How the Spratlys dispute could affect the Mindanao conflict
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2011-08-14
Expect the usual carpers from the Opposition group allied with former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) to attempt to downplay and even criticize the recent August 4 Tokyo meeting between President Noynoy Aquino (P-Noy) and MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim. Representative Edcel Lagman was the funniest of the Opposition lot when he asked that the P-Noy administration be fully transparent in the forthcoming negotiations with the MILF.


Just how transparent does Rep. Lagman want P-Noy to be — as transparent as GMA was when we almost woke up to an initialed MoA-AD (Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain) that was about to grant the MILF a virtual State within our State? Having been servile to GMA — and from all indications he still seems to be — Rep. Lagman should be the last person to talk about transparency.

Judging from the reactions of the principal stakeholders — Mindanaoans including the MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front) and Bangsamoro Front — the P-Noy and Murad meeting was a major positive development in the quest for a lasting peace in Mindanao and the rest of the country. If all-out war erupts, the conflict will not be confined to just Mindanao — especially when a major foreign power, the US, is pulling puppet strings to further its geopolitical agenda via the Moro sub-state. Expect the rebels to bring the war to Metro Manila and other key cities in order to pressure the government to yield to their demands.

The Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy, through its president, Amina Rasul, was profuse in hailing the PNoy-Murad Tokyo meeting. “We welcome the historic meeting between President Benigno Simeon Aquino III and Moro Islamic Liberation Front Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim in Tokyo. This unprecedented move, assisted by the Japanese Government, brings us leagues closer to a just peace,” Rasul’s statement stated.

Rasul added: “We note, with optimism, Dean Leonen’s observation that the MILF chair thrice said, “We are confident with your administration. You are unlike the previous administration. You are sincere.” Of course, it’s easy for P-Noy to have a lot of credibility with our Muslim brothers. His father, Ninoy, and his mother, Cory, had maintained very good relations with the Muslims. Add to that P-Noy’s depth of knowledge on national security and intelligence matters and you have the ideal president to negotiate that long sought peace in Mindanao.

The fact alone that the MILF had withdrawn their demand for independence is by itself a major achievement of that meeting. That was a thorny issue in the negotiation that would have compelled any sitting Philippine president to reject the proposed peace deal. We will not get anywhere with that demand and we commend the MILF for having withdrawn it.

After that nightmare with GMA’s MoA-AD, it was natural for Filipinos to be concerned about the proposed sub-state for our Muslim brothers. Even among Senators who are administration allies, a sub-state that reeks of GMA’s MoA-AD virtual state is simply unacceptable. Senator TG Guingona clarified in a phone conversation with your Chair Wrecker that the new sub-state is within the context of a federal system. No doubt, many of us will be scrutinizing the fine print of that peace deal, especially the sub-state, when it is drafted for approval and signing.
During my confinement last June at the Makati Medical Center to address a threatened kidney rejection, which is a life threatening medical situation, one of my doctors, Dr. Antonio Cayco, was appalled that at a time when the Spratlys dominated banner headlines on the front pages — the one writer he used to read about the dynamics of the Mindanao conflict is unable to shed light on the raging Spratlys issue with China.

For several years now, your Chair Wrecker has been raising the alarm about a looming US-China conflict over the Spratlys and the South China Sea shipping lanes that will place the Philippines in the frontline of that conflict. Dr. Cayco found it ironic that the one writer who had his pulse on the Spratlys issue is suffering from a weak pulse, among other ailments that hit me during my confinement, and is unable to share more insights on the issue.

Should the US manage to operate military sites in Mindanao and Palawan from where they can they can undertake an offensive posture against China — China will have no choice but to regard the Philippines as a hostile country. Should this conflict happen and it goes nuclear — expect the worst-case scenario for our country.

In a world fast running out of oil, the Spratlys is one battleground worth fighting for if you were the US and China. The IEA (International Energy Agency) had confirmed that we are depleting at a rate of 6 percent a year the world’s last remaining oil reserves. That means NO MORE OIL in 20 years.

Trace the trigger to the current financial woes of the US and you’ll find that their Iraq War misadventure proved too costly. In a March 9, 2008 article, Linda J. Bilmes and the renowned Dr. Joseph Stiglitz wrote: “There is no such thing as a free lunch, and there is no such thing as a free war. The Iraq adventure has seriously weakened the US economy, whose woes now go far beyond loose mortgage lending. You can’t spend $3 trillion — yes, $3 trillion — on a failed war abroad and not feel the pain at home.”

Did you really think that the US would be willing to undertake such a cost just to hang Saddam, a dictator the US had supported during the Iraq war with Iran? Did you think the US wanted to own vast tracks of desert?

The incentive for invading Iraq was to:

1. Corner the oil of Iraq.

2. Be in a position to launch a war against Iran and also corner its oil.  

3. Establish a strong US military presence in the world’s biggest oil producing region.

Don’t ever think for a moment that the US is concerned with preserving Philippine territory. They’re using that as a convenient excuse to manufacture a US role in the Spratlys dispute. Like Iraq and Iran, it’s all about oil. Filipino national unity will be an imperative if we are to survive this conflict between the US and China, regardless if waged under war or non-war conditions.

P-Noy is to be commended for the way he has been handling the US and China. He uses our bilateral relations with the US to leverage with China but we’ve kept a constant dialogue with China. We’ve opted to engage the UN and ASEAN to help provide a fair atmosphere for negotiating with mighty China.

All that bravado some of our politicians have been expressing about defending our territory will not frighten China. Do you realize that Vietnam, a country that fought and defeated France and the US, is still paying soft tribute to China — something that they’ve been doing for centuries? Take it from there just how many options we have in this dispute.

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  Previous Columns:

It had to happen on The Ides of March and Holy Week

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Election lawyer: PCOS critics should put up or shut up

All Excited by Pope Francis

A great disservice to P-Noy

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