Showing posts with label South China Sea. Show all posts
Showing posts with label South China Sea. Show all posts

Monday, May 14, 2012

China Watch 17: Using Drones Over Scarborough, SCS

Last Friday, I posted this in my facebook wall. See the exchanges after that, until today:

I support this suggestion from Stephen P. Cutlerr: "The Philippines may find a better "return on investment" for its military money by buying fleets of drones, instead of 48 F-16s at millions each, with millions for maintenance, and even more millions for pilots."
Lockheed Martin's new Shadow Hawk weapon is deceptively small considering the influence it will have on warfare
Ian  Thanks Noy... Im sharing this one!

Nonoy On Steve's wall where he posted the above link, I wrote,
" I support this Steve. We need more information as we go to internationalize the Scarborough/Spratlys issue. Only rent-seekers in the government and their armament suppliers want those expensive military hardware. The cheapest, and peaceful way to expose and shame China, is more information, more international discussion and negotiation, never, never, never, military confrontation."

To Mr. Nic O who wrote, "Make that armed drones with all sorts of missiles and guns, plus information warfare capability." I replied to him,
"Hi Nic, you want more money from us taxpayers, for more missiles, more guns, more warfare capability? Come on, what do you want to achieve aside from impoverishing us further, win a war with China?"

There is a possibility though, that the "more missiles, more jet fighters, more war" camp will win the debate, If that is the case, I propose that we get money from privatizing Camp Aguinaldo + the PMA campus in Baguio. DND and AFP HQ be moved to a cheaper place in Cavite perhaps. Get the money quick and modernize the AFP. They should never, never, get it from taxpayers' pockets.

1. Philippine government via the DFA should pursue international diplomacy and multilateral negotiations, endlessly.
2. Civil society and private citizens can launch various activities, no central plan, no central bureaucracy, to expose and shame not only the China government bullying but also the local military rent-seekers.
3. Do not entertain the military and war option. It is simply an idiotic path,..

Doods i'm in favor of building nuclear capability as a deterrent and to provide cheap nuclear energy to the country

Patrick Nonoy, the only downside here is if our military will buy drones then it is likely that daily surveillance sorties around Boracay: spying on all those nude sunbathers and beach sex :)

Nonoy Doods, me too, I'm pro nuke energy. Modern nuke tech even use nuke wastes as fuel itself, so it becomes perpetual power.
Patrick, highly possible :-)

Josef  Noy I think the debate on drones v. jet fighters has reached such a level in the US air force, but not to the degree of sacrificing one for the other. Its always a matter of functionality, and defense experts of course recognize that there are certain things drones cant do, like intercept and outmaneuver a modern Chinese J10 fighter jet piloted by one of China's best. I dont think defense experts have ever forwarded the idea that drones can soon take over the interceptor fighter role of direct-piloted jets. They have performed quite well in surveillance and air to ground attack roles, but only in environments where the other side lacks countervailing air assets. I have never heard of a drone intercepting and engaging a fighter jet in a dog fight.

Nonoy  But I don't support using drones for real war Jo. What do we want to achieve if we really want war with China, win it? That's day dreaming. China communist govt, being a communist and totalitarian govt, wants war, war, and more war. They bully and kill their own citizens, they bully Tibet, China. We deprive them of such option. So I support using drones to have possibly 24/7 monitoring of SCS/Scarborough, take photos, lots of evidence, for prolonged legal and international debates. Shame China via international debates, never in mil confrontation.

Eugene  Ahhh governments, they are real pain in the neck. Take them away and you'll see Filipino, Chinese, Taiwanese, Vietnamese, Malaysian fishermen going to the shoal with no conflict.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

China Watch 16: Scarborough Shoal, Spratlys and Citizens Action

The territorial conflict in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) or the South China Sea (SCS) was exacerbated last week with the discovery of large-scale poaching of important marine resources by Chinese fishing boats off Scarborough Shoal, a small area just 124 nautical miles off Zambales province in the Philippines, and 500 nautical miles from Hainan island, the southernmost part of China. For a few days, there was a brief stand off between the respective boats of the Philippine Navy and Chinese Navy, then back to diplomatic discussions and negotiations.

The hawks among various sectors in the Philippines would use that incident as another reason to build up a "strong" fighting Philippine Navy and Air Force. Which means you and me must pay more taxes, both in the present and the future, to finance a large-scale modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Last Friday, April 27, 2012, launched a new project, the "Online Onsite" where some of the news portals' columnists would speak on various issues and the discussions will be tweeted. Twitter followers, as well as some of the network's reporters and walk-in audience can ask questions and the resource speakers will answer them. The event was held at the Enterprise Center, Ayala Avenue, Makati City. I was assigned by the editors to speak on the Scarborough Shoal incident and the rest of the WPS/SCS issue. My powerpoint where I based my informal talk is posted here,

The first question that was raised was: "What is your main message on this issue?" I like that question because it's direct and point blank so I gave a direct and point blank answer: "Pursue diplomatic talks endlessly, do not take the military/war option." And why?

