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Treasures Beyond Measure


The Philippines is rich in natural resources. It has fertile, arable lands, diverse flora and fauna, extensive coastlines, and rich mineral deposits but only 1.5% of country’s land area is covered with mining permits. Despite the rich natural resources of the Philippines, the government is restricting its exploitation to preserve its patrimony for future generations of Filipinos. Its current leader – President Benigno C. Aquino III, has ordered a stop to all destructive mining activities in large  areas within 78 of its provinces deemed as protected and eco-tourism sites.


FIA-Enter The Dragon Post Image-01Not only is the land in this archipelago which sits at the crossroads of Southeast Asia rich but even more so the bodies of water which surround and extend beyond its coasts. Because it is made up of 1,107 islands, the country’s coastline – if laid end-to-end, would measure around 17.5-thou sand kilometers and what lies beneath its territorial waters are a treasure trove of re sources that is the envy of many other countries. China’s military build-up over the past two decades has strengthened its hand in the South China Sea so much so that it has prompted accelerated defense spending and acquisition of modern weapons systems by the Philippines.


A number of factors account for this phenomenon, including its sustained economic growth since the early 2000s and the ready availability of advanced military hardware from close allies such as the United States, Japan and South Korea who all are eager to support the Philippines maintain the balance of power in the region to ensure they each have access to and supply of the vast natural resources it has on friendly commercial terms and trade arrangements.


FIA-Enter The Dragon Post Image-02For example, one of the deepest oceanic trenches called the Philippine Trench – which is located just a few miles off the eastern coast of the Philippines, is found one of the world’s largest and nearly inex haustible deposits of natural deuterium – a huge deposit 868-miles long, 52-miles at its widest point and 3-miles deep, replenished by nature 24-hours a day when the Earth turns on its axis from West to East in unending perpetual motion.


Deuterium is ‘heavy water’ without oxygen. It is used in the production of clean fuel now used in the United States, Canada, Germany, Sweden and other parts of the world in powering all types of combustion engines for electric power gen erators, cars, jet aircraft and rocket engines. It does not emit pollutants or other harmful gases which despoil the environment and emits only water vapor or steam as a by-product. It also can be used for cooking, lighting and heating.


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Tougher Than You Think

Born and raised in the Philippines, Loida Nicolas Lewis is a businesswoman, philan thropist, civic leader, author and lawyer who served as Chair, CEO and co-owner of TLC Beatrice International – a $2-billion multinational food company with opera tions all across Europe until she sold it in 2000. A frequent traveller who speaks 5 languages, she founded  the National Fed eration of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA) and Chair of US Pinoys for Good Governance.


But that’s not all there is. Off the western coastline of the Philippines facing the Western Philippine Sea (formerly, the South China Sea) and within its territorial limits sits underneath a region that has proven oil reserves of around 1.2 km³ (7.7-billion barrels), with an estimate of 4.5 km³ (28-billion barrels) in total. Natural gas reserves are estimated to total around 7,500-km³ (266-trillion cubic feet). What’s more, a 2013 report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration raised the total estimated oil reserves to 11-billion barrels.


FIA-Enter The Dragon Post Image-03The trouble is both the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the Republic of China (ROC) claim almost the entire body of water as their own, demarcating their claims within what is known as the ‘9-dotted Line’, origin ally indicated as the ‘11-dotted Line’ by the provisional Kuomintang government of the Republic of China (which evacuated to what is now Taiwan in 1947) for its ‘claims’ to the then named ‘South China Sea’. As you can see on the map (above at right), China’s ‘new’ boudaries have overlapped with virtually every other country in the region with coastlines. You might also notice that of all the countries with coastlines ringing this sea, China’s is one of those that’s furthest away from it?


Both the PRC and ROC-Taiwan’s territorial claim over the entire Western Philip pine Sea is against international laws, particularly the United Nations Conven tion of the Laws of the Sea (UNCLOS III) which was ratified by 162-member states of the United Nations in 1994.


