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Delfin Lorenzana

A SAMPLING: 10 strategic areas of China encroachment in PH

in Countercurrent

Below is a sampler list indicative of what (or how much) the US-Duterte regime has so far achieved as an imperialist puppet and bureaucrat capitalist. All the following demand thoroughgoing investigation, disclosures of what (and how much) rationalizations are behind his avidly welcoming China’s potential stranglehold of the country.

1. China military basing in WPS

With Duterte’s tolerance of China incursions into Philippine maritime areas, the latter is getting bolder in claiming portions of Philippine patrimony. Reports now point to the possibility that in crafting a Code of Conduct for all Asian claimants in the West Philippine Sea, China would likely insist on formalizing its claim and military basing in the Spratly islands and Panatag Shoal where it seems intent on setting up similar installations. Duterte has said they will not oppose China if they do that.

2. In Philippine rivers, mountains, IP ancestral lands

On top of earlier logging and mining concessions by US corporations that originally destroyed vast virgin forests and mountains in the Philippines, China is entering Sierra Madre via Kaliwa River dam project and Cordillera via Chico River Irrigation project. The projects include clearing parts of the forested mountains where the said rivers to be dammed are located. Deals with China include bringing their workers, steel, equipment and other construction requirements.

3. In Philippine telecommunications

In July 2019, Duterte granted a China-funded local telecommunication startup, Mislatel now Dito, a license to operate as the country’s third major telecommunications player. This, after Davao-based businessman Dennis Uy’s Mislatel signed a $5.4-billion investment deal with China Telecom to fund his company’s expansion in the Philippines.

With Duterte’s go-signal, the AFP changed its tune to signify openness to the deal for the said China-backed telecommunications, Dito Telecommunity Corp, to install its system, towers, and facilities within military bases in the country. Initially, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana warned this will endanger the Filipinos’ privacy, security and a vital industry that should have been firmly under Philippine control.

4. In power industry

The State Grid Corporation of China, the second largest firm in the world in 2018, owns 40 percent of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP). The Chinese firm is majority owner as the other owners, Filipino taipans Henry Sy and Robert Coyuito, each owns 30 percent. The Duterte government says the Filipinos are in control of the corporation, but reports said the Chinese are the ones maintaining and have operational control.

Privately owned NGCP is in charge of operating, maintaining and developing the Philippines’ state-owned power grid, an interconnected system that transmits gigawatts of power at thousand volts from power generators to consumers. NGCP holds the 50-year franchise and 25-year concession contract to operate and maintain the country’s transmission system. Their franchise began in 2009.

The NGCP went to Chinese owners in 2008 under former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Having a monopoly of this strategic utility, the NGCP profits immensely from power transmission.

5. In oil exploration and drilling

Other countries ruled also by tyrants try to strike a balance between getting more out of their oil first for themselves and second for their population. In the Philippines, the would-be gains would first be cornered by China. One of the 29 deals Duterte signed with China during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Manila in November 2018 was the joint oil and gas exploration deal. Officials of the Duterte regime including National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon approved the 60-40 sharing agreement. Before 2019 ended, China and Duterte governments have signed the terms of reference and formed as well as convened the joint committee comprised of representatives from China and PH.

Filipinos from various walks of life condemn the deal saying it has all the makings of a lopsided agreement. Even if 60-40 sounds in favor of the Philippines, Filipinos have little to no safeguard against probable 100% control by China of the entire operation, considering it will lead the exploration and drilling activities, using its manpower and equipment.

6. Trade imbalance favors China

Duterte and Communications chief Sec. Martin Andanar boasted that with their friendly ties with China, it is now a major trading partner. But data show this trade partnership is lopsided and in favor of China. Philippine imports from China rose to US$22 billion in 2018, while its exports to China were worth only US$8.8 billion.