The maps above show that aside from questionable historical claims and military bullying, the China government really has very little or zero rationale in making its claim that the entire U-shape SCS area is its own territory. China is explicitly violating the UN Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS) and the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) of other south-east Asian countries there. The China government therefore, is standing on a very week legal and diplomatic position, thus it shows military might. So the military option is a trap, a diversion, it moves the debate away from international diplomacy and multilateral negotiations into bargaining for US military support, into coercing taxpayers of respective countries to surrender more of their money, resources that they are supposed to spend for themselves and their households, to finance an expensive military adventure with zero or little chance of winning.

Below are two tables I showed, plus an estimate of how costly a military path would cost us. I thank a good friend, plane pilot and debater Sam Aherrera, for his ideas. So the verdict is very clear: a military and war path is an idiotic proposition that will impoverish us taxpayers and will benefit only a very few military and civilian rent seekers and their military suppliers.

But government is coercion, right? Even if the local rent-seekers and war freaks, like the China government, stand on very weak legal and fiscal grounds, it is possible that they might still prevail. So I offer a second option: finance their large-scale armament build up by privatizing the AFP HQ in Camp Aguinaldo right here in Metro Manila. Another is to privatize the sprawling campus of the PMA.

I also outlined the various non-war options, and the various international arena where the Philippine government can pursue endlessly its diplomatic offensive. The China communist government does not like internationalizing the issue and pursuing multilateral talks because it realizes its weak diplomatic position. It wants bilateral negotiations where it can easily divert the issue into military bullying or other rent-seeking schemes that can favor some local political, business and military elites.

My favorite example to say that the China government can be onion-skinned when it comes to international diplomacy, was the Nobel Peace Prize given to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo. Why should the China government get so upset, so angry, at the awarding of an international NGO like the Nobel Foundation? Nobel is not a government body, not a multilateral institution. What if Rotary International and other big international NGOs will also give various awards to known Chinese dissidents, the China government will do a political tantrum again?

Towards the end of the interview and twitter notes during the Online Onsite,
I said that we pursue the diplomatic, international discussion of the issue. The Philippine government should pursue existing formal avenues like the various UN fora (Security Council, General Assembly, ITLOS, ICJ) and regional bodies like APEC and the ASEAN.

And us private citizens, civil society organizations (CSOs), can initiate some activities like the planned international protest action in front of China Embassies in many countries around the world this coming May 11.

The China one-party, zero opposition communist government, does not know how to effectively deal with ordinary civilians and CSOs. We operate on a different plane. We in CSOs work on purely voluntary exchange and action while governments work on coercion.

So to reiterate my position on this issue:

1. Philippine government via the DFA should pursue international diplomacy and multilateral negotiations, endlessly.

2. Civil society and private citizens can launch various activities, no central plan, no central bureaucracy, to expose and shame not only the China government bullying but also the local military rent-seekers.

3. Do not entertain the military and war option. It is simply an idiotic path.

See also:
China Watch 8: World's Largest Economies in 2010, August 16, 2010
China Watch 9: Liu Xiaobo, Human Rights and the NPA, December 10, 2010
China Watch 10: Is China Still a Communist Country?, December 21, 2010
China Watch 11: Big Brother and Inflationary Pressure, March 07, 2011
China Watch 12: The Spratlys and SCS Conflict, June 08, 2011
China Watch 13: More on the Spratlys/SCS Conflict, June 25, 2011
China Watch 14: More on the SCS/WPS Noise, July 11, 2011
China Watch 15: FTA, ASEAN and UNCLOS, August 01, 2011

Monday, July 11, 2011

China Watch 14: More on the SCS/WPS Noise

Last week, I wrote this:

The "war dance" rhetorics over the Spratlys, and the huge lobbying for more tax money to buy more fighter planes, more battle ships, more missiles, and possibly, getting a submarine, is alive and kicking. Just observe these news and opinion titles and the word "war" is clearly emblazoned.

Picture above, Risk of war in the Spratlys by Rommel Banlaoi, Newsbreak, June 29, 2011. 

I told Rommel who is a friend, my observation that his article title is rather shrewd. It was not him who said that "risk of war in the Spratlys", that he simply quoted an analysis by the Lowy Institute in Australia. But he made it as the title of his article, and it was not even in the probing angle asking "Risk of war in the Spratlys?" Rather, it was a sort of affirmative assertion that there IS indeed "risk of war in the spratlys".