But greed is such a powerful magnet. Realizing what lies underneath the offshore continental shelves of the Philippines, several other neighbouring countries have also made competing territorial claims over areas that are within its own archi pelagic waters in the Western Philippine Sea. These disputes are now being re garded as Asia’s most potentially dangerous point of conflict.


FIA-Enter The Dragon Post Image-04As a result, the ASEAN counties have been keen to ensure that the territorial disputes within this sea does not escalate into armed conflict by setting up Joint Development Authorities in areas of overlapping claims to jointly develop these and dividing the profits equally without settling the issue of sovereignty over the areas in question.


Not surprisingly, in a ploy it hopes to use to divide and rule, the PRC has preferred to resolve competing claims bilaterally. Most ASEAN countries prefer multilateral talks, believing that they are disad vantaged in bilateral negotiations with the much larger China. Likewise, because many countries claim the same territory only multilateral talks could effectively resolve their competing claims.


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Actions Speak Louder Than Words

As tensions surged between the Chinese regime and its ASEAN neighbours over maritime territorial disputes, China’s heir-apparent leader Xi Jiping offered some soothing words at the opening of the ASEAN trade fair held in southern China in September 2012. He acknowledged that China’s prosperity is closely linked with good relations to its neighbours but despite claiming its peaceful intentions, Beijing recently established a military garrison on one of the disputed islands.


Meanwhile, according to an English language translation of a nationwide China newscast aired in July 2012, it was revealed that Chinese authorities were unhappy with one particular Filipino – Loida Nicolas-Lewis. With that public an nouncement, she supplanted exiled human rights activist Chen Guancheng as China’s newest Public Enemy No. 1.


FIA-Enter The Dragon Post Image-05Ms. Lewis is the tsunamic force behind calling on Filipinos throughout the world to carry out large-scale anti-China demonstra tions. The newscast also revealed that Ms. Lewis was the Chairman and CEO of TLC Beatrice (China), Limited, a Cayman compa ny operating retail convenience stores in four largely populated Chinese cities: Xia men, Chengdu, Suzhou and Guangzhou.


In reaction, mainland Chinese citizens were shocked by this news and were urged to boycott her businesses in China. Ironically, little did they know that Ms. Lewis sold her ownership interests to these “Beatrice” stores several years earlier so the Chinese authorities’ call in effect was made to boycott a wholly-owned Chi nese business.


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“It’s The Economy, Stupid!”

Somewhat heated arguments prevented an ASEAN summit in July 2012 from issu ing a joint communiqué, the first time this had happened in the 10-member bloc’s 45-year history. China has resisted proposals for a multilateral code of con duct for the Western Philippine Sea insist ing, instead, on negotiating with far less powerful individual member nations of ASEAN in a bid to weaken the solidarity of ASEAN as it pursues its political and economic agendas in the region.


At about the same time the 2012 ASEAN Summit meeting was held, Ms. Lewis conducted a press conference in Manila. She explained that her group’s call for the global boycott of all kinds of China-made products was a way of matching China’s diplomatic and military arrogance in claiming ownership of the Scar borough Shoal and the Kalayaan Group of Islands in the Western Philippine Sea.


FIA-Enter The Dragon Post Image-06The ‘Boycott-Made-in-China-Goods’ cam paign will not be limited to Filipinos but rather will be carried out globally to encour age all peace-loving people of the world to join in. She expects the campaign to go viral and hopes to achieve the level of response and outrage that was generated when the Americans found out that the US Olympic team’s uniforms for the London 2012 Olym pics were made in China.


As a seasoned global business-orientated person, Ms. Lewis’ campaign strategy exposes the weak underbelly of China for what it is. For the Chinese Communist Party to maintain its hold on power it needs to sustain a high rate of economic development to keep its large population distracted from a system that’s essen tially weakened by corruption at the highest levels of government. Attempts to stir up Chinese nationalism and sentiments would simply melt away if China’s economy is adversely affected by a global boycott of its manufactured products.