7. Filipinos losing its waters and marine resources to China

On its Spratlys military bases, China has installed surface-to-air missile systems in three artificial islands: the Kagitingan Reef (Fiery Cross), Zamora Reef (Subi Reef), and Panganiban Reef (Mischief Reef). These islands have become no-go zones for Filipinos because of Chinese military intimidation. Also, these installations have killed precious corals and the marine life around them.

China continues to bar Filipino fishers from Panatag Shoal and they are getting bolder at claiming ownership of it. Chinese Coastguard patrols the area, driving away passing ships including puny boats of Filipino fishers. The fishers have complained that for the longest time, they have been the “frontline casualties” of Chinese incursions.

Reclamation projects for China-funded infrastructure have also started to deprive many Filipinos of their homes and livelihood. There is a long-standing plan to reclaim at least 2,700 hectares of south Manila Bay for the P550 billion ($10 billion) Sangley Point International Airport (SPIA) in Cavite, 35 kilometers from Manila. Its proponent is the Cavite provincial government under a joint venture with China state-owned Chinese Communications Construction Co Ltd (CCCC) and local partner Lucio Tan-led MacroAsia Corp. Once awarded to the joint venture, the Chinese partner will effectively control the SPIA, reports said.

In another development, local fishers reported as of October 2019 that heavy equipment were being used to dump debris on a fishpond connected to Manila Bay and adjacent to the public cemetery in Bacoor City. No information has been posted on whether it is a public works project or a private construction activity. A Senate hearing previously unearthed a proposed 420-hectare Bacoor Reclamation Project covering the area. Faced with fishers’ protests, Environment Department officials committed to cancel the project as it is also detrimental to the Supreme Court writ of mandamus to rehabilitate Manila Bay.

8. China-driven ‘Golden age’ of gambling in PH

Under Duterte government, the gambling industry enters a ‘golden age.’ Overall revenues quadrupled to $4.1 billion during the first three years of his presidency and the key driver is the boom in POGOs (Philippine offshore gaming operations). After China banned these gaming centers the operators have flocked to the Philippines and set up shops with Mandarin-speaking workers. In August 2019 a furor broke out about POGOs particularly on issues of undocumented Chinese workers, China’s request to curb the spread of Chinese-operated POGOs, and the US and the AFP warning against potential security threats with the gaming centers locating near Philippine (and US) military camps.
The Duterte administration has defended the POGOs, citing the revenues and tourism it brings in. Plans were then made to corral the gaming operators into “POGO islands,” to be built in Fuga island in Cagayan province and in Grande and Chiquita islands in Subic Bay.
POGO employs up to a hundred thousand workers, mostly Chinese. Members of the ruling class take differing positions on the POGO issue, driven by “security” concerns, “patriotic” concerns, and most likely also division of spoils. But they act nearly the same in not minding the deleterious impact on the masses of the construction of POGOs, or the working conditions of both the Chinese and Filipino workers who need to look out and guard against being played off against each other.

9. China’s ‘debt-trap diplomacy’

Some US officials unblushingly criticize China’s predatory loan deals used to expand influence globally. As if their banks and corporations aren’t doing the same, they warn countries and former colonies against China’s “debt-trap diplomacy,” its use of “opaque contracts and corrupt deals that mire nations in debt and undercut their sovereignty.”
They have a point, true, but it’s not coming from the goodness of their hearts but from self-interest and insecurity. China has embraced capitalism even if they still call themselves ‘communist’. Its President Xi Jinping is more assertive overseas and tightening controls at home—pretty much like what every other advanced capitalist country in the world is doing today. China no longer deals only with countries the US or the west have left out or considered “rogue states”. Now it is the most significant rival to the US, with which western capitalist countries have to compete more forcefully to maintain their old spheres of influence.
What the US puppet Duterte has been misrepresenting as independent foreign policy is his tactic of selling out not just to US but also to today’s cash-rich China. His administration craves funders for “Build, Build, Build” and China obligingly wants to integrate this program into its Belt and Road Initiative. The latter is a China spending/lending spree of up to $1 trillion in 17 countries in three continents. It traces the ancient path of Silk Road as it seeks to redirect the flow of trade and people traffic around China.
In the Philippines the China-funded infrastructure projects pose a double threat: 1) to the people hit by dislocation or forced landgrab of their communities and livelihood; and 2) to all Filipinos who will bear the added debt burden, and will have to cough up higher user-pay fees to use the infrastructure. Compounding the second is the threat pointed out by Justice Antonio Carpio: “In case of default by the Philippines in repayment of the loan, China can seize, to satisfy any arbitral award in favor of China, ‘patrimonial assets and assets dedicated to commercial use’ of the Philippine Government… including the oil and gas in the Philippine exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the West Philippine Sea, and the gas fields in the Reed Bank.”