Picture below, East Sea disputes could lead to Asian war, Vietnamnet, July 4, 2011. "Asian war", tsk tsk. I have not seen any news report yet from other claimant countries like Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan. Do they also call it as possible "Asian war"?

In this news report from the Inquirer, another "Asian war" mongering. Do the local media people really want a war, or at least prolonging the "word war" so they can sell more?

The lower picture is more alarmist, 
Global War on the Spratly Reef, Ground Report, June 23, 2011. Not just Asian war but it's "global war". Really? To involve possibly the Americans, Russians, Asians and Australians? wow.

These are all "war dance" rhetorics, and possibly, some government policies. BIG governments like the communist states of China and Vietnam, are not satisfied pointing guns on the heads of their citizens ("support the single party communist party or else"), they want to extend the guns to their neighboring countries. 

Now many sectors want the Philippine government to join the war dance, through what? MORE TAXES, more government fees, what else. Where will government get the money to buy more fighter planes, battle ships, ammos and missiles? Government is a penniless institution that becomes big and wealthy through endless confiscation of the citizens' money. For what purpose, to "fight poverty" by "developing" some islands and atolls in the Spratlys"?

We will soon spend less for the private education of our children, for the private healthcare of our families, for our simple joys in local or foreign travel, so that the government will have more money, more money to buy jet fighters and if possible, a submarine, to "develop portions of the Spratlys."

BIG government sucks. They fool and steal big time. From the man-made warming scam to the Spratlys war scam.

Meanwhile, here's a good article written by another friend who teaches at the UP College of Law, and specialization is international maritime law, Jay Batongbacal, PH correctly stands its (maritime) ground, Inquirer, June 29, 2011. Jay wrote, 

China posits its claim to sovereignty and jurisdiction over the entire South China Sea, enclosed within the so-called “nine-dashed lines” map, based on ancient Chinese voyages and maps made 2000 years ago.

But claims to sovereignty and jurisdiction merely on the basis of ancient explorations have no credence in modern times. They are inconsistent with the historical record demonstrating that such voyages were never for conquest or territorial acquisition. Instead, they were for trade with the diverse pre-colonial peoples who inhabited the lands around the South China Sea, some of whom later became the first Filipinos.

About a century before Magellan’s arrival, China stopped all its maritime activities and abandoned all its foreign interests. The Chinese lived in Southeast Asia’s coastal communities as traders, not administrators. Local sultans and datus controlled the waters, some even demanding tributes for passage. So if anyone actually controlled any portion of the South China Seas in the past, they were more likely our Southeast Asian ancestors, not the Chinese.

We need more legal research, more diplomacy work, zero additional military spending for the Spratlys. We better get 10 or 50 or more Jay Batongbacal type of legal experts and researchers and wage a strong diplomatic "war" at the UN, various international venue (APEC, ASEAN + 6, etc.). The communist government of China will be ashamed internationally if their claims are exposed as a scam. And we will not need even a single additional fighter jet to achieve that. Do not listen to the AFP-DND-allied bureaucracies' lobbying for more tax money for their spratlys adventure. The corporate military suppliers and their hosts in the war dance noise are salivating at another large scale robbery of Filipino taxpayers' money.

We're in the 21st century already and governments are still in the "let's go to war" mentality. Private enterprises like google, facebook, yahoo, youtube, wordpress, etc. are creating endless connections, friendly connections, among people from all countries, except those countries dominated by notorious communists like the China government.

Today, I got engaged in a twitter debate this morning with Ruffy Biazon, a former Congressman. After I replied to him and Ces Drilon, a broadcaster from ABS-CBN News, our debate started. Below.

cesdrilon Cecilia Orena-Drilon
Pag asa Island in the West Philippine Sea as seen from the air.

ruffybiazon Ruffy Biazon
@cesdrilon That airstrip should be installed w/ anti-aricraft defense -- SAM, AA guns and radar.

Noysky Nonoy Oplas
@ruffybiazon @cesdrilon "airstrip should be installed w/ anti-aricraft defense" Really, u want more & higher taxes to finance war in Sprat?

@Noysky It's not financing a war. It is investing in defense.

@ruffybiazon "investing in defense" or investing in offense, the same. We cant even develop Sulu, Tawi-tawi, we want war to develop Sprat?

@Noysky Assertion over SPratlys in not just about owning real estate. It's about harnessing the natural resources there.

@Noysky Pagasa could serve as a forward defense post for our Malampaya fields, presently generating revenue for the Philippines

@ruffybiazon Palawan, Sulu, have nat resources too, we cant develop them even if we dont buy new jetfighters. Now we "develop" Sprat.