That scenario could possibly parley itself into a higher level of unemployment, dissatisfaction, dissension and civil unrest which would unravel into another confrontation similar to the Tiananmen Square mass uprising incident. When that happened 24-years ago to this day, China’s authorities were caught off guard by a huge national protest movement for a freer and more accountable polity which due to their brutal handling descended into chaos and bloodshed under the world’s spotlight.


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Liberty or Death?

People in China know that their rulers choose to stifle, imprison and kill its own people than defer to their aspirations for liberty. It’s difficult for a nation that doesn’t have popular support for its own government to embrace nationalism and accept that tensions with ASEAN neigh bours are about a sovereignty issue. Is it sovereignty, control of natural resources or something more like maintaining inter nal stability? How far are they willing to go for its territorial claims?


Since Tiananmen, the Chinese government has refined its skills at permitting China’s people enough economic latitude for rising wealth, while depriving them of such basic rights as free speech, or the freedom to choose, in open competi tion, who governs their country, and how. The result is a desperately skewed system that serves first and foremost the authoritarian Communist Party, which hands down the rules, collects the tolls, and dispenses its own brand of judgment about how that works out for everyone else.


FIA-Enter The Dragon Post Image-07None of this is a recipe for stability. It is an explosive mix, on which China’s authorities have managed to keep a lid by pouring resour ces into internal “security.” Last month, Agence France Presse reported that China is estimated to have about 180,000 protests per year, which authorities prevent from spreading by spending more than US$ 125-billion annually on riot gear and “stabili ty maintenance.”


Increasingly, China’s government has also been resorting to that often used ma neuver of dictatorships trying to deflect discontent at home by making trouble abroad while at the same time engaging in a massive military buildup, and con ducting cyber attacks on the United States and its allies.


China has also been threatening its Asian neighbours over territorial disputes. These include recent frictions in the East China Sea with Japan over a group of islets that the Japanese call the Senkakus and the Chinese call the Diaoyus. And there’s more.


FIA-Enter The Dragon Post Image-09Territorial spats over the waters and islands of the Western Philippine Sea have soiled rel ations between China and ASEAN countries like the Philippines (Scarborough Shoal and the Spratly Islands), Vietnam (the Paracel Islands), Indonesia (the Natuna Islands) as well as maritime boundaries off the coasts of Malaysia (the Anambas Islands), Brunei (the area north of Borneo Island) and even Tai wan (the Pratas Islands and the Macclesfield Bank) in recent years.


These are all small bits of turf, but potentially big flash points because Japan and the Philippines each have a mutual defense treaties and pacts with the U.S. who in turn maintains a national interest in freedom of navigation, open access to Asia’s maritime commons, and sincere respect for international law particularly in the maritime waters of Southeast Asia.


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A Sabre-Rattling Excercise?

In January this year, Britain’s “Financial Times” reported that if other countries ex pect China to bear the harm of losing her sovereignty, security and development in terests then it will adopt a much tougher foreign policy course in the international stage. This has caused concern for many countries around the region particularly those who have territorial disputes with China. While this policy has clarified Chi na’s position implementing it may be an other matter altogether.


Let’s face it. An economically-vibrant but militarily-aggressive China is bad for the whole of Southeast Asia, but an economically-strong and militarily-benign China is not only good for its own people but also for the rest of the world. By ‘benign’ we mean that China doesn’t have to resort to might-of-force by throwing its weight around the region and arrogate unto itself the natural resources that lie within the territorial borders of other nations bordering it.


FIA-Enter The Dragon Post Image-10Even if the most advanced and powerful nation in the world – the United States, does not by itself have a perfect record in this case, it hasn’t unilaterally declared that the entire Pacific and Atlantic Oceans are its own territorial waters and there so doing what it wants for itself to the exclusion of others who have means to explore and co-develop it.


Given that China relies so heavily on raw materials from other countries and imported fuel from the Middle East – most of which makes its way through the Straits of Malacca into the Western Philippine Sea, a conflagration that shuts down that strategic transit area would have devastating repercussions for China’s own domestic security and ultimately the survival of its own rulers.


Given too that the disputes are happening at sea, if all the players in the region continue to act aggressively, a small spark could set off a chain of uncontrollable events that would lead not to a stand-off, but to a real showdown instead, or worse.


