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South China Sea

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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Duterte is Exposed as a Traitor and Paid Agent of China

in Statements
Jose Maria Sison, NDFP Chief Political Consultant
June 17, 2019

https://is.gd/Op9wtk

Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio is legally, politically and morally correct in demanding that the Philippines and the Duterte regime take a strong stand against China’s aggressive act and demand compensation and punishment for the captain and crew of the vessel that rammed the Filipino fishing vessel, F/B Gemvir 1.

The failure of Duterte himself to make the required strong stand against the aggressive act and to demand compensation and punishment from the criminal rammers exposes him as a traitor and paid agent of China and takes the lid off a whole barrel of treasonous crimes that Duterte has committed in betrayal of the national sovereignty and national patrimony of the Filipino people.

As I have long pointed out, Duterte and his close relatives and high subalterns have privately benefited from commissions on high-interest Chinese loans and overpriced infrastructure projects at the official level and at the same time from the massive smuggling and distribution of illegal drugs by the Chinese criminal triads at the unofficial level.

Duterte is engaged in double puppetry. For the purpose of keeping the loyalty of the US-lining military and police officers, he retains all the treaties, agreements and arrangements that make US imperialism the most dominant power in the Philippines. At the same time, he serves as a double traitor focused on the quick and secret income from commissions by Chinese corporations and payoffs by the Chinese criminal triads.

While Duterte and his ruling clique profit enormously from their Chinese connections, they sell out to China the sovereign rights of the Filipino people over the West Philippine Sea and and its marine and mineral resources and make the Philippines a debt colony of China through high-interest loans and overpriced infrastructure projects.

Thus, they do not make any demand for China to vacate the artificial islands it has built and militarized in the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines, to pay rent for occupancy of those islands and to pay compensation for the damage and destruction of the marine environment. The Duterte regime is traitorous and corrupt. It is shamelessly subservient to Chinese imperialism.###

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Enter the Dragon: CHINA-DUTERTE REGIME? NOT QUITE YET

in Mainstream
by Vida Gracias

There is a growing perception that President Rodrigo Duterte is already distancing his administration from the United States and increasingly cozying up to China. Is it now apt to assume that a China-Duterte rather than a US-Duterte regime is shaping up?

Consider the following:

  1. Duterte has indefinitely set aside the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s August 2016 ruling that upholds the Philippines’ sovereign rights over its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the West Philippine Sea and negates China’s so-called nine-dash-line sovereignty assertion over almost the entire South China Sea.
  2. The Duterte government has not protested China’s rapid construction, militarization, and occupation of artificial islands within the Philippine EEZ, largely seen as a “creeping Chinese invasion.”
  3. Duterte is also practically conceding to China a large part of the country’s oil, gas and other natural resources in the West Philippine Sea through an offer of joint exploration with a 60(Philippines)-40(China) sharing arrangement.
  4. While China has supposedly agreed to grant the Philippines billions of dollars in loans and aid, this entails us paying an interest rate 3,000% higher than what Japan has offered.
  5. A large influx of Chinese nationals has been entering the country, many of whom have been caught engaged in the illicit drug trade, online gambling and other dubious activities.
  6. Duterte has repeatedly been publicly quoted as declaring: “I will not go to war with China.” He has even joked about the Philippines “turning into a province of China”. He continues to regard China’s leader Xi Jinping as a “man of honor” even as the latter has reneged on his promise not to build military structures on the contested reefs in the West Philippine Sea.

Undoubtedly China is a rising imperialist power challenging the U.S military and geopolitical dominance in the Asia-Pacific region, with designs over the Philippines not just to exploit its natural resources, trade and investments but also its strategic geographic location in the region.

China is delighted that Duterte has opted to develop warm relations with it, in contrast to his predecessor, Benigno Simeon Aquino III, who took China to court over the maritime disputes in the West Philippine Sea. However, more than two years into the Duterte presidency, and despite China’s increasing economic influence here, it is quite far from dislodging the US as the No.1 imperialist power in the country’s internal and external affairs.

The fact remains that, for all his bluster about pursuing an “independent foreign policy” and “breaking relations with the US,” Duterte, along with his pro-US cabal of economic and security advisers, remains the reliable chief puppet of US imperialism. His tirades and insults against the US sound no more than the cry of a spoiled brat, resenting the latter’s criticisms of his bloody “war on drugs” and tying up measly military assistance with human-rights conditionalities, against which he is most sensitive.

Duterte’s overtures to China and Russia – both welcomed with open-arms by the latter hitherto “enemy” powers — are calculated and calibrated risks at the expense of Philippine sovereignty. He is currying favors from the two powers to gain more support in both his bid to build up his regime’s military capability and to expand trade relations. It may appear that he is playing off one imperialist power against another, but shrewd Duterte knows where his bridges could be burned.