@Noysky Spratlys is within our claimed Exclusive Economic Zone. It will not become exclusive if we are unable to defend it.

@ruffybiazon agree that certain islands in the Sprat are w/in our EEZ. Let's hire 50, 100 top notch marItime lawyers, expose China at the UN

@Noysky NO we don't need jet fighters to develop SUlu and Tawi2. Problems there are local peace and order, not foreign intrusion.

@Noysky And I also dont agree that we need jet fighters now. We might afford to buy them, but we cannot afford to operate dem. AT dis time.

cesdrilon Cecilia Orena-Drilon
@Noysky @ruffybiazon there are anti aircraft weapons. Some are rusting, others are said to be working, though no test firing has been done.

@ruffybiazon Spend on top notch maritime lawyers & diplomats, not jetfighters. China can demolish all mil def but not legal battle at d UN.

@Noysky Diplomacy shouldn't be abandoned. But neither will it work by itself. We must be able to maintain our present hold in KIG.

@Noysky Our advantage is proximity and present occupation. We need to defend that advantage.

@ruffybiazon Atty Jay Batongbacal of UP Law wrote a good piece that can shame China over KIG, other islands. We need more minds like him.

@Noysky NO debate about diplomatic track in addressing Spratlys issue. But I stick to backing it up with an improved defense capability.

@ruffybiazon I like your Dad's position. The "battlefield" over Spratlys is at the UN, other intl. fora, not at the WPS or SCS.

@Noysky Then your understanding of his position is incomplete. Because we have the same position---use diplomacy, defend your property.

@ruffybiazon Basilan has 2x land area than Sing, but Sing GDP is larger than entire RP GDP. Devt has little to do with more EEZ, more mil.

@Noysky Basilan cannot be compared with Singapore. Apples and Oranges.

@ruffybiazon It's comparing RP & Sing. Use of Basilan only to highlight how small Sing's land area. Sulu archip abt 5x Sing land area too

@Noysky Even if its SG vs. PH. I have always been averse to comparing the two. Different factors contribute to situation of the two...

@Noysky .....Geographic location, strategic importance to neighboring countries, history, population...

@ruffybiazon By avoiding comparison, we refuse to learn what makes Sing, HK, etc. richer. Rule of law, dynamic capitalism, things we lack

@Noysky It's not a refusal to learn. But we should always pick the best, not swallow the rest. There's no fixed template.

@ruffybiazon Ok, cheers Ruffy. But I won't agree to more taxes to buy more jetfighters for Spratlys.

@ruffybiazon My pilot friend thinks air def over Sprat is almost useless, My last paper over Sprat,

@Noysky The PH Air Force /AFP/DND thinks its necessary to defend it. That's why they're planning to get jets. I agree w/ defense, not jets

@ruffybiazon I think AFP/DND just want more racket. They can't even eradicate NPAs, Abu bandits, rogue MIs, they want to take on China?

@Noysky I wouldn't resort to such cynicism abt AFP/DN.D Their mandate is to defend the country. We must give them the wherewithal to d

@ruffybiazon AFP/DND are instns with lots of corruption baggage, like Congress. NPAs since '69 despite tens of billions/year for AFP+PNP

@Noysky The entire government suffers from instances of corruption. But our fear of corruption shouldn't hinder govt from functioning.

@ruffybiazon Govt keeps expanding spending, doesnt mind huge public debt approaching almost P5T, int payment alone in 2011 P357 B already.

@ruffybiazon Endless corruption baggage, high int payment baggage, Govt shd slow down spending, live w/in its means, esp the military.

See also:
China Watch 12: The Spratlys and SCS Conflict, June 08, 2011
China Watch 13: More on the Spratlys/SCS Conflict, June 25, 2011

Saturday, June 25, 2011

China Watch 13: More on the Spratlys/SCS Conflict

These days, there are lots of media and political noise in the country about the Spratlys and "China bullying" issue. Two of my friends in facebook posted the Inquirer report today, China to neighbors: Keep out of Spratlys; Stop search for oil, sans permission, says envoy in their wall. I made this quick comment in their respective walls:

China is now the world's biggest lender country, the US now the world's most indebted country. China reserves of US treasury notes (ie, public debt) alone is at least $1 trillion. Who wants war in this country, because of those far away islands and islets? HK and Singapore are laughing at the Philippines, possibly at other claimant countries aside from China. Singapore land area is almost 1/2 that of Basilan island, and Singapore GDP size is larger than the Philippines, and possibly 100x that of Basilan provincial GDP. And here is a poor country Pinas who cannot even develop Basilan, much less other islands and provinces in its own undisputed territory, singing some war dance (aka more taxes for the military), wanting to extend its "power" over far away, very small islands, in disputed territories. Who are the spin doctors behind this idiocy?

