing countries are facing a series of tough challenges in 2015, including the looming prospect of higher borrowing costs as they adapt to a new era of low prices for oil and other key commodities, resulting in a fourth consecutive year of disappointing economic growth.

Developing countries are now projected to grow by 4.4 percent this year, with a likely rise to 5.2 percent in 2016 and 5.4 percent in 2017. “Developing countries were an engine of global growth following the financial crisis, but now they face a more difficult economic environment,” lamented World Bank Group president Jim Yong Kim.

The US Federal Reserve’s forthcoming first interest rate hike since the global financial crisis can ignite market volatility and reduce capital flows to emerging markets. Lower prices for oil and other strategic commodities have intensified the slowdown in developing countries, many of which depend heavily on commodity exports.

The Philippines is indeed in a sweet spot. But moving forward, it will do the government well to heed the advice of the World Bank president:

“We believe that countries that invest in people’s education and health, improve the business environment, and create jobs through upgrades in infrastructure will emerge much stronger in the years ahead. These kinds of investments will help hundreds of millions of people lift themselves out of poverty.”


EDITORIAL ‘Praised Be’ SHARES: 2 VIEW COMMENTS @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:12 AM June 19th, 2015

Whodunit?

That’s the question roiling the Western presses right now, as the release of Pope Francis’ hotly anticipated encyclical on climate change set for release this week had the wind knocked out of it when the draft was apparently leaked to a Rome newspaper, which then published it.

It’s not just that the encyclical on the environment is controversial enough; many conservative elements in the Church and society at large are critical both of the science behind global warming and the idea that a pope, for the first time in history, would weigh in on a subject that until now has been the province mostly of scientists and politicians.

The leak, however, seems to confirm and bring such tensions into high relief; whoever squirreled away a copy of the 191-page document, called “Laudato Si” (Praised Be) and sent it to L’Espresso magazine, a publication known for its fierce opposition to Francis and the reforms he has instituted at the Vatican, appeared bent on preempting, perhaps even embarrassing, the Pope and subverting the impact his landmark encyclical will have on the contentious worldwide debate over climate change.

Based on the draft published, it’s a document, indeed, that has the potential to tip the balance in favor of greater recognition of the reality of manmade environmental deterioration, instead of the view offered by climate-change deniers that the melting of the polar ice caps, the steep rise in the planet’s temperature and sea levels and the resulting extreme weather disruptions are all natural phenomena unrelated to or uninfluenced by human activities.

In “Laudato Si,” Francis comes out firmly on the side of mainstream international scientific consensus by saying that global warming is “mostly” the result of human action. He warns that unless societies scale back on harmful activities such as the indiscriminate burning of fossil fuels and the rampant emission of greenhouse gases that trap heat in the planet’s atmosphere, the world risks a catastrophe, with the Earth “transforming itself into an immense rubbish dump.”

READ MORE...

Climate-change skeptics deem this view dangerous and misleading. Just last month, when the Pope met with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at a one-day Vatican conference called “The Moral Dimensions of Climate Change and Sustainable Humanity”—which had gathered some 60 Catholic economists, scientists and thinkers who had then released a statement saying that “human-induced climate change is a scientific reality, and its decisive control is a moral imperative for all of humanity”—a clutch of vocal deniers said Francis had no business inserting himself into such a discussion.

“The Pope has great moral authority but he’s not an authority on climate science,” said the Heartland Institute.

It pays, though, to examine the root of the virulent opposition such groups pose against the issue of climate change.

The Heartland Institute, for instance, is, according to The Telegraph UK, “a conservative American pressure group partly funded by billionaire industrialists.”

The oil and gas industries are primarily responsible for the large amounts of fossil fuels and greenhouse gases released to the atmosphere, and as such would be directly impacted by a turnaround to “greener,” more sustainable trade practices.

In the face of solidifying scientific data across the globe on the calamitous effects of climate change, these industries would rather stick their heads in the sand—Heartland’s bald-faced claim:

“Many scientists have concluded that human activity is a minor player. The Earth has been warming since the end of the last Ice Age”—than change their harmful practices and risk their bottom lines.

Against such industrial-strength greed and callousness, and true to the radical trajectory of his papacy thus far, Francis has taken the bull by the horns, so to speak, by wading directly into the fray and coming down squarely on the side of the environmental champions.

In “Laudato Si,” he is deploying the enormous moral force of his person and office to tell the world that dithering and inaction in the face of a rapidly deteriorating planet will only be to the detriment of everyone, especially the poor who are already deprived of the most basic provisions and protections to live decent lives. Will this encyclical change the game?

It remains to be seen, and those against it will certainly not give up without a fight.