10. Drugs

In the Senate hearings last September about the police and military generals’ involvement in the drug trade, it was confirmed that Duterte’s top police officers were involved in criminal activities. In a statement, the CPP said it shows the so-called war on drugs is a big hoax foisted on the people.

The Senate hearings resulted in the untimely resignation of Police Chief Oscar Albayalde. Implicated in the issue of “recycling” drugs that were press-released to have been impounded by authorities, Albayalde left his position with full perks and retirement benefits intact.

This is not the first revelation of police and military involvement in the drug trade. Time and again, the “narco-lists” and witch-hunts or ‘cleanup’ of rival drug trade syndicates including their protectors in government positions have led to killings and arrests, including the alleged involvement of opposition Senator Leila de Lima in drug syndicates. Aside from using the drug war to desensitize the people to killings and sideline the opposition, the police and military have lately tried to use the tokhang-style joint operations against unarmed activists.

On this, the CPP says: “Duterte, who is publicly known to be friends with big Chinese druglords, has made himself the overlord of the illegal drug trade in the country by using the police and his police-controlled vigilantes to make every syndicate kneel to his power. He has assigned loyal officers in the AFP to control large-scale smuggling through the Bureau of Customs. Under Duterte, the illegal trade in shabu, cocaine, ecstasy and fentanyl has reached new levels.”

Crime and politics meld in the PNP, as well as in the AFP, adds the CPP, as it points to how the police and military have repeatedly proved to be “a battleground of rival political cliques and criminal syndicates in the illegal drug trade, jueteng and other forms of illegal gambling, prostitution, human trafficking and others.” The police and military officers’ loyalty to one or another rival criminal network, and at the same time, to one politician or another rival dynasty or party, is the thread that connects the spate of killings even of politicians already in jail or under police protection.

Treasonous Duterte

The Filipino people need to deliver an important message to the Duterte administration. His regime is the actual terrorist and persona non grata. His rule is giving rise to monstrous problems for Filipinos, endangering them now and in the future. What his regime is doing to the people, the country, and environment spurs the people’s wrath and calls for justice.

Under Duterte, the Philippines continues to be in an economic stranglehold of foreign capital and US-sponsored neoliberal economic policies. The country remains a backward neocolony—with the vast poor in dire strait. Add to US and allied superpowers’ established stakes in the country’s economy, government and military, China is also establishing footholds via debts, investments and illegal occupation.

Duterte has turned to China to add to his bureaucrat loot, and paved the way to increased US presence to prop up the puppet government and secure investments. The U.S. military aid to the Philippines amounting to $193.5 million in 2018 alone (9.77 trillion PHP) has helped fund state-orchestrated attacks on the Filipino people.

But Duterte’s war against revolutionaries is only further exposing him and the AFP and police for cowardice. They conduct focused and synchronized armed operations against unarmed and legitimate progressive groups, shrinking the democratic space they claim to defend as they weaponize the civilian bureaucracy against critics.