He cursed former US President Barack Obama, calling him “son of a whore,” because the latter had criticized his brutal war on drugs. He reacts vehemently whenever his dismal human rights record is riled, then threatens to veer away from the US (“I will scrap the VFA and EDCA!” “Out with the American Special Forces in Mindanao!” “Stop the Balikatan exercises!”). He would rake up old hurts, both personal (“I was abused as a child by an American Jesuit;” “I was not allowed entry by US immigration”) and political (“Return the Balangiga bells!” “Remember the Bud Daju massacres!”).

U.S. MILITARY ASSISTANCE

Yet, when US President Donald Trump came into power and praised Duterte, the latter’s verbal attacks started to wane. Trump promised Duterte increasing military assistance under the recycled “Operation Enduring Freedom” of George W. Bush, renamed as “Operation Pacific-Eagle Philippines.”

This came at about the time US military planes and drones provided aerial-bombing “assistance” in the five-month Marawi war beginning in March 2017, far eclipsing the China aid of 2,000 AK47 rifles, and for which Duterte was fulsomely grateful. This gave the US further reason to intervene in Duterte’s “anti-terrorist” campaign and revved-up counterinsurgency program. The succeeding days saw Duterte canceling the GRP-NDFP peace talks and the AFP carrying out an “all-out war” against the CPP-NPA.

Quite a number of times during Duterte’s two-year rule, the US turned over loads of war materiel (carbines, pistols, machine guns, grenade launchers, etc.) to fight terrorism and insurgency. Its US Special Forces have remaained in Mindanao since 2009, disregarding Duterte’s pronouncements in 2016 that they should leave. Obviously, while Duterte’s foul mouth and downgrading of the US may have ruffled some feathers, US officials didn’t take his outbursts seriously.
Because beneath his rants run long-held institutional ties and abject Philippine subservience to the US, Duterte cannot feign ignorance of US control over the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Since its inception, the AFP has been trained, armed, and aided by the US. US military presence dates back to 1898 and continued after the US “grant” of Philippine independence in 1946. The 1951 US-RP Mutual Defense Treaty remains in effect.

“From January 1, 2017 to the present, US grants funded the delivery of military equipment worth over Php 5 billion (U$95 million) to the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” the US Embassy was quoted in an Inquirer.net news report on August 16. The military equipment included unmanned aerial vehicles, armored vehicles and planes, surveillance platform for the military’s C-130 cargo transport planes.

In the same news report, the US embassy claimed, “The Philippines is by far the largest recipient of US military assistance in the region (Asia-Pacific), supporting the AFP’s modernization goals through a variety of programs and initiatives.”

Before Duterte cuddled with China, his patriotism was suspect. While lambasting the US he took no action to scrap the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), as he had vowed to do. By their own account, about 8,000 US troops and Filipino soldiers participate in the annual Balikatan exercises as part of these agreements. Though the Supreme Court has upheld these agreements as constitutional, it is within his executive powers to initiate their termination. He can also coax his allies in the Senate to facilitate the process.

Duterte may appear like he is his own person but the US surely gets its way and sets the direction of his administration’s policies. Oftentimes he would rely on his national defense chief, his national security adviser and his coterie of generals for decisions such as the bombing of Marawi, the declaration of martial law in Mindanao, and the termination of the peace talks with the NDFP. He has also publicly acknowledged that the security cluster in his cabinet, including his economic team, are “AmBoys” and that he does not interfere in their work.

The American presence is all over town, so to speak, and most potent in the military. The US holds the largest military complex in all of Southeast Asia. No other imperialist country, not even China, can match it for now. Even in the economic arena, China’s strength in the Philippines has yet to be felt compared to other foreign trade and investment partners. What Duterte achieved in his trips to China and meetings with Xi Jin Ping are still mere pledges and agreements. Though worth billions of dollars, these have yet to come to fruition.

NEOLIBERAL POLICIES

While the US has become only next to Japan in terms of trade and investments in the Philippines, US interests are substantial enough to effect the further liberalization of the economy.

From 2007 to 2017, US investments in the Philippines amounted to US$4.26 billion compared to China’s US$84.74 million. Direct trade with the US also reached US$168.58 billion from 2006 to 2016. In May 2018, Forbes.com reported no major investments by China in the Philippines despite warm relations. The bulk of investments in 2017 came from traditional trading partners such as US, Japan and the Netherlands as well as Singapore and Hong Kong.

Trump’s meeting with Duterte in Manila last year also kicked off negotiations for a bilateral free trade agreement between the two countries. This comes along well with the charter change proposals pending in Congress to lift economic restrictions for foreigners such as granting them 100 percent ownership of land and public utilities.

With the US holding a tight grip on the country, specifically on the military, Duterte can only remain subservient to US imperialism. The regime will remain US-Duterte whether or not it suits him. He can trash talk the US all he wants, but any false move risking relations with the imperialist power could cost his presidency, even his life – as he himself has been saying lately. He could go on playing his China card against the US, but this won’t change his being a chief US puppet. Yet it can make him a China lackey, too.

If he pursues his double-dealing scheme, he would also double the whirlwind he would soon reap. Certainly, the Filipino people will not sit by idly as Duterte trades the country to his old and new foreign masters.

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