A friend made a quick reaction to my post above: "US wants to get in. China wants US out. PH wants US in."

I think that China will laugh at the US when it comes in. The US cannot even engage for long a small enemy with oil, Gadhafi of Libya. The US cannot even exit gracefully in Iraq now; it cannot even defeat the Talibans in the caves and mountains of Afghanistan after it entered that country in 2001. And it cannot even find a way to cut its $1 trillion a year budget deficit (Federal government deficit alone). And we expect that it will want to adventure for long in the South China Sea? What for, oil? They already invaded Iraq for oil. What else, for tuna and blue marlin?

There were three comments in a friend's wall that I like.

1. This administration I understand, is tinkering with the idea of buying second hand goods to beef up the military. Laughable. The way the AFP is performing, it is better to abolish them altogether. Better to act helpless than pretend we have strength which nobody will believe. Better to channel he scarce resources in improving public education. -- Luwi

2. Bright idea Luwi. Gunless AFP is better. You win the psy thing. China will go nuts. -- Butch

3. We should forge a military alliance with China. With most of Filipinos having Chinese lineage even with the most mestizo looking once, China can be our protector, and we can develop. -- Ceferino

(China Ambassador to the Philippines, Liu Jian Chao, and Philippine Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda, photo from the Inquirer) 

I tried these very rough conspiracy theories:

1. Is there any brewing scandal at the Office of the President or other big agencies in the Philippine government, and people's attention are diverted now to the Spratlys issue?

2. Are the few but powerful thieves in the government, so hungry with more tax money, they ramp up the Spratlys and China issue? Note that the 2012 budget will be submitted to Congress in late July or early August this year.

3. Is China so angry at the planned debt default of the US government, even temporarily, where China is the biggest lender government to the US? 

I am wondering if the spin doctors from all sides can give us ordinary mortals, some hints of what's going on.

As I noted above, the island-province of Basilan, clearly within the Philippine territory, zero dispute about it, we cannot even develop. It used to be the scene of kidnapping for ransom by the Abu Sayyaf, and fighting between bandits and some Muslim rebels with the AFP. Basilan land area is 2x that of Singapore. The AFP, the police, the national and local governments, cannot even ensure peace and order and attract more businesses and job creation in that island province. So why spend billions of pesos more for the Spratlys adventure? From Manila, those islands are even farther than Batanes in the north and Basilan in the south. By ramping up the Spratlys "war dance", it is clear that there are certain sectors and vested interests who intend to steal big time from us taxpayers.

Every year, the country's budget deficit is about P300 billion. Is this not enough? They want more military spending, more borrowings, and more taxes to pay those borrowings. Personally, I even plan the trips for my kids well as there are lots of taxes in gasoline and diesel products. Out of the P53/liter gasoline prices, at least P13 of it are government taxes alone (import tax + excise tax + VAT). What do they want now, more taxes in gasoline and other products to finance their planned robbery in the Spratlys spending? This is silly, if not crude robbery.

Some people insist that higher defense budget, "strong external defense is an obligation of the state, supported by a strong economy." At the current fiscal condition of the Philippine government, it is impossible to have a "strong economy" if 20% of the entire tax collections of the government every year is spent on interest payment alone, because of the huge public debt. From the remaining 80 percent of total tax collection, all sectors will fight it out for a shrank pie -- education, healthcare, housing, agriculture, environment, police, military, local governments, social work, public works, CCT, etc. That is why more borrowings have become the rule rather than the exception.

It is therefore impossible to increase defense or military spending without increasing public borrowings. Unless we privatize Camp Aguinaldo, the AFP and the Department of National Defense (DND) can use tens of billions of pesos of privatization proceeds for AFP modernization, and the the AFP, DND and their golf course will move somewhere else for their headquarters.

There is indeed a big challenge to "put the house in order." Government should learn to live within its means. Do not over-spend, do not over-borrow, do not over-tax, do not over-adventure militarily. Corruption, wastes and robbery in government can immediately be minimized by applying this simple philosophy. Just to have a zero budget deficit even for one year has become an "impossible dream" now. How come?

A good friend, Sam A, aka "Abu Samy", made this reaction about the proposed "Spratlys adventure" by certain sectors in the Philippines. He used to be a plane pilot, so he knows a number of things about jet planes and fighter planes.

Ahhhh, national sovereignty and pride, what have you wrought? Challenging China? Seriously? With what? A couple of rickety PT-like boats, some tora-tora vintage planes, and a howitzer or two perhaps? Ok, ok, so that's why they're asking for more moolah to supplant our paleolithic fleet of combat material. Do they have a wishlist, i.e., offensive or defensive type of equipment, quantity, supply and maintenance, training, simulators, etc.?