Like any other puppet president, Duterte cannot brook ouster moves, public protests and opposition. An untimely exit from Malacañang will cut his loot, clip the wings of his clique and small dynasty of local politicians, and open him to prosecution for his crimes. So, he is turning more fascist as his term’s end nears.

Duterte and his ilk seriously need to be taught lessons in history. They cry to get a taste of what the Filipino people do to tyrants. It is high time he gets booted out by the people. His rampage deserves no less. ###

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PEACE HAWKS LIE, Here’s Why

in Editorial
by Pinky Ang

The on again off again peace negotiations—scuttled by the Duterte regime—can still be saved if the people correct and debunk all the misinformation being lobbed against it by the militarists, the peace spoilers, and hawkish officials of the Duterte regime.

The following so far are some of the plain truth and observable reality on the ground which peace spoilers try so hard to deny or, failing there, to vilify and demonize. Feel free to add.

THE PEOPLE’S DEMOCRATIC GOVERNMENT AND TERRITORIES IN GUERRILLA FRONTS EXIST

The guerrilla fronts have expanded to about a hundred amid the continuing intensified militarization topped by increased use of civilian bureaucracy for waging war against the people. The simplest response to government or militarist denial of the existence of the people’s democratic government is: if they don’t exist, why is the Philippine government bothering with costly militarization and this disgraceful (to them) disinformation campaign?

The people’s democratic government continues to advance land reform, revolutionary justice, defense of human and natural resources for national industrialization. The government of the Republic of the Philippines and its mercenary troops know and confirm this every time they present their faked or forced surrenderers (mostly civilian farmers or government soldier pretending to be a rebel); when they order local government to declare the Communist Party and the New People’s Army as persona non grata; or when they rail against revolutionary taxation or village militias flexing muscles to defend themselves.

The Duterte regime and the militarists precisely know the existence of guerrilla fronts and people’s democratic government as they vainly try to trap them in localized peace talks. They have long failed to appreciate that the rebels aren’t as corruptible as the AFP or PNP generals. Or that the revolutionary movement continues to expand despite or because of sufferings the military and the plunderers inflict on the people.

THE FILIPINO PEOPLE AND DUTERTE NEED THE PEACE NEGOTIATIONS THE MOST

The Duterte regime is now weighed down by the sheer amount of blood shed because of his dirty wars against the poor. Meanwhile, no amount of magic in official statistics can hide that the economy is not as good as it projects, and that the majority of the Filipinos are worse off.

Now in his lameduck years in Malacañang, Duterte can’t fail to notice that even his highest military subordinates (Hermogenes Esperon, Jr., Delfin Lorenzana, Eduardo Año, Carlito Galvez, and Filemon Santos, Jr.) have so publicly opposed his intent to resume peace negotiations between the GRP and the NDFP. Instead of addressing the roots of the armed conflict to ready the ground for peace, these military subordinates want to continue their military rampage, as well as the drive to place the government and society under military rule through Executive Order No. 70.

Unfortunately for Duterte, he is the commander-in-chief to be tried for his accountability to war crimes, and his regime is what’s on the line for history’s reckoning. His military subordinates, meanwhile, have rampaged and butchered up till their retirement from the AFP. Yet they still failed to bring down the revolutionaries through the years, through failed deadlines, under different presidents.

It doesn’t need rocket science to grasp that the Philippine government cannot win the war by military solution alone. The peace talks and the attempt to address the roots of armed conflict promise to do the job with better satisfaction from majority of the Filipinos.

THE FILIPINO PEOPLE DEMANDS SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC REFORMS

The way Duterte’s recycled generals and hawkish officials speak, you’d think the Filipinos live already in an industrial paradise, without social injustices, without worsening unemployment, low incomes and rampant poverty. Of course these exist only in their brags and baseless beliefs. The Philippine economy stands only propped up by a bloated unproductive services sector, overseas remittances, and debt. It begs for scraps from foreign investments who take away more from the country than what they bring in.
The country’s agriculture and industry have steadily declined no thanks to the past and present government’s neoliberal policies. The draft Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER), up for completion and approval in the negotiations between the GRP and the NDFP should the peace talks resume, seek to resolve these problems plaguing our productive sectors.

