MANILA, AUGUST 27, 2011 (STAR) By Ma. Elisa P. Osorio - The government has agreed to allow Chinese government-owned firm Sino Petroleum Corp. to conduct oil exploration in the disputed Spratly Islands in the West Philippine Sea, a ranking government official reported yesterday.

Trade Undersecretary Cristino Panlilio said this is part of the $2-billion to $7-billion investment package the Philippine contingent is expected to get during the state visit of President Aquino to China next week.

Panlilio, the overall program head for the business sector for the state visit, said Sino Petroleum is prepared to invest over $1 billion for oil exploration only.

The Chinese firm is looking for a local partner and is considering Oriental Petroleum, Basic, Petron and Philippine National Oil Co.

He said they do not expect any problems with the Spratlys operations because Sino Petroleum has already agreed to conduct the oil exploration “under Philippine laws.”

This is not the first time that the Philippine and Chinese governments forged an oil exploration agreement. The first was the controversial survey agreement at the Recto (Reed) Bank, which is part of Philippine territory near the Spratlys. The accord was forged during the term of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Panlilio said a top official of Sino Petroleum would meet Aquino during the state visit.

Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almendras would sign the agreement on behalf of the government.

During the visit, Aquino is expected to sign the Philippines-China Development Program.

Under the agreement, China promises to invest $50 billion over the next five years. The $2 billion to $7 billion is included in the $50-billion commitment.

Meanwhile, the Lucio Tan-owned firm Macro Asia is looking for a Chinese partner for their $1-billion mining investment.

Close to 15 companies have already agreed to sign agreements with the Philippine delegation. Latest data showed that there are already 220 to 230 delegates.

Panlilio, who is also the managing head of the Board of Investments (BOI), said that they have offered the Private-Public Partnership (PPP) infrastructure projects to Chinese companies.

The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) are expected to push for the railroad projects.

Panlilio said that aside from the PPP, the investments would be coming from diverse industries like automotive, mining, shipbuilding and agriculture.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) said they have already arranged for $1 billion worth of projects and one big project worth $2 billion.

PCCI president Francis Chua said China, through its China-ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) fund, is looking at more investment opportunities in the Philippines.

It already has a $100-million stake in Negros Navigation Co. and Aboitiz.

“They are seeking opportunities to invest more. It will definitely be more than $100 million,” Chua said. The fund is co-owned by the Bank of China and the China Import-Export Bank.

Two investment funds are expected to infuse money in the country. Aside from the fund, Chua enumerated four more committed investments.

Ruian Dongfang Auto Parts Co. Ltd. will invest $200 million. They would have a local partner and the chairman will be Miguel Varela and the president Johnny Sy. Ruian Dongfang is a manufacturer of automotive parts.

Another investment is for the $300-million rubber tire factory here. The investment will require 100 to 200 hectares of land.

The other is a $300-million nickel processing plant running nickel iron ore to semi-finished construction. The firm will likewise construct their own power unit. The investment will most probably be in Zambales.

Meanwhile, Vice President Jejomar Binay discounted the probability that the Spratlys dispute would result in an armed conflict between the Philippines and China.

Binay, who is now in Boston, Massachusetts for a two-week study program on security, said there is still a need to upgrade the security ties of the Philippines with the United States.

He also urged China to become a truly positive force for peace and development in Asia.

Binay told top-level defense and security officials from 23 countries gathered at Harvard University’s Kennedy School that although the US is not obliged to take the side of the Philippines in its dispute with China on the Spratlys, it is bound under the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty to come to the defense of the Philippines if its troops, public vessels or aircraft are attacked in the area.

“Although I do not believe a China-Philippine armed confrontation would ensue because of Spratlys, it would be good for everyone to understand what could happen if the improbable happened,” Binay said.

He said Southeast Asian countries should support “a balance of power in the region” by encouraging China to become a truly positive force for peace and development.

He is in Harvard for a two-week senior executives program in national and international security and was the only participant asked to give a lecture to the class of 72 highly selected security professionals who included some defense ministers and major generals of the US armed forces. – With Jose Rodel Clapano


No lifting of HK black ban EDITORIAL

Noynoy refuses to apologize to the Hong Kong hostage victims and relatives of the slain tourists, because he insists that the “Manila massacre” that occurred on Aug. 23, 2010 was the work of one deranged individual, and that the state, not being responsible for the slaughter, has no need to apologize.

At the same time, however, Noynoy, through his spokesman, said he wants Hong Kong’s travel blacklist on the Philippines lifted, as he called this unfair, especially since his administration has already made improvements in securing tourists.

Evidently, to this day, Noynoy and his boys fail to realize just what added damage they have inflicted on the country’s tourism through that botched hostage rescue operation, made even more damaging with his rejection of an apology to the victims and their relatives, as Noynoy refuses to accept responsibility and accountability for the Manila massacre.

But he forgets that days or weeks after the botched rescue operations, with public and Hong Kong pressure mounting, Noynoy did say, and on record, that he was responsible for the botched rescue. He did say something to the effect that “at the end of the day,” he was responsible for it. And that is on record.

Later, fearing that calls for his resignation would come over his admission of responsibility for the deaths of the eight Hong Kong tourists, he backtracked and even claimed that, he was disappointed when his order for the special forces to take over the rescue operations was not heeded, which was clearly a lie to save his political hide. He was indifferent to what was going on for 10 hours and was even said to have been engrossed in a game of billiards.

There was never any order issued by him. It is impossible for any police or military officer to ignore an order given by their commander-in-chief. That much is clear.

Yet even as he did claim responsibility over the botched hostage rescue then, and even after a Malacañang created IIRC panel identified the personalities involved in that botched rescue and given the recommended sanctions, Noynoy watered the report down and exonerated practically all those indicted by the IIRC.

But it was clear that, from the start, there never was any intention on the part of Noynoy to mete out any sanction on the officials who should have been held responsible and accountable.

The fact that he had named the Department of Interior and Local Governments Secretary Jesse Robredo as co-chairman of the IIRC panel already indicated the cover-up of Noynoy and his boys’ big mistakes. Why make Robredo whose office the Philippine National Police is under, the co-chairman of the investigating panel, even when he claimed that it was not he who was in charge of the PNP. That was another cop-out coming from Robredo. He was still overall chief of the DILG and he too, should have been held accountable. He was still in charge of local government units — such as the local executives involved in the body to take charge of the hostage situation.

The Palace claims that the Noynoy administration has already filed charges against the persons involved in that botched rescue, yet only two have been slapped with charges — and worse, these two, especially the deputy Ombudsman, were hardly the real culprits, but it was easy for Noynoy to lay the blame on the two, because they were not part of his KKK, whom he protects and coddles.

No matter what Noynoy and his boys do to erase that image of a Philippines that cannot secure the safety of tourists, or make this country look like a safe tourist spot, this image of a bungling, inefficient and inept government led by an incompetent president, won’t go away, especially as he has made it clear that even as such a massacre occurred under his watch, he refuses to accept responsibility and accountability.

What he is really saying to foreigners is this: Come to the Philippines, but do so at your own risk, as some demented Filipinos can take you hostage, kidnap, rape and kill you, and the government cannot be held responsible or accountable for these crazies’ acts. Don’t expect apologies either from me and my government, either because these acts of deranged Filipinos are not an act of the state.

With such a message from Noynoy, that Black Travel ban by Hong Kong won’t be lifted any time soon.

And neither will the foreign tourists come in droves.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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