But they have to reckon with Pope Francis, who continues to surprise—and reinvent his office—with bold, progressive initiatives.


Bangsamoro identity and modernity SHARES: 119 VIEW COMMENTS By: Randy David @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:52 AM June 14th, 2015 RECOMMENDED


By Randy David

ONE OF the things that I find particularly appealing in the Bangsamoro Basic Law is the way it formulates the aspiration to self-government as a modern political project.

The document signals an unmistakable resolve to distance itself from the warlordism and aristocratic ascendancy that have historically characterized political rule in Southern Mindanao.

As importantly, by projecting the idea of a Bangsamoro people, it has sought to transcend the ethnolinguistic and tribal divisions that have frustrated past attempts to unite the region’s inhabitants around a common vision.

But, for a host of reasons, the BBL finds itself weighed down by many structural strains. To me, these fundamentally arise from the attempt to reconcile two contradictory tasks. The first is the differentiation of the Bangsamoro community along implicitly religious lines. The second is the building of a modern democratic political system.

These two projects feature two contrasting principles of differentiation—one modern, and the other premodern. The political institutions described in the BBL appear to hew closely to the design of a modern, functionally differentiated society.

But, by tacitly anchoring Bangsamoro identity on religious affiliation, the BBL follows the premodern principle of segmental differentiation, which assigns primacy to kinship, ethnic, linguistic, cultural and religious ties.

To a certain extent, this is understandable. In Islam, there is no sharp separation between the imperatives of one’s faith and the rules that one is supposed to follow in the other aspects of daily life.

In contrast, modern societies have progressively eroded the value of such segmental identities by developing institutions that are autonomous of one another and are fundamentally free from the influences of primordial affiliations. All Philippine Constitutions, particularly the 1987 Constitution, are modern documents precisely because, among other things, they do not refer to religious and ethnic identity in their definition of the rights and obligations of citizenship. The BBL does.

READ MORE...

Let us agree to set aside, for a moment, the fact that the term “Moro” was originally used by the Spaniards in the Philippines to refer to the Muslims in Mindanao. And let us, instead, use the term “Bangsamoro” as the BBL defines it in Article II, Section 1. This usage, as we will note, makes no explicit reference to religion as a source of identity.

“Bangsamoro People. — Those who at the time of conquest and colonization were considered natives or original inhabitants of Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago and its adjacent islands including Palawan, and their descendants, whether of mixed or of full blood, shall have the right to identify themselves as Bangsamoro by ascription or self-ascription. Spouses and their descendants are classified as Bangsamoro.”

But, as one reads through the rest of the document, one is left with the uneasy feeling that what is being created here is a political entity that is torn between the norms of modernity and the imperatives of Islam.

The BBL’s Article IV, “General Principles and Policies,” is modern in every way and perfectly secular in tone, except for this: “Section 6. Promotion of Right. — The Bangsamoro shall adhere to the principle of enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong.”

This may sound like a rhetorical universal normative principle. When read in conjunction with other provisions, however, it resonates nuances that are specific to Islam.

The commentary “Religious police in the Bangsamoro?” by Araceli Z. Lorayes (Opinion, 6/13/15) alerts the reader to a provision in the BBL that did not mean much to me when I first read it. This is Article V, Section 3 on the “Exclusive Powers” of the Bangsamoro government. Item No. 48 provides for the creation of a: “Hisbah office for accountability as part of the Shari’ah justice system.”

I looked up the Wikipedia entry for “hisbah” and noted that the word does carry a broad range of meanings. As a doctrine, it refers to the obligation of all Muslims. It could also refer to the duty of the state to ensure citizens’ compliance with hisbah. An office to enforce hisbah could be limited to exacting accountability in business matters, or it could have comprehensive powers. In some places, indeed, it could mean a “religious police,” the kind found in societies like Saudi Arabia, as Ms Lorayes fears.

But, maybe, there is no need to worry about such a grim possibility. The same provision makes reference to “the Shari’ah justice system,” of which the hisbah office is supposed to be a part. The Shari’ah courts have been with us since 1977, when their creation was decreed by Presidential Decree No. 1083 during martial law, and are recognized by our Constitution.

From what I gather, the operation of these courts—whose jurisdiction is confined to family and personal matters within Islam—has been hobbled more by the lack of qualified judges conversant with Islamic law than by any kind of religious zealotry.

Still, it is important to keep Ms. Lorayes’ reservations in mind. The enlightened multiculturalism that brought us to this stage in our national life is supposed to give cultural minorities enough political space to amplify their voice, protect their rights, and promote their cultural and historical uniqueness.

This philosophy is consonant with the preservation of diversity in a world that is rapidly being flattened by the forces of globalization. It was never meant to propel into power forms of tyranny that have long been rendered obsolete.