As matters escalate, as they’d likely will, other more far-off naval and mili tarily-powerful nations like the United States, Russia and India that have their own special interests to protect in the region would step in and add more com plications to hostilities during a flare-up.


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Turning Off The Spigot

As China and countries like Philippines and Vietnam move closer towards war over disputes in the Western Philippine Sea, whose side will America take? The USA has the ability to cut-off China’s oil supply from the Middle East as it now moves into Africa where it can do the same. Is it impossible for the USA to want development rights over the same miner al resources in the area by slowing, even stopping China’s rise by denying them access to supply routes in the region?


A large part of the answer to this question lies mostly with the USA’s long histo rical, political, economic, cultural and military ties with a former colony and commonwealth partner in Asia and the fact that there are over 3.4-million Fili pinos today who either live as permanent residents or citizens of the United States. There are very deep ties and loyalties between these two countries and time has tested it such that neither of them would betray nor abandon the other in times of crisis.


Both countries now have over a century of shared experiences, some bitter at first but after patching their differences the relationship has matured beyond just being acquainted in battle with a deep respect for each other. For more details, you can click this link to find out more.


FIA-Enter The Dragon Post Image-CLQuirinoThis ‘bond of brotherhood’ was even more firmly cemented when America learned in hindsight many years later in two other sub sequent wars – that is, in bloody confron tations with communist forces in Korea and Vietnam, why Filipinos are such a free dom-loving people that they would risk every thing they hold dear, including their lives, to remain that way.


It finally impressed on the Americans – not just in words but by their deeds, that for Filipinos the loss of blood and bone mean nothing to them if they cannot live free. Gentle in peace but deadly in war, it broadened their sense of understanding as why they experienced such a difficult time fighting them during the Filipino-American War at the turn of the 20th Century.


In the Korean Peninsula conflict for example, Gen. Douglas MacArthur – Com mander of the U.N. Forces in Korea, exuberantly declared after learning the outcome of a crucial battle involving a regiment of 1,400 lightly-armed Filipinos who decimated a much larger and fully-armed force of 40,000 Chinese troops intent on breaking though the front lines that, “give me 10,000 Filipinos and I shall conquer the whole world!


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As The Record Shows

One can argue that the present genera tion of Filipino fighting men no longer have what it takes to accomplish the same outcomes in battle their predeces sors have. But remember this, the quality of the fathers affect the quality of follow ing generations. As go the fathers, so go the next several generations. Theirs is a unique character built and adjusted to life’s present circumstances and it doesn’t take long for it to resurface again in times of peril and crisis.


At the conclusion of the Korean War and looking back to evaluate the performance of different allied troops under his command, Maj. General Robert Soule – Commander 3rd US Division, commented that insofar as he was con cerned the “Fighting Filipinos” were by far the best he and other field officers had ever been privileged to have under their commands. They all accomplished more with far less with distinction and they were not even fighting the far more well-equipped enemy on soil of their Inang Bayan (mother country). “So how much more,” he asserted, “if the Fighting Filipinos fights for their homeland on their soil?


FIA-Enter The Dragon Post Image-08More often these days deployed as peace keepers under treaty obligations, Philippine forces are regularly relied upon to resolve post-World War II interventions and con flict situations that plague other troubled countries situated in Africa, the Middle East, the Balkans, and the Caribbean. Their gun sights remain ready and knives cons tantly on edge for any contingency.


Beijing has promised it won’t use force against its neighbours over disputes for territory in the Western Philippine Sea, but that remains to be seen as their actions speak otherwise. So now the Philippines is gearing up to do more with more to defend their own country against any aggression.


After the Vietnam War, military strategists were one in saying that triumph does not reside with the side who has superior numbers or technology but to the one with more spirit and experience. So, when China decides to brand a Filipino as its No.1 enemy and a woman at that, it would be wise to carefully consider what she has to say before trying anything rash the outcome of which we’re sorry to say they could regret.


You see, mothers know best.


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