THE PEACE NEGOTIATIONS HAVE MADE UNPRECEDENTED PROGRESS BUT SPOILERS AND MILITARISTS ALWAYS SEEK TO SABOTAGE IT

The peace talks that started in 2016 have progressed in fleshing out the CASER, the meat of the peace negotiations. It used to exist as two different drafts of the negotiating panels. Before talks were halted in 2018, the four formal rounds of peace talks abroad and seven meetings in the Philippines had produced a common outline and substantial drafts on two of the most important sections of CASER: Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (ARRD) and National Industrialization and Economic Development (NIED). These two alone can give vast benefits for tens of millions of Filipinos and the cause of national development.

The peace talks give the public an opportunity to better understand CASER—and that is why the militarists seek to stop it at all cost. They will be thoroughly exposed not only as peace saboteurs but as agents of enemies of the Filipino people.

DRAFTS AND AGREED UPON RESULTS OF PEACE TALKS ARE PRODUCTS OF NEGOTIATIONS AND KEEN CONSULTATIONS WITH THE PEOPLE

Whatever common drafts have been mutually agreed upon and prepared by the negotiating parties and their working groups, these were discussed and to be approved by the NDFP and GRP negotiating panels. These are no secret nor unilateral impositions—things the militarists have been known of hatching up. With regard to the NDFP proposals, these are reflection not only of the people’s desire but of the developments in the guerrilla zones. The drafts were widely disseminated and still being disseminated and discussed in guerrilla zones; and also being updated as the years go by.

The common drafts on social and economic reforms also show that it is possible for the GRP and the NDFP to set aside ideological differences and unite on concrete steps for the common cause of real economic progress for the nation.

With the people’s resolve to push for just and lasting peace, the militarists and peace spoilers, who have failed so spectacularly at bringing about peace, will not succeed at sabotaging again the peace negotiations. ###

#ResumeTalks
#SignCASER
#JustPeace

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AFP Sings Old Tune

in Countercurrent

For five decades now, the reactionary state and its armed forces have been singing the song, “It’s Now or Never,” popularized by Elvis Presley in the 1960’s. They belt it out in an attempt, at first, to nip in the bud the CPP-NPA-NDF, later to “decapitate” the revolutionary organizations and push the rebels to surrender through various counterinsurgency oplans.

Marcos used this tactic. And so did all the succeeding regimes that took their turns with the “restoration” of elite democracy in the country.

Through the years the pattern has been the same: Employ force and deception, carrot and stick; guns and bullets, artillery and bombs; and the lure of financial and material rewards. Fifty years have passed and yet the tactic has repeatedly failed.

What makes Duterte think he can make it work this time around? He blew his chance when he recklessly abandoned the GRP-NDFP peace talks and instead issued the order: Kill, kill, kill.

E-CLIP Briefer: it’s all about money, money

in Countercurrent

The Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) took off from the Comprehensive Local and Integration Program (CLIP) of the Department of Interior and Local Governments (DILG) and the PAMANA (Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan-Peaceful and Resilient communities) program of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP). The two programs were centralized under the Task Force Balik Loob, through Administrative Order 10 issued on April 3, 2018 by President Duterte. The consolidated program was renamed (how else?) E-CLIP.

On May 31, 2018, the Defense Department released a seven-paged Implementing Rules and Regulation (IRR). It was jointly signed by DND chief Delfin Lorenzana, National Housing Authority (NHA) General Manager Marcelino Escalada Jr., then OPAPP head Jesus Dureza, and retired police general Nelson Estarez of Office of the President (OP).

Heading the Task Force Balik-Loob is DND Undersecretary Reynaldo Mapagu. Aside from the DND, among the lead agencies are the DILG, OPAPP, OP, and the NHA, with the rest of the Executive departments as members.

