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The Philippines Is More Important Than Many Filipinos Realize

Heads of state give each other the traditional "ASEAN handshake" during the ASEAN Summit opening ceremony held in Manila, on November 13, 2017. Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP

e hope that the recently concluded Asean Summit in Manila and President Rodrigo Duterte's meetings with world leaders has opened his eyes to the pivotal role the Philippines must play in the region and the world.

The Philippine archipelago's strategic location at the Western Pacific's gateway to Southeast Asia has grown significantly in importance just as the region itself has become a global powerhouse. Today, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) economies ringing the Pacific account for half of all global trade.

But beyond economics, the Philippines lies in a militarily strategic location as well. With the South China Sea to its west, and the Pacific Ocean to its east. The Philippines rests just east of what the Chinese refer to as the "first Island chain." A region from northern Japan down to the Malay Peninsula which the People's Liberation Army-Navy intends to secure in order to deny the United States Navy as well as other naval forces access to the seas close to the Chinese mainland.

China's two island "chains" form China's maritime defense perimeters. Graphic: GlobalSecurity.org

If the Philippines housed American military assets within its territory, it be more difficult for China's PLA-Navy to secure the first island chain. The Chinese were fully aware of this when they grabbed Panganiban Reef (Mischief Reef)  and Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal) from the Philippines. The latter, just 150 miles west of Luzon island and well within the country's exclusive economic zone (EEZ), Chinese missiles launched from Panatag Shoal could rain down on Manila, the Philippine capitol within minutes.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is also well aware the Philippines' strategic location  in the region and has thus met several times with Duterte to strengthen ties between both countries. In addition to donating both aircraft and seacraft to the Philippines, Abe reiterated Japan's commitment to also provide the country with P450 million worth of coastal surveillance radar equipment.

American President Donald Trump likewise noted during the APEC Summit in Manila that the Philippines is the “most prime piece of real estate” in the region from a military perspective. While on Airforce One, he told the press that “It (the Philippines) is a strategic location – the most strategic location. And, if you look at it, it’s called the most prime piece of real estate from a military standpoint.”

As we noted in a previous editorial, Filipinos should not relegate themselves to the sidelines of this unfolding saga. We are a major player and we all should start seeing ourselves as such. China wants the Philippines on its side because of its strategic location. And it also gives China's preposterous South China Sea claims some semblance of legitimacy. The U.S. and its allies (Japan, Australia, and India) on the other hand need the Philippines on their side in order to deny China uncontested control of waters within the first island chain. Other countries want the Philippines to assert its claim to the reefs, shoals, and mineral resources it owns, based on the Permanent Court of Arbitration's unanimous July 2016 ruling. At the dawn of the 21st Century, global consensus requires that all nations abide by international rules and conventions and not use force or intimidation to get their way.

President Duterte, flanked by U.S. President Donald Trump to his right, and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to his left give each other the "Asean handshake."

The big question is: is Duterte up to the challenge? At the very least, he can be more assertive and extract greater concessions from the Chinese, the Japanese, and the Americans, who all want the Philippines on their side? Or will he choose to kowtow to Beijing and wait patiently for scraps to be thrown his way? It seems we'll all just have to wait and see. Published 11/18/2017

The Philippines Is No Longer a Christian Society

Man’s first loyalty should be to God and not to political or economic interests and much less to evil, powerful people who engage in all kinds of demonic activities. How was it that so many church-going German Catholics and other Christians gave their support and loyalty to Hitler, a murderous tyrant ... Published 10/29/2017

Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge to Organize U.S. Opposition to Marcos

I have crossed the Golden Gate Bridge more than 100 times in the 46 years that I have lived in San Francisco but my most memorable crossing occurred 45 years ago this past week when I rode in a 4-car convoy for a weekend retreat at Camp Arequipa, a girl scout camp in Fairfax, Marin County. There were about 20 of us, young Filipino activists from all over the U.S. ... Published 10/3/2017

President Duterte Will Most Likely End as a Failure

We Filipinos have to learn that in a properly functioning democracy, there are no shortcuts, no quick and easy way of doing things, no miracles—only hard work and constant vigilance. We said as much in an early editorial and we want to stress that point again today in light of the 45th anniversary of the declaration of martial law by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos ... Published 9/22/2017

US Pinoys Call for Prayers to the Blessed Mother for Protection from China

Satellite pictures have now exposed to the world China's secret immoral rushed construction of extensive military bases, runways and stations in seven different areas deep inside the Philippines' UN defined 200 mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Massive fortified buildings and runways are at advance stages of construction in expanded reefs and islands ... Published 9/8/2017

Duterte’s Timeframe Just Went From Six Months to More Than Six Years

Presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign promise during the 2016 election was that he would need just six months to eradicate the drug problem in the country. Then as president on September 2016 he admitted that he would need another six months to achieve that goal ... Published 8/21/2017

Free Education? Not So Fast Mr. President

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has signed into law a bill that grants free tuition to students in state-run colleges and universities. Called the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act of 2017, the new law, Republic Act (RA) No. 10931, left it to lawmakers and government executives to figure out a way to fund it, for the 2018-2019 school year ... Published 8/4/2017

Why Is There No July 12 Philippine National Sovereignty Day Celebration

President Rodrigo Duterte won the most votes among US overseas Filipino voters in the May 2016 elections partly due to his strong showing in The Filipino Channel (TFC) special town hall forum on the Philippine elections held on May 1, 2016 and presented to a TV audience of 250,000 cable subscribers. At this town hall forum, representatives from all the presidential candidates passionately presented their candidates' views on a variety of topics and were cheered on by their supporters dressed festively in the political colors of their candidates ..." Published 7/21/2017