To effectively defend the disparate and lilliputian Spratlys against a full-scale invasion (aircraft and destroyers) by the Chinese, we'd need at least two squadrons (~28 aircraft) of at the very least, Harrier V/STOL fighters to fend them off. The Harriers were roughly $40 million each WITHOUT ammo, armamaents (missiles & bombs), spare parts and fuel in the year 2000. That's roughly P2 billion each. You'd also need an air tanker or two of KC-135 Stratotankers ($40 million each w/o spare parts, etc.) to sustain the Harriers in flight.

And yes, the missiles (air-to-air and air-to-ground). We'd need a lot of Sidewinders (air-to-air) and Mavericks (air-to-ground) to fend them off. The Sidewinders are $100k a pop. The more sophisticated beyond visual range (BVR-AAM) air-to-air missiles cost $300K each. Maverick missiles are about $150K each.

Total bill? Roughly P350 billion for a 3-day war. And that mind you is IF the Chinese just send their MIG-21's to dogfight with the Harriers. If they send their new stealth fighter the J-20, well the AFP might want to purchase some F-22 Raptors ($339 Million each) and/or F-18 Hornets ($60 Million each) to mix it up well and win.

So much for wishful thinking...

I thanked Abu Samy for giving me permission to post his ideas here. We fondly call him "Abu Samy" because several years ago, while vacationing with his wife and 3 kids in a beautiful island-resort in Palawan, the Abu Sayyaf bandits struck and kidnapped more than 20 guests from that resort. Luckily, Sam and his entire family stayed in a far away cottage that the bandits did not bother to get as they prioritized the guests staying in cottages on the shore. In memory of their near brush with such traumatic kidnapping (the negotiations to end the kidnapping by the bandits lasted for many months), he and his friends adopted the "Aby Samy" monicker :-)

I told Abu Samy that perhaps the potential (or resident) big time thieves in the government are not that ambitious to "beat" the Chinese military as suggested by him. I have not heard or read from the "war dance" singers and lobbyists any amount closer to "P350 billion" for a 3-days, or even a 3 months war.

Me also thinks that the potential thieves would be contented with P10 B a year for 4 years as additional funding on top of regularly appropriated for "AFP modernization", as suggested or ordered by President Noynoy Aquino. Why? Because having a really "strong" air force and navy to match the Chinese firepower is not their goal. Their main goal is to get or steal X percent from P10 B per year.

See Also:
China Watch 6: China-India Blog, Eco-Protectionism, August 30, 2009
China Watch 7: Rising Yuan, Economic Bubbles, April 07, 2010
China Watch 8: World's Largest Economies in 2010, August 16, 2010
China Watch 9: Liu Xiaobo, Human Rights and the NPA, December 10, 2010
China Watch 10: Is China Still a Communist Country?, December 21, 2010
China Watch 11: Big Brother and Inflationary Pressure, March 07, 2011
China Watch 12: The Spratlys and SCS Conflict, June 08, 2011

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

China Watch 12: The Spratlys and SCS Conflict

Yesterday, I posted this article in my facebook wall:

The Spratlys and China question: More commerce, less military spending

(This is my article today

It is the dynamism of the economy, the entrepreneurial ability of the people, not land area and width of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), that matters most. The Spratly islands controversy is a huge potential racket by certain sectors in the government, especially the military establishment and the corporate military suppliers.

Consider the following data of land area from wikipedia:

1. Singapore, 710.2 sq. kms, 1.44% water; 5 million people (36 percent foreigners), per capita nominal GDP $40,336.

2. Hong Kong, 1,104 sq. kms, 4.58% water, 7 million people, per capita nominal GDP $31,590.

3. Basilan, 1,358.9 sq. kms., 8.8 percent water, 0.5 million people. Philippines per capital nominal GDP $2,007, Basilan’s would be at most one-half of that.

4. Sulu archipelago, 4,058 sq. kms,

5. Spratly islands, less than 5 sq. kms. over 425,000 sq.kms. of sea.

Sulu archipelago alone has almost 6x the land area of Singapore, and almost 4x that of Hong Kong. Basilan island alone has almost 2x land area of Singapore and larger than that of Hong Kong. And yet observe the big discrepancy in per capita income between the Philippines and that of Singapore and Hong Kong.

Now there are lots of political and media noise for the Philippines to add more military spending, to tax more, to borrow more, for what -- to help “check” China in the Spratlys? We cannot even develop economically existing islands like Basilan, Sulu archipelago, Tawi-tawi archipelago, and now the vested interests in the military establishment want more money from us taxpayers, to “defend and protect” those far away islands, islets and atolls? It’s as if we have lots of resources to develop those areas even assuming that China and other Asian countries would stop their claim over those far away areas.