The Task Force claims it shall pursue a “comprehensive, integrated, community-based national program” that will be implemented in the local areas to address twin objectives: secure the legal status and security of former rebels; and take care of the former rebels’ economic and social needs and psychological rehabilitation.

These objectives, according to the IRR, shall be carried out through the CLIP and PAMANA programs. E-CLIP committees shall be organized in the provinces and highly urbanized cities.

Before the two programs were integrated, the CLIP under the DILG claimed to have spent Php 101.67 million as of January 2017 to assist 1,573 “former rebels” (or Php 65,000 per “rebel returnee”). The Php 65,000 is broken down into: Php 15,000 for immediate assistance while the “former rebel’s” enrollment to CLIP is processed, and Php 50,000 livelihood assistance once enrolled.

This does not include, the DILG said, rewards for surrendered guns, if there are any. In Davao City the president’s daughter, Mayor Sara Duterte, gave away an initial Php 20,000 and Php 50,000 for every low-powered firearm and high-powered firearm, respectively.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) unit or the local government unit that processes said enrollment receives Php 7,000 assistance, supposedly for the “board and lodging” of the “surrenderees”. Based on the 1,573 “former rebels” processed as of January 2017, at least some Php11 million of the budget went to the PNP and/or the local government unit.

Numbers don’t add up

Noticeably, under the Enhanced CLIP, the increase in the budget allocation went to the PNP and/or the local government unit handling the “rebel returnees’s” board and lodging. From Php 7,000, it was raised to Php 21,000 per police unit or LGU. The Php 65,000 budget per “surrenderee” remains the same.

In several news reports, DILG chief Gen. Eduardo Año boasted that in 2018 some Php 488 million have been downloaded nationwide to build halfway houses for the “rebel returnees”, to build the capacity of agencies involved in the program, and to support military and police units handling the “returnees”. The NHA was also said to have spent Php 450,000 for the construction of settlement houses of the “returnees”.

For 2019, Año said he would allocate another Php 250 million for the E-CLIP, “in anticipation of the “influx” of NPA members who presumably would want to surrender.

If approved in the bicameral conference committee deliberating the 2019 budget, the DND would get a separate allocation of Php 48.766 billion also for E-CLIP and the Task Force Balik-Loob.

For its part, the OPAPP has been seeking an increased budget for the PAMANA program since 2016: from Php 700 million in 2016 to Php 8 billion for 2017. And the Php 5.8-billion actual allocation in 2018 is planned to zoom to Php 30.216 billion for 2019.

The PAMANA project, according to the OPAPP website, “aims to extend development interventions to isolated, hard-to-reach, conflict-affected communities.” This would be done through road projects and delivery of social services that would be carried out by various government line agencies.

That the OPAPP had been involved in various corruption issues even during the time of Pres. Noynoy Aquino has recently been exposed. At that time, OPAPP got more than Php 2 billion from the corruption-reeking Disbursement Acceleration Program.

Presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza resigned in November 2018 after President Duterte fired the OPPAP undersecretary for support services and PAMANA national program manager, Ronald Flores, and his assistant secretary for support services and PAMANA concerns, Yeshtern Baccay. Both officials were accused of corruption, and Dureza assumed command responsibility for their misdeeds.

Meanwhile, the Department of Education has raised concern that the Php 36-billion cut in its 2019 budget, initiated by the House of Representatives, would affect its scholarship programs, including those offered to the children of “rebel returnees”. While the government kept drumbeating state support and services for the “surrenderees” in 2018, the scholarship program was not implemented simply because there was no budgetary allocation.

Indeed, the campaign to lure rebels “into the fold of the law” and the mock “influx” of alleged surrenderees are designed to fatten the bureaucrats’ pocket. What gives away the money-making scheme is this: the government’s actual spending and the reported number of “surrenderees” don’t add up.

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