Ex-President Aquino’s Dilemma Could Be President Duterte’s As Well

Philippine Ombudswoman Conchita Carpio-Morales just filed criminal charges against former president Benigno Aquino III for the blotched military operation commonly known as the Mamasapano Massacre. Former Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Alan Purisima and former Director Getulio Napeñas of the Special Action Force (SAF) were likewise charged along with Aquino. The three headed the 2015 police operation codenamed Oplan Exodus where 44 SAF police officers were killed by the combined rebel forces ..." Published 7/15/2017

Chinese Missiles and Fighter Jets Soon Based at Panganiban Reef Just West of Palawan

In According to the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI), a Washington-based think tank, and a part of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), China has upgraded its facilities in Panganiban Reef (Mischief Reef), Fiery Cross Reef, and Subi Reef. According to the June 19, 2017 AMTI report, China is continually “expanding its already substantial communications and radar capabilities on the artificial islands. A very large antennae array is being installed on a small outpost at the southern side of Mischief Reef ..." Published 7/4/2017

President Rodrigo Duterte Can Still Do the Right Thing

In a recent article in Asia Times, William Pesek a Tokyo-based journalist and former columnist for Barron’s and Bloomberg noted that President Rodrigo Duterte might be “shooting the 100 million-person (Philippine) nation in the proverbial foot?” with his bloody war on drugs, instead of continuing to improve the economy he inherited from former President Benigno Aquino—“an economy on the ascendancy – from weak link to investment-grade growth star in just six years” ... Published 6/25/2017

Why Xi Jinping Threatened War If the Philippines Drills for Oil

Though nothing Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte has said or will say carries any shock value anymore, his surprising announcement on May 19 caused seismic tremors. At a Manila press conference on that day, Pres. Duterte disclosed that while attending the “One Belt, One Road” summit in Beijing on May 15, Chinese Premier China Xi Jinping warned him that there would be war if the Philippines tried to enforce a United Nations arbitration ruling and drill for oil in the West Philippine Sea ... Published 6/15/2017

Philippine Congressman warns of Duterte dictatorship, pleads for Congress to convene

Ifugao Representative Teddy Brawner Baguilat has expressed serious concern that President Rodrigo Duterte is dangerously close to becoming a dictator and it may just happen without Congress doing its constitutional role to be a check against abuses by any other equal branch of government ... Published 6/1/2017

Martial Law in the Philippine South

While on a state visit to Russia, President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao in response to a string of attacks by a band of terrorists known as the Maute group. During a press conference on his arrival back in Manila, Duterte mentioned the killing and decapitation of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief of Malabang, as well as arson and fighting in the streets of Marawi ... Published 5/25/2017

ATM Statement on Social Justice and Environmental Protection

Secretary Dominguez stated recently that the mining industry requires good governance and transparency to ensure that it contributes to development. We agree. That is why closing and suspending those mines that violated the Mining Act (RA 7942) and other environmental laws were necessary. Our alliance sincerely believes that the results of the Mining Audit were credible ... Published 5/20/2017

UN Human Rights Council and 45 Countries Tell Duterte to Stop the Killings

The administration of President Rodrigo Duterte received a stunning rebuke from the United Nations’ Human Rights Council in its just released draft report on the Philippines. Duterte’s war on drugs and the alleged extra-judicial killing of thousands of Filipinos appears to be widely condemned by the international community ... Published 5/12/2017

Read more articles from our archives

Trillanes files P1-M libel case vs RJ ‘Thinking Pinoy’ Nieto over Trump’s fake ‘little narco’ tag
MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV on Tuesday slapped a P1-million libel complaint on blogger and staunch Duterte supporter Rey Joseph “RJ” Nieto after the Thinking Pinoy publisher allegedly spread via social media the fake news that U.S. President Donald Trump had called the lawmaker “little narco” or drug lord.

Chief Justice Sereno fate on impeachment set Dec. 13
MANILA -- The chairman of the House justice committee is eyeing to put the articles of impeachment against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno to a vote in the plenary by December 13. Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, committee chairman, said on Wednesday that the remaining session days before the Christmas ...

AMPATUAN MASSACRE, 8 YEARS LATER | 197 accused, 115 arrested, 103 on trial
MANILA – Even as the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP) said justice remains elusive in the case of the November 23, 2009 massacre that took the lives of 58 persons, including 32 media workers, the trial of the accused – seen as one of the most convoluted with so many victims and accused – plods on. The massacre happened on a hilltop in Sitio Masalay, Barangay Salman, Ampatuan, Maguindanao. There, gunmen perpetrated the worst incident of electoral violence in recent Philippine history and the deadliest single attack on the press ever.

Sereno decries House denial of plea to cross-examine witnesses
MANILA -- The camp of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Wednesday called the decision of the House justice committee denying her of her constitutional right to be represented by a counsel and to cross-examine through her lawyers a “sad day for justice”. With the decision of justice committee, the top magistrate is looking forward to defend herself before the Senate. The justice committee voted 30-4 to deny Sereno’s motion seeking recognition of her right to counsel and cross-examination.

Palace to pursue cases vs ISIS without CHR help
MALACAÑANG on Tuesday said that it will be initiating cases on its own against members of the Islamic State-inspired Maute terrorist group, since the Commission on Human Rights is doing nothing to give justice to the victims of atrocities committed by the jihadists. Saying that they have “not heard any investigation conducted by the CHR on the atrocities committed by the Mautes,” Roque accused the constitutional body of “having other priorities” than investigating rights abuses.

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