Legally murky waters of West Philippine Sea SHARES: 37 VIEW COMMENTS By: Ricardo J. Romulo @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:06 AM June 20th, 2015


By Ricardo J. Romulo

The 1987 Constitution echoes a sentiment that has been articulated in our fundamental law since 1935. Section 2 of Article II adopts “the generally accepted principles of international law as part of the law of the land.”

Based on this foundation, we sought on Jan. 23, 2013, the resolution of our dispute with China over the South China Sea—an issue long standing since the 1930s—through a peaceful process of arbitration.

A layman’s guide to understanding what is involved in that arbitration process can be found in the good writeup recently published by Jay L. Batongbacal, a professor at the University of the Philippines College of Law.

For reasons of space, I propose to focus on a major legal issue that separates the positions of the Philippines and China: whether the five-member arbitral tribunal convoked at the instance of the Philippines under an international agreement signed by and ratified by both countries known as the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) is the right body to make the adjudication.

By way of caveat, any inaccuracy or error in my rendition is mine alone and certainly not the good professor’s.

The Philippines is questioning at the arbitration proceeding the so-called “nine-dash line map” which China arbitrarily adopted to support its claim of sovereignty, jurisdiction, historic title or rights over the maritime areas within those lines.

The Philippines’ position is that the nine-dash line map is invalid.

It is contrary to the Unclos. Enclosed within those lines are waters which are beyond what was agreed upon by the parties in the Unclos.

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According to the Philippines, China has concretized its words into actions by physically occupying and forcibly controlling specific areas in the map.

Early this week, the headlines of this newspaper spoke of the Philippines’ condemnation of China’s massive land reclamation activities, which was expressed at the annual meeting of the state parties to the Unclos in New York.

The reclamation, the Philippines said, intrudes into what we consider our territory, tramples upon our sovereignty, and robs us of our rights to our exclusive economic zone.

China, for its part, has been consistently rejecting the jurisdiction—i.e., the legal authority of a body to rule on the issue between the parties—of the arbitral tribunal.

Right from the beginning, when the Philippines initiated the arbitration case in 2013, China formally resisted our attempts to submit our dispute to arbitration.

It in fact returned the initiatory documents filed by the Philippines—legal papers known as “Notification and Statement of Claim”—to us less than one month after we announced our action.

When the tribunal met for the first time at the Peace Palace in The Hague on July 11, 2013, China, in a note to the tribunal on Aug. 1, reiterated its refusal to subject itself to the proceedings.

On May 14, 2014, in compliance with an order issued by the tribunal on March 30, 2014, the Philippines filed its memorial, or a principal pleading that explains the party’s position in full. The tribunal—which, under Article 9 of Unclos Annex VII, is authorized to proceed with the arbitration despite the absence of an opposing party or its failure to defend—gave China seven months, or until Dec. 15, to submit its counter-memorial.

Within a week China sent a note to the tribunal insisting that it was not submitting itself to the proceedings.

Other countries have joined the fray. On Dec. 5, the United States issued an official report analyzing China’s claims to areas in the South China Sea.

It seemed to have made a distinction between a claim over the islands and a claim over the waters beyond those islands.

It faulted China for being ambiguous on the nature of its claims. Nevertheless, the report maintained that the nine-dash line claims can be internationally acceptable as a claim to territorial sovereignty over the islands within the lines, and the waters beyond the islands can be considered valid if made in accordance with the Unclos.

The US State Department paper denied any validity to China’s claims to historic title or to historic rights, as have been articulated by China in its official statements.

Vietnam, too, wanted to say its piece. In a statement that has not been released to the public, Vietnam recognized the tribunal’s jurisdiction and agreed with the Philippines’ position against China’s nine-dash line claim.

At the same time, however, it did request that the tribunal give due regard to the legal rights and interests of Vietnam. The tribunal has acknowledged receipt of Vietnam’s statement.

China, apparently affected by these not-too-secret expression of views of the United States and Vietnam, released a position paper.

China was steadfast in refusing to participate in the arbitration, but it presented some substantial legal points. It maintained that the issue is one of sovereignty over the islands and other maritime features of the South China Sea.

And, raising a “prejudicial question,” it claimed that no decision can be made without, as a prerequisite, making maritime delimitations.

It invoked a 2006 declaration it made in terms of the Unclos.

However, this is precisely why the Philippines waived the issue of sovereignty in its petition lodged with the tribunal.

Ricardo J. Romulo is a senior partner of Romulo Mabanta Buenaventura Sayoc & De Los Angeles.


‘The poor and the fragility of the planet’ SHARES: 5 VIEW COMMENTS By: Solita Collas-Monsod @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:07 AM June 20th, 2015


By: Solita Collas-Monsod

It was really only a matter of time before Pope Francis would weigh in on issues surrounding the environment.