I think that the existing military establishment is already bloated. The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has an engineering brigade, because the DPWH and local government engineering divisions are either underfunded or corrupted. The AFP has social work projects, even medical missions, because the social work and health departments are either underfunded or corrupted. If the military and the police are efficient, all they can do is provide security protection to the DSWD, DPWH, DOH, DepEd, etc. personnel to do their real work even in far flung areas.

So, how to “check” China in Spratlys and other islands given China’s repeated “intrusion” in territories claimed by the Philippines?

The first option is diplomacy. The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has the mandate and expertise for this job. There are plenty of existing avenues and forum where such issues can be taken up with the governments of China, Vietnam, Malaysia, etc. Like APEC, ASEAN + 6, the UN, other bilateral and regional meetings.

The second option is more trade, commerce, investments, tourism. If China is richer now, that is partly because Filipinos have been patronizing thousands of ships and containers of cheap toys, shoes, clothes, appliances, electronic products, etc. from China. That country is now the 3rd biggest export market of the Philippines., soon to displace or overtake the US as the country’s 2nd biggest export market. And China did not send a single tank, a single battle ship, a single fighter jet, a single soldier, for this to happen.

China will not antagonize an economy that has tens of billions of dollars per year of already existing trade and business deals, to the point of sending many tanks, battleships fighter jets and soldiers, just to settle those far away areas with far out business potentials.

There will be better appreciation if we use of tax money to buy hardware for disaster preparedness especially with the global cooling trend. Like civilian choppers, small fastcrafts, to rescue by air and water, flood-stranded people. Whatever additional funding for such hardware will have nothing to do with military spending for Spratlys. The military establishment is one huge bureaucracy that can create fictional monsters, just to appease their hunger for more tax money.

Finally, let us keep in mind these three facts when entertaining that “more money for Spratlys and the military.” One, our public debt, utang ng gobyerno, now is almost P5 trillion, that’s P5 billion x 1000. Two, about 1/5 of all tax collections yearly are spent on interest payment alone, to pay for past wastes, inefficiencies and corruption in the government. And three, all other sectors in the government are also begging for “more money” – education, healthcare, housing, environment, agriculture, public works, credit, pension, social work, CCT, justice, police, local governments, etc.

Let us have more entrepreneurship, more trade, more commerce, more investments, more tourism, more economic globalization. And let us have less unproductive spending in the bureaucracy, including the military.
Yesterday and today, the above article attracted several comments from some friends. Here they are, mostly posted in my facebook wall.

1. Yes. We need to strengthen the economy. -- Marvin

2. Let's lobby for Pinas to sell the Spratlys to China. China has so much cash, and our government certainly needs some. -- Carlos

3. Philippine Navy is the least equipped and probably the poorest maritime force in the South China Sea. -- Donaldson

4. Thanks for this impressive piece! Have you heard of the idea that more military spending can trigger commercial activities? -- Rommel

5. Interesting and valid points you made, but what about the issue of control of the South China Sea sealanes? This is all-important for navigation and shipping.

You see, China does not consider itself a claimant. It considers itself the OWNER of these islands, by historic right, occupation, geography, etc.

So one important strategy for the Philippines and other ASEAN nations is to engage them, so that they do not try to enforce their claim (or "ownership") over the entire area and thereby affect the balance of power where shipping is concerned.

So, what about that angle? We do need to, well, keep taking a look and watch out for Chinese adventurism, which violates the spirit of the 2002 ASEAN-China Declaration of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.

About more commerce, of course, and that is included in the 2002 document - but then, you have the usual critics in Manila claiming that our dealing with China on joint projects - or tripartite with Viet Nam - is giving up our sovereignty over the Kalayaan Island group (which is what we claim, not the entire Spratlys). What do you say to them? Well, I think you already in effect said it here. -- Mr. V.

Here are my rejoinders to the above comments.

On #2, That is one possibility, the Philippines to quit claims over the Spratlys, especially the Kalayaan Group of Islands, in exchange for some deep concessions with China, like more market access to Philippine exports (say zero tariff for several hundreds of export items). But the nationalists and the military bureaucracy will not like it. The latter wants more tax money through more war materials, more battle ships, etc., where potential for huge kickbacks and corruption is huge.

On #3, It's true. The extent of corruption in the Philippine military (and many other bureaucracies) is widespread. So if the military get more tax money from us, the corruption will not go away, it may even be exacerbated.

On #4, I've heard of it, and I don't believe it. People are happy with the money in their pockets and bank savings, they've worked hard for it. This alone can trigger more commercial activities as people spend their income and savings. But governments get as much of that money as possible through various taxes and fees -- for the military, various bureaucracies, pork barrel, global junkets, etc. This transfer of big amount of money from private hands to government hands causes slower commercial activities, sometimes zero growth.

On #5, I like that angle of the Philippines working with the ASEAN to settle differences on the SCS-Spratlys issue. China is among the countries that self-invite themselves in the annual ASEAN summit, that's why this big regional meeting is now regularly called as ASEAN + 3 or ASEAN + 6. Then there is also the China-ASEAN FTA (free trade agreement), the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), country caucuses and sub-groupings at the WTO and UN, and other bilateral or regional talks. To my mind, it is impossible for China to escape getting engaged in various diplomatic and economic talks with the Philippines and other ASEAN member-countries.

One problem is that those communist governments in China and Vietnam may think that their domestic bullying of their own people can be extended in the region. It is good that capitalism in those countries is taming their government authoritarianism.

There is one back channel, informal venue that I see, between the two governments: via the Filipino-Chinese businessmen, talking to their mainland Chinese business buddies and partners who have close connections if not influence, with high officials of the China Communist Party (CCP). I think this will help diffuse whatever tension between the two governments.

One of my Filipino-Chinese friends told me once that before, Divisoria would have goods mostly made in China but there were also goods made in Taiwan, Vietnam, Indonesia, etc. Now, it's absolute, 100%, all made from China. So one can imagine the strong link between Fil-Chinese and mainland Chinese businessmen.

Consider also these recent Philippine trade data.

1. Imports. January to March 2011 total imports was $15.586 billion; percentage share (data from NSO,

US 11.05%, Japan 10.66%, Singapore 9.55%, China 8.61%, Taiwan 7.73%.

In Jan-March 2010, China was also the 4th biggest source of imports, but its % share was only 7.79%. Now if we include smuggling, as many of the goods in Divisoria, Baclaran, etc. are under technical smuggling (ie, understatement of value), China could be the #1 or #2 source of Philippine imports now.

2. Exports. January to March 2011, $12.215 B, percentage share:

Japan 16.31%, US 14.96%, China 11.48%, Singapore 11.15%, HK 8.27%.

January to March 2010 exports, China was also 3rd but its % share was only 9.53% of total exports.

If there is smuggling in imports, there should also be smuggling in exports. So I think China could be the Philippines' 2nd biggest exports market now.

Looking at those numbers in trade alone -- excluded yet are data for investments, tourism, cultural exchanges -- I cannot see why China, getting richer by sending tons and tons of cheap goods, would want to change things by sending tanks and battleships.

On another note, a friend, Rommel Banlaoi, wrote a paper, Anarchy in the South China Sea. He said,

To peacefully manage the complex territorial disputes in the South China Sea (SCS), Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert F. Del Rosario urgently calls for the promotion of a “rules-based regime” that can transform SCS “from an area of dispute to a Zone of Peace, Freedom, Friendship, and Cooperation (ZoPFF/C).”

This concept of a “rules-based regime” aims to uphold the strict implementation of international law, which in the context of the SCS disputes, refers primarily to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Creation of this type of regime also necessitates the urgent adoption of a binding Code of Conduct (COC), which is considered to be the next logical step after the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC)....

I support that proposal to have a "rules-based" agreement, so that whatever existing and new agreements that will come out among claimant countries, all signatory countries should abide and follow the agreement. Plain rule of law, applied in foreign affairs.

Now there are suggestions that the US should act as an "external umpire" in the South China Sea (SCS) dispute, with Australia or Japan as "secondary umpire."

For me, expecting the US as an "umpire" with its own armaments to implement whatever has been agreed upon, is a dream, an illusion. Why?

The US was hesitant, even refused, to be dragged for long in Libya, with a much weaker and unpopular enemy named Gadhafi. The US also has problem just pulling out its remaining troops in Iraq, and it is currently engaged in a stalemate look alike in Afghanistan. The various domestic issues like healthcare debate, the unfunded entitlement programs, plugging the huge budget deficit every year, already weigh down the US government. And the US will be expected to get involved large-scale in the SCS? For one, the area is too far. Secondly, the "enemy", China, is too massive militarily. Third, fiscally, China owns the bulk of US public debt, now the most indebted country in the world. If China will just dump its US$ reserves in favor of other currencies like the Euro, China will suffer monetary losses, but it is the US economy that will suffer even more.

See also:
China Watch 1: World's Largest Economies, Population, 2005, April 20, 2006
China Watch 2: China's Tourism, May 17, 2006
China Watch 3: World's Largest Traders, 2004, June 03, 2006
China Watch 4: Chinese Nationalism, Tibet, April 23, 2008
China Watch 5: China's New Patent Law, February 10, 2009
China Watch 11: Big Brother and Inflationary Pressure, March 07, 2011