His chosen namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, after all, was a lover of nature, and in his last days while he lay sick and dying, composed his most famous poem, “The Canticle of the Creatures,” which has the constant refrain, “All praise be yours”—“Laudato Si.” Which the Pope borrowed for the title of his encyclical, and which he also reproduced, in said letter.

St. Francis’ 13th-century paean was to the Lord, for Brother Sun and Sister Moon, Brothers Wind and Air, Sister Water, Brother Fire, and Sister Mother Earth.

It may be of interest to the Reader that St. Francis was named patron saint of the environment in 1979 by Pope John Paul II, and Pope Francis refers to him (St. Francis) a number of times in the 246-paragraph, 180-page letter, which ends with two prayers: the first he shares with “all who believe in a God who is the all-powerful Creator,” and the second is for “we Christians” (not just Catholic Christians, note) to ask “for inspiration to take up the commitment to creation set before us by the Gospel of Jesus.”

Not an exclusivist, our Pope. No wonder he is universally loved.

Except by those, like the Heartland Institute, who pooh-pooh his efforts, saying that the encyclical devotes only a small percentage of its writing to the environment!

Well, that’s because the Pope is trying to tie it all together.

As he states, “I will point to the intimate relationship between the poor and the fragility of the planet, the conviction that everything in the world is connected, the critique of new paradigms and forms of power derived from technology, the call to seek other ways of understanding the economy and progress, the value proper to each creature, the human meaning of ecology, the need for forthright and honest debate, the serious responsibility of international and local policy, the throwaway culture and the proposal of a new lifestyle.”

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Given the current controversy about the attempt to build a coal-fired power plant in Palawan, with Gov. Pepito Alvarez on one side and civil society and the environmentalists (and former Puerto Princesa mayor Ed Hagedorn) on the other, and given the reported plans of the Philippine government to build 48 such plants in the Philippines, I searched the encyclical and found this:

“We know that technology based on the use of highly polluting fossil fuels—especially coal, but also oil and, to a lesser degree, gas—needs to be progressively replaced without delay.”

But the Pope also writes: “We have to realize that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.”

That’s what Alvarez uses. In an interview with me that will be aired in two weeks, he says the coal-fired power plant is for the poor, while the environmentalists represent the elite. The other side, naturally, takes exception to this, and accuses him of being for big business, not for the poor. Thus the debate goes on.

Whether the Department of Environment and Natural Resources will give DMCI (of Torre de Manila fame) the go-signal to put up the plant in Palawan is being awaited.

Certainly, however, considering the reputation that Palawan has of clean air, pristine blue waters, and the title “top island in the world” (Conde Nast), it seems unduly cavalier to put up a coal-fired power plant in that paradise when there are other options.

With respect to the reported Philippine plans to build 48 coal-fired power plants, excerpts from a recent New York Times interview of Dale Jamieson (DJ), author and professor of environmental studies and philosophy at New York University, by Gary Gutting (GG), himself a professor of philosophy at Notre Dame University, should be enlightening.

Here’s how the conversation about coal went:

DJ: Also, given the environmental and human costs entailed by the cycle of coal production and consumption, liberating ourselves from the use of coal is something we should do no matter what. The only people who could reasonably object are people who own coal companies or can’t see a life beyond being dependent on those people.

GG: Stopping the use of coal seems a radical step. Could you explain why you think it’s necessary?

DJ: The cycle of coal production and consumption is destructive at every stage. It involves ripping down mountaintops, polluting waterways and killing workers. When coal is burned to produce electricity, it produces pollution that kills more than 10,000 Americans each year, and more than a quarter million Chinese.

In addition it does severe damage to fish, birds and waterways. And we haven’t even gotten to its contribution to climate change. Getting off coal will be difficult. Lots of things are difficult. Quitting smoking is difficult. Abolishing slavery was almost unimaginable for people living in those societies…

GG: Mightn’t the costs of giving up coal and of using alternative fuels (maybe nuclear) be greater than the costs of continuing to use coal? Is it possible to be reasonably certain about the effects of such a major change?

DJ: Coal seems to be an attractive fuel because there’s so much of it, and our economies are set up in such a way that most of the costs are borne downstream—not by those who produce and consume it. Once you start taking these externalities into account, coal starts losing economically even to other fossil fuels such as natural gas.

The environmental and health costs of coal are so overwhelming that it’s not difficult to make the case for its elimination. The problem is distributional. Some people, including many poor people, gain short-term advantages from using coal. But distributional concerns are involved in all social policy decisions. The right response to these concerns is compensation, not inaction.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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